Life on the Other Side of Death

Thoughts from a survivor on life, faith, and anything else that comes to mind

The Good Ol’ Days

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.'” —  Numbers 30:1-2 (NIV)

Once upon a time we lived in a world where lawyers were not necessary in order for two people to make an agreement and stick to it.  I remember those days vaguely as a child.  Okay so there have always been those who would do what they could to swindle others, but the over all consensus was that a man’s hand shake and word was worth gold unless he showed otherwise.  Unfortunately, we no longer live in a world like that.   It often seems like there are more swindlers than honest folks.  I could go on and on about what the whole world would be like if we went back to that way of thinking, instead let’s focus for a moment on what we can do in our own little corner of the world.

As we’ve been reading through the New Testament together as a church, even the members of our congregation have come up to my husband and myself and commented on how they had no idea where a sermon would come from given the difficulty of the reading that particular week.  This has been especially true the past few weeks as we have been reading the book of Numbers.  Come on, the name of the book alone makes some of us tremble in fear of even opening up our Bibles to it.  My husband used to dream of being the coolest high school calculus teacher, even he struggled with what he was going to find to preach on in Numbers!

Today I read chapters 29 and 30.  Twenty-nine was similar to some of the other chapters, it listed specifically how many animals and what kind of animals were to be given as part of the sacrifice for each day of certain feasts.  Upon first glance, chapter thirty seems to have nothing to do with that.  Chapter 30, talks about how a man should keep his word, and how a woman should keep hers unless her father or her husband forbids her from doing so.

This got me to thinking.  I am a very forgetful person, I can’t tell you how many times I have said I would do something and then have completely forgotten about it and so then I have not done what I said I would do.  This bothers me though.  See my husband works a full-time job, plus we co-pastor the church together.  I also work outside of the church, but I only work part-time, and even then some weeks I probably only work six hours.  However, I am terrible at keeping up with our house, especially our laundry.  Some of you may be thinking, well that is okay, most of us live with a little mess.  The difference is that I know that he and I both have trouble functioning and staying motivating when we are attempting to do anything in a messy environment.  We both need structure in order to stay on task, the chaos of our home hinders us from doing what we need to do.  It also effects our relationship.  How our home looks is probably the number one thing we “argue” about.

You may be wondering why I bring up the state of my house when I was talking about how God wants us to keep our word.  Here is what I have learned in my thirty years of life.  If you don’t do the small things, you won’t do the big things.  See in my life, doing the laundry, or keeping up my house, those are the small things.  Because I don’t take the time to put stuff away when I walk in the door, it piles up and instead of being something small, it becomes something big.  Think about your dirty dishes.  If you leave one bowl in the sink after you’ve eaten cereal, not a big deal;  however, if you leave that bowl in the sink for a week and you still haven’t cleaned it…well, you probably have mold or gnats in your sink now.

The small things become big things.  Just as this works in making a small mess bigger, it has the same effect the opposite way.  God wants us to do great things, but in order to do great things, we have to take that first step to do the little things.

What little thing is God asking you to do today?

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Making restitution

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way[c] and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer. All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Sacred things belong to their owners, but what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’”  – Numbers 5:1-10 (NIV)

I recently was interviewed for ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.  It was decided that due to an on-going sin struggle and some mental health issues that I need to have a better control of, that I should not be recommended for ordination this year.  There are some specific things that I was asked to do to address the board’s concerns, and I am more than willing to fulfill those things because I think they will be beneficial to growing in grace and growing closer to my Lord.

That being said, this has made me take a deeper look at my sin struggle and the sin struggles of those around me.  We as Believers, often use the Devil as the scapegoat.  Blaming our struggles and our sins on him, much like Eve did in Genesis.  We don’t want to accept responsibility.  In doing this we also give Satan more power than he deserves, or even really has.  See when I am tempted, I can’t control that I am tempted.  I can control my response to that temptation.  Remember that the next time you face temptation, I don’t care how strong or powerful Satan or the temptation may seem at that moment, God is bigger and can overcome anything…we just have to choose to let Him.

There is an additional problem to blaming our temptations and sins on Satan, it gives him an opening into us so that he can exploit our weaknesses.  My personal weakness is feeling alone and fearing that others find out my sins, they will no longer look at me in the same way.  Unfortunately, I recently experienced this with a friend and for about three days I felt like the lowest scum on the planet because of it.  Then I began to talk it out with my husband, mostly because that is how I often process things.  As I did, I realized that I had given Satan the power to use my weakness against me.  I immediately said, “ENOUGH!”  The only one who gets to have control over me besides me, is God.

In the above passage of scripture, God is telling Moses what people are to do if they have wronged someone else.  It is a key act, that we must also do if we wish to see forgiveness from God.  WE MUST CONFESS OUR SINS!!!

It is so easy for us to allow ourselves to believe Satan’s lies that no one will understand, everyone will judge us.  STOP GIVING SATAN POWER OVER YOU!!!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. — 1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

ALL OF US HAVE SIN STRUGGLES!  I am not saying that we commit acts of sin all the time.  What I am saying is that we struggle with the temptation to sin.  For some it is pornography, for others gossiping, for others drinking, and others being judgmental.  Our temptations are all different, but until we are willing to confess our temptations, we are hiding them inside ourselves and allowing us to have power over us.  1 John makes it plain, if we claim to be without sin, we are lying.  We can convince ourselves that we have not sinned because we have not committed the act of of sin, however, Jesus tells us in Matthew that if a man even looks at a woman lustfully then he has committed adultery in his heart.  We can sin internally without ever committing the act of sin.

Restitution is something each and every one of us needs to do.  We need to seek restitution from others.  We need to give restitution to those who have wronged us, even if they have not sought to repair that relationship themselves.  We need to seek restitution with God.  Only then can we receive the full measure of grace that He so richly desires to bestow upon us.

Song of the Day:  DC Talk’s In the Light

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Let’s talk about sex…

So admittedly, outside the walls of my comfort zone (read: with other believers), I do not talk a lot about my views on sex. Today I am going to do that here.  I do not take this lightly, nor do I do it without much thought.  I am blogging about it today because it is the focus point of Leviticus 18, which is part of the reading for today in the schedule our church is following to read the entire Old Testament in one year.

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We live in a culture and society where no matter what you do, you cannot get away from it.  I can’t think of a single show on television that does not contain some kind of issue pertaining to sex, except for some of the reality TV shows, and the ones that d0 are often even worse than the fictional shows.  In these shows, we are told it is okay to have one-night stands, to have affairs, to sleep with multiple people (sometimes even at the same time), and to have sex with those of the same sex.

Here is what God tells Moses about having sex with those of the same sex as you in Leviticus 18.

18 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

29 “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’”

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

I have heard many argue about what the Bible says about sex, especially in relation to homosexuality.  In truth, this chapter talks about a lot of sexuality immorality, however, the issue that I struggle with the most in expressing myself is homosexuality and so I am taking this opportunity to work on doing just that.

I am thirty years old, over the years I have had several loved ones “come out of the closet”, and announce they were gay to the world.  A few of them have privileged me with the opportunity for us to talk about our differences in opinion.  I confess that I struggled when I was faced with a girl at work who called herself a Christian but was also involved in a homosexual relationship.  I had never experienced that before and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it.  There was something interesting I noticed in that situation.  She could never tell me that she thought that her sexual lifestyle was pleasing to God, in fact, she refused to call herself a lesbian or a homosexual.  The only label she ever gave herself was that of Christian.  To this day, it breaks my heart.  She had amazing faith in God, and yet she wasn’t willing to turn away from what her body wanted in order to follow Him.

I am aware that some of you who read this might be ready to cuss me out for what I have just written because I have made it seem as if “being gay” was her choice.  Here is the thing I have come to realize.  Every single one of struggles with sin issues.  Many of us even struggle with sexual sin issues.  While we cannot control what our body wants to do or what our minds will some times bring to our thoughts, we can control what we do those things.  Think about it this way, a drunk hits your car and kills everyone in the car but you…well, you want to see that person die for killing those you love, at the very least you want to see them pay for what they did.  However, most of us are not going to actually make that person pay the cost to us, we are going to trust in our justice system, and/or God, to make the guilty party pay.

As a teenager I did a lot of really stupid stuff with guys.  I knew God did not want me to have sex until I was married, but how I looked at that was all wrong.  I saw it as a challenge to see how far I could go before God would consider me guilty of having sex.  I thought as long as I didn’t actually have intercourse, then I was still being obedient.  I wasn’t.  See Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.(NIV)  So the fact that I was focusing on wanting sex meant I was already being disobedient.  Was I sinning in desiring to have sex?  No.  I was sinning in that I was allowing my mind to fantasize and dwell on what I wanted to have happen, whether I was actually allowing it to or not.  See, though I had not physically had intercourse, I was dreaming and hoping it would happen with someone I was not married to.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have a choice.  The apostle Paul spoke have having a thorn in the flesh, Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and carry it.  We all have wants, even needs, are we willing to let them control who we are, who we are becoming, and who we will be for eternity?  Sacrifice isn’t easy, but coming from one who has had to make a few of my own, it is absolutely worth the price.

 

 

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Not Blogging

Hello blogging community!

For those of you who read my blog, I apologize for not having blogged this month.

I could give you all kinds of excuses.  Like I was sick with a sinus bug for a over a week.  I was busy trying to meet my Quickstart challenge for my new business with Premier Designs Jewelry.  I have been babysitting my friend’s kids.  I was a nervous wreck preparing for my ordination interview on the 23rd.  I had to preach, lead Bible study, teach Sunday School and plan for those things.  I think the best excuse of all would be that I spent four days in the hospital with pancreatitis.  All these things are true.  However, they are also just excuses.

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could be authentic and transparent.  This month I have struggled with being those things.  I’m not saying I was trying to hide something.  I am saying that I have not always known how to be real without putting everything out there and thus hurting the feelings of others.  See, I try to think BEFORE I speak and sometimes that means I simply don’t speak.  I read something today I want to share with you because honestly it has been a big part of the struggle I have been dealing with internally this month.

THINK

Recently I have been hurt by different people, for different reasons, in different areas of my life.  Though I wanted to blog about it, I didn’t know how without being accusatory.  Then as the month went on, even though I was still hurt by these different issues/events, I struggled with what to share and how to share it without giving up the identity of the people involved.

In the past few days, I have had a different people come to me and express their hurt that was caused by others.  I have struggled with how to respond in some of these situations and have even wondered if I have contributed to their pain.  With these thoughts in mind, I saw the above picture on Facebook this morning and though it is something I have read before, I wanted to take a moment to dwell on it.  I hope you will too.

Philippians 4:8 says, “brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

THINK about that the next time you are hurt and want to respond quickly to that person or when speaking to others.

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Be Still and Know

“Be still, and know that I am God” — Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

Some days it is the simple things that mean the most.  For the past few days I have been sick.  In the midst of that I have been criticized; notified that a loved one has passed away; and have been busy preparing for a board meeting, filling out ordination paperwork, planning Bible study, submitting my training show order, and making arrangements to travel to Akron to do a show on Saturday.  In the midst of being sick, I have just been overwhelmed because I have not had the energy or desire to do any of these things.  What a blessing to read the words above.

Be still, and know that I am God.

No matter what I am facing I KNOW that He is right there beside me in the midst of whatever comes my way.  Dwell in His presence today.

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Struggling to Trust

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“How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hid your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.  give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in degath;  my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I TRUST IN YOUR UNFAILING LOVE; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”  — Psalm 13 (NIV), emphasis mine.

In the past few months, and especially the last two weeks, I have felt like I was being persecuted.  One of those cases was actually on this blog, I apologize to those of you who may have seen the ugly words posted on several of my blogs.  The person who commented on my blogs, is a coward, who has refused to name his- or herself and so this is the last I will say about them.

I have also been attacked by the very ones I am trying to love.  I have been accused on multiple occasions of not caring about people that honestly, a good bit of my time is spent trying to find ways to love on these very people.  It definitely makes me ask myself the question of why do I even bother.

I recently had a day like this and it had taken such a toll on me that I made the comment to my hubby that I think maybe I will just go look for a job in retail and be done with it.  However, my comment didn’t end there.  I continued by saying however, that I know I would be miserable not fulfilling the call that God has placed on my life.

Whether I FEEL like having a Christian attitude, or I FEEL like ministering to others after the way I have been treated is actually a moot point.  I AM CALLED TO SERVE OTHERS IN CHRIST’S NAME.  How I feel today, or at a particular moment, does not change or diminish that call.  I confess, that with these recent attacks I have wanted to withdraw from people, to wave a little white flag in surrender.  Hoping that if I admit defeat, the attacks will stop.  Defeat is not an option.  This is not about me.  My call to serve, is not about me.  It is all about HIM, the one and only I AM.

So here is what I HAVE to do if I stand even a chance of continuing to serve Him in the way He has called me to.  I HAVE TO TRUST HIM!!!  No matter my circumstances, or what others do, I have to trust that He is for me and is in control.  His Word tells me that while I am here on earth, life will not be easy.  I will be persecuted because He was persecuted.  Today I am choosing to trust that whatever my circumstances, whatever my feelings;  He is I AM and that is not only enough for me but is actually EVERYTHING to me.

Today’s Song of the Day video isn’t the greatest quality, but the worship through words and songs are true and pure.  May it speak to you the way it has spoke to me.

Barlow Girl – Enough/No One Like You

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Seek First

Matthew 6:25-34 talks about how we are not to worry.  Most of the passage talks about how God takes care of the birds and the flowers, and how much more He will take care of us.  The passage ends with the following:  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Now isn’t that the truth!

I don’t know about you but I definitely have the worry bug.  I am constantly hindering myself because of my fear of what the future may or may not hold.  For example, last Saturday was my training show for my new business.  I was a nervous wreck!  I was running here and there, trying to make sure everything was set up perfectly.  The day arrived and for the most part, things did not go as I had planned them to.  Interesting thing though, I had a great turn out, we had a ton of fun, and many of the guests either bought jewelry and/or booked a show to host in the near future.  Here it is a week later and I am still receiving orders from those who could not attend the show but want to support me in my new endeavor, and enjoy getting some new jewelry in the process.

I had fretted endlessly about how everything should go and what I should do.  The thing is though, for over a month now, I have been praying for God to be in charge of my business.  It is not something I consciously pray every day but  I have prayed about it often.  God was at work, no matter what my plan was.

Verse 33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  This is one of the ways in which God truly is amazing.  If we are focused first on Him, then on everything else, we allow Him to do whatever it is He wants to do.  I am so thankful that even in the midst of my being distracted from Him, He still knew my heart and knew I wanted Him to be glorified in this.  I am blessed to be His child and no matter my circumstances I will praise His Holy Name.

 

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Salt & Light

So I was struggling with what to post about today, until I came across a trending article on Yahoo.  A waiter posted a pic online of a receipt.  The receipt was one check from a group of 20 customers.  Due to the size of the group, each check already had an 18% gratuity added on to their bill.  Having a mom who was a waitress for several years, I understand that restaurants do this because they don’t want their wait staff to get stiffed after only being able to wait on one table for an extended period of time because of the table’s size.

Anyway, so back to the article.  The waiter posted the pic because of what the customer wrote on the receipt.  He crossed out his gratuity payment and wrote the following, “I give God 10%, why would I give you 18%?”  The customer did not want to pay the gratuity and signed the receipt as “Pastor”.

I am writing about this because it irritates me.  We are called to be “salt and light”  to a dark, fallen world.  Instead of showing Christ’s love this waiter, the customer was rude and uncaring.  In church, we have talked about ministering to those we come in contact with.  Something that Fred and I try to do, although we sometimes forget, is to ask our waiter/waitress if there is something we can pray for them for when we pray for our meal.  We have had mixed reactions.  However, if we are truly living as “salt and light”, their reactions to us are not important, what is important is that we demonstrate Christ’s love whenever we can.  Part of what is important in this situation though is to also give a generous tip.  You may be wondering why that it is important.  John Maxwell once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  It is great to ask people how you can pray for them; but in doing something tangible, like giving a generous tip, you are showing you care about more than their spiritual needs but also their financial needs.

I don’t tell you this to make myself look good, honestly, I am horrible at knowing how to show love to those I am standing in line with at Wal-Mart, but this is something I can do to help those who serve me in a specific situations.  God has called all of His followers to be His Salt and His Light.  How is He calling you to shine in the darkness today?

Below is a link to the article I was talking about.  As you read it, think about which kind of person you want to exemplify today.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/pastor-tip-receipt-155914258.html

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My “babies”

Tonight’s post will be short and non-faith related.

The last two days I have been reading posts from some friends of mine who had lost a member of their family.  It wasn’t a traditional member, it was their dog.  For those who do not own pets, you may not understand how these animals can become members of our families but having a cat and a dog, I certainly do.  As I read their posts, I couldn’t help but be especially appreciative of Pebbles and Knightly, my dog and cat respectively.   Today was my Sabbath, my day of rest.  Most of it I spent laying down and curled up with me was Knightly and Pebbles was laying nearby.  Knightly is almost eight years old and Pebbles is almost four.  They each have their own personalities:  Knightly whines a lot but is adorable when he curls up in our laps or plays with a milk jug ring;  Pebbles is always excited to greet you at the door, loves car rides, and thinks she should lay between Fred and I in bed at night.  Even when they do things that drive us crazy, we still love them and happily call them ours.

My heart breaks for my friends who have had to lay their “baby” to rest.  Even when you know it is for the best of the pet, I am sure that does not lessen the pain.  I don’t know the history of human’s having pets, but I know I am thankful for my two “babies” and all the happiness they bring in to our lives.  I love you Pebbles and Knightly!

!Knightly & Pebbles

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Blah Week

I have had a lot of trouble blogging this week.  There have been a lot of things going on, some involving me, others involving loved ones.  Some of the issues were serious, some not so much.  Overall, they just have worn on me all week and I have been emotional drained.  Although God has been there with me through every thing, I have been so drained that I have struggled to know what to share online.  Part of why I am blogging tonight is because I feel like I need to just be honest about how I am feeling.

As Christians, it is easy for us to act as if every thing in life is always good.  That we have no problems because we can trust that God will take care of us.  The other side of this, are those Christians who constantly complain and in the process seem like they don’t have any of the joy that is talked about in scriptures.  The truth is we should be living somewhere between these two.  If we ignore the bad stuff in our lives, we become fake and dishonest about what what we are going through.  If we only focus on the bad though, we miss out on the opportunity to trust God and to acknowledge that He is sovereign no matter the circumstances.

I don’t always do well at living in the center.  I often struggle with either being in the really high places or the really low places.  Honestly, it probably isn’t that I am even in those extremes, I just feel/act like I am.  Maybe this isn’t an issue for you, but I am sure it is for someone out there who will hopefully read this.  No matter our circumstances, God is with us and He is for us. May the following verse and song be a reminder of this truth to you today.

“Yet I am always with you;  you hold me by my right hand.  you guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  and earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  — Psalm 73:23-26 (NIV)

Song of the day: Cornerstone by Hillsong

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