Tag Archives: Beth Moore

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

The Swivel Chair

When you hear the words “sin” and “repent”, does it make you want to run screaming in the other direction?  That was me.  I was an atheist for the first 22 years of my life and I had absolutely no interest in anything having to do with God or Christianity.  Thankfully, that all changed in 1994 (you can read that story here: Joshua the Prophet).

After following Christ for about 20 years, I felt like God gave me some clarity on the words “sin” and “repent” and I wrote a very short post about them last year.  Have you read it?  If not, you can check it out here: Two “churchy” words

For the past year, every time I read the Bible, I read it in the light of what those words now mean to me.  And it’s brought such clarity that I want to share more with you.  How can I make it crystal clear?

The Swivel Chair in my mind
The Swivel Chair in my mind

How about this?  I have a swivel chair in my office.  I can choose to turn it in all different directions.  I can turn toward the computer, the printer, the file cabinet or the hallway.  It’s my choice.

Imagine that there is a swivel chair in each of our minds.  We have the choice of which direction we turn our thoughts.  But unlike the swivel chair in my office, imagine that this chair can only face one of two directions.  It can turn toward God or away from God.  And, just like in my office chair, we have the choice of which way we turn.

If it were up to God, there would be one moment in every human being’s life when we realize that we are not the king of our own universe, but that He is the King of the universe.  In that moment when we turn to God, acknowledging that He is our creator and the ultimate authority in our life, thanking Him for sending Jesus to take on our sin, we are what Christians call “saved”.  That decision is called “salvation”, when we are “born again” (John 3:3).

But it’s not up to God.  That’s not the kind of world He created.  Instead of creating robots,  He created human beings with free will.  Why?  Because He created us to be in a love relationship with Him.  If He demanded that we love Him, that wouldn’t be love.  Love requires choice.  And the choice is up to us.  He already made His choice.  He loves us no matter what.  But His desire is that we would choose to love Him back.

And when we choose to love Him back, accepting His love and forgiveness, we’re “saved”, as the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

But God speaks in the Bible over and over again about “repentance”; changing our mind and turning to Him.  Why do we need repentance if we’ve already turned to God?  Isn’t once good enough?  Are we unsaved and then we get saved again and again and again?

Nope.  Salvation happens one time.  But we are human.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 7 that our fallen human “sinful nature” draws us back to our own devices over and over again.  Probably a million times each day, our thoughts turn away from God and back to our own selfish desires.  And that is “sin”.  That is turning away from God.  That is “missing the mark”.

Think about that swivel chair in our mind.  There are only two directions:

  1. Sin (pride, “missing the mark”) = trying to figure out life on my own
  2. Faith (humility, repentance, “changing one’s mind”) = turning to God for His direction

Romans 14:23 says that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

From the swivel chair, that makes perfect sense.  There are only two directions: Faith or Sin.  We can look to God and see the world through His eyes (Faith) or we can look at the world however we think is best (Sin).  “There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death.”  Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  Intimacy with Him is the goal.  Not following the rules, but following Jesus. Not perfection, but following the Perfect One.

In Beth Moore’s “Living Free” study, she quotes a friend who was far from God, depressed and broken.  Her friend said, “I thought I couldn’t come to God with this sin in my life.”  When I read that, my heart broke for her.  I wanted her to understand that not coming to God WAS the sin in her life.  Turn around.  Come to Him.  That is repentance.  That is faith.  That is humility.

In “Living Free”, Beth goes on to say that “prayer keeps us in constant communion with God, which is the goal of our entire believing lives.  Prayerless lives are powerless lives, and prayerful lives are powerful lives; but, believe it or not, the ultimate goal God has for us is not power but personal intimacy with Him.”

He loves us.  He created us.  He wants us, warts and all.  He knows we’re messed up.  He knows we’re broken.  But that brokenness is not sin.  That is part of being human.  Our sin is our turning away from Him.  Repentance is turning back, confident that He is waiting to receive us with open arms.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Beth Moore continues her study with the question, “How is intimacy with God different from the goal of being good enough to be acceptable to God?”  Here is my answer.  And my prayer is that it can be your answer as well.

Intimacy with You, my God, is knowing that, because I turned to Jesus who took on my sin, my “turning away”,  and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I’m already good enough, covered in Your grace, reclining at Your banqueting table, resting with You, my creator, enjoying Your presence and knowing that You enjoy me, just as I am.

Go ahead.  Read that again.  In the swivel chair of your mind, turn to God, seeing the huge  smile on His face, and read those words to Him.  He’s so happy to see you.

“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
-Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Through Heaven’s Eyes

“If you looked in the mirror and saw yourself through God’s eyes, what are some things you can imagine He’d say about what He sees?”

That was Dan Kopp’s sneak preview to his 9-6-15 message at The Eastside Vineyard Church called “The Lying Mirror“.  In that message, Dan quoted Leif Hetland’s book, “Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes“:

“We all have a need for significance.  Besides survival, it is the strongest drive we have.  We need to know that our life matters, that who we are and why we are here counts for something.  So… who are you?  And why are you here?

You are God’s crowning achievement, His masterpiece.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made.  You were also purposefully made.  You are here for a reason – to bear God’s image and to establish His heavenly Kingdom on earth.  You are a co-creator with Him, a co-ruler with Him, and a co-lover with Him.  He has chosen you to dance in step with the Trinity . . . In this vast and expansive universe, you matter.  You!  You are loved beyond comprehension.  You are precious beyond words.  You are valued beyond measure.”

Then Dan did something beautiful.  He took that quote, line by line, and gave us God’s Word for each part (click on the red references to go to each verse at Biblegateway.com):

You are God’s crowning achievement (He saved the best for last):  Genesis 1:26-27
You are God’s masterpiece:  Ephesians 2:10
You were fearfully and wonderfully made:  Psalm 139: 13-14
You were purposefully made:  Ephesians 2:10
You were made in the image of God:  Colossians 3:10
You are here to establish God’s heavenly Kingdom on earth:  John 14:12
You are a co-creator with Him (He has given you gifts):  Exodus 35:30-31
You are a co-ruler with Him:  Genesis 1:26
You are a co-lover with Him:  Galatians 5:6
You get to join the dance with the Triune God:  John 17:1-5 **(see below)
You matter!  You are crowned with glory and honor:  Psalm 8:5-6
You are loved beyond comprehension:   Ephesians 3:17-18
You are precious beyond words:  Psalm 116:15
You are valued beyond measure:  Matthew 6:26

God is not mad at us.  He’s not disappointed in us.  He loves us.  He likes us.  He delights in us.  He longs to see us blossom into who He sees we can become.  If we could look in the mirror and see what God sees, would it change the way we live?  Would we stop wasting energy beating ourselves up and instead put that energy into receiving God’s love and passing it along to those around us?

“When you need comfort, I love to enfold you in My arms.  I enable you not only to feel comforted but also to be a channel through whom I comfort others.  Thus you are doubly blessed, because a living channel absorbs some of whatever flows through it.”
– Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence“, October 16th

I want to be that living channel.  I want to absorb God’s love as it flows through me to other people.  But in my own strength, I can’t do it.  And it’s not a matter of trying harder.  It’s a matter of trusting Jesus.  I need to turn to Him, thank Him, and breathe in His gift of life, moment by moment, day by day.  Rest, receive and pass it on.

“My calling is outside of my ability to fulfill it.  Only Jesus living through me can do it.”
– Beth Moore’s 2015 Living Proof Live Simulcast

“Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You”

– Matt Maher, “Lord, I Need You

**If you’ve ever wondered why God created us and why He is Three Persons in One (the “Triune God” or the “Trinity”), check out Dan Kopp’s message from 8-30-15 called “Dancing with the Triune God“.  Dan paints an incredible picture that you need to see with your own eyes.  Take 30 minutes to watch.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Grace, Truth and Audacious Dreams

Beth Moore’s new book “Audacious” was inspired by two questions:

1) What is your dream?
2) What is your vision for the future?

Those two questions lead me to a statement by Pastor Tim Keller which I’ve heard quoted over and over again:

“The gospel is this:  We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” 

I completely agree with that statement, but at the same time, I feel very condemned by the first half of it.  Yes, I know that I am sinful and flawed.  I get that.  And I get stuck in it.  But when I read the book “The Cure” this past April, I was overwhelmed by the amazing grace and love of God.  I felt like I might actually be able to live in the second half of Tim Keller’s statement that I am “more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ” than I ever dared hope.

But some will read that “The Cure” is about God’s grace and immediately the flags go up.  You can’t teach people to live in grace!  Won’t they:

  1. Have permission to sin?
  2. Stop praying, serving, giving and reading the Bible?
  3. Get lazy and stop striving for excellence?
  4. Treat God like their “buddy” instead of the Holy Creator of Everything?
  5. Lose their drive to “be all they can be”?

However, the “grace police” need not be concerned.  God’s grace is not a “get out of jail free” card because living in grace is not complete without also living in truth.

Chris Zarbaugh did a beautiful job explaining how Grace and Truth work together in our “Christian Redefined” series back on March 8, 2015 in a message called “The One Two Punch” (unfortunately, there is no video for this message, but the audio is posted).  Here’s the picture and explanation you’re missing without the video:

High Grace + Low Truth = Enabled

Low Grace + Low Truth = Unloved

Low Grace + High Truth = Judged

High Grace + High Truth = Loved

Grace + Truth = Enabled, Unloved, Judged or Loved
Grace + Truth = Enabled, Unloved, Judged or Loved

Chris quoted John 1:14:  “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  And Chris was very specific that “full of grace and truth” doesn’t mean that Jesus balanced grace and truth, but that He was the full measure of grace and truth.  So, what does that mean?  Here’s how Chris put it:

Grace says “you’re forgiven”.  Truth says “you’re accountable”.

Grace says “it’s gonna be alright”.  Truth says “you’ve got a lot of work to do”.

Grace says “I love you just as you are”.  Truth says “please change”.

I’ve always heard, “God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.”  But that always sounded like a back-handed compliment to me, until I read “The Problem of Pain” by CS Lewis.  Here’s how he put it in the chapter called “Divine Goodness”:

“We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest “well pleased”. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities — no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our “happiness” is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.”

Living in the full measure of God’s grace and truth allows us to mature into who God sees we can become.  For God to say that we’re fine as we are and that we can stay that way would not be loving.  That would be enabling.  Yes, God loves us immeasurably.  He could not possibly love us more.  But in loving us, He sees our potential.  He sees the beauty that is in store.  And He longs to see us blossom into that beauty.

“Consider the caterpillar.  If we brought a caterpillar to a biologist and asked him to analyze it and describe its DNA, he would tell us, “I know this looks like a caterpillar to you.  But scientifically, according to every test, including DNA, this is fully and completely a butterfly…. The caterpillar matures into what is already true about it.”  –“The Cure” Chapter Three

As human beings loved by God, we, like caterpillars, also have the potential to mature into what is already true about us.  Living in a continual state of false guilt, thinking we “gotta do more, gotta be more” (remember “Dead Poets Society“?) is paralyzing.  I know I can’t do it, so feel like my only option is to give up.  Living in a continual state of God’s Grace, knowing that He loves me and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that He’s not waiting for me to get it right and be perfect, frees me to be who He created me to be.  That’s the Truth part.  Taking personal responsibility for the gifts He has given me.  Being a steward of this body, mind and soul that He’s allowed me to borrow for a little while.

So, what about those two questions that inspired Beth Moore?

1) What is your dream?
2) What is your vision for the future?

So many non-Christians feel that their lives are “just dandy” without Jesus, not realizing that they’re living outside of their full potential.  And so many Christ-followers, paralyzed in our fear that we don’t deserve Jesus, don’t realize that we’re also living outside of our full potential.  So no one acts.  Passivity reigns.  The result?  Look around.  Too many people live ineffective lives and the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.  That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

My dream and my vision for the future is two-fold:

1) That those who don’t yet know Christ could fully grasp and act upon the first part of Tim Keller’s quote: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe. Truth: we need Jesus.  

2) That those who do know Christ could fully grasp and act upon the second part of Tim Keller’s quote: we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.  Grace: Jesus needs us.  

If every person in the world lived in the full measure of the Grace and Truth of Jesus, what could this world become?

Won’t You Be My Love?

“Every woman I’ve ever met feels it — something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does.  An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is.  I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time.  Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough.  But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy.  The result is Shame, the universal companion of women.  It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.” – Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, by John and Stasi Eldredge

Wow.  I just finished reading this powerful book.  This is not a “do these 10 things and you’ll be a Proverbs 31 woman” book.  The subtitle really sums it up:  “Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul”.  Sounds pretty, doesn’t it?  Boy, I’d like to think that I’m “mysterious”, because most days I just feel “messed up”.  John and Stasi nailed it.  I am too much and too little all rolled into one.

Beth Moore said something at her 2009 Living Proof Live conference that has always stuck with me:  “Repression will make you sick, rebellion will make you stupid.  We gotta be real.”

The Apostle James says it this way:  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)  

Sharing our hurts is healing and I believe that positive life change only happens with other people.  Keeping it to ourselves only makes it worse, or in 12 Step language, “we’re as sick as our secrets”.  I spent most of 2013 in a Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Study and I learned that genuine confession leads to genuine change.  Telling our story is freeing, on so many levels.

Think of it this way.  If we keep it between us and God, there is no accountability.  We might say, “Hey, He forgives me, we’ll just keep this between us.  No need to get anyone else involved.  It’s a private matter.”  Just one problem with that.  No change happens.  We keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, the very definition of “insanity”.   But when the pain of changing finally feels less than the pain of staying the same, it’s time to change.

So, here I am with you, my trusted friends, confessing my sin to you.  I am a mess.  I am too much; I am too little.  I am up; I am down.  I am happy; I am sad.  I am carefree; I am frustrated.  I am optimistic; I am pessimistic.  I am kind; I am harsh.  I am manic; I am depressive.  I am intelligent; I am hopelessly stupid.  I am encouraging; I am discouraged.  I am on top of the world; I am in the lowest pit.  I am an eagle soaring high above the clouds; I am Eeyore beneath the rain cloud.  I am free to dream the grandest of dreams; I am tied up in knots.  I am a woman of faith; I am a woman of fear.  I am filled with the love of Jesus; I am bound by the lies of the evil one.  I have it all together; I am completely overwhelmed. 

So much of it comes down to expectations.  Am I expecting too much?  Am I expecting too little?  Do I expect everything to fall apart?  Do I expect that I will be left “abandoned and alone”?  Or do I expect that God will come through?  Do I expect that He will take care of me?  Do I expect that He will never leave me, never forsake me, and that He has amazing people waiting to help me at just the right moment?  If I give in to despair, if I give up, will I miss out on seeing God come through for me?  Yep, I will.  I’ll miss out.  And something will be missing in the world that could have been there if I hadn’t given up.

Toward the end of Captivating, in a chapter called “An Irreplaceable Role”, John and Stasi remind us that we were each made with a unique purpose in mind.  No one else can live the life that we alone were created to live.  You are the only person on earth who can fulfill your purpose.  I love this beautiful reminder of who we truly are:

“You are a woman.  An image bearer of God.  The Crown of Creation.  You were chosen before time and space, and you are wholly and dearly loved.  You are sought after, pursued, romanced, the passionate desire of your Fiancé, Jesus.  You are dangerous in your beauty and your life-giving power.  And you are needed.”

Oh, there’s so much more.  Read the book (check your library).  We are needed.  We all have something to contribute.  Expectations can kill us, but hope frees us.  Hope of today, hope of tomorrow and hope of eternity.  Hope lives with Jesus.  And when we live with Jesus, we get to experience that hope.  And if we don’t feel it, we need to ask him to help us feel it.  But don’t wait on feelings.  They’re so fleeting.  One minute everything is amazing and the next minute everything has gone wrong.  But God is still working.  And He still loves us immeasurably.  And He’s fighting for us, as a groom fights for his bride.  I wrote about that in December when I started reading Captivating.  Check out The Beautiful Adventure if you’d like to read more.

I heard MercyMe’s “Won’t You Be My Love?” this morning and it stirred something in me that made me want to write for the first time in a month.  I hope it stirs something in you too.  And if you love it, the whole album is only $9.99 on iTunes.

“My friends are broke and lost
Looking for someone to lead them to my cross
I need your help, I need your help

Won’t you be My voice calling
Won’t you be My hands healing
Won’t you be My feet walking into a broken world
Won’t you be My chain-breaker
Won’t you be My peacemaker
Won’t you be My hope and joy
Won’t you be My Love”

We may be broke and lost, but even in our brokenness, we have something to give.  We are needed.  Our prayers are needed.  They are powerful and effective.  Our lives are powerful and effective.  God is powerful and effective and He wants His power to flow through us out into this broken world.  Our expectations may be unrealistic.  Let’s place all of those expectations on Him.  He can handle it.  His shoulders are big enough.  And, in that freedom, let’s go out and live the lives that we were created to live.

The Whole Story

In 1994, Jesus saved my soul, but in September 2014, he saved my mind.  I posted the story as a 6-part “series”, but I want to respect your time.  I know you probably can’t sit down and read the whole thing, so I included a line about each part below.  Please feel free to read whatever jumps out at you.

Here are all of the parts, including the “prologue” and the “afterword”, in order:

Prologue: Urgent Questions/Deepest Needs (this is VERY long – please feel free to skip it)

#1: Redeemed – Part 1 (where it all began – Beth Moore & Third Day on 9-13-14)

#2: Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater (God speaks thru coupon codes & MercyMe songs)

#3: Two “churchy” words (what Dave W & Chris Z taught me about “sin” and “repent”)

#4: The Tyranny of the “Should” (trying to “pay back” Jesus for all he’s done for me)

#5: The Face of Grace (Do you think God is angry with you?  Check this out)

#6: Reconciling Wrath (“Good God” or “Wrathful God” – will the real God please stand up?)

Afterword: Moment by Moment (what does it mean to “Let Go and Let God”?)

If you remember my very first blog post from July 16th, “If they asked me, I could write a book“, I think this “series” could be the beginning of that book.  If any of this speaks to you, I would be so honored if you would share it with others.

Just a side-note.  If you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop computer, you can probably see links to all of my other blog posts along the righthand side of the screen.  However, if you’re on a phone or a tablet, the links probably don’t show up.  But if you scroll to the bottom of the post, you can most likely get to newer posts to the right and older posts to the left (it should give you the title and an arrow to click on).  I’ve also included a link at the bottom of each post to bring you to the next one.

Thank you so very much and happy reading!

Reconciling Wrath (Part 6)

This is the last part of my “redeemed” mini-series.  How about a recap?  Here’s what I’ve known for the last year:

1) Sin is simply us “turning away” from God
2) Jesus took on our “turning away” on the cross
3) God loves us and isn’t angry with us for being imperfect

So, what’s the problem?  Why has my fuse gotten shorter and shorter all year?  Why have I become increasingly irritated and frustrated, hopeless and annoyed?

One thing still didn’t compute.  If “God is good, all the time” and “All the time, God is good”, what’s the deal with “the wrath of God”?  The Bible has a LOT to say about the wrath of God and I couldn’t see how a Good God could be so full of wrath, yet so loving at the same time.

However, what I was beginning to understand, on Saturday, September 13, 2014, was that I had been redeemed.  God made that very clear all day.  When I sat down at church the next morning, after the pity-party that never materialized, I felt like God had me on “download” mode and I had better get my pen ready.  The first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that”, referring to my desire to have a pity-party.  Then I wrote this:

“What is the wrath of God?  His wrath is the natural consequence of turning away from Him.  It’s MY CHOICE.  Jesus redeemed that.  God wants to love me and He does, but I keep choosing to turn away to hopelessness, self-pity, indifference, whining.  That stuff is His wrath.  Jesus died for that.  He took on my “turning away”.  He turned away from God ONCE FOR ALL.  He redeemed that.  He bought it.  It’s no longer mine.  When I turn away and feel that WRATH, the devil tells me I deserve it.  I turned away and it’s my fault, I’m bad, I SHOULDN’T do that and I SHOULD turn back.  NO!  Jesus redeemed that.  I GET TO turn back because Jesus redeemed it.  I OWE NOTHING.  I don’t owe it to Him.  It’s DONE.”

Sunday afternoon, I watched the “redeemed” part of the Beth Moore simulcast where it had frozen on Saturday.  It was cool, but God kept nudging me to go do my Beth Moore “Children of the Day” study.  My friend and I have been working through that study since July, very sporadically.  When we watched the video for week 4 (out of 9 weeks), we realized that our timing was perfect.  Every session has spoken to us exactly when we needed it.  I’m only on week 5 of the study in the workbook, because there’s really no need to be any further ahead.

Sunday afternoon, I followed the nudging and opened my workbook to the next homework assignment, which was Day 3 of Week 5.  Get this.  It was titled “Wrestling with Wrath“.  Beth had already done the research and gave me lots of scripture about God’s wrath.  His “wrath” in the original Greek is actually, “desire with grief and sorrow”.  Man’s type of wrath is translated from the Greek as “the outburst of a vengeful mind”.  God’s wrath is not like ours.  It is a profound sadness that the people He created can choose to turn away from Him, knowing that our turning away is not what is best for us.  We were made to be in communion with Him, but He is a gentleman and won’t make us.  And robotic love is not real love.  It has to be our choice.  But I was convinced that I owed God something “for all He’s done for me”, and I was so sick of trying that I had turned away.

Since Sunday, September 14, I’ve been telling myself “Jesus redeemed that” with every thought that I think that has anything to do with “should” or guilt over what I did or didn’t do or thought.  AND I BELIEVE IT because my theology is finally reconciled.  It’s not a conflict.  Bard Millard, MercyMe’s head man, said that he got to the point where he couldn’t sell the gospel.  It wasn’t good news.  That’s where I had gotten to.  I couldn’t sell Jesus.  He wasn’t good news.  He was more work.  How could I sell that with good conscience?

I’ve walked around with more LIGHTNESS and joy for the last three weeks, I can’t explain it other than the perfect gift of God.  I can laugh and joke and I don’t have this heaviness that I have to keep dragging around, trying to do better and be better, but always feeling guiltier and guiltier about how I REALLY feel.  How I really feel now is REALLY good news.

Check out the lyrics to MercyMe’s “Wishful Thinking”, which they sang at the concert that Saturday night.  I especially love the first verse and the “better late than not at all” verse.  This song spoke to me so loudly after my 20 year journey with Jesus.  Thanks for reading!

“Wishful Thinking” by MercyMe

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
I’m feeling foolish yet relieved as well
Cuz what I bought before, I just can’t sell

But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right

Could it be that on my worst day
How You love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if

This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Well, I guess I’m better late than not at all
Or did you plan it this way all along
Cuz without suffering grace is hard to see
So maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be

And now, I’m seeing You so differently
And only I can say is finally

Click here for Part 7

The Face of Grace (Part 5)

The Tyranny of the “Should” left off at “How is it that the Lord loves me so that He sends people like this to me? I don’t deserve that kind of love.”

What do I deserve?  I felt stuck somewhere between Jordan’s Elmo game yelling “Keep trying!  Keep trying!” and Yoda’s, “There is no Try.  There is Do or Do Not.”  Oh, Lord, what “should” I do?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve slowly found pieces to my puzzle, and a big piece fell into place after Beth Moore’s September 14, 2013 Living Proof Live simulcast.  Beth’s 2013 theme was “Under Grace” vs “Under Law” from Romans 6:14 (NLT): “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

Freedom?  All I felt was failure after failure, guilty as charged.  But Beth taught that even though sin may increase, grace doesn’t just increase, it abounds (Rom. 5:15).  Abundant grace.  “Drown me in your infinite grace.”  I pictured a teeny tiny “Finding Nemo” clown fish of sin swimming in an ocean of grace.

That picture kept coming back to me all week, and on Thursday, September 19th, I believe  God gave me a picture of how He really sees me.  I drew the picture in my journal, with my limited artistic ability, using stick figures.  Saturday morning the 21st, Jordan Rose came in to join me as I was journaling again.  I showed her the picture and explained it to her.  She was so excited that she wanted to draw it too.  I’ve attached the picture that she drew below.  Here is what I explained to Jordan:

1) God is always looking at us, loving us, never leaving us.  “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  (Deut. 31:6 & Hebr. 13:5).  Just as the Father watched for his Prodigal Son (Luke 15:20), waiting for him to come home, not so that he could punish him, but so that he could celebrate the fact that he was home.  He’s not angry with us.  He waits for us, filled with love and compassion.

2) I am that Prodigal Son.  I want my inheritance now and I want to go do my own thing.  That is turning away from God, and it leads to one of two things:  (1) I look at my dirty face in the mirror (my selfishness, pride, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, indifference, self-pity, whining, complaining, etc) and, unable to clean up my act, I see a reflection from behind me, like a wavy, distorted funhouse mirror, and God looks backwards and angry to me, or (2) I look at the things of the world, trying to forget about my dirty face and make myself feel better (food, shopping, people-pleasing, perfectionism, being a “good girl”, self-medicating, etc).

3) Jesus took on our sin – our “turning away” from God – on the cross.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matt. 27:46 & Ps. 22:1).  Jesus had never turned away from God before (he had never sinned), so he felt forsaken as he looked out into the abyss that we see when we turn away from God.  Jesus took on all of the “turning away” of all people for all time, nailed it to the cross, buried it, and rose again, leaving it all behind.  

4) When we turn around (repent) and look into the face of God, we are living under Grace, coming back to the Father who loves us.  When we look at our “dirty faces” in the mirror (trying to clean ourselves up) or at the things of the world (trying to fill the hole in our soul), we are living under the Law, turning away from God.

5) Our only job is to turn around.  Turn from the mirror (staring at your dirty face won’t clean it), turn from the things of this world (they won’t fill that emptiness) and turn back to God (only He can clean us and fill us).  “What is the work that God requires?  To believe in the one He has sent.”  (John 6:28-29).  Look to Jesus, thankful that he took it all on cross.  Turn to God and see the Face of Grace smiling back at us.  He’s so thrilled that we’re home.

Click here for Part 6

"Under Grace" vs "Under Law" by Jordan Rose 9-21-13“Under Grace” vs “Under Law” by Jordan Rose (7 yrs old), drawn on 9-21-13

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:2 (NLT)

Redeemed – Part 1

Something amazing happened on September 13 & 14. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years, but nothing like this has ever happened before. I’m trying to piece it all together so that I can write about it here, but there is so much that I really need to do it in pieces.

My friend and I live-streamed Beth Moore’s “Living Proof Live” simulcast on Saturday, September 13th at my house.  During the simulcast, there were a few times where the live stream “stuck” and I had to refresh the screen. Beth was teaching us her “Identity Declaration” (click or see below) and she got to “I am a woman of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ” and the screen stuck. By the time I got it refreshed, she was on to the next point. “Redeemed” struck me and I knew I wanted to go back and watch that part again.  However, we were all headed to the Third Day/ MercyMe concert at DTE Energy later that afternoon, so “redeemed” would have to wait.

Even though I bought the concert tickets for all of us to see Third Day, we were blown away by MercyMe. Bart Millard, their lead singer, has been on an amazing road to transformation over the last couple years and it was exciting to hear his story. He spoke and sang a LOT about redemption and the word “redeemed” kept sinking further and further into my bones. Their music was upbeat and invigorating, their harmonies were beautiful, we loved every minute. It was late when we got home and I was ushering at church the next morning, so we had to get to bed to get up early.

I normally sit with John when I usher, but on this particular morning, the two seats next to John were taken by two other ushers. I’m new to this particular usher team, so they didn’t know they were sitting next to my husband. It was the 10:30 service, so it was crowded and most seats were already filled. I was trying to figure out where I was going to sit and found myself on the verge of a pity-party crying mess. Tears were starting to fill my eyes, but I told myself, “No, you’re not going to do this today. What a silly reason to be crying anyway!” I walked up to where John was sitting and realized that there was ONE seat right behind him and the two usher ladies and I grabbed it. The tears never materialized. 🙂 I sat down in my seat to listen to Chris Zarbaugh’s message, but God had other plans. I started writing and the first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that.”

The next day I received an email survey from LifeWay, looking for feedback from Saturday’s simulcast. Beth Moore told us at the simulcast that she was praying that God would give a specific word to each of the 190,000+ women who were watching. She said that if 190,000 women heard from God and RESPONDED, we could certainly have a huge impact on this hurting world. Here’s what I wrote to LifeWay:

“God spoke! Beth’s prayers were answered in my life. He gave me a word and that word is “redeemed”. I have struggled with so many things for so long: depression, hopelessness, wanting to give up, and I’ve “tried” to do better and be better and I want Jesus to help me, but all of my “tricks” aren’t working anymore. I think wrong thoughts and then I feel guilty for thinking wrong thoughts and it just spirals downward. This weekend God told me “Jesus redeemed that”.

Every thought – Jesus redeemed that.

The guilt about the thought – Jesus redeemed that.

Not wanting to get up and do anything – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting up and doing something, puffing up my ego and pride – Jesus redeemed that.

Doing things to get attention – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting mad at my kids – Jesus redeemed that.

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious – Jesus redeemed that.

Scared to open an email, wondering if I can handle what I’m being asked to do – Jesus redeemed that.

Everything I’ve ever done or said or thought or will ever do or say or think – Jesus redeemed that.

So, I can hold my head up high and thank my Savior. Thank you, Beth. Thank you, Jesus. Glory to God.”

To be continued…

Click here for Part 2.

Identity Declaration from Beth Moore's 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast
“Identity Declaration” from Beth Moore’s 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast