The Power of Life and Death

The Power of Life and Death

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”

So often, we choose to put our value and worth into what other people say about us. We also tend to let the negative overpower the positive. We remember and hold on to something negative someone has said and we let it defeat us. We let men condemn us when Jesus has not condemned us. In fact, if we look at scripture, it tells us we are kings and priests (Revelations 5:10), we are a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), and we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We have the authority to speak life or death.

In Mark 11:23, look at the importance of our words: “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

God spoke the earth into creation. He said, “Let there be light.” He said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place.”

Christians have been given that same authority and if we aren’t using God’s words, whose are we using? Our pastor once said, “When you speak something negative over someone, you are only putting them further from the cross.” This challenged me and made me think about the words I was speaking over my friends, my co-workers, my husband, my daughter, and even myself.

What words are you speaking over people in your life? What are you choosing to speak over yourself?

James 3:5 says, “The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things.” As Christians, we have power that is not given to the devil. If we speak words of defeat, we are doing the devil’s work for him. Luke 10:19 says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.”

We can choose to live victoriously every day. We do that by not speaking what we see or feel (for the devil is a deceiver), but by speaking what we know is true. We speak what scripture tells us, which is that by His stripes we are healed, by His sacrifice we are made whole, by His grace we are saved, and by His love we are set free.

When You Bury Lazarus Too Soon

When You Bury Lazarus Too Soon

Sometimes our burdens are heavy. Scripture doesn’t dispute that—in fact, it says that we are going to be loaded down by them. Whether it’s a broken relationship, or a shattered dream, or a difficult loss, our instinct is to shut down. We go numb. We throw in the towel. We give up. We bury Lazarus too soon.

When Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.” Jesus knew the end from the beginning. He knew that Lazarus would die, but he also knew that his death would only be the middle of the story. He spoke to the end, not to the middle.

Jesus is the author and the finisher, the beginning and the end. Has He not said He will strengthen and protect you? Has He not said He will never leave you nor forsake you? Yet in the midst of our storms, we have a tendency to look at what’s right in front of us and forget about the words spoken over us. The same way Martha and Mary buried Lazarus four days before Jesus arrived, we give up the fight before Jesus makes it to the scene. All we can see is the dead body when we stop focusing on the resurrected one. We get lost in the middle and forget to look to the end.

After saying the sickness would not be unto death, Jesus continued, “No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” He later tells the disciples. “For your sake, I am glad I was not there [when Lazarus was dying], so that you may believe.”

Sometimes the storms aren’t about us. People can’t see your faith, but they can see your suffering. They can see what you’re going through, and when they watch you withstand it, they can see His glory.

We are going to go through storms, but remember that Jesus sees the end of the storm. Praise Him in the middle—not because you feel like it, but because He is worthy. Take His hand and lead Him to where you gave up, where you laid it down. Let Him restore you. Let Him raise you up, for His glory.

When Time Becomes an Idol

When Time Becomes an Idol

I’ve never been a super spontaneous person. I’m more of a “make a list and check it twice” type person. Before I got married, I had almost every day planned out, and considered it a wild night when I went out after 8 pm. After getting married, it felt like a personal challenge to merge two individual schedules into one, smooth timeline. And then we had a baby. I thought I was a planner before, but suddenly every moment of my day had to be perfectly mapped out between nursing, pumping, working, cleaning, eating, diaper changing, and—when the stars aligned—sleeping.

I’ve been in that survival planning mode for almost two years, and even though our lives have slowed down, I still sometimes feel like I’m forgetting something. On car rides home from work, I have to verbally go through the to-do list with my husband: We will get home (check), you fill up the diaper bag with juice and snacks (check), I will do her diaper and change her clothes (check), then we can run to the store (check), and stop by and say hi to your mom on the way back (check).

I spend so much time planning my day, that when my plans are interrupted, it usually leads to anger and frustration. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun, spontaneous play dates. It also doesn’t leave a lot of room for me to have one on one time with Jesus. I was convicted about that lack of time when our daughter was about a year old. I realized that I had to fight for that time, so I scheduled it into our daily routine.

After a few months of being refilled and restored, my coveted alone time took a hit. My daughter would seek me out, screaming for me, or my husband would need to run an unexpected errand leaving her with me, and I would get so frustrated. I found myself throwing up my hands and calling out in exasperation, “I’m trying to spend time with you! I’ve tried to protect this time, but clearly this child that I’ve birthed has other plans.” And gently, so gently, the response: Why are you keeping her from me?

I want to be very clear that there is nothing wrong with expectantly awaiting that alone time with our Father. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in the presence of God, but there needs to be flexibility in what that time might look like.

My alone time with God had become an idol to me. I turned to anger when it was interrupted. The Spirit impressed on my heart that I couldn’t show my daughter what a relationship with the Lord looked like if I only had real relationship with Him when I was alone.

So what does it look like to protect your time with God while still being flexible?

  • Remember that your location is not as important as His presence. God is not confined to one specific room or one specific time. If something unexpected comes up, instead of letting that anger you, remind yourself that He is always waiting and willing to speak with you.
  • Remember that your solitude is not as important as His grace. There are absolutely reasons to be alone with God and to seek that private time with Him, but it becomes a problem when you react in anger if someone interrupts you. If someone unexpectedly walks in, address them with the grace you are also seeking. And if it’s your child, invite them in. Show them what it looks like to spend time with the one person who will always comfort them, love them, and cherish them.

As parents, we aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect to be. No amount of planning, organizing, or scheduling is going to allow us to be there every single time our child needs us, so what could be more important than introducing them to someone who can be? I love my one-on-one time with Jesus, but I am also learning to treasure my two-on-one time when I can watch my daughter fall in love with Him, too.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Dear God: Where Are You?

Dear God: Where Are You?

Dear God,

You say that all I have to do is call to you and you will tell me things I do not know, so tell me this: Where are you?

I tried to read the news today, and I found myself in tears. There’s such hatred and such evil in the world, and so much of it done in your name. The times we live in are so dark, and I can’t help but wonder – where is your light? You say you have overcome the world, but we still have to live in it. I tell my daughter that you’re a good God, who will protect and take care of her, and in the same breath have to explain why she can’t let go of my hand in the store.

I finally took control of my life. I made time for you. I cut out the things in my life that were distracting me. I spend my mornings in devotions and my evenings serving at the church. Those things brought me such joy before and I thought it would be empowering, but I feel empty and tired. It’s like I just can’t get to you. I’m trying so hard – at home, at work, at church. For my daughter, for my friends, for my husband. I am trying so hard to shine your love, to serve with your grace, yet I still feel like I’m failing.

I can’t hear your voice anymore, and I wonder if I’ve done something wrong. Are you mad? Are we fighting?

Are you there?

My Child,

I am where I’ve always been.

The times you live in may seem dark, but remember what has been done for you. Turn off the news and open the Word. You live in a time of better promises. You live in a time of no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Your iniquities have been forgiven and your sins are remembered no more. You live in a time where you are not under law, but under grace. You live in a time after the third day.

You live in a time with the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Counselor, the Advocate, the Intercessor, the Strengthener, who comes to your aide and bears you up in your weakness. Because you have Him, you are not comfortless, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, or helpless. I can be with you every moment of every day. And I am.

The world may tell you to take control of your life, but I’m telling you to give it up. You keep trying to do things in my name, in your own power. When you create these rituals and follow these formulas trying to get to me, you put me on a pedestal of your own making that makes me seem unobtainable. I tore the veil for you so that you could always come into my presence, so why do you keep trying to gather up the pieces?

I know that you’re tired. Stop trying so hard and rest in me. I see the way you’re pushing yourself. I see the way you’re exhausting yourself every day, but I can’t give you rest when you refuse to trust me with your burdens. You trust that I am with you in the light, but you won’t make room for me in the dark. You trust that you are saved by grace, but not that it is sufficient enough to cover your weaknesses. You trust that I sent my Son to the cross for you, yet you don’t trust that I will help you carry yours.

Where am I? I am where I’ve always been. Pursuing your heart. Waiting on you to trust me, to invite me in. You want to see my presence in your life, but you no longer seek me. Have I not said seek me first, before the works of my hands?

Seek me, and you will find me. I am here.

I am not fighting against you, and I am not fighting with you.

I am fighting for you.

A Hardened Heart

A Hardened Heart

In scripture, I always wondered why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Exodus 4:21 says, “The LORD said to Moses, When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” Throughout Exodus, it is repeatedly pointed out that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or that God hardened his heart. I read through the verses several times, because I couldn’t understand why God would actively keep someone from believing in Him. I assumed that to have a hardened heart was to rebel against God, and that hardened hearts belonged to unbelievers. Until God showed me my own.

I was in the middle of an argument with my husband, and I was trying to see things from his side. I understood that my words had hurt him, but then I immediately remembered that he had hurt me first. I deserve to be angry about this. As soon as I thought the words, I felt a gentle nudging in my spirit. My own thoughts were replaced. “Do not harden your heart against him.”

I was shocked – was I hardening my heart or just being emotional? I looked up several definitions of the word harden: cold, unfeeling, unyielding. Over the following weeks, I became very aware of my heart. In conversations at home, at work, at church… there were times that someone would say something that made my defenses go up. Each time, that same gentle nudge would remind me that the answer was not to turn off my emotions or put up a wall.

Finally, while reading in Mark, I was able to discern what God was trying to show me. In Mark 6, right after Jesus fed the five thousand, we see where Jesus walks on the water. He climbed into the boat with the disciples, and scripture says, “They were amazed beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”

I easily recognized that my belief that hardened hearts belonged only to unbelievers was flawed, because clearly the disciples believed in and followed Jesus. I looked up other scriptures about hardened hearts, and found the disciples listed yet again in Mark 8:17. When they begin discussing the fact that they forgot to bring bread, Jesus says to them “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Jesus had already fed the five thousand and the four thousand, and yet the disciples were worried about not having bread. In response, Jesus asks them, “Are your hearts hardened?”

I realized that having a hardened heart doesn’t mean that you are opposed to God, but that your thoughts are opposed to His. We see the miracles, but we don’t trust Him to continue to take care of us. We are amazed by the miracles, which means that we don’t believe God is who He says He is.

Mark 6:52 says the disciples “considered not the miracle of the loaves”.  So in the midst of the storm, rather than reminding themselves of what Jesus had already shown them, they focused on their current situation. In the midst of our storms, our hearts become softened toward what we focus on, and hardened to everything else. In an argument with my husband, if I focus on my own emotions and feelings, I become hardened against him.

Going back to Pharaoh, God hardening His heart meant that, though he saw the miracles with his own eyes, he couldn’t understand or perceive what they meant. He was unaffected by the miracles happening around him. His focus stayed on himself, and his own pride, which kept a veil up between Him and God.

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” – Ephesians 4:18

To harden your heart against God is to turn away from the life God wants for you. To choose the natural over the supernatural, or to choose your view over God’s view. To remain ignorant and unyielding. To let pride interfere with your relationships. To be unaffected by His words or His work.

When I view my husband as “worthy of my anger”, I am choosing to be unaffected by Christ’s work on the cross. I am choosing my own view over God’s view, and I am hardening my heart. Instead, in the middle of the storm, I have to consider Jesus. I have to remind myself of what has already been finished.

Empty Faith

Empty Faith

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

When we think of empty faith, we typically think of this verse in James. Faith without works is dead, but faith that is misplaced is also dead. If we put our faith in our works, instead of our Christ, we can’t become who He made us to be. A picture of this is when Christians stay in their comfort zone, not believing that He can do greater things.

We can be great singers or great musicians or great speakers, but without Christ, we are impressive, but not powerful. We can’t be powerful, or see the fruit of our faith, until we understand that Jesus alone has justified us and given us right-standing. None of our works make us more or less righteous. When we spend our time trying to earn something we have already been given, all of our works are self-serving. We shouldn’t work for our righteousness, we should work from it.

Jesus told us in the New Testament, “whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. How can we do “even greater works” than Jesus if we don’t see ourselves as clean, redeemed, and worthy? We have to have the faith to believe that we are who Jesus says we are first. Only then can we do what Jesus called us to do.

We can’t pick and choose. We can’t say I believe you died for my sins, but I’m also still guilty. We can’t say I believe you took my punishment, but I think I still deserve it. We can’t say I believe you are who you say you are, but I’m not sure I am who you say I am.

Jesus says we have His righteousness and His right standing. To believe you have or deserve anything less than that is to have empty faith.

I Am Not His First Love

I Am Not His First Love

When I was younger, I wanted a love like the movies. I wanted someone to tell me they loved me more than anything. I wanted to be the thing they loved the most. After being in relationships where that was the case, it terrified me to look for a husband who loved Jesus more. What if that didn’t leave enough love for me?

I even had my Christian loophole ready: If marriage represents Christ’s love for the Church, what could He have loved more than the Church?

Christ’s love for the church was the most selfless love imaginable; whereas, my desire to be loved “the most” was a selfish need for security. You have jealousy, not love, if your need to be loved interferes with your spouse’s love for God, rather than enhancing it.

My husband loves me, but he loves Jesus more. And there is so much more security in that. People fall in and out of love with each other all of the time, because we are always changing. If my husband listed out the reasons he fell in love with me, I could probably pick out several things that aren’t true anymore. If you ask people why they get divorced, most of them will tell you, “We just weren’t in love anymore.”

My husband and I don’t stay in marriage because we love each other—even though we do—but because we both love Jesus. Jesus is the rock of our marriage, and He doesn’t change. My security in my marriage doesn’t come from my husband loving me the most, but from my husband loving Jesus the most, because Jesus will never let him down. Our love may change, but His never does.

When we focus on how much Jesus loves us, rather than how much our spouse loves us, it equips us to love better. My love for my husband isn’t based on his behavior, or his abilities, or his looks—it comes from an overflow of the love that covers me daily. And even more importantly, my expectations of being loved don’t fall on him, either. I’m loved more than anything by my Savior. He knows all of my flaws, all of my deepest, darkest thoughts, and He still loves me more than my husband could even begin to.

Marriage is a covenant that reflects the one God made with His church. Your marriage should reflect God’s love, not replace it. So if you are feeling unloved or unloving, try taking a step back and re-focusing your attention on Jesus. Don’t look for a love like the movies; look for a love like the cross.