Totally Dependent

I am nearly at the finish line! In about 3 weeks or so I will endure the radical pains of childbirth to meet for the very first time, my daughter, Piper Evangeline. I look forward to no longer needing 8 pillows when I sleep to help my particularly round body get comfortable and keep me from the fears of accidentally doing the unforgivable sin of pregnancy— lying on my back. My husband thinks I take up the whole bed…it’s totally in his head! I also look forward to no longer expelling all my energy from just simply talking. Piper’s most favorite spot in my womb is right up in my diaphragm, so I get out of breath all the time! I look forward to no longer needing to figure out the best ways to dress myself. In the beginning, I loved showing off my baby bump with what I wore. However, I am at that point where I think I have lost that “cute factor” and would rather wear one of my husband’s t-shirts all day everyday until I give birth.

Truthfully though, my pregnancy has been pretty amazing. I have friends whose pregnancies sound like 9 months of pure tormented discomfort and they just can’t wait for that baby to finally make its way into this world. Even in my very little discomforts, I have thoroughly enjoyed my growing belly and I have especially loved feeling my daughter kick and punch different parts of my tummy. In many ways, my pregnancy has been a breeze.

However, I must say that even with a wonderful and uncomplicated pregnancy, I am more terrified for the looming role as “mommy” than I had anticipated.

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My fears of motherhood find their roots deep within me and leave me feeling completely ill-equipped to be a mommy. My fears are selfish, driven by the approval of man or my lack of control over the unknown. My fears leave me with so many unanswered questions: What if I am not good at being a mom? What if I don’t love it? What if my friends and family don’t agree with my philosophy of parenting? Do I even have one? What will I do if my daughter is never saved? Will my friendships change? What if motherhood is lonely and isolating? What if I fail my daughter…or my husband…or my church?

I don’t know if moms will admit it, but what I have learned in my pregnancy is that there is a profound inward war among moms, soon-to-be moms or even women without kids, where they battle over topics like “the best way to birth a child,” “breastfeeding vs. formula,” “homeschool vs. public school,” the “proper way to discipline,” “what we feed our babies,” “strict vs. loose schedules,” etc. On and on the wars keep building up. My esteem, my energy, my confidence, my bravery… all mere casualties of this never-ending barrage of expectation. I keep trying to figure out the best route to take to become this amazing, all-star kind of mommy for my church, for my friends and for my family.

I long to be recognized and seen as the “perfect mommy.”

Our world has countless amounts of articles, blogs, books, websites, etc. that tell women how to be good mothers or how to succeed at motherhood. I wish that some of the advice given offered more than just a performance based list of how to’s or specific signs indicating to a mother when they have finally reached perfection as a mommy. Some of the most interesting suggestions on achieving successful motherhood were: If you want a life, make your children portable OR your intentions are good, so trust your gut OR make your child feel special with endearments or nicknames OR don’t be tight about spending money-“If you always say no and follow this with a lecture about saving money, you will be known as the “Tight Parent”, the one who never buys anything (wikihow.com).” In the article “15 Signs You’re Doing Motherhood Right,” Leah Rocketto says that some signs indicating you are mothering correctly will be that your kids will smile 90% of the time, they will share with others and they will say please and thank you without being told. Regarding the difficulty of role, she says true motherhood should lead to this particular response, “your partner doesn’t know how you do it.”

Of course, there is tons of advice on ways to grow in motherhood. However, in my opinion, the worlds view of motherhood is so limited and fruitless. If my husband is flabbergast about the ways I parent, that will not make me a good mother. It will only fuel my self-sufficiency and my pride into believing I am better than my husband and other mommies because my performance is obviously such a profound mystery. Puffing up my child’s ego by telling them how special they are will not make me succeed at motherhood, neither will it tell them how much they are truly helpless, in need of a Savior. In learning how to be a mother, I need something more hopeful…more promising…more reliable. I need something that won’t call me a failure as a mother if my daughter throws tantrums every time she has to share or struggles to be a polite, well-mannered kid.

I long to be recognized and seen as the “perfect mommy”…but the stark truth in that particular longing, is that I never will be no matter how hard I try. Truthfully, that thought hurts. In fact, it is an incredibly sanctifying thought for me.

David Mathis says, “Parenting is first about our sin and need for growth.” Already in my pregnancy, God has revealed to me the ugliness of my “mommy pride” simply through my longing to be a good enough mother and to be viewed better than I actually am. My pride is sneaky and infectious. It distorts my ability to view myself through a sober lens and causes me to justify my own sin. My pride fuels my fears. Pride is one sin that will almost always thwart you from crying out in desperation and dependence to a Savior because pride says, “I’ve got everything in control.”

I used to love that song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel, and would sing out the lyrics worshiping God and imagining myself a warrior overcoming the fears that plagued me. I do believe that in our weakness, God absolutely can give us the strength and endurance we need through difficult and overwhelming circumstances. However, as I considered the idea of bravery in the midst of my mommy fears, I realized that I don’t need a God that will “make me brave.” I don’t need a God that will push me towards more self-sufficiency and fluff up how great “I am” to overcome my own fears. Today, I am profoundly aware that I need a God that will move my heart towards a more profound awareness of my helpfulness and thrust me to a greater dependence and desperation for my Savior. I need God to remind me that I am nothing without him. I need God to radically reveal my desperate need for him. When I think about raising Piper in our wicked, liberal world, I don’t feel brave. I feel helplessly and vulnerably dependent.

Psalm 142:5-7 says, “I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”

Author Jon Bloom says, “It’s the lack of a sense of desperation for God that is so deadly. If we don’t feel our deep need for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him. Love for this present world sets in almost imperceptibly, like a spiritual leprosy, damaging spiritual nerve endings so that we don’t feel the erosion and decay happening, sometimes until it’s too late.” Knowing myself and my perceptibly large “mommy pride,” I know full well that there will likely be a strong propensity for me to rely on myself, my specific parenting beliefs and my specific gifting so that people view me as one of those “super moms.”

Our sin, that is exposed in parenting, will not detract or belittle from the power of the Gospel, but rather it will show why we need the Gospel. Pride cannot teach you how to desperately depend on God to become a godly mother. It will only drive you deeper into yourself and therefore deeper into the sin itself. The gospel is the answer to our brokenness. The gospel is the answer to our relentless self sufficiency. The gospel is the answer to our total inability to live out biblical motherhood by faith — totally dependent on his grace with an upmost desire for his glory. Our children need to see us treasuring the things of God (glorifying him) and depending on his all-sufficient grace. I am convinced that the only way I can truly parent Piper, and the only way we can truly parent our children is by being completely and utterly dependent on God. Dependent on him to save and keep our families including our children. Dependent on his sovereign plan, because it is for our good and his glory. Dependent on him to grant us repentance when we fail as mommies. Dependent on him to shower us with the grace to accept our limits. Dependent on him to fill us with fervent faith to trust him more… Totally dependent.

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Cheating On My Husband With My Husband

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C.S. Lewis provides such beautifully rich imagery in his Chronicles of Narnia series. A passage from the “The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” resonates deeply within me. Eustace, a rotten and annoying boy, finds himself in possession of a huge fortune. Gold and rubies were everywhere and he couldn’t help but imagine a rich life and the new comforts he could enjoy in the midst of this treasure. He lies down in the midst of his vastly great possession, utterly satisfied and falls asleep.

While sleeping on a cache of gold and fortune with “greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart,” he woke up and to his own terror he had become green personified… a dragon himself. He was transformed into a miserable, lonely beast, cut off from humanity. Over and over, he tried to scrape off the skin, but there was absolutely nothing he could do to shed his rough, scaly dragon skin.

In mercy and grace, Aslan the Lion appeared one night while he was lying helpless and hopeless. Aslan said to him, “You will have to let me undress you.” Eustace was afraid of Aslan’s claws, but he was terribly desperate. In anxiousness and humility Eustace lied down flat on his back for Aslan to undress him.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.

He peeled the beastly stuff right off-just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt-and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobby looking that the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. I’d turned into a boy again.”

I feel like Eustace.

Several weeks ago, God began revealing to me one of the most destructive idols in my life…my very own husband. I have voluntarily placed my husband in God’s place. I trust my husband more than I trust God. I desire my husband more than I desire God. I give more attention to my husband more than I give to God. I love my husband more than I love God. I treasure my husband more than I treasure God. I even look to my husband to be my savior, a responsibility that only Jesus is fully capable to handle. Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I began to see the ways I have misplaced God in my life. This was so embarrassing. I have been a Christian for years and I am a pastor’s wife, heavily involved in my church and I was replacing the Savior of the world with fallible man. In essence, I was cheating on my “true” Husband (Jesus) with my husband (Rony). I so desperately wish this was a lie and I could loudly deny this idolatry. What God was showing me was true to it’s very core…I considered my husband a greater, more powerful gift than Jesus Christ. What a dangerous place I had found myself in.

I trust my husband more than I trust God. I desire my husband more than I desire God. I give more attention to my husband more than I give to God. I love my husband more than I love God. I treasure my husband more than I treasure God.

Idolatry poisons us and our relationships with others because we will end up using others to fuel our Idol worship. Idolatry lies to us about truth and is a lie about who Jesus is. Idolatry deceives us and moves us to believe that a life without Jesus is better than a life with him. There have been moments in my marriage where I have wondered if Rony passed away, who would I be more excited to see when I get to Heaven, Jesus or Rony? Idolatry destroys us and offends God. As a result, God’s wrath comes upon the idolater because God is jealous for me and you. God’s jealousy, however, is different from our jealously. God’s jealousy is righteous and he is deserving of our strongest affections and admiration. John Piper says, God created us to discover “our greatest joy when he is our greatest treasure. God is jealous that he be honored by being treasured and he is jealous that we be satisfied by treasuring him. He is jealous in a loving way and he is jealous in a righteous way. And if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put our things in his place that really satisfy us more than he does, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves.”

Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I began to see the ways I have misplaced God in my life.

In The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul writes, “Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born in the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him…To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.”

Coming face to face with my grave lack of affection and admiration towards Jesus is humiliating. Why? Truthfully, Jesus is the only one who is truly deserving of it. Over the last several days and weeks, I have literally felt as if God shoved his hand deeply into my chest and is slowly ripping out the ways I have idolized my husband. Just the other day, I was flooded in remorse and heartache after a huge fight with Rony. While trying to resolve our conflict, God revealed to me that I was more distraught about the ways I sinned against my husband than the ways I had sinned against God himself.

God was (and still is) wrecking me by showing me the ways that I am consistently hurting my relationship with him. Not only that, but he is also making known to me the ways that I have been hurting my marriage by setting my husband up for failure to lead me well. The root of all of it lying in my inability to love and trust God. God is destroying my idol. It’s beautiful that God would choose to sanctify me in this way and awaken my soul to himself, but honestly it hurts. It hurts deep. Just like Eustace said, “it hurts worse than anything.”It is so painful accepting how many times I choose myself and what I desire over Jesus. As the age old hymn declares, I really am “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love.”

When God rips out my flesh, quite notably a flesh that I cannot rip out on my own, he is transforming my hardened heart. I need the saving grace of Jesus to sanctify my soul to make me more like him. John 15: 1-4 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

Having my “flesh clawed off” has revealed something radical to me. Without Jesus and his work in and through me, I am nothing. I am incapable of escaping the brutal reality of my Idolatry. I am profoundly aware of my need for a Savior. In these last several days, I have found myself humbly submitting to the throne of God as he is tearing out the rough, scaly parts of my heart. At times I feel like I can’t even breath because I recognize that God is allowing me to be in situations where I have to decide who I will place my trust in to lead me and give me HOPE, Rony or God? My flesh so strongly wants to choose Rony because there is a part of me that believes that God will fail me and that he does not really care about me. A lie from the enemy! A lie produced from idolatry.

At times I feel like I can’t even breath because I recognize that God is allowing me to be in situations where I have to decide who I will place my trust in to lead me and give me HOPE, Rony or God?

God is plucking out areas of sin in my life and although it is overwhelming and hard, I believe it is for my good and for his glory. Choosing Jesus above everything else is not the natural reflex of our human hearts. But one thing remains…my suffering as a sinner is only the first verse. As Shane and Shane says in their song Embracing Accusations, “The Devil is singing over me an age old song that I am cursed and gone astray. Singing the first verse so conveniently over me, he’s forgotten the refrain: Jesus saves!” The triumphal chorus is that I have been rescued, redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ. He is jealous for me and his affections for me are greater than anything I have ever known. He is worthy of my trust, admiration and deepest affection.

“God’s grace invites you to be part of something that is far greater than your boldest and most expansive dream. His grace cuts hole in your self-built prison and invites you to step into something huge, so significant that only one word in the Bible can adequately capture it. That word is glory.” -Paul David Tripp, A Quest For More: Living For Something Bigger Than You

A Desert Soul

It has been two months and 17 days since I last wrote. There have been many days in that time frame where I had my computer lying on my lap while I stared blankly at my word document and watched the space bar flicker…If only words would come to my finger tips. There was no inspiration. There was no motivation. There was just me and an endless scramble of disconnected vague thoughts. I struggled to adequately put into words what was going on in my heart and my head.

Since becoming a believer of Jesus Christ, I have encountered moments with the Lord where he invades my heart, answers my deepest prayers and makes himself known to me through rich intimacy. In these seasons, God lavishes me in his steadfast love and reveals his miraculous power to me. He wins my trust and I fall more in love with him. My faith grows strong, and joy and passion exude within me. In these moments, more than ever, I believe all that God says he is and all that God says he does.

 Then, there are seasons that feel long, daunting and unclear. These seasons can look different for all of us. Often times in this season, it is the chaos and heartache of life that is all-consuming, which will typically leave us drowning in broken expectations and disappointment. For others, this season feels meaningless, where the weight and hopelessness of our own sin is what leaves us feeling defeated and lost. Or perhaps, it is those arid seasons where we are wandering through the desert thirsty and alone. I struggle to understand seasons like these. They confuse me and sometimes break my faith.

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For weeks now, I have felt as if I have been wandering through the desert….weary, thirsty and alone. At times, I have felt forgotten by God. My intimacy with Jesus has been dry and his voice has been quiet. Loneliness in the midst of my sinful struggles has tempted me to separate myself from community, running from vulnerability and honesty with those that are close to me. I have found myself frustrated because when I look at my life, a lack of joy and intimacy with Jesus doesn’t make sense. I have a loving, patient and kind husband. My family is incredibly supportive. I love my job. I have an amazing church and have grown so much in my understanding and knowledge of who God is. I am greatly aware of my sin and my need for a Savior. I have rich, intimate friendships. On the outside my life is good and blessed, but on the inside I am screaming for help and no one can hear me.

I struggle to understand seasons like these. They confuse me and sometimes break my faith.

I am tired emotionally, physically and spiritually, which propels me to lack compassion and grace towards others. At times, I find myself so alone and hopeless when I consider the weight of my own depravity and sinful struggles. I wander through this desert and find myself profoundly aware of my need to be helped and rescued…my need to be saved. As I wander, I hope that I will run to the throne of God and trust that he really will rescue, redeem and help me to believe that he has already reconciled me to himself. I need Jesus to help my unbelief. I am desperately in need of a Savior…Jesus Christ. He is the only one who will rescue me from myself, who will birth hope in my hopelessness and who will never fail me. We think that we have it harder than Jesus did. We think that no one understands our pain, suffering, loneliness or hopelessness. We couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus suffered and died on the cross, bearing the weight of our sin and setting us free from the enslaving power of sin over our lives. We are nothing without him. No means of measure can ever define God’s limitless love. He is enduringly strong and he is eternally steadfast. He is the sinner’s savior and the hope of the world. He sympathizes and he saves. He strengthens and he sustains. We need Jesus.

I am desperately in need of a Savior.

In these dark, desert-like seasons, I often find it difficult to seek the throne of God. Slowly, I find myself feeling and believing that my prayers are in vain and wonder if they really mean anything. I want to believe that God is all-satisfying, sovereign and that he IS the HOPE of the world, but my soul is divided at times. I know in my head the truth of God, but I don’t believe it in my heart. I am perplexed as to why God allows dark, dry, weary and/or quiet seasons in our lives. These seasons only lead me to question what I believe about God. I find myself crying out to the Lord and pleading with him over these disorienting seasons, “How much longer before you allow me to experience your joy? This season has left me so tired. How much longer I will I be here? When will you draw near to me?”

Psalm 43 says,

“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

God even uses our mistaken and wrongful beliefs in dark and arid seasons to draw us to himself.

The psalmist uses such intense vocabulary to fully articulate the deepest emotions of his loneliness and lack of belief. Even though God has not forsaken him, everything about the psalmist’s life forces him to draw the conclusion that God has, an emotion I can empathize with. The beauty in this Scripture is that God even uses our mistaken and wrongful beliefs in dark and arid seasons to draw us to himself.

I am encouraged by this Scripture because the psalmist teaches us how to face our divided souls. The psalmist speaks to God expressing his desire for God to not only lead him out of the trouble he faces, but more specifically to lead him to God himself. He recognizes God as his “exceeding joy.” When we encounter difficult seasons, we especially need God to point us closer to himself because of how prone we are to our own sinful nature. Otherwise, we will often find ourselves using our sin and false hope to fulfill our need for peace and joy. John Piper comments on these verses and says “He is praying for spiritual light. It’s not physical light. Physical light helps physical eyes see physical reality. Spiritual light lets spiritual eyes—the eyes of the heart—see spiritual reality. And see it for what it is, namely, beautiful. So he is praying that God would rescue him not from his enemies but from a far more dangerous enemy: a darkness that causes the world to look much more attractive than it is and causes the greatness and beauty of God to fade out of sight.”

Putting our hope in the things of the world will only create an illusion of reality and truth. We need a greater desire for God to draw us towards his light and his truth, so that we find our hope in him and him alone.Those who are united in Christ by faith can anticipate the same path of “hope in God” as the psalmist experiences. In dry and weary seasons, it is so easy to find our hope in ourselves, relationships, sex, security, etc. We need to preach the Gospel to our souls and speak to God about our discouragement, especially when we find ourselves in despair. We need to embrace these seasons as God’s beautiful work in and through us, and stop allowing our circumstances to dictate what we believe about God.

Perhaps, this season is meant to be rested in and not rushed through?

Although these seasons may feel unappluaded, uncelebrated and unproductive, time is never wasted. These seasons are sacred. In my current “desert-like” season, all I want to do is rush through it and get it over with. Perhaps, this season is meant to be rested in and not rushed through? The desert awakens and sustains a deeper desire for the presence and work of God in and through us. The desert teaches us how to rely fully on God as our only source of hope and satisfaction. The desert offers unrecognized riches if we take the time to SEE them. The desert is a refining place where God purifies our faith and reveals to us our greater need for his saving grace. Perhaps, these dry and dark seasons are the “surprising birthplace of spiritual greatness.” -Alicia Britt Chole

Losing Heaven…Hating Her

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John Piper says, “The greatest risk we face as a church in these days is not that we may lose an organ, or that we may lose money, or that we may lose members, or that we may lose staff, or that we may lose reputation. The greatest risk is that we may lose heaven. Because one way to lose heaven is to hold fast to an unforgiving spirit and so prove that we have never been indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.”

For months, I hated her. I hated her for how she hurt me and how she devalued her relationship with me. I felt deceived by her. I destroyed every picture of us together and every card she had ever written me. I gave to Good Will any gift she had ever blessed me with. My animosity towards her was like cancer in my heart. Pain is an interesting emotion. Sometimes pain can be lethal, infecting every crevasse of our hearts with bitterness, agony and pride. My pain kept me from being able to forgive and my pride only fueled my hurt. I desired to see her life saturated in destruction and loss. Some of you are reading this and in shock that a Christian would be so hateful and wish a grave of heartache upon someone else’s life, but truthfully it’s not far off for people who are hurting to wish terrible things on the people who hurt them. You want them to suffer and hurt in the same way, if not worse than what you did. When I thought about forgiveness it only felt unattractive, undeserving and difficult.

When I think back on that season of my life, where my pain and bitterness tormented me and led my heart, I can’t help but wonder how close I was to losing heaven. I held onto an unforgiving spirit for months, which only proved that I did not trust God.

Sometimes believers paint this idealistic picture of forgiveness as such an easy task.

I have often heard about the necessity of forgiveness preached and how we forgive because we have been forgiven much. I have learned a lot about the difficulty, the humility and the power behind forgiveness. I wish the act of forgiveness was as easy as we often make it sound. Sometimes believers paint this idealistic picture of forgiveness as such an easy task. They claim that “all you need to do is forgive” or “just forgive…it will set you free,” often times citing Jesus, as if it was totally effortless for him to forgive us when he bore the weight of our sin on Calvary.

When I really imagine Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary, I struggle to believe that forgiving me required no physical or mental exertion. I struggle to believe that Jesus really wanted to forgive me after being beaten so badly to the point that he was unrecognizable. After all, the only reason Jesus was treated with such cruelty was because of you and me. It was our fault! He did not have to endure all of that suffering, but he chose to. He chose to forgive me and you. Forgiveness at the cross was anything but painless or effortless. It came with a massive cost. No where in Scripture does it say that forgiveness was easy, but it does say “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So, what happens When someone’s sinful actions against us is like a dagger stabbed straight into our heart and then twisted a bit just to make sure it hurts more? What happens when their wrongful words and actions destroys our lives? What happens when forgiveness feels unwanted or impossible? We have to consider Jesus on the Cross. We have to consider Jesus when everything in us wants to get revenge or see calamity fall over the people who hurt us. We have to consider Jesus when we think about how he forgave us, even when we did not deserve it.

When I became a believer, I died. My life was no longer about me and it no longer belonged to me. I live not to serve myself, but to serve my God. My greatest concern must be God’s glory. My vindication, revenge and bitterness is not what matters most. When I consider God’s glory, I can’t help but recognize my own guilt and sin in unforgiveness.

J.D. Greear says, “So even when you’re the injured party, the biggest issue is reconciliation between the other person in conflict with you and your God. Your role is to disciple him or her to repentance and point them to grace. The key is to look to the cross. At the cross we see our own sin. When we get the chance to kill our Creator, we do so. So the cross prevents any sense of self-righteousness. Even if I’ve been innocent in this issue, I am not innocent. I’m not more innocent. I am only ever a rebel saved by grace.”

When we consider Jesus in every area of conflict in our lives, God will reveal our sin. In areas of hurt, it is tempting to want to punish others for their actions. It was easy for me to be cold and short with my friend who hurt me deeply. It was easy for me to lack any kind of affection or vulnerability. It was easy for me to paint the ugliest picture of this woman. The truth is, when I did that, I was punishing her for an offense that Jesus has already been punished for. This was wrong! I have no justified right to punish her or anyone a second time for their sin. Our bad attitudes, our lustful imaginations, our prideful and hurtful words and actions, and our whole bodies have all sinned against the Living God and Jesus was already punished for all of those sins. We cannot sinfully respond to sin. We must choose to forgive. The covenant love of God moves him to choose us over and over again everyday, even when we blatantly sin against him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It is this covenant love that allowed him to give his only Son as a fragrant offering and sacrifice in our place. God’s covenant love for us birthed one of the most beautiful pictures of humility, grace and forgiveness.

The truth is, when I did that, I was punishing her for an offense that Jesus has already been punished for. This was wrong! I have no justified right to punish her or anyone a second time for their sin.

Charles Spurgen once said, “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to prove rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven.”

Forgiveness is not the absence of anger or sadness. Forgiveness is not feeling good about what was bad or wrong. Rape, lies, cheating, greed, pride, death, slander, adultery…it will always be wrong… it will always hurt. We are not asked to forgive the sin, we asked to forgive the sinner. A heart that has been forgiven much is a heart that forgives much. If we do not understand the weight of our own depravity, God’s act of forgiveness towards us is less meaningful and as result, we will fail to be willing to offer forgiveness to others in the same way. Forgiveness is offered as the unforeseen means of breaking the cycle of sin. We have a greater obligation to forgive. Forgiveness is not optional…EVER. Forgiveness is tough, laborious and tiring. However, forgiveness paints the most beautiful picture of the gospel of the grace of God and his perfect ability to reconcile and restore all that is lost and broken.

I hated her. A convicting thought that only shows the deepness of my depravity. Then I saw Jesus bearing the weight of my hate, my sin and the fulness of her sin. I did that and he paid for it. He forgave me. I forgive her.

I’ve Never Thought About Divorce, But Murder…

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Of course, the evening I begin writing a blog about being humble, Rony and I get into a huge fight. We didn’t just get into a normal fight, we decided to fight right smack dab in the middle of one of the most “happening” restaurants in Ocean Beach. Talk about awkward! At one point the server made eye contact with me, while our mudpie was melting away, and I knew that he knew. Things weren’t going well for Team Renfrow. We didn’t say one word to each other the entire drive home. Both of us annoyed, frustrated, angry and hurt by the other. Both of us too stubborn and too prideful to admit any wrong or accept responsibility for any hurtful actions. I’ve never thought about divorce, but murder… Don’t read this and act like that has never happened to you. Some couples get into fights like this and the silence becomes their only solution because neither person wants to practice humility or own their wrong in the midst of conflict. We sat at home for quite some time before the silence was breached with my “I-am-going-to-be-better-than-you” voice intending to prove to him that my perspective and feelings were right. Rony responded to my bad attitude with all of the most “godly” and theologically-correct content for the argument. To be honest, he was right! However, his delivery was hurtful and patronizing. My heart was pacing so quickly and I was yelling at him desiring to be heard. Deep down in my heart, though, I knew I had gravely disrespected my husband and wished that I could have taken back how I had handled this conflict. Admitting fault and taking responsibility for how we hurt others, particularly the ones we love the most, is so difficult.

Even in our short two years of marriage, we have had arguments over the way one of us drives, poker nights, making the bed, beer, the 49ers, being on time… you name it, we have fought about it. We also have had more serious and intense arguments about church, ministry, my anxiety, how to spend our money, how to spend our time, where to live and theology. Funny thing is, Rony and I don’t fight often; but we do fight! And when we fight, we both fight to be right and to be heard.

Our culture has taught us to be self-serving, self-focused, self-righteous, independent individuals. We think so highly of ourselves that a humble and submissive heart is laughable and foolish.

Not many of us want to admit that apologizing makes us feel like our spouse won the argument, but it is true! Sometimes it shocks me how sneaky pride can wiggle itself into the deepest crevices of my heart producing a defensive, hostile, and blame-shifting woman. All of us are constantly at war with pride. Our culture has taught us to be self-serving, self-focused, self-righteous, independent individuals. We think so highly of ourselves that a humble and submissive heart is laughable and foolish. John Piper says,The reason humility is not a popular trait in the modern world is because it can only survive in the presence of God. We can expect to find humility applauded in our society as often as we find God applauded-which means almost never.”

Sometimes in the midst of arguments or conflict, it feels more important to be right or to make sure I am heard rather than do what is right. Even when I know that I am wrong or am being hurtful/disrespectful towards my husband, there is something inside of me that wants to crush or trump him. When my weapon in disagreements is my pride, the gospel is a complete afterthought and not even desirable. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” That is brutal! This text is saying that being prideful only invites God to actively stand in opposition towards us. Really think about this. Is there really anything worse than having an infinitely powerful, all-knowing, holy God stand against us? When we choose to reject or neglect God in the midst of arguments with our spouses or really anyone for that matter, humility will not survive. When this happens, this all-knowing, all-powerful God takes the back seat, and the runner-up-god, more specifically man, takes his place.

Is there really anything worse than having an infinitely powerful, all-knowing, holy God stand against us?

In Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, “You and Me Forever,” Lisa writes, “We all know that gut-wrenching moment when you feel like you literally can’t form the words, “I’m sorry” with your mouth. Pride washes over your body and mind. There is only one thing that will posses you to do what is right in that moment: an overwhelming need to be right with God. What else matters? I would go as far as to say that if this is still not motivation enough to swallow your pride, then maybe its time to look long at your relationship with God.

The truth is, humility is necessary in the life of a believer. One of the most beautiful attributes of Jesus is his humility. Jesus displayed the gift of humility when he died on the cross to rescue and redeem us from our total depravity (Philippians 2:1-11). Humility is being glad that God gets all the recognition and the glory, not man. Humility is servanthood without an intention to be recognized for how amazing we are. Humility offers freedom and a greater trust in the grace of God. John Piper says, “Humility is a confession of emptiness that receives grace.” God gives grace to the humble. I believe that sometimes it is a war within myself to choose humility, but I must clothe myself in humility. Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love.” 1 Peter 5: 5-7 says, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humber yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Marriages need to be good because they have this awe inspiring opportunity to paint the most beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride.

I feel pretty convicted when I consider the humility of Jesus in the midst of marital conflict. Francis and Lisa Chan say “Humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself. Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be like Christ. It is easy to get blinded in the heat of disagreements. Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin.” Humility is beautiful, rare and profound. Humility is hard and requires grace. Jesus is the most beautiful human-being known to mankind. If my husband and I desire to have a beautiful marriage, then our answer to achieve this is to become more like Jesus. Being more like Christ requires practicing humility every day of our lives. Marriages need to be good because they have this awe inspiring opportunity to paint the most beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride.

Humility in my marriage changes the way Rony and I fight with one another, love one another and trust one another. Believe me, we don’t always practice humility well…kind of like the fight I mentioned earlier. However, when we consider Jesus in the midst of arguing it is really hard to do anything else, but choose humility.

 

Sidenote: I have never actually thought about murdering my husband…but I have gotten royally pissed to the point that I wanted to punch him in the face!

Before The Throne Of My Addiction

My favorite thing about dance is how it has the breathtaking ability to move an audience and speak directly to the heart without using any words. I have an obsession with the show So You Think You Can Dance. One routine that moves me every time I see it is a masterpiece called “Addiction” by choreographer, Mia Michaels.

From the very first time I saw this routine, I can remember thinking how well these two dancers paint a vivid picture of the enslaving power of sin. For me, I see the female dancer representing me or you, with our propensity to sin. In this dance, she is fighting with her addiction, which could easily represent our daily fight with our flesh and the temptation to give into our sin. She knows it’s bad for her, but she can’t get away from it. I see the male dancer as my sin…my addiction. The way that he touches her body fuels this intense need to escape from his powerful grasp, but no matter how hard she tries to run from him, his sneaky and devious methods always overpower her desire to be free. I can’t help but think about the war I have found myself in throughout my life, fighting the pleasures of my favorite sins and how, at times, my sin has had an enslaving power over me.

Sin is the enemy, the thief and the imposter of the throne of God. Sin tricks us and showcases false promises.

When talking about sin, so many people (including Christians) only think about outward sin: alcoholism, sex before marriage, drugs, stealing, mistreating, etc. Let me be clear! Sin is the matter of the heart. Most of us sinfully cope with sin. Our outward external sins typically reveal a much darker monster… a deeper, more internal gospel issue… Our hearts are a fiery lair of our greatest sins. My daily struggle with sin includes: pride, selfishness, anxiety, approval, fear, control, etc. Sin knows it has power over us, especially because it is so easy to keep our favorite sins hidden or kept secret.

“Every one of our sinful actions has a suicidal power on the faculties that put forth that action. When you sin with the mind, that sin shrivels the rationality. When you sin with the heart or the emotions, that sin shrivels the emotions. When you sin with the will, that sin destroys and dissolves your willpower and your self-control. Sin is the suicidal action of the self against itself. Sin destroys freedom because sin is an enslaving power.” -Tim Keller

Sin is the enemy, the thief and the imposter of the throne of God. Sin tricks us and showcases false promises. John Piper says the main way sin fights against us is by turning servants into traitors. Sin turns servant-desires into schemers against God. Our servant desires for food, drink, friendships, marriage, sex, approval, control, etc. were all appointed by God to serve us and ultimately glorify him. However, often times these desires are assaulted by sin. In one moment our desires are captured by sin, thwarted and corrupted quickly becoming betrayers of God’s throne. Before we know it, time and time again, we find ourselves being lured by these desires which now serve sin instead of God. Sin becomes the master to our desires and we believe what we desire can only be fulfilled through the false promises that sin offers us.

slave-to-sin

Before I was married, I was in a relationship where we struggled greatly with sexual purity. Once we began dating, I found myself thinking more about sex and sexual pleasure. I would have lustful thoughts about this man which typically moved me to sin with my mind. When this happened all rationality withered like flowers in the sun. In the moment of struggling with lustful thoughts, I may have been able to recognize that those thoughts were ultimately lies about sex and sexual pleasure, but in that moment those lies were more powerful than the truth.

Sin was the master of my mind.

Because I was unable to think rationally about sex or sexual intimacy typically sinning with my mind led to sinning with my will. My thoughts about sexual pleasure would make me crave more physical intimacy because I knew that it felt good and it made me feel loved. I lacked self-control and the willpower to not give into the temptation of sexual pleasure. In the heat of the moment, my desire for what felt good sexually was more satisfying than the truth.

Sin was my master of my will.

Without even realizing it, my sexual sin became the master of my life because I believed that sexual pleasure was satisfying and would make him love me more. My lustful thoughts controlled my mind, my emotions and my will. I bowed down to the lies of my sexual sin. I believed that sexual pleasure promised me intimacy, physical satisfaction and that it would make me a better, more desirable woman for the man I was dating. The false promises of sexual pleasure or satisfaction were more valuable than Jesus.

Sin was the master of false promises.

Sin is sneaky and deceitful. It lies to us about how we will feel once we give into our temptation. Our sin tells us that “it will help us feel better” or “just one time is all we need” or “it will give us what we need.” We sin because we believe it offers some promise of happiness, pleasure or satisfaction and truthfully, it does…temporarily. The fulfillment that sin offers us is counterfeit. Sin perverts and distorts our God-given desires. John Piper says,“Sin takes our desires and makes liars out of them. They promise satisfaction and happiness, and they deliver cheap, fleeting, shallow stimulation that leaves us less content and less peaceful and less hopeful and more guilty, more restless, more discouraged, more enslaved. In the end, if we don’t fight the way this text tells us to, we may be cut off from God in hell. That’s why Romans 6:21 says, “The outcome of those things is death.” And that’s why 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Abstain from fleshly desires which wage war against the soul.” There is a war for the soul going on. Sin is fighting for the throne of your soul; it is using your desires as betrayers.”

I think it can be easy for us to fall into a pit of despair and hopelessness when we think about the weight of our sin…but isn’t that the point?

Even as I write this blog, I feel overwhelmed by the power of my own sin. The thought of how quickly sin can allure me and become my master makes me feel hopeless and saddened by how prone I am to “wander and leave the God I love.” I think it can be easy for us to fall into a pit of despair and hopelessness when we think about the weight of our sin…but isn’t that the point? Once we recognize the weight of our sin, we realize our need for a Savior. We recognize why God’s grace and mercy is so powerful and necessary. Our need to be rescued, redeemed and restored becomes a God-revealed revelation when we come face to face with our own depravity.

The truth is that we deserve the wrath of God. We deserve hell. Our sin should render us hopeless. However, God himself made a way for us to be freed and saved from the weight of our sin and the wrath of God through Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8-9 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” When Jesus died on the cross he endured the weight of our sin so that we could be saved.

When we sin, Jesus is our advocate. Jesus functions like our attorney in the courtroom when we sin. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the propitiation for our sins.” The word “propitation” does not appear very often throughout Scripture, but it always appears at very critical points. There is profound gospel significance in this word. Propitiation refers to a perfect sacrifice that satisfies and justifies the wrath of God for our sin. In the courtroom, Jesus tells God that we are guilty, deserving of punishment, death and the wrath of God. The truth is we did sin against God’s throne, more than once and we are warranted punishment. However, Jesus reminds God the Father about the cross. Jesus already endured and absorbed the fullness of God’s wrath for our sin and therefore, opened the way for God’s full favor to be shown to all who believe. We are made righteous through Jesus. Our sin was justified by Jesus on the cross and our sin is no longer counted against us. Jesus makes his case to the Judge not based on our flawlessness, but based on the removal of the wrath of God through the death of Jesus Christ, his own son. Jesus gives us hope! Jesus saves us! Jesus redeems us! We need Jesus!

Jesus conquered the enslaving power of sin.

Some of you may be reading his article and understand too well the hopelessness and despair of the weight of your sin. Perhaps, you went too far sexually with your boyfriend or girlfriend last night and the shame and guilt of sexual impurity is suffocating you. Perhaps, your apathy is causing you to be careless and inconsiderate, using the people you love and value to satisfy you. Perhaps, you drank the night away to numb the pain. The shame, guilt and disgust of our sin can be overwhelming, heartbreaking and discouraging. Often times the weight of our sin can leave us feeling hopeless, silent and in despair. However, one of the most powerful things we, as God’s children, can experience is understanding the weight of our sin. This moves us to know why we need Jesus as our Savior and why he rescues us. Jesus restores us and saves us from the enslaving power of our sin. We need him. There is not one sin that is too great for God to redeem. Jesus restores hope to our hopelessness and makes all things new. Even though sin may be at war for the throne of our soul, Jesus already paid the price to have his rightful place on the throne of our soul. Therefore, Jesus is our master. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is King of Kings. Jesus conquered the enslaving power of sin.

Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels: Sinfully Coping With Sin

“Every one of our sinful actions has a suicidal power on the faculties that put that action forth. When you sin with the mind, that sin shrivels the rationality. When you sin with the heart or the emotions, that sin shrivels the emotions. When you sin with the will, that sin destroys and dissolves your willpower and your self-control. Sin is the suicidal action of the self against itself. Sin destroys freedom because sin is an enslaving power.”
-Tim Keller

Throughout most of my life, I have struggled with and continue to struggle with anxiety. To be honest, I didn’t even know that anxiety played such a huge role in my life until recently. For years, my anxiety, fear and despondency has dictated thoughts, feelings, decisions, actions and even what I believed. My greatest fear was and continues to be rejection and not being good enough for anyone, including Jesus. Anxiety moves me to sin with my mind, which withers all rationality. I may be able to recognize that the insecurities that produce my anxiety are probably lies, but in that moment those lies are more powerful than truth. I am unable to think rationally about my circumstances. Often times sinning with my mind leads to sinning with my will. For years, I would cope with my anxiety through disordered eating. I lacked all willpower and self-control to not give into the temptation of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. For years, these two specific sins have stolen joy, freedom and the truth of the gospel from my life and have made me a slave to the false promises of sin.

Anxiety moves me to sin with my mind, which withers all rationality. I may be able to recognize that the insecurities that produce my anxiety are probably lies, but in that moment those lies are more powerful than truth.

ballerinaI was 8 years old…the first time that I thought I was fat. I can even remember standing in front of the mirror begging my mom to let me wear a t-shirt over my pink ballet tights and black leotard as I stared at, what I perceived to be, a fluffy belly. At such a young age, I believed that if I wanted to be a beautiful, perfect ballerina my ribs would need to poke out of my body and one of my most complimented traits would need to be my size. Yes…even at 8 years old, my greatest concern was proving that I was good enough. My greatest fear was that others would not think of me as a dancer if I had a “muffin top.” Years following this moment, I developed self-destructive and disordered eating thoughts and behaviors to cope with my anxiety.

Rather than allowing Jesus to be my source of satisfaction, wholeness and healing when this happens, disordered eating tendencies have offered me control, comfort and self-gratification.

When I am consumed by my anxiety, my world feels lost and out of control. The chaos within me makes me feel like a pure disappointment or let down. Rather than allowing Jesus to be my source of satisfaction, wholeness and healing when this happens, disordered eating tendencies have offered me control, comfort and self-gratification. Throughout my life when I have experienced dynamic life change, trauma, loss, disappointment or even small transition I have often found myself overwhelmed and anxious. In these moments, I would turn to disordered eating behaviors to help me cope with my anxiety because they offered me a sense of control to compensate for the lack of the control that I have felt in certain areas of my life. Disordered eating has made me feel like I was good enough because even though I may not be “the best” in one area, I was thin and able to skip meals (unlike other people). Being thin made me feel safe or better and in my mind being thin was my only source of happiness.

Skinny

None of us sin out of some kind of obligation or commitment. We all sin because it offers temporary satisfaction, happiness or pleasure. Often times, when we find ourselves sinning, it is so hard to just stop. We know it’s wrong but in the moment our sin is so satisfying and pleasurable. Sometimes it feels like we will never overcome our propensity to sin. I wish that I could say that throughout most of my life as a believer I have failed to give into the temptations of my sinful nature. Sadly, instead of turning to Jesus, many of us (including myself) have typically found ourselves coping with our own indwelling sin with more sin. For me, I believed the only thing that could manage my anxiety was disordered eating. We all have sinful tendencies that we have used to help us cope with other sinful desires. Some people may deal with their pride by bullying. Others may deal with their depression and anxiety with pornography and masturbation, and some may deal with shame and regret by lying. Why do we do this? What is the reason that we continue giving into temptation? Why does sin satisfy us more than Jesus? What is the root to our sin?

All of our actions (lack of surrender, bullying, sexual immorality, anxiety, lying, etc.) originate from our feelings, which originate from our thoughts, which originate from our desires, which ultimately originate from unbelief. The evil conditions of the heart (anxiety, pride, fear, etc) all grow out of an unbelief of who God says he is and often will manifest themselves through other sins. Moreover, unbelief becomes the lens through which we examine every circumstance in our lives leading to more sin. Paul David Tripp says, “I must face the reality of indwelling sin and my propensity to run after god-replacements. I am called to face my duplicity and my idolatry, and the fact that this war is the most significant inner dynamic of human experience. It rages in every moment of suffering and blessing. What rules my heart will shape the way I deal with life’s saddest and sweetest moments.”

All sin is rooted in unbelief, which will always rob us of the joy that arises from the truth of the gospel. Unbelief directly influences my thoughts, behaviors and feelings inevitably leading to my anxiety. Thankfully, it’s been years since I have acted on disordered eating thoughts. However, in moments of anxiety today, my mind is still typically rampant with the temptation to fall into old disordered eating behaviors to help me feel better about whatever is making me anxious.

All sin is rooted in unbelief, which will always rob us of the joy that arises from the truth of the gospel.

It was not until recently that God revealed to me how I will often cope with my own sin through another sin instead of turning to the only One who can rescue, redeem and save me. Today, when I find myself in moments of anxiety, I do my best to discover what promises about Jesus that am I struggling to believe as truth. In most cases, my anxiety is related to the lie that I have to prove myself so that others will approve of me. However, this lie was overcome when Jesus died on the cross, taking the full weight of my ugliness and sin so that when God looks at me, I do not have to prove anything. He sees the righteousness of Jesus when he looks at me. He says I am beautiful. When you consider Jesus in the midst of your temptation it becomes more difficult to give into your temptation.

In his book, “Battling Unbelief,” John Piper says, “Only the power of God’s superior promises in the gospel can emancipate our hearts from servitude to the shallow promises and fleeting pleasures of sin. Belief in one is unbelief in another.” We sin because we believe it offers some promise of happiness, pleasure or satisfaction and truthfully, it does…temporarily. The pleasure of sin is fleeting, but the pleasure of Jesus is everlasting. Taste and see that he is good. Until we realize that God is more desirable, more pleasing and more satisfying than life itself the false promise of sin will always enslave us.

Psalm 63: 1-9 says,
You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Until we realize that God is more desirable, more pleasing and more satisfying than life itself the false promise of sin will always enslave us.