Tension With A Good God

If I had to describe my relationship with God in two words, they would be love and tension.

God gives unfathomable love, grace, compassion, guidance, wisdom, and joy generously to those who love Him. He is beautiful, tender, and an awesome Father. All of which fall under the umbrella of His great love.

But, human as I am, I cannot deny the tension. My Father and I have such different natures. How can there not be tension?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

I was listening to the radio and a caller was talking about her son nearly missing a car accident because he forgot his keys. The few minutes it took to run back inside his house caused him to miss a car accident in his path. If he had left a few minutes earlier, he would have been right smack in the middle of it.

“God saved my son!” she said.

The radio host got excited and reciprocated with a story about someone she knew that escaped a tragedy by mere minutes. “God is good!” she said.

There is no doubt that God is good.

However, these types of statements make me uneasy. When people assert that God saved them from this or that, I start to squirm. Do we claim to know the will of God? How do we know what is good or bad?

We have to be careful about proclaiming blessings in anything and everything that happens. How would the statement that God saved this caller’s son sit with the parent of someone who was killed in that accident?

Also, there are near misses every day. In any given car accident, there are a handful of people involved. Yet, there are many more that are not.

Let’s say that there is a 5% chance that you will get in a car accident every time you get in your car. That would mean that there is a 95% chance that you won’t. Is God’s hand in each of the 95%? Or, does the world just run its course, and sometimes accidents happen?

Did God save all of those 95% because that was His will? Or, is it just that statistically, some people get in a car accident and some don’t?

Obviously God can do whatever He wants at any time. However, to say that His hand saves every single person that does not get in a car accident is a little presumptuous. Again, do we claim to know the will of God?

If you asked my kids they would tell you that when I say goodbye I am not really leaving. They know I will come back in at least once because I forgot something. It’s just one of the many joys of getting older! So when someone calls that a miracle, something I do daily, I squirm a little.


At the same time I am very thankful every time I pass a car accident that I was not involved in. But, do I think that God orchestrates who is in every car accident and who isn’t? He certainly can. And, I think at times He does. But, I wouldn’t say that every time I avoid an accident, it’s because of God’s hand.

It’s entirely possible that more good could come out of it if I was in that car accident.

We cannot begin to understand the ripple effects of things happening in life. We cannot know what is ultimately good or bad. What we see as tragedy could trigger a set of events that could lead an entire nation to Christ. We don’t know.

Only God knows.

Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.  Psalm 139:4-6

A friend of mine’s daughter was in the middle of the attacks in Nice, France this past summer. She was not hurt and quickly got a flight home before they closed the airport.

Was I rejoicing with this relieved mother when her plane landed in the U.S.? Was I thanking God for protecting this precious child? I absolutely was! And if it were my child, I would have been on my knees praising God and thanking Him for keeping her safe.

But . . . 

What about those whose loved ones were not safe or protected?attacks-in-nice

At least eighty four people, many of them children, were killed on that fateful day in France.

How could God let children die so horrifically?


As a Christian, one cannot ‘square’ everything to complete satisfaction. My pastor once said, “Life with God is about sitting in the tension of unanswered questions.”

Do I feel settled or ‘squared’ with my understanding of everything in scripture or in the world?
Am I OK with the suffering of children in the world?
Am I content with the scripture about women not being permitted to pastor/lead in the church?

No, I’m not. I am not squared. Not with a lot of things.

To be human is to experience tension with the world, AND tension with God.

We experience tension when our will conflicts with His. We feel tension when we can’t square certain things in our limited minds. We experience tension when our nature rubs up against the perfect nature of God.


But we have a patient God. A God who is full of love and mercy. A God that goes above and beyond. And a God who gives life when we deserve death.

God is OK with my tension and with yours. In fact, I think God delights in the wrestling. As long as it moves us toward Him.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1


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Is Your Church Growing Young?

growing-young-book-3d-transparent-e1474419441508I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for a book called Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin based on research from the Fuller Youth Institute that addresses the vitally important issue of young people and our churches.

Across the United States, churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage.  ~Growing Young

Church attendance is declining. Congregations are aging. According to the research found in Growing Young, “no major Christian tradition is growing in the U.S. today.”

After researching the topic of young people and their faith for my upcoming book Pouring In: Pouring The Passion Of Christ Into Our Kids, the sobering truth was undeniable. Though the numbers varied slightly from one study to the next, they all came to the same conclusion—we are losing our kids.

The decline in overall church attendance is linked with young people’s religious practices or lack thereof.   ~Growing Young

According to Ken Ham’s 2009 book  Already Gone, “A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow.”

Seven years later does the picture look any different?

According to David Kinnaman in his book You Lost Me, “Most young Christians are struggling less with their faith in Christ than with their experience of church.”

So the problem we face is two fold; first, our kids are abandoning their faith; and second, our kids are walking away from the church.

Why is it so important to focus on bringing young people back to our churches?

Aside from the obvious reason of winning young people to Christ, there are great benefits for the church as well.

If your overall hope and prayer is to have a vibrant congregation, there is arguably no better starting place than the contagious passion of teenagers and young adults. ~Growing Young

For the church to thrive and be healthy we need young people. We must understand that young people are vital to the health of Christ’s church.

And knowing that Christ’s disciples were likely young, how can we be satisfied knowing that teenagers and young adults are extremely underrepresented in our churches?

Growing Young identifies six essential strategies to help young people discover and love the church.

The Warmth Factor

I have been feeling tension about the ‘American church’ for years. Something didn’t feel right. Something was missing. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on what was troubling me.

When I got to chapter 5, Fuel a Warm Community, of Growing Young, I almost jumped out of my seat and shouted, “That’s it! Warmth . . . . that’s it! That’s what’s missing from our churches!”

The qualities of a warm church include authenticity, hospitality, caring, welcoming, accepting, and belonging.   ~Growing Young

As I ponder the welcoming and inviting qualities of warmth, I think about church greeters.

I guess it is nice to have someone shake your hand when you walk in a church building, but do the greeters really care about who they are greeting? My guess would be probably not. And if I were a greeter at my church, I probably wouldn’t either. There’s too many people.

Greeting people verses warmth is the difference between shaking someone’s hand and looking into a person’s eyes and seeing their brokenness.

Going through the motions to check ‘served the church’ off of our list doesn’t count as warmth.

Could the lack of warmth in our churches be repelling young people? Warmth radiates out of authentic community. It can’t be faked.

One pastor said, “We can hire and buy cool, but we can’t hire—or fake—warmth.”   ~Growing Young

Warmth provides a fertile atmosphere in which love and relationships can grow.

Warmth is really caring about the answer when we ask, ‘how are you?’ Warmth says, “I see you” and “I want to know you.”

Warmth says “you are welcome here and you belong.” Warmth says “you don’t have to have it all together to be loved and accepted.”

Come As You Are

“Come as you are” is a popular catch phrase in churches today. Many of us claim this platitude. But do we really mean it?  Is “come as you are” the feeling that people get when they walk through the doors of our churches?

If we say “come as you are,” we had better mean it. Because if young people “come as they are,” but everything around them screams, “not good enough,” we will lose them. It’s that simple.

Young people won’t tolerate judgement. The church instead needs to offer them acceptance. The church needs to offer them a family.

Warmth is more than superficial community. It’s like family.   ~Growing Young

It’s Not About Being Nice

I don’t think anyone in the church would characterize Christ as nice. I certainly wouldn’t.

By suggesting that churches need to grow warmer, we don’t mean adults should be nice to young people. Nice does not cut it.  ~Growing Young

Jesus went far above and beyond nice. Jesus was all about love and relationships. He was about truth. And warmth radiated from His spirit. Maybe that is why so many people were drawn to Him.

If we want to get young people back in our churches, warmth and connection in relationships are key.

Today’s teenagers desire real relationships that are characterized by depth, vulnerability, openness, listening, and love—connectedness in their disconnected, confusing, and alienated world.   ~Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Young people today are starved for authentic relationships. And they don’t have the time or relational energy for nice.

Teenagers and young people matter. Church matters. And teenagers and young people matter in the church.

Are teenagers and young people a priority at your church?
Is your church welcoming and warm to young people?
Does your church have a good number of teenagers and emerging adults?

These are great questions to ponder within the context of your church and of mine.

Thanks to Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin and the Fuller Youth Institute for bringing us Growing Young. This book could revolutionize the American church as we know it.


9 Ways you can be brave in everyday life

The Avengers is one of my favorite movies. In fact, I love all of the comic book hero movies; Spiderman, Ironman, Captian America, X-Men, etc. Who doesn’t love a story where the hero saves the day?!

Even greater are movies about real life heroes (those without the cape!).

Movies like Hotel Rwanda and Schindler’s List touch the very core of humanity. Military movies such as American Sniper, Hurt Locker, Unbroken and so many more inspire us to do more and be all we can be.

Than there are movies about real life heroes that fought for social justice like Erin Brochovich. Or movies like Pursuit of Happyness in which a man overcomes poverty despite the nay-sayers, and goes on to do great things.

These are TRUE stories of ordinary people doing impossible things.

If you believe that you can’t be brave right where you are, I have got news for you. YOU can be brave, and you can be a hero. With the power and authority of Jesus Christ, you can do great things. Believe it!

Here are 9 ways to be brave in your everyday life.

1. Fight for your church

I am about as far from a ‘yes man’ as one can get. Even though I refuse to call myself a ‘devil’s advocate’, that is exactly what I am. I challenge and I question everything.

If you feel tension in your church, be brave and stand up and fight for it. There is nothing loving about standing by while the train goes off the tracks. You and I are the church, we must fight to protect it.

That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . . . . Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.   John 17:20-23

We must fight for unity. We must fight for love. We must fight for the church.

  • confront people about questionable doctrine
  • ask to be part of the ‘vision setting’ meetings
  • don’t let ‘tension’ keep you from teaching classes or leading Bible studies
  • be a prayer warrior for your church and its leaders

2. Follow Christ with everything you’ve got

True heroes are people that faithfully follow Christ everyday. Going against the flow to follow Jesus is about as brave as you get.

Mother Theresa is one such hero. She really did ‘for the least of these.’ I can’t wait to see her riches in heaven!

3. Get involved in people’s business

We need to get in each other’s business. That is what the church is all about—living life together.

Our pride keeps us from letting others see our messiness. Yet, we are all messy. So, why do we hide? God never tells us to keep secrets from each other.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

4. Walk through suffering

Walking through suffering instead of escaping out of it is one of the greatest forms of bravery there is.

  • give up alcohol and feel the pain
  • stay in a marriage that doesn’t feel good and feel the pain
  • let go and feel the pain

Give up things that you use to anesthetize yourself with and walk with God through the pain. Be willing to wrestle with a God who can restore and heal.

5. Be different in your community

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.  Hebrews 10:10

How can we be different right where we live?

  • put God above family
  • don’t be ‘over busy’- give God your firstfruits
  • live modestly and give generously
  • spend more time teaching your kids about Christ—more than academics or sports

6. Be a mentor to a young person

There is nothing greater than pouring into the life of a young person. Get involved with the youth at your church. Take the time to spark conversations that show care and concern.

  • offer to buy a young person Starbucks, and then LISTEN to them
  • reach out to a young person experiencing trauma that you can relate to, and then LISTEN to them
  • go to a game or other event that a kid you know will be participating in
  • be involved in your grandchildren or neices and nephews lives

It takes a village to raise kids! And that village is the church.

7. Be willing to fail

Is it OK if failure is in God’s will for your life or for mine?

Obviously we won’t fail spiritually if we are following Christ. And we won’t fail when it comes to our eternal inheritance through salvation in Christ. But, what if it is not in His plan for me to be successful in this world? Ever? Would I be OK with that?

As I ponder this question part of me wants to jump up and appear holy and righteous by saying, “whatever thou willeth I will doeth with joyeth”. But, is that real? Could I really rejoice in that?

How brave am I willing to be? Am I willing to fail for my God? As the line from the movie, The Stand by Stephen King goes, “My life for you!”

8. Create a new family legacy

Does your family have a legacy of alcoholism, neglect or abuse? Does your family have a legacy of avoiding conflict, or being passive aggressive or manipulative?

Make it your mission to stop the cycle right now and create a new legacy. The buck stops with you . . . oh, brave one!

9. Fight for your kids

  • stay home with your kids even though you have a promising career
  • homeschool your kids if God is leading you to it, even if you think ‘you could never do that!’
  • keep your family together even though ‘that loving feeling’ is gone

If you are doing any of the above and you don’t think you are brave, you are wrong! You don’t have to have superpowers to be brave. And although it would be nice, you don’t have to be seen or acknowledged to be brave either.

You don’t even have to feel brave to BE brave!

Believe that you can when the world tells you ‘you can’t.’ Believe that you are when everyone tells you ‘you aren’t.’ Choose to believe God and believe in yourself. And BE BRAVE!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phillipians 4:13


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5 Elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers

Dark, ominous clouds rumble overhead. Tornado sirens go off in the distance. Torrential rain starts to beat down on the skylights overhead. I look at the radar, and red, everything is red!

There has been a storm brewing in my soul. Every time I start to relax and have a little peace, the raging winds of the storm blow it away. Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I look out the window into the funnel and see the wicked witch riding her bike, laughing and saying, “I’ll get you my little pretty!”

Raising teenagers is tough—tougher than I ever imagined. The hearts of my teenage girls are fragile and tender. And teaching them to ‘guard their hearts’ in the world they live in seems like an impossible task.

The more I talk with my kids lately, the more I realize that between school, all their devices, texting, and social media, they are living in a toxic world.

There are 5 elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers.

1. Toxic Friends

My daughter showed me a group text she got from a friend while I was cooking dinner the other night.

The text read, “If you are going to the football game on Friday, say, ‘I            .”

I can’t write the three words it said. I can’t even allude to what it said. It was so vile and repulsive.

I was shocked and had to see it for myself to believe it. I started to feel sick as I leaned over. Yep, that is exactly what it said. The room started to spin so I sat down.

I couldn’t believe I had just read those three words on my fourteen year old daughter’s phone! I was filled with disgust and then I got really angry.

“Mom, I hear that kind of thing everyday at school, it’s no big deal. I didn’t say it back.” 

2. Toxic Culture

“The world’s gone mad,” I was thinking several weeks ago.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what I am talking about. The depressing state of the world is undeniable. This summer has been especially dire. Every time you turned around something awful had happened somewhere in the world. 

If it was a good day, meaning no mass killings, then it’s the Trump/Hillary debacle plastered all over the news and social media. Could we have picked 2 worse candidates? A rich playboy who has a god complex and a criminal. What is wrong with us?!

It’s no doubt that the world needs a good laugh right now. So I guess it’s good for something!

So, what is wrong with us? The answer is simple—we’re human. Left to our own devices we will thoroughly screw things up pretty much every time. And the more that God is removed from our culture, the more depraved our society will become.

3. Social Media Addiction 

As if drugs, alcoholism, and sexual addictions aren’t enough to worry about with our kids, we have to add social media addiction to the list.

The use of social media and smart phone technology is a great experiment. Our kids have so many devices at their fingertips everyday. They are the first generation to have contact with their friends and the world available 24/7.

How will they fare in 20, 30, or 50 years from now? We just don’t know.

My parents divorced when I was 9 in 1981. Divorce in America was at an all time high in the early 80’s. I call it “The Great Experiment”. Couples were divorcing left and right and no one knew the long term consequences it would have on kids.

Well, 20 and 30 years later we discovered that divorce is devastating to children. Ripple effects can be seen long into their adult life.

What will we say about social media when our kids are grown? How is technology going to affect their future?

4. Liberal Schools

God has been kicked out of the public schools. This is not news. We’ve been watching it happen slowly for decades. Each year our schools are becoming a less safe and nurturing environment for our kids.

The number of school shootings that have occurred since Columbine in 1999 is alarming. And through the years we have been hearing about violence in schools more and more.

Kids are lost. Kids are mean. And kids don’t know how to cope with life. Put a weapon in the hands of a young lost soul and tragedy will surely follow.

Schools are becoming more and more liberal. And the educational system is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity.

Are our kids being taught the truth in school? Are our kids being taught the truth in colleges and universities?

5. Lukewarm Churches

The church is the vessel of hope to this wretched world.

However, instead of infecting the world with the love of Christ, are we letting the world seep into our churches?

When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.  -Mark Yoder

So, what hope do we have?

We have hope in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope—but He is a big one! And, we have the joy of knowing that we will spend an eternity in glory with God the Father.

But what about the here and now? Can we find hope in this life? 

Hope is found in our families. Families are the building blocks of the church. And the family unit has power.

Taking back our families can change the world. Take back your days, don’t let every minute be filled with this sport or that activity. Spend time together as a family. Talk about the issues of the day and what scripture has to say about them.

You and I as Christian parents possess the antidote to this toxic world. We can’t save our kids, but the blood of Jesus can!

Challenge Red Grunge Seal Isolated On White

My Vanity Fast Part 3: THE CHALLENGE

In Part 1 and Part 2 we talked about what beauty is not, so let’s talk about what beauty is.

Beauty is an older woman at church who is struggling with a family that is falling apart. Even through the tears, she is praising her God because His is good.

Beauty is a woman who stays in a lifeless and loveless marriage to honor the promise she made before God.

Beauty is a woman who stays home with her kids to raise them. She is lonely. She feels like sacrificing her career has caused her to fall behind in the world. But, she loves her God and trusts the good work He is doing in her and in her kids.

There is such beauty in a woman who is willing to suffer for her God.

Beauty is  a woman who struggles with poverty working multiple jobs to support herself and her kids. She works tirelessly and has very little for herself. Yet, she loves and praises her God, and strives to live a righteous life. Her hope is found in Christ.

Beauty is a friend who was a missionary for seven years. Despite loneliness and isolation when she comes off the field, she is still trusting the Lord, and she is ready to be ‘sent out’ once again.

Beauty is a woman who is so in love with the poor people of Africa that she considers that home instead of her home in this country, and those children like her own kids.

Beauty is a woman who is willing to let God break her heart for what breaks His.

Beauty is any woman who loves God who is messy, sinful, wretched, and occasionally veers off the narrow path. But she gets back on the path and praises her Heavenly Father who saved her.

What does God say about beauty?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   1 Peter 3:3-4

God’s standard for beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit. One who is desperately pursuing righteousness in Jesus Christ.

I know that I can never live up to being a Proverbs 31 woman. To be honest, it is among my least favorite scriptures in the Bible. I am messy. I am wretched. And I am strong willed.

I often feel as though I am striving, but never reaching that high bar.

But I know I’m OK. As long as my eyes are on Him. As long as Jesus is my Lord. And, as long as I couple action with my faith, God will be glorified through me.

So, how can you learn to love yourself regardless of what you see in the mirror? I can’t answer that question for you. The best I can tell you is this,

The most beautiful thing that you, or I, could see in the mirror is JESUS.

True beauty is found in Jesus Christ. Such immense love cannot help but being stunningly beautiful. And, if we mirror the image of Christ, we will be stunningly beautiful too.

The Vanity Fast Challenge

If you are like me and have blurred the lines of beauty and identity, it’s time to bring things back into focus. And with focus comes freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.   Galatians 5:1

I challenge you to try a vanity fast, and I pray that God uses it to show you truth. Whether it is one week, one month, or one year is up to you. What could it hurt? Why not step out of your comfort zone and see what is on the other side? It just might be freedom.

Will a vanity fast be an instant cure? Probably not. Anything worth having takes work and happens in God’s timing. And, if you are anything like me, you are a slow learner!

I would like to say after five weeks of my vanity fast that the ties of beauty and identity have been completely severed. I’m fixed . . . . HALLELUUUUIAH! But, I’m not. Let’s just say I am one of God’s tougher cases!

But that is OK with me. Because I am tirelessly working toward truth, the freedom God has for me, and becoming more like Him. And, I am beginning to see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here


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My Vanity Fast and the 4 deceptions of beauty: Part 2

Read part 1 here

A couple weeks ago I was chatting with my youngest daughter on our sun porch.

“Emily is so much prettier than I am,” she said.

Emily, My oldest, is sixteen and curvy. Jessica is skinny—she takes after her father. No matter what I say to Jessica, she can’t seem to accept that she is beautiful just the way she is. She has an adorable body that looks good in everything, perfect olive colored skin, and naturally highlighted hair that women my age would pay big bucks for.

She is perfect. Yet she still questions what her boyfriend sees in her.

We, as women/girls, are never happy. It’s as if we are conditioned to not be content with who we are. Girls who are skinny wish they were curvy, and those who are curvy wish they were skinny. Girls with curly hair wish they had straight hair and girls with straight hair wish they had curly hair. 

I wish that my daughter could see what her father and I see. And I’m sure God wishes that we would see what He sees in us.

Let’s continue with the 4 deceptions of beauty . . . . 

3. We are never good enough

I have struggled my entire life with identity and self worth. Many of us have.

Early in life, I got attention for my looks, way more attention than I ever got for who I wasgirl looking out window urbane inside. When this starts at a young age, you believe what the world tells you. You believe your worth is in your beauty. And, it is very difficult to break free and believe differently.

‘A woman’s worth is tied to her youth and beauty’ is a lie cooked up by the enemy. He wants us to think that we are just eye candy for the viewing pleasure of men.

Satan feeds young girls lies that are so easily accepted as truth. They sound good at first, as many of Satan’s deceptions do. Being attractive when you are young is fun. It feels good. It makes you popular. And if you are beautiful, you are celebrated.

Deception is Satan’s greatest tool.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   Genesis 3:4-5

And we all know that beauty doesn’t last forever. After a lifetime of believing your identity is in your beauty, you find yourself enslaved by it. How do you break free?

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.   Proverbs 31:30

Being a woman today is hard. We live in a culture that says that women must change almost everything about themselves to be good enough. We change our hair color, eye color, skin color, cook ourselves, squeeze ourselves into clothes that are three sizes too small, and put on push-up bras because we think we are not good enough.

Where does it end? When are we, as girls and women, good enough?

Social media and television define beauty for us. They have set the standard, and girls are watching. When girls grow up with these wrong messages about beauty, they often confuse beauty with their identity.

Untitled design (6)Our daughters grow up being told that the purpose of their life is to be forever young and beautiful.

The truth is, if we are trying to live up to the world’s standards, we will never be good enough.

The only standard that we need to concern ourselves with is God’s standard. And, God’s Word gives us the truth about age and beauty.

A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness.   Proverbs 16:31

Often, what we really want from beauty is to feel accepted, included and pursued. But do we realize that we were made acceptable in Christ, we have been adopted into the family of God, and we are fervently pursued by Abba, Father? 

To them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.   John 1:12-13

True beauty is found in Jesus Christ, the One who paid the price for this wretched world. What He did on the cross was truly and completely beautiful.

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.   Romans 5:8

If we want to be truly beautiful, we must reflect the image of Christ.

4. Being beautiful can never make you strong or powerful

I recently watched, The Devil Wears Prada. It is a movie about a girl who is transformed into a beautiful woman working at a fashion magazine. At the beginning, she is seemingly unattractive, and therefore, not valued. However, when she finally changes and is beautiful and stylish, she is suddenly competent and powerful.

When we feel strong, confident and powerful because we look good, we are being deceived. It isn’t truth. Beauty can hold no power. Shiny, luxurious hair can give us no strength. A pencil skirt, flattering jeans, or the perfect pair of boots can’t do anything for us. 

Power does not come from long eyelashes or long cascading hair.
Power does not come from a lean, muscular body.
Power does not come from perfectly white teeth, or flawless skin.
Power does not come from a french manicure or waxed eyebrows.
Power does not come from being a perfect size __ .
Power does not come from perfectly tanned legs, or a tiny waist.

So, if power doesn’t come from physical beauty, where does power come from?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being   Ephesians 3:16

If being powerful is what you seek, then go to the source. God is the most powerful being that ever was, is or ever could be. He is the source of power, the author of power, and the giver of power. Our power is in Christ alone.

In Christ alone

Join me next week for part 3 as I’ll be wrapping up our discussion on beauty and presenting a challenge. 

Read Part 1 here

Are you a slave to beauty

My Vanity Fast and the 4 deceptions of beauty: Part 1

Five weeks ago, I started my second annual summer vanity fast. Woo hoo!

Not vanityfest mind you, . . . . vanity FAST!  (a very important distinction, indeed)

What is a vanity FAST, you might ask? Instead of giving up food, I am giving up makeup for five weeks. Vanity is an area of my life that I have a hard time surrendering to God. 

‘What’s the big deal about not wearing makeup?’ you might ask. Well, makeup is a very big deal for me! Vanity has been a stronghold in my life. I know it. God knows it.

I have depended too much on my looks for confidence and power.

The unassailable fortifications of your walls He will bring down, Lay low and cast to the ground, even to the dust.  Isaiah 25:12 (NIV)

I write this blog post about beauty and identity because I know that I am not alone. What woman isn’t to some degree affected by her perception of beauty? I don’t know any.

We must bring this important issue to light.

Light exposes the true character of everything.   Ephesians 5:13 (GOD’S WORD® Translation)

The messy entanglements of beauty and identity are pervasive in our culture. Too many women are slaves to beauty. We were not created for bondage. We were created for freedom!

Although we were made beautiful and acceptable through the blood of the Lamb, somewhere along the way, we were deceived.

I believe there are four deceptions of beauty. I will address the first two deceptions in Part 1. The second and third deceptions are in Part 2. And Part 3 is a challenge.

1. Vanity can become self worship

Every year, as summer approaches and the t-shirts come out, I remember how white and hairy my arms are. Yep, I said it,  . . . . white and hairy! Ugh!

I look at other women, and they have smooth, beautiful, hairless arms. Can it be that I am the only hairy one?! And, I don’t go to the tanning salon, so until mid-June I am pretty pasty. It really bothers me. I feel ugly, ugly, hairy and white!

I don’t wax my eyebrows. At any given moment I could have a rogue, unplucked eyebrow hair out of place . . . . scandalous!! I refuse to get my eyebrows waxed because it’s one more thing. And, I don’t need one more thing to do for vanity!

Don’t get me wrong, I do normally wear make up. I do color my hair, and love it! (Nice ‘N Easy 98 baby!) And I do occasionally lay out in the sun.

However, I refuse to wax my eyebrows, shave my arms (not armpits – I’m not a savage!), paste on fake eyelashes, and go to a tanning salon. I know that if I give in to one more of these beauty rituals I will be worshiping the big ‘V’. . . . Vanity!

And, let’s just call it what it is . . . . it’s worshiping myself!

We all have to draw our line in the sand!

Satan would love for me to take my eyes off of Christ and stare adoringly in the mirror for hours. What better idol is there than . . . . ME?!! And, if I have enough ‘beauty’, I can get other people to worship me too!

After all, according to the late Whitney Houston, the greatest love of all is inside of ME!!

Me, me, me!! It’s all about me! . . .  wait a minute! That’s not right! It’s all about Him. It’s all about God and bringing HIM glory.

I’m on to you, Satan!

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.   2 Corinthians 11:14

2. Vanity is a distraction

Have you heard of fiber lashes? Or, eyelash extensions? A friend was selling these products a while back. I remember thinking, ‘If I use these products I will probably be more beautiful.’ However, I knew then as I know now, God doesn’t want me to be more beautiful. He wants me to be more like Him

As a Godly woman, beauty is not the end goal, holiness is. Holiness in us brings glory to God. Yet, how much time do we spend focused on our vanity every day verses focused on our holiness?

He has saved us and called us to a holy life.   2 Timothy 1:9

I am a writer and work from home. One day a week I wear my best clothes, paint my toenails, and do my hair. It’s Sunday. For church I get all ‘dolled’ up. Instead of ‘come as you are’ I feel like it’s ‘roll out the red carpet’. It sometimes feels like a fashion show. And I feel as though I have to measure up.

Am I thinking about God and preparing myself for worship as I head to church? Not so much. Has vanity distracted me from truly being the church? Yes. God, forgive me. 

We must ask ourselves . . . . 

Is our beauty distracting us from the ultimate beauty of an amazing God? Are we missing the freedom He offers us because we are too busy being slaves to beauty?

We must surrender our beauty to God and stop wasting time obsessing over it.

And trust me, I know that it is easier said than done.

The second and third deceptions of beauty are discussed in Part 2.

Read Part 2 here

Untitled design (10)

4 Steps to victory; defeating the deceptions of Satan

I deal with a lot of spiritual warfare. Day in and day out I fight. Lies and accusations come hurling toward me like arrows over a castle wall. The enemy knows just where to aim to penetrate my defenses.

I often think of the 80’s song, Love is a Battlefield, by Pat Benatar. However, it is my mind that is a battlefield. At the end of most days, I feel bloodied and beaten.

I have often wondered, where is the victory that we are promised?

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   1 Corinthians 15:57

I know my God is victorious, and I can be too. So, why do I so often feel defeated?

Putting on the armor

Most Christians are aware of the armor of God described in Ephesians. However, do we know how to use it or put it on? Do we know how to activate the armor? For most of my life I certainly didn’t.

I recently started Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, The Armor of God. And through it, I am starting to see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel!

One of the women in the Bible study with me is Sally, an extremely gifted Christian counselor. She relies heavily on God’s counsel with her clients. And, she is truly gifted.

One day when she was praying, lies from the enemy started to hit her consciousness. Right away, she started praying a four step prayer to fight these lies.

God showed her how to fight off lies from the enemy and gain victory over them. She gave me permission to share the four steps here.

Step 1: Identify the lie

I remember as a kid, seeing a TV commercial that showed a superhero with his fists confidently on his sides and a cape flowing behind him in the breeze. He would say, “Knowing is half the battle!”

Isn’t that so true?! Knowing is half the battle. I would even say, knowing is more than half the battle. And a lot of people go through their whole lives and never get the ‘knowing.’

One type of knowing is self awareness. There is nothing more annoying than people who aren’t self aware. It is a pet peave of mine. I know that certain things trigger me. I know when I tend to overreact. I know that I can be pessimistic and complain too much. I know the weaknesses in my character.

I am self aware. We all have weaknesses and being aware of them means that we are ‘in the know’.

Another type of knowing is discernment. Discernment is knowing where certain thoughts come from. Are they from God? Or, from Satan? Or, neither?

How do we discern God’s truth from Satan’s lies?

You can learn to discern!

If you have trouble discerning the lies of the enemy, ask God to help you see. The more we pray, the closer we walk with God and the more we study His Words, the more we will have His heart. And if we have His heart, the Holy Spirit will help us learn discernment.

Step one is identifying the lie Satan is using on you.

Step 2: Renounce it in Jesus name

There is one name above all names.  

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,   Philippians 2:9-10

There is no greater name than Jesus. And there is power in His name. So, speak it. Shout it if you have to.

“I renounce this thought in the name of Jesus Christ!”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”   Luke 10:17

Step 3: Proclaim your identity in Christ

You and I are heirs to the King!

Satan would rather us not realize that we are royalty. He would prefer we not know our position and inheritance. He would like us to forget that we belong to God.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God   Romans 8:13

Proclaim your identity in Christ. Own it. live it. Nobody can take it away from you. Claim what is rightfully yours.

Step 4: Give thanks

The final step is thanking God for the battle you face and for the victory He will bring you.

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19

Thankfulness should be the posture of a follower of Christ. We have so much to be thankful for. We are alive and free because of the cleansing blood of Christ.

Giving thanks to God can do so many things. It can foster worship, it can put down pride, and it can restore peace.

Trust fuels thanksgiving, and thanksgiving activates peace.  -Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God

We long for peace after the battle. Peace that God has won the day; peace that we have survived the battle; peace that God is on His throne, and therefore, we have nothing to fear.

Peace is the victory.

Thank you God for allowing us to have victory over the deceptions of the enemy!

It’s time to start experiencing victory in Jesus name!


Tension on the tightrope; walking the fine line of parenting teenagers

I bumped into a friend of mine while dropping my daughter off at church the other day. She seemed visibly stressed and tired so I asked her what was going on.

My friend has been divorced for about ten years, and she and her ‘ex’ have joint custody of the kids. Her daughter doesn’t want to go to her dad’s anymore. He doesn’t pay much attention to her and she feels lonely and out of place with his ‘other’ family.

When she is at her dad’s there’s a lot of conflict and strife. She doesn’t get along with her step siblings. There is constant turmoil, and her dad and stepmom are on the brink of divorce. There isn’t much room in this family for her.

Amidst the chaos, she is invisible.

“The postmodern family is often so concerned about the needs, struggles, and issues of parents that the emotional and developmental needs of the children go largely unmet.” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Boy, could I relate! My dad remarried shortly after my parents’ divorce and started a new family. It was a loving home, but I never really fit in. And I never got the time and attention that an adolescent girl so desperately needs.

The teenage years are tough enough. Hormones are raging and emotions are confusing. Bodies are changing. Teens are awake when the world sleeps, and sleeping when the rest of the world is awake. It’s a strange time of life.

When you pile on family chaos and neglect, their chances of successfully getting through adolescence are significantly diminished.

Teenagers need their parents more than ever.

“There is a hunger for genuine and meaningful relationships so pervasive among teenagers and young adults today that experts now cite “relational deprivation” as one of the marks of today’s emerging generations” -Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Parents today seem more interested in their own pursuits, finding love or finding themselves, or living their own dreams, than actually finishing what they started when they had kids. We, as parents, have become very self absorbed.

I often wonder – Where is the sacrifice in parenting? Why do we feel entitled to have kids, yet not feel compelled to sacrifice for them?

Later that day, as I thought more about my friend’s daughter’s situation, I wondered, ‘how did we as parents become so selfish?’ How did we stray so far from how parents were many generations ago?

My mother-in-law grew up in a family that over-parented her. They were oppressive. Her childhood was filled with fear, and a lot of guilt and shame. It was not OK to question mom or dad. Conflict was just swept under the rug. And, there was no freedom to learn, explore, or express yourself.

How did we come from a place of overbearing parenting, to a place of neglectful parenting? From being helicopter parents to ones who neglect to parent at all?

It blows my mind.

Society is like a pendulum. We find ourselves too extreme in one direction so we swing the pendulum the other way.

However, instead of stopping in the middle, the pendulum picks up speed as it flies right past the point of healthy balance. Before we know it, we find ourselves on the other extreme, and we are no better off.

Why can’t we live in the middle? Why is moderation seemingly unattainable?

It is a fine line to achieve and maintain balance in parenting. We experience tension as we keep ourselves from going too far one way or too far the other way. It is a juggling act. It is the tension of parenting. And, it’s part of the deal.

Tension will always be part of the process, because our tendency will always be to go too far. We just want to keep that pendulum swinging! It’s in our DNA.

Both my teenagers have recently gotten their first boyfriends. Right when I thought I had this parenting thing down . . . . BAM! . . . they start dating! And, I am a bumbling idiot!

I have found the trickiest part of parenting a teenager with a boyfriend is finding balance. It seems as though I am walking a tightrope, and I could fall to my parenting death at any moment!

My girls are young women, but they still need parenting at 14 and 16 (despite what they may think!), and they still need limits. They need a lot of guidance at this age. The issues are substantially bigger and scarier, and the consequences more drastic.

The lines of communication must remain open. I fear the day that my girls stop talking to me about their boyfriends. I know that if they don’t value our relationship, it could be very bad for them. We could lose them to a dark, painful path.

It is important to share their excitement and celebrate in their joys of life. They need to be able to talk through the many new experiences and feelings they are having with their mom. And, I want to laugh and rejoice with them.

However, I can’t just be their friend. I have to be their parent. My husband and I are the only parents they’ve got. And we could be the only voice of truth they hear in their social media world.

I recently met my mentor for coffee. She told me about a friend of hers who worked outside the home until her kids were around 10 and 12 , then she quit her job and stayed home with them. She believed that kids need parents more during their adolescent years then when they are little.

“Christ Frappier, an investigator with Vermont’s state public defender’s office said ‘What I am seeing in recent years is a total and complete alienation of youth. And it is not coming from them; it is coming from the adults who aren’t bothering to reach out to them.'” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Unfortunately, many people quit parenting when their kids reach the teenage years. They think they are done.

Kids need involved parents during adolescence more than ever.

The world speaks loudly to our kids. It speaks through absent fathers, broken families, and childhood abuses. The world speaks loudly through public schools, movies, and social media. The world speaks loudly about the issues of pain, suffering, and morality.

Our kids will listen to whoever is speaking the loudest to them, whether it is truth or not.

Pretty, young business woman giving a presentation in a conferen

4 Reasons why goodness without God is not good enough

I was listening to William Lane Craig, professor at Talbot School of Theology debate Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The topic was, Is goodness without God good enough?

‘Interesting question,’ I thought. Where does good come from?

How or why would we be good if God didn’t exist? Would we be good? Could we be good? The question lingers in the air as I ponder the thought.

Among the many arguments apologists use for the existence of God, the moral argument intrigues me the most. Both Christians and atheists alike struggle with the problem of pain & suffering, and the problem of evil.

From human trafficking and the exploitation of children all the way down to Lions killing gazelles, the existence of pain and suffering doesn’t sit well with us. And the thought of God permitting evil is downright offensive.

So, what do we do with the moral argument? Let’s take a closer look.

I am very much a amateur apologist, however, there seem to be four themes that emerge from the moral argument.

1. All Morality and rules come from a higher authority

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than our hands and feet and teeth . . . . Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and any deeper meaning is illusory . . .
~Michael Ruse, philosopher

My oldest daughter has her permit and is learning to drive. Teaching your kid to drive ranks right up there with potty training and explaining the birds and the bees! Let’s just say . . . . I don’t love it!

Sitting next to her in the passenger seat, I say things like . . . 

  • you don’t have the right of way, you must yield
  • slow down! you can’t go over the speed limit
  • use the left lane to pass someone on the freeway

Are the ‘rules of the road’ innate? Were we born knowing them? Or, can we just say that we do them because it is the right thing to do? Of course not! The government makes the laws, and we are expected to follow them.

All rules that we must follow come from a higher authority.

Why did we have to be home by 11 when we were teenagers?
Why did we finish our homework before we played with friends?

because of a higher authority –> our parents

Why do kids have to get a hall pass to go to the bathroom?
Why do kids have to do physical education testing?

because of a higher authority –> the school

Why do we have to take a class to become members at church?

because of a higher authority –> the church

Why do we have to be at work by 8:30?

because of a higher authority –> the boss

Why do we have to wait until we are 21 to drink alcohol, or until we are 18 to vote?

because of a higher authority –> the government

The rules that we follow are given to us by a higher authority. Whether they come from parents, schools, churches, the government, or a boss, they come from somewhere. And they come from something higher than us.

Does God have to exist for moral values to existWell, yes! All of the rules that we follow come from a higher authority.

Why can’t I sleep with someone that isn’t my spouse?
Why can’t I just ignore the neighbor that needs help?
Why do I have to live by the golden rule?
Why should I support a child in Africa?

because there is a higher authority –> God

And, much like the universe, moral values and duties must have a cause. Everything comes from something. Nothing can exist uncaused or uncreated, except God.

2. We take care of ‘the least of these’

A friend at a local ministry recently told me that in Ethiopia, in order to control the number of homeless kids that roam the streets, or “street kids” as they’re called, they drive through the city and shoot them. How horrific! How could anyone shoot children?!

Without the existence of God, without the existence of objective morals values, this action might be the best for the community or the species as a whole.

Yet we find the thought of it reprehensible. Why?

As part of the Darwinian Theory, the idea of survival of the fittest is widely accepted in the scientific world and beyond. In other words, those that are better equipped for survival will survive and those that aren’t, won’t.

Yet, we intervene in this process, and help the ‘least fit’ to survive. Why?

As a purely scientific description, disabled people are not ‘the fittest.’ So, why should we help them to survive if morals are merely a biological adaptation? If there is no God who tells us to love and care for ‘the least of these’, then why do we do it?

‘We just know it’s the right thing to do’ is a painfully insufficient answer. It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

The reality is that we do feel compelled to take care of disabled people. Many government agencies and nonprofit organizations are dedicated to bettering the lives of those with disabilities. We spend a lot of time and resources helping the weakest of our species.

Thank God that we care for these precious people. They make life so much richer.

3. The necessity of pain, suffering and evil

I always wonder why people have such a problem with the existence of pain and suffering. And, why do we assume that evil should not exist?

According to William Lane Craig, evil may be necessary for a world with the greatest amount of good, and one in which there is the greatest number of people who know God. 

Take the 1998 movie Pleasantville. A brother and sister are thrust into the perfect world of a 1950’s sitcom. Like Leave It To Beaver, everything is just swell. Though there is no color in their world and every day is exactly like the one before, it is safe and perfect. There is no violence, pain, hunger or injustice.

However, there is also no adventure, no love, no romance and no passion.

Another movie that illustrates this is The Giver (yes, I’m a movie junkie!). After a tragedy destroys most of the earth, a self contained, isolated, utopian society is created. One in which there is no disease, hunger, or war. Citizens take daily injections of a substance that gets rid of emotions. And memories of how the world once was, have been taken away.

Once memories are returned to them, they see the triumphs of man; love, compassion, and cooperation. And, they see the darkness of man; war, terror, and injustice. Tears of joy are shed as memories of the real world flood their minds.

A real world is better than a perfect one. The world that God created is much richer then a perfect world ever could be. 

4. The existence of purpose and meaning

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Does God matter? How important is a purpose driven life?, human beings are why creatures. We not only seek to know what, and how things work, but also, why we are here and why things happen. We want to know there is a reason. And whys lead to purpose and meaning.

And, if there were no God, and therefore, no meaning or purpose in life . . . .

Why would we want to better ourselves?
Why would we pursue happiness?
Why would we go on a mission trip to feed the poor?
Why would we write a novel or a song?
Why would we love?

None of these are necessary for health or survival.

Without meaning or purpose, human beings would simply be the most advanced primates; the top of the food chain. As humans we may have awareness, and advanced cognitive abilities, but beyond that, without God, we’re just animals outside of the zoo.

It is not merely a question of ‘Is goodness without God good enough?’ It is that there would be NO goodness without God.

There would be no morality. There would be no one assisting people in need. There would be no color, passion, or love. And, there would be no purpose or meaning to our lives.

Without God, goodness would simply not exist.