Filtered


thR6RG5FG5Have you noticed how everything, and I mean everything, is filtered these days? Rarely do we take a picture any more without adding a filter to make it look better. And if I ever saw a celebrity in person I’d probably not recognize them because they’re all photo-shopped in the pictures I see of them.

So it makes me wonder, why we feel the need to filter our lives? Why do we want to try to improve on what God created us to be? Why do we need to change the appearance of our original selves? Are we really that unhappy with who we are? Don’t get wrong. I’m certainly not judging or saying I never use filters. You will not see a picture of me that doesn’t have a black & white filter! So, I am guilty of doing it too.

But back to my thought. People struggle with letting their real selves be seen and heard. People even filter what they say instead of just saying what they mean. Why is that?! I have some thoughts on why we feel the need to filter.

One reason is that we are fearful. We don’t want to say what we’re really feeling or show our real selves because we fear we will be rejected. I believe this is the greatest fear people face today. We are so afraid to show who we really are because we think people won’t accept the real us. That if they knew the truth about who we really are (our thoughts, feelings, struggles), then they would judge us and want nothing to do with us. So we use a filter.

thPNRJ9V7OSam Smith even said it when he accepted his Grammy Award the other night – he said “Before I made this record I was doing everything to try and get my music heard,” Smith said. “I tried to lose weight and I was making awful music. It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen.” Wow, why did he feel such pressure to be someone he wasn’t? Was it fear of rejection? Insecurities? And look at the outcomes when he simply decided to be who he was. No filters.

Another reason is control. We get a false sense of being in control when we can hide our true self. We long to be our own boss of our lives. To surrender seems weak. But the truth is there is power in surrendering to God and allowing Him to be in control. There is safety and security in His arms. We let ourselves believe that we’re in control of situations when we keep our real selves hidden. We convince ourselves that people can’t hurt us or control us as long as we remain in control. We keep a wall up and never let them into the inner sanctuary of our hearts where our real feelings and thoughts live. But it’s all a façade. It may appear on the outside that we’re in control but inside it leaves us feeling completely out of control. It’s just another filter that hides what is real.

thVC85JMWZThe final reason we filter our lives is because we think that if we can be someone else, we will be happy. We think that if we can be the person we are pretending to be then our lives will be happy. We believe that if we hide our real self long enough that eventually all the hurts, wounds, insecurities and mistakes will just go away. We think that who we really are will just disappear and people will believe we’re really the person we’re pretending to be. We’re deceived into thinking that if we can just make our real self disappear then all our problems will disappear too.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross and to set us free from everything that makes us not want to be the real us. He never intended for us to feel the need to hide from who He created us to be. We are not a mistake that needs to be filtered because God doesn’t make mistakes. He loves us and accepts us. Without filters. He may be the only person you can trust will your real self but you CAN trust Him. He will never reject you if you let down your guard and trust Him to see the real you. He longs for you to share your true feelings and thoughts with Him. There is nothing about you that He doesn’t already know. So why not just open up and be free to share the real you. No filter. There is peace and joy that comes with being who you were created to be. We need to stop hiding behind a filter. It just may be distorting what God meant for the world to see.

Nobody Likes a Bad Ending


IMG_1951I recently read the book Gone Girl. I could not put the book down no matter how hard I tried. I was consumed with the fast paced drama and the unexpected twists and turns. It was a page turner like no other until the LAST FOUR PAGES! I finished the book and then just sat there in disbelief. How could a book so good end so bad? I don’t think I’ve ever been angry over how a book ended. Disappointed maybe, but angry? I was so mad I vowed never to watch the movie. Ever. It’s been weeks since I finished that book and I’m still not over it. Why? Because I don’t like a bad ending.

The truth is that I am not alone. Nobody likes bad endings – unresolved conflicts, unforgiveness in relationships, broken marriages, failed pregnancies, unhealed hurts, heartbreaks and unanswered questions. We don’t like any of it. We long for everything to be wrapped up nice and tidy with a bow on it. We want everything to end on high note but all too often things just don’t end the way we want them to. So why is it that bad endings seem to bother us so very much?

We were never meant to be comfortable with a bad ending. God created us to long for the happy ending. We were designed to be dissatisfied with the undesirable, the unfinished and the unhappy endings of our lives. We are wired to yearn for all to be right in the world. That’s why people cheer when the underdog wins. That’s why we love to see the guy get the girl at the end of the movie – the one that he didn’t stand a chance with. That’s why we cry when we read stories of redemption, forgiveness and restoration. That’s why ‘Unbroken’ is a box office smash at the movies right now. We want to see others and ourselves overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles we face in life. We crave the happy ending.

159764a32101a639cb65dd81b01fe02fSo what does this mean for those of us in the midst of struggles. Those whose happy ending is nowhere in sight? We are to put our trust in the One who is the author of happy endings. God did not create us to suffer. However, we are sinners living in a sin-filled world where suffering exists. But our endings do not have go according to the enemy’s plan. Our endings can go according to God’s plan when we put our trust in Him. Does that mean that everything will turn out A-ok? Sometimes. But sometimes it simply means that we can have peace even when it all doesn’t turn out according to our plan. So how can we have peace when we’re in the middle of a bad ending? When we have faith that we haven’t reached the end of our story yet.

I love this quote from Rick Warren: “Not everything in life has a happy ending. But this life is not the end of the story.” The peace we find in the middle of our bad ending is knowing that it’s not the end. No matter how our story in this life ends, it’s not the final ending to our story. As Christians going through impossible circumstances, that is the best news we can hear right now. Our story doesn’t end with whatever hand we are dealt this side of heaven. Our story ends when we are called home to be with our Lord and Savior. And friends, our story ends well.

You’re Not Entitled


thCCETYUECToday there seems to be an overbearing sense of entitlement in our country. Many people believe they are entitled to various things such as being treated a certain way, certain benefits and earnings or certain material items. Some even believe they are entitled to happiness. Many of those who have these expectations have put forth very little effort to earn the very things they believe they are entitled to.

Even those who don’t think they have this attitude can quickly find themselves harboring feelings of entitlement that they may be completely unaware of. Take my husband for example. There is a gentleman he works with that brings my husband a Dr. Pepper to work every day. Not some days, not occasionally, but every day. My husband never asked for him to bring the Dr. Pepper. He just did so because he noticed Dave would sometimes buy one from the vending machine and he began bringing one in for Dave because he’s a kind and thoughtful person. Dave looked forward to the drink every day and knew he could rely on his friend to bring him one.

Then one day his friend failed to bring him a Dr. Pepper. He had run out and hadn’t had a chance to go to the store. Dave confessed to me when he got home from work that he actually felt deprived that he didn’t get his daily dose of Dr. Pepper. Although his friend didn’t owe him the drink, had never asked if Dave  wanted the drink or forced it upon him but simply offered him the drink each day out of the goodness of his heart – Dave felt he was entitled to it. And when he didn’t get what he felt was owed to him, he felt disappointed.

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It happens sometimes without our even realizing it. We begin to believe we deserve more than we do. We take on the attitude that we are owed something. And most of the time it’s something we know we haven’t earned. We just want it and we want it now.

There is one thing and one thing only that we are entitled to. And ironically, it’s the one thing we deserve the least. We are entitled to the free gift of salvation. What we really deserve is the punishment Jesus Christ endured on the cross for us. But His love for us is incomparable. Instead of allowing us to receive what we deserve, He gave His life so that we can be forgiven and set free from the power that sin holds over our lives. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. And by doing so He ensured our entitlement to an eternity with Him in heaven if only we’ll  believe (Romans 10:9).

On this Memorial Day I want to share with you a wonderful saying I saw posted online. It said “Today I give thanks for the two defining forces who have offered to die for me and you – Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for our souls and the other died for our freedom.”

Please join me in giving thanks not only to those serving our country who sacrificed all but to the One who sacrificed to give you what He thinks you deserve.

The Cost of Forgiveness


Have you ever done something and people just look at you like you’re crazy as they shake their head in disbelief? They just cannot seem to comprehend your action or response to a situation because it’s so backwards from what most people would do. This happened to a friend of mine and I wanted to share her inspirational story. My friend, Andrea, experienced just how offensive the gospel can be to an unbeliever when her family went through a terrible tragedy.

Her family lived in Guam where her husband, John, was stationed. By her accounts the military families stationed on the small, Pacific island are a closeknit community. Everybody knows everybody. Early in 2011 John took their two children, along with their daughter’s best friend and next door neighbor Erynn, on a hike to nearby beautiful, rocky cliffs. Andrea was in the United States for some medical tests and to visit family and friends.

It was an early Sunday morning at 1:15 am, while still in the US, that Andrea received the call no one is ever prepared for. While her family and their neighbor were hiking, there was a rockslide. Heroically, her husband attempted to save his daughter’s best friend. But tragically the majority of the rocks fell onto Erynn. Her injuries were too severe. She did not survive. The unbelievable grief of the family and friends of this remarkable young girl was overwhelming. The small, closeknit community had lost one of their own – one who died much too young. One who had so many unfulfilled dreams and ambitions ahead of her. One who was a precious child of God. One whose parents had lost their daughter and were experiencing unspeakable grief. One whose family turned to their Heavenly Father for comfort and peace during this tragic time.

Although it was a horrible accident, Andrea’s husband was questioning if he could have done something differently that could have saved her life, something that would have prevented this whole nightmare. He fully expected Erynn’s parents, Gary and Kathy, to be angry, hurt, and to question him as to how he could have let this happen. He prepared to apologize and take full responsibility as he and his children sat in their home, right next door to the home of their dear friends who had just experienced the unthinkable.

While John tried to make sense of what had just happened, Erynn’s parents had gone to hospital where their precious child had been taken and where they were met with the confirming news that their daughter had died. Their next step was to go home to tell their other children. Friends and neighbors had begun to gather at their home. Two families. Two homes side by side. Both families trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After awhile Gary, Erynn’s father, got up and walked out of his home without saying a word to anyone gathered there. He headed next door to John and Andrea’s home. As neighbors and friends watched, they assumed Gary was going to confront John. After all, one father sat in his home with his daughter alive and safe while he had just lost his daughter.

John didn’t know what to expect when Gary approached him in his home. But to his disbelief, Gary hugged him and told him it was ok. He offered John forgiveness. Erynn’s father offered him an apology for the pain he was going through. There stood John still wearing the bloodstained shirt he had on as he carried Erynn from the accident scene. And her father hugged him and offered gratitude for John’s efforts to save Erynn’s life. Gary prayed for him to find peace in God’s comforting presence. The family who had just found out their daughter had died was offering comfort and forgiveness to the one who felt responsible for her death. John was awed by the love of Christ Gary modeled that night in response to a tragic event that will forever mark all their lives.

But what ensued in the days and weeks following the accident was far more shocking than the selfless actions of this Godly family during their darkest hours. As Andrea’s family continued to grieve with their neighbors, the rest of the community began to murmur. “How can the Haywards continue to spend time with the Mayers after what the Mayers have done to their family?” “Why did John save his own daughter and not theirs?” Why are the Mayers grieving? They didn’t lose a child.” John was hurting because he had been entrusted with something very precious that he was unable to protect when tragedy struck. John and Andrea needed the support and comfort of their community. But what they received was negative comments, rumors, people avoiding them in stores or staring. Both families were hurting but only one received acknowledgement of their pain.

Through the whole situation they learned that people want to be front and center when the drama first happens but once the dust settles and it’s time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding, they disappear. The relationships John and Andrea had been most intentional about building during their time in Guam were the first ones to let them down. There were families who selflessly stood by them the entire time. They were there to give to the Mayer family, not receive for themselves. But unfortunately, many turned their backs on them.

The second thing John and Andrea learned was that God must be first in your lives both individually and as a family. When your priority is to pour yourself into other people, serving, or involvment in the community, you’re priorities are out of order. With so many opportunities and so many needs, it is easy for God to come behind things we deem more important in the moment, even good things. God must be first, period.

And finally they learned how Sovereign our God is. God knew long before the accident that it would occur. And He set Christian leadership in place at the highest positions on the base who would have the wisdom and discernment to handle the aftermath and assist John in getting orders back to the United States to be near family and close friends. They learned that God’s grace is sufficient and His consuming love for us is abounding. They learned His love alone can comfort and heal our deepest hurts if we will allow it. They learned that a family who models the love of their Lord and Savior will offend those in darkness but will bring hope to those who believe all hope is gone. They learned what true forgiveness is and how to freely give and receive it. They learned that there is no one like our God and even in the midst of tragedy, He is good.

Forgiveness is rarely easy to give and many times there is a cost attached to it. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give forgiveness to us for our sins. What price are you willing to pay to give forgiveness to others – humility, embarrassment, loss of relationships of those who think you’re wrong for doing so?

The more important question you need to consider is this – what price are you willing to pay to hold on to unforgiveness? It will cost you more than you think.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 2 – You Must Perform Preventative Maintenance


remodelingThere’s that old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Well, that’s exactly what we learned from the whole remodeling experience. Owning a home is a big responsibility and we discovered that if your not really paying much attention and when you’re definitely not taking preventative steps in caring for your home, it’s going to cost you.

I am a bona fide procrastinator and when I see that something needs to be done, I can unfortunately find reasons to put it off. There’s always a to-do list for our lives, and for me house stuff tends to be low priority. But the problem with not performing regular maintenance and  fixing things when they first need repair instead of putting it off, is that it will usually end up costing more than if you’d just fixed it when you first noticed a problem. I learned through our bathroom remodel that many times there are things happening that you cannot see until it’s too late. Regular maintenance and checking on the condition of things in your home can ensure you don’t end up with unforeseen surprises that cause you to spend more than you had bargained for.

remodeling2The same holds true in our personal lives – both physically and spiritually. Most of know that if we take care of ourselves on a regular basis by eating right, exercising and routine visits to the doctor and dentist then we lower our chances of illness and disease while improving our overall health. Our spiritual lives require the same preventative care. But unfortunately many do not consider their spiritual lives an area of concern when it comes to regular, routine maintenance.

Many times we ignore our spiritual health much like I ignored the repair needs in our home. We rationalize that we’ll do more “some day”, when we have more time, when our circumstances improve, when we “clean up our act”. We plan to go to church when work’s not so busy, when the weather gets warmer, when school starts back for the kids, when things get better. The problem is that just like our health and our home repairs – things don’t magically get better and there’s never a good time. You have to start somewhere and you have to take responsibility for yourself. No one else can do it for you and ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have to do your part then trust God to do His part. The longer we ignore our spiritual life, the more damage is done. And like my home, there can be things going on that we’re not even aware of. We can have unforgiveness toward someone, issues with pride, wrong attitudes and thoughts or a lack of knowledge about something we’re doing that can cause harm and we can be completely unaware of the damage it’s causing to our spirit.

remodeling5So how do you perform preventative care of your spiritual life? The same way you do your physical health – with regular, routine visits with the Great Physician. You must spend time with God regularly through prayer and reading the bible so that He may reveal to you the areas in your life that need attention.  The Holy Spirit will convict you of the things you need to correct in your spiritual life and God will speak to you through His word to teach you how to improve your spiritual health. But you have to make it a priority.

remodeling3And you need people in your life who are trusted fellow believers who can point out the blind spots that you may miss or are unaware of. We need spiritual family – people who have gone before us and can help teach us how to follow Christ, not just on Sundays, but every day. The only way to ensure you maintain your spiritual health is to do regular maintenance. You must be purposeful and it must be a priority. Remember, there may be things occurring that you’re not even aware of and preventative care will keep you from a spiritual catastrophe that can happen when we ignore the need we have for God daily in our lives. Denying that fact could cost you more in the long run. Don’t learn that truth the hard way like I did with our home. Check your spiritual pulse today and make an appointment with God to ensure a healthy, peace-filled spiritual life.

The Monopoly Strategy


monopolyOne of the best gifts we bought our son for Christmas was the game Monopoly Millionaire. I grew up during the height of Monopoly’s popularity and remember playing for hours at my friend Donna’s house along with a group of friends from school. To see my son discover the same enjoyment I had when I played so many years ago has been so much fun for me. However, the bad part about playing with my family is that I shared my strategy for winning and now it’s not so easy to beat them. When I play my goal is to buy everything I land on. I spend every fake dollar I have to acquire the most property because I know that I can defeat them by taking from them each time they land on one of my properties, especially once I start building houses and hotels. They don’t stand a chance when I keep taking and taking from them what they hold on to so dearly. They wrongly believe that if they hold on to their money and I spend all of mine then they will win. They don’t realize that even though they may have money in the beginning, eventually I will take it all away from them.

monopoly2We live in a world today where so many people are simply taking from others. They believe they will “win” if they can aquire more and that they will defeat the hurts hidden inside of them by taking from and hurting others. For many their life strategy is “I’ll hurt you before you have the chance to hurt me.” They take trust, time and love from those closest to them and misuse it, abuse it and never give it back in return. They play the monopoly strategy until those who love and care for them have nothing left to give. The game never ends for them because once they’ve taken all they can from one person they just move on to someone else and continue the game. The problem is that no one ever wins in this game.

monopoly5But there’s a different strategy for life that may not work in the game of Monopoly but it’s a proven winning strategy when it comes to real people and real relationships. It’s the strategy modeled by Jesus and one that all believers are called to follow. The world we live in teaches us that the way to defeat people is by taking from them. But God’s way is not to defeat people but to win them over to a relationship with Him by giving to them. When we give of ourselves sacrificially to others – we can give our love, our attention, our time and our trust – we model the same selfless love that God showed when He gave His Son to die on the Cross for us. It was an understanding of that sacrificial love that won me over into a life committed and surrendered to my Lord and Savior. It’s the same strategy that we as Christians are called to today. When we sacrifically give to others – from those we are in intimate relationship with to those who are complete strangers to us – we win them over to the love of Christ by showing them how much He loves them.

monopoly7What’s your strategy? Are you a taker? Are you selfishing hanging on to all you could be giving due to fear of being used or rejected? Are you trying to defeat people for a better position or more pay? Are you taking from others but giving nothing in return? Are you trying to defeat past hurts by refusing to give forgiveness, your time or your love to those who caused the hurt? Has your strategy changed from a giver to a taker because someone betrayed your trust? Are you unwilling to give until you receive?

Or are you a giver? Do you give of yourself – your time, your love, your attention, your resources – in order to win God’s way? Have you experienced the joy and the blessing that comes from giving instead of taking? Do you seek ways that you can give more to those you love? Do you give even though you may receive nothing in return?

monopoly8Being a giver does not come without risk. But with God’s guidance on how to give and who to give to, you can minimize that risk. The joy you will receive from giving will far outweigh any risk involved. There are so many people who are empty because others have taken from them. So take a look around and see who God puts in your path that desperately needs to receive what you have to give. There’s someone waiting to filled with the love and hope that can only come from God. Let God use you to show others the incomparable love of Christ through sacrificial giving and in turn you will see how truly amazing our God is.

 

Seriously, Is It Worth It?


More often than I would care to admit this very question enters into my mind. Sometimes it actually makes its way out of my mind as I utter the words aloud in disbelief. Why, you ask, does this question frequent my thoughts? Blame it on Pride and her ugly, little step-sister, Stubbornness. All too often I encounter people who allow pride and stubbornness to keep them from something or someone they really wish they had if the truth be known.

So many of us allow our own pride to keep us from the very thing we want. Our pride and stubbornness becomes the barrier to our blessing. And more often than not we find every other possible person or thing to blame other than ourselves. If only we could be willing to act in humility and to take the step to break down the barriers, we could experience the blessing of whatever it is our pride and stubbornness has kept us from. And from my own experiences, it normally takes far too long before we reach that point of surrender. Then we find ourselves wondering “why did I allow that to go on for so long?” Standing your ground for the sake of your pride will never be worth whatever momentary embarassment, shame or humiliation – real or imagined – that you may feel. I promise.

What is your pride and stubbornness keeping you from? Is it the reconciliation of a relationship you once valued but one “offense” is keeping you from each other because neither is willing to take the first step toward an apology? Is it peace within your household because you and your spouse have decided to keep a scorecard on each other (“he did that so I’m going to do this”)? Is it freedom from the bondage of sin because you are unwilling to admit that your friends and family are right and that you really do have a problem and need help? Are you missing out on all the ways that God wants to bless your life because you are unwilling to surrender control to Him? Are you in a perpetual cycle of financial struggle because you think you know better than God how best to manage your money? Do you have years of anger and resentment built up toward someone because you’re unwilling to forgive them for something that happened a lifetime ago? Do you refuse to stop rolling your eyes every time someone mentions your coworker’s name because you think she got the promotion that you deserved? Have you been giving your spouse the “cold shoulder” for three days because you absolutely WILL NOT be the first to say I’m sorry this time? Are you willing to risk your eternal salvation because you have taken the stand that it will be your decision when you’re good and ready and not because your wife keeps nagging you about the whole church thing?

Whatever you are missing out on because of pride and stubbornness, seriously, is it worth it? Let me answer that question for you, no! It’s not worth it! It never will be! So what are you waiting for? Get over yourself and humbly take the first step toward conquering Pride and Stubbornness in your life. Only you know what action you need to take but whatever it is, don’t waste another minute.

And for the record, a funny thing always happens when I release a tirade upon the shortcomings I see in others. God gently put his finger on an area of pride in my life and lovingly whispers “seriously, Renée, is it worth it?” And in that moment, humbled by His overwhelming grace and mercy that I will never deserve, I find myself once again crying out “Father, forgive me.” Won’t you do the same? It’s so worth it!

Ignoring the Warning Signs


My youngest son Scott has been fascinated with all things Titanic for several years now. He has read many books about the most well-known ship in history and knows countless facts and details about the fateful night in 1912 that she hit an iceburg and sank. One year for his birthday we visited the Titanic museum and spent hours looking at actual pictures and artifacts from the ship. There is just something about the Titanic that most of us find captivating.

Scott recently shared with me some incredible circumstances and procedural failures that occured leading up to one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. I was astonished at the number of missed warning signs that, had they been heeded, could have prevented such profound calamity. The ship received a least 6 ice warnings the day of its sinking but most were ignored.

One of the warnings came late in the evening and detailed a large number of icebergs in the Titanic’s path. But because the wireless system had been down the day before, the crewman on duty had a stack of priority passenger messages to send out. He wrote down the warning, set it aside and it was never delivered to the bridge.

The crew on duty in the crow’s nest, whos specific assignment was to look out for ice, were doing so without the use of binoculars because the prior shift had misplaced them. When the crew did spot a huge iceberg directly in front of the ship, the first officer misjudged the distance to impact and hesitated to give a command. After a 30-second delay, he made the decision to slow down and attempt to turn away from the iceberg. If the engines had been left at full speed and Titanic turned immediately after the iceberg was spotted, the ship would have likely missed the iceberg, with a fair distance to spare.

Finally, the ship’s builders advised White Star Lines that the ship could hold many more life boats than the number that was legally required. But White Star chose not to add any additional lifeboats even though they knew they didn’t have nearly enough for all the passengers onboard because ironically they felt it would be too expensive for the most luxurious and costly ship ever built. Because of this decision and lack of preparedness among the crew, many lives were lost at sea that could have been saved.

So many times our lives are like the Titanic disaster – filled with warnings of imminent danger that we both ignore and are ill-prepared to handle. When we are living in a cycle of destructive behavior it seems like everyone but us can see that we are forging full steam ahead on a collision course full of damage and regret. But we seem blinded to the glaring obstructions right in front of us, many times until its too late to avoid them. Why is that? Why do we choose to ignore the obvious when we know the actions and decisions we are making are hurtling us toward personal and relational destruction? I’ve been in that very place in my life and have wondered many times why I continued on a course that I knew was going to lead me down the wrong path.

I had responded to the gospel and believed Jesus had died for my sins when I was 13 years old. I asked for His forgiveness and according to God’s word, I was born again. Like the Titanic I was a magnificant new creation – unsinkable and a beauty to behold. But without the proper preparation and the right people in place to keep me afloat I quickly fell for the doubts of the naysayers who said that I really hadn’t changed. Without people in my life to disciple me and teach me how to walk out my new faith long after the emotional experience of responding to the gospel had passed, I found myself ill-equipped to battle the deceptive ways of the enemy. I thought that if I made a mistake, I didn’t deserve to be blessed, to be happy and to live a life worthy of being called a Christian. The first mistake I made led to the next and I quickly found myself believing the lie that God no longer loved me because I didn’t measure up. I had failed Him and I deserved to hit that iceberg head on and the resulting damage was inevitable for my life.

But I learned in time that unlike the Titanic, a life in Christ is unsinkable. There may be icebergs in our lives but through repentance the resulting damage of our sin can be repaired if we will seek God’s forgiveness and turn away from our sins and back toward Him. And unlike the staff and crew of the Titanic, we must be prepared and we must be aware of the warning signs when they appear. The key to being prepared is building strong foundations in our lives based on the spiritual truths of the bible. We must have people in our lives that will speak the truth to us in love and let us know when we have veered off course. We must spend time in God’s presence through prayer and reading His word. We must get involved in small groups to build relationally with other believers who can encourage and disciple us in our walk. We must attend and serve in a local church. And we must commit to daily seek God’s will for our lives through obedience to His commands.

Are there warning signs in your life that you are choosing right now to ignore because you think you deserve to crash head-on into the iceberg you’re facing? Have you failed to prepare and instead of minor damage, you may receive grave damage when you do hit an iceberg? If you are a born-again Christian, do you know that you are an unsinkable, magnificant new creation? Do you know it’s not too late to repent and turn back to God in order to get back on course? Don’t let the avoidable sink you and cause your life to end up a tragic tale of missed warnings. Let this be your warning – it’s time to start building an unsinkable life in Christ.

Do Unto Others


Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Remember that one? Anyone over the age of twenty-five has surely heard their parents utter those words to them at some time or another. I know I did – not so sure I lived by them but it’s not because nobody ever said them to me. I’ve always heard that saying referred to as The Golden Rule so I figured it was just some nifty saying that a parent made up to try to make their kids play nice with other kids. It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I found out that it actually comes from the bible (Matt. 7:12). Surely I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know that…….was I?

Today I overheard a conversation that was quite different from the Golden Rule while picking up some things in the local super center. A lady was on her phone telling who I’m guessing was her friend that she is “tired of always giving and getting nothing in return.” She went on to say that he, whoever he was, “is never going to change” and she’s “done being the only one who gives in this marriage- it’s over.” As I looked up at the woman on the phone I was saddened to see two small children in her cart. This conversation has become so common that it could have taken place anywhere, anytime in any town.

It’s become our culture’s way of thinking – What’s in it for me? Why should I bother when I’m not getting anything out of it? Nobody’s doing anything for me so why should I bend over backwards for them? I don’t care what you want – if you’re not going to give me what I want, then we’re done. You may never have heard the Golden Rule, but I can bet the farm you’ve heard someone you know or maybe even you yourself have said something similar to those comments. Many relationships today are based around this new rule that says “if I’m going to give of myself then I sure as heck better get something in return.” Oh, we want others to “do unto us” and we’re even willing to “do unto them” as long as it’s working both ways. But for many people today, the minute someone stops doing for us is the minute we stop doing for them and start planning our exit strategy. If you are married and you stand any chance of staying that way, you will have to do for your spouse during times when they are doing absolutely nothing for you. It’s a fact and it is guaranteed to happen to us all, married or not. There will come a time in your life that you will have to make a choice to continue to do for someone else who is doing absolutely nothing for you or you will choose to walk away. And it’s in that moment your choice reveals the motive of your heart. If your sole purpose for giving to and serving others is to see what you can get out of it for yourself, then you’ve missed the whole point. It’s not about you.

Jesus hung on a cross for you and me. He was beaten, spit upon and condemned of a crime for which He was completely innocent. He gave His life. And He did it all knowing that He would get nothing in return. The best we can ever offer Him in return for His selfless example of how to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us, is to love Him with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind. And, to do unto others as we truly would like for them to do unto us. Deep down we want others to love us unconditionally. We want them to be willing to give of themselves to us without expecting something in return. We want them to put us above all else in their lives. We want them to not just tell us but to show us how much we mean to them.  We want them to sacrifice things that are important to them in order to spend time with us. We want them to show their love for us by protecting us both physically and emotionally. We want them to have our back and to stand up for us when we come under attack. We want them to lead our homes and our families with honor and strength. We want them to be an example of strong values to our children. We want them to model to our children how to love your spouse sacrificially and unconditionally. We want them to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. We want them to be just like Jesus.

And yet. Why are we not willing to be like Jesus? Why are we so unwilling to love them like Jesus loves them? Why do we see every fault and point out every mistake when we should be seeing their God-given potential and calling out the greatness in them that God created them for? Why are we so quick to accuse and slow to forgive? Why are we so unwilling to give and so willing to take? Why are we so focused on our needs and so incapable of meeting the needs of others when there’s no reward for us? Why do we look to our relationships to meet our needs when we should be looking to Jesus as the example of sacrificial giving. Why do we keep score and ask “what have you done for me lately” instead of doing everything we can to point others to Christ by serving them without expectation of reciprocation? Why are we so quick to remember every wrong of those who hurt us and so quick to forget all Jesus did for us when He gave His life on the cross? Why do we ask God to change our spouses instead of crying out to Him “Lord! Change me!!”? You may never get what you want from whoever you are giving to. But when you serve them with the motive of showing them the same love that Christ has shown you, you will find the strength to continue and your life will be forever changed because of it.

It’s time to stop making a list in your mind of all the things you want changed about the person in your life who you think owes you something. Start asking God to show you His list of all the things in your life that need changing so that you can be more like Him. The Golden Rule is not just a nifty saying made up by parents – it’s God’s wisdom He shared with us through His word because He knew there would be times we’d forgot, times we’d become resentful, times we’d want to give up. And He knew in those times we’d need a reminder – if you want someone to do unto you, the key is to do unto them without expectation and with the motive of simply serving them. And God knew that when we do, just like when Jesus did on the cross, lives will be changed – starting with our own.

In a Fog


I’m not really sure what causes fog. I know there are certain conditions that must occur in the atmosphere for fog to be present, but what they are doesn’t really matter. Some days it’s just there and today was one of those days. What I do know tabout fog is that there are some times that it’s thicker than at other times. I also know it makes it difficult to see both the things that I know are there even though I can’t see them and the unknown things that I will only be able to see once I get through the fog. This morning when we turned the corner and headed straight toward my son’s school it looked at though the school was gone. We joked that we might as well go back home because he couldn’t go to school if the building had disappeared. Even though we knew it was there, we could no longer see it through the thick fog.

After I dropped him off and headed home I noticed the sun shining through the fog. The heavy fog had completely hidden the school building but the brightness of the sun could not be masked. It was not completely clear but there was no doubt that it was there. I thought about the years I lived my life in a fog. I spent many years unable to see that God was right there with me because I was living in sin that obscured Him from my view. I was unable to see what was right in front of me because I chose to focus my sight on my circumstances and not on Him.

This morning’s dense fog made me curious so I looked it up to find out more. Because of its characteristics, the term “in a fog” came to be used as a term for something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought processes. Looking back on my life I can definitely see that the way I chose to live my life obscured the way I saw things. And when you aren’t seeing things clearly you can easily become confused and misguided. Because of my immoral behavior and poor choices my view of what was true and what was real had become distorted. Somewhere along the way I had lost site of the truth of the gospel. I had forgotten about the redemptive power of my faith in Jesus Christ. I lived as though I was powerless to overcome the temptation of sin. I failed to see the way out that God had provided for me. (1Cor. 10:13). My life had spiraled so far down that the fog of my sins had completely blinded me to the love and forgiveness of my Savior. Not only was I blinded to what was right in front of me, but I had no hope for what the future held. The road ahead was hidden and I couldn’t see where I was headed. I just knew I was going in the wrong direction.

But God is faithful and He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20). He had never left me. I had turned away from Him. When I was in 7th grade I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that He forgave me. But over time I believed the lies of the enemy that said God wasn’t pleased with me because I had failed to live up to a false standard I had placed on myself. I wrongly believed that if I wasn’t perfect then God wouldn’t love me any more. I never understood that I would continue to miss the mark throughout my life because I was and still am a sinner. So when I did fail, the guilt and shame of my sin caused separation and distance between me and God. But God’s grace allowed me to see that His forgiveness is still available to me today just as it was when I first received it in 7th grade. His forgiveness by no means gives me a license to sin. However, I know if I do sin and I’m truly repentant in my heart, He will forgive me now just as He did then. Now my obedience to God’s commands is not SO He will love me but it’s BECAUSE He loves me that I want to obey His word. There is no longer a pattern of blatant sin in my life because I have been set free from the control that sin had over me through Jesus. Now sin doesn’t have any power over me – through the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I can now overcome the temptation to sin. And I no longer carry the false burden of having to earn God’s love – I’ve come to understand that He gives it freely and all I have to do is receive it.

Just like the sun is what burns off the fog that covers everything on a foggy morning like today, it was the Son that made the fog in my life completely disappear. And like the sun today, God’s light cannot be covered up no matter how thick the sin is in your life. He’s always there shining through the darkness if we’ll just look up to see. As I look out the window now the fog has lifted and there are clear skies ahead. Where I couldn’t see my future before because the fog of my sin obscured what lie ahead, now my future is filled with hope. I’m no longer confused by what I see around me. I now clearly see God’s direction in my life because I spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. The veil that kept me from seeing the truth has been lifted and I see the direction I want to be going in. I still make wrong turns sometimes but I never allow the fog to become so dense I can’t see my way back to the Son.

If you’re living in the fog of sin, first of all know that fog was never intended to be lasting and permanent and neither was the sin in your life. God never meant for you to remain in the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – so you can be set free from the prison that sin holds you in. Secondly, you must look up to the Son. Look to the forgiveness that Jesus offers when we believe. The light of His love is right there shining through the fog in your life. Look to Him and believe – when you do the fog will disappear and you can begin to see clearly the love and peace of the One who has been right there waiting for you all along. Isn’t it time for you to stop living in a fog?