Unnecessary Mercies

When you don’t experience God’s grace first hand you don’t know how to pass it on, all you see are rules and that’s all you have to share.

Nehemiah embodied the idea of Christ stepping into our lives. Without Christ coming as our ‘Nehemiah’ to show us how, provide for us, and lead us to build where there are ruins, our lives are a mess. We wouldn’t be able to do the work. And just like 2 Corinthians 1 tell us, because Christ has done this for us in the same way that Nehemiah stepped in for the people of Israel, we can then turn around and embody it for those we have in our influence. Our children get to experience the grace of God through our relationship with them. Not rules, if we understand God’s grace…. Daniel also is an example to all of us Nebuchadnezzars who are proud and not seeking after God. Our ‘Daniel’ comes to mediate between us and God and introduces us to the grace that can set us free.

My mothering can be a reflection of the unnecessary mercies of a God who relishes and proclaims his goodness in the details of our lives. As I scoop a dollop of whipped cream for dessert and put it on a pretty dish instead of a plain one – I am reflecting my maker. I can do that by placing splashes of color all over my veranda in flower pots and adding stringed lights above to create a welcoming glow as darkness hits.

God‘s mercies are surrounding me every day. Spiritually he throws splashes of colour to brighten days and gives hope where my focus has blurred in the midst of less than stellar circumstances. He piles unnecessary mercies on me and mine, completely undeserved.

Unnecessary mercy. Think about that. He doesn’t have to be so generous. He’s God and he gets to do what he wants and yet he is willing to step down and heal a man’s son (Mark 9:14-27), fill a boat to overflowing for some fisherman (Matt 5:4-6), bring a brother back from the dead for the family (John 11:1-44), have a fish spit out a coin so the men can pay their taxes(Matt 17:24-27)….. He even gave prophetic revelation to and materially blessed a godless king like Nebuchadnezzar…. unnecessary mercies!

Do you embody the mercy of God for your family? We can all do this in different ways. But does the ‘why’ you do all you do to make things special for those around you sprout from your own experience and acknowledgement of the mercies God gives you each day? Nothing is neutral. The more your Bible takes hold of your life The more you realize this fact. Every single thing you do and decision you make is a result of your belief system. The deeper your knowledge within your belief system the more it affects even the most basic and mundane daily choices.

The reality of ‘unnecessary mercies’ has popped into my mind so often in the past couple of months. The fact that I have been made holy, blameless, and above reproach is a huge mercy in itself, but then… there’s a last minute ‘Click and Collect’ order available for just 2 hours later during Covid insanity; An unnecessary mercy! A prayer for a specific hard request is specifically answered the next day; An unnecessary mercy! I could have had to learn to wait and trust, but was given a beautiful unnecessary mercy to keep my spiritual strength up.

We have a tremendous opportunity to share unnecessary mercies here in North America. We live in a land of plenty and are surrounded by excessiveness. We are filled to the brim and overflowing with material riches. These are our earthly tools we can use to share our spiritual comfort. It’s easy to create a home that’s cozy and inviting. Unnecessary to decorate? Of course! Just like so many unnecessary things God does for you. Pretty dishes, flowers, real whipped cream, trips to the shore, candles lit, a card sent etc. So many chances every day to share the reality of God’s unnecessary mercies with others. That comfort that you’ve been given by God in your hard times is the fuel given to you to turn around and imitate and embody that same comfort to those all around you in their difficulties (2 Corinthains 1:3-7).

We all don’t reflect God’s mercy the same way. We all have our own personalities which will show through in how we go about getting it done. But how do you embody the unnecessary mercies of God for your family? Are you?!

I grew up in a home where that was done by using pretty plates, cozy decor all through the home, cookies ready after school, candles, drives through the country ending with an ice cream cone… and in many ways we continue that same legacy in my home. But kids don’t understand the value of it until much later, in their own homes. We don’t truly treasure the mercies until we realize how much we need them. The more I come to understand who God is the more I appreciate any mercies He sees fit to send me.

Take a look around you. Notice your mercies today… then share!!!

~Shannon

Psalm 107: An Invitation

DSC_0426Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Are you wandering, weary? Can’t figure out which way to go? Where do I belong, anyway? Are you hungry and thirsty? Have your choices left you unsatisfied – soul starving and weak?

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

DSC_1068Is your life a prison, the shadow of death – the weight of the law and it’s wages – looming over you – bound by chains you can’t break?

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

DSC_0719 (1)Have you been foolish? Suffering the consequences of your own sinful choices, maybe losing the will to go on, just looking for a way out – even the gates of death begin to have an appeal.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

UnknownNot even your fault? Just going about your own business and suddenly a storm blows out of nowhere, and the waves threaten everything?

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

DSC_0664-001CRY TO JESUS.

Cry to the Lord in your trouble, and He will deliver you from your distress. It was His steadfast love that turned the rivers into a desert, gave you the hard labour of the prison chain gang, allowed you to “taste the soup that you have made” with your wise-in-your-own-eyes choices, brought the storm that defied all your ability to cope, so that you would see how much you need Him and cry out to Him. He knew it was the only way you would seek Him. He will not let you go, but He will not allow you to fool yourself into thinking you can do it any way but His.

IMG_501133 He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.

DSC_0874Cry to the Lord, and He will lead you out of the desert to Home and Belonging, to good things that satisfy your soul, to a fruitful life. He will break the chains and bring you into the light – children of the day – and free you from cruel labour. His burden is easy and His yoke is light. He will meet you in the middle of your circumstances and lead you out, heal your depression, make you thrive. He will speak to the waves, “Peace, be still!” and they will obey their Master. He will bring you safely to shore, not just any shore, the right shore, exactly where He wants you to be.

42 The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

And your sacrifice, yourself, still living but willingly bound to His altar, will be evidence of your thankfulness for His steadfast love, for the hardship that brought you to the Truth that set you free: Jesus.

~Charmin

 

Christian Allegiance

(Guest post by Jenn Slauenwhite)

The government was never meant to be our God.

I saw a meme that said, “Noah didn’t go swimming in the flood to prove his faith in God. He showed his faith by staying in the ark and waiting until it was safe to come out.” Although this seems like a lovely sentiment at the surface level for today’s pandemic situation, we need to understand a couple of things first. 1) Noah was listening TO God, directly FROM God. 2) Our current instructions and orders to stay inside to be safe and protected have come from government leaders. Some of you may argue that God put our leaders in place so we should obey them. I would partly agree with you. Those leaders are there for a reason and they aren’t a surprise or a mistake to our sovereign God. Romans 13:1 tells us this very thing. That doesn’t mean we obey their every command and whim without question or thought. We need to use discernment and a biblical worldview to filter pretty much everything around us. All the time. Till we die. 💁🏻‍♀️ And that includes discerning what is wise government instruction and what is not. When God gave us governing authorities, it was so that the rulers would not be a terror to good conduct but to bad. We are to be in subjection to them for THAT reason. They are to be avengers that carry out God’s wrath on the wrong doer. (Romans 13:3-4) What has happened over time (and pretty much since the beginning of time) is that man has taken it upon themselves to be ultimate authority with no care or thought to the things of God with governing authorities taking more and more liberties to gain more and more power.

So let’s compare a couple of situations. Most born again Christians would agree that abortion (at any stage) is murder and we would disapprove of the ruling that makes abortion legal, accessible, and acceptable. We do not agree with the secular world that human life can be terminated at any stage. But since the government says it’s ok should we just agree? Or should we have discernment because we know what the bible actually says about the sanctity of life?

Let’s do another comparison. Homeschooling. A lot of Christians who homeschool do so because we believe that God has assigned the task of education to the family and not to the government institutions. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand , and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”)

So why are we seeing a large number of Christians completely rolling over to the authorities while they wag their fingers at us with threats and tickets for something that is just common sense? (wash your hands, avoid the vulnerable, stay home if you’re sick) I believe that the answer is fear. Fear of an unknown virus. And that fear was heavily propagated by mainstream media for one reason or another. Now, I’m not saying this virus isn’t real or even deadly to vulnerable populations. It can be! But now that the numbers are no where near the projections, we are still being told that being good citizens means we must stay away from all other people for an indefinite amount of time. And don’t you dare disobey. (But don’t worry, the liquor store, and Tim hortons are still open!)

When we are fearful of something that is new or feels threatening, we look to someone to protect and reassure us. As Christians, that someone should be our Creator. When we look to the government to save us, we err in where our allegiance lies. The government was never established to save us, Jesus alone saves. The leaders aren’t there to save lives, they were never given that authority by God because our days are already numbered (psalm 139, psalm 39, job 14:5) and nothing we do can change or effect God’s plan for the number of each person’s days.

Should we use common sense? Of course we should! The bible is full of instruction about common sense for helping and serving others; to protect widows and care for orphans (James 1:27) And so we should!

I’m awfully long winded but my point here is that as Christians, we need not react out of fear. We need to trust God and know His Word so we can understand His plan for our governing authorities, which will help us recognize when we need to stand up against injustice. It just might be time to get off the bench and play. Most of all, we need to pray!

~Jenn

When the Method Becomes the Message

It’s right to be given a job and have a required result with the work we’ve been asked to do. But we get mixed up on the result required in regards to parenting. Our parenting is a reflection of our relationship with Christ, not our child’s spiritual state. If you do certain things to ensure you are sharing Christ’s wonderful story with your children because you know Him yourself and are obeying the Lord in your responsibility, wonderful! If you do certain things to ensure your child will grow up to be saved, you’re claiming a job that wasn’t given to you and you cannot perform.

It’s super easy to fall into the ‘trust the method’ trap of parenting in our Christianity. It becomes a saving mechanism instead of an act of obedience. But a very important spiritual doctrine is imperative to keep our heads in all this. Read these verses…. I mean, really read them as pertains to your parenting:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8,9 

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

God doesn’t need your method to save your kids from their sin. You can’t train it out of them, you can’t love them out of it, you can’t preach it or guilt it out of them. It’s God’s work. But you are called to be a faithful, loving, discipling parent no matter what the results are. I’m commanded to train them up in the Lord and talk to them of the Lord when I walk by the way, when I rise up, and when I lay down. It’s pretty much the first thing on my brain when I wake up and the last as I pray myself to sleep. But nowhere am I commanded to have results. My parenting is an act of obedience before God. My child’s response to faith is between them and God. I’d love to be a big part of that introduction between child and God, but thankful that the responsibility doesn’t rest on me to make sure it happens.

How we teach and train and disciple our children in the ways of Christ is NOT the point. So many people (most that I’m friends with, perhaps) are Jesus’ faithful followers without any method used in their homes while they were growing up, yet here they are, saved and sharing Christ with their families.

I also know many people who were saved in the middle or after the child training years for their family. If one of these newly saved folks looked at most of the Christian books geared towards having godly families these days they would be overcome with disappointment. According to most articles and books they missed their chance to be godly parents. Most of the teaching is focused on younger families ‘getting it right’ from the start. But what about those who can’t do that? It most certainly can’t be about the method of baptizing and catechizing them when they are young in order to make sure they grow up to love Christ.  What a weight for these folks to carry! And might I add, that is HUGELY works-based. (I’d like to clarify and say that it’s only works based if you expect the result of salvation in your children instead of your goal being simply to obey God’s command on your own life for what you are called to do as a parent. Those are two very different things.) Nowhere in Scripture is someone else’s love of the Saviour dependant on another’s action. Remember Ephesians 2:8,9!

There’s an idea that I’ve watched take hold in the Christian community while growing up. This idea that has turned into ‘fact’ is that you get saved and then somehow you have the ability to raise your kids to avoid the pitfall of growing up unregenerate… which happens to be the most natural thing in the world. But somehow we think that based on the way we raised them and provided the right atmosphere, love, and wise guidance from Scripture they will automatically follow Christ. How you live out your life becomes a saving mechanism instead of a simple act of obedience as it was intended. Heaven help us. 

How soon we forget from whence we came. How soon we forget that it wasn’t a method that brought us to Christ, but the power of the Holy Spirit awakening our souls to His truth. I look back at my parents’ testimony and stand in awe. Two people that weren’t seeking God end up pummelled by His grace in the midst of their worldliness and godlessness. They didn’t get discipled into the family of God. They weren’t argued into it. They didn’t have parents that raised them up in catechism and family worship times. God stepped in and made all things new in their life and, BAM, nothing will ever be the same!

I barely remember life with a bar in the living room, mom being a heavy smoker, and the ball team partying at the Homeplace after games. So I grew up with parents who were transformed by the amazing grace of God living their testimonies out in front of me for almost my entire life. The Dorey household was totally different almost overnight and people sat up and took notice at the change.

I, myself was gloriously saved at a young age, then years later I started raising my own family based on all that my parents lived out in front of me, and among my own hiccups in life kind of picked up where they left off. I’m trying to pass the torch with all of my might…as if I can make my kids reach out their hand and take the torch. When they don’t want it things can feel awkward…. What do you do then? In my own fumbling way I trained them to know how to run. I trained them to know what a race is, where we are supposed to be running, how to hold the torch, how awesome the torch is… but I cannot for the life of me make them want to hold the torch. That is not something the natural man wants to do, it is a spiritual desire that has to be given.

” The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

And then there’s the fact that I’m not God, so I can’t make that happen.  And it can get crazy heavy holding out that torch when they just won’t reach out and take hold yet.

In christian circles many have gone from preaching the gospel as the power of Christ transforming a life to instead preaching certain methods of how to share the gospel. We then turn around and after years of living it and being excited about the change in our own lives, start preaching the tradition as the gospel. Big problem here; traditions and methods do not transform, Jesus does.

I recently listened to a well known speaker talk about family discipleship and raising kids and parenting. He spent a long time discussing what Christianity should look like in a home. A sort of one size fits all to a godly home… as long as you’re a young family and can do it ‘right’ from very young ages I guess it could sound encouraging… Not much was said about the fact that spiritual life is something you pray desperately for in the life of your kids and when push comes to shove, no matter how we work toward providing opportunities, we cannot depend on the method, we have to depend on Jesus to work supernaturally in their life. All else is works-based theology. Nothing of what the speaker said was bad and there was so much good advice… but it certainly left a ‘works’ taste in my mouth, and you could tell from the comments of those watching him that they were pretty confident in this method as well, some smugly so.

Increasingly there is an underlying ungodly confidence in the how-to’s. You can show up to conferences, or check out websites and podcasts online of methods being taught as if they were the gospel itself. When a speaker can spend an hour talking about catechizing your children, doing family worship, and making sure you find and adhere to a denomination’s belief, but not talk about the only hope being the saving work of Jesus, there’s a problem… the method has become the message.

In light of all this, when you come to a place where you do all the things in your ‘method’ and it doesn’t turn out like you planned but your hope was in the said method, you will despair. But, if you plug away only using your method as a tool to share the main point of Jesus being our Saviour, when your family doesn’t look like you hoped you will not despair because your hope is actually in the person of Jesus Christ, not what you were doing. And we know that He is always still at work in the circumstances and isn’t circumvented by our approach. He’s the same Jesus that saved me and my parents without any catechism or ‘family worship’ involved, and so many things being done ‘wrong’! And many of my fellow church family can say the same.

We can see from Scripture that there simply isn’t any guarantees with parenting. Read about David’s family in the Old Testament…. all the kings in Scripture and how some had beautifully godly parents and still were ungodly themselves, or many had evil parents and were God-honouring themselves. I also love thinking about how thousands of people were saved in the New Testament who were older. Think of Pentecost. All the things Jesus expected of them as a newly saved person in all their responsibilities was to introduce everyone to Jesus through their testimony now, including their older children. Jesus didn’t give any specific family instructions on what a day should look like in their homes. But he did make it clear Who we should be looking to each day.

I will say that much of the advice offered by ‘method preachers’ on different parenting issues have been a great help to us. So much good is there. Maybe even 99% goodness, but that 1% really throws things off so that many are extremely confident in their results-driven choices. They don’t know what to do with it all when the results are wonky. When it becomes apparent that each person has to come to a testing and challenging point in their lives when they meet God and say ‘thank you Jesus!’ or, ‘I’ll do it my way, thanks.’; that inevitable individual choice of whether to grab the torch for themselves and start running, or not.

A parents’ job is to live faithfully before God with what they’ve been entrusted with. And every single parent is botching it in one way, or a thousand. You don’t think you are? You’re probably one of the worst offenders to what I’m talking about! lol!

I don’t think catechism is bad. It’s fantastic done with the right mindset. But it’s horrible if they aren’t invited to the table of God’s grace and forgiveness every single day by the way you meet them in their sinfulness. It’s so easy to bring kids up to think of themselves more righteously than they ought to think when they grow up in a ‘Christian home’.

Results-driven parenting leads to action based on fear and guilt… or self-righteousness… and I’m not talking just about the parents here. That’s the fruit we see in our children as a result of this mentality, too. We may love Jesus and not realize that how we are portraying Christ to them is actually pushing them to works-based salvation that they will either embrace and live in self-righteousness or they will reject because they can clearly see the hypocrisy in it. And thankfully even then, God can and will still work however He chooses. But remember, we are striving for obedience in parenting here, not results. It’s about our relationship with Him.

If your confidence in your child’s spiritual condition is in HOW you’re training and not in the simple work of Jesus Himself, then the method has become the message to you. It’s subtle idolatry. But when your one and only method (which you can play out in a multitude of ways) is to lead your children to Jesus no matter what happens or how old they are, your confidence rests in the One you’re reaching for not how you’re reaching. May God richly bless you in your parenting journey!

~Shannon

Jesus In Your Relationships

Do you understand the gospel? I mean, really understand it. Do you understand who you are, where you came from, and all that Christ continually does on your behalf? If you do then it changes the way you handle difficult relationships. I have been guilty over the years of a sickly self-righteous indignation. I’ve learned so much as much time has passed since that day that my pharisee-ism hit me full force. Through the years it bothers me greatly to see so much wrong teaching and anti-biblical mentality running rampant when it comes to believers handling sin in others whether saved or unsaved.

Most would agree with me that God calls us to love seventy times seven. It may be hard and no fun sometimes, but easily seen from Scripture that it’s what we’re called to… Our mentor in this of how to handle the ugly in others is Christ… and he dealt with it by naming the sin and then dying for us. He didn’t raise the standard and expect us to learn to toe the line. He died. He died for us while we were in our rebellion. He kept loving and giving until he was put to death. I’ve probably got lots of amens from y’all so far. But we haven’t entered the temptation that comes when someone is being ugly toward you. Follow me…

Transfer this Scriptural principle of living the gospel out in all your relationships over to parenting your unsaved or rebellious adult child. When your child shows no love for the things of God and shuns righteousness is that your cue to ‘divorce’ them and not associate with them until they learn to act in a holy manner again? Give me one example of Jesus handling people in this way. Can you find even one? If I am to follow Christ’s example with those who act in opposition, I have to follow through with all I see from the life of Jesus and also what Paul states in Philippians 2. When did we Christians become so holy that we have the right to hold a standard for our friends and families to meet?! How can we tell someone they aren’t welcome in our presence anymore because they’re sinners….. just like us!?!

If you understand this gospel it changes how you handle marital conflict, too. I would never encourage/counsel a woman to divorce her husband for any reason. Leave his presence for safety reasons? Yes! Divorce and walk away from a relationship? That goes against all the gospel shouts out to us. God never calls us to make the judgement of whether someone is too much of a sinner to associate with, or too much of a lost cause to continue praying for and ministering to… that’s His domain (1Cor.4:5). And let’s not forget that I am NEVER without sin myself and so never justified in condemning another human being (James 3:9,10). When God NEVER divorces and gives up on me in my sin, how can I turn around and demand righteousness, as I see it, from the guy next to me?

Jesus knew Peter would mess up big time but told him with those hugely comforting words that he shouldn’t let it conquer him, and it didn’t change their relationship. It would actually make it stronger when Peter realized he was accepted even with his major guilt and shame before he ever repented of it (Luke 22:31!). Jesus said, “I have prayed for you.” You will still be welcome, Peter! You will fail miserably and show the kind of sin-stained wretch that you are, but I AM YOUR HOPE and I will NEVER give up on you!

Jesus told Judas to come eat with him and sat chatting and ministering to him all the while knowing he was a traitor. He washed his feet, he didn’t tell him to leave his presence until he could act in a more holy manner and truly repent.

If you have a difficult relationship right now ask yourself how you can play out the gospel in it. What would Jesus do if he had your husband, son, daughter, friend, sister or brother etc. If you think your place is to shun them to guilt them into obedience or not welcome them to your table to prove just how unholy they are you will have to do some major twisting of Scripture to show me that Jesus would do that as an example to us.

When it comes down to it most of the parenting guidance we hear these days leads me to see that most of us want our people around us to appear good and clean as if it’s a reflection of us when really we should be focused on Christ’s reflection in us and showing it to the world.

Don’t let Galatians 6:12-13 be your attitude.

“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

You can sometimes guilt/ scare/manipulate a person into looking righteous and checking off the right boxes but it isn’t calling to their heart. It’s not ministering to them. Let your attitude be taken from Prov 9:3 – Be one of the maidens that wisdom has sent out to invite more and more sinners to the table that is spread and waiting for them. Call them to beauty with mercy and kindness on your lips and a towel and washbasin in your hand. Don’t chase them from behind with condemnation and a cattle prod.

Learning the reality of offering grace while calling sin sin is what we are called to. Jesus was the perfect example of being able to acknowledge the sin all around him while offering grace and mercy at the same time. Let’s strive to be more like Jesus!

~Shannon

Are You Evidence of the Glory?

Mark 4:39 shares the ending of an awesome account of just one of the amazing moments of Jesus….

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

All of nature bows to God’s command immediately, without question. No matter what Christ said, no matter how opposite its nature, it immediately did whatever it was told to do. No hesitation. No fanfare. No reasoning things out or reluctance and searching for a good reason to not make it work.

When God asks me to work against my natural self I know He is looking to give the same results as happened when he gave commands to the wind, sea, sky, and even death…. God’s glory was put on display. 

His glory was put on display when the storm ceased, when the sea opened, when the sun stood still,  when Lazarus walked out of that tomb alive… Those were clarifying moments of just how powerful and awe-inspiring the God that we serve is.

No one walked away from the boat that night after Jesus stopped the storm comforted by their own self affirmation… When the sea opened up and allowed more than a million people to walk through safely, no one drifted off to sleep that night thankful about how awesome a Hebrew they were and how they were deserving of such provision…. And let me tell you, when the sun refused to go down so that every last enemy could be defeated and victory assured, not one man went to bed that night proclaiming his right to most valuable soldier trophy! I really doubt it crossed anyone’s mind who knew Lazarus and had wept for 4 days after his death that they had named this miracle and claimed it, therefore it was.

No one figured it was because of their awesome faith that God worked through them to get something so amazing done. Not one person after those supernatural events thought it was about them… their focus had temporarily been shifted from themselves to JEHOVAH.

Every single person who ever witnessed these events of the overriding of nature were humbled and struck with fear. Not one of them, whether they obeyed God’s ways or not, could argue that they were witnessing something far bigger than anything they had ever thought possible. Miracles, these things that defy nature, make us stand back and consider who God is.

How much more would God be glorified if His creation called ‘man’, that have a will contrary to God, ceased their own activity and obeyed instantly at His command? Then those around us would sit up and take notice that we were acting against our nature… That Someone else is was in control.

Those recordings in our Bible of how God works without any constraint against the hard and fast unforgiving rules of nature for Himself however He pleases is such a confidence builder. It’s the confidence I need when I’m asked to go against MY nature & MY will to do something that agrees with the character of God, not what I would be most comfortable with.

Most people choose to deal with a difficult situation in a way that points back to them. When they are dealing with hard things their focus is on self protection and building themselves up…. but no one watching stands in awe of who God is when we handle it that way. If you are in a hard place and people are patting you on the back and sympathizing with you… chances are you aren’t living a life of miracle expectancy. But when you know & believe (help thou my unbelief!) the God who really works miracles you handle your hard stuff differently. And that makes people take notice of Him, not you.

He really does change lives. So, if you are in a hard place and you hear people saying, “You’re crazy,… you deserve better….. You really think this God of yours is going to do something with all this?”… then you’re probably on the right track.

He’s glorified when we walk on the ocean floor, or fight until the sun finally sets, or we ask him to deal with that storm that’s rocking our world right now, or maybe even that too far gone impossible situation to be brought back to the land of living like Lazarus was…

What are your days full of right now? Hard things? Is God bringing you to a time when you need to learn to cease as ‘you’ and obey in quiteness to portray to the world around you the glory of the One you serve? Choose the path that will lead others to stand in awe of who God is and all He can do for all your messy.

 ~Shannon

 

 

Ready for change?

This is a perfect time to start in on the Bible Challenge if you haven’t joined us already. You are definitely missing out if you aren’t reading your bible this way!

Are you a young single gal or guy? Are you a mom, a housewife, a grandma? Are you a pastor, a teacher, a husband, a dad? Are you a skeptic who thinks people like me are crazy and need a crutch? This challenge is for you! I double dog dare you to try it.

If you have had the Bible Challenge change you, post a video on Facebook or Instagram sharing about it… or leave your story in the comment section below. Others need this and you might be the one to help them join in and start on their way to big changes!

Would a French version be helpful for your family and friends? Bam! Here ya go…

No matter what’s going on in your life… good, bad, or ugly.. this is what you need. Give it a try.

~Shannon

Beautifully Scarred

Psalm 66 is the praise of a scarred man.  You should read it. And be prepared to hear from other scarred people at CONFERENCE  this year!

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Scars are storytelling things. They have stories that remind us who we were, where we were, and leaves us forever changed. I have a scar above one eye from a swing set mishap when I was 10 or 12. I have a scar on my finger from a glass breaking as I was washing the dishes during my first year of marriage. Another scar on my leg from a rock at the shore. That small bump on my chest where my heart procedure took place….

Scars that take me back to specific moments in time and make otherwise normal and obscure details become clear as day and unforgettable. They don’t heal and grow to be invisible over time. They are harder skin, raised up and a different colour or pressed down and dark. You can’t ignore them. They draw the eye away from the normal, mundane skin all around and call for attention. They call up questions in other people. There are stories to tell and sometimes laugher and amazement from crazy times, sometimes pain and sadness because they are the stories that didn’t end well.

My dad’s large scar on his head every time I cut his hair takes me right back to  the first night after surgery and walking past the nurses station to enter his room. Things were bleak in that moment. That scar has seconds that have turned into years attached to it.

We all have scars. Some deeper and more obvious, others smaller and less dramatic.

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So what about your other scars? What about the scarred dreams, scarred purity, scarred and wasted time? Every once in a while (or constant maybe?) a picture or circumstance or conversation makes that emotional scar ache or itch a little. They can’t be forever forgotten. Forgiven? Yes! Forgotten? No.

Scars are our moments of the faithfulness of God standing tall and showing a different shade in our lives. They are God’s graces pressed down and dark with remembrance. People with scars connect well with other scarred people. Women sharing birth stories, kids sharing swing set mishaps, chemo patients seeing the bald head and immediately connect on a deeper level.  Scars bring intimacy. I see your scars. I carry them too. We are none of us perfect, we all are carriers of God’s amazing grace bringing us through each trial in accordance with his perfect plan.

My scars may look ugly to you, but I learned valuable lessons from each place I got them. Every year my anniversary is a scarred reminder of the hard years and how God miraculously brought us through. Every time a picture of a certain place we lived comes across my path I’m reminded of God’s heavy hand of teaching and training that was on me while there. He brought me through.

Each place I was brought through stands taller and is shaded lighter and shows itself more. ‘Remember God’s faithfulness’ is what those scars tell me to do. If He brought me through once He can do it again.

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The Israelites have life scars, too. A bunch of them are written down and passed on to me  in Scripture so that I can see God’s hand of faithfulness in other lives in big ways. It builds my trust and patience in my own circumstance to see the way He worked in other messy lives. Remember Noah and the flood… Abraham and Sarah waiting so long for God’s promise… Pharaoh killing all the Hebrew babies… 40 years of wandering in the wilderness… during the time of the judges constantly being overpowered by their enemies…

Scars are not about us. My jagged marks in life aren’t about me. They are the marks of grace given to a sinner from a merciful God who has every right to do away with me right now and not allow for anymore remembrances. What is Shannon that thou art mindful of her? Why do you patiently keep working and healing and creating a scar-filled highway from her life? I’m not proud of my scars. They aren’t feathers in my cap. If I focus on my part in those scars it brings me down. If I’m the key player in those stories I become defeated. My part is so depressing. But God who is rich in mercy and that amazing love wherewith he loved me is the highlight in those moments along my life’s highway. Grace stands taller, stronger, calling for my attention. It aches with the deep humble gratefulness when reminders come. It has built compassion for those in the middle of being wounded right now. It’s built trust that the same God who healed me and made things stronger somehow in my life is working the same miracles in the lives of those around me.

A sign of a surrendered heart is the willingness to bear the marks of the Lord Jesus. Do you have the mind of Christ or do you have your own? How you suffer and heal changes when you lay your life down the way Christ did. He laid it down to the death. I can ‘seek my own’, and instead of healing stronger and God being raised up brighter in my weakness, the wound festers and gets infected. And the tell-tale sign of bigger problems are those red streaks that start travelling up the skin straight toward the heart. Wounds not dealt with properly eventually attack your main source of life.

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My son broke his leg a couple of years ago. After it should have healed in that one spot after surgery we didn’t know infection was brewing under that cast. His symptoms were being blamed on the flu. But then I happened to see that sore spot. Red, hot, and lines spreading up his leg showing it’s goal was reaching the heart and, unless we dealt with the actual problem, infection would win. But with some proper treatment of the infection things improved quickly and now we just have a scar instead of death. Yet another reminder both physically and spiritually that a problem not dealt with turns into more. If it doesn’t turn into Christ it turns into more of us…. something that is never pretty and always leads to death.

2 Corinthians 11:30 ” If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my infirmities.” That means I will boast of the things that show my weaknesses… I will boast about my scars that shout out about my mess and all God has done to heal and show His power, not mine.

With that thought in mind, read this:

2 Corinthians 12:8- “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

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Take a look at your scars. They are beautiful. They shout out of Christ’s work and faithfulness in your life. Do not be discouraged in your pain today, for God is being raised up in your life for tomorrow. Live to that end!

~Shannon

Spiritual Anorexia

 Is your Bible woven intricately into every area of your life? Does it consume you? Do you understand the thoughts of the Psalmist saying ‘As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you’?

That phrase used to confuse me. I’d think to myself, “I’m not desperate for my quiet time with God like a thirsty deer hunting for a stream.’ I figured the Bible teachers I’d heard mention it must be faking that feeling….

At that same time the thought confused me I was starving for help and life was getting to be way more than I could handle. I hadn’t realized yet where my nourishment came from and I was bordering on spiritual anorexia.

As my hubby says, if you’re not going to eat your spiritual food don’t complain about your hunger pains!

When was the last time you devoured your Bible? Not a Bible study book…. not a commentary… not a Christian living or devotional book… but the tried and true Word of God all on its own? … for more than 5 or 10 minutes???

We are pretty big on getting people into Scripture in these parts because many of us have experienced the awesome consequences time after time in our own lives, and we are so excited to pass on the simple advice that will change other’s lives, too!

We’ve watched as prison walls have been torn down in lives over and over. We’ve also had to watch the consequences of many who don’t love on their Bibles, too… and it ain’t pretty. Hard to witness such things, but praise God for the many who He teaches to ‘pant for the living water’ and those that are washed by the Word daily!

As you pick up your Bible today, and every day, think of these words I found in my bible study notes from a couple of years ago (I preach to myself CONSTANTLY 😅) because maybe you need this reminder, too?

Always be willing to revisit the word of God. He is constantly revealing more of himself to the christian through it. Always ask Scripture good hard questions, it can handle it. Whether you will bear it or not may be a different story. Ask God to help you handle it.

Prepare yourself to be cut and maimed and destroyed every time you open the Word. God uses it to cut away every bit of self government and reason humanly speaking, and works to bring you under the subjection of the One who holds the sword, no matter what He may say.

Always be humble enough to hear other men’s views on what those inspired pages say but wise enough to honestly sift them through the whole of Scripture to see if they are in keeping with the Word – not necessarily in keeping with what you have always understood the Word to say.

Jump into your Bible today! Expect BIG THINGS!

Haven’t heard about the Bible Challenge? Here it is in a nutshell… It’s an awesome addiction.

~Shannon

But then Jesus…

Thought I’d share some encouragement from my Bible Challenge notes a few weeks ago.

Do you know despair? Do you know shame? Do you know regret? Do you know what it’s like to say, “God, I did what you asked! I begged you for help! Why didn’t you show up?!! It all could have been so different!!”

If you are in that place right now, this is for you. Keep on keeping on.

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The stench of the death of your hopes and dreams dying away is not a forever aroma. Don’t keep facing what you thought were your perfect ideas, struggling to breathe in the midst of the smoke of what God asks you to leave on the altar smoldering as an offering to him. Turn away and face Jesus again. There’s going to be more to your story. Trust him with the grave of all you hold dear. He is worthy… and He is still at work.

You already know this story, but read it again before I tell you how it hit me.

John 11:37-46

“And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave cloths: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. ”

Think about that. All the people there along with Mary and Martha were believers in the fact that Jesus was a miracle worker. Of course He could maintain things and keep things going that were already good. No one disputed that Lazarus wouldn’t have died had Jesus come. Healing would have been certain if Jesus had been there. But surely even he could do nothing after a body has been buried and decomposing for a couple of days. All that could be done now is to give up and wait for that final promise and rest in that…. but as for now, things could ever be good again. Never.

I’ve felt that way so many times. I’m sure you have too. Many of you feeling it at a far deeper level than I have had to so far. When it would seem that all is lost and nothing is left but death and despair. Nothing but pain and heartache. Messy, fetal position on the bathroom floor, kind of pain.

But then Jesus

Jesus reminds Mary, Martha, and all those present that he holds the key to resurrection. No restraints. Nothing  is out of his capabilities… Never give up, just refocus. Not only can the situation still change even after all is lost according to all human reasoning, but if Jesus chooses to call life out it will be bigger, better, and more powerful than before.

Lazarus came out with all the evidence still attached of his previous circumstance. He didn’t walk out all cleaned up and in a new suit. He walked out of that tomb with evidence of the mess he was just in. Everyone knew what his state had been… then the focus was on the amazing thing Jesus did with his mess… not how Lazarus pulled up his bootstraps and got his act together and cleaned up the grave and got himself out of there looking better than before without anyone realizing how bad it really was. And Lazarus wasn’t the only one benefiting from how Jesus worked.  All eyes were on the proceedings and many were changed from the one life Jesus allowed to be taken and buried. What a glorious witness of what Jesus is capable of! When all human hope is gone, never give up hope!

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Many times things are just hard and life gets messy and stinky. We bury all the hard things and call them done deals. It’s over. There’s nothing anyone can do with decomposition and stench and lack of oxygen and blood for 4 days! And usually they stay buried and decomposing. But God gave us just enough examples of miracles throughout Scripture that He chose to perform that it makes me say, “Yeah, this looks super hopeless… but what about Lazarus? What if I wait patiently for God to show up and He calls life back into this tomorrow?! What if my situation is the next ‘lazarus’?” ……. It kind of makes me want to charge hell with a squirt gun!

Bring. It. On.

So you’re in a mess right now? Sin and stench, brokenness and strife is all your story right now??? What if God is just waiting 4 days before amazing everyone? If there is any hope given to the broken hearted and ungodly in Scripture, it is Lazarus’ resurrection. Somebody say THANK YOU JESUS!!!

We can ask in the midst of the hardship, how can this possibly bring glory to God? How can grave clothes and embalming, tombs and weeping possibly be the best choice to bring God glory??? But doesn’t Lazarus’ grave clothes and stink from death make the end result so much more glorious?! Can there be any doubt that this was a far more powerful story than the simple healing of a sick man?!

Wait patiently, friend…. God is still at work. All hope is not lost. He is good. He is worthy.

~Shannon