“As yourself”

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/// You know that verse that says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)? Well, my entire life I was taught (and believed) that to be selfless and avoid narcissism, I had to never focus on myself.

/// So I ditched health to please people in middle school. I practiced a VERY bad habit of negative self-talk throughout college and up until recently, actually! All along, I thought I was being selfless. But really, my self-pity turned into an idol and spiraled me into depression.

/// But then I heard in a sermon about Matthew 22 that you cannot fully love others if you hate yourself! God loves us, and because of that, we take on the identity He gives us: that we are fearfully and WONDERFULLY made. And we are a TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit! So we must take good care of ourselves.

Diet & Skincare

/// So on this path to discovering what a healthy (not selfish) type of self-love looks like, I’ve kind of overhauled my diet and exercise routine. First, I was noticing a lot of stomach and acne problems but I had NO IDEA that they were kind of one and the same.

/// After a lot of skincare woes (I’ve tried astringent, ProActiv, clean and clear, you name it), I found out the BEST thing for my skin was to recognize my allergies and do something about them. And you know what? I feel so much better with so much more energy to love others.

01-600x6001) I realized the issue usually starts with an unhealthy gut. I’ve been taking one probiotic pill every day for a week now.

2) Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory so it naturally helps with all the redness from pimples!

3) Oil of oregano is super nourishing, especially when you’re sick because it boosts the immune system.

4) I drink a lot of almond milk to get my calcium! Dairy is SO bad for the skin (not to mention my stomach because I’m lactose-intolerant). And finally, I eat plenty of fruits (blueberries, strawberries) and vegetables (spinach, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli) — gotta get those vitamins.

 

/// I’ve been reading a lot how carbs and sugar can hurt your skin. Of course, I am not by any means sugar-free and I eat rice for dinner, but I’m trying to eat those things in moderation. And I’m also gluten-free because a lot of people are sensitive to it, and I can do without pasta (I’m also allergic to tomatoes because of acid reflux, so I can’t put much on my pasta anyway, lol).

139975-600x600-A.jpg/// SO WHAT DO I EAT? Lots of chicken and ground turkey! Chicken is great sauteed in mojo marinade. Another great recipe is soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. On my ground turkey, I add seasoned salt, chili powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper and put that over rice. Add in a salad and fruit with balsamic vinaigrette and I’m full!

–> For lunch I generally have chicken and Kashi cashew butter coconut bars as well as rice krispie treats on hand. Oatmeal and eggs are a go-to breakfast favorite!

81pE7ggNjHL._SL1500_.jpg/// SKINCARE 101: I’ve done away with the ProActiv and picked up on the Biore trend with charcoal. It’s been a really refreshing experience; it really gets the dirt off SO much more effectively. And the hot face masks and nose strips are a little treat too.

 

Hobbies

/// Gotta find something you love in life, you know? Life isn’t all about working to pay bills till you die! So I’ve ALWAYS loved singing worship music, and I thought, why not teach myself guitar and start writing my own music? I cannot tell you how much this hobby has lifted my spirits and taken away my anxiety.

–> It’s kind of how I practice my prayer life as well — at night when I’m tempted to feel lonely and anxious, I write poems about praise and hope and scaring off Satan! This brings SO much peace and helps me overcome sin as well.

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/// Not only do we have to workout our spiritual bodies through scripture reading, but we also need to workout our physical bodies and stay healthy! So I’ve been lifting weights, swimming and doing yoga — at least one of those things every day to stay active. Because, it makes you feel better and be a better light to those around you!

What are your routines and hobbies? How are you taking time to rest and rejuvenate to better love God’s people?

Know your worth

Loving myself more has helped me to not just settle, because I know that in Jesus I’m worth so much more. I still love people who have disrespected me, but I’ve also learned how to remove myself from unhealthy environments. Practice a good habit of self-awareness to ensure you’re not hanging around a lot of negativity because that is contagious! Surround yourself with uplifting people who will encourage you and challenge you to be a BETTER VERSION of you.

Not only that, but loving myself has helped me encourage other people to know THEIR worth in Christ as well and stay healthy and strong. Realize the power you have in you through the Holy Spirit! You are a warrior, and you are only strong because of God who gave you the air to breathe in the first place. This is a truly humbling place and should make you fall on your knees in surrender and awe of the One who gave it all, and calls us to do the same for our neighbors.

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Jealousy vs. Envy

Jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy. – Aristotle

 

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We must realize that God is a jealous God! Yet He is perfect. So jealousy is not a bad thing: It’s seeing someone with something admirable, and being inspired to attain that something for yourself in an ethical manner. Jealousy doesn’t necessarily make you upset at the person (although it can, and it is different for every person).

 
Envy, on the other hand, is what we see in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. For whatever reason (we are not explicitly told in the story), God did not approve of Cain’s offering, yet He approved of Abel’s. So, thinking he would not obtain the blessing of God unless his brother was out of the picture (wanting what he has but also not wanting him to have it), Cain killed Abel.

 
Jealousy is not always bad, but envy always is. We should want the best for our neighbors, going along with the Golden Rule: “love your neighbor as yourself.”
My best friend got into PA school, but her friends didn’t. Upon hearing the “good news,” they cut her off because they were so jealous, they thought she didn’t deserve their attention anymore (perhaps you could categorize this as envy, because they punished her for what she attained). Why can’t we just celebrate with our friends instead of being mad at them because they got something we wish we had that we think we need? God knows what we need, and He provides it. So if we don’t have it, that means we only want and don’t need it.

 
The older son wasn’t happy that the prodigal son was repentant and came home. He thought the prodigal son deserved eternal consequences, yet the father demonstrated grace and celebrated his changed behavior. The older son was envious: he wanted a celebration for his hard work, but didn’t want his younger brother to have one.

 

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We can’t be the judge of whether or not someone deserves something. Only God knows the heart and the motives of people, and perhaps they have something we don’t because their character is in a different place than we see. Or perhaps God is just trying to teach us a different lesson. Just because we’re all in different seasons of life doesn’t mean God loves any of us less. So don’t allow yourself to become envious and hate God for what you don’t have.

 
This is part of the reason I deleted my Instagram. I found that it was unhealthy for me to constantly be scrolling through my feed, seeing all these friends on vacations I know I won’t be able to afford for years and years. Seeing all these friends in designer clothes. Seeing all these friends seemingly always happy and carefree and beautiful.

 
Yet what I don’t know is what’s going on in their personal lives. Who am I to envy when they very much could be dealing with way worse trials than I am? We may think we know people, but we really don’t – only God knows a person fully.

 

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Rather than jealousy, choose thankfulness
Let me be fully vulnerable with you now: As I was reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and the crazy miracles God had done for him (3-million-dollar donation to build a coffee house and multiple churches; a book contract, etc.), I had to stop reading for a bit to get my heart in the right place to hear it. Why had God never done anything that big for me? Is my faith to small? Am I not doing enough? I’ve worked hard all my life, yet always felt like I wasn’t good enough based upon how certain people treated me and how little money and opportunities I had.

 
The moment I wrote that I realized why my heart isn’t in the right place right now: Is my identity in the things of this world? Or in God? But is it too much to ask for a miracle from God, not for my own glory but for the glory of Him? That’s why I keep a gratitude journal. I have to remember that God HAS given me incredible blessings. Let me tell you one that happened a week ago.

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This has a bit to do with God’s impeccable timing. I was having a hard week at home. But my roommate options from church fell through. All seemed hopeless. And then, I thought, why don’t I Google?

 
I texted a few numbers I found on Craigslist, and guess what I found? A beautiful room in a house 4 miles from my job for $650/month (way less than the apartments in Downtown Orlando, and about 35 miles closer than the house I was living in with my parents). Then I toured the house two days later, and got approved and an offer one day later. Coincidence? I think not. Miracle? Definitely. God always provides what we need.

 

So why am I jealous or envious sometimes? I have to consistently remind myself (as we all do) of God’s promises and blessings, or else I’ll get distracted and start believing the lies of the enemy. I strongly encourage you to keep a gratitude journal. Never forget the things God has done, so that you can build your faith on solid ground instead of sinking sand. Do you really believe God has never let you down?

 
Faith is a firework
Remember the story in 1 Kings 18:44? A messenger followed Elijah’s orders to go for a seventh time in search of a cloud. In obedience (and potentially some doubt), he went and to his surprise, he saw “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Rain – miracle rain – came. Not in their timing, but in God’s, because they prayed in faith.

 

Every seed buried in sorrow
You will call forth in its time
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest
Calling our hope now to arise
There is a Cloud, Elevation Worship

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Fame & Power

With fame, you can’t trust everybody. You can’t depend on them being there for you as a person. They will only be there because of what you’ve got as a person. They will only be there because of … what you can bring to their life. It’s not a relationship – it’s a leech. – Chris Brown

It was hard for me to find a quote on fame that wasn’t negative. The odd ones out – Sia and Marshmello – who didn’t reveal their faces in their YouTube music videos fascinate people. Why do they choose to “hide” themselves? Marshmello responds, “I don’t take my helmet off because I don’t want or need fame.” But why?

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Fame
I think Chris Brown made a good point – people start liking you for what you can give them…not for who you are. The moment you lose your money and power, will your “friends” leave you? When my dad got his job at Disney, we were suddenly the talk around town – we started hearing from people we hadn’t talked to in years just because they wanted us to get them in the parks for free. We felt taken advantage of. People wanted to use us. And that’s what you’re stuck with in the bubble of fame.

 

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory. Proverbs 25:27

 

Furthermore, not only is it a lonely life because you don’t know who’s your genuine friend or not; but it’s also a life that lacks privacy. Media are out to spread rumors about you. Paparazzi are quick to catch terrible candids and sell them across the Internet. You can’t even go to the grocery store, movies, or theme parks without being chased after, so you need protection like a body guard. So many people sign up for this life without knowing what they’re signing up for.

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And then we wonder why some of the most successful people commit suicide – Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, to name a few. And others, like Demi Lovato, are on drugs. There is a lot of pressure to consistently perform at the top and be a role model to many people. Humans were not meant for fame, but for humility, which is why we see the most famous people as being some of the most depressed and empty people. They have all they ever wanted and wonder why they’re sadder than they’ve ever been.

 
Jesus set an example for fame when he ran from the Jews who were trying to crown Him as king in John 6:15 (ironic, considering they crucified Him for claiming to be their king later on). We aren’t supposed to do things to be seen by others. The older brother in the prodigal son story wanted his father to know of all his righteous deeds (“All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders”). Yet Jesus says that only the good deeds done in secret will be rewarded in Heaven (Matthew 6:1).

 
It’s kind of hard not to want other people to praise us, though. I know I used to be quick to announce that I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher so my family could give me verbal affirmation. But we can’t let our pride and desire to please people get in the way of God getting the glory.

 
Power
Frodo wanted the ring. He didn’t take into account that with more power, comes more responsibility and hardship – and because of that, he hurt the ones closest to him. It’s so easy to abuse power. So we have to be careful with how we use our influence. Satan will tempt those with power in big ways.

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The prodigal son attempted to abuse his power over his father with the money he had promised to give him. He ran away, disrespecting his authority, only to find it wasn’t all he thought it would be.

 
Sometimes, abuse of power comes from parents – children don’t have the ability to fight back, so they are victims of unhealthy treatment. Other times, abuse of power comes from politicians who say one thing and manipulate us into voting for them, and then do the opposite when they’re actually elected. The Bible says that we’re to obey our authorities unless doing so would cause us to sin against God (see the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3 who went against the King’s order to bow to the golden idol).

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If you find yourself in a position of power, you must be on extra guard against Satan who loves to deceive – ensure that your pride or greed don’t get in the way of glorifying God in everything you do.

 

“Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.” – Marilyn Monroe

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What is…Grace?

I’m not perfect. And who knows how many times I’ve fallen short. We all fall short. That’s the amazing thing about the grace of God. –Tim Tebow

God is a God of grace. But He is also a God of justice. That is the paradox of who He is. Our finite human minds have a tendency to think of Him as only one or the other, but He is both. Look at the story of the rainbow: Even though God killed the planet, He decided to save one righteous family and to send a rainbow as a visual reminder of His promise to never flood the Earth again (Genesis 6-9).

Trampling on grace
When I worked for Chick-Fil-A, I really enjoyed the etiquette instilled in the training programs and the faith-based background of the company. However, just because corporate has great standards, doesn’t mean each individual franchise will uphold them. My franchise had one particular manager I’ll never forget.

 

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I was the cashier in the Drive-Thru, and one of my managers (let’s call her Sally) set down a large Powerade on the window sill. I needed a medium Powerade. But the guest had already been waiting awhile, and Sally wasn’t making the drinks quick enough in the correct order. So I handed out the large Powerade.

She then proceeds to yell at me and lecture me in front of the customer, causing all of my coworkers to freeze and stare: “Kendra, this is why we don’t get free lunch. I know it doesn’t matter to you because you bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, but for people like me who rely on the discounts…” I don’t remember the whole conversation, but the gist of it has been seared into my memory. Afterward, the other managers apologized to me for her and told me not to take it personally because she’s like that toward every employee.

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And I thought, excuse me? Who is allowing this manager to bully other employees and get off scotch-free? So I set up a meeting with the owner, and he tells me, “Listen. Her son is in prison, and she’s living paycheck to paycheck, so we need to have grace.” He was making me, the victim, feel guilty for even bringing that up, even though he was completely misusing grace.

As Paul famously said in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Therefore, God gives grace, but He also is just. One of the common criticisms I’ve received against my faith is that God is violent and evil: look at the Roman crusades. Look at the Old Testament of people wiping out entire cities. However, except for the infants, the Canaanite people in the Bible whom God allowed to be destroyed were deliberately evil: they had time to repent of their bestiality, incest, and even child sacrifice, but refused (see Leviticus 18:25, Deuteronomy 7:3–5,12:2-3, Joshua 2, and Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11).

As for the infants, first, we believe that God takes to Heaven those who aren’t yet at the mental capacity to make a decision to follow Him; and second, He knows the future and whether or not they’d grow up to be just the same as their parents (Moses killed a man in Exodus 2 due to being taken from his people and brought up by an Egyptian woman; this is an example of cultural separation consequences).

When we are called to have grace
As mentioned previously in the story of Jonah, God does desire for all to repent and He does grant grace upon repentant people: Ninevah, Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2), Lot, and Moses are a few examples.

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We actually see Abraham questioning the justice and grace of God in Genesis 18:22:

 “So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’”

In the story of the prodigal son, we see the father having so much grace toward his younger son who rebelled and then repented, that he hosts a large party with so much love that it’s as if he completely forgot his offense.

That’s what God means in Leviticus 19:17-19: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

This is different from the confrontation we mentioned in the previous article where someone claims to be a Christian yet deliberately disobeys God’s Word unrepentantly. This repentance warrants grace. And still, revenge (regardless of repentance) is not permitted in God’s eyes, but it is not the same as disassociating yourself with a hypocrite (see 1 Corinthians 5:11).

Who is God?
Ultimately, we have to remember that God is so much higher and more powerful than us, He doesn’t even show His face to us or give us His real name – He just says, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Now, I’m not going to get into the Trinity and you may be thinking, but what about Jesus? God the Father is who I was referring to, even though Jesus is also God – so we have sort of seen part of the face of God, but not the whole face, if you catch my drift. The Holy Spirit, God the Father and Jesus are three separate beings yet comprise one God – we get one hint at this in Genesis 1:26 when God uses the word “us,” which implies He is comprised of multiple beings (for only God can create life – also see John 1).

We also have to realize He is a God of grace, and if He were not, He would’ve given us what we deserve: Hell. We can’t deny that we all do terrible things (sin), and there have to be consequences for that, from a holy Judge. Yet He created the worst imaginable punishment He could create from His unlimited source of power, and spared us from it – instead, He put HIMSELF through it.

He did not go through a normal crucifixion. While He had nails driven through His hands and feet just like others, He went through more beatings than anyone else, further indicated by Isaiah 52:14: “His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.” He also went through the emotional pain of abandonment – to the point where Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” in Matthew 27:46.

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So, realizing all of this, even if we lose it all like Job did, we still need to rejoice, knowing He is always giving us mercy (every time He spares us from something we deserved) and grace (every time He gives us something we don’t deserve) because He sealed us with the Holy Spirit which secures us an eternal home in Heaven.

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What is…hypocrisy?

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ―Noël Coward

I’ve definitely been a hypocrite at various points in my life – I’ve given in to lust on numerous occasions as a single longing for marriage, and I was unrepentant, always coming up with excuses like “Oh, this helps alleviate my anxiety which in turn does more good than harm.” But I was wrong, and there are no excuses for sin – “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

I never thought of refusing to go to a town as sin, but it certainly was for Jonah – he clearly was told by God to go to Ninevah and God punishes him for not going by swallowing him up into a whale. That said, what is a sin for one person is not necessarily a sin for another (it’s relative, based on personal conviction and knowledge). And then we have the universal sins, which I’ll categorize as the 10 Commandments – sins that are sin for everyone, regardless of the circumstance.

 

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Let me clarify: No one is perfect, but not everyone is a hypocrite. A hypocrite, based on how Jesus uses it toward the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Bible, is one who deliberately lives in sin unrepentantly. Those of us who, when we sin, we repent and move on doing our best to not repeat that mistake, I will not classify as a hypocrite. That is because Jesus never called his disciples (or anyone other than the Pharisees and Sadducees, for that matter) hypocrites.

 

We’re now going to turn our attention to the prodigal son’s older brother in verses 25-28, whose self-righteous resentment eerily resembles that of the Pharisees and Sadducees listening to this very parable as Jesus spoke it.

 

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in.

While the older son gave off a holier-than-thou attitude, portraying judgment upon his younger brother who he thought didn’t deserve mercy, we see a shift toward anger. Instead of rejoicing with his father that a lost sheep returned, he pouted. In an act of selfishness, he was acting as though he was God.

We see a similar anger and judgment in the Jonah story mentioned earlier, for when God asked Jonah to go to Ninevah, Jonah knew God was really asking him to give the evil city a chance to repent. But Jonah, a prophet, only wanted to tell the bad news and didn’t think the city deserved grace – for, as the capital of the Assyrian empire, they used to conquer towns and then torture the men, leaving them to die of dehydration in the desert after raping the women and children.

 

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Yet only God can see the motives of the heart and His ways are higher than ours, so if we truly believe He is just, we will be happy with how He chooses to utilize grace.

Hypocrisy in the modern era
I used to attend a large Baptist church in Orlando, with roughly 15,000 in attendance each week. I co-led the children’s ministry worship for 500 kids alongside my mom, who was on staff as the part-time volunteer coordinator. Having been part of that for three years, it was very important to me, as I grew attached to many of the children there, especially a certain fourth-grader who made me a Christmas card that said “I love you,” which I’ll never forget.

But then, volunteers started coming to my mom with horrified looks on their faces. They began to claim harassment cases against the children’s pastor (one of my mom’s bosses), and my mom had an obligation to carry those allegations if she wanted to retain much-needed volunteers.

So she brought the cases to the attention of her bosses, after personally experiencing an uncomfortable encounter with the children’s pastor wherein he brought her into his office with lit candles to where my mom started calling my dad and bringing her kids in to work so as to avoid that type of scenario again. Mind you, he was married with two kids.

 

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Upon being made aware of the cases, however, the higher-up bosses decided that these stories were best kept quiet, and threatened to fire my mom if she said a word to anyone about it. Discontent with the danger toward marriages and the overall way a hypocrisy/harassment case was handled, my parents decided to move our family to a different church.

Two years later, the pastor had an open affair with a female volunteer, and due to the amount of witnesses, he couldn’t be covered up anymore by his upper-level pastor friends and was suspended. So our family chose to go back to the church to reconcile, after everyone realized my parents’ initial warning was accurate, yet it was to no avail. The same pastors said that my parents, including me and my five siblings, were forbidden from ever serving in the children’s ministry again and that my parents needed to “spiritually mature.”

Dumbfounded, we left the church for the second time, having experienced our first touch of hypocrisy in the modern world – much like the way the people of Jesus’ time had to deal with the Pharisees and Sadducees. See, these religious leaders of the day had a habit of putting on a facade of righteousness when in reality they twisted scripture to fit their own agenda and human wickedness.

 

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Mark 7:5-7

The solution
Let’s look to the Word to see the best way to respond to hypocrisy. But before we begin, I want to clarify that we are not to judge or confront people outside the church; that is, people who do not claim to follow the Bible or Jesus as their Savior. Scripture says that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong because, for them, it is not: they do not choose to believe certain things, and they are not deceiving anyone. See 1 Corinthians 5.

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The issue is with the people claiming to follow the Bible and Jesus as their Savior, yet living an unrepentant lifestyle contrary to that advocated in scripture, because they are deceiving the world and hurting the witness of other believers. These other believers I’m referencing are repentant, authentic, and genuine: they admit fault when they make a mistake, and do their best not to repeat that mistake – they demonstrate the repentant imperfection we all are stuck with until we exit the flesh into our completely sanctified new selves in the afterlife.

 

As Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

This practice mandated by Jesus is also referred to as church discipline. Unfortunately, it is a lost practice in modern-day culture due to an incorrect interpretation of “grace,” which we experienced at the aforementioned Baptist church.

Welcoming him back in
Now, let’s say the person you are confronting responds well – he repents. It does not always end like this, but if it does, that is cause for celebration.

 

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

I must emphasize confrontation and welcoming as done with love – just like we do everything else, we must check our motives and heart to ensure we are loving and humble. Let’s see how the father welcomes his prodigal son back into the family upon his repentance in verses 31-32 as we wrap up this parable:

 

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

Just because the older son lashes out, doesn’t mean the father is quick to scold, get angry, and disown his son. Just as Jesus died for all and still desires for hypocrites like the Pharisees to repent, the father in this story showed that he still loves the older son by not disowning him (indicated by his use of the word “son”) and by throwing a party.

 

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Let’s return to verse 31. It almost seems like Jesus is intentionally referencing the story of Mary and Martha because his wording is so similar, regarding prioritizing based on how long you are with someone. The father in this verse explains to the perplexed, angry older son that the party is being thrown because the younger son was not with them for so long, yet he was “always” with him, which wasn’t enough reason for a party – a party wasn’t meant, in this case, to be thrown at random.

Similarly, Jesus recognizes how Mary lets go of her daily responsibilities to spend time with her Savior, who she knows she doesn’t get many chances to see. Martha fails to learn this important lesson of prioritizing, and keeps at the busywork around the house, to the extent that she scolds Mary in front of Jesus for not helping her.

Interestingly in this story, however, Martha is the one who is credited for “opening up her home” to him in Luke 10:38. But when she scolds Mary, Jesus responds in verses 41-42 with a counter-reprimand:

 

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

Jesus is trying to teach Martha an important lesson: Do not get so busy with your day-to-day tasks, that you forget to put spending intimate time with Jesus first on your to-do list. He deserves us when we are at our best; not when we’re falling asleep because we fit Him in at the last possible second.

Just like Mary prioritized Jesus over all else, the father prioritized his repentant son by throwing him a party upon his return. We should practice the same habits: 1) putting God first; and 2) rejoicing with our fellow believers when they repent and overcome life’s trials.

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He’s in the Waiting

Maybe you’re not like me, and resonate with Andy Mineo when he raps, “never bored” in his song, “AYO!”

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Or maybe you are like me, and you keep looking at the clock throughout the day wondering when it’s time to go home to bed. I had a manager at a Chick-fil-A I worked at once who would put a piece of scotch tape over the clock on her cash register because the day was so long and she didn’t want to keep checking the time, even though she was tempted to. She knew it was going to be another day that felt like it was never going to end.

Maybe you are like me, and you’re praying the same boring prayers to God like, “Hey, can I please get some more money so I can make a change? I have all these goals, but no resources to do it.” And it’s not like you’re not trying. It’s not like you’re being lazy. God has just pumped the brakes and you’re unsure why.

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So let me give you some reassurance that you’re not alone. God is in the waiting. Sometimes He pumps the brakes because He’s trying to get your attention. I think God gave me a job that gives me no work because He gave me a passion for writing, and I let my blog go for 6 months. God is only going to let succeed the plans that glorify Him. And He’s going to give us the resources we need to fulfill THOSE plans. They may not be our plans. But as our desires become His, we will see He was looking out for our best all along too.

In the waiting, God has been here, drawing me back to Him. Getting me to meditate on scripture more to write for my blog again, to encourage my friends again, and to just rest. I forgot how much I missed this. And I wrote 10,000 words in the time span of a week on the Prodigal Son, a series I’m publishing this week. So this must have been God’s plan all along: What I saw as boredom, He saw as what was going to push me into doing what He wanted me to do, and I needed time to do it.

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See, what God was calling time — an invaluable resource — I was calling boredom.

So, my question to you is, are you stewarding your time wisely? If you have no money but all the time in the world on your hands, how are you using what God DID give you in this season to help others and love God with all your heart, mind and soul? Are you relishing in what He did give you or thinking about what you don’t have? Are you choosing to praise Him even in the waiting?

Are you choosing to make the most out of every opportunity (Colossians 4:5)?

I’m waiting for an adventurous, exciting career. I’m waiting for an opportunity to better share my love for music. But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this pastime God has given me to get through the days when I’m sitting at work with no projects. I’m going to relish in gratitude for the things He’s given me, for the most amazing friends I could ever ask for. Thank you, God, for this season.

Pray for clarity. Pray for God to show you what the purpose is for you being here. He makes no mistakes. Only we do.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. -Psalm 42:5

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The Grass is Always Greener…

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing.’ It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen

 
What is God’s desire? To mold our character. How does He do this? By teaching us patience, contentment, faith, and how to trust in Him when His timing is not ours and His ways are higher than ours.

 
Let’s revisit verse 17 once more. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!’” (Luke 15). We see a very similar attitude of desiring the grass that looks greener on the other side in the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt.

 
But before we jump to the great Exodus in chapters 12 and beyond, let’s start with the initial issue in chapter 2: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (v. 23-24).

 
Long story short, the Israelites begged for an escape, so God swooped in via a burning bush through which He spoke to Moses and appointed him as leader over the people. He and his brother Aaron spoke before Pharaoh on multiple occasions, asking him to let God’s people go, to no avail. So God sent various plagues that represented the different Egyptian gods at the time, which obviously made the Egyptians upset, but nonetheless never persuaded Pharaoh to let them go, even when God finally resorts to killing all of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.

 

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However, take a look at the Israelites’ response when they have finally been freed thanks to God’s miracle of parting the Red Sea so they could walk through it on dry ground: “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (16:3). Seriously?

 
Basically, the Egyptians have just seen God perform multiple miracles – the one right before the aforementioned passage was of God telling Moses to throw a log into the water which turned its bitterness sweet – and yet they still doubt and harbor bitterness. Why? In Egypt, Pharaoh was torturing them. He initially provided for them straw to make bricks, and then he forced them to go fetch their own straw yet still make the same amount of bricks. This was an impossible feat, so they didn’t complete the task and were beaten.

 
God rescues them, and it’s like they completely forgot about the abusive slavery condition of their past. They know that God promised to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey, but they’re not willing to travel through the wilderness and deal with some hunger and thirst to get there. They’re not patient, and they’re never content – because their desire is for perfection, but we will never get that in this life as a result of sin. “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 7:10

 
Grumbling: the opposite of gratitude
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Just as the prodigal son said to his father, “give me the share of property that is coming to me” in Luke 15:11, the Israelites wanted an advance, too – they wanted their milk and honey given to them immediately. They were unwilling to wait or go through any type of discomfort, doubting that they’d get it at all if they waited. So they grumbled. And what does God do? Makes them go in circles in the wilderness for 40 years as opposed to going straight to the promised land. Why? Their hearts and character were evil in God’s sight, which disqualified them from the promise.

 

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If I were God, I’d be so sick of the people – constant provision of the basic necessities (God rains down manna and quail for the people to eat) and yet constant lack of gratitude from the Israelites. This reminds me of Luke 17:11-19. Jesus heals 10 lepers, and when all but one walked away after this miracle, he responds, “‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”

 
Patience and contentment have only gotten harder in modern times, thanks to the Internet. Immediate gratification is a relatively new expectation, with answers to seemingly every question available with a few taps of the finger. We’re scrolling through Facebook and Instagram to see if we got any more “likes.” We’re constantly checking our phone to see if we got another text or notification. The distractions are countless now, which also have a way of robbing the mind of contentment when we’re always expecting news and entertainment from our little smartphones.

 
However, we’re seeking attention in the wrong places. We will never be content or learn patience outside of serving living, physical human beings. We were created for these types of relationships – not digital ones.

 
The wait
If God takes everything away, will you still be content? Do you truly believe He is in the waiting? Is He all you desire? Are you willing to wait as long as it takes for Him to come through and rain blessings on you? Or does the wait cause you to spiral into anger, depression, and ungratefulness for all God has done?

 

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When something bad happens, it’s so easy to forget everything good that God has already done for us, and then we just can’t wait for things to get better so we take for granted the blessings that are right in front of us.

 
We see an example of what not to do when we get tired of waiting, in the story of Sarai and Hagar in Genesis 16. Acting in haste, Sarai took things into her own hands when she realized she was barren. She didn’t get a child when she thought she deserved one, so she impulsively tells her husband to marry Hagar (the servant girl) and have a child with her, to carry on the family name. Sarai seemed to be confusing responsibility with 100% control and independence.

 
What Sarai didn’t see was that God was going to do a miracle and touch Sarai’s womb at around 90 years old. If only she’d waited, she wouldn’t have experienced the pain and consequences of her sinful actions, which came out of a lack of faith. She ended up being jealous of Hagar, abusing her, and scaring her off. Hagar and Sarai’s descendants to this day cause war and havoc, due to conflict between modern-day Muslims and Jews/Christians. Theologians believe Hagar and Abraham’s descendents through Ishmael are modern-day Arabs due to the scripture record in Genesis 21:17-21 of Ishmael living in the “wilderness of Paran,” “east country,” or northern Arabia.

 
So we see how one act on the restlessness involved in waiting for the Lord to act, led to generations of negative consequences.

 
The solution
Made aware of our lack of patience and contentment, and the issue with grumbling against God who loves us more than we can fathom and knows far more than we do, if we repent then God will forgive.

 
“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” Luke 15:18-19 presents a beautiful picture of a heart surgery: we see the prodigal son make a practically 180-degree turn when he gets to the grass on the other side and realizes it’s not greener! He reminisces on his old life and learns to be thankful for it. He repents, and greatly humbles himself by willing to gratefully live a hired servant’s life.

 

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We see a pattern of God rewarding humility like this in the Bible, hinting at His grace, mercy and forgiving heart: Jacob tore his clothes and put on sackcloth in Genesis 37:34 in response to losing his son Joseph at the hands of his other brothers who sold him into slavery. God then greatly blesses Joseph by making him Pharaoh’s main righthand man, second in command over Egypt, and his father is blessed by him serving the whole family food during a famine.

 
Ahab “tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and … went about dejectedly” in 1 Kings 21:27. This was in response to the Lord condemning him for worshiping idols, threatening to kill him and “anyone belonging” to him (see verse 24). But because he repented, God relented of the threatened wrath and said to the prophet Elijah, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house” (21:29).

 
Finally, in the story of the prodigal son, we see him acknowledge the depth of his sin against God – he feels guilt, shame and humility. Then we see a picture of his father responding not out of judgment, as expected, but out of forgiveness in verses 20-24:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him … But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

 
Living with intention
Sometimes, however, our lack of patience is masked as responsibility. As Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker words it, “Our eternal priorities get subjugated to our temporal responsibilities. And we pawn our God-given dream for the American dream.” Oftentimes we get so tired of waiting on God, we stop praying for our dreams and goals…and we say vague, unspecific prayers thanking God for dying on the cross and for our family and friends, and then go back to going with the flow and the mundane motions of the day. We also want what we want now, and we want what we do not need way too often.

 
We have to intentionally combat those two things: distraction with the temporal, current moment; and immediate gratification. If we do not, we will unknowingly be swept into the mundane cycle of typical American life just like standing on sand in a rip tide and getting pulled way down the beach. And then we wonder how we got there. We become impatient for God to do something about the problem we created, by being inactive and failing to pay attention and live with purpose. Don’t lose hope. Your miracle may very well be just around the corner if you make it down this hallway.

 

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Discontentment with God’s approval
According to the ESV study bible, “The father cast aside all behavioral conventions of the time, as running was considered to be undignified for an older person, especially a wealthy landowner such as this man.” When God does something so incredible, like bringing back a loved one from an addiction or a terrible pit in life, do you unashamedly celebrate? Or are you discontent with God’s approval to the point where you hesitate to give Him your all, for fear of how you may look in front of others?

 
My mom asked me one time, “Why do you raise your hands in worship, in public?” I’m not afraid to look out of place or silly with my hands waving up high while I’m singing at the top of my lungs in the sanctuary. I follow the Holy Spirit’s urge to surrender my everything, and that’s what it looks like for me – and that’s not something I’m ashamed of; people can think whatever they want, because God’s opinion of me is the only one that matters. David felt exactly the same way.

 
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod” (2 Samuel 6:14). Some have interpreted the ephod as being underwear, while others have read it as being a robe. Regardless, David’s celebration prompted by God bringing his presence to David (something they didn’t always have in the Old Testament like we do nowadays with the Holy Spirit) caused his wife, Michal, to “despise” him because he “uncovered” himself before his female servants. She was embarrassed and humiliated because of her husband, and expressed her disapproval to him. He denied her accusations, because he was 100% content in who he was called to be in Christ, favoring his approval above all else.

 

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God’s Timing
We have to hold fast to the reality that God never withholds what we need. If that’s true, He may have placed a God-honoring desire in your heart that He just hasn’t yet brought to fruition because your character isn’t ready for it yet. God is in the business of molding our attitudes and perspectives, and until those are in the right place, we won’t be able to properly care for certain blessings! We’ll take them for granted.

 
So God has to do a little operation on our hearts before it’s time to reap the harvest. So keep persevering and obeying the Lord with humility, not forgetting to pray, for in due time it will happen; do not give up hope. He will come through, but not always in the way you want Him to. People still die and get sick, and we don’t know all the answers, but in due time you will look back and understand – maybe in this life, maybe in the life to come. But rest assured that if you’re doing your best with what you have now, aiming to glorify God in everything you do, He will reward you.

 
Points to remember
~ Our sins are washed clean when we repent of our grumbling, disbelief and rebellion. God always desires reconciliation.

~ When you’re tempted to grumble and complain about your current situation, jot down some awesome things that happened today and a few things you’re grateful for – keeping a regular gratitude journal helps you stay in the right mindset.

~ Practice praying and waiting on God – this will develop a God-like endurance, helping you to have the strength to stay calm and wait patiently amid the chaos.

~ Contentment is a choice you have to make daily – start the day in God’s word to remember that God’s approval, His love and His promises are all you need. He never withholds anything we need, but that doesn’t mean life won’t be hard.

~ Make specific goals and actively, intentionally pursue them daily.

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