No Substitute

The past few weeks my husband has been on a small break.  I have gotten to travel with him on family vacation and ministry trips. We had the best time.  While we were gone from Elevation, we were still in church, attending a conference and watching church online.  But there is no substitute for being a part of my own church.

I think so many people fall into the trap of thinking that attending one church this week, another church the next, then watching online one weekend and suddenly they find themselves in a place of loneliness, disconnectedness, and feeling like their life has little meaning.

When I finally was back in my seat, at my campus, last week after being away for several weeks I was filled with joy.  There is no substitute for this.  There is no substitute for being planted in a place where I give, serve, worship, and have community with people.

I am not saying everyone should go to my church.  But where is your church?  If you are feeling like something is missing in your life, maybe it is the fact that you are not planted where you and your family can put down roots with other believers.

Hebrews 10:25 says,  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Too tired to finish

Do you know the story of Gideon?  In Judges 6-8 we find Gideon, an Israelite, called by God to defeat the Midianites with only 300 men (you should go and read the story if you don’t know it).  In chapter 6, Gideon accepts the call (after asking God many questions), in chapter 7, Gideon and his men have a huge victory but they have to finish the job and defeat all of the Midianites.  I love verse 4 in chapter 8…

Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it.

Have you ever been exhausted while obeying God?  Just because you are winning a victory does not mean you won’t get tired.

Maybe you are fighting for your marriage or a relationship.  Maybe you are finishing up a big project.  Maybe you are serving in a church.

Don’t give up.  Keep up the pursuit.   Remember, the Lord is on your side.    The One who gave you the faith to start will give you the grace to finish.

If you need an extra boost of encouragement  today, listen to this sermon from my husband.  It is one of my favorites and it always encourages me.  Don’t Stop on 6!

How to kill a friendship

Friendships are such a difficult thing to navigate in life, but such an essential part of life.

I read that the average friendship has a lifespan of 5 years.  That is kind of sad but yet comforting at the same time.  Friendships ebb and flow.  Jobs change, people move, kid’s schools, teams and hobbies change.  When a friendship ends, it does not mean there is something wrong with me.  It is just a natural part of life.  There are, however, a few things you can do to fast forward the ending of a friendship.

1.  Jealousy. Jealousy will kill a friendship faster than anything. If you cannot celebrate the successes of your friend, they will eventually stop sharing those wins with you. Proverbs 27:4 says, “Anger is cruel and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.”

2. Judgement. If you never come to a place where you accept others even though you disagree on something, you cannot cultivate that friendship. Is my friend too strict because she doesn’t let her children play with certain games or read certain books? No, just different. Just because my beliefs are different from yours does not mean I am right and you are wrong.

3.  Comparison. Anyone who is constantly comparing is a drain to be around. It doesn’t matter if you are comparing careers, possessions or children.  Check out this line from Dillon Burroughs, “The problem with comparison is that you always feel either better than someone else or worthless compared to someone else.”  Constant comparison will suck the life out of a friendship.

4.  Lack of Confrontation. No friendship can move forward if it does not push past a conflict. No, we do not have to always speak the truth in love, but there are times when we must confront a situation (not talk about it to everyone else), talk through it and move on.  Conflict can either destroy or, if handled correctly, can deepen a relationship.

A few more thoughts on friendship…

Remember, friendships need to be cultivated, but if a particular friendship is like caring for an orchid… try as you might, the petals are falling off, it may be time to let it go.  On the other hand, if you have an friendship that is like an oak tree, one that is steady and has weathered many storms, you should fight for that one.

Loneliness is something everyone experiences.  But we all must be reminded sometimes that it takes a friend to be a friend.  What kind of friend are you?  If you feel so lonely, when was the last time you invited a friend to lunch?  When was the last time you sent a note of encouragement, or bought your someone a gift just because?

And don’t forget, God wants to bless us with friendships but Jesus is the true friend.  Sometimes I think I mistake loneliness in my life for lack of closeness with Jesus.  When I am full in my relationship with Jesus, I feel more fulfilled in every area of my life, especially my friendships because they become more about what I can give, not necessarily what I am receiving.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:25

Nothing but the truth

Ephesians 4:15 says Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

I think that Ephesians 4:15 is so often misquoted.  I get tired of Christians running around correcting each other proclaiming that they are just “speaking the truth in love.” Does a true friend speak the truth in love?  Yes.  But a true friend also knows that just because something is true, it does not always have to be spoken.

For instance, if my friend has on an outfit that does not look the best on her, am I to tell her?  Of course not.  That would only embarrass her.  If my friend is complaining about her husband, am I to call her out in a loving way and tell her she shouldn’t do that?

What about my husband?  If he is watching too much tv or eating unhealthy foods, do I need to tell him in a loving way?  What if he is losing his temper with our kids, do I need to confront him?

Sometimes, love doesn’t need to speak.  Sometimes love remembers I lose my temper, I watch too much tv, and I complain too.  Sometimes love just prays.

My husband often jokes and calls me the Holly Spirit.  This is funny, but I have to constantly remind myself that I am not the Holy Spirit.  God did not put me on earth to point out the faults of those around me.  I have plenty of faults of my own to deal with.  And when I see something that someone in my life is doing wrong, sometimes the best thing I can do is pray and trust the Holy Spirit (who lives inside of them too!) to correct them.  Check out this verse from the Amplified Version…

John 14:26  But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.

He causes us to recall what we have been taught!  And he doesn’t need my help.  This weekend, I thought it was so funny when my husband said we need to remind ourselves that we are not the associate pastor to the Holy Spirit.

I do not always do this right.  But I can tell you that the times where I have seen a fault in my friend, or my husband, and I have taken it to the Lord, I have seen the Lord convict his or her heart.  One time, I decided that rather than nag my husband about something I wanted my him to change, I would pray for him.  Several weeks later he came to me and asked me if there was anything I saw in his life that I needed to change.  It was then that I spoke the truth in love.  There have been other times where I prayed about something and I saw the Lord do a work in a friend and I did even play a part in their change.

I need to remember that true change takes place when the Holy Spirit speaks, not me.


The smallest bit

I came across this quote from the book, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers the other day.

Even the smallest bit of obedience opens heaven, and the deepest truths of God immediately become yours. Yet God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already.

I believe there is so much truth to this.  God cannot take me from A to C if I do not do B.  Sometimes, when you are feeling like you don’t know what step to take next, you have to go back and see if you took the last step you were told to take.

Did God ask you to forgive someone?
Did you feel impressed the last time you were at church to give?  To serve? To join a small group?
Maybe God told you to take a break from social media, or tv?
Maybe you have a certain friend that you know is not good for you?

This isn’t a post about discerning God’s voice.  But sometimes He just impresses something on your heart and keeps bringing it back to your mind.  And sometimes there are obvious commands in the scripture that we just simply do not obey.

Like being kind.
Honoring your parents.
Respecting your husband.
Refraining from griping and complaining.

God is a God who rewards obedience above all else.  In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul disobeyed God and it cost him everything.  God commanded him to attack the Amalekites and destroy everything including the animals.  Saul did everything except he saved their king and a few animals.  When Samuel, the prophet, asked Saul what he was doing, Saul proclaimed that he was making a sacrifice to the Lord.  Look at what Samuel said back,

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

God takes complete obedience very seriously.  And he rewards obedience very greatly.  Stop searching for the mysteries of God and obey the last thing he told you to do.  Then watch as He reveals more of Himself to you.

Nip it.

I have been thinking a lot about fear lately.  It is such an odd thing because it has such a broad range.  Fear can be something so silly or something very serious.  You can be afraid of clowns or afraid of death.  You can have a small fear that lurks in the back of your mind, or a fear so large it is paralyzing.

There are, of course, fears that can help you.  Like if you are afraid of your children getting hit by a car, you are going to teach them to look both ways.  There are also fears that are realistic and fears that are completely irrational.  And then sometimes, I think the enemy tries to make me afraid of things that actually might be good for me.

Take for instance something I am ashamed of (I hope I can be honest here), I sometimes yell at my kids.  Loud.  Now the enemy wants me to feel ashamed.  He wants to whisper to me, “you’re a terrible mom,” and “what would people think if they heard you yell like that?”  He wants me to internalize everything and never talk about it to anyone.  He wants me to think about it over and over again.

Sometimes when I am faced with an irrational fear that is based in shame like,” what if people really knew what you are like?”  I just face it.  I find someone and confess.  I just say to another mom friend, “I really struggle with yelling at my kids sometimes.”  I let it out there.  And then, usually, I find my friend say, “Oh, I struggle with the same thing too.”  Now the the chatterbox has no more power.  ”What if people found out?”  Well they just did AND I found out I am not alone in this struggle.

I actually told my mom the other day how awful I felt because I had fussed so much at my kids last Saturday while I was taking them to their activities.  I remember saying to her, “I guess I just discounted all the things I did for them today.”  She said just the right thing, “No you didn’t.  They won’t even remember you fussing at them.  They will remember that you always took them to their activities.  That’s all.”

Not all fear is so easily overcome.  But boy can you nip the fear of shame by simply being honest with someone.  You may find out that the thing in your mind that you built up to be such a big deal really isn’t a big deal at all.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

A bosom friend

Today we are more connected than ever, thanks to the internet and social media, but it seems we are lonelier than ever.  As women, I think we have this longing for a deep female friendship, something that is engrained in us even in early childhood. We become an adult, get married, have children and become so busy with life that we feel like our relationships are suffering.  We suddenly look around and find we still don’t have BFF that we can give a heart necklace to like we did in 7th grade (remember the heart broken in half and we each wore a half?).  We wonder if there is something wrong with us.  How could we be so busy and yet so lonely?

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables put it best…

“Marilla,” she demanded presently, “do you think that I
shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?”

“A–a what kind of friend?”

“A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really
kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.  I’ve
dreamed of meeting her all my life.  I never really supposed
I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true
all at once that perhaps this one will, too.  Do you think
it’s possible?”

The reality is very few people go through life with a true BFF- a friend that they can laugh with, pray with, cry with, celebrate with, share their deepest darkest secrets with.  God did create us to be relational.  He created us to need each other and to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2).  But perhaps he didn’t mean for it to be wrapped up all in one person.

When I look around at the relationships God has given me I see that He has given me friends that I do ministry with, some friends that are similar positions of ministry that I can talk with, friends that I text when something is funny, and often different friends that I text when I need prayer.  I have friends who’s kids are the same ages as my kids, and friends that I would want to go on vacation with.  Don’t read into this too much.  I do not have this over abundance of relationships, and each one has struggles of its own.  But when I open my eyes, I see that the Lord has blessed me with a handful of people who do the work of one “bosom friend.”

The enemy wants to whisper lies to me that I am lonely.  That no one really understands me.  That I don’t even have one friend who can bear all my burdens and celebrate all my blessings with.  This is simply not true.  We need to stop and reevaluate…

  • The reason we don’t have that one, true kindred spirit friend in the flesh is because that spot should be reserved for Jesus alone. He is the One I can cast my cares on.  He is the One who will never leave me nor forsake me.  Perhaps, if you have been feeling lonely, the starting place is making Jesus your best friend.
  • Or maybe it is time you look around at the relationships you have been blessed with and the different roles people play in your life.  Thank God for providing you with people who can bless you in different ways.  Realize that maybe you are not as lonely as you think.
  • You may need to hear this gentle reminder that it takes a friend to be a friend and the phone works both ways.   Maybe there is a relationship out there in need of you more than you are in need of it.

As we become more and more socially connected, we must remember to stay connected to the only One who can truly relieve our loneliness.  And we must realize that maybe we have all the relationships we need, we simply need to open our eyes and cultivate them.

The future is a phantom

I have been reading through Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Wow, what a great book.  A few days ago I read this, “The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you.”

Isn’t it funny how we can be scared of something that hasn’t even happened yet? Sarah Young then said the next day, “Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur.” This is so good.  Sometimes, my worries cause me to experience a difficulty that will never even happen.

Worry and fear have the power to truly make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Now, should I think through a current situation that needs to be fixed?  Of course. But should I let my imagination run wild with what ifs?  Never.  The enemy wants to spook me with thoughts that will never even come to pass.  He seeks to distract me from my present by causing me to worry about my future.

When I am tempted to let my imagination run wild with things that could happen, I remind myself that if my worst fears come true, the Lord will be there with me.  And He will supply me with the grace that I need to carry me through.

And then I come up with some practical tactics for fighting the enemy.  Personally, I force myself to think about something else.  I read a book or listen to a worship song, or play Candy Crush on my phone (whatever it takes!) or turn on worship music. Don’t let the enemy spook you with ghosts that don’t even exist!

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go. 

No more hurt feelings

“You hurt my feelings” is such an interesting phrase.  Have you ever thought about trying to describe what this means to a person who is learning the English language?  When do we add this to our vocabulary?  My earliest memories, I remember fighting with my big sister and telling her she hurt my feelings. But my boys hardly ever say it.  They just slug it out.  Not that punching is a better option than pouting but it is their preferred method.  They are not so in touch with their feelings.

But what does it really mean to say that my feelings are hurt?  A while back I blogged about a little book that had a huge impact on me called, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, by Tim Keller (see post here).  Keller talks about how it is not really our feelings that are hurt, it is our ego.  He says,

Ego often hurts.  That is because it has something incredibly wrong with it.  Something unbelievably wrong with it.  It is always drawing attention to itself- it does so every day.  It is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated.  People sometimes say their feelings are hurt.  But our feelings can’t be hurt!  It is the ego that hurts – my sense of self, my identity.  Our feelings are fine!  It is my ego that hurts.

Ouch.  But so much truth.  My “feelings get hurt” when I feel looked over, misunderstood, under appreciated, under used and on and on.  But those things are my ego.  Ego is my pride that shouts, “I am important.”

I am learning that if I don’t want my feelings to get hurt (inasmuch as feelings refer to my ego), I must find my self worth in my relationship with God.  When I am secure and confident in who God made me to be, when I know that my God sees me and has a special calling on my life, I do not have to fear being overlooked.  I do not have to worry about being under appreciated.  I do not have to let someone else’s opinion of me define me, because my confidence is found in the only One who’s opinion matters.

I love the series my husband is teaching right now called Sticks and Stones. In the 2nd sermon of the series he said something great, “Just because people don’t know who you are doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know how to find you when He needs you.”   I am learning more and more that God uses people who let the game come to them, not people who are always trying to make things happen for themselves.  What God wants me to do is to do what He has told me to do.  He uses people who are in the daily act of obedience.

I find that there are two times when my “feelings get hurt”

  1. When I take my eyes off of my assignment and envy someone else’s assignment.
  2. When I don’t find my self worth in who God says I am, and search for it in what others think about me.

A friend of mine was telling me that she decided one day that she was not going to be that woman who always gets her feelings hurt.  I love being around her because she is confident in who she is and who God has called her to be AND who He has not called her to be.

So today I am following her lead.  I am not going to let my feelings get hurt.  I am going to be confident in who God made me and what He has called me to do.  And when I am tempted to let my feelings be hurt, I will remind myself that my ego is what is hurt, not my feelings.

Changing the way I pray

Have you ever experienced a time where you were so fervently praying for something that you began to get anxious about it?  It’s funny because Phlippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” But sometimes I find myself becoming more anxious the more I pray about something.

I think the key is in the 2nd part of this verse, “with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”  Often times, when I am praying I am just asking.  I subconsciously want to leave the thanksgiving part for after the prayer has been answered.  But that is not right.  The scripture says with thanksgiving.

Let me explain this way…

Instead of praying,  ”God please heal my mother,” I should pray, “God I thank you that you are the great physician.  I thank you that my mother is healed in Jesus name.”

Or, “God please give us a break through in our finances,” I should pray, “God I thank you that you own the cattle on a thousand hills, our financial need is a small thing to you.  I thank you that you are our provider.  I trust that you will provide for my every need…”

Or, “God, please help my kids to stay out of trouble,” I pray, “Thank you that you are the Protector.  Your angels go behind and before my children while they are away from me.  Thank you that you have great plans to use them to impact the world…”

When I phrase my prayer in a way that is thanking God for His power and His ability to answer my request, my mind begins to think more positively about the situation and I begin to have a thankful frame of mind rather than a worried frame of mind. And then my faith grows because I am reminding myself of the power of the One I am praying to.

Oh and don’t forget to enter yesterday’s giveaway of our church’s new album, <em>Only King Forever!