Sanctification does not equal sanitation

There are times that I believe that God is genuinely trying to wreck my little world that I am so content living within. The reality is that, well, He is.

When God gave us the direction to move eighteen hours away, we did it. When He told me to pursue my book further, I did it. Now He has given me this ideology that I just can’t seem to shake and know that it will lead me through a difficult, but ultimately honoring and humbling path.

As a believer in my late 20’s I’ve gained a little perspective. I have allowed myself to forgive my younger self for the (now) obvious mistakes I chose to make. I have grown in how I approach (and cherish) relationships with my friends and my family. I have learned to appreciate knowledge and wisdom, especially that which comes from God, whether revealed through spoken word or scripture or simply God whispering to the depths of my soul. It’s been a good journey thus far. But what if I’m missing the bigger picture of this thing called life? What if being a Christian is so much more that I ever imagined?

There is clearly a struggle in the post-modern society that America finds itself in today. The church is fighting to remain relevant and sometimes stumbles over its own systematic belief system that was created on different morals and values. What changes in light of the times and what do we stand firm on? Of course if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if the church was built solely on the principles of Jesus, there would be no need for change. It would transcend beyond a political infrastructure and the logistics of organizational necessities. It would stand out from society as a “light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden.” So where have we so gravely miss-stepped? Where has my own life been shaped by a temporal church platform rather than the rugged and grimy truth that composes the Gospel in all of its beauty and splendor?

In one single misconception: we have created an environment where we believe that being sanctified equates to living a life separated from everything “dirty” in the world.

Oh, you don’t believe in Jesus? Ok, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.

You don’t read the Bible in your classes? Ok, we need to find a new school.

You want me to do more than write a check to serve as my form of service? Ok, it’s time to find a new church.

Yes, I realize this might make some (read: many) of you uncomfortable. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable because it is forcing me to recognize the areas in my own life where my attempts at sanctification are more equitable to sanitation. Separating ourselves from the broken people of the world has created a false pedestal that we waiver upon, desperately trying to remain “holy,” all the while missing the point that down in the dirt and grime is where Jesus spent His life on earth.

Jesus said, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:33-40 NIV)

The more I read Matthew 25, the more I realize that I have so often missed the point. I go to church; I love Jesus; I even write a check to support missionaries serving and sharing the love of Jesus to others around the world. But I have missed so many opportunities to be the love of Jesus to others around me.

There is no way to misconstrue the fact that Jesus loves the broken and weary and down-right dirty. He cherishes them. And instead of loving and cherishing people, we sanitize ourselves from them, lest we become more like them.

Sanctification has nothing to do with separating ourselves from the broken. It has everything to do with allowing God to separate our heart from the desires of the world that it may be molded to love the broken as much as He does.

Simply because a person has money does not make them any more holy than those who have none. A person who sits in church every week is not more holy than the person who prays every night that they will simply survive another day on the street. Designer name clothes do not define status, a willing and serving heart does.

I long with my whole being to be sanctified before God. I long for Him to make me holy and set apart. I long to be more like Jesus, who is all of this and so much more.

In becoming more like Jesus, in becoming sanctified, my heart must break for that which Jesus’ broke for. His heart broke for all of us. It broke for the hurt and destitute. It broke for the ostracized and outcast. It broke for those who suffered at the hand of the unjust and self-righteous.

It wasn’t contingent on those people having the same beliefs or performing the correct rituals. It was a matter of the heart and even if they didn’t believe, Jesus still loved. He didn’t compromise who He was or what He did, but He still loved them right where they were at, in the midst of their dirty and unholy brokenness.

There is a way to remain steadfast and sanctified and still love as Jesus loved. There is a way to stand firm on our convictions and beliefs and still reach out genuinely to those around us who don’t share those same principles. It is through sanctification by service. It is through self-sacrificing our own preconceived notions and to hear the stories of those who live in the trenches of society.

Will we be known as a generation that left the church to die, or will we be the generation that allows our spirits to become sensitive to the leading of God to revitalize the church and create a new standard? Will we be the people set apart, never experiencing the wonder that comes from allowing God to “mess up” our life, or will we be the people set apart because we have allowed God to take over and guide into the mess that comes with loving people-all people, broken and all-the way that Jesus loves them?

It is a great challenge that has been issued, but I pray that we will be courageous enough to trust Jesus and dive in.

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Sanctified–It’s Time to Break Out

Sanctify.

verb. to make holy, set apart as sacred, consecrate.

I’m trying to finish up some editing to submit my book to the publisher but have also begun to look towards my next project(s).  I currently have four ideas bouncing around.  One that fascinates me is this idea of being sanctified.

The whole idea of Israel being a people “set apart” is so incredible to me.  God chose them.  He was active in their lives (whether they were paying attention to him or not).  And he gave them incredible promises because they were his chosen people.

As Christians, we now have the privilege of claiming their history (including the amazing promises) as our own.  But this is where things get a little hairy.  I believe that most believers have yet to take claim to what is rightfully theirs.  I believe that most of us still live as though we are bound and chained to whatever burdens we carry and never adhere to the status that God Himself has given to each and every person who believes.

That’s what I’m hoping to explore.

  • What does it mean to be sanctified?
  • How can we break free from the burdens that enslave us?
  • How can we allow God to then change our status accordingly?

Am I living out a life as one “set apart” and “made holy?”  Are you?

—What does it mean to you to be sanctified?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Perception, part 1

A while back, I wrote down the idea for a blog post.  It was a two part piece on perception.  Being that I’ve been MIA from here for a month, I figured now is as good a time as any to bring that idea to fruition.

In today’s society, we are inundated with social media as a way of life.  If you are not on Facebook, you’re weird or your parents are “way over protective” for not allowing you to have an account.  Then there are all of the other outlets: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, and on and on.  The idea behind these media outlets is a good one.  Being that I just moved 20 hours from my hometown, it’s nice to have the ability to “stay in touch” with what is going on in the lives of people I care about but will no longer get to see very often (unless I’m on Skype or Facetime, then I at least get to see them, though it’s just not the same).

I remember growing up when pen pals were “so cool.”  Do kids even know what a pen pal is anymore? I loved writing letters to people (whether my grandmother or to a friend at summer camp).  When we talked on the phone, we hung it up in the kitchen because that’s where the cord was attached (or charger if you were lucky enough to have a cordless phone…oh we were so cool…).  I know I’m dating myself a little older than I actually am, but I want to make a point.  Communication is not the same that it was 20 years ago (on a completely unrelated note, if you are wanting to date 20 years ago, that’s when Lion King came out. NOW I feel old).  When I was growing up, we would just run over to our friend’s house, knock on the door and ask if they could come ride bikes with us (or whatever the activity was that afternoon).  We didn’t text, we talked and usually in person.

I’m miserable on the phone.  My husband may want to say that’s a lie since I made him stay on the phone for hours when we were dating and living in different cities (no matter).  As someone who can talk for hours in the right circumstances, I have a hard time maintaining my attention on the phone (especially now that I manage toddlers for a living).  But when I’m on the phone, I can change my tone to allow someone to perceive my mood as different than it actually is.

Even if I can’t manage it on the phone, when online, it’s a cinch to present the persona that I want to present and hide all of the parts that I would rather people not know about.  If someone I went to high school with (and haven’t seen since) were to go to my page on Facebook or my Instagram account, what would they see?  A happy mom and wife, busy with teenagers at the church student ministry, good communication with (immediate)family, trips and opportunities, gorgeous scenery…you get the point?  Nothing (or close to nothing) “bad.” They wouldn’t see the struggles and insecurities.  They wouldn’t see who I really am, simply who I want them to think I am.

I’m not promoting using your boards as a place to air your grievances and all of your frustrations.  I’m encouraging you to not utilize that as your main mode of communication.  Allow people to see who you really are.  I was asked recently if I was getting to know people (being that we only moved to Texas a couple months ago).  I began to say no, but I realized that wasn’t true.  I am getting to know people, I just don’t know them yet.  What I mean is that I am still in the “small talk phase.”  Most conversations are built around day to day activities, surface level information that you would be okay with anyone knowing.  I was about to say no because I don’t know their hopes and dreams.  I don’t know their heart and can’t gauge how they are doing emotionally simply by saying, “hi, how are you doing?”  It’s a process; a very long process that naturally takes time.  There are, of course, exceptions to this (I have a couple friends like this, you know who you are and I love you BTW), but the norm is something that takes time and an extreme amount of vulnerability.  But it makes you a better person in the end, a better friend.

How do people perceive you?  Is there anyone in your life that really, I mean truly, deeply, honestly knows you?  Do they know your heart and what makes it tick?  If not, I encourage you to find someone.

It’s said that “perception is reality.”  That’s far from true.  Perception is the assumed reality, and that can be dangerous and delusional.  Satan can use our current desire to be perceived as put together as a lie that we box ourselves into.  All of a sudden, everything thinks that your life is perfect and hunky dory.  What they don’t see is the hurt and loneliness that you have found yourself in because of that forced perception.  When we don’t let anyone one in, we begin to lie not only to others, but to ourselves that everything is fine.  Then, we begin to lie to God…

Again, is there anyone in your life that knows your heart?

My next post will be about how God perceives us/how we perceive God.  Looking forward to sharing some more of my heart with all of you then.

Pride comes before the fall

Growing up, I never had any allegiances to a NFL team.  I LOVE(D) Gator football (SEC) and would enjoy watching most any college football game, but NFL just wasn’t as enjoyable for me.  I didn’t see the same passion in the players as I saw in college players.  More than anything, I suppose I just didn’t understand the differences.

Then I met my husband.  Born in Denver, Colorado, he was bred to be a Broncos fan the same way I was bred to be a Gator fan.  He taught me the game and over the past 8 years that we have been together, I have grown to enjoy the pro game and adopted the Broncos as my team.

Watching Super Bowl 48 has been…painful.  We knew that the Seahawks were (are) ridiculously strong and anticipated a tough game.  We did not anticipate being shut out until the 4th quarter.  Especially when the Broncos were said to have the #1 offense in the league.

No, this post isn’t about sports. It’s about humility.  This has been a road I have been navigating and stumbling down most of my life.  While I know that I have come leaps and bounds (by the grace of God), it is something that I continue to fight against.  I want to let everyone know and and for them to agree with me about the things that I love (Gator football for example).  I want to be right.  I want to be the best.  I get all bent out of shape when people disagree with me, even over  insignificant dumb things.

The reaction that that I battle is not Biblical, plain and (not so) simple.

Proverbs 18:12 says

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

There is another saying that most people know:

Pride comes before the fall.

You know what?  That’s also a Proverb (read 16:18)  There are a lot of those throughout Scripture.  Here’s a couple more…

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33)

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)

What you may notice is that honor often accompanies humility.  As someone who works with high school and college students, I strive to live my life with a great amount of integrity.  To receive honor and maintain that integrity, I must be humble.  It’s not something that I can achieve without it.

Beyond my own personal convictions, as a Follower of Jesus, it’s something that I am instructed to have as part of my arsenal.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14, emphasis mine)

If I am “putting on love” (which binds everything together), then I must have humility as well.  I can not love well if I am prideful.  That is a tough pill to swallow for someone who has reveled in that pride for so long.  This is not to say that I cannot take pride in accomplishments, or my family, or whatever.  This is talking about the pride like I mentioned before.  Where I become resentful and harsh in my words and thoughts.  There no way to glorify those actions.  I desire to be more and more like Christ.  I desire to be humble and to know the honor that comes from God alone.  I want to be able to love purely and completely.  And so I continue to strive toward those characteristics as I grow and learn.

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

Being complete in Jesus.  It’s more than just a nice idea, it is essential to Christian living.  You see, Satan has allowed society to tell us that there are an endless number of ways to feel “complete.”  Having a career, having lots of money, getting married, having kids.  Most of these are, in themselves, good things that add to life.  But none of them on their own can sustain us.  None of them can offer eternal life.

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

I grew up in a wonderful home, with a loving family and firm foundation for my faith in Jesus.  But somewhere along the way, I developed a fear of being alone.  At the time, I didn’t realize that this was in fact my fear, but several years (and many mistakes) after the fact, it became clear.  I had this fear that if I lost all the people close to me (family, friends, boyfriends), I would be lost.  But in fact, I had everything all along.

I adore my family.  They mean more to me than anything else on this earth.  But I know that if (God forbid) something should ever happen to them, I am not alone.  I can have everything that love torn away from me, and I still have everything because I have Jesus.

I love my family. I love the opportunities I have to work with youth.  I have great dreams of becoming a writer and a speaker professionally someday.  I have dreams of creating an organization that will serve as a resource for teenage girls in their faith walk.  All of it is nothing.  Solomon, said to be the wisest man who has ever lived said this,

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.

“Everything is meaningless!”
He had everything. Literally.  Wisdom, money, power, women…everything he could ever want and despite that, at the end of his life, he realized that without God, you have nothing.  Only Jesus can satisfy.  Only in Jesus can you find that complete satisfaction that your soul longs for.
Billy Graham said,
You will never understand who you are until you understand who God is.
Do you know who God is?  Do you know that he died for you, that you might live?
In the end, this is all that matters.

Guys/Girls-not quite the talk you expected.

I have the awesome opportunity to (finally) speak at the youth group I’ve volunteered with for the past 4 1/2 years (wow…crazy to think that it’s been that long already).  I love these kids; I really do.  The whole reason I volunteer in the first place is because of that alone.  They are funny, crazy, uniquely gifted, and collectively amazing.

When I envisioned my first speaking opportunity, I always imagined it being something that I was desperately passionate about.  Perhaps about living a life with purpose rather than apathy.  Maybe about allowing God to work in their lives without restraint (a life untethered…oooh, that would make a good book title!  No one steal it, I call dibs for my next book!!!).  What I did not envision was talking to them about being a man of God.  :-/  But, I actually chose this one.

Every year, our youth group does a study on guys and girls.  Each year there is a different focus, a different perspective on our uniquely created selves, if you will.  This year focuses on what it means to be a woman of God and man of God DESPITE cultural norms.  It’s not about being manly (or ultra feminine).  It’s about living with the passions that God has given each of us.

It’s okay for girls to drive truck, use tools, and like sports.  It’s okay for guys to like art, and cooking and Taylor Swift  (nope scratch that…not okay…I’m just joking 🙂 ).  Culture will tell girls that they either have to be Susie Homemaker or Ms. Independent who is fully against anything male.  Culture will tell guys if they like a certain amount of art and music and hipster style they must not be a real man or they must be gay.

None of this is truth.  This is not what the Bible tells us, no matter what any societal OR church culture might try to tell you.

God has designed each of us to be his perfect creation.  We are all needed, with different likes, with different gifts.  Not all women are supposed to stay home. It’s perfectly okay for them to have a very successful career.  Not all men are born knowing how to use a hammer and swing a bat.  It’s perfectly okay for them to be a poet or even the homemaker.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-22,27)
Looking forward to how God leads me to speak to these guys (and ladies indirectly) on Wednesday night!

Running to the answers.

I love that I serve a God who works in ways that I don’t understand.  Why?  Well, it’s pretty simple really.  You see, I don’t see the point in serving (worshiping) something I understand because if I get it all, what’s the point in putting that thing/person/being above myself?  I know that I am broken and a hot mess, so if what I am serving is no better than my mess, what hope is there?

Here’s my point.  God works in great and mysterious ways.  And as His ways are better than my ways, I need to get past my broken self and look to he that can put me back together.

God and I went running tonight.  That may sound funny, but I’m serious.  I hate running.  I know, I know, you shouldn’t hate, but I really really hate running…with a deep simmering passion.  It hurts; it’s not fun; and quite frankly, no matter how much I run, I still suck at it (I’m ecstatic when I can run a mile without stopping…I’m such a hypocrite as a coach but oh well).  But as I went out for a run tonight after fighting a migraine this morning and coming off of 3 nights of very minimal sleep due to a 6 month old with a cold, I wasn’t expecting much.  I wasn’t expecting to really run, I was just getting in some semblance of exercise.  After the first 1/4 mile, I laid it on the table.  I told God that I have talked a lot lately.  I have complained, I have petitioned, he knew my heart and those things that were heavy on my heart so I needed to stop talking and actually take the time to listen.  For the next part of my run, I was literally just running with God.  I felt his presence with me and we just jogged together.  There was no amazing revelation, but it was time basking in his glory–even while doing something that I typically despise.  Then he spoke.

God began comforting me, giving me words to guide me and ultimately give me a prophesy for my family.  The stress that this week and weekend had built up melted away and I was able to find myself in the presence of my Savior and my King.

There are still things that I must do to see the blessings that God promised, but as I seek him, he draws nearer to me.  As I rest in Him, he will take my burden.  As I find peace in Him, the path and direction that we are so desperately seeking will be made clear to us.  And in turn, God will anoint our family.

I have an answer and I know that I have a long way to go, but more than anything, I know that my God is with me.  I know that I am a living temple for the Spirit and he has poured his Spirit out on me.  And for that I can rejoice and be glad.

All glory to GOD in the highest and peace be to men.