Members of One Body Working Together in Unity

walkingContinued from here.

Sadly, many Christians do not understand that we need one another to function as a healthy Body of Christ. I cannot remember where I read this analogy, but it’s not original to me. Think about someone walking along a train track. If you only pay attention to what the eyes see, then everything looks great – no train in sight. However, the ears hear the train whistle while the feet sense the vibration of the train as it approaches from behind. Without other parts of the Body providing their perspective, the eyes are in jeopardy of being destroyed. The entire Body must work together in unity to have a full sense of where the Head is leading. I make up only one small part of the Body of Christ, and I do not have the full perspective of where the Head is leading. I need input from the other parts of the Body to know this.

What I do know is that the Head always leads the Body in one direction, never in multiple directions at the same time. When I choose to walk from Point A to Point B, I never tell my left foot to go one direction and the right foot to go another. As my head selects the destination, both feet work together in unity with my legs to take me where my head wants to go.

The same is the true of the Body of Christ. If you have a group of Christians – whether in a small Sunday School class or in a megachurch – who are supposedly hearing contrary messages from God, then the Body is not following the Head. Satan loves to stir up disunity among the Body of Christ because he knows we aren’t going to get very far if we are spending our time bickering about where God is leading. Dissension within the Body should drive us to our knees, and we should stay put until the Body receives a unified message from God about where He is leading us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and walking. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Prioritizing Unity over “Being Right”

ya_rightContinued from here.

When did we, as a Church, decide that “being right” takes priority over being unified? I don’t see that message in the Bible. Sure, God does bring His people to “remnant moments” where, after trying everything else, He does break His people apart, but this only happens after many, many chances for repentance. For example, God continued to protect Israel for hundreds of years, even though its kings were evil, because He loved His people and gave them chance after chance to repent.

I don’t see God ripping apart His people every time they did something that He disagreed with. The entire Bible is filled with people getting it wrong and God extending them grace … again and again and again. And yet, that’s not how we treat one another. We say either we do this RIGHT (= “my way”), or we’ll leave the small group, leave the local church/ministry, or even leave the denomination (or start a new one). And then everyone in that small group, local church, ministry, or denomination had better see things the same way, or it will be time to split again. Oh, how God must grieve this mentality!

And yet, we are never going to see things the same way because we are not all the same. We are all members of the same body, but we are not the same body parts. Thus, we are not going to see things the same way, just as an eye and a foot have a completely different perspective. Neither is “right” or “wrong” – it’s simply a different viewpoint based upon a different function. Rather than rejecting one another for seeing things differently, could we not learn to appreciate those differences and pull back to see a bigger picture as a Body? How can the Church possibly operate as a healthy Body when each local church only consists of eyes or feet?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her arms folded and saying, “Ya, Right.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Heartbreak of Disunity within the Church

broken_heartI write to you with a heavy heart this morning. My heart is heavy because I have been praying for the same thing daily for three years, and I’m not seeing much improvement as of yet. It’s a prayer for unity within the Church, and I’m not seeing much progress yet. It grieves me to see how fragmented the Church is and how few people even seem to care.

Oh, how it must grieve the heart of God to see the fragmentation within His beloved Church – the bride of Christ! How are we, as one people, to present ourselves as one Bride when we cannot get along with one another? We are so determined to “be right” that we overlook the commands to be unified:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” ~ Ps. 133:1

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~ John 17:22-23

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” ~ Eph. 4:3

Why is it that God prioritizes unity and yet we, as Christians, care more about “being right?” Why are we willing to throw away unity in the pursuit of getting our own way – the type of music we like, or the sermon topic that we prefer, or the color carpeting in the sanctuary we deem best? Oh, how God’s heart must break to see division within His beloved Church as we bicker in the same way that the world does … or even worse! I actually find leading worldly volunteers to be easier than leading Christians because Christians expect to be extended grace whereas those in the world know that only so much dissension will be tolerated. How it must grieve God to see worldly pursuits accomplished with greater unity than His own Church!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning inside a broken heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Are You Willing to Submit Your Will to God?

Continued from here.

I have shared this several times, but it’s worth repeating. In his book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby says that two words never go together: “No, Lord.” If God is your Lord, then you will always say yes to His will. If you say no, then He is not your Lord. In other words, you are not His disciple.

Most of us want to straddle the fence. We want the blessings of being a disciple of God without having to the pay the cost, but it doesn’t work that way. We love to quote the scripture about not worrying because God will provide all of our needs, but we don’t “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). In the legal world, this is called a condition precedent. To activate “all these things will be given to you as well,” we must first prioritize God’s kingdom and righteousness. We accuse God of not being faithful in providing for us when we did not first do our own part of chasing Him rather than chasing what we want.

Another example is that we love the Bible verse promising that God will give us the desires of our heart. Who doesn’t want this, right? But the condition precedent is that we must first “take delight in the LORD.” James tells us that the reason we don’t receive the desires of our heart is that we are not delighting ourselves in the LORD but instead…

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

James’ very next words are, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” Why are they adulterous? Because they delight themselves in their own pleasures rather than in the LORD. We rail at God for not giving us what we want when what we SHOULD want is HIM, and He gives Himself to us freely.

So, are you willing to submit your will to God? If you are, you must do all that He tells you to do. That being said, it’s not about doing the right thing so much as it is about obeying Him to express your love for Him. God isn’t looking for people who do the right thing – He is looking for people who love Him enough to do the right thing. There’s a big difference, and it all comes out of our motivation. Do you love Him enough to submit your will wholly to God? If you say yes and actually do it, you will be blessed beyond measure.

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.]


Submitting Your Will to God Simplifies Your Life

snakeContinued from here.

Since I began submitting my will to God in 2013, my life has become much simpler – harder, but simpler. The reason is that I no longer put forth the mental energy of trying to figure out how to get out of obeying God so I can do what I want to do.

For example, as a young adult, I did not want to tithe, so I put forth much mental energy to figure out a loophole to get out of it that went something like this: “Back when tithing was commanded, people didn’t have to pay taxes at a rate like we have to pay today. God could not possibly expect me to pay this much in taxes and then, on top of that, 10% of my income to the church. And even if He did, how do I know how much to tithe? Is the 10% based on my gross earnings or my net earnings? And what about rebates or monetary gifts? Does God really expect me to tithe out of those? This all sounds too complicated to actually do.” Today, I simply give to my local church 10% of whatever hits my bank account, and I also give as the Lord leads me to give, so I wind up giving much more than 10% of what I earn. It’s simple – just not easy when I don’t feel like giving.

Satan’s way is complex, but God’s is simple. God says, “Don’t eat the fruit.” Satan says,

Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” … “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ~ Excerpts from Gen. 3:1-6

See how simple God’s command is versus Satan’s mental twisting to turn God’s no into a yes? Either we trust God, or we do not. If we trust Him, we will do what He says to do, which is quite simple … it’s just not easy.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a snake coiled around her. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Choosing Obedience over Feelings

how_you_feelingContinued from here.

It’s easy to follow God when things are going well. When I have just received a blessing from God, it’s easy for me to praise Him with all that I have within me and shout His goodness from the rooftops. It’s a different story when His will requires me to suffer, such as when my son faced major back surgery a few years ago. It wasn’t easy to focus on God’s goodness as my son faced having two titanium rods screwed into his spine to correct his scoliosis. I did not easily praise God during this season, and yet I did praise Him – not because I felt like it but because it’s His will that I do.

One of my greatest obstacles – and this is likely true for you as well – is that I often don’t feel like obeying God. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would only do what God tells me to do whenever it’s convenient or feels good. However, God’s ways are rarely convenient. He commands me to pray for and show kindness to the people I want to yell at or complain about. He tells me to drive the speed limit when I’ll be late for an appointment if I do. He leads me to extend grace and love to people who make my life difficult, whether it’s an incompetent waiter or a grumbling relative. If I let my feelings drive my choices, I would never do what God tells me to do. In other words, I would never be a disciple of Christ.

In my quiet time this morning, I read the passage about an exhausted Jesus sleeping through a storm that terrified his disciples. I found it interesting that Mark notes that when Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side,” Mark says,

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.” ~ Mark 4:36

Note that they took Jesus “just as he was.” When I think of taking someone “just as he was,” it generally means not all cleaned up but in a state that the only someone who loves you would receive. As an example, one of my dear friends is going through a rough time and keeps apologizing for being “just as she was,” which is in emotional distress. I receive her “just as she was” because I love her. She’s not in a state that she would like to be, but she’s too overwhelmed with what’s going on in her life to “clean up good.” I wonder if that’s the point that Mark was making about Jesus – that he was in a state of exhaustion and too tired to cope, hence his ability to sleep through a raging storm. One does not get that way by taking the easy way. I suspect Jesus had to choose obedience over his feelings and that he was so exhausted because doing so took a heavy toll on him.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a chair and asking, “How ya feelin’?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Not My Will, but Yours be Done

painContinued from here.

I shared an example of what it looks like to submit your will to God in my last blog entry, but let’s take a deeper look. God gave us free will, so we are free to use it as we desire. We are free to use it to be selfish, to try to manipulate other people to our will, and to do evil – God won’t stop us from exercising our free will in vile ways that do much harm to ourselves and others. However, if we use our will in any way other than in submission to God, we are not Jesus’ disciple. That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? But it’s the truth. Jesus said that we cannot be his disciple unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. That means we must follow Jesus’ example of saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Are you willing to submit your will to God as Jesus did?

Jesus said those words before going to the cross, which he certainly did not want to do. He did not spend the night praying and sweating blood because he wanted to be mutilated and killed. Yet he submitted his will to God. He had free will, just as we do, but he chose to submit that will to the Father, even when it came at the ultimate cost of being mutilated, killed, and separated from God as he carried all of our sins as he died. While we know the glorious end to the story, I wonder whether Jesus did in the dark of night as he prayed his anguished, earnest prayers as his disciples slept. I wonder if he simply knew that God’s will was for him to suffer and whether he simply loved God more than he didn’t want to go to the cross.

Regardless of what Jesus did or did not know on that fateful night, we generally have no idea what the end of our story is going to be. We face the crossroads of seeing that God’s way will bring us inconvenience or suffering while we could easily exercise our own free will to take the easier path. Which will we choose?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on the floor in pain. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Cost of Discipleship: Submitting Your Will to God

need_a_rideJesus advised us to consider the cost of discipleship before committing to follow him. One of those costs that I have been pondering lately is the cost of my will. The closer I grow in my relationship with God, the more I appreciate the degree to which I no longer have my own will because I have submitted it to God. I submit my will to God each time I drive the speed limit when I am running late as cars are whizzing impatiently past me. I submit my will to Him each time someone aggravates me and I chose to extend grace rather than express anger. I submit my will when I fill out my tax forms and provide an honest assessment of the value of my charitable donations when I could so easily inflate it. Submitting my will to God certainly comes with a cost.

I’ll share a cost that will likely amuse you but is nonetheless a price I pay to be a disciple of Christ. I live in a state that requires a minor to drive 60 hours using a learner’s permit before he can apply for his driver’s license after holding the learner’s permit for a year. That year ends for my son this week, but he has not yet reached the 60 hours required by law to apply for his driver’s license. I have been my son’s chauffeur for over 17 years, and I am ready to retire my chauffeur’s hat. But as of last week, he still had 10 hours of driving to go.

My son’s solution was for me to simply lie on the form. He says that all of his friends’ parents lied on it. Nobody will ever know the difference. One simple lie can release me from the responsibility of having to drive my son to school, sports, and other destinations. I can’t say it’s not tempting. However, as a disciple of Christ, I have submitted my will to God, who says that I am to submit to governing authorities, and I see no footnote excusing me from this command simply because I don’t like the law or because it is inconvenient.

Because I submit my will to God, I spent four hours on Friday night riding in the car as my son drove to a city two hours away and back, solely for the purpose of logging in the required hours. And I’ll do the same thing again on Saturday night – not because I have oodles of free time but because this is required of the governing authorities for my son to apply for his driver’s license. I submit to the law because I submit my will to God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car and asking, “Need a ride?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


God Turns Our Curses into Blessings

Continued from here.

Last week, God led me to a verse that beautifully captures what He has done for me in my life:

However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.” ~ Deut. 23:5

Let those words saturate your shattered heart and wounded soul: The Lord your God will turn your curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you!!

It doesn’t matter what your curse it. For me, it was being sex-trafficked as a child. For you, it might be alcoholism or addiction … abandonment … betrayal … divorce … the death, or even murder, of someone who you deeply loved … injury, disease, or long-term illness … No matter what the curse is, God can turn that curse into a blessing if you will let Him. He does this as you choose to walk with Him and follow Him, even when His ways make no sense to you … even as everything inside of you is screaming that His ways don’t feel good. Push through your resistance and follow Him. Nothing compares to what you will find.

And then here’s the very best part that I relish every day … One of the lessons I learned from The Count of Monte Cristo is that our greatest joys are best experienced against the backdrop of our greatest pains. This is a lesson that God has been showing me over the past few weeks, and I have been driven to tears of thanksgiving and awe multiple times as I process this truth. God has repeatedly taken an area of greatest pain in my life and used that very pain as the fertilizer to nourish a tree of life in that very spot. This is how something as impossible as this Bible verse can happen:

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” ~ Ps. 113:9

The deeper your wound, the greater the restoration. The darker the pain, the brighter the joy. Keep pursuing God and don’t let go until you have received your double portion. Then, you will view your greatest pains as the places of your greatest joys, to the praise and glory of God!

[Graphic: Cover of The Count of Monte Cristo (Bantam Classics). Courtesy Amazon.]


Blessings of a Raw Deal Life

blessedContinued from here.

If you are like me and had a raw deal life, you might have trouble believing God could have a blessing in store for you. After all, the world is seemingly filled with people who have family and friends who love and are loyal to them. It can feel like you are living in a Hallmark card world and that you are the only one who got a raw deal. I assure you that this world is filled with people who have lived raw deal lives, most of whom feel just as alone as you do. Don’t buy the lie that you are the exception – the exception is actually the person who got to live a charmed life, and s/he already has the reward.

God promises to restore those of us with raw deal lives, giving us a double portion for all that was taken from us:

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.” ~ Is. 61:7

The more that was taken from you, the greater the blessing God has in store for you … the last will be first. I know how close to the back of the line I was as I was repeatedly raped as a six-year-old child. So much was taken from me, including my ability to trust, to feel loved, and to feel safe. The more that was taken, the more God will restore … TIMES TWO!! With God’s restoration, I move to the front of the line in heaven … and the last will be first.

I frequently share one other blessing that most people miss … Only someone who has been as broken as I was has the opportunity to experience the enormity of God’s healing power in the way that I have! It’s not that God loves me more than anyone else. The point is that I get to experience more healing than most people do simply because I was more broken than they have been. The greater your wound, the greater the healing power required to heal you, which brings you that much more of God!!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying over the word, “#blessed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]