it’s a mad, mad world. but you already knew that.

A billboard that I see each morning driving Jesse to school shows 3 women on a beach wearing bikinis. The slogan says “On December 3 their tops will come off”.

Another one along this same road boasts, “Your wife knows, and so does your girlfriend”.

These are obviously intended for shock value and I’m not quite sure what the selling point is, but the goal is to make you look.

The problem with it is that we live in a culture that has no shame, no filter, no decency. One thought I had was, do these people have kids who put up those signs? 

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The world in 2018 continues to become godless and develop a we don’t care attitude, do what you want lifestyle . We’ve always known that, but it seems more direct than ever.

Angry mobs threaten individuals who they vehemently disagree with – in both political parties.

Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court Justice nominee had his life dragged through the mud because of political agendas, more than the actual accusation.

Commercials subtly insert homosexual couples in ads to normalize it.

Voting chaos in mid-term elections.

Journalism and the media report with bias and behavioral outbursts.

 

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It makes me sick to my stomach because the world is bold in rejecting God, blinded by sin.

Yet there are three things we can take away from our current cultural climate that can help us stay faithful as Christians:

1. God will judge those who remain unrepentant.

Reading through the Old Testament minor prophets, the one thing that strikes me is the certainty of the prophecies. It’s not if but when the Lord executes judgment. It sounds very fanatical and this is where the world mocks Christians (much like in the days of Noah) but it serves as a warning right now- a mercy, until its too late. The prophets were mostly foretelling of the fall of Jerusalem and exile that took place beginning in 597 B.C.

God is patient but swift to act when the appointed time comes.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

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2. God will preserve His people because of His covenants.

In the days leading up to Babylonian captivity, God promised to leave a remnant of His people so they weren’t completely annihilated. One of the reasons for this was to preserve the line of Christ. Just as God provided physical deliverance for Israel, His plan was also to bring spiritual deliverance for humanity through Jesus.

“I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.

One who breaks open the way will go up before them; 

they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.” (Micah 2:12-13)

3. We cannot stay neutral.

Because you are either a follower of Christ or a follower of Satan. Sure, you might not phrase it like that, but it comes down to where our allegiance lies. This isn’t a game or a fairy tale. The spiritual world is just as real as the couch you’re sitting on, reading this post.

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Jesus says in Revelation that we can’t be lukewarm (3:14-22). God says in Zephaniah that complacency is sin (1:12). I would propose to you that neutrality doesn’t even exist- it serves as a cover for not wanting to get mixed in. Because when you finally choose a side, it will cost you something. We in America have the current freedom to not experience physical persecution like other Christians around the world. I don’t fear for my life when I profess to follow Christ.

Maybe if I were bold and unashamed like the world is bold and unashamed of how they want to live it would cost me more. I’m thinking that from an eternal perspective this is how I should live.

But remember, God is with His Beloved, He is with us and not against His people. We have the Holy Spirit as our help and comforter. So we don’t have to live in fear, or despair the spiritual rebellion happening all around. He dispenses grace and strength we need for each day. God is hidden but present. He is Providentially at work.

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Grace upon grace,

April

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Love without End

God is Greater Than,

more Beautiful, Wonderful,  or Powerful

than I can fully understand.

He spoke Everything into existence,

faithful to hold all things together.

By His command I am at His mercy.

Yet this Almighty, Divine Lord also moved in Love, toward people who would disobey Him, reject His Son, and hate Him or anyone claiming to be His children.

But He also knew that some would not rebel forever- fellowship restored.

His Greatness consumed my insignificance and wrapped it in unending love.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Because I’m difficult too

It’s funny how we tend to think of ourselves as “normal” and everyone else as quirky characters. If we could be on the outside looking in, we might see it a little differently. The people in our lives: friends, co-workers, family (especially the people who live with us) either refine or bless us. But there is no getting around that God uses our different personalities for us to personally apply truth each day.

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Bob Goff quote 

So I have a prayer for you and me as we head into today. Because whatever you do, I’m almost certain you’ll run into another human being which requires you to interact. If you’re like me, this can be challenging, but also a blessing. Usually when I have a perspective shift my attitude toward how I’ll view and treat others changes also. So here are words you might need to say back to the Father too.

 

Father, 

Today will be hard because there will be people in it.

Let me use those opportunities to be refined like Christ,

practicing self-control over my tongue and heart.

Help me to be gracious in speech, slow to anger, quick to listen, supernaturally loving the difficult or hurtful.

Protect my thoughts from comparison, envy, or self-righteous judgment.

I ask to have the freedom to show compassion and patience no matter how different the person might be.

Bring me to my knees in prayer when I think wrongly of someone else- pray for blessings toward them and not an ill will.

Grant me a humble spirit and a love for You that overflows into my everyday life. 

Let Jesus be the reflection when I look in the mirror.

You cover me in Your grace when I fail and rejoice in those small spiritual victories. 

Thank you for choosing me, loving me even when I’m difficult to love- help me do the same when I meet another face today.

Grace upon grace,

April

the blessings of rain

It’s raining, so the window is cracked open to hear the steady rhythm. Sometimes the drops rush down so fast that the sky seems to be pouring out.

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Funny how we’re so self sufficient in modernity but still rely on the heavens to open up for something as simple, yet vital, like water.

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God is a Gardener not just to our souls but tends to even the basic physical needs too. No detail of our humanity and spirits is overlooked by the Sovereign Creator.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Moments of grace

About once a month Jason and I will go to the actual theater if anything good is playing. Last time we saw Unbroken: Path to Redemption, the sequel based on a true story from Louis Zamperini’s life experience in WWII. This movie picks up right after the war as Louis tries to adjust to normal life again.

If you haven’t seen the first movie, Unbroken, I highly recommend watching it first. But if not you still get the idea of the horrors he went through during the war. Louis was captured as a POW by the Japanese after spending 47 days at sea on a raft. He was tortured specifically by a prison guard, known as “The Bird” who specialized in cruelty. Years after the war ended, Louis was still plotting how to murder this man. He lost touch with reality succumbing to hatred, depression and alcoholism.

For the first half of the film we see the demons he wrestles with- and it looks kind of familiar.

I have battled depression since I was fifteen.

It took me about ten minutes before writing this next sentence, because I don’t talk about it often- if at all anymore. The first six years as a teenager were the hardest, because all the emotions. Now it is more of an unexpected, unwelcome guest that shows up on my doorstep from time to time.

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It’s been said that depression is our anger turned inward. I believe that’s partly true. There’s so much more to understanding depression than just letting go of anger, but this is where I needed to do some soul searching. When we withhold forgiveness from someone, our insides begin to calcify. We lose a tender, pliable heart desiring to conform to Jesus.

Something that hit me while watching in the dark movie theater was a speech Louis gave shortly before he died. He said, “forgiveness has to be complete”. He was referring to his Japanese captors, even “The Bird”. Louis Zamperini learned to forgive his enemies once he discovered he was fully forgiven in Christ. We see him giving his life to the Lord in the movie at a Billy Graham tent revival. That night became a turning point in his life of letting go.

That phrase sat heavy on my heart as Jason and I walked back to our car that night. Forgiveness has to be complete. Just the night before I felt prompted to pray for people I haven’t seen in over 15 years. Part of my depression stemmed from unforgiveness I had harbored for so long.

I thought I had forgiven them- but maybe it was more of choosing not to remember instead. 

I realized I haven’t been completely free either. Louis knew this too.

There’s a reason God commands us to forgive our enemies and instead bless them, pray for them. Not only is it for their benefit, its for ours too.  Jesus fully forgave me for all I’ve ever done or will do, so how can I not practice forgiving others?

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In his book ‘Inconspicuous Providence’, Bryan R. Gregory speaks of the power of the cross which provides us with the supernatural ability to forgive. He says “the cross assures us that God is still working, even if we can’t see it. The cross assures us that God is with us, even when we can’t feel it. The cross assures us that God’s redemptive purposes are greater than the evil being done.”

We may never know the extent of God’s redemptive purposes as He works through our suffering to work in another life because of how we’ve responded.

Our fellowship with God depends on how we act toward each other. To live “eucharisteo”, as Ann Voskamp affectionately calls it, means we don’t keep a record of past wrongs. The best way to do that is by beginning to pray. With the help of the Spirit, He will supernaturally work in our hearts to forgive even when an apology isn’t given. He will enable us to love those who are hard to love. He will do a good work in us as we seek peace and pursue joy by moving forward and not dwelling on our past sins or the sins of others.

My heart was like a wrung out dish rag by the end of the movie, but it served as a lesson for me to keep moving beyond my depression. Forgiveness. Letting go of past or present wounds. Pray for my enemies.

Our fingers slowly pry from the anger we hold on to so tightly. God says we are free if we are in Christ. It’s not just a future hope, but a present reality that we are free. I am free to transform moments of pain into moments of grace.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

How do you know?

“We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.

The man who says, ‘I know Him’, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.

But if anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.

This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

1 John 2:3-6

 

The biggest lie we can believe is to deny Christ as Lord and Savior. Unbelievers embrace this by rejecting Jesus as the Son of God whether they openly admit it or not. Rebellion can be visible and loud, or a quiet hardening.

Let us live in the truth we know, resting in our confidence and freedom. Jesus paid for our sinful, helpless souls so that we could be free to love, trust, and obey Him for all eternity. This is the central truth to all of life – to know Christ and be in Him. Do you know?

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Creativity takes a lot of brave

We were meant to be creative.

God’s first actions recorded in Scripture involve creating- the entire universe and us. We are His image bearers, the only thing made to mirror Him. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. We have a gift inside of us we may never have considered before.

I started snapping pictures with my iPhone when Instagram came on the scene. Each square had the potential to be curated art. For someone who loves to create beauty, reflect the wonders of God, this was my jam. I discovered that I liked being an amateur photographer as a way to express the Lord’s glory all around us.

Some of the photos are everyday moments which are good too because life ranges from the breathtaking to the ordinary. It’s all a gift. Each day we get to declare the glory of God in some way, with the talents, abilities, interests He’s given us.

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Imaging His creativity in us takes work and a little courage too doesn’t it? Some people may not get what you’re doing. Maybe you don’t even consider yourself this way, reasoning the “artsy” scene isn’t your thing. That’s okay.

Creating not only means to make something out of nothing, or a way of expression. It is also a form of order. God created the world into order (meaning we aren’t flying off the earth as it spins around). There is a certain rhythm, set by God, to sequence the days, nights, and seasons giving us structure for how we live. So isn’t is reasonable to say that those who like to file, organize, clean, and crunch numbers are creatives too?

This is all part of living into the identity Christ bought for us. In her book Made for More, Hannah Anderson says that we “exist to reflect and represent Him on this earth”, living  Imago Dei, “in the image of God”.  There is a level of vulnerability in living this way,  working at something that means something to you, then sharing it with others. It takes a brave heart to do it. But more than that, it honors God when you use the gifts He’s given you.

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We keep wonder and beauty alive in a world that aims to pervert what is good. What if creating is like waging war against our unseen enemies? What if we NEED to create as believers are called to fight the good fight? Sharing the Gospel and using your creativity go hand in hand.

So as we image Christ day after day, however imperfectly, we practice creating in our field. It’s how we learn to become people of truth. Because this is your offering to give to the Lord. We become who we already are, or another way to say it, we become more fully ourselves when we create.

 

Grace upon grace,

April