Category Archives: Faith

God’s Love Sets a New Standard

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.-Colossians 3:12-14

God loves us. There is no doubt about that. But what does it mean to be loved by God? A loving relationship is a two-way conversation. So what are we charged to do in our loving relationship with God if love is in fact a dynamic conversation? And where do we begin? The verse in Colossians speaks strongly to these questions. We, as God’s chosen and whom He dearly loves, are instructed to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Clothe ourselves in these abstract words?

Do you have a favorite T-shirt? A pair of shoes? How about sweatpants? Come on! I know that everyone has a half-torn article of clothing somewhere in their wardrobe. The softness and comfort cannot be replicated. And the accompanying memories can’t either. I have a blue T-shirt that I inherited from my mom when I was in middle school. It is a sleep shirt but it means so much more to me than that. My dad was a musician professionally when I was growing up. He would take frequent trips to Nashville, TN from our home base in Chicago, IL to write and record. He and his band would work at Studio 19 just off from the famous Music Row. But every time that my dad would come home from this trip, he’d bring us a present. One time it was Studio 19 T-shirts. Mine was orange and mom’s was blue. I wore my orange Studio 19 T-shirt for years to bed until the threads became so bear that we had to get rid of it. It was incredibly soft and became a comfort to feel it against my skin. The day that we threw away my orange shirt, my mom gave me her blue one. Of course, I had to “break it in” for myself but I still have it. On the outside it represents Studio 19. But in reality it represents a time in my life. It represents my mom and dad. It represents feelings that cannont be seen.

Because we are God’s chosen we represent Him. Just like the old blue T-shirt. Like an article of clothing we are to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience for they are the logos on our Christian uniform. I caution you to jump right along with that for this reason: we can remove clothing. So why would the image of clothing be used if we can just “take off” these virtues? Well, the last verse of Colossians speaks to that.  For it says,”And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Love is a feeling which comes from deep inside of us. Sure we can show or express love through words and actions but love can’t be removed like clothing in an instant. In the image of the clothing, love is the thread. And love is at the heart of the virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. You can not authentically demonstrate or have these virtues without love. God is telling us that because He loves us; we are expected to love others. God made us in His image and think about it. By loving those around us we are in turn showing our love for God.

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God Teaches Us Because He Loves Us

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Then Jesus said,”Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Whoa. That is a pretty big question. But let’s put it into context for a moment. Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Recall that Lazarus and his sisters were friends of Jesus. In Luke 11: 38-42, Martha  hosted Jesus and His disciples in her home in a town called Bethany around 3 kilometers from Jerusalem during His ministry. While Martha is frantically serving and moving about the house, her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet just listening. Think for a moment about the conversations that occurred at this table in that home!

Flash forward. Martha and Mary were worried. Lazarus, their brother had become very sick.  John 11:5 says that Jesus loved the trio of siblings and when Lazarus fell ill the sisters knew who they could rely on. They sent word to Jesus to let Him know that Lazarus is about to perish. Here’s where I find that the story becomes interesting. Jesus tells the disciples in verse 4 that Lazarus’ sickness “will not end in death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  In other words, He was in control. There was a purpose.

In hard times, do you ever sit back and wonder,” Why am I being put through this??” I’m sure Martha and Mary thought the same thing after Lazarus became sick. Why do bad things happen to good people? It is unclear whether Lazarus lived with his sisters but we often associate men with being the head of the household especially in the time of Christ around 30AD. Regardless, it must have been concerning for Martha and Mary to see the upcoming loss of their brother. In panic, the ladies reach out to Jesus. Just like we do. But there is no indication of an answer sent back to the ladies. They must have been worried sick after Jesus didn’t come rushing to Lazarus’ side. I know I would have been incredibly upset!

The disciples are the ones to hear John 11: 4 and as verse 6 indicates, Jesus remained where He was and allowed Lazarus to die. And as Jesus tells the disciples,”Lazarus is dead and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Is it coincidence that a person that Jesus’ loves dearly was allowed to die just to teach us or provide us with an example experience? Is it slightly similar to John 3:16?  I loosely place ourselves in the disciples’ position because like them, we are human. We doubt, we argue and we want to be the ones in control. We seek answers to unanswerable questions and yet without frustration or contempt Jesus teaches us because He knows that we need proof. So Jesus agrees to go to Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany despite the resistance and danger that Jesus was in by traveling in the area. Again, risking His and the disciples’ safety for the people who He loves: Martha, Mary, Lazarus and the disciples. There is a lesson to be learned and Jesus was determined to reveal what the disciples and sisters did not know.

I challenge you to remain patient and keep awareness during the hard times of life. God is trying to use these moments to teach us or equip us to relate to others experiencing similar situations. But don’t forget, these moments are intended to bring God glory. Not us. And it is easy. We don’t have to study. We don’t have to work to earn it. We just need to remain faithful. God teaches us because He loves us.

Beauty is What’s on the Inside

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“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

I’ll be the first to admit that my appearance is important to me. I won’t leave the house without feeling “cute” to myself and when I don’t, I feel self-conscious all day! I always ask my husband as a second opinion. And as a good husband he always tells me that I look beautiful no matter how risky a combination I might be wearing that day. I feel prettier when I paint my nails,  highlight my facial features with eyeliner and spend and extra 30 minutes curling my hair to look like Sleeping Beauty’s. New clothes and shoes always give me a bump in esteem. I catch myself “checking myself out” in my reflection in windows and glass throughout the day. After eating, I always check my teeth. Do you find yourself doing the same things? Why does it matter what other people see when they look at us?

According to 1 Peter,  real beauty comes from the inside.  Have you ever noticed that when something good happens to you, you just sort of beam? It comes from within and you can nearly contain your happiness. It’s like when you find out that you got the highest grade in your class, won an award, answered a question right in front of the class, just were told that you were loved by a significant other, lost five pounds, landed that promotion, got engaged, or found out that you were expecting your first child. It is that inner joy that cannot be replicated on the outside with clothes, jewelry or even a new haircut. It causes you to walk taller, with greater confidence and with a smile plastered on your face. Shouldn’t we exude the same joy from the inside through our walk and faith in Christ? That’s the beauty that Peter is talking about.

Rather than spending time on our outward appearance, I think that Peter, the encourager, it suggesting that we shift our focus to our inner spirituality. It is the true us that only God knows and the person that we show to the world through our actions and words. God knows who we are. He reads our thoughts and hears the intentions of our hearts. Primping our inner selves becomes important and attainable through Bible Study and prayer. It is hard to cast away our outer selves but we have to persevere. Most importantly, we draw closer to our heavenly Father and in turn become better witnesses to those around us. I challenge you to harness that gentle spirit that Peter describes because instead of pleasing the onlookers of the world, shift your focus to pleasing and bringing glory to the One who loves you for you.

Hearing God Knock…are you listening?

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Do you get nervous the morning of an early morning flight? I certainly do! The night before I am constantly worrying about leaving something behind, having my boarding passes ready and ensuring that I set my alarm clock so that I wake up on time. With all of the items crossed off the list, my husband and I went to bed with the alarm set for 5:30 a.m. because we were heading to Orlando International airport at 6 a.m. sharp.

Around 5:30 a.m. I abruptly woke up to the sound of knocking. It wasn’t knocking on the bedroom door but rather it sounded like someone was knocking on the door outside of my brother-in-law’s townhome which was just outside of our window. My husband didn’t stir but I was panicked. My heart began to flutter and I had trouble getting back to sleep. Here is where God comes in. My alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. remember? But my clock on my phone had not been updated to Eastern time from Central (we were in Florida) so we were scheduled to wake up an hour later that planned!!!! Chill bumps!!!

My husband and in-laws woke up with me and then we hurried to the airport. My husband and I gave quick hugs and dashed inside to check our bags finding ourselves in this enormous snake-like line! I should mention it was moving at a snail’s pace. The one hour cut-off for our bags to arrive guaranteed in Nashville ticked by. Grumbles ensued. After, what felt like an eternity, we reached the check-in counter, passed off our stuff and booked it for security. We joined the mass of folks and made our way through security with just enough time to use the restroom and make it to our gate. I felt like the McCallister’s in “Home Alone” running through the airport to make it on time.

As my husband and I boarded the plane, we reflected on how we could not have woken up a moment later or we would have missed the entire flight. No one else heard the knocking it turns out so I could only figure that it was God.

This story makes me wonder how many opportunities to hear God knock in our lives we have but we don’t pay enough attention to hear. We need to practice tuning our ears to hear Him in the silence of the night and even in the busyness of our lives. No matter what, God has our back!

Leaning into the Fear of Failure

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I’m currently reading “What Women Fear” by Angie Smith and I cannot begin to express how much I love this book! It reaches such a broad scope of women and their fears such as what if…, of God, of failure and the like. Her candid writing and truthfulness shine through bringing the point of each chapter home. The book is one where each chapter I’m saying to myself,” I totally have or do feel that way!” Each time I sit down to read, I just keep plowing through it.

As I am reading the last chapter, which discusses the fear of failure, I find myself in a super frustrating situation at work. It is actually funny because I had a phone conversation with a lifelong friend and we concluded that as you get older, you learn how to manage your personal ticks and cues to work towards being a better person. I am a scientist and daily I work in a lab conducting experiments. Experiments can be very time demanding or in the “set it and forget it” variety. Yesterday, I finished an experiment that was very time demanding. At the beginning, I had to stay late and pull a twelve-hour day just to get it to a point where I could go home. From work, my kind, sweet husband ran to grab us dinner within walking distance because it was going to be a late night. But it was “ok.” I knew that this experiment was important to my work and so I cranked up the radio and got through it. Flash forward to yesterday. I analyzed the data from the experiment and noticed that after this very large,  important experiment and all of the time and resources wasted that it didn’t work. Arg!!!

Anger and disappointment were my first two responses. Aversion to my job, my career path and my life choices came next. I was so overcome with emotion that I just had to gather my things, turn off the light switch in the lab and make my way home. Now bringing it back to the conversation that I had with my lifelong friend and “What Women Fear.” I realized that I wasn’t going to overcome anything by running away despite how badly I wanted to walk into my boss’ office and quit. Since my natural reaction to this type of negative result is aversion and disappointment perhaps instead of being paralyzed by my fear of the lack of success I could lean into the storm and let it carry me. In other words, perhaps it isn’t me who is a failure. There are a number of points throughout the large experiment which could have gone wrong. I may have physically done something wrong but that doesn’t mean that I failed. The experiment did. By leaning into the problem I gain control. I steady myself to take the backlash. To paraphrase  Angie in her book, if you are on the path that God has provided for you, then you cannot fail because He won’t allow you to.

And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

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Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.– Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)

Courage. This is the second message coming out from these verses. I’d specifically like to focus in on the final verse. It is because of Paul’s chains that we are now more confident in the Lord and dare to proclaim the Gospel without fear. It took one man and his mission to generate that feeling of confidence within us. One person can make a difference. You’ve probably heard this before. But what you do today may inspire someone else to follow or take action. We were not able to witness Paul’s imprisonment, however, retrospectively we can understand what that meant to early Christians. Paul’s courage inspired courage within others. Doesn’t that make you want to be more outspoken and courageous with your faith? Who knows what sort of impact you may have on this world on behalf of our Lord!

It was once a scary time to be a Christian and in some parts of the world today it still is. Missionaries across the globe are spreading the Gospel in areas where it is discouraged and the could be reprimanded severely. But have courage. There are others who have gone before us. People like Paul. So speak out. Strike up conversations that you were once uncertain whether you should have. Let someone difficult know that you are praying for them. Spread God’s love.

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

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I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.– Psalm 130:6 (NIV)

Patience is a virtue or so they say. It is a quality that I certainly don’t practice very well. Like this Psalm I feel like I’m always waiting for the next answer to the problem, the next song on the radio and the next day. I never want to live in the present. It is that waiting that the psalmist captures but rather a waiting for God.

What am I waiting for God to do? For Christ to return to Earth? For God to answer my prayers? For a miracle to happen? It all returns to patience. Whatever you are longing for God to do, have patience. He will answer you. It may not be the answer you are looking for but it will be His answer for you. And I’ve found that when God’s answer to my prayers is “no” then He has something greater in store that I’m not aware of yet.