Overwhelmed?

Man, what a whirlwind life I seem to be living! For this season I feel like I am in a constant head-above-water battle, but I know that as all things do, this too shall pass. Since writing last I have experienced emotions of sheer joy, relief, anxiety, worry, anticipation, and happiness.

Over the span of 3 months Aaron and I have reunited with estranged family members, got engaged, got in a wreck and totaled his truck, watched our dog have puppies, began the planning for remodeling our future home, dealt with the looming threat of me being unable to have children, and been involved in court proceedings to help ensure our niece remains in a thriving environment. Put that on top of me personally playing the piano at church every week, about to finish grad school in a few weeks, beginning my internship, maintaining my “real” job, planning a wedding, helping friends with babies and showers and moving…

It’s a lot. And I will admit, while I am living it, it seems like normal because it is my life. But writing it all down, no wonder I feel tired in the mornings!

I often wonder why I don’t feel overwhelmed. Tired, extremely, but rarely overwhelmed.

I truly believe that my main source of strength and perseverance comes from God. Aaron and I have been reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. We are truly living our life, the best we can, according to God’s Word. And it’s showing throughout our lives. As Perry Noble says, “As our view of God increases, our worry and stress decrease, because it’s only then that we begin to believe that all the things that are over our heads are under His feet.”

Perry Noble also points out some key ways of thinking that create such overwhelming feelings. I’ll outline some for you here.

Thinking you are in control. I don’t believe there is ever a time that God laughs harder at you than when you kid yourself into thinking you have complete control over your life and the things around you. It says in Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

Thinking things are totally out of your control. If you are a Christian, and you were born after Christ died on the cross, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. This Spirit could be characterized as many things such as your conscience or the angel on your shoulder but ultimately, it is God inside your body giving you the power of discernment and courage to overcome trials of the world. The Bible says in 1 John 4:4, “You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” We have the power to relax and let go of our worldly troubles if we just choose to do so!

Expecting to live an easy life surrounded by good people. Because we live in a fallen world, the world is full of fallen people. We are not much unlike these people, as we all sin every day. However, even if we surround ourselves with people who are only good, Christians and go to church every time the doors open and pray religiously….the world around us is still fallen, and we are guaranteed to feel the effects. Perry Noble says, “When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin – whether that’s our own or other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in.” No matter how good we try to be, we will still feel the backlash effects of sin.

Expecting to have the energy and time to do it all. I once heard a professor say, “The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient.” Wow. Self-care is truly important. In your profession and your personal life. There is no way one person can do everything there is to do. We must learn to let go of some things and delegate them to others.

Accepting sin as a way of life. Now I am just as guilty of this as the next person, but it’s true. We are contributing to our negative feelings by not omitting the sin in our life and just dismissing it. Perry Noble says, “In today’s culture, the temptation is to look at sins and refer to them as issues, mistakes, or problems. And as long as we see sin as something that we need to learn to cope with rather than something that needs to be removed, we will never take the cation necessary to peel the cap off the bottle so we can be spiritually refreshed.” He makes a good and valid point. Some things we are unwilling and reluctant to give up, but we may be amazed at how much more at peace we would be if we did so.

We refuse to forgive others. Another hard one. Maybe the hardest. I’m a grudge-holder by nature. But what I have come to learn is that my “nature” doesn’t matter because I am in Christ and should put Him on display each day. There are those who say, “if that person would just apologize I would forgive them”. And yeah, that’s nice when it happens. But that’s not the example that was set before us. Jesus is our example. and the people who were murdering Him never even asked for forgiveness…He just gave it to them. The example for us is that we must forgive freely – even to those who don’t deserve it. We can’t put stipulations on forgiveness and keep score of rights and wrongs. That’s not up to me. I’m going to be a therapist, not a judge. Besides the fact that not forgiving breaks up families and causes strife, it also is just stressful keeping tabs on all those tally marks for each side! LET IT GO!!!! Please. For your own sake.

We try to force love on others and on ourselves. Love is strong. And it’s a strong action, not an emotion like we’ve been taught. Love is doing, actively pursuing, proving day in and day out the commitment to the other person. Perry Noble says, “Love is determined by what we’re willing to seek out and what we’re willing to sacrifice for.” Knowing that, also know that God loves you. And his love and grace are sufficient. You need no one else’s. It’s nice to have. It makes life more enjoyable. But it’s not necessary. Don’t try to push love on those who don’t want it. Just lay it out there for them to pick up. It’s not hard, though it is work. It should be one of the most awesome jobs you have, loving others.

We expect instant gratification. Guilty! I want it, and I want it now! Yes, please. NOW! Though that’s my thought process most of the time, God laughs again. We must be vigilant, persistent, and enduring on our quest and towards our goals. That shows dedication and love. The Bible gives us one for this in Galations 6:9, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Good is coming, but it may not be today. Rest in that knowledge.

Ultimately, these things are all things I have or continue to struggle with. Overwhelming feelings come and go. However, if we refuse to allow our circumstances to shape what we believe about God, we will walk in freedom from fear, knowing that the One who holds tomorrow is good and is in complete control. In writing this post I have utilized Perry Noble’s book Overwhelmed a lot. I encourage you to read it!

Also, please be in prayer for me and my family. We have been going through a lot and are still waiting on answers and concreteness of things. Pray that God’s will be done in all areas of our lives and that his healing hands will be upon my body. Love to you all!

WWJD?!

Do you remember the popular phrase in the past decade “WWJD”? There were bracelets, bumper stickers, and t-shirts galore with this acronym on them. You could buy it at the gas station or get it for a prize at the arcade. But when is the last time you really stopped to think about what that means?

WWJD. What would Jesus do?

……Well……any thoughts?!

As Christians today I think we have become way to concerned and consumed with social media and “winning” some theological, political debate. We are too busy defending our beliefs instead of just living them. You see if you are truly walking a strong and confident walk with Jesus, you won’t need to quote scripture every day. You won’t need to constantly tell people you are a Christian and you are different. Because if you are doing things right, people will know. They can look at you and see a difference. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person”.

Too often today we get caught up in the endless cycle of trying to be perfect, blameless, and blemish-free. However, that is impossible here on Earth. It’s never going to happen. Lisa TerKeurst says, “Am I trying to prove I am right or to improve the relationship?” Are we living out WWJD?! Tony Nolan says, “There is a difference between the God we know and the God we show.” Are you showing the character of Christ in your life?

Jesus did not spend his time surrounded by priests. He did not seek out the important people in the hierarchy. Jesus loved the unlovable. He surrounded Himself with thieves, whores, tax collectors, lepers, impoverished individuals. Why did the King of Kings do such a thing? Because these are the people who needed to know they were loved and could be forgiven.

Jesus did not push His agenda on people. He shared what he came here to share. He listened to others who agreed and disagreed with His teachings. He did not constantly quote scripture from the Old Testament. No, he LIVED the scripture. That is what made Him different and set Him apart from other priests who always had an underlying agenda based on money or worldly morals. That is the example set before us. That is what we should always strive to do. Even upon His death, when Jesus had told the people over and over who He was, they still chose not to believe. They were still so full of sin. And yet He still forgave them, he still loved them, and still died to save them. Jesus died to save us all, not just the few who go to church every Sunday, never cuss, and don’t have a tattoo. He died for us ALL.

Luke 7:47 says, “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Those who were the most sinful were most grateful for the grace.

As Christians we tend to focus a lot of our time and energy keeping certain individuals away from the church. We may not SAY that’s what we are doing, but we shun them in little ways. Do you go to a “white church” or “black church”? Have you ever noticed the way members of the congregation look at and act towards people who “look” gay, have tattoos, or are not dressed “appropriately”? At that exact moment, I have to think, WWJD. Sometimes it is hard, because it may make me uncomfortable. But I am living in this world for Jesus and Jesus would never cringe or shy away from that person. Jesus would embrace and love. And that is what our Father has commanded us to do as well. The whole premise of our existence can be broken into two requirements, loving God and loving our neighbor. That is all we are here for.

We need to stop all this stereotyping and hatefulness. Is this judging? Yes. Is that our job? No. Now I know the Bible tells us that if a person is in-Christ and is blatantly sinning, we are not to stand by and condone it. But we can find a kind way to point it out and still be loving that person. Lisa TerKeurst says, “if a person criticizes me without ever having built me up or said a kind word to me, it hardly feels like constructive criticism.” We must speak in love first and criticize second.

There are certain things the Bible instructs is against God’s will and is sinning. There are other things that our society has determined is a sin, and is found nowhere in the Bible. For example, tattoos. Just as a disclaimer, I do not have a tattoo, but that is ONLY because I don’t want one. Most people feel that their tattoos are an expression of themselves and is a form of artwork. If that is the case, they may believe that by having tattoos they are simply decorating God’s temple. And when you look at it that way, what’s wrong with that? We paint the walls of the church. We change the color of the carpet.

The bottom line is, just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they are wrong. It doesn’t mean they are going to Hell. And it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be welcomed in the church. A church is a building FULL of sinners. And as I seem to point out in every post, all sins are the same and equal in the eyes of our Lord. Therefore, we should welcome these people with open arms. We should treat them gently and love them. It is not up to us to cast them out and seal their fate with our judgement. We don’t have that kind of power, and we don’t need it.

Stop and think about what WWJD truly means. Ponder on Jesus’s friends, his disciples, and what he was able to do in their lives. If we do not expose ourselves to such individuals, we may be missing an opportunity for blessing to take place in our lives. It is never too late to help disciple a lost soul. It is not our job to save, that is Jesus’s job. Our job is to love, and in loving, instill the Word of God in each person we meet.

The Rich

This past Sunday I visited a new church. My home church is a traditional Southern Baptist, and I love the people who are there…I just wanted to try something different. I heard about this new church that was fairly young in my area that is a praise and worship type church, with Baptist affiliation. I found myself being very welcomed in the congregation and truly enjoyed the sermon. But wouldn’t you know the one Sunday I visit, the subject is money and being rich.

Smack my head. Every pastor’s nightmare.

The way this pastor preaches, he picks a certain portion of the Bible and goes verse by verse each week. They had been focusing on James 5, and I guess last Sunday was when the dreaded portion of the text arose.

There were many things that stuck out to me during the sermon, but the opening statement really grabbed me. Pastor Daylon said, “When I say the word “rich”, you automatically had someone particular come to mind.” …..true. So very true. As a full-time graduate student, full-time employee at a nonprofit organization, young adult with a car payment and 2 dogs; I know what it’s like to pinch pennies. Although I am not poor by any means, I can definitely think of someone rich and lots of people richer than me. He then went on to say that in reality, Americans today and people in general are ALL “the rich”. We have free access to things today that the majority of kings, queens, and royalty throughout history has never experienced. At the push of a button we can experience hot or cold air, have our waste swept away from out from under us, and clean water; just to name a few. Stop and think about that for a second.

Wow.

That’s incredible.

Daylon said, “Having riches is not a sin. It’s what you do with these riches.”

This passage in James is eluding back to the story of the Rich Young Man in Mark 10:17-27.

Having riches is fine, as long as you are willing to give them up if asked and share then with others without being asked.

In America, there is always extra. We throw away so much that could be used. Now some will say, “Oh there are starving children in Africa that would love to have your left-overs.” That’s not what I am saying. I say, “There are starving children in your NEIGHBORHOOD that would love your left-overs.” People, we HAVE to take care of our own before we can spread to other nations. Some focus on the ministry to other countries and shoeboxes to foreign lands. I often wonder, would there be children in Rocky Mount that could use shoeboxes? Although every individual, rich or poor, in this country is still technically rich, could I change their way of life and help them just a little?

The main problems that people fall into with their riches is the need for control of those riches, greed in wanting to keep them, and a lack of generosity to share them with others. If any of these three things is you, you are DEAD in your SIN. Your main concern can NOT be you and your stuff. Food spoils, clothes rot, even metal rusts. If our Lord has blessed you with more than you need, give it away. And while you are giving it away, be sure to let that person know that it is God who has provided for you, and in turn, them. Use that giving opportunity to give away more than stuff. Give away knowledge about Jesus.

It is by no mistake that you are blessed with all you have. There are 3 main reasons that we have riches; to meet your needs, to enjoy, and to give generously. Did you hear that? The Lord blesses you with riches not ONLY to meet your needs, but to please you and for your enjoyment. There is no need to feel guilty about being rich. If you can afford to have nice things, buy them. As long as you leave some to give away. You see? God doesn’t want you to starve in order to feed others. He doesn’t want you to gain riches and lead a miserable life because you give it all away. He wants you to ENJOY what he has blessed you with. Just remember to give. As long as you give, you will continue to receive. God pours himself into our emptiness and will continue to bless you if you do His good works.

God blesses us to increase our standard of living and our standard of GIVING!

No matter how financially rich or poor you are, you have something to give others. What you give to others will return to you ten-fold. Never become naïve to the point that you believe you created the riches for yourself. You can do all things through CHRIST who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13). It is not by your mere will alone that you are blessed with riches.

Be thankful for all you have. Even the smallest things. There have been millions throughout history who did not have such things. There are millions today that still don’t.

YOU are blessed. YOU are rich.

Thank God Almighty for that.

The Weight

As a perfectionist, I find it so hard to be okay with things going “wrong”. I want so hard to live the perfect life, and I have to admit that I have been known to condemn those who live around me in imperfection. This was especially true among those whom I love most. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to bash someone’s head against a wall for their parenting techniques or life-choices. The day I determined that it was not up to me, and furthermore that in the eyes of my Lord, I am no better than those people was a changing one for me.

I must admit, that realization was a HARD pill for me to swallow. I have lived my life for 23 years trying to be perfect, even though I know I will fail, and I found myself belittling those around me who make different choices than those I would choose. That is hard to admit. It makes me look like the worst person. I stumbled across this quote that said, “Don’t judge others just because they sin differently than you do.” Easy to say, but harder to do.

It has been such a true process for me; learning how to truly accept that my sins are equal to others. Although I may base the severity of my sins on the views of the world around me, the true judge could put my sins on the scale against my worst enemy, and they would weigh the same. All my life I have wanted to be better than those around me. Not better as in a snobby brat, but just better in my actions. The Bible says it is no use. I have started a wonderful bible study by Angela Thomas titled Stronger, in which she says, “We do not earn His love because we have finally become enough. We are not disqualified from His love because we could never be enough.” In other words, NONE of us could ever be enough. We’re all sinners, therefore all equal.

We, as a society, have become so wrapped up in our social laws that rank the severity of crime and punish accordingly that we forget that TODAY we are equal in the eyes of God. God knows everything. I don’t have to waste time trying to let him see my good deeds and pointing out the shortcomings of my fellow man. When Christ died for us we were in no state to deserve it. Romans 5:6-8 says that we were “weak and rebellious and of no use to Him.” Although we were in no way ready to change our ways for Him, God sacrificed His son for me and you. To this Ms. Thomas says, “You do not send your Only Son for the ones you like just a little. You send your Only Son because of love.” It is only through love that we will succeed. Not through judgment or pointing fingers or trying to be better than those around us. It doesn’t work, and in the end it will all be for nothing.

I will leave you today with this Scripture that speaks to my heart, “In your anger, do not sin. Do not give the devil a foothold. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.” Ephesians 4:26-29