In the current climate of our country I have been praying, reading, and seeking my place in it all as a Christian. With all the conversation about rights, freedoms, guns, privacy, the president, and the like, there are a lot of things to sort out. It seems as though there is a drive and push for us as the body of Christ to separate our life in Christ from our life as an American. From my perspective this is super problematic. Is it possible that we have lost our focus? As Christians, our sole purpose is to bring glory to God with our lives. When we begin to put our rights or our earthly freedoms before God or when we find ourselves fighting for our rights and earthly freedoms (sometimes no matter the cost), it would seem that our priorities might be out of order. We are called to be representatives of Jesus Christ, and as a result, how we live matters. The things we say and do matter as we are to represent Jesus in the best possible light. When we focus so intensely on our earthly freedoms and comforts we may start to panic, or start to react poorly, or become so caught up that we forget we are representing Jesus to those that we think are trying to change or remove those freedoms from us. "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." Colossians 3:17
This is also a matter of trust. Do we trust God regardless of the outcome? Do we trust God even in the midst of what may result in hardship? Do we trust God even though evil may seem to be prevailing?
The challenge for us as believers is to put Jesus first in all circumstances and situations. If you don't agree with someone it is okay to disagree, how you disagree maters greatly. Disagree in love. As a believer in Jesus you are commanded by God to love others, and Jesus made it clear that this includes your enemies.
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him." Colossians 3:1-10
Want to continue the conversation? Leave me a comment, I would love to chat more about it!
The Pharisee card, I have seen it used a lot these days and it is breaking my heart. Unfortunately, most of the time the card is being played it is played as sort of a Christian trump card intended to discredit the person it is being played against, this can be very problematic. We see the Pharisee card being played in conversations that challenge our previous held beliefs or ideas, and instead of engaging in Christ honoring conversation we assume the person is being Pharisaical and we dismiss them as not having anything to offer us, so we shut them down by calling them Pharisees or Religious Leaders. I want to look at the Pharisees for a minute and dive into how they were responding to Jesus and His disciples. As a bit of a disclaimer, this may be hard to swallow because it should challenge us to look at how we respond to people when they challenge the things we believe.
Lets state the obvious first, the Pharisees were self-righteous hypocrites. Sadly, this is where we tend to stop and often why we use the Pharisee card out of context and incorrectly, and we certainly don't apply the card to ourselves because we are not self-righteous hypocrites (please insert any level of sarcasm you see fit). There is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, and this is where we can find our self acting like the Pharisees if we are not careful. The Pharisees refused to listen to the truth of God's Word, they refused to admit that they might not have it all figured out, they refused to examine the claims of Jesus, the figured they had all the answers and no one could tell them otherwise. With that, when Jesus brought them a truth claim about Himself or the Scripture they rejected it immediately, they had already come to the conclusion that they were right and He was wrong. This is where we can be much like the Pharisees. When a brother or sister brings something to us or challenges something said or that we have held on to as a belief, instead of examining if what they are saying is true, we reject their claims, and we seek to discredit them, this is exactly what the Pharisees did. We as people have a problem when the facts don't align with our previously held beliefs and with that, we have a couple of options. We can either approach the topic presented with an open mind and an open Bible examining the claim(s) that is being made, or we can cling to our presuppositions and assume the person is wrong and dismiss what they are saying. In my mind, the first approach is the wise approach and the more Biblical approach. (Now, there are certain doctrines that you are going to rightly cling to, for example; Salvation through faith alone, the person of Christ (the hypostatic union (two complete natures, Jesus was fully human and fully God during His time on earth), and others.)
We look an awful lot like the Pharisees when refuse to examine a claim being brought to our attention. Even if the person is way out of bounds in their thinking, we should still be willing to hear them out, take the time to examine the Biblical reality of the claim and have a conversation. The problem is that that option is harder, longer, and requires our attention and time, it is way easier for us to dismiss things. I am reminded of a time when I was young in my faith and a buddy of mine whom I had come to trust had shared that the music I was listening to was problematic and certainly didn't glorify God. My initial response wasn't the kindest, I thought in my mind that they were some religious nut and I said "music is just art, it's fine for me to listen to these things." That friend shared a series called "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" by Good Fight Ministries with me, and I didn't want to watch it. I thought it was just going to be some over the top, crazy religious stuff that was seeking to condem me for my listening habits. However, because I had come to know this brother in Christ I chose to watch it. The video series was 10 hours long and after the first half of video 1 I was wrecked, I was in tears and I realized I was wrong, God did a mighty work. Later that week I gathered up all my music and I threw it in the dumpster, it took everything for me not to jump in and fish it all out but I knew that God had made it clear that it needed to go. My point is this, my previously held belief was that my music was fine, but in reality, it wasn't and through careful examination of my buddies claim according the to the Word of God I saw that I was wrong. I could have fought for what I thought was right, I could have called him a Pharisee, I could have dismissed him or sought to discredit him but instead I reluctantly listened, and examined the claim and my life changed as a result.
One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to admit when we are wrong, or to entertain the possibility we could be wrong or even deceived.
We need to be teachable and realize we aren't always right, and that it is possible that we can be deceived and go around thinking we are right when we are in fact wrong. It is important for us to study, to examine the evidence and when we are wrong, we need to adjust. Sadly, with the way the Pharisee card is being used today, Jesus, the disciples and especially Paul would be likely to be called Pharisees, that should trouble us and shake us awake.
The final thing I will mention about the Pharisees is not an item that is spoke about much but it is so important!! The Pharisees were heretics, they were false teachers, this also plays greatly into their self-righteousness and rejection of the Truth. The Pharisees were more concerned with what the Tradition of the Elders taught then they were what the Word of God taught. They were more concerned with what the Talmud had to say then the Word, they were teaching and holding people to extra-Biblical material, that is not okay. I wont spend much time here but just know it is important and maybe do some study on it, you might be surprised what you find.
The bottom line is this, before you play the Pharisee card examine your heart, examine your thoughts, examine the claims, and make sure you are properly using the card. There are for sure times when playing the Pharisee card makes sense, however it is not as often as you think and unfortunately we have abused it's usage. May we be careful to examine what is being said by our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we don't agree with them we need to have the conversation in love, not ascribe motive or intention to them, and always represent Jesus in all situations, even the ones where it makes sense to play the card.
We would love to hear from you about this, please leave a comment and continue the conversation, and as always lets keep the conversation Christ-centered and Christ-like. Thank you so much for taking the time!!
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When we enter into the unknown we have a tendency to worry, and often, that worry leads to unrest, and unrest often turns to panic. As believers in Jesus we know two things concerning this world, we will face tribulation and have trouble, but in Jesus we can have peace because He has overcome the world, and we belong to Him. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on our circumstances more than the one who is greater than them. We tend to focus on the negative and find ourselves in cycles that are hard to break. One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Philippians 4:4-8, let's take a look at it...
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
There is a lot to unpack here but the long and short is this; no matter your circumstances, rejoice in the Lord always (Paul is writing this from prison after being arrested for sharing the Gospel). Be anxious for nothing but rather pray, reflecting on all that God has done and making your request known to Him. I love this next part, when we truly rest in Him, when we reflect on all He has done and we have made our requests known to Him, the Word states, the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. A question that we need to look at is this, do you/we trust Him? If we trust Him than we know He hears our prayers, and that He is more than capable of handling our lives and the lives of others. When we trust Jesus, we will have peace even in the midst of the hardest of circumstances. The section goes on and it is important. As a people who have a tendency to jump to the negative, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to focus on what is true, right and pure. This is important. Instead of the negative, we are to dwell on that which is true, God's Word, His promises, and all He has done in our lives and throughout history. When we dwell on these things, we are hard pressed to focus on the negative or our circumstances, we will have oriented our thoughts on Jesus and who He is. I unpack this all a little bit more in one of my podcasts.
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8
If we seek to find peace in anything other than Jesus we will continue to find ourselves wanting. It may last for a moment but it will certainly be fleeting and change as your circumstances do. As believers in Jesus we are built on the Rock, so that when the storms come (the trials of life), and they will, we will not be shaken but will stand firm on the Rock. The world is watching, they want to see if you truly believe what you say you believe. May we be a people that show others the peace we have in the midst of the chaos and that Jesus is who He says He is.
Below you will find a song from AJM Family member Dexter Montaie. Not only is this song fantastic, the message is even better. You will have the chorus ringing through you head, and this is a good thing as you sing "Pray about it all" over and over. May we be a people who aren't anxious about anything but rather we pray about it all and trust God with our lives!
Let's keep the conversation going, what are some of your favorite verses as it relates to peace, rest and trusting Jesus? Leave a comment and let's chat. God bless!
One day I came home and my wife handed me our newborn and said "war, I have been to war, this is harder." My wife has served in the Army & the Reserves for 21 years, she has been in situations I have only read about or watched in movies. Stephanie was a medic, she was in the thick of it helping those who had been wounded in battle, she has some intense stories, things she lived through. When she handed me our child and said those words I knew that it had been a rough day. Our first child came into the world screaming and didn't seem to stop for the first 8 months of his existence. I honestly wish that last statement was an exaggeration, it's not. Many of our friends thought something was wrong with him because he would not stop crying. After about 6 months Stephanie had a hunch and that hunch proved correct, things began to change for the better. During those first 8 months sleep was a hot commodity. I thought that sleep and Bigfoot had a lot in common, both claimed to be real, there was supposed evidence and yet neither had been found. Stephanie and I met in December of '14, were engaged that February, married in August. and found out Stephanie was pregnant in October... Things moved quickly for us, we knew that God was at work. God made it clear to both of us that we were to be married, and it was our prayer that we would have children quickly, God honored that prayer. We hoped to have children quickly because Stephanie and I are both on the older end of the spectrum (we are still young in our minds but in the realm of child birth we were on the older end) and we hoped to have a family. We now have 3 beautiful boys whom we love dearly and are blessed to be their parents.
The reality, this is war. Stephanie didn't realize it when she said it, and the context in which she said it is different than what I am about to share but never the less, this is hard and we are at war. As a husband and a father, I have learned that I need to fight for my family. I am beginning to learn what it means to lead my household. God has continued to draw things out in my life that need to go (selfishness, pride and being slow to anger/frustration being the primary), and He is teaching me how to love and lead well. This is a process and I am thankful for the process. One of the biggest eye opening things from me came out of a book called "Parenting" by Paul David Tripp. He was unpacking the fact that we are ambassadors of Christ and that we need to have that mindset when we are parenting our kids. When I read this, a light bulb went off. I am an ambassador of Christ, what I say and do is as a representative of Christ and His Kingdom. After reading it I experienced what I call "the weight of family". As a husband and a father I have a responsibility to love my wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5) and to raise my children up in the way they should go so that they may not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Neither of those are small things, and they require work, time and energy, and lots of it. Add the fact that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and the picture comes into focus. As husbands (and wives), our primary objective is to follow Jesus, He is our leader and as we follow Him we will seek to honor and worship Him with our lives. Obedience is worship (Romans 12:1-2). You want to be a better husband, seek Jesus. You want to be a better father, seek Jesus. You want to be a better employee/worker, seek Jesus. You want to be a better son/daughter, seek Jesus. I think you get the point.
There is so much to unpack and discuss on this topic and so this article is one of many to come but may we see our role as husbands and as fathers, as ambassadors of Christ. Everything we say or do should be pointing our spouse and our children to Jesus. This even includes our failures. Am I showing my family that when I fall short (and I do often) that God is at work, that His grace abounds and that I am learning. On the same note, am I demonstrating/giving that same grace and forgiveness to my wife and my children as they fall short? We are all in process and all in desperate need of Jesus, may we lead with this in the front of our minds and seek to honor Him by how we serve and love our families.
I would love to continue this conversation, what are somethings that you have learned as a husband/wife or as a father/mother? Leave a comment and let's chat! Until next time, God bless!
"But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:44-48
Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus wants us to fight the right war, and that is the spiritual one. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph 6:12)
Our battle isn't against each other, it is far deeper than that. Of course the spiritual war manifests itself physically in the agendas we see, and how people treat people, but make no mistake, this is about souls, and eternity.
Jesus telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us is not Him trying to be cute or nice. Rather, it is Jesus bringing home the point that those who belong to Him live differently because we know the truth. There is no greater example of this than Jesus' death on the cross. Can you imagine, just for a second, if those of us who are Jesus' followers would love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us instead of responding in our flesh? This has the power to be transformative, not only drawing us closer to God, but being a bold witness that may bring even our enemies and persecutors to know Him...
To love like Jesus, it requires us to lay down our lives, keep our emotions in check, and remember the true war in which we are frontline soldiers. In chapter 12 of Romans, Paul states this; "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:14-21)
God, through Paul, tells us that if our enemy is hungry we should feed him, and if he is thirsty, we should give him a drink. Paul states that in doing so, we will heap burning coals on our enemies head. In our flesh, we are all like "Yes! Burning coals!" but I contend this is so much deeper of a statement. When I hear the phrase "burning coals" my mind goes to Isaiah chapter 6. This is where the angel grabbed a burning coal from the alter, put it to Isaiah's lips and said his sins were forgiven. The coals had a purifying effect and represented grace. Remember, Isaiah thought it was over for him, he thought God was going to destroy him. Isaiah admitted his guilt and God demonstrated grace, He restored him. Then, Isaiah falls all over himself to get about God's business when he famously stated "here I am, send me." When we love our enemies, when we give grace rather than vengeance, this has the power to baffle our enemies. When we don't allow evil to overcome us but rather, we overcome evil with good, we speak volumes of who Christ is and what He has done in our lives. I am not saying that all our enemies will come to know Jesus, but, we do have a better opportunity for them to encounter Him if we point them to Him. When we recognize and know that our war isn't with flesh and blood but rather it is spiritual, this changes how we respond to those who seek our harm.
Is it our heart that those who are our enemies come to know Jesus? Are we praying for those who persecute us so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good? This isn't easy but it is important. I praise God that He has given us His Spirit and that His grace is available. May we continue to learn and grow as we are being molded to Christ likeness.
Over the course of many years we have endured lots of pain; physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Usually our first pain have started during our earlier childhood. My first pain that I experience was learning to ride a bike, you are probably asking, “What happen?” Well I ran into a tree, and end up scarping my knee pretty bad, well to me it was bad. My mother came over to my aide and made sure I wasn’t seriously hurt. In that process of pain, we end up storing pain within ourselves at young age. When we start storing up different type of pain our heart starts to harden, and become a why person. Why is this happening to me? Why does this hurt so much? Why can’t I do this or that? We have to understand pain has been and will be part of our experience. 1 Peter 3:14 (But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Don’t not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”) On a daily bases, we have to remind ourselves That Jesus went through pain, suffrage, persecuted and crucified by the Roman officials.1 Peter 4:1 (Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.) The weight of pain and suffrage will come through like a twister, but God can give us grace and strength to overcome every trial.
Thank You Heavenly Father,
For the pain and suffrage, and the burdens that I endure and carry. Without the pain and suffrage, I would have strayed away. Thank you for your comfort and being with me through the process of pain. Your mercy and grace trumps everything and the love you have for us, shows by allowing your only son, Jesus to die for our Sins. I humble myself to you, Lord. I ask, that you continue to Shepard me throughout my year to do your prefect will.
In Jesus name Amen.
Helpful scripture reads
2 Corinthians 4:17
2 Timothy 3:12
By Simply Kerri
Do you ever see a picture that just captivates you? This picture did it for me. I stared at this picture for so long when I first saw it. Then I went back and looked at it a few more times. I kept seeing this picture in my head. The simple, raw beauty of an amazing sunset. The way this photographer captures the sun just before it disappears behind the clouds and retreats for the night. The clouds in their own shapes and colors, perfectly imperfect. The way he captures the ripples in the sand from the ocean having pushed back and forth with the changing of tides and currents. The reflection of the sun and the clouds, how the water mirrors them so beautifully. The colors of every corner of this picture, like on a canvas, mixed so wonderfully by the artist. Every aspect of this picture captures nature’s splendor.
But even in all it’s perfection, that’s not what I noticed at first glance. It’s not what kept me going back to look at it a few more times either. It was the 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 That I saw. Everything seems frozen, like time and the weather, the sun in its setting, the clouds, the water, even the birds, like everything just stopped for this moment. Sure we can say the photographer pressed the button at the perfect time. But he can’t make the waters still. He can’t still the birds or the clouds or the sun.
I felt God stirring something in my soul with this picture. I contacted the friend who took this and asked if I could use it for a post because I knew it gave a perfect visual to the words my heart needed to speak. But as I began writing my original post, something happened… Everyone in my home became sick with you know what. The extreme fatigue I have felt over the last, now 10 days, has been not just physical exhaustion, but so mental too. Quite honestly this post has been driving me nuts. I knew the words I wanted to say but they weren’t coming out. Mixed with being sick, I had zero desire to pick up my phone and even type it out.
As I sat in bed battling fatigue, discouragement, little flickers of guilt for not being able to even have energy to write this post, or work on the projects I have started, clean the house, cook dinner.. All of the things I should be doing. Even sick, I have always had the grit to push through and get it done. But not this time. So I sat there, feeling hopeless, not even having enough energy to have my own pity party. But one thing was for sure, this post bothered me. All the words I had wanted to share were just gone. Erased by sniffles and kids with fevers and headaches, repeat days of doctors calling and checking in, friends and family checking in, cat naps through out the days. Little ripples of life just happening around me, the tides and currents changing and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
One day, I opened up my Bible app, determined to at the very least stay connected to God, even if I could do nothing else. The scripture that was on the screen was the very scripture that this post was going to be centered around. It was my scripture. The very same scripture that long ago God gave me as a life line that has come to be so precious to me. Some day I’ll share that story, but for now, I will tell you, this scripture He spoke to my heart in a very dark time in my life. A time where anxiety and fear and feelings of pain were so deep, where everything in my world seemed so very out of control, I was spinning like a top that wouldn’t stop. And ever since those words hit, God has shown me hope with this one scripture over and over and over again through the years. Not just hope, but reminders of faith, and of His power.
So when I saw this scripture again, no my life isn’t in quite the same whirlwind it was that day so long ago, but the last 10 days it has been on pause, by something I cannot control. And so, this scripture, once again reminded me of His promise. Of His love. He was once again reminding me that I am not in control. That I cannot do all the things.
I looked at this picture again, and most of the words I had wanted to speak came flooding back. The main points at least. It was that 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 in that photo that captured my heart. It reminds me that every time life’s ebb and flow of changing tides comes to leave little ripples in our world, we have to learn to be still. We have to learn that just like this photographer didn’t create this beauty, but only captured it. We too can capture the beauty in all areas of our life. Even the hard ones. Being sick and feeling betrayed by my own body has forced me to slow down to a complete stop. A pause. A stillness. A resting place. To know that, we are not in control of these things, but we have to surrender knowing that God is in control. When I reflect on the things I see as important like, cleaning, cooking nice meals, growing my little business…. All the things we often think are so important.. God is reminding me, just where on the kingdom scale are they important?
Sometimes we need to hit the pause button. We need to embrace the stillness that God allows and remember that even when we stop, He never does. We may not be working or growing, or creating, or even functioning at any capacity that seems right by our own measure, but maybe, maybe being still is the lesson we need to learn. Maybe being still just like in that photo, in all its perfection and beauty, is a beautiful part in our journey too. The endless snuggles with the kids, the restful state that your body needs to recover. The quiet intimate moments with God. These are the ripples that matter.
The ripples on that sand look beautiful in that photo, but they were formed by the rough oceans ebb and flow of changing tides. The currents that are constantly pushing and pulling. The sun in its beautiful setting, offers a picture of hope. Darkness comes, but so doesn’t light.
Friends, if you find yourself in a place of stillness, embrace it. Remember who is in control, surrender the emotions, the fighting and striving for strength and just 𝙗𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙃𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙂𝙤𝙙.
“”Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!””
Like what you are reading? Read more at simplykerri.com
By Simply Kerri
Sometimes we need to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and refocus. As a single Momma, I find myself constantly striving to just maintain even the most basics. Always pouring out all I have for everyone around me. Being a mom is my job and I fully understand sacrifice and being tired. Running on empty just comes with the territory.. But does it need to? I mean, how can I possibly pour out if I have nothing left to pour? It eventually causes me to lose my focus in every area! I’m stretched so thin, giving only half the effort here and half effort there… If we only watered a plant half way, or fed it half way, it may continue to grow some, but it certainly wouldn’t be thriving.
I’m a giver. I love to give. Whether it’s gifts or time or whatever I can possibly give, I want to give it. It’s how I operate. It’s how I show love. Sometimes; however, I come to this crossroad where I literally have nothing left to give. I am so burnt out, so depleted of everything I need to keep thriving. Then follows a spiral of emotions and feeling like a bad mom, bad daughter, bad friend, etc.. But honestly, I’m just empty. Anyone else?
I get so tired. Especially as a single mom, my burdens of parenting are doubled. I won’t lie, every darn thing is hard and some days I just want to have a pity party for myself. I reach for things of this world to keep my cup full. Friends, family, coffee, book, tv; whatever lifeline I can find to try and hold on to and keep me going.. But still, nothing satisfies the emptiness that can only be refilled by one thing and one thing only.
Why is it so hard sometimes to turn our hearts toward the one we know is the only one that will satisfy our thirst? The living water that fills our cup so full that it just overflows so easily. There is no striving for it. There is no effort at all except to acknowledge that,
I need Him.
It makes me think of the scripture in John,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” JOHN 15:5
See, much like a vine, if I am disconnected from the very thing that gives me life and sustains me, then I have zero access to the vital water and nutrients that I desperately need to grow. It’s the same spiritually, mentally and physically. If I am apart from the Lord, the stresses I have on my shoulders become too much. My cup will constantly be low or empty.
He knows how empty and dry our cups get. Lord, tether our hearts to yours. Help us that struggle with striving and pouring from empty cups to just stop. Help us to just abide in you and stay there; where we can keep our cups full. Where your love and joy and peace overflows like a dam that has just been broken; where the water flows freely and abundantly with such a force that our cups are overflowing and flooding the lives of everyone around us with your love. 𝙏𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙨, where the nutrients are pure and rich. Where we are fed. Where we can do all things in your strength and not our own.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” JOHN 15:5
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” PHILIPPIANS 4:13
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Let’s talk friendships. I love having best friends! Best friends are the best! I tend to keep my close circle small because, well, less drama and, honestly, I’ve been burned by some close friends in the past. It hurts. It stinks. Jealousy is ugly, judgment is ugly, betrayal is painful, being honest and speaking truth can be hard. And when you have been hurt by a friend, confronting them is reallllly hard! Let’s be honest, even the best of friendships can sometimes be difficult to maneuver. As with everything, there are seasons. Seasons of joy, and seasons of struggle.
I’ve recently had a loss of friendship of sorts. It has been really bothering me. It hurts! I don’t even know what I did. I think that’s what makes it even harder. I’ve talked with a couple people, understanding what I believe the main issue to be, even justifying what could be possibly going on, but it still bothered me. So I got down on my knees and took it to the Lord. Over the last few months every time I thought about that person I was so angry. Hurt, confused. Every time I got this way, God would just put it on my heart to pray for them. So I did.
For months I prayed for that person. Then, one day I heard an Internet friend talking about letting go of “those friends”. It kind of hit me, and made me sad. It would seem that God has me in a season of learning to let go and although it’s sometimes needed to prune away the dead parts that don’t bring life, it’s also painful and hard. I loved this friend.
As we all know sometimes our pain turns to anger and we start picking away at everything they did or didn’t do. We want to lash out, write long letters that share our hurt and anger. Maybe if you’re like me you just want to be like, “what did I do?!” But in the end, it’s the hurt that is rearing its ugly head.
I started looking through the Bible at how Jesus handled his friends.
My conclusion: He loved them.
He encouraged them, He cheered for them, He supported them, He served them, reached out to them in their time of need, washed their feet. He spoke truth to them. He loved them. Even when He knew He was being betrayed or rejected. He still loved them. And eventually, He died for them.
This brought new questions in my heart. And a feeling of, but it’s not fair. And as God lovingly convicts the human heart, He asked me some hard questions back. Have you loved them back, supported them, cheered for them or with them, served them and their needs, reached out, spoken truth to them? Have you loved them in return?
Some things I can clearly say a strong “yes”, but there were also some very big “no’s” in there too.
Jesus was judged, and mocked, and I’m sure faced situations where people were jealous of Him or his friendships with others. He was betrayed and hurt! In today’s society we are so quick to walk away without a second thought. And don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some situations that are toxic and you should really just take the loss, forgive, bless and release. It’s probably healthier. I also believe that you can still love someone, pray for them from a distance, want good for them, but still protect your heart.
But I’m talking about those deep rooted friendships that have taken years to cultivate. I think it’s important to seek the Lord before you let go and walk away. As I said, some times it’s needed. But also, God doesn’t desire for us to be divided. So, I think we have two choices. One, we can love them and wish them well, pray for them, and just accept the fact that we are in different seasons of life. Or two, you can dig deep, first in your own heart, asking God to show you your own errors in the friendship. Then begin praying for them. Not that they would be convicted, but that God would bring healing to the friendship, that He would give you wisdom whether or not to address a particular issue. Confronting someone that you love can be really difficult and if their hearts are not ready to receive it, you’re just throwing pearls before the swine and it will most likely end with more conflict.
Here’s another thing you can do.. Be their squire. A good knight always has a squire. A squires job was to serve his knight. He would carry his armor, shield and sword. He would sharpen his knights sword. He would protect his knights back during battle. And if the knight was captured it was the squires job to try and rescue him. We need to be as Jesus was to his friends. It’s not our job to rescue them, per say, only God can do that. But we can be there for them just as Jesus was there for his friends. He served them with a true servants heart, just as a squire serves his knight.
Lastly, we are called to love. Love can have a pretty big definition with a wide range of acts to show it. Another thing God showed me was; we cannot control others or what they think, feel and say. And that is not our business anyway. That is between them and God. But we can control our own behaviors. Our own choices. Our own thoughts and feelings. We can choose to stay angry and hurt, or we can get down on our knees and be the squire for our knight. Iron sharpens iron. One of my favorite friendship scriptures. Maybe, like me you’re in a season where you’re not speaking to that person. If that is so, you can still be that iron for them. Pray and intercede for them. Prayer is powerful! Continue making small efforts as God leads healing and conviction on the other end. But also allow God to convict your heart, let him search your heart and motives so that you too can be a good friend in return.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
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If I may start by being transparent. God has used both marriage, and having children, to draw out just how selfish I am. I mean, I knew I was a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace but wow, could I really be that selfish? The answer sadly is a resounding “yes!” Having a spouse and kids changes everything, and it tends to expose everything. Our natural tendency is that when things are exposed we beat ourselves up. There were many nights I went to bed thinking I was a bad husband or a bad parent for letting my selfishness drive my decision making. If you're like me, this sort of beating yourself up doesn’t lead to change, it just makes everything worse. The reality is, I should not let my selfishness drive my decisions, the other reality is, I’m not perfect, I am a work in progress. When it comes to reviving our family life, it first starts with submitting ourselves to Jesus. This sounds over simplified but we all know it’s not as simple as it sounds. Philippians 2:3-5 states; “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” When it comes to reviving our families, we must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. We must surrender our lives to Him first, and regard the interests of our spouse and kids as more important than our own.
I am a husband so I want to speak to the husbands that are reading this though it can easily be applied to wives. A.W. Tozer stated; “I believe spiritual ministry flows out of a heart that has been in the presence of God. When we come into His presence, we begin to take on a ministry that can come from nowhere else.” How intentional are you when it comes to being in the presence of God? Do you make quiet time with the Lord and reading His word a priority? Do you make sure that you regularly attend church with your family, and do life with other believers as a family? Do we make time for family Bible reading or devotional? I don’t share this to brag, I simply share it because it is what I need to do. I learned early on in parenthood, that if I want to have any quiet time with God, I need to get up before everyone else, so I do. It’s obvious to me when I don’t get this time. When I choose sleep over reading and praying, I feel it. We must be filled up in order to pour out. If we want revival in our families, it starts with us. Our families are our first ministry. We are to disciple our family, and we can only do that if we ourselves are submitted to Jesus, having spent time in the presence of God, and are being discipled.
When I find myself making my walk with Jesus a priority, I also find my selfishness lessens. I am more attentive to my family's needs, and I no longer see them as an inconvenience getting in the way of what I want to do (which could be simply sitting down after a long day). We are all in desperate need of Jesus and our family needs to see us fighting the good fight, surrendering to Jesus, and pouring out our lives for them. I have not arrived, I am still very much learning and growing. Instead of beating myself up when God uses my wife and kids to expose an issue I have, I rejoice and thank God that He loves me enough to show me. We all fall short, yet God is rich in mercy, and He is good to show us in His word what needs to go so that we may correct it. Instead of beating yourself up, recognize your need for Jesus and make spending time with Him a priority, even if it means you need to get up early. May we see revival in our own lives, and may that revival bleed into our families, remembering it is only by the grace of God we go.