Love: The Greatest Thing

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Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. 1 Corinthians 8:2‭-‬3 NLT

In my #BibleReadingPlan I’m currently reading about King David in the Old Testament and Paul’s letters in the New Testament. David and Paul are my favorite mentors in the Bible, along with Mary of Bethany.

  • King David: He was a very flawed man, but still loved God passionately. He was an adulterer. A murderer. A song writer. A lover of many women. Even as king had no problem dancing and singing in the streets to praise God. His kids were screwed up. They killed each other. Raped each other. His heart broke for his children and he wept for them. No matter how many times he stumbled and fell, no matter how dark the valley or cave he was hiding, he always returned to God.

 

  • Paul: He hated Christians and hunted them. He watched as Stephen was stoned to death for believing in Jesus. And then God stopped Paul in his tracks. Quite literally. God opened his eyes and showed him that Jesus was real, and Paul believed. He changed his whole life and committed it completely to following Jesus. He was beaten. He was a letter writer. His life was spent traveling and preaching. He was church planter. A prisoner.  He encouraged and corrected. He was loved by many and hated by many. He was executed after 30 years of serving Jesus. He was a lover of the gospel and lover of the church. His greatest love in life was Jesus.

 

  • Mary of Bethany: Mary was a sister to Martha and Lazarus. Jesus was her friend. She trusted him and loved him. And she understood that spending time with Jesus and loving him were more important than anything else. She wasn’t ashamed to express her love for Jesus – even when others criticized her for it. She sat at Jesus’s feet, which was controversial because that signaled that she was a disciple, a role typically just for males. She washed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume. Also, controversial.  She didn’t care what others thought of her, she just wanted to love Jesus. She understood the importance of being with Jesus and expressing her love of him.

What can we learn from these mentors?

  1. To love God
  2. To praise and worship God – no matter who criticizes us for it
  3. To make time with God our #1 priority
  4. To love others
  5. To share God’s love with others

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Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

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Unequally Yoked

Married . . . but walking on different spiritual paths

I am unequally yoked.

When I met my husband we were at similar places spiritually – we had both grown up in church, though in different denominations. He was raised Catholic and I was raised in non-denominational and evangelical churches. While we both considered ourselves “Christians” and believed in God, we weren’t living like it. I went to church occasionally, but didn’t live like it the other 6.5 days of the week.

We got married and had babies. We went to church on an irregular basis. We had our kids baptized in a church where neither of us really felt like we belonged, but it was a middle ground between a Catholic church and evangelical church.

And then our marriage hit a very rough patch. I talked to a divorce attorney. I went to counselors. I read marriage advice books. I went to meetings. My heart was breaking for my kids and myself. I couldn’t find a way out.

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And then I found Jesus.

Not the Jesus who I had “known” as a kid or the Jesus I wanted to hide from while in high school and college, but the Jesus who said this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 MSG

I started keeping company with Jesus. I’m learning how to live in His grace.

My husband is in a very different place spiritually. I don’t know for sure where he is. We don’t talk about it much. He comes to church with me. He prays with my kids occasionally. He questions God. A lot.

I understand why Paul said: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as she lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I know the discomfort of walking through life with a partner who isn’t at the same place spiritually. Maybe not even on the same path.

But I also know my calling. I know why God has me here. I know that I have a mission field just as important as if God called me to Africa or China as a missionary. My missions field is in a house that I call home.

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I am a missionary with three beautiful people watching my every stumble. Listening to what I say. They are seeing how I forgive. How I pray. Every day they see how I walk with Jesus.

Reading yesterday and today in 1 Corinthians there were several encouraging verses for my walk:

For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.14.NLT

Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

1 Corinthians 7:16 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.16.NLT

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.17.NLT

 

For any of you “unequally yoked” spouses out there – whether your spouse is another religion, is an unbeliever or just in a very different place in their walk with God . . . don’t give up. Keep praying and keep loving. And above all else, keep walking with Jesus.

P.S. If you are looking for a Bible reading plan to keep you focused on keeping daily company with Jesus, I highly recommend YouVersion app – found here.  I am currently using the Skövde Pingst plan and love it!

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Stumbling (Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #2)

I don’t ever feel like I’ve got this motherhood thing down, but some days are worse than others.  I have moments when I pat myself on the back for handling a situation well . . . but then there are mornings like this morning when I wonder how much counseling my kids are going to need someday. Seriously.

I try to put safeguards in place. I try to have rules and consequences. I try to make sure they know I love them. I read plenty of parenting books. I pray for them. I read the Bible to them. I take them to church. I search for the balance between mercy and consequences.

There are many a days when life gets in the way of attentive and intentional parenting: Housework. Work work. Errands. Reality. A migraine. Emotions. I lose my temper. I don’t give my kids the time or attention they need. I am human.mother and daugther-863050_1920.jpg

Then there are other days when I feel like I am really on my A-game, yet still I watch my child making bad decisions. I catch her disobeying. And sometimes it isn’t just a little thing. Sometimes it is a big sin.

And I feel sick to my stomach.

But I have to remind myself: God is in control. He loves this kid more than I do. I will answer to God for my job as a parent and a wife . . . but she will answer to God for her own sin. I can shepherd her and guide her, but I can’t control her. She will make her own choices. I don’t answer to God for her choices.

I stumble. I fall. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I get back up.

She will stumble. She will fall.

And just like I am sure my heavenly Father aches for me when he watches me screw up; my heart breaks when my daughter makes bad choices.

My job is to be there for her; encouraging her to get back up. And reminding her to keep her eyes on Jesus.

 

 

 

The Kindness Challenge

As I was driving to Wal-Mart I heard a story on the radio about “The Kindness Challenge”.  I was intrigued.  I didn’t hear the whole discussion – but the gist of it was a woman had done a study about how 30 days of kindness could transform a relationship, even if only one person in the relationship was doing the challenge.

I love a challenge.  And I love an easy model to follow. #JoinKindness

Once I got home I did a little more digging and found the 30 Day Kindness Challenge online. (Disclaimer, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know all the details). According to the website:

The 30-Day Kindness Challenge is a much-needed movement of kindness led by many influential organizations.

 89% of relationships improve if you pick a person with whom you want a better relationship; then for 30 days:

1. Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them to anyone else.
 
2. Each day find one positive thing you can praise or affirm about that person and tell them and tell someone else. 

3. Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

I signed up!  Interested in joining me?  Sign-up here.

I am starting on June 1, 2017 and the recipient of my kindness will be my husband.

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So right now I am trying to get prepared by brainstorming small acts of kindness (and doing Pinterest research because honestly, outside of doing laundry and making his favorite dinner, I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas for a man who doesn’t ask for much).

But even more so, I am praying for God to help me with #1 on the list – not saying anything negative. I nag my husband. Probably more than I realize. My tone of voice can be not so pleasant. When I am displeased everyone in the house knows it. I complain about stupid stuff – how he folds the laundry, him buying chips when I am trying to eat healthy, him letting the kids watch too much TV, etc.

So my big prayer right now is for God to help me prepare and that I will rely on Him for the kindness and loving words. And that He will help me keep my mouth shut when needed.

In my Bible reading this morning there was some great stuff as I get my heart (and mouth) ready for the challenge.:

1 Corinthians 2: When Paul came to tell people at Corinth about Jesus he was timid and trembling. He didn’t have the words to say. But instead of trying to come up with impressive speeches, he relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Mentally, he focused on Jesus only, and then let the Holy Spirit speak through him. Wow. That is what I want. There is no one who loves my husband more than Jesus, and Jesus would much rather have me covering my husband with love and kindness than nagging about how to fold the towels. When I open my mouth I don’t want my words to come out, but the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

Proverbs 12: So much incredible stuff here about the words I speak to my husband:

  • A worthy wife is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4)
  • The words of the godly save lives (Proverbs 12:6)
  • The family of the godly stands firm (Proverbs 12:7) (OK, not exactly about my words, but I have two daughters listening to everything I say. Are my words and my tone godly?)
  • Wise words bring many benefits (Proverbs 12:14)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Proverbs 12:16)
  • The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth (Proverbs 12:22)
  • Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging words cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25)
  • The godly give good advice to their friends (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.(Proverbs 12:18).

My words have the power to heal or destroy, and 95% of the time I open my mouth without really thinking through what I am going to say. I really need God in this area of my life. I need to think before I speak and filter everything I am saying through the Holy Spirit. And I probably need to keep my mouth closed a lot more often.

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Telling God the Ugly Stuff

Cry out to God with the good, the bad and the ugly.

My current Bible reading plan includes daily reading in the Old Testament, New Testament and usually either a Psalm or Proverb.  Right now I am reading about the life of King David and it is very interesting (and encouraging) to read about the HORRIBLE things going on in David’s life and in Judah and Israel, juxtaposed with songs David wrote while experiencing these heartbreaking and terrifying experiences.

For example, today I read in 2 Samuel 3-4 about war and murder and gruesome executions.  About husbands and wives being torn apart.  About disloyalty and political strife.  About a nation divided by leadership loyalties.

And then I turned to Psalm 59 and read David’s song. The song was written earlier – when King Saul was still alive and had sent soldiers to watch David’s house in order to kill him – but I still see the heart of David and how he cried out to God. I read the song of a man after God’s own heart.

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In the midst of people trying to kill him, David cries out to God.  He tells God about his fears. He asks God to rescue him. He begs for protection. He told God his situation. The good, the bad and the ugly. This wasn’t some nice prayer or pretty worship song. This was David pouring out his fears, anger, hurts to God. This was a son coming to his Father and begging him for mercy. This was a man who trusted God, but was hurting. This was a tortured man begging for a break from the pain.

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God included this Psalm in the Bible. And many others like it. I assume if God wanted these many Psalms in the Bible – and said that David was a man after His own heart – that God wants us to call out to Him, just like David did.

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God wants to know our whole heart. Not just the nice stuff. Not just the just the praises and thank-yous and lists of requests. He wants us to tell Him our fears and anger and hurts. He wants all of us. The good, the bad and the ugly.

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Take Courage!

Take courage, sister! The Bible is full of God’s promises and blessings. God never lies. He never leaves us. He never breaks His promises. He has a plan for your life . . . spend daily time with Him to discover that plan and ask Him for wisdom and strength to follow.

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So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. Acts 27:25 NLT

P.S. Paul wrote this, while a prisoner on a boat about to be shipwrecked.

P.P.S. Did you know you can visit the place where Paul was shipwrecked?  In Malta you can visit St. Paul’s Bay  and see many of the places where Paul walked and worked. Along with a Holy Land Tour, I’d love to do a “Footsteps of Apostle Paul” tour.  Has anyone done one?  Recommendations? Both of these are on my bucket list!

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Malta

Biblical Map for Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Lessons from David and Paul for living through a season of pain.

David and Paul – two men living 1,000 years apart.  Both chosen by God. Both given a special job and an important role in the history of Christianity. David’s calling was to lead Israel as the second king and be an ancestor to Jesus. Paul’s role was to bring the gospel to the gentiles.

God called both these men and equipped them to do their jobs.

But that doesn’t mean the jobs were easy or that their lives were pain-free. Quite the opposite. They were both persecuted, but by example, they both left us a map of how to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Before he was king, David was pursued by King Saul who was intent on killing him. David had several opportunities to fight back and kill Saul, but he didn’t. God had appointed Saul and David didn’t seek vengeance. Instead he spent his time hiding in caves and running away from his enemies. He didn’t get to see his family or worship God in the temple. He was constantly in fear for his life. He hadn’t done anything other than respect and honor Saul, but he was still a hunted man.

What did David do in this painful and scary situation? He trusted God. He called out to God – expressing his fear, anger and sadness. He also praised God.  Psalm 57 is a song David wrote to God, while hiding in a cave. He was calling out to God for protection and praising God for his love.

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Today in Acts, I read about Paul, who knew he would be heading into danger and possible death, but still he walked forward. He knew where God wanted him to go and do, and he did it. Regardless of the pain. Regardless of the punishment.

Paul did end up in prison many times. For several years he was actually forgotten in prison during a change of leadership. He was beaten. He was persecuted. How did he respond? He prayed. He praised God. He shared he gospel.

Honestly, I’m not going to pray for prison or torture or for enemies who want murder me. But I have experienced pain and I know that hard times will come. Death to loved ones. Eventual death to myself. Pain. Rejection. Times of sadness.

Pain is an inevitable part of life, but David and Paul set an example for what we should do in the midst of pain:

  • Cry out to God – tell him your fears, anger, sadness
  • Praise God
  • Thank God
  • Remain obedient to God . . . even when faced with trials
  • Have faith

I’m not saying it is easy – at least it isn’t for me – but these men give us a map to follow when life is at its worst.

P.S. One of the things I love about reading through the Bible is meeting mentors.  Real people who lived thousands of years ago who can mentor me on living life.  If you are interested in reading through the Bible, check out the reading plans on TheBible.com or the YouVersion app.  I’m currently reading through the Bible using the plan linked here.  Please comment below if you are reading through the Bible!