Extreme Lies

XL

Lately I’ve become more and more aware of the polarization within American politics.  The Grand Canyon itself pales in comparison to the division between Republicans and Democrats at large.  From what I’ve seen and heard, to be Republican means believing that all Democrats are horrible people ruining the world.  To be Democrat means believing all Republicans are ignorant, religious fanatics.  This picking of sides extends across our borders as well.  The Israelis are either saints or devils, and the same goes for the Palestinians.  We must choose whom we will love and support.  We are told we must hate the others and heaven forbid anyone disagree with us.  Gone are the days, if they ever really existed, that those representing both sides of the pendulum’s swing could work together to reach a compromise.  No longer do the strengths of each come together to beautifully offset the weaknesses.

Unfortunately, this battle mentality infects every area of our lives.  Scroll through your newsfeed on facebook, the photos on your Instagram, your Twitterfeed… what do you see?  If you’re anything like me you see so many contradictions your head starts to spin.  I’m not even married yet and I’m already being bombarded with why I need to homeschool my children, AND why I need to get them in public schools, with the occasional blurp about why private schools are the way to go.  Don’t even get me started on breastfeeding, C-section vs. vaginal births, or epidurals.  <<<Please excuse the following soap box.  Can we just acknowledge that some women have no choice in these matters, and nearly all of them do what they truly believe to be the best for the child?  Can we get rid of the “vs.” when discussing these issues and encourage the moms in our lives instead?  I mean, let’s face it, being a mom is probably the toughest and messiest job on the planet.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a mom say that it’s easy, but I’ve heard plenty say it’s worth it.  Do you hear that?  It’s worth it.  It’s worth the struggles.  It’s worth wanting to rip your hair out.  It’s worth the pain.  But that also means the struggles and pain are real.  Moms have enough going on already; they don’t need the blogosphere telling them they’re doing it wrong.  I’ll step down from my soap box and return you to your original programming.>>> 

The barrage of “opinions” doesn’t end with politics or parenting.  I don’t have a boyfriend, but I’m told it’s wrong to postpone marriage.  The next post on my feed tells me all of the reasons why I should wait to enter that sacred covenant.  “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “I Gave Dating a Chance” are both real books.  We are told to have a positive body image and then immediately told we need this or that diet and/or exercise program.  I often feel like I need to grow my own produce, make my own soap, and never use medicine if I want to be a good woman. 

There is SO MUCH PRESSURE today to be the person society wants us to be, but no one really knows what that means because society also glorifies individuality.  This results in everyone setting out to defend themselves.  What truly saddens me is the way these messages are presented.  I am all for people having convictions and sticking to them, but I adamantly oppose attacking those with differing views.  Most of the disputes listed above are subjective.  One can choose either side of the debate without being in sin. 

So why do we make it a debate at all?  I sense that pride is the key issue here.  Someone does something differently than we do so we’re scared we’re doing it wrong.  We have to publicize all of the reasons why we’re “right” to be sure no one thinks less of us.  Think of how different our society would look if, rather than being constantly defensive about everything, we began encouraging one another in our differences as we all do our best at this thing called life.

Let’s be honest though, there are some things that are not subjective.  Some things are sin and sin should never be encouraged or even tolerated.  It must be confronted.  Far too often we end the sentence there.  “Sin must be confronted.”  We tend to leave off the “with grace and love” part.  We judge, condemn, and criticize rather than pray.  We delight in our “righteous indignation” with no concern for the soul of the sinner.  And, yes, I am just as guilty as the next person in this regard.

Those who know me are probably aware that I’m not Obama’s number one fan. I don’t even have his t-shirt, but can you imagine what our nation would be like if all of the Christians (who, sadly, are so quick to declare their disdain for our President) all rallied together to pray for him?  What if we all collectively decided we would never post/share/tweet another negative thing about him?  What if Obama had a Josiah moment of understanding the truth of Scripture?  Or an experience with Christ like Paul had on the road to Damascus?  I fear most American believers would be so jaded against him that, rather than helping him tear down the idols and welcoming him into the family of God, we would be suspicious and hesitant to fellowship with him.

We must break through these lies that tell us the world only exists in extremes.  We must fight for unity to furthest extent that we possibly can without compromising Scripture.  We must stand firm in the truths set forth in the Bible, but act lovingly and mercifully with those who do not.  We must realize that edifying one another is far more important than proving our point on trivial matters.  We must remember that Christlikeness, and His glory are the ultimate goal.  This must be our only extreme.  If we pursue Christ and forsake sin to the extreme, we will see the frivolousness of the things of this world.  We will see change.  We will see revival.  

 

Smack

Work today was ridiculous in just about every sense of the word.  By 3:30 I wanted to pull out my hair and hide under my desk.  I decided to throw a pity party instead… because, clearly, I was the ONLY person affected by the system being down campus-wide.  Please note the sarcasm in that last bit.

Have you ever seen the show NCIS?  The main character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, is known for giving his team members “subtle” wake-up calls when they lose focus or are not living up to the standard of excellence expected of them.

The Gibbs-Slap Files - NCIS

As Gibbs himself once said, “A slap to the face would be humiliating; the back of the head’s a wake-up call.”  Thankfully, God knows I’m a total doofus prone to foolishness.  He gives me a good Gibbs’-style smack to the back of the head when I need it.  Today I needed it and He delivered.

While out running errands I passed an overturned vehicle up against a concrete wall.  I’ve never seen anything quite like that in real life.  I called 911, prayed, and began thinking about the brevity of life.  *SMACK*

As I was pulling into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I saw a truck with it’s back bumper laying on the ground.  Then I noticed it had a seminary parking decal.  I looked to see if the culprit left a note.  No such luck.  My heart broke for the poor guy who owns that truck.  Seeing that reminded me of how blessed I really am.  *SMACK*

While inside Wal-Mart I became completely overwhelmed (happens pretty much every time I go these days).  I wished I was back in Prilep where life, and shopping, were simpler.  Then I remembered how, while in Prilep, I wished I had access to a Wal-Mart because “it makes things so much easier.”  I’m ashamed at how discontent I allow myself to be sometimes.  *SMACK*

As I headed back to the dorms I noticed that about 90% of my purchases this evening were for other people.  Then I realized this should be the norm, not the exception.  I really am extremely selfish.  *SMACK*

I got to my room and dropped all my bags.  I just wanted to not do anything for a while.  I put in a movie, one I had never seen, about two girls who are serving their mandatory terms in the Israeli army.  I was taken back to my time there last year and my heart broke remembering the suffering I saw.  It broke even more when I thought about how easily I push the pain of others from my mind, how soon I forget to pray for them, how quickly I complain when I really have no reason to do so.  *SMACK*

Tonight I am grateful for God’s “Gibbs’-smacks” bringing me back to the truth.  In the show, the recipient always becomes a more productive member of the team following the infamous slap.  Praying I will be a more productive member of His team.

Phillipians

 

Generic God & Cheap Christianity

Image

Think about God for a second.  What images, words, emotions and sensations come to mind?  Really think about it.  Don’t rush; I’ll wait for you.

Do you have your answer?  Good!  Now ponder this question, “Do the things I think of God match up with all of what Scripture teaches?”  Please don’t miss that little word “all.”  It’s like the Spud Webb of the sentence – small but powerful.  Does your image of God contain His holiness?  His beauty?  His wrath?  His love?  His envy?  His grace?  His justice?  His majesty?  His perfection?  His might?  His creativity?  His glory?  Does He require that you offer Him all that you have and all that you are?  If not, you need to do a heart check-up.  Is your God easy to serve and follow?  Does He mainly just want you to be happy?  Is He easy to forget or dismiss?  If so, you might be suffering from Generic God Disorder.

This modern-day Plague manifests itself in many ways.  Symptoms may include posting vague “uplifting” memes on social media followed soon after by a “funny” inappropriate post, giving God your Sundays while keeping the rest of the week for yourself, a lifestyle eerily similar to the world’s, giving God lip-service with no willingness to sacrifice anything for Him, a sense of entitlement, pride, lack of contentment, and the expectation of an easy life.  This list is definitely not exhaustive and suffering from a symptom does not necessarily mean you’ve got the disease.

Generic God Disorder views God as an entity whose primary concern is your happiness.  He encourages you when you’re feeling blue and sends you warm fuzzies on a beautiful spring day.  He promotes kindness and world peace.  He requires nothing and expects very little.  He’s bummed when you mess up, but it’s not that big of a deal because He’ll forgive you.   He’s convenient.  You bring Him up when it suits you, and tuck Him neatly away when it doesn’t.

Let’s be real here, most Americans today (and tons of people around the world) hold this view even if they would never actually say it.  The Bible, though, paints a very different picture for us.  If we call ourselves Christians we must take into account ALL of God’s revelation of Himself to us in Scripture.  Make no mistake, Generic God Disorder contains many elements of truth.  The devil knows you won’t fall for a blatant trick so he employs subtlety when crafting his treacherous deceit.  This is one reason Jesus recognized Satan as the father of lies (John 8:44).  As we allow those lies to shape our view of God, we cheapen Christianity.  We highlight the free aspect of the gift of salvation, but neglect the reality that Christ called His disciples to follow Him at all costs.  This meant forsaking family, jobs, security, friendships, and eventually even their lives.

Just look at Mark 4:21-22, “And going on from there He (Jesus) saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”  These guys were fishermen.  They encountered Jesus while at work mending their nets.  When Jesus called though, they left their boat (their livelihood) and their father (family) and followed Him.

Christ demands that same commitment and devotion from all of His followers.  He desires it and He deserves it.  He bought our redemption at an unfathomable cost.  Seriously, we cannot possibly comprehend all that He sacrificed in becoming a man, living life as a human, suffering rejection and anguish and torture, being brutally murdered, and please don’t forget that the sinless One became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He took on the full, unbridled wrath of God so that we can stand before the Father, justified by grace because we are covered in the righteousness of Christ.  Consider His dying words in Mark 15:34, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”  If the weight of His suffering on your behalf still isn’t sinking in, go right now and read Isaiah 52:13-53:12.  I remember the moment I understood this truth more fully.  As I sat there listening to these words and reading them, I just wept.

I never want to lose that moment or forget that reality, but so often I allow life to get in the way and cloud my vision.  I lose focus of the price He paid.  I lose focus of Him.  I begin thinking of Him as a god who serves me, which is really no god at all.  I cheapen what it means to truly be a follower of Christ.

Dustin Kensrue’s version of the song “Rock of Ages” contains the refrain “Rock of Ages, You have paid the price.  You were cleft to cover me; let me hide myself in Thee.  Rock of Ages, no one takes Your life, yet you died that I might live; costly grace You freely give.”  Salvation is free.  We can never earn it, deserve it, or pay for it.  It is also very costly.  It cost Christ infinitely more than our minds can imagine and it costs us our lives, all that we are, and all that we have.  Let’s not cheapen it with easy believism… this idea that we can pray a prayer or walk an aisle and then live however we want after that.  That’s not the call of discipleship we see in the Bible.

When we cheapen Christianity, we miss out on so much of the goodness God has in store for us.  We only experience true joy and contentment when we fully abandon ourselves to Him.  We understand real freedom when we slay our selfish desires and focus on things of eternal significance rather than temporary pleasure.  To know God more intimately and to live life more fully we must heed Christ’s words in Luke 9:23 to “deny (ourselves) take up (our) cross daily and follow (Him).”  This is not a call to a ho-hum, boring life.  It is a call to unreasonable joy.  It is a call to excitement and adventure.  There will most likely be pain, suffering, and sacrifice along the way.  If our Savior experienced these things, why should we consider ourselves deserving of any less?  Yet even in the suffering there is peace, hope, and contentment.  Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10).

Those who view the Lord as a kill-joy or only seek Him when it seems convenient have a puny, unbiblical view of God and are dying of Generic God Disorder.  Consider Matthew 7:21-23.  Jesus clearly states that there will be people who enter eternity convinced that they’ll be let into heaven and He will say to them, “I never knew You.  Depart from Me.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Salvation is not determined by whether or not you call yourself a Christian.  It’s upon belief in Christ’s redemptive work in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.  It’s in confessing His lordship in your life.  Let that word soak in… lordship.  In other words, He is in control.  A friend of mine recently told me of how she has been sharing her faith with her co-worker.  She said a major turning point came when she finally said, “I believe Jesus is Lord.  He died on the cross to pay for our sins,” rather than sticking with the typical go-to response of “I’m a Christian.”  She went on to tell me how exhilarating it was to experience the truth of Scripture played out in her life as she walks in obedience.  This young lady gets it!  We must move beyond these broad-stroke descriptions of God and really determine what we believe.  Then we must ask ourselves if what we believe matches what the Bible says.

I’ve seen this Generic God Disorder gaining more and more ground here in America and around the world. Did Christ endure God’s wrath for this kind of faith?  Did the disciples face torture and death for this kind of faith?  Are those believers who constantly risk their lives to fellowship with one another doing so for this kind of faith?  What about those believers around the world who spend hours upon hours in prayer?  I seriously doubt it.  Part of me wants to stay out of it and be quiet, but I simply cannot.  I cry out with Jeremiah, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in,” (Jeremiah 20:9), and with Paul as he proclaims in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”  Not to mention the warning God gives in Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”  One day we will each give an account to God for what we have believed and how we have lived in light of our beliefs.  I cannot bare the thought of someone hearing, “I never knew you; depart from Me” because I failed to speak up.  And so I seek to speak truth in love, with a genuine ardor for His glory.

 

Speak Love

Speak love.

These two words keep coming back to me.

Speak love.

I can’t get them out of my head.

Speak love.

I keep deleting and re-writing this post because I want it to absolutely ooze with love and grace.  I want there to be not even a hint of bitterness, self-righteousness, frustration, judgment, or condemnation.  I simply want to speak love.

The words first came to me after reading a blog and the comments that followed.  As far as I can tell, the blogger intended to spark a healthy conversation among believers in order to more effectively minister to the younger generation.  He succeeded in igniting a full-on battle instead.  I saw in those comments a lot of finger-pointing and blame-casting.  I saw little love and grace.  Sometimes it’s hard to speak love.

I wanted to respond in frustration at first.  But then I began to see the wounds behind the words.  Painful memories, past failures, and insecurities cause us to say and do things we normally might not.  These people don’t need me to judge them for their careless words (the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of convicting those who need it).  They need me to speak love.

The hardest part for me came as I realized what non-believers would think as they read the comments.  I kept thinking about John 13.  Jesus had just finished washing the disciples’ feet – giving them an amazing example of how His followers are to serve one another.  Then, just before they began making their way to the garden where He would be arrested before His crucifixion, He said this, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)  These were some of His final words to His disciples and He focuses on loving one another.  Would an outsider reading those comments see love?  Would they know that we are followers of Christ?  Would they want to be a part of our family?  Or would they just see a bunch of bickering religious people?  It is imperative for our witness that we speak love.

I believe social media often makes it easier for us to speak critically of others.  We say things online we would probably never say to someone standing in front of us.  A great deal of communication gets lost in text-only conversations that can cause us to misinterpret what is being said.  Maybe we think our comment is funny.  Sometimes I think we just forget the person on the other side of the computer (or tablet or cell phone or other gadget) is also human with emotions and feelings.  They become just a name on a screen.  The same is true for famous people and politicians.  I wonder why we so freely speak ill of people we have most likely never even met.  Some argue that, because these individuals have placed themselves in the limelight, they deserve whatever they get.  I don’t see that in Scripture.  I see, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths (or from your fingertips), but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)  I also see “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:10,14,18,21)  Then I read this, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)  Or what about, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)?  These are just a few of MANY passages that address how we respond to others.  The Bible teaches us to speak love.

I do not mean to insinuate that we should turn a blind eye to sin and never hold one another accountable.  There will most likely be times in our lives when we will need to confront a brother or sister, but we need to shower them with the same grace Christ lavishes upon us.  We need to pray before, during, and after the conversation.  We need to speak love.

I considered posting a blog a couple times over the past few weeks.  I thought about writing a blog on how much I love the fall season (football and awesome weather anyone?) or how moms are superheroes (they definitely are).  There would be nothing wrong with writing on either of those topics, but they did not grab a hold of my heart like this one did.  I simply could not shake the feeling that I needed to share with others what I’m learning.  I am trying to learn to keep silent unless my words will encourage or help “stir… another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)  I still need to grow A LOT in this area personally, but maybe… just maybe… as each of us makes a conscious effort to choose our words wisely, we can help one another to speak love.

Conviction

Cosmetic Corruption


Cosmetics


Looking at the clock on my nightstand, I decided to stay in bed just a little longer to mentally plan out my day and build up some energy.  After two restless nights with little sleep, I knew I’d be needing it.  Then the doorbell rang.  You know that moment of confusion and panic.  In an instant all of the thoughts in my mind seemed to scramble in a million different directions.  Only one thing I knew for sure, this morning’s plans just flew out the window.

Though still semi-groggy I quickly recognized the voice on the other end of the intercom as E*, a sweet lady I’ve recently gotten to know much better.  She asked me to come down because she wanted to take me somewhere.  *Cue more confusion and panic.*  My thoughts at the time included, “Yikes!  I’m still in my pajamas!  Where does she want to go?  I look like a train wreck!  Do I need to look nice for this?  Man, I really need a shower before I go anywhere.  That’s so precious of her to think of me!”  Contrary to my thoughts, my words at the time were, “Wait just a second.”

I got dressed and out the door in 2 or 3 minutes – definitely a record for me.  When I got downstairs she said there was a cosmetics demonstration in town and asked if I wanted to join her.  What harm can come from listening to someone talk about make-up for a bit?  Plus, it seemed like a good chance to bond more with E*.  As we walked to town, I laughed to myself at what the lady giving the presentation would think if she saw me… remember, I got ready in about 2 minutes.  I looked anything but fashionable and well put together.

As we arrived at the destination I quickly realized this was not the type of presentation I expected.  I imagined a big group of ladies sitting in rows listening to a woman speak at the front of the group… and possibly a table with a few cosmetic samples and displays.  Perhaps some “lucky” member of the audience would get a free demonstration.  What I found instead was a very small group of women and each one was receiving personal attention.  Oh boy.  I still thought I could sideline myself and just watch.  No such luck.  “Carissa, it’s your turn!”  If only those words had come from E* I might have politely declined.  But, no, they came from the head honcho herself.  I swallowed my pride and moved to the firing seat.  The lady doing the demonstration began asking me questions about my skin.  Is my skin elasticity normal?  How much am I in the sun?  Do I burn easily?  Do I have any problems?  Let’s see, I think my elasticity is normal.  I avoid the sun like the Plague (ok, maybe not my exact words, but close), and yes, I burn very easily.  As far as problems go, not really.  Overall, I’m happy with my skin.

Here’s where things took a little turn.  After each response she smiled and nodded.  When I said I was happy overall with my skin.  She excitedly said, “Yes, you have good skin!  You should be very happy!”  Woohoo!  Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought!  She asked what facial products I use daily and I said none.   *Cue look of shock and terror*

Then she pulled out the probes.  Yes, probes.  After a few minutes of touching random places on my face she informed me I had dry cheeks and an oily forehead and chin.  She called it “combination skin.”  She went on to tell me that these are a “big concern” and gave me some samples to try along with a catalog in case I decide to purchase the full-size products.  Ummm… really?  I found the situation rather comical.  Don’t get me wrong, I know very well that my complexion is not perfect.  I just thought it amusing that even she considered my skin just fine until the computer told her she should think otherwise.  

Then it hit me… this marketing circus that strives to destroy our confidence and self-esteem.  They tell us we have a problem… that we won’t be truly happy until it’s corrected.  The next phase is reassurance.  They “come to our rescue” offering just the solution.  We just need to buy this or that… or, more often than not, this AND that.  With their product(s) all will once again be right with the world.  Psh.  These people make millions by preying on the insecurities of women.  

What a huge contrast to the Gospel!  Christ says, “Yes, I know you’re not perfect, but I love you just as you are.  I will make you beautiful, not with make-up and creams, but with my FREE love and grace.  My Spirit will dwell in you and My joy will radiate from you.  Your confidence will be in Me, and I am unchanging so your confidence will be unshaken.  My love is not based on your works, your appearance, or your emotions.  It flows from My character, which remains constant.  Humanity focuses on the outward appearance, but I know that external beauty is fleeting.  Adorn yourself, My beloved, with the imperishable beauty that flows from the fruit of My Spirit within you – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.”

It burdens my heart to think of the masses of women (and men) turning to products… to material possessions… to improved appearance… to relationships… to anything and everything but Christ – the only place where true contentment can be found.  It saddens and angers me to think of the companies who profit from others’ misery and even intentionally bash others’ self-esteem just to make a buck.

Insecurity has been an ongoing struggle for me most of my life.  Though I know the Truth, too often I allow myself to be taken by these marketing schemes.  I join the comparison game and find myself needing to be prettier, smarter, skinnier, etc.  I forget to take every thought captive to see if it aligns with Scripture.  I get caught up in worldly thinking.  I focus on everyone around me and on what the world says I need in order to be happy or to have value in society.  I forget that my worth is already established with the only One who matters.  I forget that He loves me more than I will ever fully understand and that NOTHING will change that.  I forget that He values me enough to die for me… to suffer agonizing torture on my behalf.  I forget His promise that one day I will stand before Him without blemish… a claim no beauty product can make.

Today one of the ladies receiving a makeover commented that she might get in trouble because of it.  She jokingly said she feared her husband would want her to look like that every day.  I laughed at the time, but now my thoughts are a little different.  I pray her husband tells her she looks beautiful with her make-up, but that he also tells her he loves her just as much without it.

Dear women of the world, you are BEAUTIFUL.  You are LOVED.  You are TREASURED.  And it has nothing to do with you, it has everything to do with Him – which is a good thing for us because He is steadfast.  You are His creation created in His image for His glory.  We must turn to the Lord to find true victory in our battle with insecurity.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” ~ Psalm 107:9

Little packets of lies
Little packets of lies

*NOTE: This is not meant to be a jab at people who sell beauty products.  It is meant to remind people of their true worth and beauty.

Worth Saying

I realized this morning that I have not added a new post since April. While a lot has happened in the past 3 ½ months, none of it has compelled me to write a blog. I’m also trying to practice Proverbs 17:27 more in my life – “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” I am breaking the silence today because I finally have something worth saying.

Over the past week I have been reading through the Psalms and Psalm 96 really stood out to me. The entire psalm is a call for abundant praise for the Lord throughout all the earth. I decided to write down the attributes of God I came across as I continued reading. In just a few short chapters I had written nearly 50 attributes. This list is DEFINITELY not comprehensive, but as you read the following, take a few seconds to really think about each characteristic and what it says about who God is.

Holy
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Righteous
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Good
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Worthy
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Listener
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Unchanging
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Powerful
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Satisfier
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Slow to Anger
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Majestic
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Wise
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Trustworthy
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Awesome
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Relenting
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Most High
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Exalted
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Just
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Defender
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Loving
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Glorious
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Releaser of Captives
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Wrathful
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Forgiving
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Sovereign
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Merciful
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Compassionate
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Interactive
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Strong
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Mighty
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Great
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Deliverer
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Warrior
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Priest
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Creator
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Shepherd
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Faithful
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Reigning
*
*
*
Eternal
*
*
*
Healer
*
*
*
Redeemer
*
*
*
Gracious
*
*
*
Great
*
*
*
Provider
*
*
*
Wonderful
*
*
*
Omnipresent
*
*
*
Ruler
*
*
*
Counselor
*
*
*
Savior

I can’t think of anything more worth saying than this.

Hope in Darkness

This post has been a long time coming.  Much has happened that I long to share with you, but finding words will not be an easy task.

My heart aches to hear of the tragedies unfolding around us… most recently the bombs that tore through Boston at the finish line of the Boston Marathon this afternoon.  Reports continue flooding in as I write this, but I turned them off hours ago.  Seeing more graphic pictures or hearing the increasing number of casualties will not make me pray more effectively – they will mostly likely distract me from praying all together.  The enemy wants believers to sit in silent awe and horror rather than falling on our faces crying out to our Father, pleading on behalf of this broken world.  I refuse to oblige him this time.

I recently returned from a trip to Israel, where I saw first-hand the struggle taking place there… though I saw only a shielded glimpse at best.  I realized my own blindness regarding the situation.  The Spirit within me cried out (and still does) for those on both sides of the conflict.  I yearn for them to know the truth of Christ – only He can redeem the situation.  He alone is the Prince of Peace.  I told my friend tonight that I left a piece of my heart there.  My prayers look different now.  I understand Scripture at a deeper level.  The girl I was a month ago remains, but she has grown and matured in many ways.

These two issues weigh the heaviest on my heart and mind right now, but the list is by no means complete.  Personal pains and struggles are real – in my own life, the lives of those I love, the lives of those I’ve never met.  I cannot discuss them all right now, but the actual cancer behind all these symptoms is sin.

Since moving overseas, my sinfulness daily shows itself in excruciatingly hideous fashion.  I see the depth of my depravity more clearly now, and I know I’ve yet to even scratch the surface.  The accuser taunts and ridicules me.  He condemns me – and rightly so more often than not.  My failures know no bounds, but God’s love and forgiveness cover them all.  In Zechariah 3, the accuser stood ready to plead his case against Joshua.  But the Judge silenced and rebuked him before he ever uttered a word.  Then Joshua’s filthy garments (his iniquities) were removed and replaced with pure ones.  The enemy’s words and attacks fall puny and powerless to the floor in the presence of the Almighty God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, death entered with it.  Today we all daily choose sin over obedience.  We live in a broken world that groans for restoration.  My heart groans with it.  Never before have I clung to Christ’s promise in Revelation 22:17 that He is coming soon!  Never before have I so often prayed with the Apostle John, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  Yet I know that 2 Peter 3:9 holds another beautiful promise – Christ has not yet returned because lost people are still turning to Him with repentant hearts, trusting Him as their Lord and Savior.  Christ’s patience now provides opportunities for more people to enter His presence and dwell with Him for all eternity.  But make no mistake, He will return.  He will restore all things.  Judgment will come and His wrath awaits the unrepentant.

Multiple times throughout the last few weeks, I have asked God, “Where is the hope?  Why did ____ have to happen?  Why is _____ going on?  Is there really hope?”  Each time I have asked these questions He has reminded me that He is in control.  He is reigning on His throne.  Christ is ALIVE!  Because these things are true, there is ALWAYS hope – even in our darkest hour.

This was taken at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and this is all that matters.

This was taken at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and this is all that matters.