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Dandelion Tea

As I sit on my balcony in beautiful south Florida, drinking this dreadful concoction recommended to me by one of my nutritionist friends, I find myself wrestling with God. Today is one of those days that we don’t like to talk about in the Christian realm; it’s one of those days when the demons of your past rear their ugly heads and remind you of past mistakes. It’s one of those days when the sting of past sin is all too real, and it is a challenge to find rest in God’s hands.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians about the thorn in his side – his weakness that God used to remind Paul of his desperate need for a heavenly Savior. We are not told what this thorn was, and I’m fairly confident that Paul opted out of this disclosure for a purpose. The details aren’t important – what matters here is that Paul had a thorn that may or may not have been related to Paul’s previous life B.C. (before Christ).

Brief Summary: Paul (one of the most prominent figures in Christian history) used to be Saul (one of the most notorious killers of Christians). The Lord came to Saul on the road to Damascus, blinded Saul with His glory, and brought Saul into the family of God. Saul became Paul. (Acts 9)

Okay, so Paul was redeemed. He was made whole and became a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. Yes, he would be persecuted (beaten, arrested, flogged, etc.), but what about internally? Surely this paramount figure in the Christian faith wouldn’t be weighed down by sin, internal struggle, or his previous life… Right? Scripture seems to say otherwise:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7b-10)

Yes, even “super-Christian” Paul struggled! Just because he was a strong, godly man did not make him exempt from struggle! The further that I come in my walk with Christ, the more susceptible I am to believing the lie that I am somehow more immune from struggle – especially from struggles that I had before coming to Christ! Friends, the weight of this fallen world is heavy. When we come to Christ with all of our baggage, He does take it and sort through it in order to provide us rest (He is the Comforter after all), but we are not able to hide from the past. Sins that we engaged in prior to coming to Christ will in some way, shape, or form reappear in order to discourage us.

First and foremost, we must understand that this is NOT from the Lord, but from the great enemy (satan). Second, we must recognize that it is absolutely okay to struggle! I know that may be a controversial statement to make, but it’s entirely true! Coming to Christ does not mean that we stop struggling with sin, or stop feeling the affects of sin. Being a Christian means that even though I struggle, I am okay, I am loved, and I am accepted despite my messiness. Finally, we have to accept that God loves us in spite of our suffering.

So what does this have to do with Paul, a thorn in his side, and dandelion tea? Well, just like Paul, you and I have and will continue to struggle; we may pray like Paul did for the Lord to take it away from us, and He chooses not to! Until you and I enter into the coming Kingdom of God, we will keep struggling. You and I will always have a thorn in our side simply because of the broken world that we live in. But, guess what?! God is going to use that! While God is not the One who causes this sin and struggle, He will use it for our good even when we don’t understand it.

So friends, today is one of those days where I am incredibly aware of the thorn in my side (hence my dandelion tea). But you know what? God says that His grace is enough for me. So, while I may hate that I still am plagued with the consequences of past sin and I must live with this thorn, I know that it’s okay. I can rejoice with this thorn because it means that I am weak, and therefore I am strong – and so are you.

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Hello, I’m Sorry.

If you’ve ever spent more than two consecutive minutes with me, you know that one of my fun “quirks” is my tendency to apologize – for everything. Bump into me, I’m going to apologize. If I think that I could potentially be within five feet of your charted course, I guarantee that I will utter the phrase, “I’m sorry.” An exuberant number of people have commented on or questioned this quirk of mine, and I finally have an answer for you.

I apologize for everything because I believe that I am inferior to you.

Yes, I realize that sounds extremely dramatic – I cringed while typing that sentence. But, it is entirely true. Somewhere along my journey, I fell prey to the lie that I am inferior to others. Sub par, less than, invisible; you name it, I’ve subconsciously told myself that these lies were in fact the truth. But why is this important and what does this have to do with you? If you’re being honest with yourself, you know that the second you read the word “lie,” you immediately thought about the poisonous seeds that the enemy has planted in your own mind.

Guess what? Those lies are the reason that you are not advancing in your spiritual life. However, it actually has nothing to do with your behavior at all!

As Christians, we consistently wrestle with understanding how “saved by grace” and “faith without works is dead can coexist. I believe that the answer lies in Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount. When we think about that famous teaching in Matthew 5-7, we often think that Christ basically reiterated the Law of Moses, yet with even stricter rules. While it is true that Jesus expounded upon many presumptions that culture had made about certain commandments, such as divorce and murder, I believe that the key to understanding His teaching lies within the first chapter:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16)

When I first read through this teaching, I simply thought that it was a commandment about how we are to act. BUT WAIT! What is Christ doing here? He begins the commandment by telling the disciples of their identity! You ARE the salt & you ARE the light — those are titles!

So what? This literally changes everything! Christ is telling His disciples WHO THEY ARE so that they are able to act out of that and do His will. Jesus doesn’t simply tell the disciples what to do, because He understood that their religious practices had already done that. He understood that the people were not being transformed and empowered because they understood their relationship with YHWH to be a list of do’s and don’t’s. They did not understand what it actually meant, that God had called them to be His people; if they had, then out of a deep understanding of their identity would they be able to act justly.

When we as believers do not understand our identity, Christianity simply becomes a list of do’s and don’t’s, and we become plagued by legalism. However, when we act out of the understanding of our identity, the works of Christianity are not simply works, but rather an extension of ourselves. When we take hold of the incredible love and grace of God, we see ourselves as children of God. When we understand who we are, the good works of Christianity are almost second nature – rather than striving to “be good”, we strive to intimately know Christ and therefore He is able to work and shine through us.

We are called to do good works and be the light of the world. How do we accomplish this? By intimately knowing God. When we know who God is, then we know who He has created us to be. Then, and only then, are we able to do the will of God here on earth. It is then that we understand that we are “saved by grace” and able to “work out our salvation.” Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. It is then that you will learn the TRUTH of who you are and understand your great worth because of WHOSE your are.

***This post is my public confession of my attempt to stop apologizing so much… But be patient with me! 🙂

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Ramblings of a Wordaholic.

Oh goodness, I am such a sucker for these Christian buzzwords. Perspective, surrender, Kingdom-minded – you name it! As an avid lover of language and linguistics, I absolutely love these catchy phrases that we use in our sermons and Bible studies. But, what if I became as concerned with the application of these words as I am with the way that these words sound as they roll off my tongue?

So often, I feel like I’m back in third grade during a vocabulary lesson. I can pronounce the words, spell them with ease, and recite their definitions on command. However, I struggle to create my own sentence; I know how to do everything with these words except apply them. I have all the head knowledge, but I lack the ability to make these words my own. This raises the question, “Do I truly understand the word?”

In this season of my life, I find myself continually asking, “Do I truly understand the Word?” I can tell you all about God’s love, salvation, discipleship, and mercy; but does that even matter if they are not on display in my life? Have I become like the Pharisees: on paper, I have the knowledge necessary to guide and lead others in this Christian life, but what about my day-to-day life? Do I know how to apply God’s mercy to others, or do I simply know how to explain this concept?

Do I truly understand the Word?

Do you?

***************

Stumbling in the woods, I clamored about – seeking that which I had misplaced. The light was burning dim as the shadows danced menacingly, taunting me in my drunken state. Silence enveloped my ears; my screams were unheard.

I was lost.

I tried to turn around, but the roots of the devilish trees caused me to stumble; the forces of darkness had overcome my flesh, and I was being drawn deeper and deeper into the forest.

That’s when I saw Him.

His golden form was in sharp contrast to the ugly fog surrounding us, and I was petrified. What was this magnificent being among me? He did not belong there; that place of despair could not have been His dwelling. He stepped towards me and lowered His head. I thought He was preparing to claim me as His prey, but He was merely reaching down to touch my hand; He was so gentle, yet incredibly strong.

He raised Himself up and began to pave a new path out of the woods. He looked back at me…

I was given a choice.

So, I took a step.