The Man in the Mirror


I’ve always really liked the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. I guess you could say it is my theme song for my oldest son, Ryan. We have spent many summer evenings driving in the car with the sunroof open, windows down and wind blowing as we sang along to the classic by the King of Pop. It’s one of our favorites so whenever it comes on the radio I think of Ryan and smile. He and I went to South Africa on our first mission trip together when he was just 12 years old. It was a great trip and we met many amazing people. He experienced something extraordinary that had a great impact on his young life. But it was two years ago when we returned to Africa that changed him in a way I could never have imagined. We went to Kenya, again as members of a mission team, to minister to children living at an orphanage near Nairobi. We also visited Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums where we spent time with children who lived there. Afterwards we took a walking tour through Kibera and witnessed the most deplorable and shocking living conditions anyone could imagine. Ryan captured the experience on film and the images are some of the most disturbing yet oddly beautiful pictures he’s ever taken.

Tomorrow Ryan will graduate from high school. While he has been an exceptional student and has made many friends in school, he is not your typical teenager. It was the final day in Kenya and we returned to the orphanage to say goodbye to the children we had spent the prior week with when we held a vacation bible school for them. We knew it would be difficult saying goodbye because we had grown so close to them in such a short time and many of them were very attached to certain members of the team. There was one little girl in particular who had not left Ryan’s side the entire week. Her name was Grace. It was obvious that Grace was not as strong as the other kids and we assumed it was due to some health problems. But when we went back to say goodbye we were told exactly what was wrong with her. Grace had a severe heart condition and was not expected to live much longer. Ryan was devastated. In a short time he had come to love this little girl and was saddened to know that her life would be so short-lived. In the moments he took to say his goodbye to Grace, I stood nearby and saw my 16 year old son become a man. I watched him hug this small child, place his hand upon her head as he prayed for her, then shed tears as she gave him the only thing of value she owned – a black and white bracelet made of string. In an instance my son went from a privileged boy living in a country blessed with an abundance of wealth, to a young man who would never receive anything more valuable than the gift from a small child in one of the most impoverished areas in the world. His life would never be the same. In an instance he understood what truly mattered in life.

This morning as I stood behind my son as he did a final check of himself in the mirror before heading off to graduation practice, I saw the man in the mirror who God created to make a change in this world. A man who dares to boldly follow Jesus in a world that tempts him and pulls him from every dark corner. A man who has chosen to listen to His Father in heaven instead of the thousands of negative influences he has faced over the years. A man who many said “you just wait until he becomes a teenager” assuming that like many his age, he would end up compromising his faith yet has remained faithful and steadfast in his walk with Christ. A man whose gift of compassion has drawn the hopeless to him for encouragement and hope, and made him a true friend to friendless. A man whose commitment to his church and pastors has made him a reliable and dedicated servant and  leader. A man who has lead by example to those who have looked up to him. A man who has been a light in the darkness of all that surrounds our children today. A man who has been asked many times “why are you always so happy?” because he is filled with the joy of the Lord. A man who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around him. A man who has been the most protective and loving brother anyone could hope for. A man who has been an incredible son and makes us feel honored to be his parents. A man who will some day make an amazing husband and father. A man whose future is filled with endless possibility and whose life God has destined for greatness. A man who will make the world a better place.

Thank you God for the privilege of being Ryan’s mother. Thank you for your grace and protection over his life. Thank you to our friends and family who have covered him with their prayers over the years. Thank you to all those who have influenced his life by being an example of what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ. Thank you to the Godly men who have demonstrated to him how to honor God with his life. Thank you to his pastors and leaders who have led him to become the man of God he is today.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives that we know love our children and have stood with us in prayer for them. There is no greater gift as a parent than knowing your child knows and loves Jesus. But the second greatest gift is having friends who know and love Jesus and love your child as their own. It takes us as parents laying spiritual foundations, an abundance of God’s grace and a loving spiritual family to do this parenting thing right and we are blessed to have all three. Thank you to all who have played a part in raising our Ryan. We can say with great confidence “Mission Accomplished”.

All You’re Ever Gonna Be Is Mean


When I think of mean, I think of the Grinch (among others).  And I’m sure if I were to take a poll most people would say there is someone in their life, whether it be a family member, a boss, a co-worker or a neighbor who they think will never change and will always be a mean person no matter what. Taylor Swift even wrote a song describing her mean person as “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me. You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing. All you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?” Unfortunately there are those who may be in your life who will never change. You may pray for them and try everything you can think of to win them over with kindness but they are unwilling or unable to change. As a Christian, does there ever come a time when you should walk away from a key relationship in your life or are we expected to just keep forgiving and praying no matter how bad it gets?

This is undoubtedly a difficult situation with no real easy answer. But I do believe there are certain circumstances that calls for us to step away from unhealthy relationships and before restoration of that relationship can take place, there must be defined boundaries in place. I have experienced this in my own family where a particular situation became so unhealthy and the person’s behavior so over the line, that the only solution was to completely cut off any and all contact with the individual. This was an extremely difficult decision because as Christians we are called to forgive and to walk in grace. But we are not called to be emotionally abused, controlled or manipulated by others. There are times when enough is enough.

Sometimes no matter how much you forgive, how much you pray, how much you encourage, how much you share your faith and God’s power to transform lives – some people just aren’t going to change and that’s hard to accept, especially when you believe in the God of miracles who can change anything or anybody. But the person has to be a willing participant for God to change them and that is not always the case. And when this happens, we need to guard our own hearts and protect our own emotions and remove, at least for a time, toxic relationships from our lives. In most cases it doesn’t have to be forever because it may be the very thing that makes the person realize they cannot continue their behavior without consequences so they may be motivated to change.

But unfortunately, I can’t promise you that the person you have to walk away from will ever change. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. And I can’t give you scripture that specifically says it’s ok to walk away instead of continuing to forgive no matter how mean they are. I can show you scripture where one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times they were to forgive others who continued to sin against them and Jesus answered seventy times seven, basically meaning as many as it takes. (Matt. 18:21-22). I can show you scripture where Jesus told his disciples that if they did not forgive those who sinned against them then their Father in heaven would not forgive them (Matt. 6:15). Jesus even told them “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also” (Luke 6:29). So, is there ever justification to remove friends or family from your life when they treat you badly? There is an instance where Jesus was sending His disciples out to share the gospel and He told them “if anyone does not welcome you, shake the dust from your feet (Matt. 10:14). There are those people who are determined to not follow Christ, but instead they choose to continue in a perpetual cycle of sin. I believe when we encounter these people in our lives, God is saying to us that it may be necessary to move on when they are unwilling to listen because they are imprisoned to their sin.

When people are held hostage by sin, many times they take it out on others. It doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong to deserve to be the target of their harsh words and actions. It simply means that they will lash out at anyone whose life reveals the darkness that is present in their own life. I don’t believe that God intends for us to be a target of people’s anger and outbursts simply because they are miserable in their own lives. I don’t believe He expects us to continue in familial relationships that are poisonous to our lives and our children’s lives. I do believe we are expected to forgive but I don’t believe that forgiving always means allowing others to mistreat you. There are examples in the bible where Jesus did have a righteous and justified anger toward the behavior of others (Matt. 21:12, Matt. 23). But in His anger He never sinned. If you are in a situation where you have a family member or close friend who continually crosses the line of respectful and acceptable behavior toward you and you have forgiven or overlooked the behavior to the point that you have decided the relationship has crossed over into an unhealthly situation, it may be time to disengage from regular contact with them. In my particular situation, after much prayer it was decided that we could not continue having contact with someone that was clearly in need of help. Years of unresolved anger, rejection, bitterness and unforgiveness had left her depressed and feeling out of control. Her response was to attempt to control and manipulate those closest to her. The ensuing result took its toll on our family and brought strife into our home. After forgiving and attempting everything we could think of to bring about a change in the relational dynamic, the line was crossed and the relationship had to be severed.

We had no set time period in mind for how long this would last but we entered into that decision knowing our intention was a temporary severance of contact. We began to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to show us when the door could be opened to begin restoration. That time was a week ago and we reached out to make the first step toward reconciliation. But before the door was opened we sat down and discussed boundaries. We knew we could never go back to the way things were. If there was going to be reconciliation it was going to have to occur within healthy, well-defined boundaries. After years of dealing with this relationship we knew what the problem was. After years of following Jesus and studying His words we could recognize the symptoms that caused our family member to act the way she did. But just because we had identified the problem and the reason behind it didn’t mean the problem was fixed. We now have to begin the process of healing years of verbal attacks, manipulation of emotions and attempts at controlling that created mistrust and distance. I can’t promise the outcome will be favorable, that is up to her. I do know Jesus loves her and desires desperately for her to relinquish control of her life into His healing and comforting arms. He is the peace she so desperately seeks and our hope is that this time around our lives may reveal Him in a way she’s never seen before. Time will tell but for now we have hope that all she’s ever gonna be in the future is redeemed, forgiven, loved and restored into right standing with God.

He Did It! ……No, He Did It!


If you’ve spent any time around children you’ve heard this line. It starts with a broken lamp, a crayon-inspired work of art on the bedroom wall or a knock on the door from the neighbor who has come to report someone ran through her flowers and trampled every one of her precious tulips. The “event” is usually followed by that look from mom that strikes fear in any and all children within it’s range and almost simultaneously the arms go up, the fingers point and the first terrified little voice shouts the accusation, “he did it!” followed by “nuh uhn! he did it.” What is it that is in us from a very young age that causes us to want to place blame elsewhere?

There is no doubt that we are all born with an unwillingness, or at very least, a reluctance to take responsibility when we are at fault. Even in the garden of Eden Eve blamed the serpant and Adam blamed Eve. For most of us our knee jerk reaction when faced with accusation is to point the finger at someone or something that made us choose to do wrong. Who hasn’t uttered the words “the devil made me do it”? Recent news stories filled with finger pointing, transferring the blame and complete unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their actions has me thinking – why are we so unwilling to humbly say “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”?

Due to ridiculously large sums of money awarded in court cases and a culture that glorifies and sensationalizes bad behavior, we live in a time when even those caught red-handed claim innocence by some reason or another or they label themselves a victim of a grand scheme by others to bring them down. We celebrate those who continue to break the law and offend and disrespect everyone on the planet yet never utter the words “I’m sorry.” (think Linsay Lohan, Kanye West, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, need I go on?) No matter how obvious it is where the blame lies, everyone seems to make choices with no thought toward consequences because they’ve learned to defer responsibility onto someone or something else. Most mornings I hear a news story on TV that begins with “Who’s to blame for _______?” (fill in the blank….high gas prices, growing unemployment rates, high levels of obesity in America, increases in government spending, etc.). I think one of the most unbelievable examples I’ve seen recently is a group of college students who sued their college because they couldn’t find a job upon graduation. Nine graduates of a New York law school filed a $225 million dollar lawsuit on the basis that the school they attended should have anticipated the current recession. No seriously, they did. Fortunately a judge dismissed the case stating that “although we all sympathize with those who are having difficulty finding work, their anger and angst are misdirected.” Other lawyers unsympathetic to the new graduates said “The people who are applying to law schools are highly educated, they know how to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.” And the fear of litigation has caused many doctors, hospitals, school systems and companies to put in place preposterous policies to protect themselves. Extreme insurance costs have driven many small companies out of business and as consumers we pay the price through sky high insurance rates resulting from frivolous lawsuits. But all of that doesn’t seem to stop the mentality of “deny all, admit nothing and blame somebody else” which is prevalent in today’s society.

So again, why such an unwillingness to admit fault? I think the answer is really not  as difficult as it may at first seem. We are sinners, sinners who are filled with pride.  Pride is one of the most common things the devil uses to entice us into sin because pride is the opposite of the humility that, when present in our lives, points others to Jesus. Pride wants to take credit for favorable outcomes and place blame on others for the unfavorable ones. Pride blinds us to the reality of our situation by obscuring the truth. It causes us to overestimate our own righteousness and self worth which prevents us from repenting. Pride causes us to rationalize and justify our own wrong behavior. Pride masks our selfish attitudes which causes us to come to the conclusion “I don’t deserve punishment because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Pride has kept many from accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior because to admit our sins and acknowledge that in our own strength we can do nothing to receive eternal life requires humility and a reliance on someone other than ourselves. In his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said, There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves.” We are all guilty of the sin of pride yet our pride keeps us from wanting to admit it.

I’ve thought too as to why the blame game bothers me so much beyond the obvious frustration we all experience when we see people pointing fingers when they have absolutely no basis for doing so. One reason is that I’m guilty of it and even though I repent I still sometimes find myself falling into the trap of blaming others instead of taking responsibility myself. But the reason that stirs a righteous anger within me is that there was never a more appropriate and justified moment in the history of our world for someone to point the finger and to say “they did it” as when God sent Jesus to die for our sins. He had every right to say “But I didn’t do anything wrong, why do I have to take the punishment?” Instead he chose to receive the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He took the blame for every wrong that we’ve ever done. He endured the beating and excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross when it should have been us. He took our place when He said “I am he” as the guards approached him while searching for the one they had already presumed guilty. He willingly gave His life for ours so that we don’t have to die an eternal death as penalty for our sins. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect one. My prayer for myself is that the next time I’m tempted to join in the blame game I will remember the humility of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He selflessly took the blame on my behalf and I will say, with a humble spirit, “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”.

A Few Too Many Hats


The Kentucky Derby is known in the sports world as “the fastest two minutes in sports”.  Many also call it “The Run for the Roses” after the blanket of roses that is draped over the winning horse. But when I think of the Kentucky Derby I think HATS! Not just any old hats but elaborately adorned, lavishly ornate, ridiculously large, extravagantly outlandish, over-the-top hats. Many women go so far as to have a hat specifically designed for them to ensure their hat will be a one of a kind. Some day I would love to attend the Derby and wear an incredibly large hat just for fun.

Most women I know have many hats – the mommy hat, the wife hat, the friend hat, the volunteer hat, the employee hat, the sister hat, the caretaker hat, the daughter hat, the student hat and the leader hat. They may have one of these hats, all of them, or some combination of hats they wear in their every day lives. Each day we don our many hats in our attempt to be everything to everybody. We place unobtainable expectations on ourselves that we have to juggle all the roles the hats represent and there is no room for mistakes or weakness. The entire juggling act leaves us feeling overwhelmed and on the inside we’re screaming “I can’t take it anymore!!”. But some how most of the time we end up managing the vast array of hats we’ve accumulated and by the grace of God we pull it together just prior to a meltdown, check the mirror to make sure we’re sporting the right hat at the right time, then go about our day as if we’ve never missed a beat.

There are times though that we cannot seem to keep it together. The hat juggling act is just too much and we drop the ball in one area or another.  So many women today live with the burden of feeling as if they’ve failed when they can’t seem to manage it all. For many this leads to depression, exhaustion, insecurity, stress, addiction and other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating. The pressure for women to do it all is astounding and the truth is you can do it all – but in doing so something is going to suffer. There will be some area of your life that will pay the price for your attempt to do it all and be it all. Most of that time that area is the one that we give the least attention to – ourselves.

I spent many years working in Corporate America trying to balance a stressful job with being a wife, mom, volunteer, daughter and friend. The toll it took on my children, my marriage and myself was never worth the tradeoff of a big paycheck, big house and big vacations. I was a people pleaser who never said no until I found myself spiraling out of control. I reached an explosive point in my life where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying to do it all on my own and it just wasn’t working. It was during that time that out of His incredible love for me, God pursued me until I relented. I gave my life to Christ and surrendered it all to Him. I quit trying to run my life and made the decision once and for all to hand it over to God. An inexplicable amount of weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt a peace I had never felt before. I felt like a high school graduate tossing all my hats into the air. I learned during that season of my life that when God says His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He isn’t kidding (Matt. 11:30). We are not meant to do it all on our own. God stands at the door knocking with the solution to the craziness of our lives. All we have to do is open the door.

The more I put God first in my life the easier I found it to juggle all the hats I still had in my closet. My roles didn’t change but my ability to manage them with peace and joy did. There were and still are many stressful moments trying to keep it all going at once but what I learned over time is that God will give me the grace to wear any and all hats He has given to me to wear. Where I run into trouble is when I try wearing hats that were never intended for me in the first place. When I begin to get that sense of being overwhelmed and things are beginning to spin a little too out of control I have to check the mirror and see what hat I’m wearing and if it belongs to me.

Sometimes I find myself in a hat that looks good on but it just doesn’t feel right. This is when I’ve said yes to something that I didn’t take the time to pray about first. It may be a good thing but sometimes we have to say no to good things simply because it would be too much for us or it’s not the right time. Usually when I’m wearing this hat it means I fell back into people pleasing mode and eagerly raised my hand when asked if there was anyone who wanted to help before I considered if I had the time or how it would affect my other responsibilities.

Then there’s the hat I put on thinking it’s mine but it really belongs to someone else. This tends to happen when I hang on to something for too long instead of enabling someone else to rise up into the role I need to lay down. Out of insecurity we cling to roles many times that we are supposed to hand over to someone else so that they may have the opportunity and blessing of wearing that hat for a season. Some of our hats are simply on loan and when it’s time to give them up we need to do so without delay.

Other hats don’t even look good on but we look in the mirror and think it looks great. I find myself in these hats when I’ve attempted to step into a role that I’m not skilled or gifted for. And as I reflect now on why I put those hats on in the first place it’s usually because I wanted to be like someone else who wears that same hat. Out of admiration or worse, envy, I grab a hat and throw it on and tell myself it looks good while usally making a spectacle of myself for sporting a hat that clearing I have no business wearing. I remember a time when I told a lady I hardly knew that I would babysit her children for her while she attended evening classes. I wanted to be that person that could help someone in need but in trying to be a heroine, I forgot that I’m not very good with multiple small children all in my care at the same time. It was not fun for me or the kids and only added stress to the mom. That was one time that I was grateful for a dear friend who was willing to tell me that although I thought the hat looked good on me, it didn’t and I just needed to get it off my head and save face while there was still time.

Just because a hat is available to be worn it doesn’t mean that you are the one who’s meant to wear it. If it looks good but doesn’t feel right, it’s on loan to you and now it’s starting to not fit right or if it looks pretty ridiculous on because it’s not your kind of hat maybe it’s time to clean out the closet and get rid of some of them. Remember, God will give you the grace to wear any hat that He’s given to you to wear. But if it’s not from God, it wasn’t your hat in the first place and it’s time to take it off. It’s never easy as a woman juggling all our hats but it’s impossible when you have a few too many hats to juggle. You may have a lot of hats you have to wear but none will ever be as important as the crown that marks you as a daughter of the King. Start each day putting on the first hat God ever gave you, the crown of a princess then let Him decide which other hats you’re meant to wear. You’ll never go wrong when you entrust your hat collection to God.

Sticks and Stones


Just the title alone conjures up memories for many of us. I remember my parents telling me when I was very young and someone had said something cruel to me that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Even now I can picture myself reciting it to the person with a sassiness that let them know I didn’t care what they said to me – it was just gonna roll right off my back and have no effect any more. But the truth of the matter was, it did still hurt. I didn’t realize until many, many years later how much an impact not just those words, but all of the negative and hurtful words that had been spoken over me had shaped who I was.

There is power in our words – power to speak life into someone by encouraging them and building them up or power to speak death when we criticize and tear down. As I think back over my own life and especially in the beginning years of my marriage, words have played a huge role in determining the direction of my life. Early in life hurtful and discouraging words caused self doubt and insecurity in me. The words that others spoke to me were played over and over in my thoughts until they were no longer just words to me, they became truths that I believed about myself. It didn’t matter if they were true or not, they wielded the power to change my thoughts about myself which in turn affected my actions. I allowed those words to consume my thoughts. I was beaten down and defeated simply by the words that I had given power to. And in turn I used words to tear down and hurt everyone around me.

The bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that life and death are in the power of the tongue. And the Message version says it like this “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” God’s Word makes it very clear. Words are extremely powerful. They have the ability to completely transform how people see themselves, how they react to you, how they respond in a situation and how they treat others.

Think of the impact that these words have had in the history of our country:

“President Kennedy has been shot”.

“A second plane has hit the building.”

“I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

“Challenger, go with throttle up.”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!”

Most of us see those words and know exactly where we were when we first heard them. We can remember the emotion we felt and how those words changed the world we live in.

Now think about the words that are personal to just you. The words that someone may have said to you years ago that you still remember exactly how you felt the moment they were spoken. Words of criticism, words of judgement, words of gossip or hate. Words that had the power to destroy.  Words that may have shaken your confidence, caused deep, unhealed wounds or even changed the course of your life.

“You’re fired.”

“I hate you.”

“You can’t do anything right.”

“I want a divorce.”

“You didn’t make the team.”

“Why are your ears so big?! You look like Dumbo!”

You may be someone that words have torn you down and caused you to doubt yourself. But just as there are words that can cause damage, there are words that can repair and build you back up. Later in my life when I began to follow Jesus and study the Word, I began to understand how words spoken over me may have affected me in very negative ways. But I also learned that what God’s Word says about me is truth. And that when I began to play those negative words in my mind, I needed to stop and begin to play the words of affirmation my Father in heaven has spoken over me. When I found myself replaying damaging words that had been spoken to me, I began to pray and ask God to renew my mind. I quit being defined by what others said I was and began to believe the words that described who I really was – child of God, forgiven, highly favored, an overcomer, blessed, chosen, accepted and loved.  And just like when I was younger, when I thought about these words they had the power to change my thoughts about myself which in turn affected my actions. I allowed God’s words to consume my thoughts.  I was built up, reaffirmed and confident simply by the words that I had given power to.

Although words have power, we have the control over what words we speak to others and how we respond to the words that they speak to us. We must choose our words wisely. I recently challenged my friends on Facebook to join me as I made every effort to use my mouth to build up, not tear down, to bless and not to curse and to not judge, gossip, criticize or give my opinion when I hadn’t been asked to. The response was remarkable. People want to be positive with their words but they are also extrememly aware of how difficult it is to refrain from speaking negatively. It has become so prevalent in our world that it takes great effort to keep our words and our thoughts upbeat and encouraging. The best way to ensure this is by spending time each day reading God’s word. God instructs us to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. To think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8). And when our hearts and minds are transformed by our thoughts the bible says “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34). We will use our words to bring healing and nourishment to the broken and thirsty souls we encounter. The words we speak will have the power to encourage, build up, cheer up and inspire others. Think about the impact each of these simple words have on you when someone you love says them to you:

“Please forgive me.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“Can I help?”

“I believe in you.”

“Don’t give up.”

“I love you.”

So each day think about the words you are using – are you speaking life into others or do your words speak death? What are the words that consume your thoughts – are they words that build up or words that tear down? If the words your thoughts are fixed on are causing damage ask God to renew your mind and remember who you are in Christ.  And if words have been used to bring you down and you feel defeated, think of the greatest words ever spoken: “He is not here; He has risen!” (Matt. 28:6). You have a Lord and Savior who is alive and right by your side whispering words of love and affirmation to you. Let His words be the ones that define who you are.

Sky Diving and Rocky Mountain Climbing


Several years ago Tim McGraw released a song called “Live Like You Were Dying” from his album by the same name. The song reached number one on the charts and earned McGraw a Grammy.  The message of the song was simple – live each day as if it were your last. Do the things that you always wanted to do, make amends with anyone you still hold a grudge against, show love to those who you hold most dear, and spend more time with God. Each of these suggestions are definitely things we all should be doing whether we are dying or not. But what if, instead of living like we’re dying, we chose to simply live like we really believed that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just die for our sins, He overcame the power of sin in our life?

Many people today say they believe in God and they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. But the worry, fear, doubt and perpetual cycle of  sin in their life says they believe something very different. Still others are filled with guilt and condemnation because they don’t believe they are good enough for God to love them even though they have received the gift of salvation. The problem for both is that they haven’t reached a point of understanding the full extent of what Jesus did the day He died on the cross. They believe He died for their sins, which is vital for salvation. They also believe that all their past sins have been forgiven. But what they fail to understand is that when Jesus died on the cross, He not only died for all of their sins, He overcame sin.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we know it is not up to us pay the price for our sins. The price has already been paid and it only needed to be paid once. There is no need for anyone to keep paying the price. It is finished. When we accept God’s forgiveness of sin, it is erased from our life along with the power it has over us. We are set free from the bondage of sin and the power it weilds over us. But for many, they live their life as if sin still reigns over them. They walk down the aisle of the church to the altar, respond to the gospel and receive the forgiveness for their past sins. Then they attempt in their own strength to make changes in how they act so they won’t sin anymore. At that point they are simply practicing behavior modification when they should instead be surrendering their lives to Christ and trusting in His power to overcome sin in their life. Once we are saved, we are never separated from God. But those still trapped by the guilt and condemnation of past sin feel the separation that sin causes and for this reason many end up turning away from the church. They believe that as long as they behave a certain way they will be close to God but when they don’t behave “right” they feel as if they are separated from God, even though that’s not true. They believe God and other believers will no longer accept them because they have failed. They wrongly believe that they are the only ones who have done anything wrong and that everybody else has it all together so they choose to isolate themselves. And it’s in their isolation they become an easy target for the enemy. The message of the gospel is not about doing all the right things and being a good person so God will accept us. It is accepting God’s promise that we are forgiven once and for all and trusting in Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to change our sinful nature and transform us into His image.

However, knowing our sins are forgiven – past, present and future – does not give us free reign to go sin because we won’t have to pay the price for that sin. What it does do is give us confidence in knowing that no sin – past, present or future – has any power over us. We are free from the control that sin once had in our life and from the guilt and condemnation it made us feel. We do not have to live in fear that we will disappoint God. In His eyes, we are white as snow because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. We do not have to isolate ourselves when we do fall short because there is nothing that can separate us from God once we are born again. We do not have to feel the pressure to be a “perfect” Christian because we accept that we are sinful by nature and know we will be forgiven when we repent and turn from our sins – past, present and future. We don’t have to perform for God to love us, but out of our love for Him we choose a life of obedience to His commands. We do not have to fear death and eternal separation from our Father because the Word promises that through our salvation we will spend eternity with Him in heaven. We don’t have to live like a prisoner bound by the power of sin because we are free through the power of God. Tim McGraw sang we should live like we’re dying but I say it’s much better to live like Jesus lived, glorifying the Father by living victoriously over sin. How much better would our lives be if we all lived like we really believed that Jesus not only died for our sin, He overcame it!

Fear of Commitment


When I hear the term “fear of commitment” I immediately think of a runaway bride. Others may think of a stereotypical ladies man who is afraid to commit to a relationship. But I want to share my thoughts on another fear of commitment I see in our culture today. Let me begin with the many worthwhile things that we regularly commit to. Some people are committed to their workout routine. They faithfully show up to the gym each day to ensure they fit their workout in before they begin the rigors of their busy day. This is a worthy choice because those who are committed to a healthy lifestyle are typically more concious of the foods they eat and are in overall better health than the occasional exerciser. Then there are those who are committed to their favorite TV shows. I admittedly fall into this category (don’t judge). Their DVR is set up and ready to record with the priority order set. Their personal plans revolve around their TV viewing routine. They will turn down offers to join friends for other events if it means they would miss an episode of their show. They even plan parties for season finales complete with a theme, food and decorations. There are also those who are committed to their children’s athletic activities. They sign their children up for a different sport each season and endure a grueling schedule of practices and early Saturday morning games all in the name of commitment. And under the same category of sports enthusiasts are those committed to their favorite team. They (we) clear their schedules to make sure they’re parked in front of the TV whenever their team (Jacksonville Jaguars) is playing a game that will air on national TV. And if they happen to live in city that is home to a college or professional team, they are sure to have season tickets and game day is an all day event of pre-game festivities and post-game celebration after a big win.

But there’s a different kind of commitment that is lacking in people’s lives today. Many people today find it very easy to commit to workouts, TV shows, sporting events and teams but can’t seem to commit to faithfully following God. Many easily find time in their schedules to ensure they never miss a day at the gym or a moment of their TV show but can’t find the time to attend a bible study or to show up to church on Sunday. Others are commited to ensuring they have much deserved time for themselves and what they want to do, but they can’t find any time in their day to spend a moment talking with God through prayer. Still others show up to the weekly pick up game with the guys or the Bunko game with the girls but for some reason have no room to fit some bible reading or prayer into their busy day. And even if you remove the Christian faith from the equation, there are many non-believers today who are more committed to their career, their hobby, their “cause” they support, or pretty much anything more than they are committed to their own marriage or family. We live in a world that will enthusiastically dedicate their time and energy to almost anything but fears committing to the very things that deserve their devotion.

But then it happens. There comes a moment in our lives when we need God. It may be a financial or health crisis. Or our marriage may be headed toward divorce and suddenly our priorities completely change. We begin to pray for God to move in our situation and make everything better. We cry out for God to heal our disease or restore our marriage. And while it’s a good thing for us to seek God in our times of need, He must be a priortiy in our lives during both good times and bad. We want God during those times when we need Him to move upon our situation but many are unwilling for Him to permantly move into their lives. Many times we run to God when we want Him to fix our problem but once it’s over we return to our own ways of doing things because it’s too hard to be committed to surrending our lives and completely trusting that God knows what is best for us. We want God to come into our lives like a fairy godmother and wave a magic wand to make everything better. We want Him to fix everything without any long term commitment on our part. It is during our times of desperation that God becomes our priority. But many times the commitment ends when the crisis is over.

As Christians we have become lazy in our faith, unwilling to put in the time and obedience that is required of us in order to experience victory this side of heaven. We agree that Jesus died on the cross for our sins – and because we believe, He is our Savior. But for Him to be Lord of our lives, we are required to submit our lives to God and obey His commands. To be a disciple of Christ requires commitment on our part. And commitment like that isn’t easy. It requires a lifestyle change. It means we have to rethink our priorities and make adjustments where our commitments are concerned. We need to be less committed to the things of this world – even the good things like exercise, children’s activities and entertainment – and be more committed to the things that have eternal value like connecting to spiritual family through the local church, reaching the lost, obedience to God’s word, devotion to our marriages, giving of our time and resources and our own spiritual growth.

Maybe it’s time to do a personal evaluation to see how you spend your time. What are you faithfully committed to? Do you rarely miss a day at the gym but consistently have excuses for why you can’t make it to the bible study you signed up for? Do you religiously attend every one of your child’s sporting events but regularly miss Sunday church services? Do you take pride in the fact that you’ve seen every episode of your favorite TV show without fail but you can’t seem to find time in your busy schedule to pray or read your bible. It’s time for Christians to get over our fear of commitment to our faith. It’s time we reevaluate how we spend our time and understand that for real transformation to take place in our marriages, our finances and our lives it’s going to take real commitment on our part – commitment to lay down our lives to the One who laid down His life for us. Once you experience the love of Christ and the indescribable peace and joy that comes from being a committed follower of Christ, you’ll never be the same. So why wait, it’s time to fearlessly commit to the One who committed His life to you. And when you do – you’ll never be the same, that’s a promise.