To (White) Christians Who Are Asking, “What Can I Do?”

Like you, I have seen so many posts on social media about race in recent days.
I have seen posts from black friends who say that silence is consent and we must speak up.
And I have seen posts from other black friends who have said that they don’t want to hear from the white folk on this matter. They don’t want more words, they want action.

I have seen posts calling for violence.
And I have seen posts decrying it.
I have seen posts that express the helpless frustration so many feel in the face of the horrors of racism.
So many people grasping for words. Trying to comfort. Trying to express empathy. Or sympathy. Or sorrow.

But often, among my white friends, I have seen this sentiment: What can I do? How can I help?

In many ways, I am unqualified to write about that.
I am a white girl, raised in suburbia in the United States.
In so many ways, I cannot say, “I understand.”

But in other ways, I have had just a taste of what my loved ones have experienced.
I have lived as a minority in two different cultures, first in Japan and now here in Guatemala.
And I have also been with my black friends when they have been treated differently than I have been treated.

But my biggest qualification in writing this piece today is that I am not going to give you my thoughts on what you should do.
My thoughts are not worth very much at all.
Instead, I am going to go to the source, the place where every answer we need can be found.
God’s Word holds the keys for ALL of life.
It is up to us if we apply them.
If you are not a Christ-follower, you will not have the power to do any of these things. Nor will you find God’s Word to be the best guide.
But if you claim the name of Christ, here is what the Bible has to say about all of this and what YOU can do to help:

  1. Repent. That literally means to turn and walk in a different direction. We have ALL sinned. We are ALL prejudiced in some way. We have ALL looked at someone else and made a snap judgement about who they are based on our past experiences, how we have been raised, the media and our own fears. To say that you hold no animosity in your heart to someone who is different than you is to lie. That difference that triggers sin in you may not be black/white. It may fall into some other category completely. But we ALL have seeds of racism in our hearts. Because we are sinners. Because we do not love as Jesus loved. Because there are people we fear, denigrate and avoid.

Beyond your own heart, beyond MY own heart, there is a need for national repentance. We need to confess that our ancestors have blown it. Big time. And not just the slave owners. But every white church that has made a person who is different than them feel unwelcome has blown it. Every Christian who has divided the world into camps of “us” and “them” has blown it. We, as a nation, have blown it. And it is biblical for us to get down on our faces and confess the sins of others! Even if you feel completely sinless in this, you need to repent on behalf of our nation. Daniel did it for Israel. So did Moses. Two godly men who fell on their faces before the Lord, not for their own sin but for the sin of their people.

  1. Apply what Andy Stanley calls “The Platinum Rule”. The “Golden Rule” says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Platinum Rule says, “Do unto others as GOD has done for you.” So what has God done for you? He have given you life. He has spoken over you with words of life, words of rejoicing, words of comfort and love. He has forgiven you time and time and time again. He has not treated you as you deserve or as you have treated Him. Instead, He has lavished grace, mercy, and love on you, even while you were being ugly in every way. What in the world would our world look like if we lived that rule? First at home. But then at work. And in the shopping centers. Everywhere our feet take us. And especially on social media.
  2. Listen. Do what James says and “Be QUICK to listen, SLOW to speak and SLOW to become angry.” Have the conversations. Say, “I don’t understand but I want to. Can you help me?” Hear with your heart. And don’t apply rhetoric when you do. Don’t be quick to say, “Well, that wasn’t my fault.” Instead, hear the heart of the person talking. And then ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say. It might be “I’m sorry for your pain.” It might be “I’ll pray for you.” It might be “What can I do to put feet to my prayers?” And it might be, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Let God tell you what you need to say. AFTER you have listened with your whole heart.
  3. Teach. Please, please, please teach. Teach by words. But more than that, teach by example. Deuteronomy 6 says that we are to teach the children God’s Word and His ways from the time we rise to the time we go to bed. And yes, some of that will be words. But they will learn what you DO far more than what you SAY. Do you actually love your neighbor as yourself? What do you say about people of other races – or any other difference – in front of them? What do you say about other genders? People who are different than you? Even people who are walking in known sin? Do your children hear condemnation? Or do they hear grace? Do they hear that prayer changes hearts and people need love? Or do they hear scorn, derision and hatred? It is true that children rarely allow differences to stop them. They will play with anyone. They will talk to anyone. They will love anyone. We are the ones who teach them – by our actions far more than our words – that certain people are bad and that we are superior to them. What are you teaching your kids? And if you don’t have your own children, what are you teaching the children in your life who are still watching you, whether you birthed them or not?
  4. See. Don’t be “color blind”. Be color celebratory! We have so much that we can learn from each other. So much that is good that can be shared between cultures. Between races. Between people. Don’t say, “I don’t see you as a black person.” Say, “I celebrate who you are as a black person! Teach me, show me, help me to understand.” Just like you want to be known, so does everyone else. We all want to be accepted for who we are, as we are. God has gifted us with all sorts of differences so that we together can make a beautiful tapestry of grace and love. A monochrome tapestry would be very, very boring. But one filled with diverse experiences, languages, cultures, and ideas, all woven together by a skilled Hand – that is a glorious sight! We will get to live that sight in the future. John saw it in his vision and recorded it in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
  5. Choose to not be offended. According to I Corinthians 13, love is not easily offended and keeps no record of wrongs. So, when a person who is different from you has trouble trusting you, don’t be offended. Remember the pain they have experienced and love them enough to let go of your own pride. Do you deserve their distrust? Maybe not. But love means putting their needs and interests ahead of your own. Love means forgiving hurts and slights, even unintentional ones. Love means seeking to understand. And love means you choose for it to be very, very difficult to offend you.

Let me end this with a story, a confession of sorts, a truth:
You don’t know what lives in your own heart.
But God does.
And He will show you. So that you can deal with it.

I lived in Japan for three years back in my mid-twenties.
During that time, I was molested on the train by Japanese men.
I was spit on by a Japanese man.
I had a Japanese man openly compare me to the pornography in his hand.
And I had both men and women cross to the other side of the street to avoid me.

I thought I had dealt with all of that.
I thought I had forgiven.
Because, after all, I know and love a lot of Japanese men, women and children.
And I know in my head that it is wrong to hate.
Wrong to hold on to those pains.
That fear.
Those experiences.

I thought all that was in my past.
But then, in 2015, 20 years after I first moved to Japan, I flew to Papua New Guinea to visit my friends there.
And I had to fly through Singapore.
When I got to the airport, it was late and I had 19-hour layover.
So I needed to find a safe place to rest. Thankfully, there was a hotel in the airport. But the entrance from the airport was on a lower level, down a dimly lit corridor, with very little around it.
As I walked towards it, I realized there was an Asian man following me. Just him and me in this dark, unfamiliar place.
I have no idea where in Asia he was from.
And I have no idea what his intent was.
But I was suddenly filled with fear. Panic. And a deep, deep loathing.

It startled me.
And I was horrified at the depths of depravity in my own heart.
That man was not the one who had molested me or spit on me or treated me like an object.
But the sin, the unforgiveness, and the scars in my own heart drove my thoughts all over the place.
Yes, the prejudice I carried, based on past experiences, caused me to judge that man and find him guilty of something he did not do.

It happens to all of us.

But thankfully, as a believer in Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
And He gives me the power to live differently.
The power to love.
To forgive.
To repent.
To recognize my own depravity and ask God to change my heart.
To do all the things the Bible says I am supposed to do if I claim the name of Christ.
All things we are supposed to do in light of the deep divides in our country.

Impossible humanly speaking.
But with God, all things are possible.

Even Now, It IS the Day Before

Sunrise Day Before

I have nothing to say.
Usually, when I write my blog, I am bursting with an idea.
A truth that God has laid on my heart to share.
A funny story that has a spiritual application.
Or a piece of Scripture that is resonating in my heart.

Today, I have no one thing that is just leaping out of my brain and on to the page.
But I do have one idea that I am holding on to for dear life.
That, no matter what my circumstances look like today, it is the day before.

I initially wrote this blog in January of 2016. I modified it slightly today. But it still holds true. I need to live EVERY day like it is “The Day Before”.

The day before…

The day before God showed up in a burning bush Moses had done the same thing he did for 40 years – keep sheep in the wilderness.

The day before David was anointed to be the next King of Israel he was just a boy, out in the fields, tending the sheep.

The day before he killed Goliath he was just the kid brother sent by his father to check on the older boys at war.

The day before Mary found out she was to be the mother of God she was just a girl dreaming of her new life with her fiancé.

The day before Jesus healed the lepers, the lame, and the blind they had been in the same state that they had been in for days, months, years – outcast, crippled, disabled, “other”.

The day before Jesus was crucified the disciples thought it was going to be another Passover like the decades of Passovers they had celebrated before.

The day before Jesus rose the disciples were grief stricken and shocked, just as they had been since Thursday night.

The day before Jesus returns will be just like any other – shopping, eating, drinking, working out, going to work – and then it will all be over.

God is the God of surprise, and of the miraculous intervention!
When His time is right, nothing can stop the forward movement of what He intends to do.
His plans cannot be thwarted.
The question is, am I on board with God?
In step with God?

Careful to obey?
Careful to follow?
Letting His Spirit guide my life?
Letting His Word be the bottom line by which I live?

Because I have the freedom to make the choice to not follow, not believe, not love, not seek God.
The day before David seduced Bathsheba, he was a bored king in an empty palace because he had sent men to war instead of going himself.

The day before Cain killed Abel, he was a jealous older brother, bothered by the fact that God had not accepted his offering.

The day before Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it he was a weary leader, frustrated by the constant unbelief and complaining of his people.

The day before Peter denied ever knowing Jesus, he was a cocky, self-sure man, certain of his own faithfulness.

The day before Aaron made the golden calf for the people to worship, he was a worried older brother, wondering what was taking Moses so long on the mountain.

So today may be an “ordinary” day.
Or as ordinary as days get in these extraordinary days.

But it is a day where I must choose one way or the other.
Just like I MUST choose every day. Regardless of my circumstances.  How the world has changed.  How I feel.  Those things do not matter.  What matters is what I choose today.

Do I live today full out for God, expectant about the ways He is going to work, fully trusting Him, eager to obey?

Do I live today saturated in God’s Word and prayer so that I will know the lies of the enemy when I hear them?

Do I live today with my eyes and ears wide open to the spiritual realities around me – knowing that everything – COVID-19, hunger, poverty, politics, race relations, all of my relationships – they are all spiritual battles first before they are anything else?

Do I live today committed to obedience, to keeping short accounts with God?

 

Or do I live today in apathy?

Not praying because I haven’t seen God do what I think He should do?

Not loving others because they don’t behave as I want them to behave?

Not working on behalf of others because of my own self-centeredness?

Not believing because what I need feels impossible?

Not trusting because I am allowing sin to have free reign?

Worrying because I don’t believe God are in control?

Allowing my emotions to run the day rather than Truth?

Following my heart rather than God’s Word?

Feeding a bad attitude because of an injustice rather than forgiving as God forgave?

Believing I know better than God do what is best in my life?

Dragging my feet in obedience or rushing ahead of God because God seem to not be listening?

You see, today is the day before.

Before what, I don’t know.
It could be the day before I blow it big because I yield to temptation.
Or it could be the day before God shows up in an extraordinary way, answering a deep cry of my heart.
It could be the day before Jesus’ return.
Or it could be the day before someone I love chooses to trust God with their eternity because I shared His love with them.

So how will I live THIS day? Because, after all, it is STILL the day before.

The Surrendered Life? or The Solve-It Life?

Solve It
He had only been king for a few years. The years had gone well, although he had started his reign with a fight already on his hands.
He won that battle and the people were glad he was their king.
But now he faced a bigger threat.
A stronger enemy.
That perpetual enemy of Israel, the Philistines.

So King Saul gathered his army and prepared to fight.
The problem was that the Philistine army far outnumbered the Israelites.
And both armies knew it very well.

The other problem was that Saul had very clear instructions from his spiritual leader and guide, Samuel, the prophet:
Wait for me to offer the burnt offering and peace offering before you go to battle.
When I come, I will offer them to God to ask his blessing on this battle.
Your job is to wait.

Samuel was a priest as well as a prophet. King Saul wasn’t either one.

Seven days passed.
The enemy army loomed.
While Saul’s army fled.
Each day men drifted away.
And still Samuel did not come.

And here is where Saul had a choice:
The surrendered life?
Or the solve-it life?

He faced a huge problem.
A looming enemy.
And a dwindling army.
From the human perspective he needed to DO something before things got worse.
But to DO something was to go against God’s command.
Because it was not lawful for him to offer the sacrifices.

A surrendered life meant choosing obedience.
It meant choosing to wait, even though the consequences seemed dire.
It meant looking at life with God’s eyes, not human perspective.

And a solve-it life meant disobedience.
Taking matters into his own hands.
Getting on with things so that no more soldiers fled.
After all, who can win a major battle with just a few men?
God had done it before: Sampson, Gideon, even Abraham had gone into battle with incredible odds stacked against them.
But would he choose to remember God’s faithfulness?
Or would he choose to let fear drive him?

Surrender his problem and his will to God?
Or solve his problem with his own wisdom and ways?

Saul chose to solve the problem.
He offered the sacrifices to God.

And no sooner had he finished, then Samuel showed up.

Here’s how it is recorded in I Samuel 13:
“Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.’”

Unfortunately, that is not the last time that Saul chose the solve-it life over the surrendered one.
You see, he didn’t lose the kingdom immediately.
It happened over time.

But fast-forward to the next fight he had on his hands.
Sometime later, God told him to completely wipe out the Amalekite nation as punishment for their sin.
He very specifically told Saul to not leave anything or anyone alive.

And yet Saul kept the best animals alive.
And he chose to not kill the Amalekite king.

When Samuel arrived, he questioned Saul about the animals he heard.
And Saul claimed he had kept them in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.
But Samuel told him, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

He also told him God’s message concerning his disobedience: “I am sorry I ever made Saul king.”

Wow.
A solve-it mentality led Saul to lose both his kingdom and God’s favor. Later on in his story, it caused him to lose his mind. He suffered from a “tormenting spirit” that brought on fits of murderous rage and depression.

Because a solve-it mentality is a tidy, cleaned-up way of declaring, “I don’t trust You, God. I don’t believe You are capable of coming through for me. You aren’t fixing this; You can’t fix this; I don’t trust You to have my best interest at heart. So I’ll take care of this mess on my own.”

Solve-it says, “I can’t see, so I better figure out a way to light my path.”
Surrender says, “I can’t see but I will walk by faith.”

Solve-it says, “God couldn’t possibly win this fight, so I better help Him out.”
Surrender says, “God plus nothing is enough to win any battle I might face.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the facts.”
Surrender says, “Look at His face.”

Solve-it says, “Look out for number one.”
Surrender says, “He is the only One whose opinion matters.”

Solve-it says, “God might not come through.”
Surrender says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Solve-it says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Surrender says, “My Creator is certainly qualified to be my King.”

Solve-it says, “You better make a Plan B.”
Surrender says, “God is Plan A. There is no Plan B.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the size of that storm!”
Surrender says, “Look at the size of my God!”

Solve-it always ends in disaster.
If not in the circumstances, always in your heart.
Because Solve-it is a form of idolatry.
Kicking God off the throne.
And installing yourself as your final authority.

But Surrender always ends in victory.
Because sometimes He calms the storm.
And sometimes He calms you.
But either way, you have the peace that passes understanding.
The favor of God.
The promise of heaven because you are trusting Him to save you.
And, in the end, the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” instead of “I’m sorry I ever trusted her with that responsibility.

So which will you live today?
The Solve-It Life?
Or the Surrendered one?
Only you can choose.

I Am a Sheep!

sheep

I am a sheep!

Exhibit A:
When a sheep lies down it must be incredibly careful to not roll onto its back. If it does, gases build up very quickly in its stomach and it dies. This is called being a cast sheep.
But sheep are not known for being careful! They easily can slip from a safe place of rest to a dangerous place of wallowing.

It is so easy for me to become a cast sheep! If I do not guard my heart and my mind, I can allow dangerous, poisonous thoughts to fill me. I can easily slip from rest to wallowing. It is just a matter of where I set my thoughts. Focus on the problems, the things I feel I am lacking, the difficulties and I am “cast” in a very short time. Focus on the Lord, thankful for what He has done in the past and praising Him for His character, resting in His promises for the future and I can stay in a rested posture without slipping into wallowing.

Exhibit B:
If a sheep is left unshorn, the weight of the wool can become dangerous. The wool keeps growing the sheep is unnecessarily burdened. There was the case of Shrek the Sheep that fled shearing and evaded the shepherd for years! By the time he was captured he was almost unrecognizable as a sheep. Plus, his wool was a dirty, matted mess and his burden was far heavier than anything he was ever designed to bear.

When I hold onto THINGS, I am holding onto my wool. When I won’t allow the Good Shepherd to “shear me” of all that I am, all that I have, all that He has given, I become weighted down, a dirty, matted mess. But when I hold all that He has given me with open hands, allowing Him to give and take away as He sees fit, I become a conduit of blessing for others. Just like the sheep regrows the wool after it is shorn, God refills my cup over and over again. It is far healthier for me to be a conduit of blessing than a stagnant pool of gifts He has given.

Exhibit C:
There are so, so many things the sheep has no control over. One of those are the flies that pester it, especially around the face. Some of those flies will lay eggs inside the sheep’s nose if they can – and then the larvae can even go to the brain, killing the sheep. So the shepherd uses a mixture of oil and spices to anoint the head and face of the sheep. This keeps the flies away and the sheep safe.

“He anoints my head with oil.” There are flies of worry, doubt, fear, disbelief, anxiety. They buzz about my face and my head, filling my brain with their incessant noise. But the Good Shepherd has given me the Anointing Oil I need, if I will just apply it! Oil in the Bible is one of the pictures of the Holy Spirit. And as a believer, I have the Holy Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me. It is up to me if I remember that, tap into that, and allow Him to anoint my head with oil. How do I do that? I take every thought captive to Christ. I replace the flies of worry with the oil of praise. I choose to lift my face to the Shepherd instead of turning it down and focusing on me. And He is always, always good to smooth oil on my face, filling me with His Word, His hope, His comfort. He collects my tears in His bottle, according to the Psalms. He does what He tells us to do in Romans – He weeps with me as I weep, He rejoices with me as I rejoice. He is the God of all comfort as Paul called Him for me and He gives me the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness as Isaiah said.

And there are so many more examples of how I am sheep!
I am filled with fear – but He protects me.
I need to be led – but He walks before me, wooing me forward with His voice.
I need to sheepdogs to keep me on the path – He provides goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life.
I won’t rest unless I have still waters in my soul – He calms the storm of my heart with a word.
I need green pastures with good food to nourish me – He provides great books, teachers, and ultimately His Word, illuminated by His Spirit.
I need correction – His rod and His staff provide that for me.
I need safety – He is the door to the sheep pen, and He guards my soul.

Yes – I am a sheep.
Prone to wander.
Foolish in my own thinking.
Easily disturbed.
In danger from myself and my enemy.

But He is the GOOD Shepherd.
He laid down His life for me.
And He leads me day by day.
I am His.
And He is mine.

Truly, what more does this wonderfully foolish sheep need?

Defined By The Numbers

Numbers

I don’t have a scale here in Guatemala.
And that is probably a good thing since I can get very, very tied to the number on it.
When it is up, I am down.
When it is down, I am up.
That number has way too much power in defining my sense of worth.
A lower number means I am more valuable.
A higher number means I am less valuable.
A lower number means I am pretty.
A higher number means I am not.
A lower number means I am lovable.
A higher number means I am not.

So, since I moved here last August, I have not had a scale.
Instead, I have been simply been eating well and exercising.
And it has been wonderful.

But then I put a pedometer app on my phone to hold me accountable during these sedentary days.
And it asked for my weight.
So I put in my best guess.
But I was curious, so I got on the scale in the weight room here at school.
And it said that I was 60 pounds lighter than my best guess!
Which, of course, means that scale is broken!
But the jolt of joy it brought my heart was telling.
I knew it wasn’t factual.
But, for a moment, it made my day.

Then I borrowed a scale from a friend because I was even more curious.
And her scale says I am 17 pounds heavier than my best guess!
And my emotions plummeted.
Suddenly I felt much, much heavier and less healthy than I had moments before.
But more than that, I felt way less worthy of love.

But we all do it.
It may not be the number on the scale for you.
It may be the number in your waistband.
Or the number of zeroes in front of the decimal place in your bank account.
It may be the number of children you have.
Or the number of years you have been (or not been) married.
It may be your house number, in the right neighborhood.
Or it may be the number of friends you have on social media.

We all do it.
We all define ourselves by numbers.
And when those numbers are “right”, we are happy.
When they are “wrong”, we are devastated.
Or at least discontented.

But here is what I have learned – and am learning – about numbers of all kinds.
They don’t matter.
In the grand scheme of eternity, they Do. Not. Matter.

My life on earth is so very, very brief compared to eternity.
I MIGHT have 100 years of heartbeats in me.
But when this heart stops beating, real life will have just begun.
And these earthly numbers that we use to measure success, value, and worth will vanish.

When I see Him face to face for the very first time, God will not look at me and say, “How much did you weigh, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I treated this temple of the Holy Spirit that He gave me as a tool to use for my time on earth.
He will not measure my worth by it.

God will not look at me and say, “What’s your net worth, Kathy?”
He will hold me accountable for how I used the monetary tools he entrusted to me.
But He will not measure my worth by them.

God will not look at me and say, “Where’s your husband and kids, Kathy?”
He will not measure my worth that way, either.

He will not ask me about the number in my waistband or on the door of my house.
He will not ask me about how many Facebook friends I had or how many people followed my blog.
He will not even ask me how many good deeds I did to outweigh the bad.
How many times I went to church.
How often I prayed.
How many times I read through the Bible.
Or how much I put in the offering.
He will not find me worthy of heaven through any of these measures.

He will ask me about ONE thing.
“What did you do with My Son?
Did you accept that He died for you, in your place, because you are a sinner?”
And because my answer is “Yes, I did”, He will allow me into heaven.

My value to Him is not based on a number.
It is not based on what I do or do not do.
It is not based on what I look like or what I have.
Or any of my successes or failures in this life.

It is solely based on His heart for me.
He loves me.
Regardless of my stats, He loves me.
Before I was born, He loved me.
When the scale was much higher, He loved me.
When it has been much lower, He loved me.
When I share my faith and share my wealth and share His Word, He loves me.
And when hoard my faith and hoard my wealth and hoard His Word, He loves me.

Single
Married
With or without kids
Fat
Skinny
Clumsy
Graceful
Gorgeous
Ugly
Fiscally sound
Flat broke
Tons of friends
All alone
Popular and wanted
Socially outcast and alone
Spending time wisely
Wasting time completely

No matter what.
No matter where.
No matter who or when or why or how.

No matter the numbers.
No matter the scale.
No matter how others define me or how I define myself.
He. Loves. Me.

And He offers this same love to all!
To everyone who will receive Him.
ALL

And because He loves me so,
because He gave everything for me,
because He is so good,
I want to please Him.
I want to make wise choices.
Take care of all He has entrusted to me.
And share Him with everyone I meet.

But will that make Him love me more?
Never.
As one songwriter says, “He cannot love me more and He WILL NOT love me less.”

So here is the only number I will use to define myself:

One.

There is one God.
Who loves me like I am the only one He ever made.
Who sent His one Son to die in my place.
So I will give Him this one life that I have.
And I will choose to keep Him in first place, number one in all I do. Say. Am. Have.
Because He is the only One worthy.

Sing A New Song!

worship

O sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day.

Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works and wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

Psalm 96:1-3

Sing a new song…
A song of faithfulness
A song of thanksgiving
A song of change and changing
A song of Your direction
A song of Your goodness
Your mercies, new with each sunrise

Sing a new song…
A song of joy in the midst of trial
A song of hope in the midst of despair
A song of life when surrounded by death
A song of praise even when my feet are in stocks and my hands are in chains

Sing a new song…
A song of trust when facing the unknown
A song of joy even when my pockets are empty
A song of excitement even though I cannot see my hand in front of my face
A song of a good future and a hope even when I am blind

Sing a new song…
Through tears if necessary
Through sorrow as it comes
Through painful circumstances and fiery trials
Through the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves

Sing a new song…
Because outwardly we are wasting
But inwardly we are being renewed day by day

Sing a new song…
Because weeping may last for the night
But joy comes in the morning

Sing a new song…
Because these light and momentary afflictions
Pale in the face of His glory

Sing a new song…
Because the lost and dying world needs to see
That we have hope no matter what

Sing a new song…
Because they will know we are Christians
By our love

Sing a new song…
Because His heart is worthy of our praise
Even when the purpose of His hand eludes us.

Sing a new song…
Because we are living on the title page
Of a glorious book that begins with our final breath

Sing a new song…
Because the storm is raging
But He is in the boat

Sing a new song…
Of joy
Of perseverance
Of hope
Of praise
Of thankfulness
Of mercy
Of kindness
Of loving

Lift your head!
And choose to sing a new song!
Not based on your feelings
Not based on your bank account
Not based on your marital status
Not based on what lies ahead
Not based on your past
Not based on your abilities
Not based on how you see these circumstances
Not based on your political party
Not based on your limited perception

Sing a new song
Because of Who He is
And because you are His

Because of the redemption bought at the cross
And the fact that the tomb is empty

Because of the promises He has made
And that they are all “YES” in Christ

Because He IS in control
And because joy comes when you surrender

Sing a new song
Not because you feel it
But because He is worthy.

Sing a new song!

Faith, Flaming Arrows and the Good Fight

shield of faith

Zip! Thwack!
You can hear the arrow as it hits the target, embedding deeply in tender flesh.
“If God really loved you, He wouldn’t be holding out on you.”

Zip! Thwack!
“If He really meant what He said, your circumstances would have changed by now. He obviously didn’t mean it.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Actually, God probably isn’t the problem. It’s you. You keep Him from answering your prayers. It’s a shame how you are always failing, always messing up, always doing the wrong thing. People think you’re so great. But you’re not. If you were, God would have answered your prayer by now.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Look at how bad things are! They aren’t going to get any better. This is hopeless. You are helpless.”

Zip! Thwack!
“You can’t really trust Him, you know.”

Arrows.
Darts.
Fiery ones.

Lies from the enemy.
All designed to make you doubt the character of God.
Doubt His goodness.
Doubt that He is for you and not against you.

Lies designed to make you believe only what your five senses tell you.
To make you focus on the circumstances you are in.
And the ways out of it that you can see.
The plans you can make, understand and manipulate.

All Christ-followers face these lies of the enemy.
These flaming darts.
Which is why God has given us the shield of faith.

Faith in what? What does that look like?
My ability to deal with the lies?
My ability to discern them?
My ability to fight?

Faith in myself always, always fails.
Because I am not a worthy object of faith.
I am a fallen human being in desperate need of saving.

So this shield of faith is cannot be about me gritting my teeth and conjuring up more faith from somewhere inside of me.
Rather, this shield of faith HAS TO BE about me putting my confidence in the only worthy object of it – God.
Not the God I imagine Him to be or claim Him to be or think Him to be.
But Who He is.

As revealed by His Word.
By the cross.
By the empty tomb.
By the record of history.
And the glory of His creation all around me.

His character.
His heart.
His goodness.
His mercy.
He.
Himself.

Yes, this shield of faith is about me choosing to believe.
But not believing in my belief.
But rather putting all my faith, all my trust, all of me in the Truth about who God is.

Which is why I think it could really be called the shield of thankfulness.
The shield of praise.
And the shield of remembering.

Because when the darts come, thankfulness protects my heart.
The enemy says, “God is not good.”
Thankfulness says, “But I have seen His goodness in these specific ways” as I list them out.

The enemy says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Praise says, “Here’s a reminder of His character, His faithfulness, His transcendence. He is God. I am not.”

The enemy says, “God is holding out on you.”
Remembering says, “I have seen in my history – and so many others – the faithful love of the Lord. I cannot see what He is doing in the days ahead – but I can look back at His track record and choose to trust.”

The Roman shield that Paul modeled the armor after in his letter to the church at Ephesus was a frame with layers and layers of leather stretched over it. Before battle, the shield would be dipped in water to make it ready to put out flaming arrows.

The shield of faith is made up of layers and layers of history.
Personal history with the God who saves.
Stories from the lives of people I know who have seen Him work.
Reports from recent history where He has intervened.
And the record of Scripture, the true stories of His story.

And over, within, throughout each of those layers, more layers of thankfulness.
Gratitude for what He has done.
That His character has always proven trustworthy.
That He has always turned the darkest nights into dawn.
That He has come through time after time after time.
In my life. In those lives. In the faithfulness of His story.

I have stretched those layers over the frame by studying His Word.
Learning from His people.
Asking His Spirit to enlighten my heart.
And recording what He has done so I can remember it well.
Rehearsing thankfulness in the days before the battle.
Learning His history and character when the arrows are not flying.
So when the fly, I am ready. The layers are stretched. The shield is thick.

And then, when the arrows start to fly, I dip those layers in the refreshing water of praise.
I lift my voice to sing, to pray, to shout His goodness.
I whisper praises through tears and brokenness.
I soak in His Word, drenching those layers with Living Water.

And when those fiery darts land they find no purchase.
The thoughts come.
The arrows fly.
But the shield refutes them. Refuses them. Repels them.

Not the shield of me trusting me.
But the shield of my thankfulness for the character of God, even amid difficult circumstances.
My remembrance of Who He is even as the lies fly.
And my praise for His character, trusting His heart even when I cannot see His hand at work.

And what was a flaming arrow intended for my destruction bounces off, drenched. Instead of taking me down, it becomes a burnt-out matchstick, sizzling weakly at my feet.