The Life of Surrender

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Gospel Truths to Remember This Holiday Season

The holiday season is well underway and I can feel the excitement starting to bubble.  I look forward to the holidays every year and it seems like every year I need to remind myself to stay focused on what the holidays are all about.

Holidays are used for remembering Jesus and his gift of humbly coming to live among us and laying down his life for us. We have a beautiful eternity waiting for us because Jesus chose to take the punishment for us all.

Here is how the holidays usually go for our family: We get really excited about the holidays coming up. We enjoy decorating our house and doing some holiday traditions. We start signing up for things without thinking about it because it is the holiday season and we can. We start to feel really stressed about gifts, obligations to family/friends, pressures we are putting on ourselves, etc. We end up needing to reevaluate the season and what it is for.

I don’t like that I get to the point every year where I need to reevaluate what I am doing.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5  

When I need to reevaluate what I am doing with my life, I find myself going back to John 15:5 over and over again.  I often want the future laid out for me so that I know where a decision is going to lead me when I take it. Life doesn’t work like that, often God only reveals a bit of his plan to us at a time.  When I am remaining in the vine, I am taking baby steps in faith and trusting that God is in charge of the whole world.

Another reason that I need to reevaluate at Christmas time is because of guilt.  Guilt is not a feeling that comes from God. Don’t get me wrong, God convicts us when we have sinned and are in need of repentance, but God doesn’t give us a spirit of guilt about our performances in life. When we feel like we are not good enough because of any obligation that we have put on ourselves or others have put on us, that is not from God. That is from the father of lies.

The holidays often bring up a lot of guilt for us because we want to be everything for everyone. We want our children to have great memories of holiday traditions that we created for them. We want our meals to be spectacular and we want to buy the perfect gift that will make our loved ones feel special. Everywhere we look this time of year, there are reminders about the things that we “should” be doing.

When we are connected to the vine, we know what we should be doing. We need to be having faith in Him and taking baby steps of faith each day.  Just this week I found myself wondering if we could afford family Christmas pajamas to give the kids on Christmas Eve. Then I feel like I add extra stress to myself because I then would want the perfect picture of the family wearing the pajamas to post to social media. Already here are two ways that I have been tempted to kick Jesus out of Christmas and worship the commercialism all around us.

Ultimately those pajamas would have been worn very few times and I probably would have been frustrated with my children if they weren’t cooperating for pictures. None of this teaches my children about the amazing gospel story and what a gift it was to receive our Immanuel (God with us) that Christmas so many years ago.

Maybe you are feeling connected to the vine and excited about the holidays approaching.  Maybe you are battling your own temptations to commercialize Christmas and add extra stress to your life. Let’s try and commit to making sure that we are abiding in Him this Christmas season and experience the true joy that comes from knowing Him instead of the counterfeit joy that comes from worshiping things of this earth.

Episode 23: The Gospel and Car Rides

 

Car rides can be a place of frustration for families trying to navigate life together. We will explore the problems that can arise during long car rides and discuss how we can apply the gospel message to the problems in the car.

Episode 22: Off the Cuff

 

This episode ended up a little different than most of our podcast episodes. We were going to try out a topic and we even recorded the first half and it just seemed flat. We decided that we would try to go “off the cuff” and just talk about what we feel like God is putting in our hearts recently.  This episode covers different topics like being members of a church body, rest, finding balance in Jesus, etc. We hope you enjoy it. We certainly won’t be recording like this every podcast but we will be trying it again every once in awhile. Enjoy this off the cuff episode.

Episode 21: Results vs. Obedience

Episode 21 delves into our human temptation to look to the results of our lives instead of looking to God for obedience.  We often measure our success by worldly standards and then we miss out on the opportunity that God had for us.  We look into Paul and Jesus’s ministry and see that they didn’t have 100% results and we won’t either. We need to look heavenward instead of looking to our results as a measuring stick for our lives.

 

 

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Bible Verses

  • Ephesians 2:8-9
  • Isaiah 30:15
  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • Proverbs 16:9
  • Galatians 2:15-16
  • Philippians 3:7-14
  • Acts 20:22-24
Books
  • You Are Special by Max Lucado
  • Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

Episode 20: Sounding the Alarm

This week’s episode is a walk through the book of Ezekiel and the main themes that we found while reading it.

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Bible Verses

  • Ezekiel Chapter 7 and 33 about the watchmen
    • Acts 20
  • Ezekiel 13:10 on False Prophets

 

The Daily Grind and the Christian Walk

So we all hear this amazing gospel message about how Jesus is our Savior and took the punishment for all of our sin so that we can be fully forgiven and live eternally with God.  We hear these amazing stories and we know them in our core, but living in this world can make us quickly forget Jesus’s amazing gift.

Here is how the day usually goes for me.  I wake up and read God’s Word and I feel refreshed and ready to face the day.  I feel close to God and thankful for the gift he gave me.  I go from feeling refreshed to drained when the kids wake up and often it is a struggle to get out the door or we have a rough drop off at daycare.

There are imperfections going to work because often I will forget something or feel rushed.  A day this week I was called to one of my children’s classroom because they were having a hard time and I had to go comfort them.  When our children are feeling sad, it is often hard to think of anything else.  Later when I saw that child they had all but forgotten about it but this mother was still worrying.

Throughout the workday there are things to deal with and often I make mistakes within my job because I am not a perfect human being and those mistakes need to be cleaned up.

When I get home sometimes the supper hour goes awry and I feel guilt because the meal was not to the kids’s liking or not nutritious enough.  There is supper to clean up and lots of things to do before the kids go to bed.

I think in everyday there are thoughts that come and threaten to steal my joy.  The thoughts come to distract me from the Gospel that God wants me to live out in my daily life.

Then I think about God and his power and his sovereignty.  I think that these imperfections in my life aren’t there because he feels like picking on me, but because sin has entered the world. I long for the perfection that God intended, but I can use the imperfections to lean into Him.  He wants me to acknowledge that I am not God, nor do I want to be.  Talk about a burdensome job, I can’t imagine all that God has to deal with!

My biggest problems in life come when I think that I can do God’s job better than he can.  I usually don’t think I am trying to do God’s job, but when I try to take control of my life that is exactly what I am doing.  I am non-verbally telling God that I don’t think he can do it and that I am more qualified to handle the situation. How arrogant of me.  These are times that I need to repent of my prideful sins.

There is my answer right there:  to remember the Gospel throughout my day, I need to acknowledge that I am not God throughout the day.  I am God’s servant and I am called to follow His will for my life.  After that thought enters my mind I can take a huge exhale and I feel so much peace.  So when my children are fighting with each other I can faithfully discipline them and pray that God will be sovereign in the situation.  I can know that God is handling everything and I don’t need to be afraid.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

The next time I feel burdened by the daily grind I need to remember to stop everything in my mind and remember that God is in control.  Thankfully I don’t have to deal with the world’s problems because I have a Perfect Creator who is already doing that.

Episode 19: Our Story: From Nominal to Surrendered

Our family has been on a journey for the past few years just trying to understand just what it means to follow Jesus. We have stumbled upon some resources that have greatly helped us in our walk with Jesus.  We have come to the realization that we put Jesus in a compartment for most of our lives instead of treating Him like Lord of our lives.  We will discuss our journey to fully surrendering to Him in this podcast.

Show Notes

Introduction and Conclusion music is Buddy by Bensound.com

Books

  • Radical by David Platt
  • Follow Me by David Platt
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I Never Knew You

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Matthew 7:21-23

These words have weighted heavily on my mind for many years.  I have been terrified that when I stand before a Holy God and look to Jesus to save me, he will say to me, “I never knew you.” Oftentimes, I would skim over this verse and try to distract myself to something else so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.  I think our culture teaches us that distraction is the name of the game.  If we are worried about where we are going to spend eternity, we should distract ourselves so we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Friends, I don’t want this distraction to rule my life or your lives.  Satan wants us to think that we have all the time in the world to get our lives right and have assurance of our eternity.  The truth of the matter is, we don’t know when our time will be up.  This world is filled with uncertainty and our lives are very fragile things.  We could be gone in an instant.  I am sure that all of us know people who have died very young or stories where people died in an instant that were otherwise perfectly healthy.  I think we know in our hearts that our time on earth is fleeting, yet we get sucked into the ways of the world and allow ourselves to be distracted from our ultimate mission here.

Jesus’s last words to his disciples were:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

According to Jesus, our mission here is to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are to spend our lives glorifying God by telling others about Him.  Nothing else matters.  We get so sucked in to our lives that we are not fulfilling the great commission that Jesus set before us.  Satan is feeding us with lies and filling our churches with hesitation and distraction.  Sunday mornings are spent discussing sporting events in the fellowship hall instead of spurring each other on to fulfill our life’s purpose.

Here is where when Jesus says, “I never knew you,” is so convicting.  We don’t truly know Jesus if we aren’t fulfilling what he told us to do.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are not in The Word and praying for guidance over our lives.  My life is not supposed to be lived so that I can be as comfortable as I can be and enjoy all the things I want to enjoy.  My life is here so that I can tell others the good news that I know and help others be able to spend an eternity with our Father.

How will Jesus know us?  I think he knows us when we are faithful to his commands.  When we follow what he is teaching us and have him be the focal point of our lives instead of our own desires. Oftentimes we try to make Jesus a compartment in our lives instead of the focal point.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are serving ourselves.  Francis Chan sums it up nicely in his book, Multiply:

“The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.”

When we know Jesus, we know that we serve Him. The apostle, Paul, calls himself a slave to God all over the New Testament.  This is what our lives should look like.  Our lives are not our own, we were bought at a price.  Jesus’ blood paid the price for our sin and for that we should be eternally grateful.  Our gratitude should spill out into all areas of our life and we should live as slaves to Jesus’s plan for us.

I want to be careful in saying all this because I don’t want it to be thought that we need good works to be saved.  All we need is Jesus to be saved.  He died on the cross for our sin and all we are to do is rest in Him for our entire lives.  When we are resting in Him, we will find that we want to do His will and follow Him.  That is how we stay connected to Him.  We obey His commands and when we go out of our comfort zones to obey Him, we can feel His presence firmly in our lives.

This isn’t the most pleasant topic area because the fact of the matter is a life of eternity whether eternal life with God or eternal separation from God are hard to fathom.  We can’t fully grasp the weight of that, so we think about other things.  I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about where you are going to spend eternity and how you are living your life.  Would Jesus be able to say that he knew you? Are we giving our entire selves to Jesus or are we offering Him a compartment?  These are questions that need to be answered in all of our lives.

When God Feels Distant

We all go through times when it feels like God has distanced himself from us.  It seems like we are crying out for his help, but it doesn’t seem like he is there.  I feel like God is teaching me recently that he doesn’t distance himself from us, but we distance ourselves from him.  We busy ourselves so much with the things of this world that we aren’t looking to God or being relational with him.

 

We just got back from a week at summer camp.  We were able to go as chaplains and talk to the campers about Jesus.  One of the things we told them is that God is always available for us, but we aren’t always available for him.

If you are stuck feeling like God is far from you, here are a few steps that you can take to draw closer to him.  These aren’t in any particular order.  To fully draw close to God we should be practicing all of them.

1.)  Remove all Distractions 

We live in a world where everything is right in front of us and we can get mostly anything we want immediately.  We are afraid of silence and we don’t want a lot of time in silence.  When we do have quiet time we turn to social media, television, or other people.  We are essentially making these things idols and putting them in front of God.  When we remove distractions, we are taking down a wall that separates us from him.

2.)  Get in the Word

I also told campers that much of my childhood faith was taught to me instead of me reading it for myself.  I didn’t go digging into the word to find God’s truths, because they were taught to me and I didn’t think that I needed to read them for myself.  As an adult I have gotten into his word and it is amazing how close I feel to him.  I feel like he reveals new things to me all the time about his character and how much he loves and cares for me.

God’s word is his way of communicating his truths to us.  It is his way of showing us his love and teaching us how to obey him.

There are so many Bible reading plans out there and good studies that really help you dig into the word.  I would suggest that you get out there and find one that works for you!  Peter and I are doing a plan from Biblegateway.com.  There are so many plans out there.  Do your research!

 

3.)  Prayer

Again, praying and letting God know how we feel about anything is also essential to feeling close to him.  I think prayer has been a struggle for me most of my life because I don’t always feel like I get a response.  For the last 3 months I have started a prayer journal and it has empowered me to pray bolder prayers and feel God’s presence more in my life.  It also enables me to remember loved ones and friends more easily.  So when I tell someone I will pray for them I don’t drop the ball because I have it all written down in one place.

This is the one I use.   I really like it because it goes month by month and helps me look back and even has a section for answered prayers!  It has been so nice to see at the end of the month.  Also, I am not getting any reimbursement for the link, I just thought I would share the one that I use and love.

 

4.)  Humility

Many of our sins stem from our pride.  I think pride essentially lets us think that we know more than God.  Pride allows us to take our own path instead of considering what God wants to do with our lives. When we are prideful, we can’t be used by God because we think our own way is better.  Ouch!  My own way better than God’s?  It sounds incredibly silly when we say it out loud, but how can God use us when we are being defiant?

One of my favorite verses of the bible is John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.”

It seems so simple, but we don’t usually follow this verse and when we don’t it creates a big divide between us and our creator.

5.)  Thankfulness

God has been teaching me lately that he loves to hear praise for what he created.  He has created so many beautiful things in this world.  Recently I have been talking to our kids about simple things like watching the wind blow through the trees.  It is beautiful and mesmerizing to see God at work in our world today.  The photo above was taken last week at camp.  God gave us so many gorgeous views and it felt like he was right there with us.

Instead of just saying, “Look at the wind blow through the trees,” we can say, “Look how God is blowing the wind through the trees, he makes things so beautiful.”  That way we are giving credit where it is due!

 

I want to walk through a little exercise with you.  I want you to imagine a person in your life doing to you the things that we do to God.

1.)  You are spending time with your significant other and you are looking forward to it, but they will never look up from the screen in front of them to acknowledge you.  They tell you occasionally that you mean a great deal to them, but they never slow down to take in the relationship in front of them.

2.)  You have a friend that only wants to talk about themselves.  They go on and on and on about their likes, dislikes, plans, and interests but they never take time to learn more about you.

3.)  You have been meaning to get together with your significant other for a long time to talk about life and enjoy each other’s company.  Your significant other keeps blowing you off with different excuses every time.  You want to know them and enjoy relationship and they say the same about you but they never invest the time to do it.

4.)  Your children disrespect you and won’t be obedient.  They don’t want to listen to your ideas for their life or your hopes and dreams for them.  They know a better way and don’t want any of your help.

5.)  You work hard to provide a nice life for your children, but they never say thank you or show any appreciation.  You feel very taken advantage of.

 

If we look back on these scenarios I think most of us would feel pretty hurt under these circumstances.  It doesn’t feel nice to have someone not spend any time with you or disrespect you.  It is hard when people treat us that way.

Unfortunately, all those things that we said would hurt our feelings if a friend, spouse, or child acted that way towards us is how we treat God.  We busy ourselves to the point of not spending time with him; we don’t want to get in his word and know more about him; we don’t communicate with him and when we do we treat him like an ATM machine; we think we know better than him; and we are ungrateful very rarely giving thanks for the things he has provided us.  It feels heavy when I realize that I am the selfish one not willing to give God my all.

The last way to grow closer to God is:

6.)  Repentance

Some of what takes us away from God is our guilt and shame for our sin.  God knows our hearts, souls, and minds.  There isn’t anything that we can hide from him, but yet we try to.  Adam and Eve hid from him in shame in the Garden of Eden and we do it still today in our own lives.  God created a way for us (sinners) to be connected with him again. He is not asking for our perfection, he is asking for our hearts.  He wants us to trust in him and know that Jesus truly did pay it all.  We don’t need to hide in guilt and shame but we do need to ask for forgiveness and turn from the path we were taking.

Even after we treat him poorly, God is right there waiting for us to come back to him.  He wants our attention, love, and communication.  He wants us to get in his word and find out more about him.  He wants us to understand that apart from him we can’t do anything and he wants us to thank him for the wonderful gifts he gives us.

If you are feeling like God is distant from  you, maybe try these things and see how you can draw closer to him instead of pushing him away.  Our lives were meant to be spent living closely united with our creator.

Dear Students

Dear Students,

We are nearing the end of the year and it seems like all we want to do is be outside and not focus on the books.  We teachers are all fighting custody battles over you trying to get last minute things done (I will be fighting hard for some of you this week)!  I know this time of the year is especially difficult on you.  I know that you are dreaming of summer days and a little less responsibility.  I am feeling it as well.  I am not wanting to be in the classroom and the last thing I want to focus on is writing and grading tests.  This month of May is going to pass before our eyes and we will be in the summer months.

Before we get there, I wanted you to know a few things.  I know it sometimes feels like teachers are out to get you and we are analyzing your every move.  The truth is that we care about you.  If we are hard on you, it is because we want to get the best out of you.  We want you to reach your full potential.  I know that many of you don’t like being pushed out of your comfort zones because I don’t like being pushed out of my comfort zone.  In fact, when I was in high school I didn’t go out of my comfort zone very often because I didn’t like it.  Here is the secret though, you grow so much more when you are pushed out of your comfort zone.  You learn way faster and you remember deeper than you would have if you weren’t feeling the discomfort.  It is just downright good for you to step out of your comfort zone.

High school can be a hard time in everyone’s life.  There are many pressures especially with all of the activities we see you all participating in.  Some of you get home really late from games and are expected to be ready for a test the next day.  Some of you work late shifts and still need to be able to do your homework after work.  We know that you guys are over-committed to many different activities.  Pressure is high and times can be difficult.  We don’t want to add any more burdens to your life.  We want to be adults in your lives that enhance your life rather than add to the stress.  I know that we often do add to your stress.

There are a few things that I don’t care about as your teacher.  I don’t care if you win homecoming king or queen, break records with your athletic abilities, get a great ACT score and earn a high GPA, or if you drive the nicest vehicle in the parking lot (or in our case, the street).  It’s not that these things aren’t good things or things to be celebrated, but they are not necessary for me to like you or respect you as a person.  The things I do care about from you are that you are respectful, kind, compassionate, and that you live with integrity.  When you leave our school, I want people to wonder where you came from because they are so impressed with the way you live your life.  I want you to be good husbands and wives and good parents.  I want you to be dependable employees and good citizens in your future communities.  I want you to be  people that cares about others.

Some of you may have made some mistakes in your life.  I don’t want you to think that the teachers don’t care about you because of a mistake or many mistakes.  The truth of the matter is that we adults have made many mistakes in our lives as well.  Some of us are still making them. 🙂  What I care about as your teacher is how you deal with the mistakes after you have made them.  Living with integrity means that you apologize when you make mistakes and turn from them.  We care about you guys no matter what you do. That doesn’t mean we think your behavior was acceptable, but it means that we don’t stop caring about you when your behavior is unacceptable.  We don’t want you to hide in shame. We want you to face your consequence, learn from it, and move on.

You may wonder why I am writing this.  I write this because I want you to know that you are cared about.  You have many adults pouring into your life, and I want you to be encouraged to live a life that’s worth living.  We don’t want to see you get sucked into activities that are not life giving.  We want you to have the brightest future that you can.  I don’t think anyone gets into the teaching profession without the passion to enhance their student’s lives.  So students, you are cared about, you are seen, and we hope the best for you.  In this last month of school, let’s be quick to forgive and work hard even if we are not motivated to.  Let’s go into summer happy that we finished our school year strong and know that when you come back in the fall, you come back to plenty of adults who care about you.

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