Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25 

#DailyBibleReading

#BibleReadingPlan

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Four Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible

1. What does this passage mean?

2. What should I be thankful for?

3. Does this passage shine a light on any sin in my life?

4. How is the Holy Spirit leading me to pray after reading these verses?

Based on Martin’s Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray.

 

Should I Stay Married for my Kids?

I’ve often heard people say you shouldn’t stay in an unhappy marriage just because of the kids. What if the opposite is true? What if God intended children to be the glue to help keep a couple together as they go through hard phases of marriage?

Did you know that divorce doesn’t make people happier? According to a 2002 study by American Values, when unhappy people got divorced on average they weren’t any happier:

Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages
Signatories

Does divorce typically make adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage? Many Americans assume so. “Does Divorce Make People Happy?” represents the first serious effort to investigate this assumption empirically. The finding? Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier, on average, than unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.

Another study showed that 68% of couples who were unhappy in their marriage – but stayed together – were happy in their marriage 10 years later.

For those of you going through a rough patch in your marriage – there is hope. I’m not talking to you who are experiencing abuse or being cheated on. For the rest of you, your marriage won’t always happy, but don’t throw in the towel. There are ups, and there are downs, just like everything in life. You’ll experience joy in marriage. You’ll experience pain in marriage. I’m talking as a child of divorced parents and divorced in-laws. I’ve been divorced myself. I’m currently in a marriage that has seen some very dark days where all I could do was cling to Jesus.

My marriage has also seen some great days.

But mostly, my marriage sees ordinary days. We bicker. He annoys me. I nag him. We laugh at inside jokes and at our kids. We coordinate schedules and run errands. He mows the lawn, and I handle the bills. He buys too much junk food, and I complain (while eating it). He’s a spender, and I’m a saver. I wish he’d be more romantic and he wishes I wouldn’t be so critical. We occasionally have date nights and occasionally have huge fights. We love each other, but don’t speak the same love language. Our life isn’t glamorous. There isn’t anything Instagram-worthy (outside of our pets and sometimes our kids). We are humans.

For those of you in a dark place in marriage, the pain doesn’t last. For those of you thinking you made a mistake in who you married, God doesn’t make mistakes, and He’ll use your marriage for His glory if you cling to Him. Try not to focus on your spouse – concentrate on making yourself the best version of you possible by spending time with Jesus, praying for your spouse, intentionally loving him or her.

For those of you wondering if you should stay married for your kids: Yes. Stay married for your kids. Stay married for your spouse. Stay married for Jesus. Stay married for yourself. 

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Matthew 19:3-6 

 

Tapping into God’s Power

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, I read in 2 Kings about Elijah and Elisha and the amazing power of God that filled them and fought their battles for them. In 2 Kings 1, the king kept sending out men to confront Elijah and each time they arrived Elijah would say: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then, poof, fire came down and consumed the king’s men.

Then a while later two pretty amazing things happened through another prophet, Elisha:

  1. The water of the city was contaminated and people were complaining to Elisha about it. He through a little salt in the water and, poof, the water was clean.
  2. Elisha finishes with the water and starts heading out of town, and some boys start heckling him about his bald head. Elisha cursed the boys and out of the woods come a couple of angry mama bears, and they tore the boys apart. Pretty gruesome. It makes me wonder if Elisha fully knew the power he was tapped into. Did he realize just cursing at some mean kids would unleash the fury of nature? I wonder if he was in shock as these bears came barreling down the hill?

Then in my #BibleReadingPlan, I moved into Matthew 10, and Jesus called his 12 disciples and gave them access to God’s power. He gave them the power to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal diseases. Can you imagine what they felt like? Just think: you’ve been in awe of watching Jesus do these things and then he turns to you, and he says,”OK, now it is your turn. I’m giving you my powers.”

The power also came with a warning – Jesus told the disciples that they needed to be wise because once this power was unleashed, they were also going to have enemies. And these enemies weren’t just 10-year-old boys teasing them about their hair or lack of it, these enemies would be grown men – men in power – who would beat them and drag them to court and try to kill them.

I love what Jesus tells them next – when they were in court, facing an angry crowd and death – they were to be peaceful and still. God would give them the words. The spirit of God would speak through their mouths. It reminds me of a passage from a few days ago in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 when Judah was going into battle and God said:

  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
  • Tomorrow go down against them.
  • You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.

Can you imagine being a disciple and being told you were going to have access to this kind of power, but that access to that power also came with a whole lot of responsibility? These were just ordinary guys who had been living their ordinary lives and Jesus called them to follow Him. They followed and experienced unbelievable things. It had to be surreal. And then even more surreal when he turned to this group of men and said, OK, now it’s your turn to have access to this amazing power. I think I’d be in shock and probably scared to death.

But the crazy, amazing, hard-to-believe thing is this . . . I do have access to that power.

Maybe God isn’t calling me to raise anyone from the dead, but he is calling me to be loving. To be kind. To be patient. To have self-control. To flee from temptation. To honor my husband. To share the gospel. And while those things might seem minuscule compared to casing out a demon, I can’t do them by myself. I can only do them by tapping into God’s power by daily reading my Bible, praying, and meditating on His word.

Pretty amazing. This God who called Elijah, Elisha, Matthew, Peter, and John also called me. Ordinary me. Just a mom and wife in middle America.

Some days He might be calling me to go into active battle.

Some days He might be calling me to stand calm and trust Him in the middle of a storm.

Every day, He is calling me to follow Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Loving vs Sharing the Gospel

Skimming through my Facebook feed yesterday I ran across a sponsored article from Crosswalk.com and I stopped to read it (side comment: Facebook, you kill my productivity!). The article – 5 Signs Your Church Might Be Headed Toward Progressive Christianity – made me stop to think, especially slide #5 about “Love” and the red flag if a church teaches: “It’s not our job to talk to anyone about sin—it’s our job to just love them….”

My church talks about love a lot. Which is a good thing. We are called to love. Love God. Love others. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that should be evident in our life when we are full of the Holy Spirit. Rough estimate: I think my church’s sermons on love vs. sin/redemption are probably close to 85/15. And I think that is intentional because the church I attend has a mission of trying to attract people who don’t like church, people who have been burned by a church in the past, people who are new to the church, etc.

“Love” is a much easier pill to swallow than “sin,” “atonement,” and “hell.”

On the other hand, I grew up in a legalistic church that was all about sin and hell, at least that was my perspective as a child. We aren’t supposed to love on sinners. We were supposed to hand them a track and run, in case their sin rubbed off on us and we were corrupted.

The concept of loving people to heaven is very attractive. Just send money to Haiti. Volunteer at a food pantry. Pay it forward to a stranger at Starbucks. Pray for the unsaved from the comfort of my living room.

But what does the Bible say?

If you read through the entire Bible there is a clear theme:

  • Love
  • Sin
  • Punishment for sin = death
  • Sacrifice/Blood
  • Turning from sin to God
  • Forgiveness
  • Salvation
  • Obedience
  • Love

God absolutely tells us to love. We are to be hospitable. We are to be kind. We are to help the poor and the sick, the prisoner, the orphan and the widow. We are to love them because God first loved us.

But God calls us to take things another step. He called us to share the entire gospel message. Not just the love/heaven part. But the turning from sin part. The leaving your old life behind and following God, no matter what the cost. The penalty of sin is death part. Because you can’t get to the gift of God being eternal life if you don’t first address that the wages of sin are death.

Jesus said: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

And that, my friends, gets me way out of my comfort zone. That makes me nervous sweat a little.

But I also know real love isn’t just sponsoring a girl in Ecuador or going on a missions trip to love on orphans. Real love is telling the truth. The whole truth. Because the gospel truly is the most beautiful love story ever written.

‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:36-38

Spiritual Leadership: A Mom’s Role

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, two things stood out to me:

  1. 1 Kings shows two kinds of leaders – leaders who followed God and did what was right in God’s eyes and leaders who did what was right in their own eyes and rejected God. And the people of Israel and Judah followed. When the king obeyed God, the people followed God. When the king followed other gods, the people followed other gods.
  2. Psalm 78 tells about the importance of teaching children about God.

I realize there is debate as to what a woman’s role is in terms of spiritual leadership in the house – especially if her husband chooses not to be a spiritual leader or if she is a single mom – but regardless of what a man is or isn’t doing in the house, a mom has a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

A Mom’s Role in the Spiritual Leadership of her Children

  • Reading and Teaching the Bible: As a mom, I need to be reading the Bible, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it. And I need to be talking to my children about what the Bible says and what God is teaching me. 

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Grandmas: this applies to you as well.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 4:9 

  • Honoring their Father: I love my husband, but this struggle is SO real. I catch myself rolling my eyes behind his back, teasing him a little too much, complaining about him in front of my children. But how can I teach them to honor him, if I am not demonstrating it myself?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 

  • Loving your Children: This is a no-brainer right . . . but what is love? Love is patient. Love is not irritable. Again, the struggle is real! I’ve got teen and tween girls with hormones and attitudes, and it is summer, so they are together all day and frequently arguing. And they have an often-irritated mom!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13

And once again, I’m back to Jesus. The only way for me to be full of love, rather than irritation, is to be spending time with Jesus.

Also, I try daily to do something intentionally loving –  in each of their love languages – to show them love. For my youngest, it usually involves playing with her one-on-one for 20 minutes (“quality time”) and for my oldest it usually consists of an “act of service.” And it usually involves food since she is always hungry.

  • Praying for Them: Again, a no-brainer, but sometimes easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to keep a prayer journal with a list of things to pray for my children:
    • Their walk with God
    • That they will make good friends and be good friends
    • For their future husbands and in-laws
    • That they will make good choices
    • For God’s protection of their bodies – for their physical, emotional, and mental health, for protection from accidents, and for them to honor God with their bodies

 

Being a mom isn’t easy, and along with everything else in life, I mess up, daily. But the blessing of children comes with a responsibility to teach them about God and set an example of living for Jesus. The only way I can do it is by clinging to Jesus and asking Him to live and love through me.