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Silent Sideliner

Shortly after  the New Year and before the inauguration I pulled away from social media. 

Like many others, I found myself becoming someone I didn’t like as I saw smear and hate fill my newsfeed.  Anger and judgment flooded my soul as I saw people who say they love Jesus revealing hate as though the Gospel is only for select people groups. 

As the scripture tells us, if your arm causes you to sin, cut it off.  Facebook got cut off as well as other modes of social media.  What I learned in my time away revealed way more about me than what I pulled away from. 

Quickly, I became a silent sideliner.  In my effort to not offend or get involved in any controversial conversations I became silent. Withdrawing can have a good sweet purpose transforming the heart and transcending soul.  Jesus withdrew to the Father, but Jesus didn’t stay withdrawn.  Unlike Jesus, my withdrawing revealed some deep dark sin that needed to be called out, confessed and cleansed.

While I withdrew and became silent, I still checked Facebook periodically to check in on friends and family.  Silence was a safe space to scroll newsfeeds but not respond.  Let’s be honest that’s either a busy body or disengagement.   Out of fear of arguing, being misunderstood, or saying the wrong thing; my disengagement on Facebook began mirroring itself in my relationships.   Not only was I silenced from controversy, I was also silenced from encouraging.

It wasn’t until someone I care about was insulted and I didn’t respond that God’s conviction stirred deep to face the sin before me.  Do I believe the Truth enough to speak up?  Are my convictions deep enough to handle potential disapproval of others?  Doesn’t love stand up for those who are unable to speak for themselves?   I allowed my fear of conflict to push me onto the sidelines, spiraling into silent spectator. 

I hate conflict and I try to avoid it at all cost.  Whether through people pleasing or withdrawing, overall I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding it.  But here’s a truth that needs to permeate deep in my soulyou can’t avoid conflict in a world stained by sin.  You can’t stay silent while people perish.

Conviction leads to clarity and then choice.  I can either learn to engage in conflict with love, truth and grace or become a silent sideliner who, just like the Priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, intentionally avoid the messy, hurting, wounded and mistreated.  While it is not God’s will for me to engage in useless arguments,  by God’s grace may I never again find myself a disengaged silent sideliner withholding truth God has graciously given to bring life. 

Maybe you can relate…

♥        How are you becoming a silent sideliner in the midst of a spiritual war that has already been won?

♥        Where do you need to ask God to strengthen you to engage in necessary conflict for the good of others?

♥         What if Jesus remained a silent sideliner?

Who’s Your Shepherd?

I am the Good Shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  John 10:11

In drinking in the truth of Jesus as the Good Shepherd while studying John 10, I’m freshly gripped by the truth that Jesus IS the ONLY Good Shepherd. 

Most of you may be thinking, well of course He is.  But I’m saying to you, no, He REALLY is.  All too often we see leaders,  pastors or someone who has impacted our life as our Good Shepherd.  No one is the Good Shepherd except Jesus. 

Take a peek with me at Ezekiel and see what we can glean from chapter 34.  The Lord is addressing the shepherds of Israel and saying Woe to you who only take care of yourselves.  He then goes out to list all the things the shepherds didn’t do to care for their flock.

  • Shepherds clothed themselves and didn’t take care of the flock
  • Shepherds didn’t strengthen the weak
  • Shepherds didn’t heal the sick
  • Shepherds didn’t bind up the injured
  • Shepherds didn’t bring back the strays
  • Shepherds didn’t search for the lost
  • Shepherds ruled harshly and brutally.
  • Shepherds didn’t go out and find the sheep who were scattered.

I look at this and my heart sinks.  Truth is we blow it!  While we try to care for others well, we unintentionally fall short.

 We are all guilty of not caring for those around us in some way or another

Whether you’re a mom, boss, ministry leader, teacher, pastor or in any way responsible for caring for others, these shepherding responsibilities are for you too.  I remember telling a  friend of mine after hearing how others hurt her, “I would never hurt you” and really meaning it.  Guess what, I did.  It was awful and humbling.

The Lord continues in Ezekiel 24 stating He will hold the shepherds accountable for failing to shepherd the sheep and that He Himself will be their Shepherd.  This is good news!  Let’s look at what God does for His sheep.

  • God will search for his sheep
  • God will look after his sheep
  • God will rescue his sheep
  • God will gather his sheep
  • God will bring the sheep into their own land
  • God will tend his sheep in a good pasture
  • God will search for the lost and straying sheep
  • God will bind up the injured sheep
  • God will strengthen the weak sheep
  • God will shepherd with justice
  • God will judge between his sheep
  • God will save his flock
  • God will make a covenant of peace with his sheep

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, does all of this for every one of us perfectly!  He is the one to whom we must listen and follow.  When we embrace this truth of Jesus as the only Good Shepherd, we will look to Jesus to lead us, guide us and go only where He leads.  We’ll find ourselves less disappointed with leaders, friends, churches and pastors because while God so often speaks through them, we won’t be hinging our steps on them.

This passage brings both a warning and freedom.  We are held accountable for how we care for others.  Don’t kid yourself ~ it definitely matters to God how you treat people.  Freedom points all to the One Good Shepherd.

If you’re a leader longing for people to follow you, you’re setting yourself up to a standard you can’t keep.  It’s not about leaders, it’s about Jesus.  Good leaders lead people to Jesus, the only Good Shepherd.

When we find ourselves frustrated with people, we may want to ask ourselves “are we looking to them for what only the Good Shepherd can give?”   If so,  run into the loving arms of the Good Shepherd! He will faithfully lavish His perfect care on you like no one else can.

We’re Supposed to be Different

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  ~ 1Corinthians 12:27

As I dwell on the illustration Paul gives in 1Corinthians 12:12-31, I’m captivated by the brilliant design of the body of Christ.  The uniqueness and function of each part illuminates God’s power, creativity and glory.

Chew on this with me.  Think how different each body part is.  Our hearts look, act, and function nothing like the lungs, yet both are desperately needed for a body to live.  How about the foot and ear?  Functioning so differently, yet what we hear impacts where our feet walk.  Parts of the body sprawled out individually don’t look like much, but together they make this wonderful masterpiece created by God.

Why, with the illustration so clear in scripture, is there this tension to make us look the same?  Even in churches that claim be friendly, there is a belief beyond Jesus as the way, truth and life that’s required; a mindset, or you don’t fit in.    As I wrestle this out in my own depraved heart and mind I come to the realization; body parts function so well together because they do one thing…their part.

While every part is vastly different, all function because of one mind.  The head is mighty and powerful and it tells the body what to do in perfect harmony.  Jesus is the head of His body, the Church and He is the one who tells each part what to do when and how.  When we’re functioning as God purposed, it’s not just powerful, but beautiful…the sweetness of unity!

While many things contribute to the breakdown of unity and malfunctioning of the body,  three stand out above the rest.

  1. Jesus isn’t the head. When individuals or churches want to be head of the Church, you will find disunity.  When we exalt anything over the name of Jesus division will follow.  Little tower of Babel’s don’t make for a unified body of Christ.
  2. Pride. When we’re dogmatic about secondary issues, we’re headed for division. There is no perfect individual or church.  Some may function healthier in certain seasons, but none are perfect and able to perform outside their intended purpose.
  3. Envy. Stop wanting what God has given to others so you can receive what He’s given to you.  If our stomach wanted to be a lung, we’d be in trouble!  Likewise, when we’re envious of others, we’re hurting the body and missing out on the glorious part God has for each of us.

Take a minute to check your heart.  Do you think people should think, respond, and act like you?  Do you discount or discredit people or churches in Jesus name because they function differently?  This illustration is convicting.  As we ponder, may our eyes be open to the importance of fixing them on Jesus and doing our part for the glory of God and the good of the body.

The human body is incredibly fascinating!  What it can accomplish is beyond what we could imagine.  Maximizing this potential as the bigger body of Christ comes together under Jesus….unstoppable!

The Silent Killer

Listening to a 6 year old little girl crying and screaming to the 911 operator was horrifying.  Every eye in the room was filled with tears as we heard fear belt through this precious little girl’s voice.  No one should have to live in such fear or see their mommy be treated like a punching bag.  It’s horrific and it’s evil! 

As horrific as that was, something else I learned from this domestic violence certification class left me pondering with God for days.  All the women there, including the experts as well as their many statistics, stated unanimously that verbal, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse is worse than physical abuse.  I’ve heard this before, didn’t fully understand and honestly, I felt offended for the one who bears the outward scars.  For how can we compare one horror story to another and dare to rate them?  Yet with such unity amidst so many who have been through so much I continued to bring this to God and ask what is this about Lord and what am I missing?  Where am I being unteachable or blind? Aren’t we all sinners capable of abusing each other at times by saying things we shouldn’t say?  Help me understand this in light of Your truth.  I love that God is faithful to teach us and what I have learned through this process will forever change me.  It has deepened my love for God and for others. 

Verbal, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse deeply wounds the mind, heart and soul of a person.  It is with our heart, soul, and mind we have relationship with God and others.  When our hearts, minds and souls are beaten and wounded with verbal attacks, withholding of love and mental games, we breakdown inside.  Relationships we were created and long for become scary and twisted.   Isn’t that Satan’s way?  He didn’t physically force Eve to eat the fruit in the garden; he played with her mind to get her thinking differently about God and about herself.  Satan didn’t physically abuse Jesus in the desert where he tempted Him for 40 days, no; he preyed on his mind and his emotions.   It’s his sly way of acting innocent while delivering the crushing blows.  It’s evil and I believe it’s the leading cause of division in our marriages, families and churches. 

Churches….that was another heart wrenching burden I left with that day.  There is so much hurt and bitterness against the church for our ignorance in handling those who are seeking to be heard and helped.  These wounds run deep and prayerfully more leaders and pastors will humbly come and learn despite the scorn they may feel for falling short.   May God bring forgiveness, healing and wholeness as more and more learn and become aware of the deep rooted destruction lurking behind closed doors.

We were given this handout of a tree with the Roots and Fruit of Abuse

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This tree hangs on our refrigerator as a daily reminder and gage.   We hold each other accountable and ask God to rid our hearts of these things no matter how small.   Ultimately, it’s not a behavior issue, it’s a heart issue.  How we treat each other in our homes when we think no one is watching matters greatly to God who is always watching!   Abusive behavior comes from a twisted belief system.  A system of belief that fear and intimidation are needed to control a person instead of a biblical belief of loving God and others as defined in His Word.  An evil heart will justify, blame and have nothing to do with accountability. If that’s you or someone you live with, please, for the sake of yourself, your family and future generations get the help you need with this silent killer.  Focus Ministries has an excellent ministry that will come alongside you to equip you, encourage you and educate you on the seriousness of domestic violence, the deadly disease that’s destroying families.  You can reach them at www.focusministries1.org

While statistics support men are more apt to be abusive, women also abuse their husbands.; either in return for the abuse they have endured or out of a twisted belief that it’s okay or justified.  Men are much less likely to report abusive behavior or call the mental games and manipulation for what it is.  Their lack of reporting doesn’t negate the reality it exists. If we want healthy thriving families, we must take a firm stand against abusive behavior in any form.  

Let God’s words in Isaiah work in your heart ~

“Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight, stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow”.  Isaiah 1:16-17

Justice & Mercy Meet at the Cross

I’ve been reflecting this Lenten season on the powerful display of JUSTICE and MERCY meeting in full expression at the cross where Jesus died.  While JUSTICE and MERCY seem like two extremes on the spectrum of God’s character, we see them meet and embrace right on the cross.  Jesus, the perfect sinless Lamb, takes on the penalty of our sin to satisfy God’s JUSTICE against sin.  Jesus didn’t deserve to endure the JUSTICE of God; yet He did, so that we, guilty sinners could receive what we don’t deserve the MERCY of God.  Taking the time to sit and reflect on how these two attributes of God, which can seem to be in conflict with one another, meet so powerfully, gives Good Friday a richer depth and commanding expression of God’s amazing love. The JUSTICE Jesus endured is just as undeserved as the MERCY we receive by putting our faith in Him. 

God’s character doesn’t change or compromise with Jesus, it displays it.  Jesus took on the full wrath of sin’s penalty.  He was beaten, spit on, rejected, crucified.   God didn’t spare the penalty because it was His Son who endured it.  Jesus received it in full.  As complete as God’s JUSTICE is, His MERCY is just as complete as we; undeserving sinners, receive this incredible gift of salvation.  Being saved from the wrath of God is something we can so easily take for granted and it’s something we can overlook.  Easter isn’t nearly as meaningful if we don’t take the time to ponder this incredible MERCY we’ve been given.  We can’t experience true rejoicing of Easter unless we reflect and grasp the crucifixion.  I’m not sure we can really love that He rose, if we don’t embrace the truth of why He died. 

No matter how much culture shifts and changes, God remains the same. His unchanging character is good news and should bring us great comfort.  We live among a movement of tolerance yet all we are told to tolerate is sin.  Sin is never tolerated by God.  He dealt with sin’s penalty by sending Jesus to die a death He didn’t deserve so those who believe in Him could receive the MERCY they don’t deserve.  As much as Jesus didn’t deserve to die, we don’t deserve to live.  Because of the JUSTICE and MERCY of God, those who put their faith in Him do get life…life today and life eternally. 

For those who refuse to put their faith in Jesus Christ, please look at the penalty for sin as you see Jesus being crucified.  That’s the penalty.  If you don’t put your faith in the One who bore it for you, you will bear it for yourself.  God doesn’t change based on culture, trends or what we think.  The penalty of sin is death.  The penalty is so severe because sin is so severe.  Sin destroys people, marriages, families, towns, cities, countries and worlds.  A JUST God can’t pretend or overlook the reality of it.  And yet, in His MERCY driven by love, He made a way for us to overcome sin, and that way is through Jesus Christ.  Today is His day.  The day He suffered so we don’t have to.

Reflect and remember the cost and the incredible MERCY of our good God that loved us enough to pay God’s JUSTICE for us.   

5 Tips to Succeed in Knowing God’s Word

Knowing God’s Word is a must for believers!  We cannot know God apart from His Word.  Bible plans for the New Year start out with great intentions, but too often fall short quickly.

Here are some tips that have helped me stay diligent in God’s Word.  It does take discipline!  Life will do it’s best to distract you, so persevere my dear sister, it is worth it!

  1.  Find a spot!  A consistent place and time set aside just for you and God.  My time has most consistently been early mornings, but my place has changed over the years.  Presently, I have a spot on my living room floor.  I can spread out and for now, it works for me. At times,  I’ve had a designated chair,  I’ve made my spot at the kitchen table, dinning room table or desk.  I’ve even been on the floor of my closet.  (My favorite place is outside, weather permitting)  Wherever you decide is a sweet place for you in this season, set aside a spot.
  2. Pray!  This may be obvious, but how often do we start diving into God’s Word and forget to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, reveal God to us and grow us to be more like Christ.  It’s easy to open God’s Word without acknowledging God’s presence.  Pray first and ask Him to be with you.
  3. Ask Questions!  The bible is not best read like a novel.  When we approach Scripture like this we get lost when trudging through books like Leviticus.  When reading God’s Word ask questions!  This year I am going through God’s Word with one question…What do I learn about God in this passage?  Questions you can ask are unlimited.  More examples are:  What do I learn about sin?  What do I learn about the character of the people in the bible?  How does God respond to His people?  What does God want to teach me today?
  4. Focus!  Distractions are an enemy to being in God’s Word.  From inward distractions, like your mind racing and reminding you of all the things you forgot or could be doing, to the outward distractions like schedules, phones, spouses and children.  Focus is why I’ve chosen one question this year as I approach God’s Word each day.  Bible reading plans help you focus.  Methods help you focus.  Although there are many,  the key to success is prayerfully picking one and sticking with it.  For those mental distractions and to do lists that quickly compile in your mind the moment you open God’s Word?  Grab a piece of paper and write it down.  It’ amazing how this will help you let go and get back to your time with Him.
  5. Expect God to reveal Himself!  God’s Word is living and active and even those passages you’ve read multiple times will reveal new things.  God may not give you big AHA moments every day so don’t be discouraged.  Sometimes God reveals Himself over the course of time or He simply reminds us of things we need to remember.  Don’t be discouraged if you are not hearing new things every day.  Being in His word may be keeping you from bad things as He reminds you of things you already know.  Trust Him.  God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light onto our path.  We need it to get where He wants us to be.

Above all delight in your time with God!  If you feel it’s a burden or a chore, ask God to give you a heart that delights  in His Word.  Pray for Him to give you eyes to see and show you wonderful things!  He’s given us His Word to know Him and His ways, stay with it and trust He will do immeasurably more than you could hope or imagine!

Biblical illiteracy and spiritual poverty is a serious problem among God’s people.  Knowing God’s Word for yourself will help  protect you from deception and falling  into unbiblical philosophies that permeate our churches and culture.

No tips will help you if you sincerely don’t believe that God’s Word is  truly God’s Word.  When we really believe that Almighty God, our Creator, speaks to us through His Word, there is no place we’d rather be.

With Love and Prayers for your time with Him,

Kelly

Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All

Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All

Have you ever met someone who spoke wise words that released you from captivity and changed your perspective?  Well, that happened to me the first time I met Brenda.  She was teaching a social media class at the Speak Up Conference I attended this summer.  I felt stuck (captive) because on one hand, I believe God has called me to encourage women through teaching and writing, and it brings me great joy; yet, I struggle ferociously with this whole idea of moving God’s work forward, especially through social media.  Words like platform and audience really kind of freak me out and turn me off.  Brenda breathed light and provided a key to bring freedom as she said ‘Social Media isn’t about platforms, it’s about ministry, real people with real needs’.  This, I could get on board with.  With a shift of perspective I could continue walking in the calling.

Brenda does this in her new book “Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All“.  She comes alongside you with the tenderness and wisdom of Jesus to shift your perspective on what matters.  Being a woman is hard.  We balance a lot of roles, and all too often we can feel like we live to take care of everyone else at the expense of ourselves.  As wives and moms we can get lost in our roles while our soul is screaming for more than endless laundry, dinners, homework, demanding schedules and people.

Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All will open your eyes to the glorious identity you have in Christ and walk you through living out that identity, especially in our homes where it can be so easily lost.  Brenda walks with you as she too is living to balance the full life of being a wife, mom to four children, ministry and work.  Her principles are proven and continue to be implemented in her own life.

Balance & Busyness

Brenda’s nurturing heart comes beaming through the pages.  Her compassion and authenticity make you feel as though she is sitting right beside you as  she pauses throughout her book to ask relevant questions , assuring you’re not alone and giving you wisdom to help bring balance and perspective.

God has designed us as women to be nurturing  and life-giving.  Brenda focuses on how living this helps bring balance and priority to our lives.  You’ll be challenged to let go of things that are not life-giving such as enabling and trying to do it all; instead embracing who God has made you to be, and engaging the family to grow and work together as a unit.  Reflection questions in each chapter help to personalize and apply principles in a way that works for you and your family.

If you are exhausted and trapped in busyness and the pressures of conformity you will find Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All nourishes the soul, opens your eyes to what really matters and gives perspective that brings freedom, joy and peace.

What’s your greatest challenge in balancing life?  Where are you trying to do it all?  Share your answer in the comment section of this post.  You are not alone, we all struggle with balancing the busyness and prioritizing what’s important.  Sharing your answer to these questions will comfort others and also qualify you for a chance to receive Brenda’s newest released book Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All.

I look forward to reading your challenges and am so excited to be giving away a copy of Brenda’s book because I know the one who receives it will be blessed.

Praying for life giving balance,

Kelly

To learn more about Brenda visit her website.

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