Priorities: Make Us or Break Us

Why do you work out?

If I’m being totally honest, I started working out to look good in a bathing suit. I know, I know! But that is the truth. It wasn’t about getting healthier because back then I didn’t care about my health, not really. I mean what teenager/ twenty-something gives a darn about their actual health? Maybe that’s an incredibly large over-generalization, but you get you the point.

It wasn’t until recently (and in my 30’s, how did that happen??) that I started to work out for reasons aside from looks. Do I want to look amazing? Of course! But that isn’t the end goal anymore.

A wise friend told me that looking good is just a side effect of taking care of yourself. I love that thought!

That is where I am at. I am working out to get healthier and stronger. Should I look better in the process, so be it! But my work out game has only gotten stronger now that I have real goals in mind.

It is interesting to think changing the end goal of working out changes the reason to work out from superficial to something genuine. It has allowed me to make exercise a lifestyle.

That offers some introspective. For example, just like working out with the goal of getting healthier allows you to focus on form, flexibility, real training, and being able to live/perform better; changing your goals in your Christian walk can allow you to have a deeper relationship with God and all the people around you.

So, what are your goals? Are you a Christian for the sake of saying you are a Christian? Do you show up to church to merely socialize? How about that small group; what is that to you? Is loving people a real thing in your life or something that is saved for just your family? Or are you truly seeking God with your whole heart, mind, and spirit?

Those are some of the questions that I have been grappling over. I have come to find I needed to change my end goal of my faith too. A total overhaul from my body to my mind!

I am setting a goal to not care about the superficial of Christianity (you know, the dress up and look like you have it all together but really, you’re drowning inside trying to do and be everything kind of thing). I am setting the goal to start really digging into a rooted relationship with God and allowing Him to be my everything.

What does that look like?

It looks like me deliberately taking the time to be with God. I have been so poor when it comes to intimate time with God. I worship on Sundays, read when it dawns on me and sometimes do studies (but really don’t pour into it like I need to if I’m honest). It is time to take the initiative and be with the one who loves me more than anything. Time to date God regularly.

It looks like me not caring about the little things that don’t truly matter. I can waste my day cleaning my house from top to bottom for guests when they come over. But does that matter? Not really. Instead, I will not invest my time execessively cleaning. I will invest it with God which will pour out into my guests. I think they will enjoy that more than a freshly mopped floor, lol! Be a Mary, not a Martha. (Man, that poor Martha sure got a bad rep.). New mantra: People over stuff.

It looks like me being humble. This one is hard for me. But I know that I need to humble myself most days so that I can clearly see God and not my “deeds”. Simply pray a prayer of “thank you” every time I feel I have accomplished something on my own because it isn’t me, it is GOD. Have you heard the Tauren Wells song Hills and Valleys? Soooo good! Watch it! It’s a great reminder that I am not alone and that I did not accomplish where I am on my own either.

There are so many things that can happen when these little changes are made when the end goal is God. Just like working out to get healthier will have the side effect of looking and feeling better, truly walking with God will have the side effect of a fulfilled life. That kind of lifestyle is what I want. That kind of lifestyle pours out onto other people.

Let God be your end goal. He will do the work. You just simply need to allow Him.

 

Where is Your Medicine?

Proverbs 28:26,“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”

Can you remember the last time your heart got you in trouble? I can! In fact, just last night my husband and I got into an argument. The argument ended with him telling me to leave him alone and me letting him fall asleep on the couch and literally leaving him alone there.

I was alone in bed half the night.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but we NEVER do that. We always go to bed together. The next morning, we both felt terrible.  It seems that when I follow the desires of my heart in the moment, I am hurting myself and those around me.

It’s incredible, really, what we can fool ourselves into thinking when we follow the foolish desires of our hearts. Especially when we are fearful of the discomfort that comes from looking in the mirror.

I wanted so badly to blame someone else for my sins. I felt unloved, unwanted, ashamed and guilty. But, surely, none of that could be my fault, because let’s be honest here, no one truly wants to take blame.

We are all victims, right?

That is what I thought until a couple of years ago. I blamed my self-disgust completely on my husband’s struggle with pornography. Hear me, his sin DID do a number on us. On our marriage, him, me and numerous other areas. But, THAT sin did not CAUSE my sin.

Ouch.

His sin was from HIS heart and my sin, well, that was from MY heart. My sins were in place before I even met my husband. We were both following our foolish hearts.

My feelings of insecurity stem from not connecting with God fully in my heart. My feelings of guilt stem from not allowing myself to be forgiven fully in my heart. My feelings of shame stem from not letting God shine his light in some areas of my heart. My feelings of being unloved stem from not fully realizing the price God ALREADY paid.

MY SIN. Not my husband’s. Not anybody else’s. Mine.

I know that all of you are struggling in life somewhere right now. I am here to encourage you, that you are not alone in those struggles. EVERYONE struggles. Look around. Our entire culture brings about struggle.

The standards of the world put insane expectations on us. I mean, women especially. (Not that men don’t have expectations!) We are expected to look like Barbie, cook and clean like Susie homemaker, perform like porn stars, be successful in our careers and be Pinterest-worthy mothers! That is ludicrous. No one can measure up to all of that AND not sin somewhere along the way.

The standards that the world puts on us begin to define who we are if we let them. Trust me, don’t let this world define you.

Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not earthly things.”

When you set your mind on earthly things, your thought life never ceases to tell you how you have horribly failed in this life!

Guess what? A sinful thought life leads to a sinful way of life.

Your thought life is the first step. The initial sin.

When you continually allow yourself to think sinful thoughts, eventually you are going to act on them. Or medicate them.

I know so many people who go through life medicating all the sadness, guilt, shame, inadequacy that they allow to brew in their thought life.

What thoughts are you allowing to hang around?

Are you medicating? with Alcohol? Sex? Shopping? Gossip? Anger? Resentment? Jealousy? Food?

BUT LISTEN: There is GREAT news! Your sin is not the end of your story. Jesus can be your medicine.

The truth is, God didn’t create you to be so stuck in your mud that you can’t move. You are not destined to sin! Romans 6:14 says “…sin shall not have dominion over you.”

God’s standards, unlike the world’s standards will set you free! God created you to live life to absolute fullest that is possible.

But here’s the thing, you simply cannot live in darkness and stand up in your full potential from God.

I was reading an article the other day called 7 Truths to Help You Triumph Over Sin by Michael L. Jacobson and he brought about this simple but life altering question about sin. Do you believe that sin is inevitable or do you believe that sin conquerable?

God says that, with him, we are more than conquerors. MORE than CONQUERORS. We have the choice.

Do you want to continue down the path of self-destruction or do you want to begin to walk wisely and be delivered?

Are you ready to look in the mirror and face YOUR sins? That is the first step. You no longer need to play a victim. Listen, God already gave us what we need to conquer sin. We have his AUTHORITY. He keeps us upright. We just need to step in the ring.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For the spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Pray. Step up.

I encourage you to this week to sit down and dig deep into your thought life. Where are you sinning? WRITE down those sins. All of them. Pray and ask God to forgive every single one of them. Let me be clear here: in asking for forgiveness of these sins, you are not creating your salvation. Jesus already did that. He died on the cross for our sins. Asking for forgiveness of these sins allows you to find closure there. It allows you to find freedom there.

Lastly, start to recognize the triggers that cause you to stumble in your thought life. Recognizing these triggers allows you to take back your thoughts. Once you can recognize and capture the sinful thoughts (guilt, shame, jealousy, etc.) replace them with Biblical truths.

Stop the lies and build the truths.

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It takes time. There is no overnight fix. Work at it. Work at it because you are worth it. Work at it because you do not have to play a victim. Work at it because you are worthy. Not only in my eyes, but in our Creator’s.

He loves you. He cares about how you are living. He wants you to listen to his word, not YOUR heart.

Let him help you break free from these chains.

Let him be your medicine.

Do You Feel Worthy this Season?

This year, there has been this reoccurring theme of worth. Worth seems to be linked to everything we do. Or don’t do.

According to the dictionary worth means: “sufficiently good, important, or interesting to justify a specified action; deserving to be treated or regarded in the way specified.”

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you thought that you weren’t deserving?

It isn’t just you. It’s me. It’s all of us. We constantly feel unworthy. In fact, as I write this, I am second guessing every word. Ugh.

Unworthiness is a crazy stronghold. It is time that we, as people, break free from those chains. It is time to remember to whom we belong.

“Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant or insecure, remember to whom you belong.” Ephesians 2:19-22

I figured, what better season to talk about our worth than right now. Christmas is a wonderful time to remember who we are in Christ because we are celebrating him!

Jesus loves us. He wants us to feel worthy.

Feeling worthy is vital. Feeling worthy allows us to live life better. When we feel that we are deserving, we open up to love and happiness. Guess what happens when we feel loved? We love other people better!

Feeling worthy is a necessity, especially if you love Jesus. Listen, friends, he did not put us here to feel bad about ourselves. Jesus doesn’t look at us that way. He loves us exactly where we are. In the thick of our craziness, his love is there.

So, why do we feel like we aren’t deserving?

The enemy. Plain and simple. All those self doubts, negative thoughts, feelings of unworthiness, those aren’t from Jesus.

DO NOT listen to those negative words.

Would Jesus love us so much that he died for us so we could spend eternity with him to only then tell us how horrible we are? NO!!!!

Stop listening to those negative words.

The only reason those thoughts creep in is so that enemy can handicap us.

I heard this great quote at a convention I recently attended: “You can only love other people once you love yourself.” Wow. Guys, that says it all.

What is our command from Jesus, friends? To LOVE God and to LOVE one another. How can we do that if we don’t feel worthy enough to be loved?

Trust me here guys, we are worthy. Jesus says so.

Do me a favor, listen to God instead. He loves us. He wants us. We are important to him.

This Christmas season, show other people how much he loves us. Remember to whom you belong and put on your crowns.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

What Now?

Hey Guys,

This election has been pretty crazy. Any way you look at it someone loses.

Let me first say, which ever way the outcome was going to be, I felt the need to write something addressing it. Because, well, let’s face it, both of our primary choices left me wanting to puke.

Here we are. The outcome is Trump. Some are wildly upset, some enthusiastically overjoyed, and some just don’t know what to think.

The most common question I have been hearing is “What now?”.

Well, if you’re a Christ follower, I think it is pretty clear:

Stay the course.

People are watching like they have never watched before because for some reason Trump has been correlated to Christianity. Which means that what he does affects how people view Christianity.

Now, if you truly walk with Jesus, you know as much as I do that Trump is not the face of Christianity. Not my Christianity anyway. Jesus is.

So, listen, continue to trust God, continue to love, continue to be respectful, continue to accept people with open arms because that is our duty. Jesus loves. We need to love.

It is NOT our place to demean or judge other people, especially if they are not Christ followers. It is our place to continue to allow Jesus to mold OUR hearts. They shall know us by our love, right?

So what now?

Trust God. Go out and love. Show people who Jesus really is.

Don’t become Pharisees.

And you know what? God has the rest.

Praying for our President and our country.

Melissa

 

Is God Interested in my Comfort?

What is your version of comfort? I know that when I grab a big fluffy blanket, some hot tea and curl up on the couch, I am comfortable. I will literally ask one of my kids to get something for me (that I could probably get if I reached just a little tiny bit) so that I don’t have to move my body at all. Super lazy! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is totally needed, especially after a very long, hard day with school and the kids. I get it! But, sometimes it is the sum of being a lazy slug.

In those times, I am reminded of how I am not doing my body or brain any favors by being a couch potato. In those times, I think about God’s purpose for my life. Is it to be comfortable? Did he create me, give me this life with these people so that I can lay back and slide through life comfortably without having to lift a finger? I don’t think that is his plan.

I have never met an athlete that doesn’t push their body to the limit in order to get better. Or a successful writer that hasn’t had to stretch their minds in order to improve their writing. There is not one person that has truly succeeded in their field without stepping outside their comfort zone in one aspect or another. It is plain and simple that people do not grow, get better, reach more people without being uncomfortable first. Growth doesn’t happen on the couch.

As I read through the Bible, over and over again I see people stepping out of their comfort zones in order to obey God. Moses went from a super comfortable living situation in a palace to living in the desert for 40 years. Instead of marrying someone he knew and loved, Hosea married a prostitute that cheated on him numerous times. Jonah, although hesitating the entire time, traveled to a place he definitely didn’t want to go in order to obey God. None of things seem comfortable to me, yet all of them were required by God. So, is God concerned with my level of comfort? Or is it my level of obedience?

I think, coming from an American viewpoint, we have gotten a little off track when it comes to following Jesus. I am reading a book by Jennie Allen (she is just an amazing woman of God and you can buy her book if you click on the title of it!!) called Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul. In this book she talked about Jesus being radical; that following and obeying Jesus is radical. She discusses that somewhere along the lines, we have come to believe that once we give our lives to Christ, life should be easy; in that we pray to God to show us what to do and then think that the easiest possible answer that pops up must be the one from God. This my friends, is not true. Our lives are not going to be easy! Read the Bible if you want proof, lol!

Now, before I get people yelling about how it says that God wants to prosper us and give us hope, let me tell you, yes! Absolutely God wants the best for you. But, I think that what we think is the best for us (or the most comfortable) is often times not what God thinks is best for us or for his kingdom. Often times, in order to receive the best version of our life from God, we have to obey; even the uncomfortable requests.

Jesus also said that we will have trouble in this world. Not if we will, but that we will. But listen, that is ok! Trouble is everywhere. Sin is everywhere, we are not exempt from that. However, God already won. We don’t have to worry about winning that war. That is the best news, isn’t it? Even in our personal struggles or the troubles of the world, God is with us and he has won. All we have to do is lean into him. Even in death, we win!

So, when it comes to my personal comfort, I don’t know that God is too concerned about it. God did tell us to rest; please remember to rest, it is vital to life, but our level of comfort is another story all together. Growth does not come from comfort. If you want to dig deeper, stretch your mind, grow in your walk with God, become better than you were yesterday, get out of your comfort zone and into the world. Spread the love of Jesus the way he did.

 

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I Am the Problem with the Church

 

vine Painting by Joey Kikke 

I have been going to church my entire life. Ever since I was a child, I have never felt that I actually belonged to any of the churches that my family attended. There seemed to always have been this “inner circle” that was off-limits; this perfection that I could never quite attain.

As a child, fitting in was difficult, especially in church. I didn’t wear the same type of clothes they did, look the same way or even act the way they did. Half of me loved going to church because I loved worship and learning more about God but the other half hated it because of the people.

I carried this thought process into adulthood. I thought that I had to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted in church. I always smiled and greeted people happily, even if I was tired or had a bad day. I always tried to dress up and wear make up to feel the part. You know the adage “fake it ’til you make it”? That was the church me. It was all about faking my life to impress other people.

Then, it changed. Then, I was transparent. Then, I told my story. All at once, there was this difference. Other people came up and thanked me for talking about the reality of my situation because they didn’t feel alone now. WOW. Other people felt left out? Other people felt alone? I thought that church people were “perfect”? This was my light bulb moment.

Church is not about perfect people coming to impress other people. I totally missed the point. Church is about lost, hurt, scared, depressed, addicted, imperfect people reaching out to Jesus and living life with other people who will help lift them up.

We need to stop with all the nonsense. We, as women specifically, need to stop believing that perfection is the end goal. We need to stop living like we have it all together. We need to stop living like we don’t need help. We need to stop living like we don’t need a savior. Because, believe me, not one of us has it all together. We all struggle, we all need help, we all need each other. We all need a savior.

So, I am tired of being the problem. I am not going to fake it anymore. It is time that we, as a church, stand up and speak truth into each other’s lives; to stop pretending we are someone or somewhere that we just aren’t. Jesus came to save us as we were still sinners, in no way did he save us after we reached perfection. Why then, would we ever want to make other people feel any differently? Feel like outsiders in a “perfect”church world?

A wise man once told me, “Don’t put your faith in me, I will fail you every time. Put your faith in God.” That is what I missed. People are not to be impressed, but to be loved with honesty, truth and transparency. It’s time to genuinely live for him. It is time to be the branches.