When the Christian Life is Easier Said Than Done

photo: fancyfleamarket.typepad.com

Yesterday I went over to a friend’s place to visit. What I’ve always appreciated about this friend is her authenticity when it comes to her struggles in raising three children.

Her husband walked in the door as I was attempting to round up my kids. The three of us got into a good, unexpected conversation about hearing vs. actually doing God’s Word.

“We were inspired by our pastor’s sermon on Sunday. We were encouraged to do God’s will. We were convicted in areas that need change…” my friend said.

“Then we got home,” she sighed.

“The kids were horrible. Things felt chaotic. We exploded a lot and were so discouraged because just a few minutes ago we were so on fire to live for the Lord. It’s as if we forgot everything we’d just heard…”

I continued to listen to her story and couldn’t help but think how she was articulating exactly how I’d felt so many times. Especially on Sundays!

Just the other morning I got up early to read my Bible and journal while my husband did his quiet time. It had been well over a week or more since I had been in the Word. The kids weren’t up and I was savoring the alone time. I thought for sure it would be a good day but within the hour it was as if the house erupted. Or shall I say, Momma erupted.

If you took a peep into my window you wouldn’t have found a gentle, godly woman who had just been with Jesus. Anger exploded out of me toward my kids and I felt overwhelmed by all the change that’s happening with our move, graduation, and new baby. Sadly, I’d forgotten all that I had read.

Shortly after, I was reminded of the verses in James:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:23-25

That evening before bed, I prayed and begged God to help me in the areas of my life where I not only fail but fail big time. In that time of soul searching, He showed me how much I need His grace and that this Christian life is a process- a process of sanctification that doesn’t come over night.

And that “doing” the Christian life is pretty much impossible apart from His truth and guidance. Doing good-outward-acts can’t be mistaken for a heart that’s truly been changed by Christ.

His Word has been given to me as a gift so that I would know how to live, but I can’t be changed if I’m not “looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom.”

I’m thankful that regardless of my imperfections and weaknesses, God is still at work in me. He’s always pursuing me to come back to Him for the healing I need so badly. He knows I’m a work in progress.

And I think more times than not, I need to celebrate and remember the times where He has allowed me to be victorious in the struggles against sin, rather than focusing so much on failures and falling short.

His divine power has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)- even in the challenging times of raising little ones. So as for today, it’s time to shake the dust off, confess & repent of sin, accept His forgiveness & love, and continue living by faith in his son.

When You Fear People More Than God

As Christians brought up in the church, this particular young woman and her boyfriend struggled with their purity. Eventually, they found out they were pregnant and considered having an abortion. All kinds of thoughts brewed through their mind:

We know abortion is wrong, but it would be devastating if people in the church found out we were pregnant.

Getting pregnant out of wedlock is the worst sin imaginable.

People would never look or treat us the same again.

We can’t let anyone know we’ve been living in sin and having sex.

Other thoughts ran through their mind and they just couldn’t bare the thought of keeping their baby and the turmoil they would experience from others. They eventually made their decision and sadly ended the life of their innocent child.

This story isn’t a whole lot different than the real-life stories laced throughout Scripture that involve men and women who trusted and put their hope in people more than God. The Bible calls it the “fear of men.”

I’m going through a Bible study with my seminary wives small group on fear and anxiety and I thought these questions were very helpful when it comes to pinpointing what the fear of men might look like in our every day lives. The author of the study, Edwards Welch, asks:

  • Have you ever struggled with peer pressure?
  • Have you ever been overly concerned about your appearance?
  • Have you ever been tempted to get plastic surgery?
  • Do you find that your view of yourself fluctuates on the basis of your achievements or the opinions of others?
  • Do you show favoritism?
  • Do you ever say yes when you should say no?
  • Do your public actions look much better than your private thoughts and behaviors?
  • Have you ever had a difficult time loving someone because you didn’t feel loved by that person?
  • Do you ever struggle with jealousy?
  • Have you ever been scared to talk about Jesus with someone for fear that the person would think differently of you?

From time to time, I struggle with all those questions (some more than others) minus the plastic surgery one because well… that freaks me out.

The danger in fearing other people is that we allow them to control us. We make decisions based on what they think or say. We fear the consequence if we let them down. We put our hope and faith in them instead of what God thinks or would have us do. And it’s a bit of a “subtle” sin.

But thank goodness there is a solution to being obsessed with what other people think of us. And it comes in four beautiful letters:


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18

Welch describes it like this: “God took all the initiative. He loved you while you were an enemy of his. He loves you now not because you are great, but because he is love. Such love is unwavering and secure. The Cross of Jesus- the ultimate evidence of God’s love- establishes it.”

God’s unconditional love is our motivation to trust in Him. He knows what is best. He is watching out for us. And he is guiding our path as he desires. And if we ever doubt him, we need only to fix our eyes on the cross that he died upon to remember His love.

When we look to Him, this world and what it “thinks” tends to fade away.

I personally know the young couple who had the abortion. For many years they dealt with guilt, shame, regret, depression, and major emotional, physical, and spiritual turmoil. They eventually learned that the people in the church they’d feared were far from perfect too. They just looked good on the outside and were able to say the right words.

While this couple still naturally carries guilt and shame at times, they have accepted God’s forgiveness and love and have forgiven themselves. They are open about sharing their mistakes and they’re learning what it means to trust in God, rather than in men.

Fearing, Loving, and Reverencing God more than men.

How liberating and God-glorifying to live life in such a way.

contagious inspiration

I go through weeks where I’m inspired to write and weeks where I just write regardless if I’m inspired or not. The latter is definitely the hardest and not what I prefer, but it’s reality. For a while now, I have forgotten about the things in my life that help keep me inspired and motivated when it comes to using my gifts specifically in writing. Joys and delights like:

Slowly, I’ve been rediscovering these joys more intentionally and I’m realizing that whatever inspires me should in some form or another, inspire another person to move to action. To do something different.

Inspiration should infect other people. It shouldn’t be hoarded. Contained. Or kept a secret.

If the inspiration I receive is all about me, that would be a tragedy. The people who have inspired me the most in life, gave themselves away. And what they had to give was contagious, producing a ripple effect.

I know inspiration in writing will still come and go in the seasons of life, but I want to keep at it. I want to inspire others to take action in ways I will never know about.

What inspires you?

Church, Meth, & the Gospel

“The church I grew up in was hypocritical,” my waiter said after I asked him about his church background.

“I’m from east Texas- you know the Meth capital of the world. So people would do Meth and then go to our Baptist church on Sunday,” he said with a somewhat frustrated voice. “They acted so religious too.”

Not being from Texas, I didn’t know east Texas was famous for that.

“Do you go to church anywhere now?” I asked.

“No, I work Sundays and everything… and… church just isn’t for me.”

“Yeah I understand,” I said.

Where’s the life and joy?

My husband chimed in and shared about the ugliness of hypocrisy he saw at times in his church growing up.

Our waiter listened, gazing at the glasses that needed to be filled in the distance. As they conversed, I took some bites out of my steak, completely annoyed at where we stand as “the church” today.

I remember times growing up in the church and putting on my Sunday best. Singing those hymns, smiling, and shaking hands with people, but feeling like I was swimming in a sea of dead people. All I wanted to see was life and joy. I didn’t want to see hypocrisy.

When I went to college, I began to see God’s love like never before through his people and his Word. I grew in intimacy with him as I was surrounded by other Christ-followers. I started to look to God, and not at other people. Since getting married and moving to Dallas several years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about true, biblical community at our church. I’ve experienced what it means to be authentic, confess sins, and share struggles and it’s been life-changing.

The Church isn’t a Building

It’s the gospel over and over again- broken people coming to Jesus. But how come the church is missing it- they’re not even on the map?

I think we all have to face the fact that there is nothing great in us apart from Christ. We are all, in a sense, hypocritical people. That’s why we need a Savior. We need him to help us navigate the rough waters of isolation and pretending.

We have to realize that the church is made up of real people who are supposed to love God and others. It’s not a building. It’s the bride of Christ, put here on earth to reflect his glory.

The Gospel’s Transforming Power

Well my husband wrapped up what he was saying to our waiter and then invited him to our church, handing him a card with info on it. I sensed that he thought we were a little weird (Okay, maybe foreign), but that somehow he appreciated us chatting with him.

It’s my prayer that one day he can step foot in the church again and see how the church was really meant to be. That he would see the power of the gospel transform all forms of hypocrisy.

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

Bring your Bibles, but don’t bring your problems?

dmax_5386sepia3There is a cancer happening in churches across the country today and it has to do with morality– the same disease that controlled the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ time.

It’s the idea that you have to “do” this or do that to be accepted by God. It’s the idea that you must go to church, but don’t you dare say anything that could ever show that you’re not a “good” Christian or that you aren’t following all the rules. And problems? Oh no, don’t bring those. Those don’t exist.

Well it’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? And it’s far from the true gospel. It causes people to never want to step foot in the church again. I’ve seen it happen.

The truth is that Jesus came to heal us of our problems. He didn’t ask us to clean up before hand. He never asked the church to put on their pretty faces and hide their issues with lust, greed, adultery, murder, or jealousy from each other. He said to confess them so that they could be healed and find life again (James 5:16).

He asks us to bring our sin to him.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were so blinded by their good works that they couldn’t see their hypocrisy. Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matt. 23:13).

The Pharisees had it so wrong that people were kept from entering the kingdom of God. A lot of us have it wrong today, including myself at times. Morality is not our motive.

The gospel is. The cross is our motive. It’s about broken people receiving the free, unmerited gift of salvation- not because of anything good we have done.

As I grow in my faith, I’m reminded to be careful of those who preach a message of morality alone- that there is something I can do to earn favor with God. (This isn’t to say that when I grow closer to Him, I won’t want to “do” those things.) But my motive isn’t for morality’s sake alone, but to embrace Christ for all that he is and to let him do the changing he needs to do in my areas of brokenness.

Have you ever felt like you could bring your Bible to church, but not your problems? Do you think the typical church today is missing the true gospel?

photo by: Janice Dunn

Authentic Thoughts

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

Book Review: Crazy Love (Ch. 1)

My friend Whitney and I are going through Francis Chan’s new book, Crazy Love. We met and discussed Chapter 1 yesterday and I’m just amazed by the truths in this book.

Francis talks about his view of God growing up in the church. For him, it was all about rules. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex. Don’t cheat. You get the point. So he viewed God as a God who wanted to spoil his fun. He began to think: Is this it, really? Is this what being a Christian is? He didn’t want anything to do with Christianity if that was the case.

But he had an epiphany in his view of God. Through reading the Scriptures and through a few trips overseas, he realized his view of God was skewed, incorrect, and unbiblical.

God was not out to spoil his fun or take away from him. God’s commands were to give life to him, to protect him, and to show God’s love to him. Francis began to experience this love and it was so radical that he started to see that God, after all, was crazy in love with him. So much that God sent his son, Jesus, to come down to earth, die on a cross, and raise to life again so that he could be saved from his sins and have life to its fullest.

Francis goes on to say how incredible it is that Creator God would want to have a relationship with him. I resonate so much with Francis. I still think my view of God is sometimes jaded. I like to put him in a sweet little box as if I have him figured out. I sometimes think he’s casting lightning bolts down from heaven when I mess up. But I too am beginning to see that this is far from the truth. All I have to do is read God’s word to see that He is Wholly-different and it’s okay that I can’t comprehend him. I can still trust in who he is.

After watching the video below, I was in awe that God wants to have a relationship with someone as insignificant as me.


Get out Your Gifts

tightropeWhat would be the one thing you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? I was challenged with this question in college and for some reason I was reminded about it yesterday.

I think this question ties in with the gifts God has given us and how we choose to use them. So maybe it would better read, “What gifts that God has given you would you use, if you knew you wouldn’t fail?”

I’ve seen different gifts really shine in my community  group for example. There are five of us girls including me.

Ashley T.- She works as an Admin. Asst. for Josh McDowell and she’s gifted in administrative work. Yet she also has another side of her that explodes with creativity. She loves photography and has an eye for capturing life and beauty. She’s humble when she relates to people and easily makes friends.

Jen- is highly hospitable- she brightens days with home-made desserts and dishes. She put on a home-made spa night for us once with edible (yes!) spa treatments. She’s gifted in organization and at performing tasks. She works as a children’s nurse and has a heart for kids. She’s truly one of a kind.

Julia- You would never guess by meeting her that she makes six figures! She’s a Physician’s Assistant who spends a lot of solitude time in serious heart surgeries, yet she’s bubbly and loves meeting people. She’s an amazing artist, painter, and is skilled in crafts. She has a way of putting “life” into people with her contagious joy.

Ashley C.- She’s our world traveler as a flight-attendant for Southwest Airlines. She frequents Italy and other amazing places around the world. With the resources God has given her, she’s blessed our group with a free Time Share together, gifts from her travels, and free plane tickets. Ashley has the sweetest heart and is just plain fun to be around.

I’m so humbled to see my friend’s gifts at work and how they’re  being used for God’s glory. So my question to you and that I’m asking myself is, How are you using your gifts now to further God’s kingdom and what gift would you start using if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

A Cheap Gospel

Over the past few years, I’ve been wrestling with several things that pertain to true salvation and people who claim to be “Christian.” It seems like many people say they are a Christian or at least go to church but when it comes to watching their life day in and day out, you wouldn’t be able to tell that they’ve been transformed by Christ.

And before I go further, I want to mention I’ve had instances in my life where people would probably have said the same thing. In no way, shape, or form was I acting like Who I proclaimed to follow. But my heart’s desire was truly to do God’s will, but because of the sin still in me, I struggled (and by God’s grace, today, many of those struggles are gone- though I’m still not perfect). But I’m wrestling with why deeds aren’t often matched with a faith that is proclaimed. Paul said faith without works, is dead. And that we will know if someone truly knows Christ by the evidence of fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control).

For example, I have found myself really upset at people who claim to be Christian but hate others with a passion. When Jeremiah and I were at Bush’s Inaugaration in 2004, we ran into a sign (from a protester or something) by a “Christian” that read “God hates fags.” It made me so angry. This person had no clue about the true gospel. There are many churches out there that claim lots of things, but you can’t find an ounce of love in their blood. And you realize that it’s no wonder so many people hate Christians or won’t step foot in the church. I wouldn’t for one second, want to know to know about Jesus, if a person like that was all I had to learn from.

I won’t go too long on that soapbox but I think the gospel today has been sugar-coated, fit into a box of individual preference, and altogether cheapened. Because the gospel is nothing but costly. It calls us to come and die- to put Christ above self pleasures and to surrender our lives to Him. And if that happens to mean a serious illness, broken arm, or even death, it doesn’t matter because we live for Christ. And we can still have joy in the midst of trial.

It is about Jesus, coming down as a man, to die a criminal’s death to save us from our sin. The price of our sin was something we could not pay on our own. He bore our sins so that we might live for righteousness (again nothing we could ever do).

If this is the gospel we proclaim and if it’s a gospel that has truly transformed us, then we will go out into the world and love as Christ did and people will know we are His by the love that we give.

Is anyone else resonating with these thoughts?

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