Monday, August 30, 2010


"For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring."
Acts 17:28

When I was younger, I used to wonder if my life is important. I now am convinced that every life, including mine, is important. There are several reasons that I believe this.

First, my life is important because I am God's creation. Psalm 139:14-16 says God formed me in my mother's womb and that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. Every last little detail of my body, my personality, my intelligence, and my emotional make up was designed by God's hand. Philippians 1:6 also makes it clear that God is still in the process of finishing the work that He began in my mother's womb. The life I am living--with its joys, triumphs, and trials--is important because it was planned by God and is a part of the process that God has chosen to use to mold and refine me into a woman who bears His image. I am important because He is in the process of finishing a "Masterpiece" that He planned before time began.

My life is also important because before God laid the foundation of the world He chose to place me in Him so I would be Holy and blameless. I brought honor to God when I acknowledged my sin and accepted Christ's payment for it. He accepted me in His son (Ephesians 1:4-8). God knew about every sin I would ever commit and yet before He created the earth He planned a way to make me holy and blameless in His sight. I hate being blamed for things I haven't done, so I can't even imagine being Christ who was willing to take God's wrath for not just my sin, but everyone’s sin! That is some kind of love!

My life is important because I am a Spiritual house for God to dwell in. (I Peter 2:4) The concept of God dwelling in us is something all Christians live with, yet it is incomprehensible. My body is the temple, the dwelling place; Christ chooses to dwell in now. Since the foundation of the earth, God has appeared to man in various forms, a burning bush, a dove, a wind, and as harsh judgments. He also appeared as a bright glory as he was when He led Israel out of Egypt, dwelt in the tabernacle, and then in the temple in Jerusalem. Now, He dwells in the world through me and through you! When we love someone, forgive an offense, apologize, share Christ, or serve someone I am showing him or her Christ.

My life matters because He has given my life purpose. "But we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, that you should show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1I Peter 2:9) I am a part of the chosen generation and a part of a royal priesthood that bridges the gulf between man and God. I am His priest when I minister to the needs and hurts of others I am doing it in His name. I am a part of a holy nation that crosses geographical boundaries, time periods, social groups, and economical and racial barriers. I am set apart by God for the purpose of praising Him and holy in the sense that He is molding me into His likeness as I repent of my sin.

I also know my life matters because I am accepted by Christ. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says I was called out of darkness into light and that I am now one of God’s people. I know in my past there was a time I never felt like I quite fit into my family, my church, my school, or in certain social gatherings. This verse tells me that I am one of the people of God! I belong to the creator of the universe in the same way that Adam, Isaiah, King David, Moses, Joseph and Mary, and Paul did. When I am tempted to see my life as insignificant, that is a lies, because the Word is so clear about it being significant from God's perspective. His plans and acceptance of me mean that even though I may never fit into this world, I have a heavenly world and a heavenly family in which I am a perfect fit.

The same is true of you and your life. Your life is important because the Creator planned it. He also redeemed you with His own blood and He accepts you. He is never ashamed to call you or me His own. Because of this I hope that we each embrace the truth of who we are in Him and that we each choose to fulfill the awesome responsibility of being a part of His priesthood. He has given us significance by giving us the awesome job of ministering His love, truth, and grace to a dark world…what a joy to be His ears, His hands, His feet, His mouth, and His heart to people who need so desperately to see Him and to come to know Him.
Are you able to believe your life matters to the Creator? Are you willing to be His ambassador in this dark world?

Prayer: Father, in light of the number of people who have lived, are living, and will live it is easy to wonder if our lives means anything in the grand scheme of things. Thank You for creating us and for the plans You have laid for our lives before the world was made. Thank you for making us holy through Christ's death on the cross. Thank You for indwelling us and making us Your children and a part of your priesthood. Please use us to be your ears, hands, feet, mouth, and heart to people who need to know You. Help us boldly declare that You are our God and fill us with Your love. Help us to use words and actions reflect that we are redeemed. Let us sing and dance and shout your praises to the world! May the sacrifice of praise be given from pure and

The Balance of Truth and Grace

"And the Word (Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."

John 1:14

What does it means when the Word says Christ was full of grace and truth? I think that is a very good question. So often we tend to be people who are characterized by black and white thinking. As a result we tend to be either legalistic truth speakers who exhibit little truth or people who only focus on God’s grace and seldom speak the truth. If Christ was the embodiment of both truth and grace, maybe, just maybe, that is His desire for us as well. If we are to be people who are embracing the truth then we have to acknowledge that it is just as wrong to have premarital sex today as it was in Christ's day. It also is just as wrong to lie, to dishonor our parents, to covet, to take God's name in vain, or to have idols as it was in Christ's day. Sin is sin even though our culture has come to call it by other names like dysfunction or developmental issues. We really don’t have the right or the authority to change God's standard to avoid offending others. In fact, for someone else to understand God’s grace they have to fully understand what sin is.

I find it fascinating that Christ mingled with sinful people. He seemed to be more comfortable in the company of sinful people than He was in the company of the self-righteous Pharisees who put people under bonds of legalism. He taught, healed, ate with, confronted, and loved people who reeked of sin. As we call sin "sin" we also need to remember sin hurts the sinner, too! When practiced sin can become addictive strongholds that are difficult to break. So, we need to develop compassion for those who are struggling.

I was born with a very sensitive conscience that hurts deeply when I sin. When I struggled with patterns of sin I felt too ashamed to go to God again and again with the same sin. Christianity seemed to work for everyone but me. Then God began to show me some awesome things! The more time I spend in His presence seeking Him and praying the more His holiness exposed my sin. At first, that exposure discouraged me and people often leave the church for that reason. I learned that God wanted me to see His love is unconditional and deep enough to embrace me even with my sinfulness. I was guilty of distancing myself from God's open arms by my shame, but He never left me. I searched the Gospels and never found Christ rejecting a person who was confessing his or her sin. He did turn away those who thought they were holy enough to merit His favor rather than relying on His grace.

It is important for us to understand that healthy guilt drives us to God when we need grace, while toxic shame that is based on lies drives us away. When my children were young, we lived in Mississippi where dirt is a beautiful red and it rains a lot. One night at a ball game my kids were playing in the mud. Toward the end of the evening one of them bounded toward me and threw his muddy arms around me and I hugged his dirty little body tight. I loved him and his brothers dirt and all. Don't get me wrong my favorite time of evening was right after baths when I could snuggle with little people who smelled like baby wash, but there was just something about the smell of dirt and the outdoors that was cool, too. When my kids hit the teen years, there were times that I offered them hugs only to feel their bodies stiffen rather than getting a warm hug back. It hurt me to hug a stiff child, but never a dirty one. I can’t help but wonder if that is true of God, too. We can run to Him and no matter how “dirty” we are and He will embrace us. As we confess our sin, He assures us that His blood continues to cleanse us from unrighteousness. However, when we harden our hearts with pride and don't confess sin and come to God with pretense of being something we are not, we are grieving His heart.

One of my children went through a stiff time. Afterward he wrote me a letter and told me he had been hurting from leaving home and over lost relationships. He didn't know how to deal with hurt and admitted he had taken it out on me. He told me he realized our love is always there and always consistent. Do I want him to feel any more guilt over his behavior? NO! I want him to take joy in our love! That is the way God is -- always seeking us. His arms are open wide! If you struggle with sin, it is proof that you are alive in Christ, because dead people don't struggle. There is not a sin that God cannot love us through or help us overcome. However, sometimes He chooses to do that with a once for all deliverance and sometimes with a minute-by-minute dependence on Him.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: “Am I a "stiff child" whose heart is hard and don't think truth is relevant?” “Am I a "stiff child" who doubts that God will continue to forgive me?” If so, be like my kids when they were little and ran into my arms without giving it a second thought. Run to your Abba’s arms, which are always open and ready to receive you, dirt and all. If you are lucky enough to truly understand the balance of truth and grace you know God loves to hug dirty children. Another couple of questions we might want to grapple with is: “Is God calling us to speak His truth to a stumbling friend?” “Is God calling me to extend His grace to one of His "dirty" children that longs to be held?” It is okay to hate a person’s sin and the damage that it does to him or her, but God has called us to be a people who have the capacity to love the dirty child and offer him a shower and a fresh pair of jeans.

Father, thank you for sending Christ to demonstrate Your love. Thank you for demonstrating the beautiful balance of truth and grace. Help us to love others the way You did. Give us the wisdom and discernment to speak truth boldly with words that are bathed with humility and grace. Give us courage to love and embrace the dirty children You died for. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God’s Promise for Broken Hearts

"The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Psalm 34:18

Where is God when it hurts? This is the question posed in the book by the same title that is written by Philip Yancey. Yancey discusses both physical and emotional pain in the book. Physical pain is pain that is caused by physical injury and/or physical illness. This type of pain varies in intensity ranging from mild discomfort to overwhelming waves of pain. Some pain, like childbirth, can have great benefits associated with it while other types of pain seem to bear no blessing at all. Unlike the pain of childbirth that comes in waves and ends after the birth process, those struggling with cancer, losing a limb, or chronic pain from something like arthritis often do not experience and end to their pain. The most that they can hope for is a sense of managing the pain. It may be hard for those struggling with chronic pain to see pain as a precious gift from God that signifies that something is wrong and needs our attention. It helps us to realize where our bodies begin and end. For example, we may not be consciously aware of where our thumb ends unless we hit it with a hammer. The nerves signal very clearly where the body ends or begins, in order for us to keep our bodies from injury. Without physical pain we would do horrendous damage to our body without realizing it. Without the discomfort of being cold or hungry we would not put warmer clothes on or eat. Without physical pain we would not remove our hand from a hot burner.

Emotional pain is every bit as real as physical pain, but in comes in different forms. It comes in the form of loneliness, anxiety, fear, anger, insecurity, broken-heartedness, and sadness. Emotional hurts also come in intensities from a mild uneasiness to an overwhelming hurt. Interestingly emotional pain can be so intense that it physically hurts us. I remember one time that a car came around the corner and almost hit our neighbor’s child. I screamed and doubled over as my stomach cramped due to the tension I was feeling. Emotional hurts should also be recognized as a stimulus to correct various situations in life. We need to realize our ability to feel emotional pain is also God-given. Without emotional pain we may not be stimulated to confront unhealthy relationships, work environments, or learn to take care of ourselves during stressful situations.

Now, in going back to our original question – “Where is God when it hurts?” Psalm 34:18 tells us the answer to that important question. It says, "The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." If we believe this verse, then we have to believe when we are hurting that God is very near. Does that mean we will always "feel" His presence? Not always! Men like David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah all vocalized questions about where God was in their difficult circumstances. At times they felt deserted. While our emotions are real, they are not always based upon the truth. If we "feel" or "think" God is far away when we hurt, we need to remember that it is not based on the truth. It is a lie of the enemy and maybe even a sense of individuality in our experience.

Another question that we might find ourselves struggling with, is, "Does God care that I hurt?" Today’s verse states that He does!. Christ Himself experienced pain. He got hungry, cold, and tired. He was beaten, whipped, had hair plucked out, and was crucified which is an extremely painful way to die. He felt emotional pain. He was lonely, disappointed, betrayed, falsely accused, and misunderstood. The Bible says Christ lived and suffered so we would know that we have a high priest who understands the feelings of our infirmities. (Hebrews 4) As we suffer in the same ways that He did, it gives us a clearer picture of the love that Christ has for us. He chose to suffer to demonstrate His love for us.

Why would God permit pain? First, trials mature us and He is committed to completing the work He began in us and physical pain is one of the tools He uses. (James 1:2-4 and Philippians 1:6) 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 also says that God comforts us so that we may comfort others.

MMM…I think these verse actually address our original question. "Where is God when it hurts?" In the church! A part of our calling as Christians is to comfort those who are broken hearted, wounded, and those hurting physically and/or emotionally! Why do we not do it? Maybe we are afraid we will say the wrong things. We don't need to be afraid, sometimes all people need is to know we are there and that they will sense God's care and love through us. Maybe we are too busy, which is a cultural problem in America. Maybe we don't understand another person’s pain, maybe their pain reminds us of our own pain that we do not want to face, or maybe we are simply uncomfortable around them. Maybe we don't understand that we are commanded to comfort those who have hearts that are broken or who have bodies that are wracked with physical pain.

Several years ago I was undergoing counseling for some deep emotional pain, but I stayed busy and ran from the pain every time we would get close to it. I was in a freak accident and suffered a severely broken ankle and was housebound for about a year. I had to sit in both the physical and emotional pain. At the time I did not know very many people at a friendship level, so I spent a lot of time talking to God both about the physical and the emotional pain that I was experiencing. To be honest, I felt like I connected to God at a whole new level! There have been other times that I was hurting emotionally and I was blessed to have had people write me encouragement notes and/or share Bible verses with me and I felt loved – not just by them – but by GOD! Once in a Bible Study I did not even realize how a lesson had affected me and then the teacher had a quiet time followed by a prayer time in which we were to pray aloud about our commitments and I could not bring myself to do it. The quietest student in the class reached over and gently took my hand and her touch gave me the courage to pray out loud. I thanked her later and she said she did not know why she had done it, she just felt that she was supposed to! I know why she did it, God led her to do it to show me He was with me.

We need to ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our responsibility to be near to those in pain? We have been called to restore each other, bear each other's burden, to comfort, to be kind and tenderhearted, and to labor for each other in prayer. How are we doing in that? Or is one of us hurting and feel like God is far away? Do we need to be more transparent and ask for prayer? We also need to remind ourselves not to be terrified of sharing in other people’s pain. We don't need to let feelings of inadequacy deter us, for God can help us know when to take a hand, to sit quietly, cry with someone, or gently remind a hurting person of the truth of God's care.

Father, help us to care about those who are hurting physically or emotionally. Help us to see behind the masks that so many of us wear. Father, pain often scares us because it is something we cannot fix or control. Please help us overcome our fears and fill us with your wisdom, your love, and your compassion for the hurting. Please don't let any of us be the reason that someone believes that she was deserted by you when she hurt. Guard our hearts from our tendency to want to “fix” or heal pain that only you can heal. Amen.

God-given Boldness

"In the day when I cried out, you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul."

Psalm 138:3

Recently I blogged on a verse that talked about the Lord's eyes searching the earth for those whose hearts were fully devoted to Him, so that He could strengthen them in their souls. Since then I came across the above verse and was fascinated to find that the Lord's strength works out in different ways. In this verse it says that the Lord's strength made the Psalmist bold. I love the idea that as we wait on God and seek to deepen our relationship with Him that He works in us to accomplish His will in us, molding us into what He wants us to be. I also know that the Scripture teaches us that it is in our weaknesses that God's strength is displayed. When I think about what the weaknesses of mankind can be, I can come up with a lot of different ways that God works in us. It becomes clear that God alone can turn a liar in to a truth teller. a prideful person in to a humble person, a self-centered person into a a servant concerned with others, a wounded person into a healer, and an anxious person into a person ruled by peace. And yes, one of the most exciting things He can do, if we will cry out to Him is to turn our timidity into boldness. Another verse emphasizing this truth is 2 Timothy 1:7-- "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." We will be driven by the Lord’s love to face our fears and to walk boldly in the things that God has for us.

I think one of the greatest examples of boldness in a person's spirit is found in the life of the Apostle Peter! The night that Christ was arrested Peter denied knowing Christ three times. He had been one of Christ's closest friends and experienced things other disciples had not and yet, in the heat of moment, his fear got the better of him and he denied the One for whom he had previously declared he would die. Later on after the Holy Spirit was given to indwell the believers in the church the Lord’s disciples were accused of being drunk because they were speaking in different languages. Peter rises up and faces the crowd and delivers an eloquent, but powerful sermon about Jesus and over three thousand people were saved. He later addresses the Sanhedrin, and preaches to them. Acts 4:13 says, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." From the point that Peter received the Holy Spirit he was strengthened in the Lord and became a bold speaker who overcame his paralyzing fear of man. As a result, he became a well know preacher who never quit preaching.

There are several ways that we can apply this verse to our lives. That is because there are a lot of types of fears that affect what we do or what we don't do. Some of us are facing the fear of change, which affects us when we need to relocate, make a decision, experience loss through death or divorce, or experience a serious illness in a family member. This fear keeps us from considering all the possibilities we have in our lives or even looking at the things that God may be calling us to. Some of us are paralyzed by a fear of failure, resulting in a resistance to take risks in school, careers, or in ministry. Fear of failure causes us to hesitate instead of moving through life with confidence, keeps us from trying new things, and causes obsessions with things like grades. Sadly, this is the fear that keeps us from sharing our faith. Some of us are facing a fear of rejection, resulting in isolation, unnecessary pain due to our fear of confronting, and fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection keep us from reaching out to love others keeps us from being real and asking others for prayer. Fear of the unknown can affect us in a lot of different ways. If we are paralyzed with fear we may not seek information in a healthy way that will help us make good decision or we may not answer a calling God has placed on our lives because we fear what the future holds. It is important that we realize that if we are Christians that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within and that being filled by the Spirit gives us boldness. We also have the privilege of having other Christians to help us through fearful times. Does that mean we will never be afraid or fearful? NO! Does it mean we are “bad” Christians when we are afraid? NO! It is in the face of timidity, fear, and weakness that God's strength in the form of boldness will become the most obvious. So many people think that it is a sin or that it is a sign of weak faith to experience fear. I suggest that this is not true. Fear is an opportunity to trust God and depend on Him to help us move past our fears. It is an opportunity to trust that the invisible God is bigger and more powerful than our visible most fearful circumstances.

Are you feeling fearful right now? Is it mild a anxiousness, a big fear, or is it terror? If you are experiencing fear, I encourage you to cry out to the Lord and let Him make you BOLD with His strength in your soul. He will give you the courage to face the unknown, adversity, trials, and tribulation. As you trust Him, He will transform you in the same way that He did Peter enabling you to do all that He has ordained you to do.

Father, You have made plans for each of us and sometimes those plans scare us or even terrify us. Sometimes even obeying you can even be scary, whether it is something small like getting out of our comfort zone, looking down the barrel of a gun, or proclaiming our faith. Please remind us in our times of fear to cry out to You in faith and to allow You to strengthen us with the boldness and courage that Christ had when He faced the cross on our behalf. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!