In, Not Of: A letter to my girls’ teachers explaining why we’re so different from other Christians

December 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , )

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As mankind continues to fall deeper into darkness and further away from God’s truth, we Higgins find ourselves trying to figure out how to live IN this world, but not be OF it.  Even in the bubble of Christian education, we must continually resist the compromise of God’s truth that we’re expected to gladly embrace.  God’s “church” has strayed so far from His ways in pursuit of a more “comfortable” doctrine, that most do not even recognize His ways anymore, let alone follow them.  We’ve somehow forgotten that HE made the rules…and  He defined them for us clearly in scripture…and no matter how much “greasy grace” we sprinkle on top of our thoughts and actions, or how much time we wander around aimlessly trying to “find ourselves” and attempt to play by our OWN rules that scripture actually opposes, we will ALL one day be held accountable to whether or not we played the game of life by GOD’S rules. 

God’s approval and our spending eternity with Him is pretty important to the Higgins family, so we have zero desire to waste time or energy playing by any man-made rules that can’t possibly help us win the game.  Instead, we spend every spare second we have learning God’s revealed winning strategy for this game of life.  We are consumed with knowing the Creator of this game, His ways, His expectations and His heart and reasoning behind each instruction.  We read and study His instruction manual constantly in order to know exactly how the game works: where dangers and curses lie, where blessing and favor can be found, what pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father and was angers Him and why.  We walk out our faith quite differently than most.  First and foremost, we’re not RELIGIOUS.  We don’t follow empty instructions that man has made up that add to or take away from the word of God.  Instead, we walk in RELATIONSHIP with the one true God, following the instructions He alone gave that have been preserved for us through the Bible.  We engage ourselves in un-ending pursuit of HIS truth and we boldly stand up in support of the truth we have already acquired—even when it’s not comfortable. 

I will never forget the day I returned from Christmas break years ago as a 5th grader.  My teacher went around the classroom asking each child to name something they had received as a Christmas gift.  I watched in sad confusion as my young classmate, Dennis, jumped from his seat and ran out of the room crying.  Our teacher followed him and returned to the classroom shortly after, explaining that Dennis was of a faith that did not celebrate Christmas.  Over the years, Dennis and his struggle with the emotions of having to live in but not of the world, have come to mind many times.  Nobody wants their kid to be the “Dennis” of the class; different than everyone else, ridiculed, misunderstood.  Yet God tells His followers in Isaiah 51:7 not to fear the disapproval of men.  Neither to be afraid or feel distress when they speak to us abusively with scorn or criticism.  We’re either FOR God or we’re AGAINST God.  There’s no riding the fence.  This God-fearing mom is just another “Dennis” married to another “Dennis” and we’re raising four “Dennis” kiddos.  We are NOT of this world and we cannot pretend to be. We tell our kids all the time that we are different than the world-and it’s a GOOD different.  However, in a school setting with a majority of children who are somewhat familiar with the ways of popular religion but who are not actually following through in a relationship with or in obedience to God, this can get a bit messy.  Glory’s teacher has had MANY opportunities to explain to the other children why God wouldn’t want us to allow certain things into our hearts and minds through the television.  He has standards of holiness for our eyes and our ears and it is not okay to watch or listen to whatever we want after we have come into a saving relationship with Him.  Some things may be just fine, but others definitely have to go!  The unacceptable old ways and patterns have to stop in order for us to be transformed into new creations.  If we hold onto all of the old, then we essentially remain unchanged.  That’s a problem!  Likewise, the high school kids have never once considered that you become more holy by spending time with the One who is holy!  They don’t know the word of God or how it applies to them today.  They don’t understand God’s Feasts or His sacrificial system or their roles in years past or in all of mankind’s future.  These differences in the Higgins family continually bring up new “situations” at the school so this Mama Dennis decided that it might really help the teachers out if I wrote them a letter explaining our beliefs and the heart behind the decisions we make as a family.  I sent it to the principal and asked her to read it and pass it on to the girls’ teachers and to my great surprise, she said she did.  I thought I’d share it here on the blog with friends and family for those of you who don’t quite understand who we are or why we do what we do either.  

 The letter is posted below.  It’s a little long, but what it speaks of literally changed our lives forever.  May it spark a curiosity in your heart to forever search out God’s absolute truth and fully embrace it -even if you find that it goes against everything man’s doctrine has taught you to believe.  May the Bible come alive and leap off of the pages into your heart like never before.  

Love and blessings to all,

Julie

Dear teachers,

My three daughters, Alyssa Joy, Grace, and Glory began attending [the school] this year.  We are so grateful for Christian education and are beyond blessed for the opportunity Mrs. K extended to us for our girls to be a part of your wonderful school.  Many of you have already become aware that we’re a bit different than most families of the Christian faith and I understand that this sometimes causes an “awkwardness” in the classroom.  I apologize for that and would like to take a few minutes to write to you all to explain our beliefs and clear up any confusion you may have regarding them.

  First and foremost, we are Bible-believing Christians.  We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  All three of our girls have come to the realization that they are sinners in need of a savior.  They have received forgiveness of their sins, given their lives to the Lord, been baptized, and are walking in a personal relationship with Him.

  In order to have a greater understanding of our Christian heritage, their father, William, and I have studied the Jewish (Hebrew) roots of Christianity since before our girls were born.  Most people don’t even realize that there was a vital connection between Christianity and Judaism that was severed centuries ago, but 2000 years of Jewish history, culture, language, and customs literally form the root of Christianity.  Once that severing took place, Biblical Judaism and Biblical Christianity, which God intended to be one, went their separate ways.  Our family realizes that the Bible is not about “Jewish” or “Christian” things.  Rather, it is about divine, eternal, and universal things-and therefore applies to all people.  However, the ability to understand it correctly requires a deep awareness of and comprehension of the people, nation, and culture through whom God chose to reveal His ways and His word.  While Christians in America view the Bible and all of life through a Western mind and worldview, the Bible was written by Abraham’s descendants, who had a Hebraic culture, language, and worldview.  This western perspective has caused great misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the church for many years-as we have been trying to understand and interpret a Middle-Eastern book through a 21st century western mentality.  The Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, given to mankind in the form of a Jewish book and we Higgins choose to study it that way.

 I know that some of you have been trying to figure us out for a while now.  We are not Jewish by blood and you can rest assured that we do not believe that we are Jews.  J  We simply study the Jewish roots of Christianity to better understand our Savior.  Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem in the land of Israel.  He lived and ministered as an observant Jew, read the Jewish scriptures, spoke Hebrew, wore Jewish clothes, ate only biblically kosher food, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated God’s commanded feasts, followed Jewish customs, and most importantly, He kept every law of God.  Our goal as Christ-followers is to pattern our lives after His, and to become more like Him in character and actions.  Had God chosen a different people group and set them apart to testify of His integrity and to give credence to the absolute authority of His scriptures, we’d be busy learning His ways as expressed through them.  Yet, the Bible reveals that God’s great plan for salvation was originally for the Israelites alone, the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31: 31) and that everyone else was separate from the Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers to His new covenant.  (Ephesians 2:11-12) Yet, in His great love and goodness, He extended an invitation to any who would join themselves to Him and His ways to be “grafted” into the new covenant that He made with His chosen people, Israel.  (Romans 11:11-31) We did not “replace” them, but were “included” into the covenant that God made with them. 

Our family has always kept the Feasts of the Lord, as recorded in the Bible, simply because God commands that they are to be celebrated FOREVER.  That was easy enough for us to understand, as He did not call them the Feasts of the Jews, but of the Lord.  And since we all had chosen to embrace His offer to be “grafted in” to His new covenant and His ways, we just naturally celebrated them.  However, like many, we had always been taught by the Western church that the law (actually translated “instructions”) of God was done away with when Jesus came.  Believing that, we, like most Christians, didn’t really think that much of the Old Testament was relevant for today and never really taught our children to value it either. 

We moved from Texas to Oregon last October to dis-engage from many of the distractions of the world and start a new way of life pursuing the truth of the Bible and spending time that used to be dedicated to television to instead truly seek out the Lord and learn His ways.  It was at this point, when we actually started digging deep into the word of God and not just relying on the tiny snippets of scripture from a church sermon here or there, that we began noticing that much of our “Christian” belief system did not actually line up with the divinely inspired word of God.  That’s a real problem when you genuinely love the Lord and want to follow Him in obedience!  After months of researching the original language of the scriptures as well as just taking time to compare portions of scripture and of actually READING what it says without an agenda and stripping away any “added” teaching or theology passed down by our denomination, we came to realize that there is much more to the Bible than we ever thought possible!  Specifically, the Lord opened our eyes to the fact that His good and perfect law (as defined in Psalm 19:7 and all throughout Psalm 119, as well as throughout the rest of the Bible) is STILL good and perfect and is NOT some sort of “bondage” that our world has twisted it into. 

So many people instantly jump to the conclusion that if you value the law in any way, you must also believe that mankind can obtain salvation by trying to keep the law.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the scriptures confirm this and make it very clear that salvation is a gift from God and CANNOT be earned by keeping the law.  However, scripture (as well as Jesus Christ Himself) also makes it very clear in multiple passages that His coming was not to bring the law to an end, (end as in, “it’s over and done with” kind of end) but rather that He came to live the law out for us as an example to learn from!  His journey as a man on this earth was the fulfillment of the law in the sense that the literal WORD OF GOD (including all of the law/instructions) was now a breathing, walking, talking human who could now teach the people by example in everyday life!  He was the FULFILLMENT, or goal, of the law…not the end of it!  God never finished giving His law at Mt. Sinai.  The people were scared and begged Him to stop so He told them He would send a prophet like unto Moses to them instead.  That was Jesus Christ and He walked God’s law out perfectly before the people day after day.  This is extremely difficult to discern while one is filtering all of scripture with a “lens” of doctrine passed down from the church that says that “We’re not under the law, we’re under a new covenant of grace.”  However, when you read the front of the book, and you realize that grace has been there all along from the very beginning and was not in any way a new concept, and that the new Covenant that God made was DUE TO the people BREAKING His law (not because there was any problem with His already declared perfect law) and that He said this time, rather than the law being just words and teachings passed down from generation to generation that are easily broken and forgotten, He was going to write His law, or instructions, on the hearts of the people and give them the Holy Spirit so that they now would actually be capable of following through with His original instructions, or law.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27) Likewise, there would be no excuses for intentional sin, as the Holy Spirit and their own consciences would now either accuse or defend their actions against the same law found in the old covenant that was now written on their hearts in the form of a new or renewed covenant.  (Romans 2:15) And not only that, He told them that His law is EASY to follow and not beyond anyone’s reach, (Deuteronomy 30:11) unlike the Oral Law that the Pharisees had come up with that built fences (rules) around fences (rules) around fences (rules), practically making it impossible to follow. 

When we began to see all these things, we decided to become a neutral party and go back and read the text of the New Testament with a 100% clear lens as a filter, not leaning either direction.  It was absolutely astounding how differently the text now read.  Not only did we find multiple instances of NEW TESTAMENT believers continuing to follow God’s law or instructions as given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, we also found Jesus himself still following this law that He supposedly came to do away with.  We found Paul, Jesus, and Stephen all being FALSELY accused of NOT keeping the law and strong defenses that they were indeed following it faithfully.  We found Peter making a declaration that Paul was very difficult to understand and a warning that many would twist his writings on the law to actually PROMOTE lawlessness –just as the majority of the churches in our world today do!  And we also found him warning us in advance NOT to fall into those false teachings!  After a careful study of all of Paul’s writings we came to realize that there are actually SEVEN laws that Paul made reference to and our assuming that he is referring to God’s law when actually talking about the law of sin and death makes him out to be a liar and a hypocrite and directly opposed to God’s commands and everything Jesus Christ taught-which we of course know is not true.

  I say all this to explain that our family came into a new awareness of and respect for the law of God.  Our little Higgins world was flipped on end when we realized that all this time we’ve had access to something extremely valuable and have just absolutely been ignoring it!  Suddenly, we had this insatiable appetite to read and understand the books of the Old Testament.  Day after day we began to unsurface new treasures hidden in the books we had always thought didn’t really apply to us.  We began to see that the entire Old Testament-all of the strange customs and very, very specific ways God required things to be done—they all point to Jesus Christ!  The only instructions the people had at the time, (the New Testament not yet penned), they were pictures and shadows and types of things to come so that God’s people would recognize the Messiah when He arrived!  We began to learn the holiness and character of God and that He’s nothing like our current world paints Him out to be- a schizophrenic Deity that originally rewarded strict obedience to His law/instructions with great blessing and favor and severely punished and even cursed any who transgressed it but suddenly and without warning reversed the entire system and everything He ever taught after his son died on the cross and now considers His good and perfect law to be a form of bondage and therefore does not expect anyone to actually follow it.  We found that there is absolutely no Biblical support for this flawed logic.  In fact, God gave us the scriptures and declared that they are ALL profitable for teaching and instruction and reproof, both Old and New! He describes Himself and His ways in extreme detail in His word, so His people will KNOW Him, His ways, and His character and will not fall into such deception! 

We realized the importance of following ALL of the ten commandments-not just nine of them-and we started honoring the Sabbath.  This was very difficult for us at first-especially for me because I am a work-a-holic.  Yet, in just a short period of time we came to experience the tremendous blessing that comes with following this often ignored instruction!  Now we look forward to this special day set aside for rest and time with our Creator with GREAT anticipation!  We understand now that the Sabbath is what actually sets us apart from the rest of the world as His people.  (Exodus 31:13) Yet strangely, many of the same Christians who agree that we should carefully follow the laws of not murdering, stealing, or committing adultery that are printed in the same list just inches from the one that commands us to honor the Sabbath, think we are “extreme” and “legalistic” because we keep the Sabbath on the actual Sabbath.  Yet no one seems to think that it’s “legalistic” of us to not murder their child or sleep with their spouse…why is that?

We learned how the Lord makes it very clear in scripture that He is not to be worshipped in the ways that other gods are worshipped or at the times that other gods are worshipped.  (Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Deuteronomy 18:9-15, Exodus 23:24, Jeremiah 10:2, Deuteronomy 12:1-8, Psalm 78:58) We learned of the appalling and detestable origins of many of our current holidays.  They say ignorance is bliss….No longer being ignorant of these things, we were forced to make a choice.  The ways and traditions of man, or obedience to the true and living God to not participate in these things?  You might have guessed that we chose the latter and here we are with children who have never celebrated Halloween (because that one we’ve always known was tied to pagan practices) but have always celebrated Christmas and Easter and Valentine’s Day.  They now know the truth and want no part of it, but they still have to live in a world full of people that either do not yet know, or do not care.  That part has not been as smooth of a transition as we would have liked.  They are still trying to process everything we have learned this past year for themselves and still have a difficult time putting into words in a way that is not offensive to any of their friends or authority figures these beliefs that make us so different from everyone else. 

Absolutely we value our precious Savior’s birth and we do celebrate Him in our hearts and in our home.  But we can no longer declare that “He knows our hearts” and that “our intentions are good” while throwing our Holy Savior’s birth celebration into a pagan mix that originated from the celebration of other false gods (namely the sun god who has also conveniently stolen His day of worship and moved it to Sun-day.)  That would be like my husband declaring that he has decided that he’ll move the celebration of my special birthday to the same day as one of his ex-girlfriends’ birthdays and telling me not to worry because as his wife I know his heart in the matter and it’s not really about her at all to him.  He just prefers to celebrate me on her day.  It’s not an act of love and devotion, but an insult, and it’s just not something we can continue in as a family truly desiring to please and honor the Lord.  William and I have great Christmas memories with our own children and extended families.  Our past Higgins Christmas celebrations have always directly pointed to the birth of the Messiah (not Santa or materialism or commercialism), yet we’ve come to realize that it’s not about us or how WE FEEL about anything.  It’s instead about how the all-powerful God of this universe feels about it.  So we have let go of following the traditions of men like some other “traditions” found in Mark 7 that made Jesus so angry with the Pharisees.  Our desire is to do life HIS way, despite what our traditions have always been and no matter how near and dear we hold them to our hearts. 

Since starting school, our girls have been asked everything from if we are Jewish, if we are even Christians, to if we are Seventh Day Adventists.  But the simple truth is, we’re just Christ followers who actually do what He commands us to do in the Bible.  We don’t do it to try to earn salvation.  We do it out of love and because God never intended for the grace that Jesus’ death on the cross brought to mankind to be twisted into a license to willfully sin.  Oh, that grace exists when we unintentionally fall short after coming into relationship with God through His son, Jesus, but scripture is beyond clear in Hebrews 10:26-30 that a sacrifice no longer remains for those who go on deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth.

 Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands.  And His disciple, John,  tells us that any who say that they follow Christ but do not obey His commands are liars and the truth is not in them.  I hope after reading this, you will have gained a better understanding of our kiddos and the things you hear them talking about or the things we choose not to participate in.  Our heart is only to be obedient and therefore express love to God in the way that He clearly instructed us to and not in man-inspired ways that we *think* or hope He might find pleasing and acceptable.  Our heart is never to judge, condemn, or disapprove of others or the way they live out their faith.  We are simply in the process of letting go of many things we once genuinely believed to be true (due to our “busy-ness” and lack of studying the scriptures) and we’re replacing them with the actual truth that can be found in God’s word after removing the blinding “scales” of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.  We appreciate your patience and of course your prayers as we continue to seek the Lord wholeheartedly.

 

Blessings from our family to yours,

Julie

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Truth for Christians who would rather be “entertained” than HOLY

September 19, 2016 at 1:55 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

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The past few times that I’ve had a minute or two to scroll through my Facebook feed, I’ve run across multiple posts by friends and acquaintances (who often openly profess Christianity) that share thoughts or activities that absolutely dishonor the Lord. I purposely did not comment directly on any of the posts so as not to single out or embarrass anyone that I truly care for. Instead, I wept. I am ASTOUNDED that somehow the “church” in America has sooooo watered down Christianity and the full gospel of Christ that the very ones who have been set free from slavery to sin…the very ones who are supposed to take on the nature and character of Jesus Christ, the perfect and sinless one…think it is absolutely acceptable to continue inputting (through tv, music, movies, internet and other media, and even relationships) and outputting (through thoughts, speech, and actions) pure SMUT.

My Christian friends, I have a HARD word for you. A word that Satan will try to use to turn you against me. But I love you too much not to speak it. So here goes. A relationship with the One who is Holy is not possible when you continually and habitually indulge in sinful activity. Yes, Jesus came to take away your sins, but that “transaction” requires repentance. And repentance by definition isn’t repentance unless you literally TURN away from those sins and go the opposite direction. You CHANGE. If you continue to welcome sin into your life, there is no turning, no change, no repentance, and therefore no forgiveness. Christianity ISN’T living the sinful life you’ve always lived with a little Jesus sprinkled on top. It is dying to self and the sinful desires of the flesh EVERY SINGLE DECISION of EVERY SINGLE DAY and giving up those things to walk in a right relationship with God. (And if anyone has led you to believe any different, well, you’ve unfortunately been MISLED by a false teacher and you need to read your Bible to find the truth.)

A relationship with Christ is a free gift yet it requires great SACRIFICE. In the world we live in today, with VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS, it will require giving up most of what we consider to be our “entertainment.” If you think you can boast the title of Christian and still choose to watch movies like “BAD MOMS,” (or the endless other titles out there with similar content) you seriously need to re-examine your decision to follow Christ and evaluate whether or not you are actually in an active relationship with Him. God’s presence cannot co-exist with sin. If you’re legitimately in a relationship with Him, He’ll let you know real quick that He is HOLY and no man can approach Holy God while holding onto sin. Sure, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. Further, He did not judge her. (That’s not His job. He doesn’t judge. God does. Jesus came to save.  John 3:17) But He DID instruct her to go and SIN NO MORE. Everybody likes to point out the “no judging” part but nobody wants to discuss the part that says you have to give the sin up. You don’t get to keep holding onto it. It just doesn’t work that way.

Before you launch your argument defending how or why you welcome entertainment that dishonors God into your life, let me remind you of some of the content in the particular film I’ve randomly called out: (and keep in mind that similar content can be found in just about everything rated above PG in theaters today)

*Crude or Profane Language

About 65 f-words, nearly 30 s-words and a bake sale’s worth of doughy profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d–k,” “t-ts” and “p—y.” God’s name is misused about 50 times, including at least once with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused five times.

If the ability to sit through that filth doesn’t make you question whether or not you and God are on the same page regarding His expectations and what is and is not acceptable for a Christian to watch, then this should.

*Sexual Content

An explicit scene involves Amy catching her husband, Mike having an affair with a woman via video chat online. There’s an implication of masturbation, and the camera shows us a completely nude woman (we see her from the front, side and rear) on his computer screen. At first, Amy thinks her husband is “just” looking at pornography, but she soon realizes it’s that the woman is performing for Mike. “This really feels like cheating,” she says.

Amy kicks Mike out of the house and, a day or two later, tells Kiki and Carla that she wants to get “laid.” They go to a bar and Amy flirts (badly) with several men before she runs into a widower she knows from their kids’ school. They kiss and quickly fall into a physical relationship: We see the two begin to have sex on Amy’s kitchen island before the scene moves to a post-coital moment in the bedroom, where they discuss how great it was. There’s also another visual reference (under the covers) to oral sex.

Verbally, this movie is just one long string of sex jokes. We hear graphic references to oral and anal sex, manual stimulation and explicit discussions of men’s anatomy. Carla uses obscene words and gestures to flirt with a bevy of men (including married fathers), passionately kisses a middle-aged grocery clerk and “encourages” other moms to attend a party by threatening to have sex with their husbands if they don’t. She locks lips with another mother there, then encourages other moms to do the same. (She later brags to Amy about how many women she kissed.) Kiki details her and her husband’s sexual habits.

We see Amy in a bra. Someone encourages her to wear a “slutty” dress. There are scads of crude references to the male and female anatomy. Amy, Carla and Kiki watch a man rip off his shirt in a movie. We hear references of lesbian moms and “moms who used to be dads.”

In a movie postscript, the real-life moms of the movie’s actresses talk about motherhood. One admits to taking her child, Christina Applegate (who plays Gwendolyn), to the movie Cruising, a film that involves the gay, S&M underworld of New York City.

**Movie content reviews found at http://www.pluggedin.com/

My Christian friend, I’m not sure exactly what path has led you so far from the ways of the Lord…or what teaching you’ve sat under that never led you to the one true God of the Bible in the first place… but THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR YOU. Though sadly expected from those that are still slaves to sin, IT’S NOT AN OPTION for true followers of Christ. You’ve got to give it up. That’s all there is to it. Nobody gets to ride the fence. Christians share His death (and victory over sin) and we get to share His life in doing so. We don’t get the life without dying first. And here’s a spoiler alert: It’s a continual process. As you begin to approach God, His light illuminates the darkness that is within you. You repent, turn away from that sin, and step closer to Him into brighter light that again usually reveals more hidden sin that separates you from Holy God. The closer you draw to Him, the brighter His light to illuminate even the deepest darkest secret corners of your life. So basically, those of us a little further into this journey aren’t off the hook either. We, too, should constantly be communicating with the Lord about ANY areas of compromise or disobedience in our own lives that do not line up with the word or ways of God. If Jesus wouldn’t think it, say it, do it….then we shouldn’t either.

Colossians 3:1-10

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Friend, I urge you to take a deep look into yourself and your life that is on display to your family, friends, and co-workers. Does your language honor God? Does your thought life make him proud? Could you sit through the movies you watch or surf the internet side by side with Jesus Christ and feel 100% comfortable while doing so? If it doesn’t, of if you can’t, then you have a very real problem that needs immediate attention and this hard message is a gift from God straight to you BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU and PASSIONATELY DESIRES TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

Need help getting right with God? You can start by reading 1 John in the New Testament. It explains exactly how Christianity works. And by all means, feel free to reach out to me or another Christian for help and accountability. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you cannot sin. It means you *CAN* not sin. Your desire for sinful things will decrease as you spend time with and grow closer to the Lord… for one cannot be with the One who is Holy and remain the same.

Again, a hard TRUTH, but one spoken in love.

 

 

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FIRE WARNINGS!

September 11, 2015 at 8:02 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , , , )

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As most of you know, parenting can be crazy-scary at times. We often coast from undesirable incident to undesirable incident just trying to survive. Any “fight” that we had planned to bring to the parenting battle has long fizzled away…replaced with fear, doubt, and often hopelessness.   We all want our kids to turn out good…or at least okay, right? But sometimes it’s just SO. VERY. HARD to fight for them. So we drop our guard and relax a little bit. No big deal, right? Last Sunday night, BJ and I learned the lesson of a lifetime when it comes to warring for our kids….

After church let out, we spent the rest of the day celebrating family birthdays. Despite it being a school night, we let the kids stay up late to enjoy a card game with their Granna and Aunt and Uncle that were visiting from out of town. The game ended around ten o’clock and we began the nighttime routine of getting kids and teeth clean, prepared for school, and prayed over. BJ and I were exceptionally tired and soooooo ready to climb into bed when our 16 year-old son, Josiah, came to us wanting to talk. He had been prayed over by all of our church members earlier that morning and we immediately knew that the prayers and declarations over him had caused some things to begin to break off of him. After a few hours of sharing and counsel, confession and repentance, prayer and “spiritual house cleaning,” BJ stated that he felt that we needed to burn a particular reminder of Josiah’s past. Well, this is nothing out of the ordinary for our family. Any time we sense that something is not of the Lord or that something might be opening doors in our lives spiritually that do not need to be opened, we throw it out in the yard and burn it. So, sometime around 1:30 am, BJ rolled his bar-b-q grill over to the driveway, doused the object with diesel, lit it up, and Josiah spoke strongly to the enemy of God ( Satan). Josiah cried out to the Lord in repentance and prayed for God’s forgiveness. We were absolutely exhausted physically and spiritually, but it was so very worth it to see God delivering our precious son from sin. The fire began to die down after some time and BJ reached for the diesel again. I immediately “nagged” that there was no need to do any more. We had already destroyed the reminder of past sin and we needed to go to bed. (BJ gets up very early for work and I was very concerned about how late it was.) BJ responded, “It’s just DIESEL Julie. It’s fine.” (I had already been worried and uncomfortable about him using a fire accelerant-AS I ALWAYS AM- and he had already assured me many times that it was “JUST DIESEL.”) My face was turned away from the grill but I instantly knew that something had gone very wrong. I could hear a roar and I could feel that the flames and heat were much different than the first time he put the diesel on the fire. I turned my head to see that not only was the grill on fire, but also the stream of fuel pouring out of the can, and also the can in BJ’s hand. Confused, BJ cried out, “That shouldn’t have happened!” and he threw the burning can a short distance away. He then got a water hose and began to run it over the fiery areas on the ground closest to me and Josiah and then headed over to put out the flames on the actual can. The flames obliged, and we all started to breathe again! I immediately went in to “mom mode” and started lecturing Josiah (and BJ, too!) on fire safety. I think it was then that Josiah looked down and realized that there were TWO gas cans. Our normal gas can with gasoline in it had been sitting in its usual spot near the garage door. We were not even aware it was nearby due to it being pitch dark outside. BJ had brought the gas can with diesel in it from his storage building when he started the fire. Apparently, he unknowingly sat it down near the other one. In the darkness he grabbed the wrong can the second time. It finally made sense to him why the fire responded the way it did when he poured the fuel the second time and he told Josiah it was like a literal bomb that should have gone off on all of us. At that point, I still don’t think any of us were aware of how deadly that flaming gas can could have been.  We thanked the Lord, came in and prayed over the girls, and went to bed.

It wasn’t until I googled gas can explosions the next day that I began to realize the miracle God did for us Sunday night. I’m including the following link to a youtube video that shows what I’m talking about. As you watch it, remember that BJ poured gasoline on OPEN flames, threw the can, went and turned on a water hose, put out a few grass fires, and then stood and put out the fire on the flaming gas can.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS8gueTBags

We have prayed protection over ourselves, our family, friends, and countless others my entire life. And I KNOW that God answers those prayers. However, I have NEVER experienced the reality of God’s palpable hand of protection over us like I did Sunday night. It was as if He literally lowered His hand from the heavens and shielded the three of us. As I see the tragic damage to the man in the video’s body and the immense amount of pain he had to go through when his gas can exploded with NO FLAMES present, I stand in utter amazement that NOT A HAIR was singed on my BJ’s body. (He was convinced that at least his eyebrows were missing but they were all there! )

But it doesn’t end there! I went out to look at the gas can in the daylight the next day. The tip of the pouring spot that had been in flames the night before was stuffed full of earth as if dirt jammed up in it when it hit the ground in flames. The barrier of the earth between the open flames on and surrounding the can and the actual gasoline IN the can is what kept the can from exploding like a bomb next to us and two of our vehicles. The can itself appears to be untouched. No melting. No soot. No nothing. But if you look closely at the clod of dirt in the tip of the spout you will see that the flames did not even engulf the straw -like grass attached to the dirt. Yet, the very tips of the grass have the slightest bit of singe on them. Try and explain that! I SAW the fire THERE with my own eyes! The can was ablaze long before it made contact with earth to plug the spout and even then it lay on the ground in flames before BJ put the fire out. But even the grass in the blaze was singed only at its ends?!?! I cannot even find words to express how acutely aware God is of our circumstances and how intimately He is involved in our lives and how incredible undeniably perfect His timing is in all things! Even when we don’t have a clue what we’re up against, He is working behind the scenes for those that love Him and obey His commands and choose righteousness.

Satan tries to lure each and every one of us down to the fiery pits of hell by making sin enticing. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy anyone and everyone he can. But we exposed his wicked plan for Josiah Sunday and God called Josiah out of that darkness and into the light. And it infuriated the enemy. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was throwing a big fiery fit on my driveway when he heard God’s wayward child call out to Him in the darkness, turn away from his sin, and choose to be reconciled to God. Satan sent a message to us loud and clear that night. Perhaps he intended to literally destroy our bodies in the flames since he’s not getting our souls. Maybe he simply planned to terrorize us in hopes that we’d give up in fear that the battle against him is too hard and too scary. Either way, the God of the Universe cared enough to show up and speak an even clearer, louder message:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43:2

So what can we learn from all of this? Everything that plays out here on earth in the physical realm is a direct manifestation of what is happening in the unseen spiritual realm. Just as real as the physical destruction awaiting our family Sunday night is spiritual destruction waiting for each and every one of us at every decision before us. Though you may not realize it, a battle is being fought for YOUR soul right now. The Bible makes it very clear which side wins in the end. Which side will you align yourself with? Which side will you help your children align with?

A warning to those of you who have already chosen the winning side and are walking in a relationship with God through acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior: the loser can’t take you to hell but he can certainly make life on earth hell for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

Friends, parents, it is CRUCIAL that we realize that this battle is REAL! The enemy is out to destroy us and he’s out to take our kiddos down, too. Now, more than ever, we MUST press in and spend time in the word of God to strengthen ourselves against the enemy. He is targeting our families! We must spend time in prayer warring for our spouses and our children who are forced to live in a confusing world that calls right wrong and wrong right. We must teach our children the ways of God so that the only fire they’ll ever pass through is God’s refining fire.

A warning to those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet: By being “undecided,” you automatically default to the losing side. Time is so, so short. Don’t put your eternity off. The Bible makes it clear that like a thief in the night a time will come when all of eternity is “set.” The righteous will forever remain righteous and the unrighteous forever unrighteous. No one will be able to switch sides.

If you want to be on the winning side but don’t know how, it’s really not that complicated. It all boils down to this.

Each and every one of us FALL SHORT of God’s holy standard.  Our shortcomings, or sins, separate us from God.  Romans 3:10-12, and 23

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

The price (or consequence) of our sin is death.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and bridge our separation from God.

Romans 5:8

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We receive salvation and everlasting life through our faith in Jesus.  A literal heart change and a turning away from our sins is the ONLY way to escape what we truly deserve (eternal damnation separated from God)

Romans 10:9-10, 13

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved …  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Turning from sin and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness brings us into a relationship of peace with God.  When we do this, we not only gain everlasting life with God after our physical death here on earth, but we also gain all of the “right now” earthly benefits He promises to those who are in covenant with Him.  The key is not religion but a RELATIONSHIP with the Creator.  It’s taking one day at a time, SPENDING TIME with the One who is holy, and becoming more pure, ourselves, in that process. 

Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 8:1

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Admit that you are a sinner.
  • Understand that as a sinner, you deserve death.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you from your sin and from death.
  • Repent by turning from your old life as a slave to sin to a new life submitted to God.
  • Receive, through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s free gift of salvation.
  • Spend time reading the Bible and building a relationship with God.  Find a Bible believing church to get involved with so you can grow as a Christian.

To close, I’d like to share a portion of a letter I wrote to our church family, The Remnant Church. I’m including it to share what “the church” is truly meant to be. It’s not  “THE social place to be” or an obligation we must fulfil. It’s not a place of judgement to look down on others. It’s a group of believers that gather together not only to praise and worship God, learn His ways, and hear a relevant, timely message from Him, but also a place to lift and build each other up. It’s supposed to be a safe place. A place where everyone works together and uses the spiritual gifts God has given them to help those who are struggling. If you don’t have a church home that you can say this about, please know that you are always welcome at Remnant!

Remnant family,

BJ and I would like to express our extreme heartfelt gratitude for the prayers lifted up and agreement you gave for Josiah Sunday morning. We often take our Remnant “family” for granted but Sunday showed us just how invaluable being plugged in to the whole body of Christ truly is. Jim and Gay, thank you for loving our family unconditionally and always making yourself available for wise counsel. Shane, thank you so much for your sensitivity to the holy spirit’s leading. The prayer time that you initiated on Josiah’s behalf was no doubt God’s divine intervention in his life. It was truly life-changing. Mom, thank you for your humility and your deep desire to see Josiah set free. Donna, thank you for being a safe place for Josiah and for earning his trust. Cari, thank you for capturing a special moment in life for me as you know there is nothing I treasure more than being able to look back in time and remember. Remnant, the prayers you prayed that morning probably seemed pretty “normal” (or normal according to Remnant standards!) but know that God moved MIGHTILY at your request. You truly ARE his beloved and HAVE HIS EAR.

Julie's phone 112

Remnant Church praying over Josiah Sunday morning

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repenting and calling out to the Lord for forgiveness

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so happy to finally give it up to God

(This photo was actually taken before the mixup with the gas cans.

After the fact, we see that the camera’s flash actually captured the two cans side by side.)

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flames not yet put out

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earth lodged in the pouring spout

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only singed on the ends????

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The t-shirt that Josiah happened to be wearing that night proved to be very fitting!

 

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Leakin’ Life

September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

It’s amazing how God will use everyday things to teach us if we’re willing to listen. 

Back in April, on a whim, my husband and I decided to create a little rose garden. While I’m not exactly the romantic type and I’d prefer a practical gift to a bouquet of cut flowers any day, I’ve loved the intoxicating scent of the Don Juan rose since I was a little girl.  After much research, I carefully chose nine rose plants worthy to take up space in my small slice of paradise.  Though I’d already been advised to stick with cacti due to my bad history with plants, I was determined to make my little rose garden flourish.  May and June passed without a hitch as I carefully pruned and watered my new babies.  When July arrived with her triple digit temps, I ran into trouble.  I watered, but my precious plants continued to wilt.  So, I called on my brother and trusted horticulture expert for a little advice.  “You’re not watering them enough and you’re not watering them the right way.”

 Turns out, roses thrive when they receive a l-o-n-g deep drink.  Frequent sips don’t quite do the job. 

Well, I tried out the deep soak idea for a few weeks and my plants did perk up.  But my soaks became few and far in between because I simply did not have the time to stand out there all day with the hose!  I tried leaving a hose to work alone at the task only to return and find that it had somehow gone wild.  The water that I had intended to give life to my precious rose plants had actually done the opposite!  The overspray scorched every leaf it landed on! 

Just when I was about ready to give up on my project, I was introduced to the greatest invention on the planet:  the soaker hose!  A hose that’s created to leak water in the right places at the right time without any assistance!  What a perfect solution!  I excitedly unwound my new treasure, carefully surrounded each wounded plant with it, turned the water on full blast, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I left, picked up my kids from school, returned home, and waited.  We did homework, baths, and dinner, and waited.  Hours had passed but the mulch barely looked damp!  “This method’s not getting me anywhere.”  I thought.  Though I was frustrated that I could not see a visible change in the flower bed, I continued to utilize the soaker hose- as it was my last resort.

This morning as I went out to gaze at my beautiful, well nourished, and healthy roses, (a delayed but direct result of the soaker hose I had no faith in) the Lord clearly spoke, “Your life should resemble that soaker hose.  My holy spirit should literally leak out of you all day long.  When people come into contact with you whether it be in person, or over the phone, or even through words on the internet, they should leave ‘damp’ because of your kindness.  Your hope and joy should ‘trickle’ deep down into their roots and nourish them.  Your love should ‘creep’ up on them when they’re least expecting it and your peace should ‘penetrate’ their spirits.  You have the source of life in you but you’re not watering often or deep enough.  Words are not enough.  Your actions must also speak of Me.”

“But Lord, if I’m going to leak life I don’t want to just drizzle.  I want to spray at full blast!  I don’t want to wait forever to give people the source of life.  I want to dump everything that I have on them now.”

“Different plants require different watering techniques.  Some flourish at full blast and others require gradual saturation.  Those that are already wounded can easily be burned if you spray them directly.  However, if the resources that they need are readily available nearby, they will pursue them when the time is right.  Remember that no one comes to Me unless I draw them near.  Your job is simply to be filled daily with My spirit and to be prepared to ‘leak’ Me onto anyone that crosses your path.  Your actions (ALL of them) should point others to Me.  Show patience to the hurried driver on the road.  Walk in integrity as you make your purchases.  Be gentle with your employees.  Have self-control when dealing with your children.  Pray blessings over the teen walking to school.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t see a  ‘visible change’ right away.  No one can come into contact with Me and not be changed.  If I am in you, and you come into contact with them, they will be changed in some way or another.   Wait patiently on that growth.  It will come.”

I don’t know about you but my desire  is to become so filled with the presence of God that wherever I go and whatever I do, my actions will naturally ‘leak’ His goodness all over the place! 

 What are your thoughts on leakin’ life into others?

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If You Don’t Know Me By Now…

July 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

 

 Ironically, I actually wrote these words for those who DO know me.  Those who have walked through each and every up and down of my life for the past ten years.  Those who are willing to drop everything to help, pray, encourage, love, or listen.  Today I offer a little glimpse into my home away from home where everybody is truly family, Remnant Church.  So, for those of you who have always wondered but haven’t mustered up the nerve to ask, this is what I (as a part of Remnant) am all about!

When friends and acquaintances hear that we’re part of Remnant, the “Hebrew Roots” church in town, they never hesitate to ask in a half whisper, “Remnant Church…Are you Jewish?”

I can’t help but to grin in response. No, We’re not Jews. We just have a true understanding of our Christian heritage. God in His sovereignty chose the Jewish people as His own. He set them apart from all other people groups-that they might testify of His integrity and give credence to the absolute authenticity of His holy scriptures. While His redeeming plan of salvation from sin was originally intended for the Jews alone, the Bible makes it very clear in Romans 11 that we, the non-Jewish believers, were “grafted” into the work that God is doing in and through the Jewish people. We did not replace them, but were graciously included into the covenant God made with them. That’s REALLY good news for us!

Because most Christians today aren’t even aware that a vital connection once existed between Christianity and Judaism, our friends are usually shocked to learn that 2000 years of Jewish history, culture, language, and customs literally form the root of what they know today to be Christianity!

At Remnant, we study the Jewish roots of Christianity to understand our Savior. Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem in the land of Israel. He lived life and ministered to others as an observant Jew. He read the Jewish scriptures, spoke Hebrew, wore Jewish clothes, ate only biblically kosher food, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated the Jewish feasts, followed Jewish customs, and kept every single law of God. Whew!

Our goal at Remnant is not to “act Jewish” but to pattern our lives after Jesus and to become more like Him and those in the Bible that faithfully aligned themselves with His commandments and character. Over the years, we’ve found that the more our lives line up with the Bible, the more “Jewish” we appear!

Many are curious to know, “What’s the vision. What’s Remnant all about then?”

Well, like Barnabus, Remnant sets out to encourage others, building them up to reach their full potential and God’s purpose for their life.

We’re Caleb. People of faith in a GREAT God. And like the woman with the issue of blood and the centurion whose great faith Jesus marveled at, our confidence rests not in our own abilities but in our understanding of just who God is and what He is capable of.

We are Lazarus, once dead and decaying from sin -raised to walk a new life with Christ here on earth. And like His sister Martha, we are learning that “busyness” of every sort, even serving others and doing “good things,” can become a barrier to knowing Jesus personally and intimately.

Remnant Church is David expressing His praise and worship unrestrained and unashamed before the Lord.

We are Jeremiah, Samuel, and Josiah-our youth equipped and trained to hear from and follow the Lord at any cost.

We are the Hebrew people, meeting up with God in the feasts for scheduled one on one appointments with Him.

Like Mary Magdalene we’ve been miraculously freed from the powers of darkness.

Remnant is Noah, committed to a lifetime of faithful obedience to God, doing our best to live a righteous life in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Our reverential fear of God is greater than our fear of man and anything he may think about or do to us.

We are John the Baptist, continuously pointing others to the Messiah.

Like Joseph and Daniel, we believe that God speaks through dreams and visions and often reveals Himself and His plans during the night watch.

We’re the hands of Jesus reaching out to the broken, the unaccepted, the unlovely.

Remnant Church is Elijah-finding God NOT in the midst of the windstorm, earthquake, or fire but instead in a gentle whisper.

We are Peter experiencing the Lord’s provision in nets that are overflowing when necessities are scarce.

We’re Solomon seeking Godly wisdom above all else.

We are the disciples, learning to live naturally supernatural lives. We choose to be empty vessels for God to use as He pleases. In doing so, we are privileged to utilize the very same power and authority that raised Jesus from the dead to release healing and miracles to those in need.

We’re the New Testament church meeting together in our homes, breaking bread, celebrating Bible prophecies that have already come to pass and anticipating the fulfillment of those that are soon to come.

Like Mary, we desire to lavish our love on the Savior. And like Mephibosheth, we can bask in the Father’s love- knowing that we are in a forever binding blood covenant relationship with Him.

Remnant Church is Esther raised up at a specific time in history for the specific purpose of advancing God’s kingdom here on earth.

Because Almighty God specifically chose Israel to express Himself to the world, we choose to love, support, encourage, pray for, respect, and speak the truth about the Jewish people. Our desire is to be among those who bridge the gap between Christian and Jew and to live our lives in such a way that others hunger to know the God that we serve.

That’s what Remnant’s all about!

http://www.remnantchurchonline.org/

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“Why Do People Yawn?” and Other Really Important Questions

April 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

At some point in time, most of you have engaged in conversation or activity with my husband, BJ. You’re familiar with him, his charming personality, and his seemingly never-ending perfectly timed wisecracks. But, I bet you don’t know that he won’t leave for work a single morning without kissing each of our four children in their sleep. He hides chocolate all over our house to have on hand for me when I’m close to a stress meltdown. It would not be unusual to find him with me in a dark coop or closet candling chicken eggs, fascinated (or at least pretending to be) by the glowing wiggly silhouettes of pre-born baby chicks that look just like the ones from the week before. Oh and he actually likes our little dog and can on occasion be caught petting her. You know the one that he acts like he doesn’t like? You’d never guess it, but he’s actually a little OCD about certain things. He falls asleep almost every single night in his chair. (just like his dad did when we were dating) And here’s a shocker -he lets our three girls comb, style, and decorate his hair to their heart’s content and when he’s in a good mood, they might even get to paint his toenails!

You see, there’s knowing somebody and then there’s knowing somebody. There’s an “our paths cross on occasion” knowing and a “we’ve spent years getting to know each other” knowing. We can be familiar with someone, even know a whole lot about them, and not truly know the deep down nitty gritty.

One of my duties as a parent is to pass on what I know to my children. My days are filled with, “What is this? What is that? What are diseases? What’s a rainbow made of? Why do people yawn? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? Do boys have one less rib than girls? Where is Heaven?” …

Perhaps the most challenging of all questions that my kids await the answer to is “Who exactly is God?”

 I’ve spent most of my term as a mother spouting off the obvious. “Well, He’s God! He’s good. He loves you. He made you. He’s the boss, that’s for sure.”

 “But who is He? What does He like? What does He hate? What can He do? What has He done in the past? What is He going to do in the future? What does He think about this? What does He think about that? How does He communicate with us? What does He expect from us?” The questions go on and on.

In the past, I’ve attempted to call out a handful of names that I’ve heard somewhere along the road in church. But recently, I’ve come to the point in life where I can just admit, “You know, I really don’t know exactly who He is.  I don’t know what all He’s done.  And I’m not sure what He’d think about that.”

 Like many others, I’ve grown up knowing that God is great and awesome and mighty, yet I haven’t been able to conceptualize exactly who He is. I know what I’ve heard. I know a little from what I’ve read. But I don’t know the deep down nitty gritty because our paths only cross on occasion. I haven’t ever really taken the time to actually get to know Him.

Because I can’t pass on knowledge that I don’t have, I set out to find those answers for myself and for my kids. For me, that journey began with two books put out by Streams Ministries entitled, “I AM: Inheriting the Fullness of God’s Names” and “I AM: 365 Names of God.”  One is a compilation of many of the names of God given in the Bible and the other examines the names, their purpose, and how they apply to our lives.

Why start with the names of God? Well, each name of God found in scripture tells us a little bit about Him. Each name unveils a facet of God’s character and His relationship with us. Each reveals His glory and His reputation. Each name is an answer to one of those questions that each of our hearts cry out. God shared His names with us in the Bible for a specific purpose –so that we can relate to Him, love Him, and truly know Him.

 The kids and I now try to spend a few moments each day reflecting on one of the names of God. Using the books mentioned above as a guide, we talk about the name, find it in the Bible, and ask God to give us a mental picture related to the particular name, character trait, or glorious act we’re studying. The kids keep journals of the revelation that God gives them as He unveils the mystery of who He truly is -the nitty gritty- one detail at a time.

 Seeing who God is through the eyes of my children brings so much joy to my heart that I thought I’d share their drawings every now and then to encourage you!

Won’t you join us on a quest to know Him?

 

Click on the photos to enlarge them. 

Alyssa Joy’s interpretation of  “I am the giver of all revelation” 

I just love the little “wavelengths” of revelation that go from God’s mouth to the person’s ear!  Alyssa Joy is alot like me and her artwork always makes me smile!

 

Josiah’s interpretation of  “I am omniscient” (all-knowing)

The boy chooses to lie, but God knows the truth!  Josiah’s art is often simple but always has a message!

Glory’s interpretation of “I am the Lord, and My voice is powerful and full of majesty”

Though she’s only four, Glory loves to draw the pictures God gives her.  We are always amazed at how different each of her journal entries looks!

Grace’s interpretation of “I am the Door”

Grace has a passion for art!  I love her boldness and the intensity of her art.

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In Daddy’s Arms

March 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , )

 Every weekday morning when the clock strikes eight my four kids and I meet up in the living room, crank up some praise and worship music, grab a tambourine, streamer, or flag, sing at the top of our lungs, and dance our hearts out before the Lord.  It’s true.  My continuously pulled calf muscles can testify to it! 

 You see, I realized awhile back that beginning the day praising the Creator changes EVERYTHING.  Energy and patience levels rise.  Bad attitudes vanish.  Bickering stops (for a little while at least!) and tired grumpy frowning kids are quickly replaced with energetic happy smiling ones.  These few moments that we set aside for the Lord each morning are without a doubt the best of the day. 

While the kids absolutely love to see their no-nonsense rhythmically challenged mother (who couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it) bust out with the goofy moves, they find no greater joy than “crazy dancing” with their Dad.  Because he usually leaves the house before they wake, these special times are very limited and therefore treasured.

It was on one of these rare occasions that the Lord decided to show up and vividly paint a picture for me – that I might see my relationship with Him through a new perspective.  My husband was dancing wildly, our youngest daughter in his arms laughing hysterically as her Daddy whirled her around and around.  I grinned and thanked the Lord in my thoughts for blessing me with such an amazing man!  My eyes soon came to rest on our other daughter who was also watching my husband dance.  Though she said nothing, her eyes spoke volumes.  Gleaming with anticipation, they cried out, “Hold ME!  Dance with ME Daddy!” 

 “Uh-oh” I thought.  “Surely he won’t pick her up!  He can’t!  She’s heavy.  He can’t risk hurting his back again…”

My thoughts were interrupted as he gently put our little one down and held out his arms wide.  Our older daughter ran to him and he lifted her into the air.  The sight was overwhelming and tears immediately flooded my eyes.  How silly it looked for him to be holding such an old child.  She grasped his neck tightly, her long legs dangling down below his knees.  As she passionately held onto him, peace washed over her.  Something happened to her in that embrace that I can only describe as inner healing.  My child who had always struggled with receiving love was basking in her father’s love right before my eyes!

He went on to pick up and swirl our oldest daughter around the room, her giggles echoing throughout the entire house.  Pure joy literally radiated from her face.  Though he could have stopped with her as most fathers would have, he didn’t.  He turned to our eleven-year-old son and held out his arms.

“He’ll never do it.”  I thought.  “He thinks he’s much too ‘mature’ for that.  After all, in his own eyes, he’s practically a teenager already!”

To my amazement, without hesitation, my boy reached out, embraced his dad, and allowed him to hold him close -something he had grown out of years ago.  Much taller and much heavier than his sisters, he awkwardly clung to his father.  But it didn’t matter in that moment how silly he looked and it didn’t even matter who saw because he was in the safest place in the world-wrapped tightly in his father’s arms.  It was just the two of them and that was all that truly mattered. 

It was then that the Lord spoke to my heart.  “So you’re a grown up now.  So what. You’re still MY child.  You’ll never outgrow my embrace and you’ll never be too big to climb up into your Daddy’s lap.  It doesn’t matter how ridiculous you may think you look and it certainly doesn’t matter what others think.”

Had my daughters rejected their father that day, they would have missed out on his unconditional love.  Had they worried about how their actions may have looked to those around them, they would not have experienced peace or joy.  Had my son cared about what others thought, he would not have known the security and refuge of his father. 

As for me, I choose to learn from my children.  I’d rather cling tightly to my Savior, feet dragging the ground for all to gawk at, than miss out on a single thing He has to offer me.

What about you?  When’s the last time you accepted the Father’s embrace? 

 Do you push Him away or run into His arms?

 

 

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WARNING: ‘Serious Killer’ on the Loose!

January 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

 

I’ve always thought that if I could change one thing about myself, I’d loosen up a little!  You know, not stress out over every single little detail of life!   Chill out!  Relax!  Enjoy the ride!

I’m not even sure how I came to be so uptight.  I’ve just always been this way.  Rarely spontaneous.  Never silly.  And absolutely under no circumstances willing to purposely act stupid.  I’ve spent the past twenty years of life being serious with a capital S.

Which means…I’ve missed out on a whole lot of fun!

I’ve finally come to realize that the ‘s’ word has damaged more than just my social life.  My spiritual life -my walk with the Lord- has suffered over the years as well.  Oh, I’ve done a halfway decent job at the serious parts-talking to the Lord in prayer and reading His word.  (Because they can be done in private and don’t require me to leave my comfort zone.)  It’s actually the worship part that I, along with the rest of the non-smiling serious types, have a problem with.   It’s the passionate effort, the reckless abandon, the Psalm 20:5, Psalm 95:6, Psalm 138:1, Psalm 149:3, Psalm 150:4, 1 Chronicles 13:8 and all the other scriptures instructing us to worship beyond half heartedly singing along.

In 2 Samuel 6 we find David dancing unashamedly-leaping and whirling before the Lord.  While his on-looking wife, Michal, despises his dramatic expression of adoration to the Creator, David passionately proclaims,

“And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight.”

I imagine that Michal must have considered herself to be a pretty serious individual.   Too self-respecting to leap or whirl.  Too dignified to dance wildly before the Lord.  And definitely too concerned about what others might think to actually abandon herself in genuine worship.  (Sounds like somebody I know all too well!)

Though Michal perceived David’s worship to be irreverent foolishness, God was PLEASED.  And He was so DIS-pleased with Michal’s disdain that He forever cursed her womb!  For, as 1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”

Well, I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but I am bright enough to realize that I generally gravitate more towards Michal’s mindset than David’s.  And I think it’s pretty safe to say that that is NOT a good thing.  So, last year I began to ask the Lord to free me from my comfortable, predictable ways so that I can genuinely worship Him in spirit and truth according to the directives set forth in scripture.  I can’t say that it has been an easy process.  Even surrounded by the spirit-led Davidic worship offered up to the Lord at Remnant Church, I’ve had great difficulty letting go of the fear of man.

It was only when I brought worship into my home as a routine part of my day that I began to overcome my fear of looking foolish in man’s eyes.  After all, it’s much easier to put all your inhibitions aside when the lights are out and no one’s looking!  Whirling about is actually quite fun when there’s no one standing nearby to criticize.  And to my surprise, words that the mind’s not even capable of composing can be spoken through the spirit while waving a banner before the Lord.  I’ve come to find that there is no greater “high” than expressing my love for God with ALL of my strength in any manner He lays upon my heart.

While God has not yet brought this new work in me to completion, I can honestly say that I yearn to worship Him with my entire person -my body, my emotions, my mind, and my spirit- as David did.  And now that I’ve had a taste of the real thing, attempting to praise or worship the Lord without giving my absolute all just doesn’t quite cut it anymore.  It’s not enough for Him, and it’s not enough for me.  I admit that I still hold back at church, but one day I hope to bust my shackles wide open!!

Until then, I thought I’d leave you with a little warning.  Beware!  There’s a ‘Serious Killer’ on the loose!  One that can’t be restrained in chains or held by bars.  So you might as well not run.

Check out this awesome song at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6kSRKZ60q4

 

The song of my heart:

Undignified by Darrell Evans

Teach me to have a child-like heart
Free me to be undignified
Teach me to have a child-like heart
Free me to dance all over my pride

Gonna dance like a child
Sing like the Son
Abandon myself to the Holy One

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Trash or Treasure?

January 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

 

Since we discussed perception in my last post, (It’s been so long, you may have to go back and re-read it!) I thought it fitting to share the following encounter with someone who forever changed the way I view my seven-year-old daughter, Grace.

For those of you who do not know, Grace is an artist.  Hidden or not, if there’s a blank paper plate, paper towel, or piece of paper in our home, she’ll find it.  She loves markers and glue, paints, and glitter –and any other MESSY thing that she can get her busy little hands on.  She creates and creates and creates to her heart’s content, leaving her “mark” on everything she touches.  That new perfectly cute purse she got for her birthday, now unrecognizable, lies deep below icky layers of lace and beads, rhinestones, and glue.  And that adorable new Bible she got for Easter has been forever “upgraded” with a fresh pen outlining. 

Give a “creative” child like this to a perfection-seeking clean freak mother…and you’ve got problems!  I can’t deny that my heart rate elevates every single morning when I walk into her room and see the permanent blue stains on my beautiful mocha carpet.  I cringe every time I walk past the bathroom door and see the streak of red fingernail polish that taunts me, “I’m still here and there’s nothing you can do about it!”  But perhaps the thing that has always gotten to me the most is the…trash.  Yep, I’m afraid you heard me right, the T-R-A-S-H.  My child loves trash!  There, I said it!  She even brings home other kids’ trash in her lunchbox!  Pringles containers, juice box straws, candy wrappers!  She views each individual piece of junk as sacred…a treasure….the perfect addition to her latest work of art.  From ski slopes made of plastic shoe inserts to bug houses made from slim jim cans to toilet paper roll binoculars, this child takes great pride in…well, trash!  Now, you have to understand that my personal motto is, “When in doubt, throw it out!”  If there is not a specific place for something in our house, then to the curb it goes!  So, you can only imagine the conflict this oxymoronic  “trash art” has created between the two of us.

Well, I learned to choose my battles over the years.  I’d let her “do her thing” and then secretly sneak her precious “creations” into the trash when she was in bed.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve actually been caught a time, or two, or three or four!  “MOMM-A!”  She’d wail.   Her tearful eyes full of angry betrayal, she’d dramatically scold me,  “How COULD you throw this away?”  After carefully removing soggy noodles and smoothing leftover spaghetti sauce off of her masterpiece, she’d march back to her room and slam the door.

Though I never meant to really hurt her, I thought her little projects were worthless junk.  While I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time, SHE knew that Mom did not value her abilities.

As only He can do, God used a completely unrelated set of circumstances to bring someone new into my life.  Through an email to Streams Ministries, I began to develop a relationship with a wonderful, encouraging, godly woman who I knew only as “Kari.”  Soon, when we went to The Art of Hearing God training by John Paul Jackson, BJ and I had the opportunity to meet this “email stranger” that I had already grown to love.  As we spent time together sharing, I felt a connection with her like never before.  Perhaps it’s because the love of God literally oozes right out of her.  Perhaps because there is not a judgmental bone in her body.  Whatever the reason, I was profoundly impressed with her- -her attitude, her character, her heart.  I genuinely valued and respected her as a person.  During a ten minute break from our class I overheard a gentlemen asking her about her art.  My heart quickened!  She’s an artist!  Instantly, I was filled with an overwhelming desire for her to teach my Grace how “real art”  is to be done.  We had been searching for someone willing to teach Grace for quite a while.  I was so excited about the possibility that I had practically sold our house and packed us up to move to the Dallas area in my mind.  After class ended that night, I went to her and asked about her art.  I shared with her about how creative Grace is but also expressed my embarrassment of her “trash art.”  I’ll never forget her words.  She leaned over to her husband and called out in her amazing New York accent, “She cawlls her dawghter a trash awtist!  Who does that remind you of?”  She began to share how she, too, is a trash artist!  We laughed as she shared about collecting old windows and various items from the curb, how it sometimes embarrasses her husband when she’s searching for trash, and how much joy she finds in taking things that others view to be worthless and creating something lovely from them.  As we toured the offices and she pointed out her art, each piece so meticulously and joyfully crafted, I was absolutely overwhelmed.  This amazing person-this amazing artist-with such love and passion for her work and for her Maker- was a grown up version of  my “Grace.”  I cried and cried that night at the realization of how I had not valued anything about my precious daughter’s gifting.  Sure, I loved her with my whole heart.  But I did not see value in who she is and what she loves.  I did not recognize the joy that transforming trash into treasure brings her. 

When we returned home, my sweet friend Kari sent me the following message regarding Grace’s spiritual gift:

” Not only creatively, but in the natural, it is the ability to see those broken and in need ( those that have been left on the side of life’s road) and pour into them and bring healing and show them the true value they are.  This is a gift I believe Grace may possess.”

Again, my heart broke.  I wept as the spiritual truth washed over me.  God made this child this way for a reason.  She’s not like me and that’s a GOOD thing!  She was never meant to be like me!  God has an incredible plan for her.  She will change lives, perhaps even more than those of us who are not willing to look past the dirty, the broken, and the unlovely.  Her creations are beautiful, valuable expressions of who she is inside and of who God made her to be to others.  From now on, I will treasure every single one of them.

Today as we start this new year, I urge you to take a few moments to view those God has put in your life differently.  Your child is not a brat.  Your spouse is not a mistake.  God put specific people into your life to mold and sharpen and perfect you!  It may take some work, but I promise you, it’ll be life changing.  Give up your old mindsets and see others with “God vision.”   And remember, just because someone is not your idea of perfect doesn’t mean they’re worthless.  Take time to find the valuable treasure in the midst of the trash!

Thank you so much Kari for letting God use you so powerfully in my life. 

You are precious and I love you!

 

                                                                       

 

 

 

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Un-doing the Damage

December 9, 2010 at 8:22 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

Since it’s just us here, I’m going to get right down to the dirty truth.  I struggle daily with an awful disease.  A disease that eats away at my mind and attempts to rob me of all things good.  The disease of perfectionism, the enemy of peace, enslaves all who entertain it.  And hard as I try not to, I definitely entertain it!

I often tease my parents, blaming the two of them for my perfectionistic tendencies.  You see, my brothers and I are actually the offspring of  “Superman” and “Wonder Woman.”  Both of my parents are amazing individuals, unbelievably hard-working over-achievers who never, ever quit.  They do things right.  No shortcuts.  No exceptions.  You can always count on them because they always, ALWAYS come through.  Wonder Woman never sleeps and Superman never complains.  I grew up in that atmosphere, so I’ve never known anything different.  When you have super parents, you can’t help but to want to be super.   And when you have your own kids, you naturally want them to be super, too!   

Well, it didn’t take me too long to realize that my kids weren’t the slightest bit super.  They didn’t even come close to meeting my “super” standard.  At first, I overlooked their flaws and encouraged them to strive for better.  (Like a normal parent) But when the days of falling short turned into months and then years, I couldn’t help but to focus on their shortcomings.   Each time they didn’t rise to meet my standard, I valued them a little less.  I certainly didn’t realize that I was doing it at the time, but I was.  Consequently, they valued themselves a little less each time as well.  And unlike their perfectionist of a mother, they quit trying to meet the standard altogether.  I pushed harder.  They resisted.  The cycle continued until I ended up with a couple of broken kids-my personal view of them expressed through my own mouth causing all the damage!

Most of you know that God has been using the teachings of His servant, John Paul Jackson, to totally transform me from the inside out.  Back in July of this year, my husband, BJ, and I had the opportunity to attend John Paul’s Art of Hearing God training course.  We went desiring to hear the Lord’s voice and boy did He ever speak!  Just not at all about what I expected Him to!  One of the first teachings John Paul shared with us was on the Law of Observation.  This law basically proves that what you look at will conform to the way that you look at it.  In other words, how I perceive someone is how they will become when they are around me.  And if they are around me long enough, they will form a habit of being what I perceive them to be.  Whoaaaaa!  That’s a real problem right there!  You mean what I say today and how I view my children right now will affect who and what they become later on down the road of life as adults?  NOT good.   I immediately realized that I was setting my kids up for a lifetime of failure, and I knew that something had to change FAST! 

It makes sense if you think about it.  If we continually encourage good character traits in an individual, tell them how valuable they are, and remind them of what they are going to become one day, that person will strive to self fulfill those words.  On the other hand, if we constantly tell someone that they’re lazy, ignorant, ugly, or worthless- they will eventually begin to believe it -whether it’s true or not-and self fulfill those words.  In fact, we don’t even have to verbalize it.  Our opinion of others often leaks out through expression, tone, and body language.  So basically, we can take part in holding others back from their destiny simply by the way we view them.  Wow!  Deep stuff, huh?  How can we avoid that mistake?  After all, we say the things we say for a reason!  We generally pass judgments on others based on past experiences with them. 

Well, John Paul teaches that we need to change the way that we perceive others.  I explained it to my kids as needing to have “God Vision.”  We need to see others in light of where God is taking them – not where they are today.  That rotten good for nothing husband will continue to be a rotten good for nothing husband until you change your thought process.   That nag of a wife will go to her grave as a nag unless you perceive her to be something else.  That awful gossip won’t find the strength to change until she sees that you believe she’s better than that. 

Only with this “God Vision” can I now say that God has an incredible plan for my unbelievably strong-willed yet ultra sensitive son.   With all of the drive and tenacity and passion of a grown adult crammed into his little body, he lacks knowledge and wisdom and life experience.  But, in time, when he develops the discipline and character he lacks and joins forces with his destiny, He WILL accomplish great things.  And God must have something truly wonderful in store for my tough as nails outspoken little fireball of a daughter-for He has created her so incredibly strong!  What battles she’ll one day fight…and win!  Once we channel her passion and creativity for His purposes, she will set the paths of all those she encounters ablaze for Him!

People aren’t perfect but they can be perfected as long as we don’t hold them back.  Our words, our attitudes, our perception of others-these all have the power to speak life or death.  I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of killing destinies-including those of people I don’t even know!  I want to be one who helps drive people to reach their calling and fulfill their God-given purpose in life-not watch it pass by.  Though a completely foreign concept at first, I’ve found that “God Vision” gets easier the more you utilize it.   So one word, one thought, one expression, one display of body language at a time, I’m un-doing the damage that I’ve created in so many lives over the years.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. ~Proverbs 18:21

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