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Monthly Archives: March 2016
The other day I was listening to the radio and a song called “No Longer Slaves” came on. As I listened to the lyrics, “I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God,” I started to think about what that really means, or what it should mean, for me as a Christian.
As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle with anxiety. I’m often unexpectedly captured by fear and worry. It can come on at any moment, without any warning, and it grips me completely. It’s irrational, it’s uncontrollable, and most of the time all I can do is pray.
I fear things I can’t control, things I can’t understand. I fear sudden loss or death of loved ones, I fear for the safety of my family, I fear unexpected catastrophes. I can go days, weeks even, without feeling these things, but when they come they are as strong and real as ever.
But this song got me thinking about the reality of what it means to believe in Christ, to be saved through His sacrifice, to be brought into His kingdom and made a child of God. What does our faith and our salvation mean to us right now, and how should it affect our daily lives? It’s important that we have been saved from death and given eternal life. It is of the utmost importance. But there is also a very real benefit we receive the moment we believe in Him, and every day on this earth until we meet Him face to face, and we would be remiss not to dwell on it.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:12-17)
By believing in Christ and committing our lives to Him, we are freed from the things of the flesh that once held us captive: fear, sin, death. In place of these things, we are given adoption as sons, and are therefore heirs to everything Christ has been given. We are freed to live for God, not for anything of this world.
But we must lay hold of these benefits and be intentional about seeking them, or we will inevitably fall back to fleshly desires, struggles and fears. We are freely given the Holy Spirit, yes, but as these verses remind us, we must then live by that Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body in order to truly live as heirs of the kingdom. I have to be intentional about not letting myself fall back into fear, and instead calling out to God and laying claim to my adoption into His kingdom.
Does this mean that nothing bad will happen to me if I believe in Jesus and follow Him? No. In fact, the end of this passage says that we are heirs in Christ if we suffer with Him, in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
What it does mean, however, is that there is nothing we as Christians need to utterly and completely fear, because in the end we have the hope of heaven and the promise of eternal life. No matter what happens to me in this life, no matter how much I suffer, I have life in Christ, and that’s all that matters.
I don’t think this is an easy thing for us as Christians to do on a daily basis. It’s certainly hard for me. It’s hard to keep my eyes on things above when so much is happening here on earth to keep me distracted. It’s hard not to worry about the safety and health of my loved ones, and I don’t think I’ll ever be completely free from that worry. But as a Christian, I have something that others don’t have: I have the comfort of God’s love and His promises to be with me through it all, and to one day free me from it all and usher me into His kingdom.
Even as I write this, it’s hard to make sense of it. Hopefully some of what I’ve said has made sense to you, and hopefully it resonates with you. If it doesn’t, please ask me to explain further, tell me what’s confusing. I guess what I want you to know, and what I want to remind myself, is that as children of God, we are really and truly no longer slaves to fear. Even when fear creeps up on us, we have Him to cry out to, “Abba, Father,” and He is there to comfort us. We live in a type of freedom that no one else has, and it should make us feel lighter, give us a deep and impenetrable joy that carries us through all of life’s circumstances. He will never let us go.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phillipians 4:6-9)
Life gets heavy sometimes.
Of course we all know this. Heavy things happen. Loved ones die. Terrorist attacks happen. Illness strikes. Relationships are broken. Life is hard.
But I’ve begun noticing recently a different way life can get heavy, especially when you live in close community with others. Life can get heavy even when things are going fine in your own life, if the people around you are suffering.
As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Throughout Paul’s epistles he makes clear that we are to live for one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another. This week at Bible study we are studying James 5, in which he tells his readers the following:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16)
This is encouraging, that we can pray for one another and be healed and forgiven for our sins. But I find that it can also feel like a burden, the need to pray for those among us who are suffering, especially as the list gets longer and longer.
Last week, between what my husband was dealing with and the things going on in my friends’ lives, I just had this realization of, “Wow, other people’s burdens get really heavy sometimes.” I felt burdened by what was happening in the lives of people around me, and not in a good way. And then I realized, I’m not the one who is supposed to carry my friends’ burdens. I was never meant to take their burdens, place them on my own back, and attempt to walk with that weight. It’s my call, as their friend and partner in Christ, to bring those burdens to Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
When we are heavy laden, no matter why, Jesus calls us to come to Him. The only reason we can bear one another’s burdens is because we are merely helping our friends bring them to the feet of the cross. And once there, we can place those burdens there, lay them down at His feet, and trust in His sovereignty. We still carry them, but we have a place to set them down, and we have Jesus to help us along the way.
And we have another helper too:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
We are weak, even in our prayers. But God knows that, which is one reason He gives us the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to worry about what we say in our prayers, whether we are praying for the right things, using the right words, being holy enough, using proper theology, and so on and so forth. Where we are weak, He is strong, and the Spirit himself intercedes for us…according to the will of God. Praise Jesus for that.
Does this mean we shouldn’t feel the weight of life’s burdens, be they ours or someone else’s? No, and we can see in Jesus’ own life that God himself feels the weight of our burdens. It is no easy task, walking through life and its hardships, whether we attempt to do it alone or decide to do it in community. But Jesus wants us to bring those burdens to Him, and trust in his ability to carry them for us, because He loves us, and because it brings Him joy to bear our burdens.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Missed going to the gym today (or every day since you had kids)? Don’t let that get you down, it’s never too late to start getting in shape. I can personally attest to the proven effectiveness of this workout, and the ease of staying consistent with it. Finally, a workout moms can stick to!
Anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 am: Have one of your children wake you up. This can be done in a number of ways: screaming through the monitor, jumping on your bed, standing beside your bed and breathing/staring quietly until you sense them. This will create a sudden jolt of the stress hormone, cortisol, which will wake you up immediately and eliminate the need for a snooze button. It’s important that you don’t know when they will wake you up, as this heightens the fight or flight instinct that comes with the sudden awakening.
Immediately begin lunge/squat/lift circuit. Any size child will do, so use whichever children happen to be at your house. Most likely these will be your own, but don’t hesitate to use friends’ children, children’s friends, even pets. You will begin by lifting the child who woke you up out of his or her crib or bed, and will continue this at various intervals throughout the day. Once you’ve mastered the one child lift, you may add more children as needed. Targets: core, glutes, calves, arms.
7:30 am: Begin breakfast circuit. This is a great way to get the heart pumping, especially with hungry children following you around asking you when breakfast will be ready, even though they probably already have a snack in their hands. Use this as motivation to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Benefits: balance, dexterity, self-control. You will want to brew coffee either before or during this process. The coffee will come in handy for later circuits.
9:00 am: Vacuum circuit. Start by picking up all toys and moving all furniture out of its usual position. This is a great lower body exercise, and by now your third cup of coffee should supply a great baseline heart rate to keep you going. Once all furniture is out of place, remove vacuum from the back of your closet and lift it. Vacuums are extremely heavy, not to mention clunky, so this will really work your arms and core. Vacuum entire house. You may want to carry an infant with you for extra resistance. Work up to screaming infant and/or unruly toddler. Also great for balance.
9:30 am: Mop circuit. You’ll want to make sure to bend as low as possible to get under and around all furniture, and push down on the mop with as much force as possible, since this is the only way to get the floor somewhat clean anyway. Repeat circuit as necessary when children, pets and husbands walk through the room you just mopped.
11:00 am: Lunch. No need to make lunch for yourself. Eating toddler food, particularly leftovers, is a great way to keep your calories in check. If you do fix your own lunch, your child(ren) will inevitably want to eat it. Resist eating leftovers when they don’t eat a bite of what you gave them off your plate.
12:00 pm: Nap circuit. This is a good opportunity to get some cardio in, especially if you have two kids. Purely attempting to get them both settled for nap should be a good start, but once they start asking for things is when you’ll really get some interval work in. When both children are asleep (if this ever happens), get some rest. Or clean up all the toys they left lying around, do the dishes you never got around to after lunch (or breakfast, for that matter), fold the laundry, prepare dinner, or work on your part-time job. Once all of these things are done, try and get some rest.
Immediately after sitting/lying down to get some rest: Be woken up by one (or all) of the children. Begin afternoon lunge/squat/lift circuit.
3:00 pm: Outing circuit. This can be anywhere: park, playground, mall, friend’s house, but let’s be honest, it will probably be the grocery store. Start by lifting all children into car seats and buckling them in. This is a fabulous upper body workout, especially with children who want to “help” with buckling, and/or extremely large babies. Depending on how you are feeling after your morning workout, you may place all children in the cart or have one walk beside you. The walking child adds a great interval opportunity when they run off, knock something over, or reach for things they can’t have. Encourage grocery baggers to grossly over-pack your bags (bonus: they usually do this anyway). This will work the biceps, triceps, neck, back and shoulders. Most likely you will end up carrying the walking child for the last half to three-quarters of the trip, which really works the core. Bringing children, car seats and groceries in from the car once you get home works to tone the trunk. If you have stairs leading up to your home, great. Extra calf work.
5:00 pm: Begin dinner circuit. This will be similar to lunch circuit, but children will be much crankier and more destructive. Great time to get some interval work in and improve that balance. Try to be mindful while you eat, taking at least two to three minutes to complete your meal. Immediately after shoveling the last bite into your mouth, begin final dish circuit.
6:00 pm: Begin bedtime circuit. Bath-time is essentially one big standing crunch, so really focus on those abs. Squeeze the glutes for extra toning. Final lunge/squat lift circuit will take place between bath and bedrooms, changing tables, cribs and beds. Children will most likely be exhausted but extremely resistant to sleep. Embrace this resistance, you’re burning your last calories of the day!
7:00 pm-9:00 pm: Optional child wake time. Feel free to use this time to relax while your child yells your name repeatedly from the next room, or get some final intervals in by entering their room and responding to their every demand.
9:30 pm: Stretch. If you feel like you’ve earned it, have a tiny square of extra dark chocolate as a “decadent treat” to end your day. But be careful! The miniscule amount of caffeine it contains could keep you up for hours, even though you felt like passing out right when your children did.
Between 5:00 am and 7:00 am the following morning: Repeat. This can (and will) be repeated every day until your children are grown.
“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping, we are becoming.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I think about worship, I tend to think about it purely in religious terms. I go to church to worship on Sundays, Muslims travel to Mecca to worship, the Sabbath is regarded as a day of worship. I’m inclined to think of worship as a voluntary act, something I choose to do, and something I do only at specific times.
This quote defies all of my notions of what worship is, and it’s a bit unnerving. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? As a Christian, I believe we were made to worship. We were created to worship God, the only one deserving of worship. But if we were created to worship, and we aren’t worshiping God, it makes sense that we would need something or someone else to fulfill that innate desire in us.
Christian worldview aside, it’s easy to see what Emerson is saying here, if we just look at the world around us. I would argue that if you know someone well enough, you could guess what it is they worship by looking at their life. And anyone who knows you well enough could probably guess what it is that you worship, too.
What dominates your imagination? What do you think about most of the time? What, if you lost it, would devastate you, ruin your life? What do you plan your time around? What do you spend your money on? What defines you as a person?
It’s frightening to think that we can be worshiping something inadvertently. Worship is a heavy word, and it connotes a sort of ownership. If I worship someone or something, it is a submission on my part, a subjection of myself to that person or object. It’s as if I’m giving over a part of myself to the object of my worship. And what Emerson seems to be saying is that this can happen without our knowledge, without intention, without an express decision on our part. And he warns us to be careful what we worship, because what we worship determines who we are becoming.
So let’s take an obvious one: money. It’s tough because we need money; we have to have money to survive. So yes, we must think about money, we must find a way to make money, we must have dealings with money. But what if money is all I think about? What if all of my decisions are based off of how much money I can make, how much money I will spend, how much closer I can get to my financial goals because of this decision? What if I make sacrifices in my personal life because I feel like I need to make more money? What if all of my anxiety stems from the fear of losing money, or not having enough? When does this cease to become mere thought, and evolve into a sort of worship?
Jesus warns us against laying up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. It’s good logic, because one day none of it will matter, and we can’t hang on forever to money or anything it can buy. It will leave us one day, one way or another. But he goes on to say something else. He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
That sounds a lot like worship to me. It’s not just bad to hoard things on earth because they don’t last; it’s dangerous, because wherever our greatest treasure is, our heart will be there too. Whatever we treasure the most, that is what our heart will end up worshiping, whether we like it or not.
So can we choose what or whom we worship? Yes. But it’s not a matter of simply saying “I will worship God” or “I will not worship money (or beauty, or intellect, or popularity, or family).” It’s a matter of being intentional about where our treasure is, and where our heart is.
If I’m not spending time with God, thinking about God, talking to God, treasuring God and His promises, in my daily life, am I really worshiping him when I stand and sing songs in church to Him on Sunday? If I’m not allowing His word to penetrate into my heart and dictate how I live my life, am I truly worshiping Him when I sit down to read the Bible? Am I making decisions based on my relationship with Him, and what He wants for me? Or am I allowing something or someone else in my life to dictate my decision-making?
Worship isn’t just something we do on Sunday. It’s a condition of the heart. And as Emerson reminds us, if we aren’t careful about where our heart is, we may end up worshiping the wrong thing.
I have a confession to make: I don’t think I’ve ever voted in a Presidential primary. I joke that the only reason I voted in my first Presidential election was for the free Starbucks, and I voted for the guy my parents liked.
I’ve always kind of excused myself from voting because I’ve felt I don’t know enough about politics or the way government is run to be confident in my vote. Mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to do the research needed to figure out who deserves my vote. And, in all honesty, I really don’t think I can educate myself enough to truly know who will run the country well. It’s confusing, it’s frustrating, and I have other ways I would like to spend my time.
All joking aside, I understand my duty to vote, and I think it’s an important one. But I also know it’s important to check my views, my actions and my reactions to politics against scripture.
So what does scripture say about government? I found this blog post by Tim Challies that gives a great summary with scripture references. He breaks it up into five main points: Every government is put in place by God; God uses even sinful governments to do His will; we ought to pray for those who govern us; we should honor and submit to those who govern us; all human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever.
I’ll admit the prospects for the next President are not looking good, especially for Christians. We have the right as citizens to speak out about immoral behavior in our leaders, and the right for our voices to be heard about political issues. And as Christians, I think we have a moral obligation to fight against injustice and seek God’s will when it comes to our country and its leaders. But I struggle to find the line where our Christian calling veers away from our rights as citizens and calls us to something more, something different.
So thinking about Tim Challies’s list, I want to try to break his points down and apply them to the current situation.
1 – Every government is put in place by God.
This may be a hard one to swallow, but if we believe in His sovereignty over human history, we must believe this. As ungodly and lawless as the current political landscape in America seems, God has known from the beginning of time that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be leading in the polls on this day, March 3, 2016, in the running for President of the United States of America. And if He didn’t want it that way, He could stop it in an instant. So I can vote, like I did, and I can speak out if I feel the need, and heck, I can move to Canada if I feel like it, but I shouldn’t be afraid that somehow things have spiraled out of God’s control and He’s up there somewhere on the phone with all of his angels trying to figure out how this whole thing went so wrong so fast.
2 – God uses even sinful governments to do His will.
If we believe the first point, that God puts rulers in place, we must believe this one, because until all things are made new, all governments will be sinful. Some more than others, but any government run by humans will be sinful, and that’s a fact. And guess what? God still uses them. In fact, two extremely sinful governing figures played essential roles in Jesus’ crucifixion, which had to happen in order for him to conquer death that we might be saved from it.
“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you [God] anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)
So what does that mean? We may not like it, but God is using Hillary Clinton, and yes, even Donald Trump, for HIS PURPOSES. We may not know how, or what those purposes are, but we can be sure that He is, because all things in this world are used for His purposes, to His glory.
3 – We ought to pray for those who govern us.
Well, this is just convicting. How many times in my life have I prayed for our President? I could probably count them on two hands. I’m so self-focused, so myopic in my prayers, that this barely ever enters my prayer radar. But you know what? I bet the current political situation has brought a lot of Christians to their knees in prayer for our leaders even if they’ve never thought to do so before. Well would you look at that, evidence of God’s will being done, and we haven’t even made it to the end of the blog post! Keep praying. Always. Prayer changes things, more than my vote, more than sharing an article on Facebook, more than debating with my peers, more than this blog post, prayer has the power to change things. Keep praying.
4 – We should honor and submit to those who govern us.
This is becoming more and more difficult as the tides turn away from the “Christian Nation” we once claimed to be. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and I don’t know the answer to questions like “when do we stop obeying a government when they are clearly going against God’s laws?” But it is clear in the verses Tim Challies cites that we are called to submit to our leaders, and it is because God has put them in place and has done so for a reason. But it is also clear that we are to submit to God first, and it is only because we submit to God first that we can then submit to those human institutions. Peter puts it a lot better than I do:
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)
It’s almost as if he is saying that because we are God’s, we are free to obey human institutions, even if they are sinful or ungodly. We know who our true ruler is, our ultimate King, who is sovereign over all, so we can freely submit ourselves to governments because ultimately He is in control. And how do we put to silence the ignorance of foolish people? Not by rebelling, not by arguing with them, not by being louder, not by making sure they know they voted for the wrong person and because of them the world is going to end, but by doing good.
5 – All human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever.
If nothing else in this list reassures you, I can only hope that this last one will. If you are afraid for our country, your children, your grandchildren, and nothing else allays those fears, I hope and pray that this last truth will sink into your heart and give you some sense of ultimate peace. The fact that God appoints governments, even sinful ones, and uses them to do His will, does not mean that governments will not sometimes commit great sins, atrocities even. There are real, tangible fears that come along with certain rulers being in power. But, as with every fear we have in this world, we must return to the one truth that we can cling to in any circumstance, which is that one day all things will be made new, and the only ruler worthy of our full allegiance will reign supreme, forever and ever.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11, 15-16)
So should we vote? Yes. Should we speak out? Yes. Should we take action when necessary? Yes. Should we fear? No. We should know in our hearts that God is in control, we should submit to our leaders, we should pray for our leaders, and we should long for the day that Jesus reigns not only in our hearts, but over everyone, forever, in all of His glory.
POSTED IN: Christianity, Donald Trump, Elections, Faith, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Voting
POSTED IN: Christianity, Donald Trump, Elections, Faith, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Voting