Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good vs Evil


Throughout my walk as a Christian, I have put much effort towards avoiding all things immoral. Old friends that were entertained by substance…no longer in my life. Old habits that proved my heart black…removed. Basically any activity or association that could discredit my personal ministry, I have sincerely tried to keep at bay. And right when I think that I have made the right decisions, I read a passage such as this:

Matthew 5:39
“Do not resist an evil person.” – NIV

There is perhaps no more difficult point for the flesh to wrestle with than this one. Should we entertain evil people or not? Why the confusion? Surely Jesus means for us to resist evil. We are encouraged – even commanded – at several various points in Scripture to stand firm against the evil one. So what is meant by this? He means that when we encounter evil we need not run from it, no; we are to counter that evil with good.

Mercy is always to triumph judgment. Evil aggression is never to be defeated by an evil response. God does not tell believers to become doormats in the face of offensive individuals. He does, however, tell us to demonstrate a goodness that can surpass anything that this world even knows. We are to be the glimpse of Heaven in the face of those who know no better. We were born from a much higher source; let others see this and be amazed.

I read once that true charity means returning good for evil – always.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Joyful Blessings


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sitting back and taking in one of my favorite romantic comedy movies: Guess Who. This movie is hilarious for those of you who have not seen it. Ashton Kutcher plays the fiancé of Bernie Mac’s daughter and spends all of his time attempting to win over the father’s blessing on their marriage.

Obviously, being a father, the blessing of his child is not something that is easily won. Ashton spends days and days going exaggerated and entertaining lengths to achieve this approval and fails to receive it until the very last ten minutes of the film.

Blessings, we all crave them. Whether it’s a blessing from our future in laws, a blessing from our parents, or better yet, a blessing from the Almighty.

Psalm 84:11
“…the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – NIV

When we ask God for His blessing, do we ask with the arrogance of a deserving child, or, do we get on our knees before the Father and humbly ask that His highest will for us be made real? Do we ask without regard to the Father’s character, will, or feelings? Or, do we know Him personally enough to ask with the respect that He deserves?

God is a blesser by nature. How rarely we take this into account when we approach Him. We mistakenly assume reluctance on His part, as though He would begrudge us anything. Silly humanity. Surprisingly, even when we do take His goodness for granted, He often still blesses. But, how much more joyfully He blesses when the request is honoring to Him.

Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some – Charles Dickens

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sacred Space


Where I find a quiet place.
It's where my soul finds sacred space.
It's where my knees touch the ground.
It's where peace is found.

In You, Jesus.
In You, Jesus.
In You, Jesus.

It's where my heart is purified;
the only place I feel alive.
It's where my Father beckons me.
It's where this child is meant to be.

In You, Jesus.
In You, Jesus.
It's in You, Jesus.

It's where I run.
It's where I hide.
It's where You hold me safe inside.
It's where I live.
It's where I breathe.
It's where I look upon Your beauty.
It's where I fall.
It's where I rest.
It's where I find You loved me best.

The throne of my heart has an incompetent ruler without You.
I look to You for the love of You, the peace of You to silence all the noise within.
To bring tranquility to all the scattered thoughts within.
I learn to think of You and not of me.
To go deep in You until I lose who I used to be.
With You I can be everything You intended me to be.
And it's in this sacred space where I lay my ability to be anything without You.
Where I lay my preconceived notions about You.
Where I forget about me. To remember life is about you.
To remember I live for Your smile.
To remember I live for Your smile more than I live to please the crowd.
Make me like water.
See through me.
See You through me.
Nothing left of me to see.
Cleanse me.
Immerse me in purity.
Wash me of iniquity.
Help me to choose You.
To lavish You with a lifestyle worthy of You.
To lavish You with more than words.
To lavish You with all that you deserve.
I surrender because You are more than my cognitive knowledge...

It's where I tremble with Holy fear.
It's where my questions disappear.
It's where my feet begin to dance.
When I realize where I am.

I'm in You, Jesus.
I'm in You, Jesus.
In You, Jesus.

Lyrics by Steve Fee

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Evangelism 101


When I was in school, probably the most difficult class for me came my very first semester. There I was, so excited to finally be in the educational field that I had wanted for so long, and as if it was a prerequisite for anything else, I was immediately met with Evangelism 101.

This class had assignments that far exceeded my Christian comfort level. Weekly, yes weekly, I was assigned particular conversation topics that I was to start up with a perfect stranger! If anyone knows me at all, you can understand how difficult this was for me.

At the end of the term, my final paper had to be based on a conversation that I had with a non believer in attempts to lead them to Christ. Embarrassingly, I had to write my paper on my inability to be an evangelist and the sheer panic that accompanied my initial efforts. I was extremely disappointed in myself and my spiritual maturity. As Christians, we are commissioned to go and tell the world the good news. I, well I couldn’t get past my own front door.

John 17:23
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me...” – NIV

What is the greatest evangelistic tool of all time? Crusades? Missions? Those little paper booklets that get left on the tables of restaurants? Door-to-door witnessing? TV? Radio? All of these tools have been used by God, sometimes quite dramatically, to spread His gospel into the world. But none of them are highlighted in Scripture as the key to pointing others to Christ. This honor goes to unity and unity alone.

Let us ask ourselves: Have we ever been in a fellowship in which everyone was of one heart and mind? If we have, we know that this kind of fellowship acts as a magnet to everyone around it. It grows deeper, and often, larger. People are drawn to something that is supernatural, and unity among fellow believers, that must be of

To this end, the reverse is also true. No one is drawn to a church that has division within its walls. Chronic bickering is a clear sign that Jesus is not acknowledged as Lord in that place. The genuine unity of the saints is the greatest tool of evangelism God has given us.

Unity means oneness. It is just a fact. So, in this, let us remember that actual unity and the idea of unity are already two different things.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Haunted Houses


Growing up in East Cobb, my neighborhood was awesome. There was a small group of us kids that played together every day. The streets were safe, the people friendly and every parent maintained a watchful eye.

There was, however, this one house. All of us were terrified of it, and naturally so, since it was haunted. The thing just sat there, day in and day out, looking all creepy-like. The property was sunken in as if the land was forming a moat around it. Lights were never on. Cars were never in the driveway. It just seemed to us like nothing good was going on inside.

There were many days that we spent hiding out in the lawns across the street from this house, just hoping to get a glimpse of the would-be-freaks that must live inside.

Mark 5:20
“And all the people were amazed.” - NIV

Who is the first person in the Gospels whom Jesus commissions to be a witness of His mercy? A disciple who trained with Him for years? A seminarian, or converted Pharisee perhaps? No, it was a Gerasene demoniac: The man in whom a legion of evil spirits dwelt. A beastlike creature with superhuman strength that lived among the tombs. Some could say, the village sideshow.

Children would have been warned by their mothers to stay away, but like us, they probably went anyway lurking in the distance to catch a glimpse of the unusual. He was the equivalent of the modern day haunted house, the village enigma who defied explanation.

This man, after one encounter with Jesus, begged to become a disciple, but Jesus said no. The Son of God called this man to be a missionary to his hometown that was so afraid of him…and yet, “all the people were amazed.”

We often think that we need years of preparation and experience before we are useful to God. We don’t. We often think that God needs His witnesses to have sterling reputations. He doesn’t. All that’s required is this: An encounter with Jesus and the will to tell about it.

It’s that simple.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tim the Tool Man


This past weekend we had the pleasure of entertaining a few friends at the lake. Upon their arrival, all of our friends anxiously awaited their turn on the pair of jet skis. The problem was, one of them didn’t start!

I have no idea what was wrong with it; the thing immediately starts when I ride it…always. Needless to say, my husband and his two friends instantly recognized their chance to play with tools.

I’m just going to say it…I was silently freaking out! These lake toys are some of my dad’s most prized possessions. He takes such good care of them that I was hating even the possibility of messing one of them up. And, I don’t mind saying, my level of confidence in the boy’s mechanical abilities was less than elevated.

Just when I thought that my stress and panic levels couldn’t get any higher…here comes our friend Tim, marching down the dock, with freaking jumper cables! Here it was…this was how I was going to die…chest pains.

When all was said and done, the boys managed to jump the dead jet ski from the working one. Everything ended up working perfectly and all of our friends spent the entire afternoon riding them around as if nothing had ever gone wrong. I felt so silly when I thought about my panic party and level of worry; all I had to do was have a little faith.

Matthew 14:31
"You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" – NIV

How often do we treat our Savior this way? On the outside, we appear to be following His commands and trusting His ways, but on the inside, we are silently freaking out. “What if this doesn’t go like I want?” “What if this doesn’t end well?” “What if this…What if that?”

The way I see it, it all comes down to control. When something is out of our hands, and we know it, all there is left to do is have a little faith. Are we treating God as though we trust Him, genuinely trust Him? Or, are we waiting for Him to “prove Himself” before we ultimately live by faith alone?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Night of Worship


Thursday night, Brian and I joined some friends at North Point’s Night of Worship. We spent the evening in prayer, communion and all encompassing praise. Naturally, at one point during the performances, there was a worship leader who began to share with us her story. Even though little detail was given besides the typical, “I was at rock bottom”, I found myself wondering what kind of circumstance she came from and thanking God for her deliverance.

In the same sanctuary, I also found myself disappointed at the behavior of some of the other believers. There were kids running around the back of the sanctuary making all sorts of noise. Shouldn’t the parents have had enough respect for God’s worship time that they kept their children quiet? Shouldn’t the people next to them have spoken up about the distraction? Shouldn’t they have been embarrassed about this commotion and request forgiveness?

John 3:18
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” - NIV

One of the hardest truths for Christians to grasp is that we who believe in Him are not condemned. We generally have trouble telling an unbeliever this wonderful truth. Our difficulty most often comes in applying it to fellow believers. How prone we are to notice others’ sins, and even to hold those sins against them!

We actually enjoy hearing the testimonies of those who lived in gross rebellion, only to encounter Christ and be radically transformed. Praise God for those testimonies! They are trophies of God’s grace, and we are right to rejoice in their radical conversions.

But we often shun those who struggle with sin after professing Christ, as though sanctification were an instantaneous event. We forget that grace is ongoing. Sin is so deeply embedded in us that the vestiges of it will be manifested frequently for the rest of our lives.

I have often heard that believers are capable of walking a straight path, but, we will always walk with a limp.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sleepy Sleeperson


What in the world is it about men that allow them to fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow? Every single night, no matter what time we go to bed, Brian is fast asleep within minutes of the lights going out. I, on the other hand, am wide awake. I cannot shut my mind down from the day’s events and I feel as though my thoughts are in planning overdrive. I can honestly say that if any shenanigans were to go down in the middle of the night, there is a good chance that I would have a watchful eye on them.

Mark 13:36
“If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” – NIV

As Christians, Jesus has placed us on the walls of this world, the earthly city. We are charged with keeping watch and we all know what a disgraceful thing it would be if proper warnings did not arrive because the watchmen were asleep.

His warning is emphatic: “Watch out” (13:5). “You must be on your guard” (13:9). “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!” (v. 37).

Jesus does not repeat himself because He is forgetful; He repeats Himself because it is extremely important. In an age of deception, we must keep our eyes open for those who would mean us harm.

There may be times when God has us sit very still and patiently, but He never wants our hearts to be passive observers of kingdom events. He wants our constant attention and readiness to fix ourselves for action. We must see His kingdom as an imminent reality and never get too comfortable in our sleep.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grave Clothes


There are some lines in scripture that are so simple and plain, we often pass right over them. I’m the first one to admit, when I’m reading the Word, I’m on the hunt for inspirational passages and educational tidbits. It is so difficult to remember that, in the framework of inspired Scripture, nothing is included without a purpose.

John 11:44
“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” – NIV

I have to wonder…was this phrase just an afterthought in the mind of John when he was writing His book, or, is there something bigger in the message?

Poor Lazarus. The man has died, raised, and as if that wasn’t traumatic enough, now he was being stared at by tons of motionless peers. Can a guy get a hand? Bound by strips of linen from head to toe, hands and feet unmovable, the first thing that Lazarus hears is an explicit command from Jesus: “Take off the grave clothes.”

Obviously, the stunned onlookers were in need of some instruction, and Lazarus, disoriented and still confined, surely needed assistance. At first, he sees nothing. He only hears the voice of Christ. Does this, in any way, sound familiar?

When Jesus raises us from our sinful state, there is still something left to do before we can run free in our newfound citizenship. The grave clothes must go.

What grave clothes have us bound? Habitual sins? Guilt? Shame? Before we can enjoy our new liberty, we must be free of the things that restrain us, and we are helpless to accomplish this on our own. Jesus tells our loved ones to help us. Yes, He raises us to new life, but we in the church must be in the business of “taking off the grave clothes and letting people go.”

In bearing one another’s burdens, we, the walking resurrected, are assisting one another in removing the remnants of death.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Amazing News


My brother has gotten a job! This is amazing news! For those of you who know him, the boy has had the absolute hardest time finding any sort of employment whatsoever. This quest has taken him from state to state to state in search of even the smallest paid position. But, finally, he has found some success and oh how sweet it is.

Now that I have rejoiced with him, been happy for him and supported him, I find myself wondering…what does this even feel like? To want something for so long, to strive for something and put all your effort into it…what does it feel like to succeed?

Throughout my life, even up unto this point, things have just come easy for me. I would not say that I have truly struggled for anything professional, scholastic, athletic or social. Somehow or another, I have always managed to just find victory. In all areas, except Christianity.

Psalm 119:1
“You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.” – The Message

Walking uprightly, being kind, loving others, showing mercy and forgiveness: These are not our natural characteristics. Everyday, we fight our human nature and rely exclusively on the Holy Spirit to carry us within the grace of God. It is a difficult battle to go against what our sinful instincts would have us do…and a battle that, sometimes, costs.

When I actually reflect on the life I have led, and the joy that has come from my accomplishments, I can’t help but consider them quite small. Sure, its great to be victorious every now and then, but if there was no effort involved, does the victory even count?

I am excited for the victory that will come from a life of exertion. A victory that will be nothing but sweet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



A couple of years ago, I received a desk calendar of Chihuahuas for Christmas. Being completely obsessed with the breed, I couldn’t have been more excited. Every morning, when I got to my desk, I had the pleasure of ripping off the previous day’s picture and being greeted with another little adorable illustration.

You can imagine my surprise when, one morning, I ripped of the previous day’s sheet to find that the dates were out of order. Hmm. After closer examination I noticed…those idiots had left an entire week out of my calendar!

Now, I’m not one to just sit back and dwell on this injustice. I am a deeply involved consumer! Immediately, I took to my email and wrote a strongly worded letter to the manufacturers of this Chihuahua calendar. My basic point: I had not received what I was promised and they were going to rue the day they violated me!

Many people have experienced this same type of situation; after all, we live in a rights-obsessed culture. Our courts are flooded with cases, both reasonable and absurd, in which people feel their rights have been violated. Slight offenses have become major litigations and people are intensely aware of our sense of freedom in economy, government and religion.

John 8:36
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” - NIV

The Jewish religious leaders defined freedom much as our culture does: in terms of political oppression. They may have been dominated by Rome, but technically, they were living in a free territory. They, like us, missed the real issue. Life isn’t about the physical ability to do whatever we feel like doing, it’s about being released from spiritual bondage.

Even as believers, we fall for the lie: “I’m only human.” We use this as a crutch in our bondage and feel as though there is no way out. But, deep down, we know that there’s more to life than the humanity we are settling for. We long for the glory of God’s riches. We long for the place at His feet. We long for the freedom we cannot attain by ourselves.

I suppose that, perhaps, we should ask ourselves: Have we misdiagnosed the problem?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Patience, Patience


Today is just awful. I am, literally, about to lose my mind in numbers and calculations. I’m pretty sure that the person who is responsible for the development of Microsoft Access and Excel is straight from the underworld. My formulas are corrupted, my stress level is rising and my Dr. Pepper stash is taking a serious hit.

I hate to be writing about work…again…but these days I feel like it is all that I have going on. When you are spending all of your time, energy and patience on one activity is there really anything else?

I never thought that I would be a person who lost herself in responsibility. It was only a little while ago that my days consisted of nothing more than reading the Word and watching some lectures on the New Testament. Now, I look back, and don’t even recognize that lifestyle anymore. I spend all of my time establishing my career, earning a living and achieving my goals that my life has become one of entrepreneurship instead of discipleship.

Oh Jesus, wonderful and understanding Jesus. The Son of God knows full well my tendency to focus on making a life for myself, its a little commonality amongst us all.

At least, I can see a light at the end of this tumultuous tunnel. I actually believe that my life is going to get back to normal in a very short while and I am grateful to know that I have a Savior who has been waiting for me the entire time.

Nehemiah 9:30
“For many years you were patient with them.” - NIV

Sunday, July 18, 2010



As I sit down to write this blog this afternoon, I can’t help but notice this passage:

Luke 10:27
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” – NIV

Last night, I dreamed about work. All weekend, my mind has been preoccupied with the array of stress that is waiting for me at my office on Monday. I fall asleep thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it and it is never far from my consciousness throughout the day.

It is Sunday. Of all days to be consumed with earthly dealings, I haven’t even taken a moment to realize that today is the Lord’s day. I am convicted when I say that He has not been a thought in my head all weekend. No, I have been obsessed with analysis, procedures, presentations and the like. I have not loved the Lord with all my mind. I have not loved the Lord with all my soul. Kind of forces the question: Have I loved the Lord at all?

Most Christians walk a fuzzy line between devotion to God and devotion to other things. We believe in our hearts, of course, that we should be wholly committed to God and love Him fully, and we very much desire to do so. But, at war with our undivided love for Him are other “attractions”…and deep down, we are finding ourselves perfectly satisfied with a little interruption.

Ironically, the grand deception of the enemy is that the type of passion God longs for would rob us of pleasures and certain privileges. Satan wars against the kind of love that is exclusive, and joining him in this fight are our self-centered instincts that also want to share the love. We are divided in our hearts, and are miserable as a result.

The Bible tells us how we can be complete and how we can come to know the utmost pleasure and satisfaction in life: Love God with all your heart. The deception of the evil one can have both immediate and eternal consequences on our souls.

May I suggest that we all cling to the instruction of the Word as though our life depended on it, because in many ways, it does.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Small Seeds


In the past few years, I have been involved with a variety of different ministry services. I have spent some time with YoungLife, I have volunteered in my church’s children’s program and I have attempted to begin a workplace Bible study on more than one occasion. All the while, even when my work was directly received and accepted, I was always left wondering…does any of this really matter.

All of us want to be used for the glory of God, and used in big ways. But, what happens when the area we are called to serve in is nothing but small potatoes by comparison? A food drive here, a Bible study there…are these small seeds even capable of bearing fruit?

John 12:24
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” – NIV

We serve in a Kingdom of wheat kernels, mustard seeds and hidden pearls – small things with huge impacts. The world finds it impossible to see the value in small acts of service, and in our more discouraging times, so do we. We judge our faith inconsequential if the results of our service are not astounding and our time is considered wasted.

But, as history encourages us, the legacies of “wasted” lives have influenced the world in more dramatic ways than any of mankind’s impressive achievements. We should not be discouraged before God if our services do not yield perceptible results, for they are undetectable only to the naked eye. A kind word here, a loving act there, these services are all highly valued in the eternal kingdom where those who give their lives away…find them again.

I suppose it’s nice to be important, but is it not more important to be nice?

Friday, July 16, 2010



I spent most of my life living in Marietta, Georgia. To be more specific, I was reared in a part of town that was known to be home of more than one “East Cobb snob”. Not that it was planned this way, but the area was predominantly inhabited by Caucasian white collar families. The students went to Lassiter, the parents went to church and the families played at the neighborhood tennis courts.

When I finally moved away from home (for good this time), I moved just a little north of Marietta to Alpharetta. I got settled into one of my many apartments and began to take in my new surroundings. I do not want what I’m about to say to sound discriminating in any way, but, a fact is a fact: Alpharetta is booming with Indian culture! Everywhere I looked, Indian women were walking around. Every store that I shopped at, Indian culture was prominent. Parts of Alpharetta are specifically designed to cater to this culture and that just always confused me.

It is not that being surrounded by a differing culture was in any way a problem, it was just surprising. Out of all the areas to encounter this situation, I never would have expected Fulton county Alpharetta to be where it would happen. Maybe it’s my naïveté. Maybe it is my inexperience. But, I really began to consider myself a foreigner in my own town.

John 15:19
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” - NIV

As Christians, we must make our relationship with Christ our foremost preoccupation, yes, but we must also be aware of our relationship with the world in turn. From time to time, we must ask ourselves whether we are living as citizen of heaven in a foreign land, or as citizen of this world looking forward to a foreign kingdom.

No matter how we look at it, the culture clash between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world can be frustrating. What we must remember, and take heart in, is that we are foreigners: Foreigners who treasure nothing more than our foreign citizenship. This difference, this distinction, is evidence of our relationship with the eternal Son of God.

It is impossible to keep in step with this God and not be out of step with the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bitter Lemonade


I know a couple people who just force me to ask the question: What do you really want out of life? You may know what I’m talking about if you know anyone like this. People who seem depressed, ill, lonely or just discouraged. Life has thrown them some lemons and they have made some pretty bitter lemonade as a result. Living their lives in such a state of melancholy for so long, one begins to wonder if they really want anything to change. At some point, do these individuals just accept this despair as a way of life?

It is with these bleak people that we can truly comprehend the divided minds of a fallen culture. As much as outsiders may think that these souls want change, it could simply be that they have developed a comfort their status quo. Life is what it is and that is it.

John 5:7
“The sick man said, "Sir, when the water is stirred, I don't have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in." – NIV

I think about the invalid hanging out by the pool in the book of John. When the water stirs, no one helps him in the pool. Then I think, man, it has been thirty eight years of this! No one to help? Really? Surely tired of being an invalid, this man probably feared the dramatic change in his life that a miraculous healing would bring. I mean, change is change, and even if it is for the better…it is still intense. This man’s hesitation to accept help forced Jesus to beg the question: “Are you really ready for what will happen to you when you’ve really encountered Me?”

How much do we identify with this man? We say that we want to be delivered of our sins, and yet, we continue to look for ways to be tempted by them. We want our prayers answered, but wonder if people will still give us the attention and sympathy when they are. We want to change, we don’t want to change. Anyway you look at it, we are divided souls.

When Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well”, I suppose this question is not as simple as it sounds. If we decide that we really want to know Him, we must first know that nothing will ever be the same again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Moon Rising


Once a month, at my office, our system completely shuts down for an entire day. During this time, our management has decided to implement “team building activities” where we all gather in a room and have a movie day. In the days leading up to movie time, a variety of films are nominated and voted upon in order to select what we will be watching.

Now, I work in a company of basically all men, so you can imagine what random pieces of junk I have been forced to watch over the course of the year. If I see one more super hero blow something up, I am going to start a petition. I make suggestions every month that are always dismissed automatically, but this month, I have a secret weapon. We have recently made some new additions to our department that just happen to be Twilight fans. Naturally, we have made the decision to overthrow the men of our team and watch the recently released dvd of Twilight: New Moon.

Here is the problem: this month, I will not be in the office for movie day. While that doesn’t sound like a problem, the frustration lies in the fact that I don’t want to just leave one of my most prized possessions in the hands of my coworkers (the prized possession being my New Moon dvd). Call me selfish, but I love that thing. What if they scratched it? What if they lost it? What if, in an act of protest, one of the guys threw it out the window? I perish the thought!

Luke 6:34
“If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?” – NIV

Material possessions, need I say more? We all understand the unnatural pull that some of our things can have on us. We know that we can take nothing out of this world, and yet, we are determined to hold on to specific things as long as we are here.

Jesus commends the woman in the gospels who drops two small coins into the coffer. Why did she give all that she had? Because it was all that she could give.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Darkest Hour


If there is one think that I have learned from my mom, in terms of decorating, it is that a little ambiance goes a long way. When I was decorating our new home last year, I knew the importance of lamps. Shaded light, while some may think it dim, is extremely comforting to me.

To take matters to a whole other level, I have even managed to add a little atmosphere to my cube at work. I purposely requested that the overhead lighting around my desk be removed; I wanted the bulbs taken out. I brought in lamps from my old apartment and have even had a candle at one point. I am all about working in the shadows and, basically, living in the dark.

Ephesians 5:8
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” - NIV

We live in a dark kingdom, dark in all areas that matter. Yes, our culture is one of neon lights, but it is the kind of light that hurts your eyes and brings no comfort to our souls. According to the book of Ephesians, our human understanding is dark, we are surrounded by dark powers and even we, ourselves, have done deeds in darkness.

When I was in school, I heard a story that Plato often said about people in a cave who only saw each other as shadows. They thought that they could see clearly enough, why wouldn’t they, it was all they ever knew.

Just like the people in the caves, believers all think that we are well-informed, but when we finally encounter light, we feel nothing but the pain of brightness in our maladapted eyes. As an instinct, we turn back to the darkness that we are so comfortable with and fail to recognize that our lives are deprived of true radiance.

The world no longer has anything to offer us. Its interpretations of light are nothing but shadows untouched by the light of truth. Let us open our hearts to Jesus, and let Him shine.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Think Big


Today I am finding myself wondering: What has my faith done for me lately? It sounds like a completely arrogant question to propose, and one that I probably should be embarrassed to even write, but I’m serious. What in this life has my faith done for me?

The gospels are filled with verse after verse of changes made by faith. Consider a few:

Luke 18:42
“Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." – NIV

Mark 5:34
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." – NIV

Matthew 15:28
“Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." – NIV

So, as I re-examine my life, once again I say: What has my faith done for me?
We know that all blessings come from God. He is the author of everything good and nothing that we obtain will even be derived out of personal merit. Knowing these facts, we might ask another question: Why does everything seem to depend on the faith of us…the recipients?

As Christians, should we be considering faith the currency of heaven? When faith is small, God seems to be so distant. When faith is great, God reveals Himself greater still. Perhaps, just maybe, faith is not something for us to understand. Maybe faith is a mystery that we will never comprehend this side of heaven. But, rest assured, there is one thing that we can do…make sure we are seeing things clearly.

An awful lot depends on how we actually see our heavenly Father. If we see Him as hard and begrudging, we will find Him to be so. If we see Him as able, willing and magnificent, we will find Him to be so to our own delight. It is very likely that God is acting in exactly the way our faith expects Him to.

Want big answers to our prayers? Pray big prayers and know the size of the God we seek.

Sunday, July 11, 2010



So, my mom and I just finished playing a doubles season for T2 tennis. When it was still going on, I had the brilliant idea of signing up for the singles season that was to follow. All I can say now is…what a horrible idea that was!

I have been playing singles for the past five weeks now and, man, do I dislike it. There is none of the excitement that came with doubles and definitely no intensity. The matches have been boring and I am really having no fun at all.

The ironic thing about this season is that I am winning, go figure. As of the other day, I officially clinched my division and moved on to playoffs. Basing my predictions from the level of play that has approached me so far, I do not think that another city championship is out of the question.

This is so me. Here I am, face to face with a blessing that most people would find immeasurable, and all I can think is…do I even really want it.

Zechariah 8:6
“"It may seem marvelous to the remnant of…people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" – NIV

Spiritually speaking, has this become our attitude? Are Christians so used to hearing about what waits for us in Heaven that we are, inadvertently, lacing it with flippancy? Even though we stand side by side with those who marvel at God’s providence, to us, His blessings fade into everyday life.

The longer we are believers, the more difficult it becomes to remember how the world looked when we first opened our eyes to the Lord. A time when all we could fathom was the greatness that was to come. A time when all we could see was work still to be done. A time when everything was new and held such promise.

With God watching our every move, and knowing our very hearts, would the promise of salvation force Him to ask: Do they even really want it?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rule Breaker


Throughout my entire life, childhood to the present, I would characterize myself as a stringent rule follower. Of course, there have been specific seasons of life where I felt the need to test my boundaries, but for the most part, I have always managed to walk the line.

Now that I am almost thirty, and will eventually be in a position to set my own rules for my own children, I am left wondering: What’s the point?

Why do we have guidelines in the first place? Is it for safety reasons? Sometimes. Is it for protection? Occasionally. But in all honesty, aside from these isolated practical reasons, I can’t help but think that, sometimes, rules are only in place for the sole reason of testing obedience.

2 Chronicles 30:19
“…according to the rules of the sanctuary.” – NIV

As believers, and definitely for non-believers, our culture has a tendency to get the letter of the law confused with the substance of God’s heart. Yes, it is well known that we all have some sort of church tradition or Christian methodology that provides us with the rules we follow. After all, these are the guidelines that maintain our morality and teach us how to conform to the heart of Christ.

What Christians fail to observe, however, is one simple fact: Whatever is done in legalism – at the expense of spiritual vitality and true worship – troubles Jesus profoundly. The Lord is never pleased when His children choose form over substance.

God is holy, and the objective for any believer is to conform to that holiness. Due to our sinful nature in a fallen world, this also means that we must learn to place restrictions on our behavior and our tendency to follow godless impulses. But these restraints can never become the essence of our faith.

Faith is never about restrictions, it is about following His character. Faith is never about rules, it is about obedience. Lastly, faith is never about limitations, it is about our heart…and His.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Family Tradition


What will I be doing on July 4th of every year: Going to my parent’s lake house for their annual party. What will I be doing on Thanksgiving afternoon of every year: Going to the movies. What will I be doing every other Christmas Eve: Going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at Johnson’s Ferry Baptist Church. What will I be eating for my mom’s birthday dinner every year: Japanese Steakhouse.

Are you wondering how I know all of these things so far in advance…probably not if you in any way understand the importance of tradition. Sometimes, as is the case with my brother, people hold holiday traditions more securely than the holidays themselves! Tyler knows the exact meal that my mom is going to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, and any variation in food groups is not permitted without just cause. And he is far from the only one who takes tradition so seriously.

Mark 7:9
“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” – NIV

I have to wonder: What’s wrong with a little tradition? In the book of Mark, Jesus is found to condemn traditional practices so easily in the face of the Pharisees even though much of the law is built upon such customs. Is Jesus condemning the law? Of course not.

While it was true that most of the Pharisee observances were based on biblical tradition, this was not the case for all of their practices. The remainder was simply a historical fabrication on behalf of sinful pride. In this case, there was nothing wrong with tradition, but when it was mistaken for divine inspiration, it became a problem.

I read somewhere that, like the Pharisees, American culture takes the holy traditions of the Bible and picks and chooses what we are going to implement in our religious lives. We profoundly defend the authority of the Kingdom, but neglect its founding principles. In a sense, we tend to major on the minor issues and minor on the major ones.

It is one thing to know our Heavenly Father, it is quite another to live as though He’s never there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quiet Place


Maybe it is unnatural. Maybe it is the small family from which I came. Maybe it is just my personality. Whatever it is, the fact remains: I really like being alone. Crowds overwhelm me; large groups exhaust me, and more often than not, I find myself needing breaks.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love social times where family and friends can get together and simply enjoy one another. I love a great game and I really love a good movie (ahem…Twilight). But, at the end of the day, my favorite time is my quiet time.

Yes, this mentality has gotten me into trouble on more than once occasion. My need for privacy and seclusion are not always “people pleasing” qualities. But, what can I do? I like time to just be alone with my thoughts. I like time to be responsible for nothing and I really like times of little expectations and even smaller amounts of effort.

So, you can imagine, when I really started following Christ and learning about how much He valued His quiet time…I was completely on board.

Mark 6:31
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place…” – NIV

The person who does not get alone with Jesus is sure to have difficulty as His disciple. This time of prayer and reflection is an essential element for spiritual growth. It is in these quiet times that Jesus refreshes us.

When we read of Jesus’ time alone with His father, we can easily see that these are His times of closeness. The times that He had alone with God guided Him and strengthened Him for His mission at hand.

Quiet times are times of growth. The things that we learn in the calmness of Christ are the very things that will sustain us in the storms ahead.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whats In a Name


Matthew 9:13
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” - NIV

Abraham – the Man of Faith
Moses – The Lawgiver
David – A Man After God’s Own Heart
Elijah – The Prophet
Peter – The rock
Paul – The Evangelist

Heroes of our faith, listed out. God’s anointed soldiers. Role models for our spiritual lives. We just cannot relate to the spiritual maturity and stature of these listed men who were called into service…Can we?

Abraham – The liar
Moses – The murderer
David – The adulterer
Elijah – Suicide risk
Peter – The denier
Paul – The persecutor

And still, the list goes on. Jonah the disobedient. Matthew the tax collector. Jacob the deceiver. Rahab the prostitute.

Shows us a little something about the trophies of God’s grace doesn’t it. I love how much God delights in overcoming our flaws.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mercy Matters


If there is one thing that I am great at in life, it is holding grudges. To this day I can think of a number of things that I still resent:

• The nasty phone call that came from a group of rowdy middle schoolers when I was in seventh grade
• The invitation that never came to a friend’s Christmas party in high school
• The former bride who removed me from her wedding via email
• The man who took the life of my best friend

And these are just the top four!

I can’t begin to tell you the isolation that comes from a life of unforgiveness. Relationships that could have been repaired, were all but forgotten on my end. Even in the rarest of circumstances, when I actually did forgive a wrongdoing, it was purely conditional and based on the assumption that I would never be wronged again. I was ok with the infrequent “forgive and forget” mentality, as long as the offender never forgot that I forgave.

Ironically, I suppose the joke was on me because in my resentment towards others, I found myself bound even tighter in my bitterness than I would have ever been in my mercy.

Micah 7:18-19
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – NIV

Unfortunately, if you are like me, you are scared to hear that our attitude toward others is a basic test of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. In our grudge-holding and animosity, we are failing that test daily.

If someone has really taken the Cross personally – actually understood the reality of its message and applied it to their life – only then can that person truly understand mercy. Like it or not, it is just not possible to simultaneously appreciate the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and withhold forgiveness from others. It just isn’t feasible.

We must always remember the depths from which we came and, only then, may we sympathize with others where they currently are.

I read once that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and then discover that the prisoner was you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ignoring the Liar


Today I had the luxury of going shopping. This is something that I rarely have the opportunity to do, so when the time comes, it is pretty exciting. As I stepped into the store of my choice, I couldn’t help but notice the insane amount of people. There were women everywhere. Some eying this, some trying on that. Literally, it was sheer pandemonium inside this little store.

After a while of just watching, I began to listen to some of the conversations taking place. “Is this a better outfit than so and so’s?” “Do I look better in this one or that one?” “Maybe I should get this one because I know she wants it.” Ridiculous.

John 8:44
“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – NIV

What is it with our culture and our need for stuff? Everyday of our lives, we try to fill our hearts with so much that is not of God. Advertisements seem to instruct us on what is needed to feel complete. Culture convinces us that we can be fulfilled if we have enough romance, leisure time, entertainment, possessions or money. We constantly tell ourselves that if we only had this or that, we could finally be happy.

We have all bought into this mentality at one point or another, and in doing so, have bought into lies. The fact is, if our heart is empty, it is empty only of God. He is the only real substance that can satisfy our cravings for fulfillment. Why, then, do we continue to press on after other things? Because we have been deceived by the great Liar.

Any discontent, any ache, any emptiness should drive us to our knees in hunger for the Almighty. Let us seek Him in every situation. Let us learn to depend on Him for what only He can provide. Let us turn from the Father of Lies to the truth that will set us free.

The best protection against Satan’s lies is to know God’s truth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th

Today was a pretty fun day. Lots of family and friends over at the lakehouse, almost everyone that I love in one place is always wonderful. What made it even more wonderful, beating almost everyone I love in ping pong!

All joking aside, it is nice to actually sit down and reflect on what a blessed - and free - life that we live. Free to celebrate our nation's independence with friends. Free to spend a day in celebration. And, most of all, Free to worship our one, true Creator.

May everyone in the world be so blessed. Let us continue to be: One Nation Under God.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Friend or Foe


Over the course of my life, it has become apparent how much God has looked after me. It always seems that when I find myself alone and lost, God manages to put someone in my life that can keep my heart full. Even if it is only for a season, I truly feel that His hands are what lead me into all of my relationships.

After I graduated from college, I was living in Marietta with no friends to call upon. It was a depressing time for me realizing that I had let my life become so isolated. As if magically called upon, my friend Kelly just came into my life and provided me with so many life experiences, without whom, would never have taken place.

As I grew older, and what I needed out of peers changed, the Lord raised up my best friend Raven. He orchestrated the events in both our lives so that we could move to Alpharetta together and begin a new season of life, a season that I now treasure as her last. And when it was time for her to leave this world, God blessed me with the man who is now my husband.

But, with the good, will also come the bad. God will not only bless our lives with dear friends who remain loyal and kind, there are also those who’s very presence challenges us. They are not always kind. They are not always pleasant. In fact, after some time, you begin to know them as simply, callous.

I have found, in my experience, that these individuals…these who would break you down so much as talk about you…are the ones that matter. These are the few that give you opportunities to really be an example, to show the true, unwarranted, love of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 45:7
“I form light and create darkness, I make harmonies and create discords. I, God, do all these things.” – The Message

Friday, July 2, 2010

Extreme Living


This week, work has been unbearable. I have been assigned a project for the past few weeks that for some reason, continues to beat me. I have put all my attention into this initiative, all my efforts and all my time. I have worked more hours on this job than ever before, and still, everywhere I look there are little spots of incorrectness.

Yes, it is true that a project of this magnitude has never been attempted by anyone in our department thus far. Yes, it is also true that the results of the final version will be well worth the painstaking effort it took to achieve. And, yes, it is finally true that this was the job that I asked for when I received my promotion.

How easy it is for me to see all the negative aspects of this responsibility instead of all the good. I have managed to get 80% of the project completed all by myself, and yet, the last 20% is all that I can see. I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am a woman of extremes. My efforts are either ALL successful, or ALL disappointments.

Just as in everyday life, Christians often take an extreme approach towards spiritual obedience as well: We are all or nothing. We can try to follow Him without any cost involved at all; or we can assume that God’s Will will always contradicts ours and is a heavy price to pay.

Both of these mentalities are unbalanced views, and neither one is correct. It is just a fact, sometimes our will will coincide with God’s, and sometimes it won’t. Discipleship never means that there will be no cost, nor does it mean that there will be no joy. Following Christ involves both.

If we believe that we are walking as disciples, but there seems to be no sacrifice in our lives, we better look again. Somewhere, we are missing His voice.

As living sacrifices, our offerings will cost us dearly – the very best of who we are. But, in return, we receive the largest blessing of all – the best of who He is.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Leash Limits


Not sure how many of you know this, but Nemo used to have a brother. When he was about 2 years old, I adopted a second Chihuahua named Joey. This little guy was awesome. He had such a great personality that, after some time, even Nemo began to warm up to him.

Yes, all was great in the Niccum household except for one small thing: Joey was the most undisciplined dog I have ever met! Housebreaking him was impossible, so much that he failed obedience school twice! Moreover, he wouldn’t even cooperate when a leash was involved. No matter how firmly I tugged, no matter how much training there was involved, Joey always pretended as if the leash was never there. He would run rampant and always appear completely shocked when his leash space ran out. In his little mind, personal power was never something that would actually be limited.

John 19:11
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” – NIV

One of the amazing ironies about the crucifixion of Jesus is that while it would appear that evil was winning the battle – rather handedly in fact – God is winning the war.

In our lives, we know the enemy well. He makes no secret of his presence, or, his intentions. Satan’s plain objectives reflect his evil nature clear as day, and yet, his vision will always be limited. Just like all things caged in, he doesn’t seem to realize that God hasn’t lost the grip on his leash.

Just looking around at our culture today, it would be easy for Satan to think that he has finally broken free of the Lord and been able to do some real damage. However, all the while…not only is the leash on his neck still firm, but he is actually accomplishing God’s greater purposes himself.

No matter what we are going through in life, we must always try to remember the calm of Jesus in the midst of His greatest storm. Regardless of the difficult place we find ourselves in, it has been allowed from above. It always is. And, trust, God is accomplishing His purposes through it.