Tag Archive for holiness

An Unexpected Pathway to Blessing

There are days when I feel truly blessed. Like the days I wake up with no knee pain and plenty of Starbuck’s coffee. When my children are all super cooperative and the house is in order.

I think my idea of “blessing” is sometimes pretty shallow.

Yes, all of those things are good things and the Lord does bless us with all that we have, but I’m studying Acts right now and learning about a less obvious way that God blesses us.

path

In chapter 3, Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray and they meet the lame man who was asking for money by the Beautiful Gate. They performed the first miracle of the church era with these familiar words spoken to the paralytic:

“I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts. 3:6)

Physical healing. What a blessing. People are taking note as a crowd begins to form to see this once beggar–now fully whole, walking-leaping-praising God man.

Peter was quick to give glory to God as he addressed the crowd and explain what just happened:

“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power of piety we have made him to walk.

(Amazingly instructive verses. AS IF we did any of this ourselves. Look to the Lord! A good truth to remember as we work for the Lord.)

Peter then explains that the man was healed because of his faith in the risen Jesus Christ and how to be truly blessed. (Hint: it’s not the health or healing. It’s not the money.)

  • Repent and turn back to your God through faith in Jesus. That is the path of blessing.
  • Repent and receive times of refreshing and the promised Holy Spirit.
  • Repent and stop going your own way. Rather, “You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” (v.22)

“God, having raised up his servant, {Jesus} sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (vs. 26)

What? Bless me by turning me from my wickedness? That’s rather unexpected, especially in a culture that promotes the health and wealth gospel.

Did it ever occur to you that your biggest blessing today might be the supernatural enablement to stop being wicked by the power of the Holy Spirit?

  • To hold your tongue when you feel like giving a piece of your mind?
  • To choose to bless when you know others are choosing to curse you?
  • To choose to love when it’s not reciprocated?
  • To humble yourself when pride reigns all around?
  • To serve where nobody else wants to?

Sometimes wickedness is so ingrained in us that we don’t see it for what it is. We believe that we’re born this way so we’ll stay this way, or reason that because I was brought up this way, that’s just who I am.

You were created to bear God’s image.

What does this mean? It means to look like Him, to love what He loves and hate what He hates. To represent Him well.

Wickedness is a defamation of who we were created to be and misrepresents God to others on this earth.

Every time we believe Satan’s lie that living life on our terms is the way of empowerment and happiness, we’re rejecting this pathway of blessing and not bearing His image well.

Every time we quench the Holy Spirit and neglect His prompting because we’re too proud to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we’re admitting that we don’t see holiness and sanctification as a blessing. We’re actually confessing that living life apart from God’s Word and directives is what we believe will make us happiest and bring blessing.

From the smallest child to the oldest adult, every time we choose sin we’re showing that we are still under the delusion of the old Serpent who whispers to all ages, “THIS will make you happy. “

This week, I’m praying that God will remind me daily that His way is best and that true blessing comes when we submit ourselves to His Word and forsake wickedness.

If you find yourself in the midst of a hard situation this week and you are struggling to see the blessing of God in your life, perhaps every time you fight against the flesh and choose obedience instead of wickedness, you’ll recognize how blessed you truly are to have the empowerment of the Spirit and the opportunity to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Praying for you, my friends. So very thankful for this community of women. If you need prayer support or encouragement from God’s Word, I would be honored to pray for you. Feel free to email me at joyfilledmama@gmail.com and I will answer as soon as I can.

Holiness for the Church That Is Too Ridiculous

Are you frustrated by the pursuit of holiness? Does it seem like an impossible task? You’re not alone.

Pretend with me that you are seated in a church sanctuary. Now, look around the room at the people nearby. What kind of people do you see?*

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In my imaginary church, I see

  • A frazzled mom impatiently SHUSHING her kids in the sanctuary.
  • A moody husband who rolled his eyes and belittled his wife yet again with sarcasm.
  • An energy-drained single mom trying to make ends meet on her own because her husband is a good for nothing.
  • A married couple who live side by side in cool indifference.
  • A heartbroken woman who dulls the pain of her husband’s unfaithfulness by excessive spending and endless Botox.
  • A guy whose pornography addiction has devastated his wife, leaving her fighting depression and overbearing guilt.
  • A ministry couple who came to church fighting and will continue the argument after the morning worship service.
  • The bitter woman who proudly carries a chip on her shoulder like it’s a victim badge.

On any typical Sunday, in any given church, you’ll find pews full of sinners. (If you find a church that’s perfect, let me know!)

We’re all ridiculous in our own ways. And still the command rings in our ears:  “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I almost want to snicker, Are you kidding me? Holiness seems about as likely as lassoing the moon.

But the command remains. What’s a raggle-taggle church full of ridiculous sinners supposed to do with this command?

Be Holy. Set apart. Consecrated unto God. Single-minded. Obedient.

First, humble ourselves. Stop thinking we can do this alone.

Then, draw near to God and claim, yet again, His enabling grace.

Grace motivates us to keep on going. Kinda like when you taught your kid to ride a bike, and they tipped, and fell, and failed. You kept cheering them on, and holding the back of the bike for them, running alongside, never leaving them for a minute, telling them that they could do this thing. You encouraged them toward a goal, but their lack of fear and confidence in your good will toward them motivated them to try, try again, keep peddling, keep getting up, even when they are unbalanced, wobbly, scared and have never done it right before.

Yellow brick road 300ppi

It’s the same with Grace. If we feared getting the proverbial ax every time we mess up, we wouldn’t even try. But grace leads us, nurtures us, teaches us in love and keeps encouraging us in the right direction. The same grace that saved us keeps us and teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensibly, upright, and godly lives in this present life. (see Titus 2:11,12)

God’s grace does not stop when you’ve failed. It pulls you back, spurns you onward and helps you to see big picture. Many people tell you that when you fail, you should look upward. Of course they mean that you should look upward to God and from your circumstances, and I know what they mean.

But I believe that God’s grace teaches you to look downward. God’s grace teaches us to see things with an eternal perspective. We start at heaven and look down, and all of the things we thought were so big actually pale in comparison to eternity and spiritual treasure.

If you have legalistic tendencies, grace alone may disturb you. So, lest you misunderstand, and think that I am encouraging recklessness and lawlessness, a caveat:  a focus on God’s grace that ends in disregard for God’s laws is not grace at all, but licentiousness.

“Legalism makes believers think that God accepts them on the basis of what they do. Licentiousness makes believers think that God does not care what they do. Both errors have terrible consequences. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Grace should not make obedience optional. When God removes good works as a condition for His acceptence he does not remove righteousness as a requirement for life. The standards of scripture glorify God and protect His people from harm.

Resting on God’s grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations; rather it should enable us to fulfill them.

Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength

Grace-living that relies on God to help us live in ways that please Him produces fruit that looks like Him.

  • Selfishness takes a back seat as you live for others and God’s glory.
  • True ministry to others can take place as your heart is purified and base motives removed.
  • Closeness to God occurs as pride falls away and humility is embraced.
  • Your love for others is seen more clearly as you truly learn to love and obey the Lord.
  • Your reasonableness is known to all men.
  • You fulfill your call to be “holy and blameless BEFORE HIM.” Eph. 1:4

Martin Luther, the once Catholic priest turned reformer, when he realized that good works and law keeping could not save you, but faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, encouraged us to drop what we once considered our spiritual “trophies.” These words should encourage you to stop attempting holiness for the wrong reasons. God does not owe us anything because of our feeble attempts at holiness. He loves us and desires us to be holy and spurns us onward with His power.

Martin Luther, from The Sum of the Christian Life:

It will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and [Works of] love … even though we are now in faith… the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say:  After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account… But it cannot be done. 

With men you may boast:  I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense.  But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator.  I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness.  And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace;  yet this is what I should and must do.  The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it;  otherwise no man can come before God. 

Are you depending on God’s grace today to give you the power to change, or are you running on empty/exhausted from trying to live the try-hard life for yet another day? You can’t do this on your own. You need enabling power. Plan to sit with the Lord today and ask Him to open your eyes to your need and His all sufficient resource, GRACE.

*This exercise, adapted and personalized from Bryan Chapell’s Holiness By Grace.

How to Be Holy When You Wake Up Grumpy

How are you supposed to be holy when you wake up grumpy?

We know what holiness is not, and what it looks like, but how do we get there?

If I had to describe myself when I wake up in the morning, holy is not the first word that pops into my mind. Tired, yes. Holy, no.

Some mornings I wake up grumpy. I don’t want to face the day. I wake up overwhelmed.

So, what now?

KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_nHoliness is not about being perfect. Jesus was the only person to walk this earth in a sinless manner. He was perfect for us!

So, holiness is not a matter of attaining perfection, but of mimicking. We want to follow Christ’s example, because we want to be like Him. And, holiness is not about feelings, but about direction. We are purposefully choosing to walk as He commands. Obedience. Choosing the right path.

Here’s what that looks like in real life:

You wake up exhausted. Instantly, thoughts flood into your mind: problems, worries, what-ifs.

You breathe a prayer for help: “Lord, this day, all of it is yours. You are ruler of my life. Help me to follow You.”

You have two choices: you can feed on the negative thoughts, or you can choose to feed on what’s true, honest, just, pure, lovely. You can choose to praise God with your heart, soul, and mind.

Holiness is about making excellent choices.

The phone rings and you’re greeted with that problem person (Love your Nellie Olsen!) and her stinky remark. You have another choice. You can use this person’s sin as an excuse to sin yourself and retaliate in kind, or you can choose a higher road. You decide to overlook the lousy attitude and treat this hurting person with care and kindness.

The kids wake up and didn’t seem to get the “holiness” memo either. They’re bickering and grumpy, and general selfishness seems to reign supreme. You could react in kind, with snarky remarks, put-downs, or threats, or you could see things with eternal perspective, encouraging them to follow you while you follow Christ and His commands, helping them see where they’ve fallen short of God’s code of ethics for loving others well.

The list of scenarios could go on and on, but you get the picture. Holiness is about obedience and not necessarily about feelings.

Some quick tips for pursuing holiness:

1. Take time to be holy. It’s a song, I know, but the truths are spot-on. The more time you spend communing with God through prayer and Bible reading, the more transformed your mind will become in your desire to pursue holiness. Cut out needless distractions to make time for the Lord. Then, go out and serve people in a way that points all the glory back to Him.

2. Don’t make excuses for your sin. Call it what it is and agree with God. Make it right with the person you’ve offended. If you don’t own up to your own sin, you won’t put it off or make progress in holiness. (Confess, find forgiveness, move upward.)

3. Listen to your heart. And I don’t mean in the sense that you’re following it. Listen to what you say to yourself when you are alone with your thoughts. Where does the needle of your internal compass land, when you have a free moment? If it’s on problems, then you’ve got to recalibrate. If it’s on bitter or unloving thoughts, you’ve got some forgiveness to do. If it’s on worry, take time to get to know your God. (You can only trust God to the extent that you know Him! The more you know His character, the greater your ability to trust Him!) Self-assess what’s going on in your own spiritual life.

4. Just do the next right thing. The flesh is not your friend, so whatever feels natural in the heat of the moment, don’t do it. Don’t tell that person off or give her a piece of your mind. Don’t give the cold shoulder and pretend they’re dead. Don’t yell at your kids. Don’t manipulate behind the scenes. Don’t gossip or slander. All of those sins feel good for a minute, but that’s it. They’re killing your spiritual life, your testimony, and your quest for holiness. It’s not worth it. Count the cost, and do the RIGHT thing. Take the higher road. When everyone around you is “seeking their own,” you love others enough to transfer that care that you once had for yourself to them. That’s God’s way. That’s what He did for you. Loved you when you were unlovely. We’re trying to be like Him.

5. Spend time with those who are pursuing holiness. You become like those you spend time with! Choose carefully. Look for women who are trying to respect God’s word. Spend your “free” time with women who are confident in their identity in Christ, who give and receive encouragement, who are transparent about what they are learning and how they are growing, who will challenge you to be a better person and who talk about others in a positive way, when they are not around. (Of course, there are several types of friends, and we all spend time with a variety of people, but when you have a choice, choose the person who’s walking the same direction as you are!)

What about you? What are you doing to pursue holiness? What would you add to this list?

What is Holiness? {Some Friends Weigh In}

I’m following the restoration of the beautiful Chataeu de Gudanes, a 94 room 1700’s chateau {read: mansion, hello!} in southern France that has seen better days.

An Australian couple bought the place and are restoring it to its former glory. Not only are the pictures breathtaking, but the process of finding bits of hidden carvings here and original artwork there is fascinating! {I get excited when other people are excited about happy happenings in their lives!}

This Chateau is stunning, but each day of restoration makes it more amazing and returns it to the image that the original builder had in mind years ago.

It’s the same with holiness.

We were created in God’s image, but after the Fall, sin left us in disrepair. When we are saved, God begins the restoration process. He gives us new life (think DNA) in Christ, which enables us to be like Him.

God’s desire is that we would be restored to the image of His son. He’s not going to leave us in shambles. He’s got better plans for us, if we’ll cooperate.

The process of restoration includes painful things: chiseling away, sanding off, getting rid of rot and dead wood, polishing, painting, tearing down, building up. But the final product looks beautiful.

How do we keep that restoration/sanctification process headed in the right direction?

“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” This is a right now, present tense calling. And it also includes a continuing into the future tense. Keep on being holy.

My life, lived out in a holy way, is the most beautiful Christian life I can live, whether we have misconceptions about it or not.

——————————————————————————–

I asked some of my iron-sharpening-iron friends {some pastor’s wives, some ministry wives} to explain holiness. They’re a great group of women (serious about doing the right thing before God and others!) and I really respect their insight so I wanted to share some of their thoughts.

This is a longer-ish post, so grab some coffee and come back and read what they have to say!

What is holiness?

“I would say that I look at holiness as a progressive and continuing work that God does in us and is not complete until we are in Heaven. We are “holy” before God because of Christ…but our life is pursuing holiness continually.

The one infallible test of our holiness will be our humility before God and others. Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness.” In contrast: “The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility”.

My biblical understanding: Separate from worldly views in living and in thinking and in lifestyle.”

“I think a holy person is someone who knows God and takes time pursuing Him. The closer they draw to God the more they reflect His holiness. I know my life reflects what I spend time doing…easy to be consumed with living up to others expectations when i keep Facebook, pinterest, tv…in front of my face. But if my mind is meditating on who my God is throughout the day and putting into it God’s Word, my life will reflect his holiness more. This is how I think holy people can be truly beautiful. I guess the sense of holiness that is ugly is a life of self imposed holiness…trying to be like God through your own strength.”

Holiness in the Bible is to be set apart and sacred. I think holiness is showed by a person who has great self-control because they don’t fly off the handle and sin at every turn of event.

Holiness is not how many standards you have but how you keep yourself “unspotted from the world”. I know plenty of people who are not anywhere close to holiness but have enough standards to make the Pharisees think it’s ridiculous! (Okay, maybe not that bad! :P)

Holiness is dependence on God because you know how wicked and sinful you are. Holiness happens when you keep the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments. Holiness happens when you keep short accounts of your sins with God. Holiness happens when you don’t have a fear of man but when you trust God. 

God wants our worship (what we revere, adore, honor, pay homage to) to be something different, set apart. God wants how we worship to be something set apart. 

God wants us to be sober-minded and set-apart. We aren’t to be like the world and its philosophies. We were ignorant of what we were. We were blind and lost. BUT now we KNOW and we desire to be like Christ…HOLY. So in every aspect of our lives, we are to be set-apart. Many times we like to compartmentalize. “This is the church part of my life, and this is the rest of my life.” We can’t  put on “Christianity” on Sundays and then live however we want for the rest of the week. All of life is worship. What we think, what we do, what we say is all revealing what we worship. So how we do all of those things needs to be holy…set-apart.

For me holiness first makes me think of being and doing what is right. Holiness also stirs up thoughts of not following after what is wrong but seeking to be above mediocre living. For me, my understanding of holiness is living a life that is always striving for what is good and pure and can often come across as self righteous (holier than thou) whether it’s meant to seem that way or not.

A holy person is one who is living out Philippians 4:4-9. Quiet confidence, pure mind, vibrant prayer life…a person who is very much in the world, but not affected by it because of close fellowship with Christ. I personally love Berg’s example of sin to a holy God being like vomit to us as moms. I don’t want to be in the same room with it, I hate even the smell of it, I clean it up thoroughly and immediately even though it’s usually the middle of the night. That example breaks down a bit since kids don’t choose to throw up, but as far as understanding how much God abhors sin, it resonated with me.

I believe the BEAUTY of holiness comes when a woman apprehends that she is separating herself TO GOD/unto good works more than FROM others who have chosen sin. Isaiah 1 – 5 is pretty harsh and judgemental. We can sense his frustration with the carnal Israelites of his day. But then Isaiah 6 happens, he sees God, sees his own sinfulness, and the whole tone of the book changes. The unto/from paradigm is beautifully illustrated by a bride. She is focused on one man, and all the others fade to the background. Dozens of New Testament verses refer to the same principle. There is a separation, but it’s towards God/ Jesus Christ, not a contest to see who can be the most separated from the world.

As a parent, I want to teach my children that God calls us to be holy and we should be striving to live a holy, different, set apart life. I want them to know Scripture and apply it to their lives. As they make choices……..what does the Bible have to say about that? How can I best please the Lord in this choice or situation?

 

When I think of a holy person, I think of someone who is trying to please the Lord in every area of life. Someone who is in the Word, someone who is striving to be like Christ. And, considering the circles I have been in, I do tend to think of someone on the more conservative side. We have various friends who are such a blessing to be around because it seems like every time you are with them, and even have just a small conversation, you end up encouraged in the Lord. Scripture just comes out of their mouths….it is normal, it is just “flowing out” because of their time in the Word and meditating on it. So I am thinking of some specific friends who I would consider holy because they are so focused on the Lord, and it just “comes out” all the time in their conversation and daily living.

I think a holy woman is one who is in constant communion with God. We must have a clean conscience before God or that conduit of communion is broken. Holiness is hindered when we have unconfessed sin in our life. Holiness is not a one-upmanship game “standards-wise”, because it focuses on God and not on competing with other people. We’ve all known people who are really obnoxious/outspoken in their displays of “holiness.” Self-focus instead of God focus is pride. So is showmanship in the church. In some circles, Christians love to use holiness for self-promotion (we’re so separated, my kids would never do that, we don’t wear THAT!) (Pride-in-disguise!!) That should make people RUN! :P) Humility and the mind of Christ and inner peace are the outcomes of a truly holy life and mind.

Don’t I have insightful friends!? :) I hope you were blessed by their wisdom as much as I was!

Feeling defeated?

Remember, Holiness is not something you do entirely on your own. It’s not you pulling the whole load and trying really hard. It’s not you doing your best and calling on the Lord when you find yourself in a “jam.”

The Christian life is lives by a series of choices, but the key words here are ENABLED. We are enabled to live as we should. Yes, we make choices. Yes, we choose  holiness or disobedience, but we never go this thing alone. Isn’t it great that as Christian women, we’re never on our own?

We have enabling power through the Holy Spirit to live consecrated (not sinless!) lives!

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

 

 

The Discussion We Need to Have

Reports estimate that that American women spend a staggering $426 billion a year on beauty products. We place a high value on beauty.

We want beautiful homes, beautiful weddings, beautiful getaways to exotic places. Beauty is a good thing, in our eyes. But do we want beautiful holiness?

The Bible describes holiness as a beautiful thing. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

This got me thinking, “Why don’t we value holiness like we should?””Why don’t we think of holiness as beautiful?”  I asked several teen girls and a few of my friends their thoughts on this matter, which I’ll share in the next few days.

But for now, the first, question: “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a holy person? The good, the bad, the ugly?”

Some of the answers:

A person who:

  • tries not to sin
  • is reserved, serious,
  • is a monk, priest, nun,
  • is judgmental, outspoken about how people should live,
  • always looks down on everyone else,
  • knows God and tries to pursue Him,
  • always assumes that everyone else is less spiritual or too liberal.

Obviously, from these answers, we’ve got some confusion about what holiness is.

You’d think holiness looked like this:

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

 

Yet the Bible describes it as beautiful and expected. In fact, we only know what holiness looks like because of Christ. He was the epitome of all that is lovely, and kind, and humble. So why do we have such distorted views of this? And further, how do we follow the command to “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” if we don’t know what it is, or associate it with so many negative and untrue connotations?

I think we need a discussion on this, which is exactly what I plan to do this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you think of holiness as a desirable, beautiful trait for a Christian woman?

Chime in.

Today’s Christian Woman: Distinctly Unholy?

Every Christian woman wants to hear and read books about being highly effective, being fulfilled as a person, finding your purpose and and being relevant in today’s society. But one topic that we are not clamoring to read about is personal holiness.
 
We’ve all been turned off by someone who thought they were acting “holy” when in fact they were just plain judgmental and critical making mountains out of what they thought was mountain-making-worthy. They are self appointed “police”–they figure, if I point out all your flaws, nobody will have time to notice my obvious flaws. (Note: truly holy people are so worried about their own sin that they have very little time to point out your.)
 
Or perhaps you are still reeling from the damage of a childhood spent in a works centered religion, where people zealously pointed out others “sins” like there was a reward for it, or you grew up in a works-centered Catholic home or a misguided fundamentalist work. Remember that that is not holiness.
No, 

“To be holy in our own strength and for our own glory is to be distinctly unholy.”

 
We’ve believed a lie about personal holiness. We’ve believed several lies actually. 
We’ve bought into the idea that holiness equals a
  • joyless,
  • secluded,
  • stiff,
  • puritanical,
  • disapproving lifestyle.
We may not verbalize it, but we act as though the world with it’s pleasures offers real joy. We relish our sin and keep returning to it as a dog returns to his own vomit.
It concerns me as I look around at the landscape of today’s Christian woman. Instead of getting better and better, we seem to have lost our moral compass and have embraced a distinctly unholy lifestyle. Oh, I don’t mean that we’d verbalize this, or that our public confession would be such, but that very few women are really concerned about their own personal holiness. And we are raising younger Christian women (who have learned from their mothers) who are now looking for fulfillment in the worthless and seem enamored by the world. 
 
They do not value God’s word as THE guide for life, a most precious love letter. They don’t see their relationship to God as paramount. There seems to be this justification of “living on the edge” and “acting like the world.” If we look like the world, respond like the world, love what the world loves, embrace what the world embraces and spend our time, energy, money on these lesser things, who will be salt and light to the world? And why do we wonder that the church lacks “power”? The church lacks power when the church leaders and God’s people are unholy and unsurrendered and they don’t even know it. 
 

THE TRUTH: holiness and joy go hand in hand in scripture.

 
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. Hebrews 1:9
Every Christian is commanded to be holy. The idea of holiness includes being set apart, belonging to God, hating what God hates and pursuing what God loves.
“Be ye holy as I am holy.” 
” Strive for holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” 
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” 

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin…”

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

Holiness is not some conjured up, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, try harder life. The desire for true holiness comes as we compare our lives to the perfect life of Christ. It starts when we get a glimpse of our filthy sin and then gaze on the beauty of His holiness, seeing Christ as He really is. It begins when we abide with him, rest in him and depend on Him. In short, when life is more about HIM and less about me. It is a grace that enables us to say NO to our fleshly desires to pursue what makes the heart of God happy.
 
Holiness keeps us from the bondage of sin. For whatever reason, we think that we can dabble with sin and not be effected. But when we embrace sin in any degree, we can not be embracing holiness.
Sin is always deceitful. It lulls you to sleep, promising you pleasure and freedom, when in fact it always entangles you.
 
My mom would always say:
Sin takes you farther than you planned to go, and keeps you longer than you planned to stay.
playing_with_fire
 
Think of sin as a fire. Or poison. Or a viper.  Not only do you not dabble in it, you stay away from it. You don’t let your kids light a little fire on the kitchen table, or hold a little viper in their bed, or drink a little poison at dinner time. You keep those things out of the house because they can harm you.  
 
The same is true of a little sin. Holding on to and cherishing sin separates us from communion with God–and others believers. Today, believers are deceived into thinking that sin doesn’t have consequences. In fact, we think we can pretty much do what I want–after all, I’m an American. I take my political liberties and mix them up with my spiritual liberties and end up believing that I am free to do as I please w/o consequence.
  • I can watch immorality as entertainment and not have it affect me.
  • I can listen to unwholesome talk and be okay.
  • I can be unloving to one person without consequence.
  • I can indulge in the flesh in food, drink, sleep or s*x and nobody’s going to get hurt.
  • I can nurse that grudge and hold on to unforgiveness without it effecting me spiritually.
  • I can chase worthless pursuits because God wants me to be happy.
If you’ve thought these things, sin has deceived you. If you are living these things, it’s totally entangled you. When God’s word says to flee certain things, like immorality, youthful lusts, wrath, hatred, envy, jealousies, evil communication…and we not only indulge in them but justify them, we are in serious trouble.
And we have to ask ourselves,
WHAT is the state of a believer who will not obey scripture? Are we not followers of Christ? Did He not tell us to be holy, as He is holy? WHY would we think that sinning is okay? Are we truly in Christ? Or are we a scoffer, posing as a believer when in fact our life shows that we have no desire to “do the will of the father.” Have you asked the hard question, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not the will of my father?” 
 
The world lies and says that sin is fun and fulfilling and freeing and sin may seem to be all these things for a short time. But in the end, sin brings death and separation from God. Sin dulls your sensibilities and renders you spiritually blind. You’ll lose your moral compass, believing that right is wrong and wrong is right. God’s word teaches that being set apart to God is a blessing and a holy life is what brings joy and freedom. A clean conscience before God and men should be the norm for every believer. 
 
When we are living lives according to scripture, not perfectly, but striving for holiness, we paint a more accurate picture of what Jesus looked like. We are called to this. Let’s not defame His name by claiming we are his, but living like we don’t care two cents about his will.
 
 

The Battle Called Motherhood, and No More Picnicking in War Zones

I have seen a lot of parenting, good, bad and ugly in twenty years of youth ministry alongside of Peter.

I have grieved over the callous ways moms speak to their kids, and I have observed as a bystander, the child’s head hanging a little lower after a parent’s cold, callous remarks.

I have also been that mother myself.

I’ve sat with parents who are grieving over bad choices–irreparable choices–their kids have made, and I’ve comforted moms who lament that they wish they had done things differently.

I have made my own share of mistakes.

And I ask myself why.

Why do parents end up with kids that look so differently than what they expected?

Weren’t there warning signs along the way?

Any red flags?

What went wrong?

I don’t have all the answers, and I haven’t done things perfectly myself. But I do know that to raise children “God’s way”, we’ve got to actually keep God’s ways before us.

This post is a wake up call for mothers who are in the battle called motherhood right now. 

You heard me right– Battle, because that’s what this is. Ask any serious mother–she’ll tell you that sometimes at the end of the day she feels drained emotionally, physically and mentally and spiritually.

Motherhood is no picnic or some convoluted walk in the park. It is war. We are battling for the hearts and minds of our kids.

We are just saying no and are staving off enemies that masquerade as good things.

We are on the front lines, and we are under-supported and under-appreciated.

We feel alone. But we aren’t. There is One who sees all and knows your struggle. And He is the one handing out rewards at the end.

Sometimes I wonder if we moms are delusional- living in a fantasy world–like packing up a family picnic and spreading your blanket in a war zone.

Have you ever met anyone who was living in a dream world? Maybe it was your own toddler who tried to introduce you to their imaginary friend, Simon. Or perhaps it was a shell shocked veteran who was still re-living the horrors of war.

You look at them kinda funny because they just aren’t seeing reality.

Imagine your husband plans a picnic for you and your family. He carefully packs a yummy lunch, a frisbee and a kite and proceeds to take you into the middle of a war zone.

He says “Let’s sit here. This looks like a great spot.”

You look at him in disbelief because you know that sitting here means certain death. You say, “This is really no place for a picnic.” He insists that there is no danger. He has seen people online do it and they looked like they had fun. He tells you to loosen up and stop being so negative. You let him know that he’s lost his mind that that you and YOUR kids will not be eating lunch in the middle of a war zone.

Absurd scenario? Absolutely.

But that is exactly what we do when we let down our guard in this culture and absorb its values. We are sitting ducks in a war zone and then we are leftshell shocked, wondering how our kids got hurt.

I think I need a world-view shake up; a mommy spanking of sorts:

What is reality?

Do you know?

Reality is the truth about life.

Truth is not what I believe it to be, and it is not what you believe it to be. Truth is non-negotiable.

The truth about life is that God exists and rules all things including his creation. (that’s you and me.) God also expect things from us. He is holy and sinless, and when we sin, we are answerable to Him. If we do not accept his free gift of grace, his Son Jesus Christ’s substitutionary payment for our sins, we will be found guilty at the judgement.

You might say, I don’t really like that. I don’t believe it. Again, I am sorry about that because that is indeed truth according to the Bible. That is reality.

As Christian women, we sometimes live a delusional life, and this is where we fall. We are holding our children’s hands and leading them along the delusional life; the life where God is not central, but peripheral. 

We are delusional when we believe that life is a picnic, instead of a war.

We are delusional when we focus on temporal things instead of eternal things, firmly plant our hearts here on earth to the neglect of heavenly things.

We are delusional when we underestimate Satan. {insert eye roll}  If you are like me, you hate it when people talk about “Satan” like he is constantly around every corner and trying to make us fall. I have been guilty of this “oh please, so weird” attitude myself.

As much as I hate to admit it, this is the plan of Satan.

Satan WANTS to make us believe the exact opposite of what scripture teaches. Satan wants us delusional about his ways and tactics. He wants us to think he is a harmless, red horned imaginary creature who does naughty things.

He wants us to believe that our kids are immune to problems, they are really good in heart and that their choices are harmless.

He wants us to underestimate OUR own capability for wickedness.

He wants us to allow our kids to engage in the baser things of the culture.

He deceives us into thinking that our choices are amoral, when in fact every choice is bringing them closer or farther away from God.

He wants us to thing that we can coast through life instead of battling the flesh.

Satan is a liar and a deceiver. The end.

That is why it is imperative to be in the Word of God daily. Reading and applying God’s word takes us through the war zone. It reminds us not to get comfy there, because it is not where we belong. It reminds us to guard our hearts, keep our eyes up, and to watch and pray.

His word is reality.
Reality is:
  • that His people will be different. Not conformed. Distinctive. Holy. You and your kids.We need to ask ourselves whether our lives reflect Christ’s holiness, or if we’ve become SO absorbed by this world that we are really no different.
  • that God’s people are not God’s people in word only. Remember the Israelites? They were all under the cloud and watch-care of God, but God was fed up with their hearts that were “far from Him.”  He is all set with our lip service and ritualism.
  • He seeks humble followers.
  • He expects obedience.
  • He commands us to love others, and to represent Him accurately.
  • When He says no to certain sins: anger, gossip, envy, jealousy, hate, division, you’d better believe that His no means no.
  •  He is no respecter of persons, no matter how big or above the law you think you are in your own eyes.
  • He wants contrite hearts and a reverence for His word.
  • He wants us to realize that He is big and we are pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
He needs mothers that will answer the call to righteous living in their home.
He needs us to do right. Period. Not compromise or blend in or take on the values around us.
And if we are His followers, and if He is our Lord and Savior, our lives need to reflect His,
And we need to teach our children,
His children, actually, 
His ways and His word.

A Dress Code for Life

Loved this paraphrase from The Message of Colossians 3:12-14. 

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.