It’s (Not) Going to Get Better

I’m not a pessimist. In fact, I tend far too much toward optimism. However, I’ve learned that belligerent optimism isn’t helpful when equally stubborn hardship prevails.

The reality is that we should expect suffering as a result of sin. Believers should expect the added difficulties of persecution and living apart from the pattern of the world. Whether we’re facing chronic illnesses with no cure or the persistent battle of loving others well, the truth is life often hurts.

Short of heaven “better” is always going to be a relative term.

Putting our hope and faith in optimism, or changing circumstances, or the next self-help fad, will leave us frustrated and disillusioned over and over again.

Yet we do have hope.

The Gospel is good news for the lost, suffering, weary sinners of this world. That means it’s good news for you and for me.

In Hope When It Hurts, by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, the good news of Jesus Christ is precisely and pointedly applied as balm to our suffering. From the very first chapter, their thesis is clear:

What I need, and you need, is the truth about Jesus Christ, because our suffering only makes sense and we only retain any hope when we look at ourselves through a gospel lens.”

Never offering pat answers or platitudes, Hope When It Hurts proceeds to offer the framework of a gospel perspective on suffering. A reality check on pride’s role in our response to suffering stretches readers to shift their eyes to the only real hope we have -and the only real purpose we live for (hint: it’s not our comfort or convenience.)

Several chapters address the opportunities afforded to us by our suffering.

Unlike messages staking our hope in optimism for changing circumstances or everything working out for the better, Hope When It Hurts stakes everything on God. In short, easy-to-read, but in-depth chapters, the authors highlight practically why we:

  • Have hope
  • Don’t have to be shaken
  • Can persevere
  • Take heart in suffering
  • Are freed from agonizing over making sense of pain
  • Worship God in everything and anything

Straight-shooting, personal messages treat the ache from the inside out with words like these:

“…when you are in the darkness…and you begin to question God’s love for you, remember what it true: Jesus Christ was sent into the world because God loves you. There is not greater demonstration of his affection for you, and there is no clearer proof that he intends to make good of what you are enduring right now. The who was struck down on the cross is the One who could not be destroyed and, because He is for you, neither will you be. He is your light. Draw near to Him.”

It’s true. Paul, while enduring final imprisonment and reaching out to his loved ones as his earthly days dwindled, proclaimed hope when it hurts: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18.)

Even if it never gets better in this lifetime. Even if a gruesome, painful death is how we’re safely delivered into His heavenly kingdom, the Lord will rescue us and bring us to Him.

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Paul follows these words with praise- “To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

This book follows suit. Although atypical and unexpected for a book on suffering, this message carries the broken to worship and eases the hurting into praise.

As much a devotional as a book of reflections on suffering and Gospel hope, Hope When It Hurts renews and refreshes believers. Instead of saying “it’ll get better,” readers are reminded of what already is better: the true, joyous, incredible hope we have despite our often-unchanging, hopeless suffering.


<This review was provided in exchange for a free preview copy of Hope When It Hurts from the Good Book Company.>

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Knowledge Isn’t Complete (3/6)

 

This post is the 3rd in a 6-part series on Idolizing Knowledge. Read the rest of the posts here. Guest directory info is available here.

Serving with a mission which crossed over daily into Mexico, I didn’t head to the border with any intention of interpreting. My Spanish was mas-o-menos just okay. But as I was regularly immersed in groups of friends only speaking Spanish, I thought I was really starting to get good.

Fast forward 4 months to my last week in the community.

Happily chatting away in Español, I casually said “estupido.” Directly translated “stupid,” it was just an adjective to me. According to my shocked and then hysterical friends, I was swearing. Red in the face and mortified, I’d been unknowingly swearing in front of children, the elderly, and everyone in between for months.

For all I knew about Spanish and the regional dialect, I was certainly lacking in some understanding.


Being fully immersed doesn’t mean we are fully informed. <Tweet This>

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! –1 Corinthians 13:9

No person except for Christ has ever walked this earth with a complete understanding of anything. Even people with special knowledge of God- people whose prophecies were realized in Christ- had to live by faith.

We don’t even know our own hearts fully. –Jeremiah 17:9

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Even the disciples, seeing Jesus face to face and following Him diligently, had to have their eyes opened and the truth explained several different ways. They were divinely inspired to write the New Testament but still spoke with humility because they knew they couldn’t know it all while still on earth. And that was okay.

Beth Moore has said she wouldn’t tell her younger self a thing if she could go back in time. She explains there are many things she’s glad she didn’t know ahead of time because she would have said “no way.” Discovery, even through the terrible and painful, is what grows us up and into closeness with the One we’re following and putting our faith in.*

Andrew Wilson explains: “If God’s glory is infinite, and my concept of Him is not, then I never stop needing an increased understanding of His greatness.”**

While attempting to comprehend how incomplete our comprehension is drives us knowledge idolaterers to our knees, we ought to stoop all the lower in awe and praise.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. –1 Corinthians 13:12

Someday we will not be wanting for knowledge out of reach.

Someday knowledge will be complete.

Wholeness will satisfy us for eternity as we know fully the One who has always known us fully.

Since God says there will be no more pain in that day, soaking all of the fullness of Him and of knowledge won’t even give us a headache. We will enter into God’s understanding- and there will be no more sorrow or sin. There will be nothing left to make us foolish.

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As for now, God keeps us on a need-to-know-basis to focus us on what’s more important: who we know. Him.

The “by faiths” of the OT heroes are extraordinary and emboldening because of what they didn’t know. They didn’t know the whole plan. Abraham went by faith when God said “go” even though he didn’t know the destination. Noah built the ark by faith, not knowing how it could possibly turn out alright when the earth was flooded. Moses led a nation out of slavery by faith, not knowing what was to come, where they would settle, or even how to feed them all.

Hebrews 11:27 sums up why, despite not knowing, these faithful people followed God when they were blind to the whens, wheres, hows, and whys.

Moses “persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.”

Because knowledge isn’t complete, idolizing understanding keeps us distracted with something meant for life after death.

Idolizing knowledge distracts us from Who we need to know if we are to persevere, live by faith, and walk securely along the narrow way.

Whether our current knowledge-worship has us bloated with self-assurance or hopped up on the thrill of the chase, we must fix our attention on the One we follow- by faith.


How do faith and knowledge interact in your mind?

*Beth Moore, Entrusted Bible Study, Audio Session 6
**Andrew Wilson, GodStories, pg19

Join me for the next 5 weeks to delve deeper into shattering the idol of knowledge to take hold of knowledge as God intends it to be.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

I would love to have you guest post on First and Second. Now accepting submissions for a guest directory on Idolizing Knowledge! More info on guest posting here.

Knowledge Isn’t Unchanging (2/6)

 

This post is the 2nd in a 6-part series on Idolizing Knowledge. Read the rest of the posts here. Guest directory info is available here.

For those who aren’t familiar, cursive is a style of penmanship with pretty curves and continuous lettering. I spent many days as an 8 year old carefully memorizing and mastering the script.

The teachers of the 1990s insisted cursive was the only writing allowed in high school and college. In my understanding, knowing cursive was currency for my ticket to success in the world.

Fear swelled up in me when my high school teachers began requiring us to type our work on the computer. My child-self never mastered Homerow or Touch Typing. I figured computers were for games and cursive was for life.

I called it wrong. Now I type at 55+ WPM using two fingers at a time. Kids who see my handwriting think I’m bilingual.

The knowledge I staked my hope on as a little girl changed gears and left me in the dust.

Knowledge’s changing nature and instability have thrown me for a loop in more profound ways, too. Years of resisting the Lord because I’d have to change my mind to accept His truth evidence that.


The vivid imagery of James 1:6 pictures a “wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

I feel for the wave.

Characterizing one who lacks wisdom and craves information but doubts what God says, the wave evidences what happens when we let the shifting nature of knowledge carry us through life.

At the mercy of the wind, untethered knowledge is always changing directions. Unanchored knowledge rises and falls as opinions, emotions, and other biases swell up inside it. Pursuing knowledge alone leaves us ever grasping after something that will always slip out of reach.

We can’t count on knowledge the way we count on God.

Knowledge isn’t unchanging, but God is.

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Once, when the disciples and Jesus were caught on the open sea in the midst of a storm, Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves. He has the authority and ability to do that.

Can we, in our shifting knowledge, even fathom what that takes? What does one have to know to still forces of nature? What kind of understanding can hold forces of nature in place to make a way for safe, stable passage?

God, in His infinite knowledge, can.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” –Mark 4:39

The rebuke is familiar to those of us living at the mercy of knowledge’s shifting, tumultuous seasons and limitations.

Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

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This is the knowledge that anchors our hope in Christ, who is unchanging.

Relying on knowledge as if it is God tosses us about. We are swayed by the next big idea. Our hopes are thrashed by the winds of change and unwanted possibility.

Relying on knowledge of God instead of knowledge as God secures us. <Click to Tweet>

We know the One who rules over the changing tides and routes the wind. He doesn’t shift and isn’t swayed. Let’s stake our hope in Him.


Do you idolize knowledge, despite its changing nature? 

Join me for the next 5 weeks to delve deeper into shattering the idol of knowledge to take hold of knowledge as God intends it to be.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

I would love to have you guest post on First and Second. Now accepting submissions for a guest directory on Idolizing Knowledge! More info on guest posting here.

Untangled in Love

I never thought I’d be one for mushy stuff. Anyone who’s heard my commentary during chick flicks knows I’m not a romantic.

But there’s this guy.

The one I moved seats to be near the first day of class. The one whose shenanigans had my head and finger wagging from the start. The one who asked me to date him after I spent hours telling him every reason not to love me. The one who led me to my Savior.

His eyes were fixed on Christ even as he took my hand in his. I thank the Lord he has little regard for any other sight.

During more than 6 years of knowing each other now, I’ve witnessed a faith-skill of his I pray the Lord helps me hone as my own.

He’s an expert disentangler.

Ironically, this only applies spiritually. When it comes to being entangled physically, he’s got a knack for being wound up in cords, having limbs stuck in furniture, nearly strangling himself with ties, and being unable to remove himself from places he climbs into (AKA…dryers.) Some evidence:

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Spiritually, though, my husband is quick and nimble to:

“throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” –Hebrews 12:1

What I’ve noticed most in his way of staying free and ready to obey the Lord is an attention to who He is serving. 2 Timothy 2:26 warns of being enticed into entanglement in the enemy’s snare. The verse says our enemy captures us for the purpose of having us do his will.

We are never entangled in sin for the purpose of serving God.

So, when we are entangled, we’re serving the will of the enemy.  It might be through self-serving or through people-pleasing. We may be money-driven or fear-abiding. Whatever the case, when we’re entangled, we’re not fixed on the purposes of Christ.

This is one of the ways my husband’s “black and white” thinking helps.

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He isn’t easily entangled because His eyes are fixed on Christ intently. He notices when he is looking at someone else. He notices when what he’s doing isn’t serving the Lord.

And when he notices, he turns from the dark to the light. He shifts his eyes to Christ. He throws off whatever is bidding him to pay attention to or serve anything else. Whatever it is, it’s not worth missing out on beholding the Lord.

I’m blessed when he helps with my writing because I know he won’t fail to point out words that hinder instead of help the gospel. As I analyze, assess, and plan in life I am grateful to have by my side someone with foresight and discretion regarding the Lord’s will.

Among the most precious aspects of our marriage is my husband’s habit of getting my attention to direct me to Our Lord -who has his attention.

He hates to be entangled, and he hates to see me tied in knots too.

Praying this Valentine’s Day you and your loved ones can help each other disentangle to fix your eyes on the One who matters most.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

I’d love for you to guest post on First and Second! Especially for an upcoming series…more here.

Lie 7: Sin Is Too Personal To Talk About

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Read the whole series here.)

We like to keep sin hidden.

It’s only natural. Our enemy knows this and encourages this.

Sin is ugly, shameful, and feels very personal to us. Sharing about our sin feels threatening, putting us at risk of judgement or worse, accountability.

Yet leaving sin in the darkness does no good. That’s where sin thrives.

We don’t have to wear scarlet letters or spill our guts in unsafe relationships, but the Lord does ask us to call sin what it is. He calls us to expose our sin to the light of truth: Him.

Join these bloggers as they participate in the drawing of sin’s deception out of darkness into Christ’s light:

  1. The Lie: You are Good Enough

By Helene at Maidservants of Christ

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“…left to myself, I know I am neither righteous nor good.

You know that too, don’t you?   Our culture constantly bellows “You’re special! You’re important!  You’re just great!” then backhands us with a thousand insults to prove we’re not.

But we recognize sin’s lie when it comes a calling. Deep in our hearts is the whispered truth.  ‘I’m no good.” To which God says simply, “I know you’re not.  But I am.’”

  1. I Don’t Need to Confess My Sins, Right?

By Becky at My Ink Dance

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“Confession doesn’t put the things back together, but it does give you permission to let go of the broken pieces.

That mama knew what happened all along. She was only waiting for her daughter to confess. Not so she could scold, but so she could forgive.”

  1. 3 Lies We Believe About Repentance

By Alyssa at Living By The Light of the King

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“I’ve heard it said that repentance means that we turn away from our sin.

But the truth is that the original Greek word used through the New Testament (metanoia) doesn’t really have anything to do with sin. It actually means ‘change of mind.’”

True repentance isn’t just about sin.”

  1. I Can Stop Whenever I Want

By Irina at Blessed Beyond Borders, Beyond Boundaries

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“At first, we try to convince ourselves that nobody notices our sins. Whatever I do behind the closed doors is nobody’s business. It’s my life and I can do whatever I want. As long as the sin doesn’t hurt anybody, my sin is not a big deal.”

  1. Worthless

By Kendra at Stronger With Christ

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“When I focus on God (and not my problems), He changes everything. When I focus on the truth of His Word, I can believe that God loves me. When I focus on my failure, I question how anyone could love me.

When I trust God, my confidence grows. When I trust myself, I believe sin’s lies.”

  1. God Isn’t Enough

By Casey at Cattails, Rabbit Trails, and Thistlefish

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“Instantly, the enemy is at hand to whisper subtly: ‘He doesn’t actually want to give you what you want.’

Even worse, sometimes that whisper speaks, ‘He’s withholding good things from you; how dare he?’”

  1. Faith and Fear and Perfect Love

By Shannon at In Between His Times

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“The truth is that the Lord commands us not to be anxious about anything. Not requests it. Not tells us that it’s a nice thought. Not suggests it as one of 5 Steps to a Healthier Life.

Nope.

Commands.

What an uncomfortable word.”

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Lie 6: Some Sin Doesn’t Count

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Read the whole series here.)

We like to restrict God’s definition of sin to make it more manageable.

God doesn’t define sin manageable as just “doing bad stuff,” or “making mistakes.” God says sin is a condition we’re born into. Scripture uses words like infection and impurity to describe how sin permeates not only us, but the world we live in (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 8:22.)

We minimize sin when we act like it’s a condition we can keep under control.

The lie goes like this:

This particular sin isn’t that bad, it doesn’t count.

But in truth, all sin is an offense to God, which damages, if nothing else, our walk with Him.

Often the sins we don’t really “count” are those with subtle or unseen consequences. We figure sin is only really bad if someone gets hurt.

On the flipside of that logic, we believe avoiding the temptation to sin should be profitable for us.

We end up repeating the words Elihu warns against in Job 35:3:

“You ask him, ‘What profit is it to me,

and what do I gain by not sinning?’”

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When we think like this about sin and what counts as sin, we put a price on righteousness. We value honoring God based on the scales of self.

Case Study: Little White Lies

God says we never have to sin and never ought to.

Yet we are all tempted to tell white lies. They smooth things over, make people feel good, and prevent discomfort.

Essentially, telling a little white lie tends to gain us a whole lot more than being honest appears to.  So we value the self-benefit over the God-honoring truth.

Along the way, we often figure white lies hardly count. After all, we’ve appraised them as such.

Honoring God isn’t about our gain, but His. His appraisal of sin is more important than our valuation of the benefits of doing right or wrong. 

Imagine if Jesus acted as we do! It’s sobering to imagine Jesus diminishing “little sins” and “not counting them” because their consequences aren’t “that bad.”

1 John 1:9 shows us Jesus did not have an attitude of belittling sin.

Rather, Jesus addressed sin head on and with complete assurance:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.png

Would we want Jesus to “miss a spot” when He cleanses us? Would we want to settle for “only” the important parts being redeemed?

Jesus takes stock of our every sin, even the ones we wish didn’t count. He appraises them with just a glance: sin = needs cleansing. Then He turns them all white as snow.

Jesus isn’t satisfied to get us mostly clean. He isn’t one to “miss a spot.”

We have no reason to think He ought to. His cleansing is more than enough, and His grace is sufficient.

Even the “little” sins that hardly seem to count are important enough to Christ for Him to save us from them. He transforms the worst and the “not so bad” into the best for God’s glory.

Let your sin, glaring and subtle, be seen by the One eager to forgive and redeem.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Lie 2: Your Sin is Special

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Join me in exposing sin’s lies to God’s Word in this 8 part series.)

We don’t like to talk about our sin because we think people will judge us.

So we believe a lie that keeps us isolated and alone, one that falsely inflates our egos.

We believe our sin is special.

Convinced people won’t understand why we sin, we hide it. After all, they don’t know what leads us to make our choices. Despite what the old adage suggests, nobody, by walking a mile in another person’s shoes, knows the feel of the fit on the shoe owner’s feet.

It’s true- we are all individual people, with individual accounts to give before God. But when our individualized sin appears to be what’s special about us, we have a problem.

The inflation makes it seem as though our sins and our identities are one in the same. This lie makes a mess of our relationships, our concept of honesty, and our sense of shame. It makes a mess of us, melding us into people who hold sin in high regard.

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When we believe our sins are special, then:

  • Talking about them is risky
  • Our excuses seem valid
  • Others can’t get close to our real, imperfect selves
  • Sin’s isolating effect is falsely normalized
  • Sin looks way bigger than it is
  • We compare our sins
  • The forgiver of our sins seems under-equipped
Case Study: Comparison

Comparison suggests our sins are "special" because they are too little or too much.

We hesitate to tackle our sins when they seem so much worse than those around us face. At the same time, we sometimes excuse our sins when we compare our failings to the “bigger” sins of people we know.

Comparing our sins’ to others can entice us to blame others for our errors, minimize or exaggerate our own sins, and judge other people for theirs’.

Comparison is just another way sin deceives us about the special and personal quality of forgiveness by Christ. 

God is a knower of hearts. He knows more about our hearts than even we do. As He forms our hearts, He calls them special, good, and precious in His sight.

God believes we’re special.

Notice: it is not our sin He calls special. It’s us.

His proclamation of our value is demonstrated in this: Jesus sent His son to die for us, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life- freely (John 3:16.) It is for freedom Christ has set us free (John 8:36.)

Our freedom to be especially who He made us to be is humbling and precious.

We are uniquely created by Him and for Him- sin is a condition He didn’t choose for us and will remove for us.

Because we are special to Him, He takes special care to deal with our unique sin, forgiving these hearts He knows so well.

Call out the lie that seeks to enslave: sin isn’t unique. God is.

We are His, and He calls us special too.

<Click to Tweet>

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…looking for your thoughts to add to the Sin Lies Series!

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Lie 1: Sin Doesn’t Matter That Much

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Join me in exposing sin’s lies to God’s Word in this 8 part series.)

If we’re honest, we’d like to pretend sin doesn’t exist.

One of the greatest obstacles people face when considering salvation is admitting they are sinners.

As believers, we often avoid owning up to this fact. Having dealt with sin once and for all at the point of salvation, we’re glad it’s over with. Saved, we go on our merry way, regularly ignoring our sinfulness because we believe we’re good people.

Scripture refers to sin as “deceitful” for good reason (Heb 3:13.) It twists the truth, hardening our hearts towards the One who is true. This is how sin appeals to the unbeliever and believer alike. Sin twists the reality of consequences, purposes, identity, and value.

First and foremost among sin’s lies is that sin doesn’t matter that much.

Wrong. Sin matters for the unsaved and the saved alike.

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Sin matters because its consequences stretch all the way from eternity to right now.

For the unbeliever, sin is a pair of shackles – chains called “I’m doing my best” and “this is just the way it is.” The shackles guarantee death and separation from Christ.

Believers wear shackles with the key attached. Ignorantly we tell each other – “the shackles fit you so well!” Meanwhile, Christ has all sorts of gifts and blessings for us to carry – things we employ better when our hands aren’t tethered.

Even with a key, shackles unopened still constrain.

Willfully ignored sin is a pair of unopened shackles.

How rarely we choose this perspective.

God’s best isn’t what we’re thinking of when we give into temptation. Often, our idea of “best for me” is first and foremost.

Case Study: Gossip

We don’t think our gossip matters or even count it as sin.

Those friendly bits of information serve a purpose: enlightening someone about goings-on, helping us ease our emotional burdens, or just sharing what we heard. Our efforts even seem productive.

After all, what’s a little gossip hurt when it serves a purpose?

But gossip, even the “Christian version”, shackles us to sin. Because it’s not God’s way.

Living life God’s way is the best way. That’s why sin matters, for the Christian and nonbeliever. Sin means not embracing God’s way.

When we live as if sin matters, we prioritize what does matter: God’s way.

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…looking for your thoughts to add to the Sin Lies Series!

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Facing the Big “What If”

I recently had the privilege of sharing a brief devotion with a bunch of teenage girls. Weeks in advance, when I asked the Lord what He might have me say, His answer was clear: “tell them they can pour it all out to me, they can always come to me.”

The Lord never gives you a lesson to share He isn’t also going to teach you through.

I kinda forgot that.

See, I talk to God all the time. But I don’t always talk to Him like He is who He says He is.

A few hours before I shared with the girls, He got my attention. Listening to those same girls, I began listening to the Lord about what I know goes on in their lives…and what I know will go on because they are humans living in the same fallen world I am.

They (and we) are going to face a lot of “what ifs” that plunder their prayers:

What if God never has me get married?

What if God never gives me or shows me my dream job?

What if God never makes me healthy again when I get sick?

What if God never heals the broken relationships I can’t fix myself?

What if I fail?

These are valid questions, and it’s alright to ask them. There is wisdom in preparing for many “what ifs.”

But the question of “what if” can also be a positive one.

What if God actually has plans for my life?

What if God is waiting to comfort me in my struggle?

What if God loves me more than the people in my life can and wants time with me too?

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

What if God can lean in, listen, and embolden me like (or more than!) my best friends?

 What if we believe, when we speak to God, He is listening as lovingly, patiently, kindly, perfectly, gently, and honestly as He says is in His Word?

What if we believe

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to put on the armor of God. Then He goes on to say “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is included right there in the battle plan. But notice it fits in, bound to, other pieces of armor like salvation, righteousness, and faith. Notice how God speaks elsewhere about praying with a right heart, not for our own selfish ambitions (James 4:3.)

In other passages, God tells us we must ask and believe (Matt 21:22.)

What I’ve been convicted of is this: our prayers are plundered when we don’t believe or don’t recognize exactly who it is we’re talking to.

The best place for “what if” in prayer is “what if God is really listening, really cares, and has a perfect plan?” Because He is, and it changes things when we believe Him.

At very least, praying while believing God is who He is changes our perspective from desperately attempting to persuade God to resting in the blessed assurance of Christ.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Peace We Trust

{The twelfth and final installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Each and every topic in this series has convicted me. They’ve all added up.


Here’s what I’m finding as I wrap it up...

Every “thing” I trust in besides God, I trust in with one goal in my heart. Obtaining peace.

I want the easy way because I want things to occur peacefully. I rely more on relationships than the Lord because I crave the feeling of peace that comes with connection. My plans, my busy habit, my obsession with knowing anything and everything- these all are submitted to in my heart because of what I hope to get out of them: peace.

You too?

in peace

We want peace. We are desperate for peace.

As a people and as families, peace is the goal in everyday life. As churches, as a country, as a generation in this world, we do what we do to gain peace. It’s the banner we raise and aspire to.

We want to gain peace because we trust peace is the answer to all problems.

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This isn’t a new issue.

Jesus addressed it head-on: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34.)

People back then wanted peace to be the solution.

But the issue is even older. We read about it in Ezekiel 13:10:

“…They lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash.”

whitewash

The peace we seek is all too often just whitewash.

The kind of peace we seek offers no resolution, no redemption. It’s a cover up for the stuff we’re tired of looking at, the stuff we’re ashamed of.

Yet Scripture is clear.

There is real peace available to us, and it isn’t found in jobs, on Google, in knowing the outcome, or in avoiding the scary. We don’t gain real peace by doing more or planning things out perfectly. Peace isn’t something to be controlled or had.

Peace is someone we turn to.

As Ephesians 2:14 proclaims:

“He Himself is our peace.”

Oh, Lord. This is convicting. This changes things.

We’re tired. I hear it in the media, I hear it from everyone I know, I hear it from my own lips day after day.

We are tired of manufacturing our own forms of peace and seeking our own sources of peace.

Stacking our hopes and our sense of security upon these man-made sources of peace results in collapse. We end up hunched under them, holding them up by ourselves. Our versions of peace fail because they were never meant to hold our trust. They buckle under the weight, and so do we.

Pursuing peace instead of resting in the One who is our Peace is exhausting and disappointing.

peacehimself

Friends- if we aren’t trusting the one who has bridged all of sin to make peace between us and God to give us true peace in this life, what are we doing?

Trust is balanced precariously on belief: belief the one we trust in is trustworthy.

The only one worthy of this trust, the only one actually able to trade the troubles of this world and our lives for lasting peace, is Christ Himself.

We simply need to come before Him. To hand it all over.

We need to trust Christ that He is who He says is: OUR PEACE.

In your life, trust Him to be who He alone is. Amen?

Thanks to all who participated in this series as readers, comment-encouragers, and guest writers. I have been blessed, and I know many others have too.

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.