By: Katie Gibson
Sometimes I’m pretty sure my kids have this whole Christ-following thing figured out better than I do. In the middle of our morning rush, my 5-year-old appeared by my side and asked, “Mommy, is that the shirt you die in?”
“What?!” I looked down, suddenly to remember I was sporting one of our church’s cerulean blue baptism shirts.
“Uhhh…yeah, kind of, buddy,” I chuckled to myself. Not only does the kid have more spiritual insight than me, but his timing is impeccable.
You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, and what it means to be a Christian. I’ve been thinking about the fact that, despite being one for 25 years, my life still so often looks very much unlike Christ’s. Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about baptism-- the outward sign of what has taken place in our hearts as believers.
Romans 6:4 says, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” In baptism, becoming completely submerged under the water represents death to ourselves— our “flesh,” our desires, our plans, our sin; and coming up out of it represents being raised to new life in Christ. So my son was correct; being submerged in water, in the act of baptism, was the death of my old life.
But here’s the thing about baptism: notice I said, “completely submerged.”
Just as we don’t just dip a toe, or a hand, or even just our head in the water-- but all of us, likewise life in Christ requires that we be “all in.”
It’s so difficult because it’s not logical. When Jesus came He brought a new kind of normal, and in His book, less is more:
The more you give the more you gain (Proverbs 11:24).
The more life you give the more you find (Matthew 10:39).
I say I’m a Christ-follower, and yet I’ve really only surrendered parts of my life to Him, while holding back others.
God, I’ll follow you to here, but no further.
God, I’ll give this much, but no more.
God, I’ll spend this much time, but no more.
God, I’ll sacrifice this, but not that.
God, you can change these parts of me, but not those.
I say I’ve given my life to Him and yet how often am I stingy with my time, my talents and my treasures? Far more often than I’d like to admit. Can you relate?
The thing we need to remember is that, as Christians, we cannot compartmentalize our lives. We cannot keep some areas to ourselves and surrender others. God calls us to be all in. Surrender all.
Dear friend, what are you holding out of the water today-- In what area of your life should you surrender complete control? Are you holding back time that He’s called you to volunteer or money that He’s asked you to give? Are you “stuck” in life because you’re not willing to take the step He’s asked you to take?
It’s not easy to be “all in”— it’s counterintuitive to our human nature.
But know this: Our Father is trustworthy and faithful.
The truth I’ve found (and I’m trusting you will too) is that God is able to do infinitely more with the surrendered areas of our lives than we could ever ask or imagine— or do ourselves. Today let’s go before God, hands open in complete trust and surrender to His will and His way and say, “God, I’m all in."
Word of the Day:
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. Mark 8:34 (NLT)
Father, I know you’ve called me to surrender my life to your will, your way, but so often I find myself holding back. Thank you that your plans for me are better than I could ever imagine for myself. Help me to push through the fear so that I may learn to trust you and be “all in.” In Jesus’ name, Amen
By Kaylie Hodges
The town I live in barely hits the 800 mark for population. Most of you go to churches with more people in attendance than the place that I live. Small towns have a distinct but complicated reputation.
The morning dew hasn’t even burned off when we head out for our walk. The fresh smell of newly cut grass wafts to my nose while the hum of lawn mowers runs faintly in my ears. Two blocks in I see a friend wave and watch my kids rush ahead to go say, ”Hi.” A few blocks later we pass the museum and my kids beg to stop. The same thing happens at the Flower Shop. And Annie’s house. And the store.
This is life in a small town. Everybody knows everybody else and there is no such thing as a secret around here.
Living in this little community has taught me a lot about being the body of Christ.
Some of the lessons have been painful and awkward, some have been beautiful, but they have all been valuable. Small towns can teach us a lot about how to live as a faith community. Often the strengths and struggles we face as a small, tight-knit church community mirror those of my small town:
We Support Each Other. For anyone to make a living around here, we all have to be willing to invest in each other.
Yes, we have to spend a little more on gas and groceries, but if one business goes down it won’t be long until others start crashing.
Strengthening each other makes us all stronger as a whole. When I look around the body of Christ, I am in awe of the wide variety of gifts that He has given His people. They are amazing, and if we are willing to support each other, we will be so much healthier.
Will it be hard? Yes it will. It will cost us something-- Time. Money. Pride.
Let’s surrender all those things to build a community worth having.
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5
We Deal with Our Junk. This weekend we will be celebrating one hundred years as a city. Some of the people whose names were etched on this town’s foundation still have their names in living legacy through their children walking these streets. Bad blood could tear a town this small to pieces. I have known of many of tiff, but people around here are so good about facing the problems and moving on.
Listen, there is no grace in allowing resentment to simmer in the name of avoiding conflict. We have to learn to tell the truth in love and know that at the end of the day, even if we don’t see eye to eye, we are looking in the same direction. We as a church need to learn to live and forgive like we will be spending eternity together.
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:24
We Embrace the Strangers. Outsiders can have a hard time coming into strong communities. By the very virtue of their strength communities work well together they way they are.
I should know. This wasn’t my town, it was my husband’s hometown.
His friends’ parents and grandparents had been friends. I was the new girl. Sometimes a smile and a wave doesn’t cut it. I was blessed to have friends that pursued me, that took me and loved me well. When we have new people in our churches sometimes a smile and a handshake isn’t enough, we will need to invite and embrace newcomers into our circles.
Living in a community will always come with challenges, but we have a wild and tremendous blessing of getting to be in the community that forms the Body of Christ.
As you go forward today, I challenge you to live in your church body like you were living in a flesh and blood town. Are you supporting your brothers and sisters? Are you dealing with the hard stuff? Are you embracing the new people? Sisters I encourage you to rise up and be a builder today. Build a community that is strong, safe, and kind.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
Word of the Day:
“If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But truly God put all the parts, each one of them, in the body as he wanted them. So then there are many parts, but only one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:19-20
Lord, I pray that we would embrace being your community. Help us Lord to honor you as we work together as your children. Show us how to live with each other with You as our guide.
By: Patti Wharton Johnson
I used to love to sew.
My three children, at the time too young to realize matching clothing was something they apparently should have protested, happily wore all that I created on my simple machine. I relished the days of creating while being a stay at home mommy to our three little blessings.
When my youngest was about five, something changed. Somehow, life got even more busy than it already was. My final sewing projects became victims in the fallout of a list of things "put off until later." I can still see the little pink flannel nightgown pinned to the tissue pattern pieces, along with three matching "almost finished" Christmas outfits. Every time I would run to the sewing room to patch a pair of pants, or sew on a button, they were there, a testament of my failure to complete what I started.
Over time, the unfinished outfits came to represent a kind of albatross around my neck, forever reminding me I did not finish well. One quick glance towards the mending basket and I was immediately reminded that I was obviously not "enough.” I had become captive to a project whose season had clearly passed. I kept the unfinished pieces even though my children eventually outgrew them.
When we moved to a new house, I carefully packed my partially completed projects and brought them along. Some part of me still tried to convince myself that the sewing season might return. As years passed, any time we would look at old family photo albums, my much older children would now roll their eyes at "those clothes,” while I just stared misty eyed, glowing and internally reveling in the wonderful memories of my three little matching babies.
God's Word tells us "there is a season and a time" for everything. In Ecclesiastes 3, He gives multiple examples of this truth. Seasons change. God's intention for His children is that we learn and grow through these different seasons of life as we move through them. The lessons of "a time to plant" will be different than the truths we experience during the "time to pluck up what is planted." If we are to experience the full cycle and blessing of sowing and reaping, we must not only plant, but also be willing to harvest when the time is right. And so it is with each and every new "season" we find ourselves in.
How wonderfully freeing it is when we are finally able to let go and realize the end of one season in our life journey is simply the beginning of another. Like the caterpillar who must rest inside the cocoon for a season, we too can rest in knowing that God's plans are good through each season of our lives. When the time and season of change in the cocoon is complete, the caterpillar will eventually emerge and take flight as a beautiful new creature. This is our Creator's plan, and it is good. Likewise, we will experience many seasons of change. Our Heavenly Father requires us to let go of the old as He brings us to a new levels of growth, trust, faith, and understanding.
The beautiful and ever changing seasons in nature serve as a reminder of this truth. The cold of winter is necessary to prepare the bulbs to grow in Spring, and to bloom in Summer, and to die back as Autumn approaches. If we pluck the blossoms on a grapevine too early, they will never become fruit. If we keep the fruit on the vine too long, it will be ruined. Seasons change. This is God's good plan with "every purpose under Heaven.”
Would we hold on so tightly if we truly realized holding on to things of the past might be getting in the way of the joy, the experiences, the learning, the growing, and the fruit bearing of our todays? Life changes inevitably occur. We can trust that the seeds dropped from the wilting vine will produce the new growth of a coming season.
Do you hold on to things, ideas, or plans whose season has passed? Do you feel guilt, failure, or "less than" when you think or look back at unfinished plans? What would it take for you to be willing to let go of some of yesterday's stuff (ideas, plans, dreams, wounds, and personal agendas) in order to make room for the season you are currently in?
Word of the Day:
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3 (KJV)
Heavenly Father, Thank you for the changing seasons of life. Help me to grow through each one and receive the grace you freely offer when I am found clinging to remnants of season's past. Help me to take time to experience each joy in my current season. Help me to recognize your mercies are new every morning, and to rest in knowing that though life often brings change, your love and grace are constant and sure.
By Shelley Hendrix
I received some really disappointing news at the beginning of the summer of 2013 and it hit me hard. Really hard. And then, as many of you have shared with me you’ve experienced, it felt as though I couldn’t get up from that punch before another situation kicked me down again.
This went on throughout the whole summer. I’m a summer girl, y’all. I LIVE for Christmas and Summer, basically, at least as far as seasons go; so in addition to dealing with these challenges, I was also missing my summer. When August arrived, I was in one of the worst places emotionally and mentally that I’ve been in longer than I can remember. Giving up and calling it quits had never been more attractive.
The first Sunday in August came and I was tempted to stay under the covers in bed rather than enter the doors of my local church. I came SO close, and to be honest, missing one Sunday wasn’t going to hurt anyone too much; but for me, and on that particular Sunday, God nudged me gently, but firmly with a thought that He placed in my mind: “Shelley, beware the PIT of Self-pity.”
Short and to the point. He got my attention with that brief 1-liner to my soul.
With that prompting from God’s Spirit to my own, I had a choice to make. August 4 also happens to be the date I celebrate my new life in Christ, my “Spiritual Birthday.” I can’t tell you off the top of my head what the message was that Sunday, nor what songs we sang, nor anything else really, but I’ll remember forever how much that small step away from the pit kept me from sliding down a very slippery slope.
As I prayerfully considered this “PIT” of self-pity, these three ‘warning signs’ revealed themselves and I want to share them with you so that you, too, can avoid, or take steps to get out of, the PIT of Self-PITy.
P: Pressure to be all, do all, have it all.
Whenever we begin to feel the pressure to be all things to all people; to do all things that need to be done, (“If I want it done right, I guess I’ll have to do it myself!”); or to have it all (for ourselves, our children, our homes, our ministries, etc) ~ we set ourselves up to be disappointed, discouraged, and disillusioned.
There is ONLY ONE all-powerful, all-present, all-sufficient being in this universe, and friend, neither you nor I are that Being! In the times we find ourselves feeling this kind of pressure, it’s helpful to remember:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13—Not everything I personally initiate, but what Christ in me initiates. Remember, write this down somewhere, share it on your social networks if needed, but don’t forget this principle:
“I have everything I need today to do what GOD has called me to do today.”
I: Isolation from relationship
When we get discouraged and it seems like good things are happening for everyone else (at least according to Facebook posts and pics), it’s tempting to pull back from relationship with others and throw ourselves a party for one. This isolation from relationship doesn’t even necessarily have to happen in isolation. We might be surrounded by people, showing up on time and going through the motions, but not fully engaged nor present with loved ones in relationship.
I know folks who have given up on meeting in any type of church setting because they’ve been wounded in these places, but this isn’t the answer Jesus gives us for dealing with our hurts and disappointments. When you feel the tug to isolate, remember:
“Let us not give up on meeting together…but let’s encourage one another.”Hebrews 10:25
We are created from and for relationship. Isolating won’t bring the healing our souls long to experience. Our greatest wounds come through relationship, but so does our greatest healing. So don’t close yourself off to what God wants to use to pull you out of that pit!
T: Temptation to focus solely on self
Ugh…this one hit me between the eyes. My husband and I have been on a journey to understanding God’s grace, living authentically in relationship, and differentiating between the principle of “taking thoughts captive” and the practice of stuffing emotions. Because we have come to understand the power of confessing what is real, not necessarily what is impressive, it’s easy to then swing to the extreme of expressing every negative emotion, thought, etc and then camping out there in a pity party.
“Woe is me…I can’t believe what I have to deal with…” Like Job, we may not give in to the temptation to curse God, but I can definitely relate to his, “why is this happening to ME?” cries. As God whispered the “Beware the PIT of Self-Pity” warning to my spirit, He revealed to me, and brought conviction to me that I had allowed myself to spend a little too much time thinking of…well, myself.
And then I interviewed two young women who had been imprisoned for their faith in the Evin Prison in Iran. They spent 9 months not knowing if they’d be beaten, tortured, raped, or even killed. In all of that, they remembered how loved they were by Jesus; that tribulation is a part of life in a fallen world; and that no matter what happened to them, the worst thing (losing relationship with Almighty God) could never and would never happen to them.
The balance can be tricky, but while we’re learning to be honest, authentic, and real, we also need to ask the Spirit within us to convict us anytime we tip the scales and lose balance, slipping into a pit of self-pity.
Remember: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
There is a PIT in Self-PITy, but you and I do not have to fall into it! I leave you with this quote by Elisabeth Elliot:
“And even if you seem to have nothing but regrets, horrible pictures of your poor choices, your sins, your mistakes, your failures, we’re talking about a God who repairs things, makes things over, transforms them.”
First published here: http://shelleyhendrix.com/beware-the-pit-of-self-pity/ - Used with permission.
Word of the Day:
“Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
By Kandice Adams
My little girl loves her daddy.
He gets her full attention.
She hangs on his every word. He speaks no wrong, and she lets none of His words fall to the ground.
She runs to him when he walks through the door.
Even though I carried her for nine months, it is still endearing to watch the pair because she is a daddy’s girl through and through.
I have to admit that she came to mind as I was reading through Revelation yesterday. In the letter to the Ephesians Jesus states, “… you have left your first love” (Rev 2:4 ASV).
I thought of my daughter and her adoration for her daddy, and then I thought of how I was when I was a new Christian. I was much like her.
I pored through His word. I couldn’t wait to hear His voice each day.
I longed to be in His presence in prayer, to whisper my thoughts, concerns, dreams, and aspirations.
I would tell everyone I met about the man in my life.
But I have to say, there have been seasons when things were different; I was more distant. There have been times I needed to be stirred by a worship song to remember how things were.
I had lost the deep desire to join him on dates.
Our quiet time had become habitual, or worse, obligatory.
Reading His word had become an item on my task list.
He was no longer the first thing on my mind.
Can you relate?
Friend, if we are not intentional those days will become seasons, and one day we will look at the intimacy we once shared with our Lord and see it as a moment in time, instead of experiencing the joy that comes with a continual relationship.
Today, I ask you as a sister, how is your first love?
Is your love strong or do you need to pray about your relationship?
Do you need to commit to doing anything differently so that your love can be made strong once again?
If you are having an off season, God offers us encouragement and hope: “"Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return to Me," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I may return to you," says the LORD of hosts” Zech 1:3 (KJV).
We only need to return to His embrace; return to being enamored with the sound of His voice; return to sharing Him with everyone; return to not letting His words fall to the ground; return to having the deep desire to please Him.
Return to Him.
Word of the Day:
'I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” Jer 24:7 (NIV).
Lord, thank you for always being there, waiting for me and beckoning me. Thank you for your constant love. I ask today, that when I am distant, you pull me into your embrace. I ask that you beckon me with the voice of your spirit, and cause my heart to be sensitive to your presence, in Jesus’ name, amen.