This past month Michael Sam came out of the closet. This was a big deal because, if drafted, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Our culture views this coming out as incredibly brave but wants to push Christians more and more “into the closet.” That’s why Pastor Trent Griffith challenged us this past Sunday, “I’m asking you to be at least as courageous as Michael Sam. Stop taking the path of least resistance. Come out Christian.” More
Do you know you have up to 70,000 thoughts a day? Researchers say most of us have between 45,000–51,000 thoughts a day, but it can be as many as 70,000. Most of the battles you fight each day rage in the battleground of your mind. Here are just a few blog comments from this last week that reveal the mind battles you’re facing. More
The past couple months I’ve been learning how to acknowledge and live within my limitations. After all, God alone is infinite; I am not. Here are four truths I’ve been remembering and implementing in everyday life:
1. It’s okay to work at a less frenzied pace—and even take breaks.
I used to work straight through my eight-hour workday. I’d even take my laptop into the bathroom stall with me. I’m not kidding. Lunch would be inhaled at my computer. I worked at Mach speed. Who knows, my coworkers may have even witnessed smoke coming out my ears.
Now, though, I’m joining the sane lunch group in the cafeteria. I’m getting up from my computer every hour or so for a game of Ping-Pong, a short walk, or a change of scenery. Breaks are important. In fact, Jesus had to tell His disciples to take breaks, too:
“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).
2. Everything doesn’t have to be done now.
Last week I picked up a prescription, dropped off my energy bill, and got my tire patched. I didn’t, however, make my Walmart returns, cash that check, or grocery shop (there was enough food in my fridge for at least a couple more days). On a whim, I stopped by the library on the way home and picked up a book a friend recommended. Progress.
The truth is I don’t have to run all my errands now. I don’t have to respond to all my emails now. The world won’t end if I don’t knock everything off my to-do list right now. In fact, it will be a whole lot better for me and others if I use that extra time to drive the speed limit back home rather than racing on to the next thing on my to-do list. Proverbs 19:2 warns,
“Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
3. I can and need to prioritize.
The way I used to live was based on the belief, When I get all my work done, then I’ll rest and play. What a fool I’ve been. My work will never be done, no matter how hard or fast I work. So I need to ask God to help me prioritize.
Jesus modeled this beautifully when He came to earth. As you know, He didn’t heal every sick person. There was so much He didn’t do in the world. But He did spend time with His Father seeking His priorities. That’s why Jesus was able to say at the end of His life on earth,
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
4. I can ask for help.
I’ve asked for help more in the past couple months than I have in, well, possibly my entire life. I think the breakthrough happened the night I asked a friend to drive me to my hair appointment because I just didn’t have the energy. Who asks someone to drive them to their hair appointment? Girls like me who are willing to acknowledge when they’re feeling really weak, I guess.
I’ve been trying to implement this maxim, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no.” The other day I asked someone to shovel my snow, and they offered to do so for the rest of the winter. I’ve been so blessed and helped by sharing my needs with others. I dare you to try it, too. Warning, though, it will take a dose of humility to admit you can’t do it all on your own. Reminds me of Moses, actually,
“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You . . . will certainly wear yourself out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. . . . look for able men . . . and they will bear the burden with you’” (Ex. 18:17-23).
I hope these truths help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I’m curious, do you think you’re living within your limitations? How so?
Whether you caught The Hunger Games opening weekend, or whether you have no idea who Peeta and Katniss are, I’m guessing you can relate to this girl’s bottom-line question: “I finished The Hunger Games series, and I am so envying Katniss. I mean, I know they are just fictional characters, but seriously. Peeta loves her so much and so unconditionally. This guy is so perfect. I know I have God and all, but is there gonna be a guy that really loves me that much?” More
What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day memory? Mine took place on a snowy Saturday night in 2012 when five teen girls piled into my home with their pajamas, pillows, and Chi hair straighteners.
We did the typical things girls do at slumber parties (ate a lot of sugar, did each other’s hair, posed for a photo shoot) but the main reason we got together—and the highlight of the party—was sitting on the living room floor cutting and gluing and writing and praying.
We’d asked the church secretary for a list of the names and addresses of the widows in our church, and then we made them each a homemade Valentine’s Day card and included a picture so they could put faces to our names.
Why did we spend our evening reaching out to a bunch of older women we hardly even knew rather than watching a couple of chick flicks? Because we wanted to love the same people God loves. Did you know widows have a very special place in God’s heart? He protects them and provides for them and urges us to do the same:
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex. 22:22).
“He [God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18).
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation (Ps. 68:5).
The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (Ps. 146:9).
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).
The next morning we hand-delivered one of our cards to a woman in a nursing home and stayed to visit, sing, hug, and pray for her. We dropped the other cards in the mail and were delightfully surprised when we received a couple letters back from widows warmly inviting us into their homes!
I wonder what widows you know. Would you make a list and send at least one of them a Valentine’s Day card this year? (You might want to send one to a single mom, as well.) After you’ve done that, I’d love to know your thoughts. Why do you think God cares so deeply for widows and wants us to do the same?
Have you ever received hand-me-downs from an older sister or cousin? I have for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, hand-me-downs were dropped off in garbage bags and the shirts wore barbeque residue on the front or yellow stains under the sleeves.
But a few years ago my stylish friend from New York started sharing her hand-me-downs with me. They were dropped off in Ralph Lauren bags and displayed tags like DKNY. Turns out “hand-me-downs” aren’t necessarily synonymous with junk!
Did you know God gives us His better-than-DKNY hand-me-downs? The different pieces of armor we’re told to put on in Ephesians 6 actually belong to . . . God!
Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11).
Today we’re going to look at one piece of His armor, the breastplate of righteousness:
Stand therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14).
First, let’s check out God modeling the breastplate. Flip all the way back to Isaiah for a look:
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. . . . He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies (59:15, 17–18, emphasis added).
The Lord putting on righteousness is colorful language to describe that He is righteous to His core. He always does what is right and just.
Now, I should probably interrupt myself here and mention that when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus, they were used to seeing Roman soldiers walking around wearing breastplates. Not exactly something we see everyday in 2014! Today’s breastplate would look more like . . . a bulletproof vest.
So what do we need to do to get this breastplate/bulletproof vest of righteousness from God?
Believe God. It’s always been that way since the beginning of time:
And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
Once a crowd asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” In other words, “What must we do to be righteous”?
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Who did God send? Jesus!
So I have to ask . . . have you repented of your sin and trusted in His Son, Jesus, to save you from God’s just wrath against your sin?
If so, you have been given Christ’s righteousness. Another word for that is you have been justified. God looks at you just as if you’ve never sinned and just as if you’ve always obeyed—because that’s what Jesus did for you!
But you are also being sanctified. You’re already righteous in God’s eyes, but now you’re being made more like Him in everyday life, with the help of God’s Spirit in you.
So what does putting on the breastplate of righteousness look like?
It looks like believing in Christ’s righteousness even when Satan tempts you to despair (check out the song below). When that voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough, how do you respond? Do you think, Yes, but I read my Bible regularly or Yes, but I’m the nicest girl in school or . . . Yes, but Christ is my righteousness.
It looks like acting righteously (rightly) before God and to other people. Like the guy who returned my wallet to me rather than keeping it for himself (another story for another day). Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is both about what we believe and how we live, because what we believe always impacts what we do.
I haven’t received any hand-me-downs from my stylish friend in a couple years, but I have been given God’s hand-me-downs. You have, too, if you’re in Christ. The question is . . . are the pieces stuffed in the back of the bottom drawer of your dresser, or are you putting them on every morning?
Do you consider yourself a strong or a weak woman?
For years I considered myself a strong woman. As a teen, I flexed my biceps, challenged guys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranged my heavy bedroom furniture by myself. In my twenties, I scheduled an activity on my calendar every night of the week and wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I always, always pushed through.
But then I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall. My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did. I wasn’t so sure. More
I wielded the shield of faith a lot this past month, as I felt shot at from every side. A big part of the “attack” had to do with my health, including a visit to the emergency room, a terrible full-body rash (I’d share a picture, but then you’d never visit this blog again), and terrifying insomnia (how is my body supposed to heal if I can’t sleep, I anxiously wondered as I tossed and turned night after night).
Satan really will use whatever circumstances he can to discourage and defeat us—even our health. A man named Job knows that even better than I do. It all started when Satan asked God for permission to attack Job’s health, swearing that Job would curse God if his health was compromised. But instead Job worshiped God.
In physical misery but tangible faith Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). And for the record, God didn’t kill Job; just the opposite. Read the end of Job’s story here.
There were times this past month I felt like Job and wondered if I would survive.
Turns out the armor of God isn’t just an interesting concept to toss around on the blog; it’s intensely personal and necessary for normal, everyday life. Ephesians 6:16 urges us:
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.
Taking up the shield of faith is a fancy, colorful way to say trust God.
For me it started with a choice to thank God for the hives, the trip to the emergency room, and the itchiness, even when I didn’t like or understand it. Lifting the shield of faith meant thanking Him—and believing—that this was His best for me. This was how I would learn to trust Him more, to depend on Him more, to experience His peace.
It meant thinking about His names as I lay in bed and asking Him to be that to me:
My Wonderful Counselor when I didn’t know which doctors to believe and which medical advice to take.
My Mighty God who is able to heal me.
My Everlasting Father who delights in me and protects me.
My Prince of Peace who can give peace even in the most frightening situations.
As I’d take medication or eat, I’d remind God that He’s my Healer (Ex. 15:26). I’d acknowledge that my trust was not ultimately in this medicine or food; I needed Him to heal me.
Five weeks later, I’m happy to report that my rash has now almost completely disappeared, and I’m sleeping some every night. And while Satan wanted to take me out through this difficult ordeal, God has used it to rescue me in ways I never dreamed possible. I could fill pages with how He has used it for good (well, I already have in my journal), and I may share some of that with you in the future.
For now, though, I want to encourage you in your own difficult circumstances to lift up the shield of faith. Lean into God; rest your full weight on Him. This will protect you from the temptation to doubt His goodness, listen to Satan’s lies, and walk away from the One who has your back, who has your very best in mind.
God is for you. He is with you in the darkest, blackest night. Lift up your shield of faith, and lean into Him with a heart full of trust. He will not fail you. I promise. (Well actually, He promises.)
Vacationing alone just isn’t done. Even eating out alone has a stigma in our culture. I wasn’t the only one who considered this; More than one person asked if I’d be okay, vacationing by myself for a whole week. More