What Have You Done?

June 1, 2020
This is not okay. Not even in the slightest.

To begin- let me first say- I don’t know if my voice on this really even matters. I’ve really had to process the last week- even the last couple of month’s… scratch that… the last couple of years, over the last couple of days. And actually, I’m positive I’ve been circling the grieving process.

You see, I am surrounded by a great church and a great community of friends… and to be really honest, when I’m with them (as when I’m with Jesus) I feel like it’s heaven on earth. Literally. There is no dissension… distrust… argumentative nature… opposition… racism… There is only love… grace… and truth. I love that our church family is actually living out the vision statement of our church.

So, when I hear of these obscene, awful, dehumanizing things that have occurred and are continuing to occur across our nation… I am sucked back to the reality that we still live in the fallen world. That the Kingdom is here… but has not fully arrived…  And that although I experience little pieces of heaven on earth that last for days… we are still surrounded by sin and hatred. And it makes me furious.

 

The fact that a man could treat another man this way makes me violently ill. The video footage made me so angry I wanted to jump through the screen and body check the cop. And I’m not usually prone to violence by any means… but the injustice and brutality was disgusting to me.

Callous. Despicable. Vile. Inhuman.

And I think that’s just it. What God created us to be- in His Image (literally meaning in the Hebrew that we are his graven image here on Earth), we keep reducing ourselves to inhumanity through how we treat each other. We keep repeating the same sin over and over. Let’s go back… clear back… shall we?

If we flip our Bibles back to Genesis 4, we see that God wasn’t happy with Cain’s sacrifice. Why? Notice something that I’ve bolded for emphasis.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,  but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

Genesis 4:3-5

Cain only brought some (not the firstfruits, nor the best fruits… just some) of his crops as a gift. And Abel? That nice guy brought the “best portions” of the “firstborn” lambs. He brought the best. And Cain knew it. Jealousy ensued… and developed into anger towards God and hatred toward his brother. God immediately noticed; he still cares for the brother pouting in the corner.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:6-7

Sin is Crouching

God was right. If we cannot subdue our hatred… sin controls us. Down to a knee in the neck. Police stations on fire. African-American children needing to hear and obey “The Talk” in the hopes that they won’t be the next victim. Society as a whole being completely distrustful across our races.

But it seems that somehow sin wins… again and again.

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.”  And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Genesis 4:8

Even with Cain’s jealousy and murder of Abel, God still cared for him. Which is very hard for most of us to wrap our heads around. There’s no mention of how Adam and Eve reacted. I can only imagine the horror they must have felt when they heard the news. 

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood.  No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear!  You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:9-15

 

 

My heart thuds when I listen to God’s words in this passage. Over and over, He keeps pointing Cain back to the fact that his victim was his brother.  Isn’t that what we all are essentially? Family? Tribes? Nations? And Cain’s response is once again- all about him. He’s worried that he’ll be killed by another human. And God still protects his life. God still values and loves Cain, who murdered his own brother.

Why do we keep doing this to each others? These horrific acts against God’s own image? We are supposed to live in the Land of the Free… but the more I know and understand… the more I know it’s untrue. Until the Kingdom fully arrives with Jesus’ return, we will never live in any land of the free. We will never be fully free of any of this sin until we lay down at the feet of Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Confess all the injustice we are apart of- through affiliation or not. And determine, once and for all to follow after Jesus… every step of the way.

But- still- we must do better. We must love more. We must forgive over and over. We must write these names upon our hearts and speak out. We must stand up for anyone who is being bullied or  terrorized due to the color of their skin. We must stand up for what Jesus asked of us: to love our neighbor and pray for those who persecute us. We must yell from the rooftops that there is no room for racism in our nation nor in the Kingdom. I don’t know how exactly… but I’m going to take a stand today.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor…

And those who never even made a headline… 

Trust: The Relationship Builder

He looked me square in the eye, and with determination and sweet love, he asked, “Do you really want to do this? Now’s the time if you need to change your mind.” My arm fit perfectly underneath my Dad’s arm and I looked back at him direct, our matching green eyes looking intently into each other’s souls.

“Yes, Dad.”

“Okay, MegBeth.” He smiled, with a strange sort of smile and tears in his eyes. We turned, my arm still tucked loving under his, and walked slowly behind the trail of bridesmaids in crimson gowns, who led the way to the man I was going to marry.

I now understand my Dad’s strange smile. At that moment, I was no longer under his protection. No longer a Daddy’s girl. I would no longer run to him first for safety, wisdom or advice. I had finally found a man worthy of my trust. And I was choosing him.

I had all the reasons not to trust: other boyfriends had cheated… pushed me past my boundaries… slandered and gossiped about me to others. But this man was different.

He had a boyish charm, light blue eyes that were full of warmth, and a smile that made my heart beat faster. But more than anything… it was a choice on my part to trust him that sealed the deal.

And it was the scariest walk I’ve ever had to take with my Dad.

Thoughts of the future… will we stay best friends as we had been the last two years? Will he forgive me when I mess up, again and again? Will he seek forgiveness and apologize even when he’s beyond angry? Will we have heartache and hurt between us? Will we have children and will they complicate or strengthen our relationship?

I now know the answers to all of the questions that were darting through my mind as I put one foot in front of another, while my Dad held me gently under his arm. Since then, Michael has broken my trust. And yet- would I still make that choice almost 17 years ago? Yes.

So, there I was (17 years ago) standing next to a man who barely looked his age, who couldn’t wait to take my hand from my father’s.

It was in those moments that led up to right then, that I was choosing to trust. Choosing to take a man’s hand to lead me into the next stage of our lives. I had no clue what the future held. I didn’t know that I would cry wretched sobs over this man. But, I made a choice. Just a choice. My thoughts and emotions had no pull either way. I decided to choose. Nothing more.

Trust Is…

So… what is trust? And is it something that we are born with? Or is it something that grows within us? Does it depend on nature or nurture?

To rely on the integrity, strength, ability, surety of a person or thing is what trust is defined as. You could also say it’s having confidence in someone or something.

According to a thesis “Nature versus Nurture: Is Trust Innate or Learned? An Analysis on Human Capital Determining Trustwritten by Deanne Lorraine C. Dummo and Mary Kristine P. Rabe, it was determined that trust was innate, and not learned. So… we are genetically disposed or indisposed to be trusting. That’s pretty crazy- but it gives us a window into knowing ourselves inwardly. It may be harder for you to trust- by nature. Or easier!

So… what is trust worth? Do we need it to survive?

Essentially… yes. Trust is what holds families, organizations, and nations together. There needs to be an element of trust to keep any kind of relationship together. We may not realize the importance of trust… until it’s gone. Trust builds camaraderie in groups/churches/sports and with those shared interests, and builds until it seems as though the “organization” moves and breathes as if it’s its own organism. 

 

To Trust or Not to Trust

So- why do we choose not to trust?

We base people’s intentions on their actions… and not always on their words. Growing up in Nebraska, when someone gave you their word, it meant that they would follow through. You can imagine when I moved to Missouri for college, and assumed that people’s word would always hold true. I learned pretty quickly, that it didn’t. I had to begin to base who I trusted on whether their actions lined up with their words… or not.

My mom used a phrase once, “They talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.” I’ve found this is more reliable than relying on anyone’s word now. Which is really sad… the words we speak… don’t mean anything. We have to base our trust on the actions of those we’re looking to trust and whether their actions match their words.

When we choose to trust someone or something, we are opening ourselves up to vulnerability. By giving our trust, we are allowing them the chance to hurt us, whether intentional or not. And, by golly- we are not going to be hurt- right? Put yourself first- isn’t that the motto of the world right now? I mean- come on people… it doesn’t get more self-centered than that.

But, when it comes down to it- it’s just a decision. We choose to trust… or not to. It’s simple.

Squash Growing Distrust

And when we feel that distrust begin to bubble up from our guts, nerves or emotions- we need to choose to get rid of it. And I honestly don’t know how that would work for you. But for me? I usually pray first.

Step One: Pray First

There are moments in my marriage, even now after 16 ½ years, that I feel distrust crop up in my heart towards Michael. It has nothing to do with insecurity… or his integrity. It has to do with the spiritual war that’s raging around us. It can also crop up when our expectations are not met. We must be on our toes when remembering that we are in a spiritual battle all the time. 

Ephesians 6:12 says:

Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.

So, when I sense distrust in my relationship- I pray. And if it doesn’t go away, I immediately talk to Michael. I treat all other relationships and friendships in the same way. The Deceiver is a master at dividing the church, families, and friends. Which brings me to the next step.

 

Step 2: Start Talking

Bringing things that are in the dark, into the light, always works. It always brings healing and health back into a relationship. If you’re struggling to trust someone you should be able to trust, talk to them about it.

Ephesians 5:13:

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible…”

Now, don’t get me wrong… when you bring things into the light, you need to check yourself before you start talking. Make sure that you have good intent and are seeking wisdom and unity in your relationship. If you focus on healing and reconciliation with God’s help and leading from the Holy Spirit, health should be restored.

Step 3: Leave It With God

I don’t fully understand why distrust happens. But, when I give my distrust to God… he almost always is faithful to help me work through it in every aspect of my being. And if there’s one being that we can trust- it’s God. Man is flawed… but God is not. We can continuously trust in Him over ALL OTHERS.

One of my favorite verses of all times (I have it taped to the mirror in my bathroom) is 1 Peter 5:6-7. The way it’s written in The Passion Translation (check out my post on versions and translations here!) is pretty neat.

If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands. Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.

The key here is- once you’ve given your distrust to God, you can’t take it back. (See next step 🙂

Who to Trust?

When I began searching through Scripture for how to deal with distrust or even trust for that matter, I found something interesting. Almost all the results point to trust in Father God and his Son, Jesus.

Step 4: Trust God

Trust in the Lord completely,

and do not rely on your own opinions.

With all your heart rely on him to guide you,

and he will lead you in every decision you make.

Become intimate with him in whatever you do,

and he will lead you wherever you go.

Don’t think for a moment that you know it all,

for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion

and avoid everything that’s wrong.

Then you will find the healing refreshment

your body and spirit long for.

Proverbs 3:5-8

If we can’t trust our own opinions, then who can we trust but God? We need to remember to allow God to lead us in every decision in our lives. That’s a tough thing to write- even tougher to live it out.

When we look further into scripture in a handful of times, the authors of the Bible wrote about the shaky choice to trust money over God and another time how the disciples trusted Judas Iscariot, the disciple who then betrayed Jesus. Hmmmm….

So, it’s clear that if we trust money over God, it will fail us. And sometimes, if we trust another human being, they could betray us. It is possible. (In the book of John, chapter 2, it mentions that Jesus didn’t entrust himself to his followers yet, because he knew that the hearts of men were fickle. Whoa!)

So, in the end… we have a choice to make.

Step 5: Choose to Trust

In this day and age, trust is hard to find. When we’ve been hurt over and over by people we’ve loved, it can be hard to let down your walls. But you’re gonna have to if you want any fulfilling and loving relationships.

Sometimes, a phrase just sums it up. 

Suck it up, buttercup. 

If you want solid relationships, you’ve got to trust. First God. Then the person.

 

 

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Disloyalty: The Relationship Squasher

Disloyalty: The Relationship Squasher

I stood on the back porch of our small gray bungalow on the street corner of Alexander and Johnson Street, wondering if my twin friends thought I looked any different. Our family had just returned from a year-long sabbatical to Argentina and they were one of my first visitors since arriving home. After being apart for the entirety of our third grade year, they were now tan from swimming at the pool all summer and their blue eyes danced with excitement. We stood exchanging chit-chat while our moms stood nearby catching up. This was when email… text… even long-distance calls were difficult. We had relied on snail mail for our communication… and it would take months sometimes to arrive in Venado Tuerto from the States.

“There’s two new girls that are gonna be in our class this year!” Sarah told me, her face lit up. New people were rare to our small town… so anyone new, was exciting and usually immediately popular. You must realize, I had grown up with 28 of basically the same kids in my class since I was in preschool.

“They’re both from California…” Abbie whispered. And to those of us kids who were born and raised in Nebraska? California was an exotic place… full of Disneyland, Hollywood, surfing and beaches.

Those two California girls were seated at the same table with me that first week in 4th grade. Over the next couple of months, I found myself becoming friends with both of them: one with beach-blond locks and a carefree attitude and another with dark hair, dark eyes and a sweetness I had never seen.

 

But I remember the exact moment I chose to be disloyal to one of them. With all the change of moving back home, realizing that friend loyalties had changed in a year, and moving into the 4th grade (with all its new responsibilities), I made the choice to distance myself from the sweetest girl I’ve ever met. In a mad scramble to stay in the “Cool Girl Group”, I gossiped about that sweet girl and ignored her for the rest of the year. Maybe the next 4 years.

How awful was my heart in those moments? I am acutely aware at how insecure, powerless, and out of control I was: that lanky, skinny girl with green eyes and hair she’d spent an entire year worrying over as she grew out her bangs.

And in my desperate attempt to fit in- I alienated myself from a sweet and lovely girl who continued to show me grace and love, even when I did not.

 

Had my adult-self been able to sit that terrified 4th grade girl down and have a conversation, I wonder how much different my life would have been. Because that dark haired, sweet girl? She became one of my best friends in high school, once I decided I no longer needed to fit in, but began opening my eyes to the people Jesus led me to.

 

The Choice

C’mon. You’ve been there.

In that moment, when you make the choice to abandon all loyalty to something or someone and pick something new. It could be as simple as a skincare line, brand of chips or deciding to attend a different church. But, you cannot deny at least at some point, you’ve been disloyal.. to someone… or something.

Now, it could be that at some point, these things are not worthy of our loyalty. I mean, a chip brand… really? Unless, your grandpa used to work for them, or it’s your family’s company, I get it. But, when we choose to be disloyal to things that truly matter, we can lose out on a crazy amount of good. And I’m not talking about chip brands here. I’m talking about deciding to walk away from a person. A family. A job. A church. A responsibility. A calling. You name it. When it comes to relationships of any kind, disloyalty does no service for you.

It may seem to temporarily fix the problem. You can go YEARS without noticing any hurt or angst for yourself personally. But, it will catch up. Just like it did my freshman summer, when I looked around, and realized that there was one person who had consistently been kind to me. A sweet, dark-haired girl who continued to reach out and ask me to hang out to watch a movie or go shopping. I had missed out on years of friendship with this girl. Thankfully, we have the type of friendship that I can call her at the drop of a hat, and we pick up right where we left off.

 

The Connection of Faith and Loyalty

“So, what’s the problem with disloyalty, Meg?” you may be asking. I mean, we do live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with the next best thing. I am guilty of not being loyal to skincare lines. I give them a month, tops. If I’m not seeing results or the cost is crazy high, I move on to something else.

When the thoughts began forming in my mind regarding disloyalty, I looked up synonyms on it. Because, surely, there’s a cooler word than disloyalty that I can use to title this thing with- right?

The words that stared back at me hit me like a ton of bricks.

  • Infidelity
  • Fickleness
  • Betrayal
  • Unfaithfulness

Ouch. Disloyalty is similar or the same as these words? And when I went to scripture to see where disloyalty was mentioned… it wasn’t much better.

Psalm 78:8

They would not be like their ancestors- a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.

If we look closer at this verse, there is so much wisdom to be found. Notice how loyalty and faithfulness are almost succinct with each other. And the behavior that accompanies that disloyalty and unfaithfulness? Stubbornness and rebelliousness. If we pretend to have faithfulness to our God, but then choose to be disloyal to relationships around us? What does that make us?

Hypocrites. Yikes!

 

Because when it comes to relationships, disloyalty does more harm than good. Disloyalty halts your ability to grow or mature. You will never have to look that person in the eye and own up to your portion of the problem. You won’t have to ask for forgiveness or allow the offender try to apologize to you. When you choose disloyalty, you are choosing to alienate yourself from a possible relationship. And in a world where we are so disconnected, especially now, why would we choose that? Why choose loyalty when disloyalty is so much easier?

Why? Because loyalty means staying with it, no matter how hard… how dire it seems… no matter how frustrating. But what do you gain? Commitment. Deepened appreciation. Thankfulness. And trust begins to build. (More on that to come…)

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Here’s that thing about love and relationships again… and its pretty intense. Now, maybe your brain is going in circles with all I’m trying to connect for you. I mean, asking for you to lay down your life for your friends? Yep. Intense.

 

But here’s the real predicament.

How can you learn forgiveness, if you choose to walk away from every relationship the minute that they show their imperfections? How can you learn to give grace to those we come in contact with, if we avoid every possible chance of conflict?

When it comes to disloyalty, we may be missing out on a grander plan. There may be things that we are not maturing in. Could it be that if we were to choose loyalty to those relationships… that job… that responsibility… that church… that family… that we may gain so much more?

We can never fully mature if we cannot truly love others, forgive and give grace to those we live life with on a daily basis.

So, how do we push past disloyalty and move into loyalty?

It’s pretty simple actually. Just choose to be loyal. Stick with it. Push through. It comes down to endurance and patience. Now, that may sound simple… but it’s far from easy. Choosing loyalty means you may have to get some abuse from those who don’t understand loyalty. It means that instead of looking out for you, you’re looking out for others. It means that you may have a tougher life while you navigate awkward conversations and begin to look conflict square in the eye.

But the reward of loyalty? It could mean you will find:

  • a friend for life
  • a safe place within your family to rest in
  • a relationship that stands the test of time and hardship
  • a job that you can grow and learn in
  • a church family that will stand beside you in love, no matter what
  • a calling that leads you to unimaginable joy

On top of that, you may find:

  • commitment in your marriage
  • true appreciation in your workplace
  • genuine thankfulness from your family and friends
  • others who trust you

I mean, if these things don’t excite you… then don’t choose loyalty. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

What’s the Deal with Context?

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Jealousy: The Relationship Killer

Jealousy: The Relationship Killer

I could feel it creeping up. That feeling that makes you almost feel green… like an alien in your own body. I watched her curl her brunette locks and effortlessly wind it up into a perfect messy bun (and this was before the time of the “messy bun…”). She turned with a smile, and in that moment, I made the choice to let go of my jealousy. To just be her friend. It was hard, and it sometime creeped up again… but I’m glad I fought through it. We remain friends to this day… and I’m a better person with her in my life.

Looking back at my childhood and teen friendships, I notice pattern after pattern. And even now, in our 18 years of ministry, women come with tears in their eyes and frustration in their voices. The biggest question I am asked in regards to women and relationships has nothing to do with marriage.

“Why can’t we just be friends?”

These same words spilled out of my mouth to my Mom as I navigated the friendship game in my growing up years. The questions that flowed after that mostly came down to…”Is she mad at me? Why doesn’t she invite me over anymore? I think I heard her whispering about me behind my back…” and these questions and statements were just the beginning. Too many nights I cried my eyes out wondering who my true friends were. And honestly? I’ve done it as an adult while my husband listened.

This jealousy keeps women from building friendships that could blossom into something powerful.

As a good friend so eloquently put it, we as women can be very jealous of each other, in every possible way. This jealousy keeps women from building friendships that could blossom into something powerful. Isn’t that the truth?

Another good friend of mine pointed out, we need strong relationships with women, especially when we’re not surrounded by family. You will need friends who have your back and will support you through hard times. They become your sisters.

Too often we miss potential friendships and sisterhoods because of our own jealousy towards other women. Maybe they have a better job, or their kids are better behaved… or maybe they just have kids. Maybe they were picked for the leadership role at church that you wanted. Jealousy can be as trivial as the fact that they can make a perfect “messy bun.” (Remember my previous story??) Why are we letting these things hold us back? We know that no one is perfect. We choose to let our own insecurities and jealousies drive us away from each other… and division is only caused by one being… Satan.

Don’t miss potential friendships!

The biggest complaint we’ve heard from women since planting a church is how hard it is to break into community with the other women at church. Some have joined our church and then immediately think that there is a “friend clique” in place already… when that is a perception they walk in our doors with. Too many times, I hear women complain that they have no supportive community to speak of… but then in turn, they won’t show up to bible study… or discipleship groups… or any church events where women are desperately trying to find community. It seems preposterous to me. Unintelligent. And self-damaging. Why is it so hard to get women to be friends?

Why is it so hard to get women to be friends?

I understand that some women are introverts. But at some point, all women must choose for themselves to take a step or a leap of faith. Believe God that He will watch over you even when you’re in awkward situations. Trust that community is what God desires for us.

There are also women who are so extroverted that they believe that people don’t like them because they are so outwardly opinionated or very driven.

Ladies. It doesn’t matter who we are at our core. We need to give each other some grace in knowing that none of us are perfect. None of us ever will be.

I myself am a self-forced extrovert… because I’ve learned that I won’t have community if I don’t try. If it were up to me, I would stay home all day, every day… cleaning, writing, playing with my kids, painting furniture… the list goes on. I love being at home. But I love the feeling of family/community I get from those that surround me at church on Sunday more. I love feeling that taste of heaven that lifts you up when you have friends laying hands on you in prayer. I love it when I can laugh and joke with friends over a meal after we’ve dreamed about the vision that God has laid on our hearts. I love community with the body of Christ more than my own selfish wants and desires.

The Missing Element

Cliques have no place in Church. Why? Because we’re not a high school. We’re not a middle school. We’re a family… broken and healing… where love, grace, truth, and forgiveness are always sought after. At least that’s what we are CALLED to do. And if we can’t PERSONALLY seek after that… then we are missing out on eternal life here and now; the kind Jesus talked about. (But more on that later!)

I think we’re missing out on something in our Christian walk that we think we’re really good at, but we’re missing it… completely.

There’s a passage of scripture that is quoted FREQUENTLY… and yet, I think, we have yet to master it. And the evidence of this is obvious if we are still failing in our friendships and relationships.

 Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.  Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (TPT)

Here’s our main relationship killer. Our lack of love for each other. If we truly loved the way Christ loved us… jealousy would be a distant memory. If we focused on love, we would be patient with those we were developing relationships with.

We would be kind and gentle even if others weren’t always kind and gentle back. We would high five, hug and congratulate others when they succeeded, even if it meant we received nothing in return. We would stop asking for honor when we thought we deserved it, and we would stop always being irritated at others no matter how many pet peeves they triggered.

If we truly loved, we would forgive immediately… even if an apology never came. We would find a firm foundation in our relationships where support and encouragement reigned supreme amidst all odds. And most importantly, we would never give up on believing a person could be our next friend. No matter how long it takes. Love wins in the end. Jealousy only brings defeat.

We would never give up on believing a person could be our next friend. No matter how long it takes. Jealousy only brings defeat.

Love wins in the end.

The Sneak and Attack

The serpent waits in the shadows. He watches and observes every slight movement you make, decisions, interaction with others and words that comes out of your mouth. Waiting.

Waiting for that perfect moment when he can use your words against you. Waiting to divide the flock, isolate and then separate you from the flock.

And then in a swift movement, he will come crashing in. He will use miscommunication, other people’s fears of being called to the carpet, and half- truths to try to cut your legs out from under you. Most of the time, it will be petty issues.  Sometimes, it can mean the difference between a person having the capacity to serve or not.

He will twist and discolor people’s thoughts about you to try to confuse and cause division with those who should trust you.  And so, you find yourself, pushed to the outskirts, while people bristle and are frustrated with you. They will blame, finger-point or worse- remain silent while others belittle you.

Now, if you’re like me, this kind of thing needs to be processed for a couple of hours. I nod and listen while they rip me to shreds (or accuse me of something that is not entirely true). They may stomp off in frustration or saunter off in accomplishment, while I try to maintain control and continue about my responsibilities at the church.  Hours later… I crumble.

I overanalyze, play the conversations over and over… until my true feelings rise to the surface. My shock wears off and then I’m either sad, mad or frustrated… sometimes all three at once. I usually internally scream to God, “Really? I don’t have time for this kind of crude right now!” (I know- right? So eloquent… and completely disrespectful.)

 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11

The Thing about Satan

Here’s the thing about Satan. He’s crafty. He’s got these tactics DOWN. 

 Satan is motivated by pride and hatred toward God and the people of God. So, he intimidates with power encounters (as a roaring lion does) when he is stalking his prey.  He even uses Scripture to twist the truth and accomplish his agenda… by only using part of the verse… or ignoring the context of the passage (look at the Temptation of Jesus in Luke 4:1-13). He turns people against God or God’s people against each other. He confuses the truth and frustrates the plans of the Church. He is also the Accuser; He will even contradict himself to confuse and frustrate you. Ever heard the voice in your head, “It’s okay, just this once. God will forgive you.”

Yeah. I’m gonna say that’s probably not the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the deal: if I’m being attacked spiritually by Satan, then I can be assured that other believers are out there being attacked as well.  And most of us will never speak up. Most of us will take it on the chin and not speak truth so that others will hear it.

I’m not talking about gossip.

I’m not even talking about going to the person you have beef with. (Yet.)

First: Drop to Your Knees in Prayer and Humility

I’m talking about dropping to your knees and going to God with it. This is PARAMOUNT. If you go back two verses in the 1 Peter 5 passage, Peter asks those he’s writing to, to humble themselves and cast all their anxieties upon Him.

Without God’s help, you will not see through Satan’s lies. You will not find peace to be able to forgive the person for their part in the issue. Without God’s help, you may screw the situation up worse- and cause massive division in your relationships… whether in the church, in your home or in your workplace.

Second: Ask for Prayer

Ask a godly mentor for prayer, a person outside of the situation that you trust to pray for wisdom for you (see James 5:13-20.) Don’t ask your neighbor next door… or your friend at church who knows the person- that’s tacky and a little behind the back.

Third: Go to the Person

Go to the person who came to you with accusations and talk to them about it. Acknowledge what is truth- and what was misunderstood. Ask for forgiveness for any part that is on you- and work toward reconciliation. (Click here for more on how to reconcile.)

 

Fourth: Don’t Listen to Satan’s Lies

If you still wish to “take it on the chin” just know that slowly Satan will trick you into believing that God’s calling for your life isn’t real.  He’ll tell you that maybe you aren’t meant to be the person needed at this job, in this ministry or at that organization at all.  He tells you that you are just the one who stands in the back and supports everyone else. (Do you see how he takes good and twists it?)

Fifth: Focus on Christ

If any of those above statements ring a bell, I urge you to stop allowing Satan’s whispers into your heart. You have been called and chosen for a task far greater than standing in the back in support. Focus on Christ, His promises and His call.

Hope for Unity and Reconciliation

What gives me extreme hope is that last verse in 1 Peter 5:10:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

He will restore us.  He will give us the strength to hold firm and to be steadfast in truth.

 So, speak up… in truth, with grace and forgiveness.

Convicted.

Convicted.

Pain floods my heart often.   Ministry can open your eyes to the true horrors of the fallen world around us. I ask the intern, “What’s the best part of ministry so far to you?”

“People…” he says.

“And the worst?”

“The hours…” he mumbles.  My answer? People.  People are both the best and the worst part of ministry. And what’s worse… is being around and knowing people’s hidden secrets and then realizing how horrible of a person I am without Christ too… again.  And again… and again…

I realize that some women in the church would be a better pastor’s wife.  A better mother to my kids. A better bible study leader.  And a better woman.  Hands down.  But then I read something in my husband’s upcoming sermon.  And shame floods me. I realize… this… this scripture is what it all comes down to in regards to life in ministry.

James 1:19-27

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.  So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.  Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

So… here’s the deal.

Am I listening without always having to speak back?

Am I processing my answers before I quickly fire back?

Am I slow to get angry or am I jumping into drama full-force?

Am I listening to God’s Word in regards to my life?

But not just that… am I listening to His Word and then DOING IT?

Or am I just listening… whether it’s during the sermon or my personal study time… and then I close the Bible, sigh with happiness and just walk away?

We cannot… whether we are in ministry or just attend church… cannot just let it go in one ear and out the other.  We cannot.  It’s got to stick.  Otherwise… what’s the point?  What makes us different and not hypocrites?

So…we have to decide, “Okay… I can do this…” no matter how scared you might be with what God is asking us to do. Can we do it? It’s gonna be hard… but I think we can.

What is He asking you today?