Tag Archives: Christianity

When There Are No Other WordsWell, I’m not really even sure where to begin. It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it. It’s times like these when blogging gets complicated for me. I can’t just go on writing about my life as if three terrible tragedies didn’t just occur in Orlando. But I don’t feel like I have adequate words to discuss what has happened. I don’t even know how to process what has happened in my own heart, how to respond individually, how to respond as a Christian.

None of these tragedies has touched my life personally. I have no direct connection to any of them. And yet, like everyone in this country, they have touched my life, burdened my heart. Either of those shootings could have happened anywhere, and still could. The loss of lives, of friends, of family members, of community members, is unthinkable. And that little boy, that sweet little boy who is the exact same age as my little boy, as a parent I have no words. I wake up thinking about it. I go to sleep thinking about it. I look at my son and imagine what that would be like, what his parents must be going through, how utterly devastated they must be. What kind of words help in situations like these?

We have so many words these days, all of us. It begins with the first words about the tragedy. It’s the authorities, with their carefully chosen words, releasing only what they can, what they want to. And the news channels, grabbing on to these words, furiously trying to come up with their own words to fill the hours and days following the events. Speculative words, questioning words, unsure words, encouraging words, repetitive words, alarmist words, accusatory words, politicized words. And then the politicians, with their self-serving words. Their carefully chosen words that will appeal to their constituents, that will make them look better than their opponents, that make them look sympathetic enough and tough enough and presidential enough and democrat enough and republican enough. The activists, the experts, the people who think they are experts, they all have so many words.

And then the Facebook statuses, the Twitter feeds. Everyone has a voice, everyone has a platform. Do I say something, and if so what? Do I politicize it? Do I use it to push my agenda? Do I use my words to show the world (i.e. my 500 Facebook friends and 75 Twitter followers) how loving I am, how Christian I am in my response? If I remain silent, what will people think of me? If I am capable of saying words in response to what has happened, and I don’t, does that make me indifferent?

But when I think of the victims, the people who have been directly affected by these tragedies, all I can come back to is that for them, there are no words. I imagine what I would say if I were sitting in front of someone who was in that night club, or the parents of Christina Grimmie or that little boy, and I cannot for the life of me think of what I would say that would make any of it better.

The only words I know to use, the only words I know will help, are those of prayer. My words are so useless when they are spouted out to others, when they are thrown around as advice or condolences or stances. But when they are given to God, when in desperation I have nothing else to do, nothing else to say but “Lord, have mercy,” those words gain power. Infinite power.

Recently I’ve given fresh eyes to the phrase “All we can do is pray.” I don’t know where this came from, but I feel like it is so misguided, so dismissive of the power of prayer. All we can do is pray? All we can do is enter the presence of the sovereign God of the universe, praise Him, worship Him, ask Him for his presence and comfort for those who are hurting? It’s as if prayer should be a last resort, rather than the first thing we do in all situations. What if every time I thought of using my words to do something powerful in a worldly sense, I first used them to do something powerful in a heavenly sense? How would our words look different, if they were first and foremost given to God?

There are times for words, and then there are times that there are no words. At least no words that we can say to one another or that we can put out into the world that will help. But at all times, in all situations, our words can be used powerfully and fruitfully in prayer. Even when the only words we can think of to say are “Lord, have mercy.”

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” (Psalm 17:6-7)

“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)

 W

 

 


2482109_2520517_1432850457A couple months ago, I mentioned to my Bible study girls that I was feeling convicted about finding a way to live within our family’s means. We had been struggling with our budget, and I was trying to find ways to keep up with our spending, when all of a sudden it dawned on me that I was going about things all wrong. I really felt like I needed to learn to live with what we had before I started trying to make more money so we could spend more.

Our fearless leader Lauren recommended I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” According to her website, “7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.” It was a great book, especially since Jen Hatmaker is absolutely hilarious and completely truthful about her triumphs and struggles during the experiment. But she also weaves in a lot of great observations and research about the excess that most of us live with.

She eats only seven foods for an entire month, gives away seven things a day for a month, spends money at only seven establishments, does seven things to minimize waste, wears only seven pieces of clothing, cuts out all media, and observes the seven sacred pauses for the last month. Some months are easier than others, but all of them are transformative for her family in one way or another.

I know you might think I’m crazy, but I sort of want to do it. I’m at this place where I’m sick of all the stuff around me, but I’m not bold enough to just give it all away or get rid of all my electronics and start living off the land. I don’t think that’s realistic for me, either. But I do see something appealing about intentionally taking time away from certain excesses in my life and giving myself the time and space to evaluate what can stay and what needs to go.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what is going on around me, to live my life as a reaction to what’s happening to me rather than being intentional about the way I live. Every once in a while I stop and think to myself, “how did I get here?” My life is too busy, my house is too cluttered, my budget is shot and I’m a ball of stress.

Especially with spending, it’s easy to quickly pick something up off of the shelf at the grocery or click on something on Amazon before really evaluating whether I need it. The more I’ve tried to budget, the more I’ve realized that being intentional is absolutely necessary. Even stopping to think for one second, “do I really need this?” can make such a huge difference. And I rarely do it.

There are so many things in my life I do without thinking, without evaluating why I do them or whether I even should be doing them. I just do something because I’ve always done it, or because somewhere along the way someone told me I should do it, or because well, everyone else does it, so shouldn’t I? And I don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t think I’m called as a Christian to live my life like that.

The Bible makes it clear that we are called, as followers of Christ, to live intentionally. We are called to do things that don’t just come naturally to us. We are called to love God and love others, to live holy lives and work toward sanctification. All of these require a certain discipline—an ability to look at something and say “this is something that is good for me” or “this is something that is bad for me.” More often than not, it’s the little things that keep me from living the way I want to live, the things that easily go unnoticed or seem inconsequential. The devil is in the details, as they say.

So I’m actually considering an abridged version of Jen Hatmaker’s experiment. It could be a great opportunity to take an intentional look at a lot of the little things that characterize my life. Lauren has done it before and said she would do it again with me, so I’ll be sure to let you know if we end up doing it. I think it could be an eye opening experience.

W


How To Prioritize Like Jesus A while back, I wrote about never-ending to-do lists, and how there will never be a day in this life when everything will be or feel finished. I mentioned that I haven’t quite figured out how to cope with this, except perhaps to allow that tension to fuel my desire for heaven.

Recently I’ve been reading the book Crazy Busy by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. I ran across a paragraph that really hit home and got me thinking about busyness in a whole new way.

DeYoung talks about how Jesus, too, was a very busy man. Maybe he didn’t have kids to take care of and a house to clean, but he did have a few things vying for his time and attention. Like, for instance, every sick and hurting person in need of healing wherever he was, the thousands of followers who awaited his teaching every day and the other large group of people who wanted him dead.

You could say Jesus had a pretty long potential to-do list, and every reason to keep going and going without ever stopping. How could he possibly take a break when there were always more people to heal and more truth to teach? But even Jesus knew he couldn’t just keep going, keep doing, keep meeting other people’s needs, without taking time away.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’” (Mark 1:35-38)

DeYoung notes how amazing it is not only that Jesus takes time away, but also that when the disciples come looking for him, he says simply, “Let us go somewhere else.” He doesn’t run down to the people who have been looking for him, many of whom are probably in need of healing. He says, “Let’s keep going so I can preach elsewhere, because that’s why I’m here.”

DeYoung puts it this way:

“Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task.” (Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung)

Jesus was on mission. He knew why he was here, and while part of his mission was to help people, he didn’t get sidetracked from his mission by the expectations of others. He knew what his purpose was, and he kept that at the top of his to-do list, always. He didn’t do things because other people expected things of him; he did things because he was called to do certain things, and because he was driven by the Holy Spirit.

Now, obviously our mission as Christians is not quite as clear-cut as Jesus’ was. But we can, however, know what our priorities and general mission should be as believers and followers of Christ. And this can and should color everything we do.

This week in Sunday school, we talked about what our mission as disciples of Christ is. And while these verses certainly aren’t exhaustive, I think they are a great summary of how we are called to live.

The first passage is what we call The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his original disciples before he left them for the last time.

“’Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And what has Jesus commanded us? This is how he answers the Pharisees:

“And one of the scribes…asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, Hear O Isreal: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

We may have specific callings on our lives, but above all else, we are called to bring people to Jesus, to teach each other his ways, to love him and to love one another. These should be our priorities, and everything else should come second. If anything is distracting us from these things, it would behoove us to reevaluate our priorities.

Another thing we see Jesus doing here is resting, and spending time alone with God. Even Jesus needed rest, and even Jesus needed time with God. If we think we can go without either of these, we are sorely mistaken. These are not simply icing on top of the cake once we’ve finished all of the important tasks. These are musts if we are going to live the life that God has called us to live.

W

 


What Does It Mean To Live Freely? I have a lamp that has been sitting in my dining room for almost a year without a shade on it. It’s a beautiful lamp, and it once had a beautiful burlap shade. But between dogs and toddlers and moving trucks, the burlap shade sadly didn’t make it back home to Nashville; it will be easier, I figured, to buy a new shade than to try to fix the old one.

And here I am, almost a year later, with a shade-less lamp sitting in my dining room. I’m largely immune to it now, but every so often a guest (usually my sister or mom) will mention it, or I’ll look at it with fresh eyes and think “Oh shoot, I need to get that shade.”

The lamp is becoming less of a décor piece and more of a physical symbol of my inability to get things done. “Remember me?” says Lamp. “You were supposed to clothe me months ago, and yet here I am, naked and alone, helpless against the judgmental stares of every person who enters your home.” I know the feeling, Lamp.

To-do lists are great. I would be a mess without them, and it’s satisfying to check things off (actually, I find it much more satisfying to go all in and mark through them. Die, to-do, die!). But they can be a burden too, especially if they contain unrealistic goals, or things we just know we won’t be doing for a long time.

For some reason I woke up this morning thinking of the Bible verse from Galatians in which Paul talks about freedom. He says,

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

He’s been talking about the law, and how before Christ, we were all slaves to it. But now that we have the truth of the gospel, we are freed from the law, and freed from the things of this world. But for some reason, we keep returning to those captors. We put these rules on ourselves, and give ourselves spiritual to-do lists, which are often unrealistic.

So Paul is saying to his original readers, and to us, no! You’re free, don’t you remember? And this isn’t just a side-benefit of the gospel; it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. It’s the reason for the gospel! Christ has set us free so that we can live freely.

As Christians, we shouldn’t have that nagging feeling of “Oh shoot, there’s something I need to be doing that I’m not doing.” We are not justified by anything we do, nor are we condemned by anything we don’t do. We are righteous and considered holy because of what was done on our behalf by Christ, and we can rest in that.

Jesus says,

“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.”

If we can just put down our spiritual to-do lists and live in Christ, keeping in step with the Spirit, loving one another, we can live in freedom. Freedom from the rules we give ourselves, and freedom from the sinful desires that once had a hold on us.

(for more on what Paul was saying, read Galatians 4-5)

W


You Aren't The OneA while back, I wrote about teaching my children about Jesus, and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to other mothers for advice. The first person I asked was, naturally, the leader of my new moms’ Bible study at church. I invited her to share with me and my readers some of her thoughts on teaching our children about Jesus, and what she returned to me was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be. 

Susan has such a generous and humble spirit, and she is truly an encourager. I love that in this post she releases us from the burdens we may feel about our responsibility in our children’s faith journeys. As she reminds us, we are not THE ONE, God is THE ONE, and we can rest confidently in that truth. 

From Susan:

Our church has a lovely tradition of conducting baby dedications throughout the year during the worship service. It’s always a heartwarming moment – the proud parents standing with our pastor at the front of the church, holding their cherubic babe in their arms, usually with some or many family members standing alongside them. Sometimes the baby is a newborn and sometimes the baby is more of a toddler. Always always, the baby is dressed to the nines, which adds to the complete adorableness of the occasion.

The basis of this meaningful rite of passage is the parents’ wish to dedicate publically their precious baby, a new image bearer, unto the Lord. Pastor Jim will quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He will also mention this is the first commandment that comes with a promise.

Photos are taken, prayers are given and hearty applause is offered as this freshly anointed family unit walks off the platform.

I often wonder if these new parents get into their cars, travel home and say to themselves, “Sighhhh…that was so nice…wasn’t that great…wait, what? Train up a child in the way he should go…and just how do we do that?!”

It is every believing mother and father’s desire to do just that. It’s at the top of their unwritten, lengthy job descriptions. And yet, in this age of modern parenting, we either feel completely ill-equipped from lack of knowledge or are over-burdened from an avalanche of instruction, advice, articles, books and the latest research. Too much noise, not enough wisdom.

As the mother of three school-age daughters with one entering middle school in the fall, I have been that wandering parent in the wilderness of “how.” I know where I want to get, I just don’t know how to get there. And, as a bible study leader of new moms, I am deeply compassionate of their burdens and concerns, and recognize the burning, innate hunger for practical wisdom that is grounded in timeless truth.

Here are some things I am both convinced of, and convicted by:

First, as a godly mother, there is no right way nor wrong way in teaching your children about Jesus.

Second, you don’t have be a theologian, have 100 scripture verses memorized and be able to quote C.S. Lewis before you can teach your children about Jesus.

Third, you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect, or sound perfect.

Fourth, it’s less about your ability and more about the faithfulness of God.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)

In the very early stages of pregnancy, my husband and I spent a lot of time becoming educated about pregnancy, delivery and early childcare, and of course, made herculean efforts in preparing for each little baby (well, less and less with each child). We had a vision and we had a plan.

I am a little embarrassed to realize and admit that we had zero plans for how we were going to raise our children for Christ. Plenty of cute dresses, stuffed animals and nursery décor. Zero thought or preparation for practical teaching about Jesus. You could officially say we were winging it.

Despite our ignorance, misplaced priorities and rookie attempts, the Lord was and is at work in the young, tender hearts of our children.

I saw it in their budding recognition that God made the sun, flowers, trees, rainbows, butterflies and themselves 

I saw it in their innocent awareness that God hears their prayers.

I saw it in the small, easily unnoticed ways they would attend to the hurts and needs of other friends.

I see it now, in the way God is using them already, to be a light in this world and be His hands and feet. Small, but mighty.

It’s in our nature to feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate for the task set before us – we’re in charge of growing God’s Kingdom Builders, after all 

We’re not the first…

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

And,

We’re not the One…

“Now may the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:21, abbreviated)

If we can take off the spiritual Superhero Parent cape and remember who is actually the true Victor, we can sigh with relief and offer empty, sticky, formerly clenched hands of faith to the One who is faithful to lead us, equip us and meet us in every moment of “training up our child.”

Thank you Susan for your wonderful words of encouragement for me and any parents reading this post!

W

 

 

 

 


Teaching Children About Jesus

Having a child comes with a bundle of worries that never even crossed my mind before I became a mother. Is my baby eating enough, when will he sleep through the night, why hasn’t he gotten his teeth yet, shouldn’t he be crawling? And that’s just in the first night months or so. In the two and a half years I’ve been a mother, none of these concerns have slowed down. In fact, they’ve multiplied.

I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I get the feeling we are living in a culture that worries way too much, way too far into the future for our children. I find myself wondering how the food I’m feeding my seven month old will affect her health for the rest of her life. And I’m not giving her donuts. We’ve barely strayed outside the bounds of fruits and vegetables.

My son is two and a half and I catch myself deciding what sport he’s going to play in college because he seems to be athletic. I pore over his school reports and wonder whether he is on track with his peers. Should he have known his ABC’s when he was two? Do all the other children already count to 20? Will he even get into college?

It’s insane.

I’m bombarded from all sides—doctors, the Internet, other moms, well-meaning friends, the Today Show—about the things I should be concerned about for my children. Their development, their health, their education, how much money they make when they grow up, how to make them “successful” adults. And so far, I’ve drunk the cool-aid, ticking off these boxes in each new stage of their lives, to make sure I’ve set them on the right track. But is this really what should be my focus?

As a Christian, should these things matter? Yes, and no. Obviously I plan to care for my children in every way possible, to raise them to be healthy, happy, educated individuals. But above all else, I have been called as a mother to care for their hearts. It is my duty as a parent to teach them about Jesus, to teach them how to be like Jesus, and to prepare their hearts to know, love and follow Him.

If I do nothing else as my children’s mother, I want to teach them about Jesus. If they receive nothing in their lives, but receive Jesus into their hearts, I will have done my most important job in raising them. First and foremost, I want my children to be lovers and followers of Jesus, and if they succeed at nothing but serving Him, I will be satisfied.

It’s easy to let all of the outside noise drown out what I believe is important. Because let’s be honest, most of the noise that surrounds us is not telling us to focus on Jesus. In fact, most of the noise tells us to focus on things directly opposed to Jesus’ desires for our lives. Money, success, power, safety, security…we are not called as Christians to desire any of these things, nor are we promised to receive them. So we have to be intentional about keeping the noise out and directing our lives, and our homes, around Jesus.

I don’t know yet what this will look like for my family, except that I know it starts with Jesus being the center of my own life. I can teach my children about Jesus until my face turns blue, but if they don’t see that He is real in my life, those words will be empty. So right now, while my children are young, I’ll tell them about Jesus and sing about Jesus and read about Jesus, but most importantly, I’ll make sure that Jesus is the rock upon which I stand. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

W


Wednesdays are tough mornings for me.

Marshall leaves early, so I wake up with the kids and have to get all three of us fed, clothed, and ready to get out of the house by 9.

If you’re not a parent, you may be thinking to yourself “9:00? That shouldn’t be tough! I get to work at 8 every morning! Don’t your kids wake up at like 6:30 anyway? Piece of cake!”

One would think.

I swear it doesn’t matter how much time I have to get out of the house, what time of day it is, how much prep I’ve done ahead of time, it’s ALWAYS a struggle.

But I digress.

Yesterday Shook was just a ball of emotions. He’s in a really loud phase (Is it a phase? Ask my family and they would say I never grew out of this one), so even when he’s happy he’s inevitably yelling or singing or banging on something he shouldn’t be banging on, which can be trying on a tired mother who hasn’t finished her coffee. When he’s not happy, he’s somewhere on the spectrum between whining and tantrum, and for some reason there were a lot of things making him unhappy yesterday.

Some days I’m good at handling his emotions, and some days they just push me to the limit. When it hit 8:45 and I hadn’t gotten his lunch together for school or either of the children dressed, I was at my limit. When Marshall walked back in to get his lunch I released an exasperated “thank goodness” and immediately put him to work.

I finally got Shook in the car at 9:05 (gotta love that 15 minute grace period). I rushed him into his classroom and snuck down the hallway without a goodbye so I could get back home to get the baby ready to go to Bible study.

Before I made it halfway down the hall, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet and a familiar “Mommy!” followed by a frantic teacher running after her little renegade.

I turned to see Shook, arms outstretched, begging me to hold him.

I knew right then that he needed me. That I had ignored him and pushed him aside and gotten frustrated with him too many times, and that he needed me to hug him, to remind him that I loved him, to give him some undivided attention before I left him to play with his friends.

So I went into his classroom and sat on the floor with him in my lap, hugging him, kissing him, telling him I was sorry for not paying attention to him.

He wasn’t mad at me for ignoring him, he wasn’t bitter that I had been less than loving to him, he wasn’t resentful that I had tried to rush away without saying goodbye. He just wanted a hug from his mommy, because he hadn’t gotten enough of my love yet. And in turn I received love from him that I didn’t know I needed until I got it.

What an act of mercy on God’s part, to send my little toddler out one last time before I left him for the day, to allow me the opportunity to make up for a bad morning and give my little boy the love he needed. And what a display of the grace that God gives us daily in various ways.

I always say that when I became a parent, God unveiled his love to me in a new way through the unconditional love I have for my children. But recently He’s been showing me His love in a completely different way through the unconditional love my children have for me.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve talked to God, how long it’s been since I opened my Bible, how long it’s been since I’ve come to Him with my thanksgiving, my supplications, my confessions, my worship. He’s not mad, He’s not bitter, He’s not resentful. He just wants me to turn to Him and give Him my love, and allow Him to give His love to me. It’s that simple. His love for me is truly unconditional, and no matter what I do to deflect it, He is always there chasing after me, waiting for me to turn around.

How many times have I been too distracted to see that God is trying to show His love to me? How often do I allow the worries of this world to cloud my vision, to let what seems urgent to obscure what’s truly important?

Sometimes I’m able to look at my children and dwell on the love I have for them, and how it is a reflection of the love God has for me. Most of the time, however, I need God to send my toddler running down the hallway after me asking for hugs, stopping me in my tracks to remind me of the love my children have for me, and what a beautiful reflection it is of the love God has for me.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

W


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)

W


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 usaccording 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)

W

 

 


“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.

W