Tag Archives: fear

What you miss by being a Christian

Today as I was walking into the grocery store an older gentleman, with kind eyes, handed me a pamphlet. The front of it said in big bold letters: “What you miss by being a Christian”. As a chronic people-pleaser I have a hard time saying no to people handing out fliers, samples, or anything else that’s given freely and with a smile. So I stuck the pamphlet in my purse and later, when I got back to my office, I pulled it out to throw away. But curiosity got the best of me and I opened it up to see what it said.

In big bold letters it read HELL! (complete with exclamation point). And then it proceeded to list a number of Bible verses that describe hell.

Um, OK. That will get a person’s attention. Although, probably not in the way this gentleman was hoping.

Yes, of course as a Christian I believe the only way to eternal salvation is through Jesus Christ. And yes, I believe in hell, and based on the descriptions I’ve read in scripture, it does not sound like a fun place to spend eternity. But, is that the best message to send non-believers? Is a message meant to motivate with fear and threats really the best way to draw people to Jesus? Forgive me, but if I was a non-believer, I don’t think that’s the message that would do it for me.

I don’t mean to dismiss the truth behind scripture, or make light of it, but I do think there is more to the complete picture of Christianity that needs to be shared with non-believers, and would probably better serve to pique their interest.

So, I decided to come up with my own list of 4 things I miss out on by being a Christian.

  1. Condemnation – Romans 8:1-2 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

    I don’t know about you, but there is plenty in this world already telling me I am not enough — I’m not smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, pretty enough, etc. As a believer, though, I know those are lies from the enemy. I am not enough on my own, but through Jesus Christ I am freed of all my short-comings and sin, and that means no guilt for all the ways I fall-short, no shame for my past mistakes, and no condemnation for the mistakes I have yet to make.

     

  2. Being unloved – “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

    As the Beatles said, “all you need is love.” But so often we believe that love needs to come from a spouse, a friend, a parent, or a child. When we don’t feel like we are loved the way we want, or don’t have those relationships, it can make us feel completely unloveable, or even unworthy of love. But scripture says that I am loved, and you are loved, by our heavenly Father. And he has proven His love to us in the most spectacular way, by giving up His own son in order to save us, to spend eternity with us. Once you know and accept that truth, it’s hard to ever feel unloved again.

     

  3. Fear – Being unloved leads to number three, fear. In 1 John it goes on to say that “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:15, 18)

    Fear comes in many forms. It can be a fear of punishment, as John mentions in this scripture, it can be a fear of failure, a fear of death, a fear of loneliness, fear for our children’s future, etc. But whatever the source of our fear, it can always, always be declared a lie. Because God’s love has no room for fear. To know Him and accept His love is to accept that we need not be afraid of punishment, failure, death, loneliness, the future, or anything else! His love protects, it has our very best interests, and it will never leave us.

  4. Having to do it all on my own (aka self-reliance) – For me this one goes a little bit with condemnation because when I fall into the trap of thinking I have to “do it all” alone, the guilt and condemnation are usually quick to follow when I inevitably realize I cannot do it all. But this is also about casting aside the loneliness that comes with thinking “it’s all up to me”. Anyone who has ever felt like success or failure was riding on their shoulders knows it’s a lonely place to be. Whether you’re a single mom, the CEO of a company, or just an introverted overachiever (raises hand), it can be easy to feel all the weight and pressure of being “the one” responsible for it all. But God says: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness in an uninhabited salty land. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat  or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

    We have a choice — try and do it on our own and feel like dried up shrubs in the desert, or rely on God and be perpetually replenished, strengthened, and productive. When we become Christians and learn that we are never alone, and do not have to rely solely on our own strength and abilities, then the pressure and loneliness no longer have a place in our lives.

These are four things that I no longer have room for in my life because I know God and have a relationship with Jesus. And I can tell you that I don’t miss them one bit.

Featured photo by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash

What do we say to the parents?

Yesterday was a hard parenting day for me. In particular late last night I experienced something I’ve never dealt with before and hope to never deal with again. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say my son, who has depression and an anxiety disorder, went to a dark place and was almost swallowed up by it.

As I lay with him in my bed, helping him to calm his breathing and slow his tears, I whispered words of comfort and Truth in his ear. I told him because he had God in his heart, he would be protected. Then we prayed together. I prayed for God’s protection and strength to surround my son. Together we denounced any evil that might try to take over his thoughts or compromise his safety.

And friends, I believed — still believe — with my whole heart that those words I said, the prayer we prayed is true. I believe that God loves my son and will protect him and keep him safe.

But then this morning.

This morning I turn on the radio and hear the updated information from Florida. Seventeen dead.

And I think of the parents of those 17 children. Did they pray the same prayer?

Did they believe with all of their heart that God would protect their son or daughter and keep them safe?

I don’t know for sure, but I would bet some of them did, if not most. And I’m left wondering how we come to terms with the knowledge that 17 innocent lives, lives really just beginning, were taken?

I’ve grappled with that question all morning. Asking myself how I can have such great faith and trust that my son will be protected, while knowing children are dying every day in senseless, tragic ways.

I don’t really have an answer for that. You can call it blind faith. You can call it naivety. You can call it illogical or unfair. You can call it luck or privilege.

Call it what you will.

I guess if I had to choose one word to call it, it would be Hope.

I know deep down that every day is a gift. I have lost loved ones too soon. I have attended the funerals of children. I have sat in hospital rooms with my husband waiting for test results, wondering if we would both leave the hospital. I do know that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. None of us. Including my son or daughters.

I also know God loved us so very much He offered us free will and with that free will the devil schemes and takes advantage and sometimes, yes sometimes, he wins the battle. It can happen to any one of us. Any one of our children.

But yesterday I also watched friends and neighbors support my daughter and her efforts to raise money to go and do missions work in the Dominican Republic. I saw people loving on and caring for my Grandma. I had a conversation with a teacher who expressed such deep love for my child and my family it left me in tears. So while evil was attacking my son last night, hope was there, too.

While evil was taking lives in Florida and around the world, hope was there, too.

Hope sat with the teacher who hid students in a closet and kept them safe.

Hope sat with the police officers, first responders, and hospital staff that worked so diligently to evacuate and secure the school property, apprehend the gunman, and care for the wounded.

Hope sits with all of us who wipe our eyes, raise our fists, and shout “Enough!” While we rally together to stand-up and demand change from our elected officials.

Hope is there, even when we can’t see it or feel it.

 

For as much as I love words, I am surprisingly bad at knowing what to say in the face of tragedy, especially to those who have lost so deeply. I honestly don’t know what I could say to the parents of those 17 students or the 1,000s of other children who have lost their lives in senseless tragedies like this. I just don’t know that there is anything that could be said that would amount to more than wasted breath and empty words to their broken hearts.

But we can love them. We can hold in our arms the ones we know personally, and hold up the ones we don’t in prayer.

We can look at the photos and read the stories of their precious children and remember them.

We can refuse to forget, to move on, or to become numb.

We can demand change.

And yes, yes, I know it’s been said and heard so many times it’s beginning to sound trite. But I do believe in the power of prayer. And I believe we are not only fighting a physical war that requires more intervention, awareness, access to mental health care, and restricts access to firearms, but we are also fighting a spiritual battle. One that requires we get on our knees and pray for protection over our children, our neighbor’s children, our community’s children, our nation’s children. It requires we hold on to Hope and to each other.

Satan may have won the battle, but God will win the war.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

If you are wanting to take action to stop the senseless violence in America, but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to check out this website: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/ organized and run by parents who know too well what it means to lose a child to gun violence.

 

 

 

photo credit: BONA LUMA There is Always Light via photopin (license)

 

Bold, Brave & Blessed – A free gift for you

Last year I decided to do a 90 day thanks and giving challenge, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The day I started this challenge just happened to be the day before my son started a new medication. What followed was four of the hardest parenting weeks I’ve had in a long time. There were many days I faced my own limitations, fear, and anxiety as I struggled to help my son, seek answers, and trust the doctor.

I believe that it was no accident that during this time I was also living in intentional gratitude because I had committed to the “Thanks and Giving Challenge”. In many ways, focusing on being thankful each day kept me tethered to Christ and certainly blessed me so much more than I expected.

I believe when we actively seek out the beauty, the joy, the blessings in our lives, we are reminded that we not only have a good Father, but we have a God who follows through on His promises. When I did this challenge last year it was impossible for me to lose hope or forget just how much God loves me and loves my family. I saw how God provided for and protected my son. And I was reassured that His ways are better than mine.

After experiencing the transformative power of living in intentional gratitude I decided to share the love and designed a journal to share with others. I first shared it with the women who attended the Renew & Restore Retreat last year. But now it’s available to all of you, too! The Bold, Brave, & Blessed Journal: A 60 day journey to overcoming fear and trusting God, will keep you aware of God’s active presence in your life. It can also help overcome fear and anxiety, enabling you to lean into God and find comfort, strength and hope in your relationship with Him, instead of pulling away and being consumed by your troubles.

 

Bold, Brave & Blessed - a free gratitude journal

Each day has an encouraging verse of scripture, as well as a place to complete the following statements:

  1. Today I am afraid of….
  2. Today I am asking God to…
  3. Today I am thankful for…

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The journal is designed to be printed front and back, and then folded in half. Below is a picture tutorial on how to print and assemble your journal. I used beautiful hand-painted artwork by The Autumn Rabbit, purchased from Creative Market, so it looks best when printed in color. But the journal works just as well in black-and-white. I also recommend printing on a slightly heavier weight paper. I used 28 pound bright white paper.

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Step 1: print page one, which includes the front and back cover.
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Step 2: print pages 2-30 EVEN on one side, then print pages 3-31 ODD on the other side of the same pages.
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Step 3: Fold each page in half and begin to assemble the book so the days appear in order.
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Step 4: Once you’ve printed and folded you can either saddle stitch (staple at the crease) or tie with thread to bind your booklet.

 

Now this beautiful journal is available to you for free. All I ask is that you subscribe to my blog first. (If you are already a subscriber, please send me an email at: jelise@neitherheightnordepth.com and I’ll send you a direct link to download.)

Feel free to print as many copies as you like and share with friends. However, I do ask you don’t load the file to your own blog or website for distribution, and instead link back to this site if you want to share online or via social media.

Click here to subscribe and download your free “Bold, Brave & Blessed” journal.

 

 

 

Who am I?

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'” – Exodus 3:11

This was Moses’s response to God when He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the first of several creative excuses or arguments as to why he wasn’t qualified, ending with a raw and honest plea for God to pick another…anyone but him.

“Pardon your servant Lord, but please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

This past Sunday I stood up in front of our little congregation at church and taught about these verses. About God’s call to Moses; about Exodus 3:1-4:19. I went through each verse and discussed the importance of trusting God’s plan, remembering that God will use us for His purposes, even if we don’t feel qualified. We examined how Moses let his fear and self-doubt almost lead to missing his calling. I encouraged everyone who would listen not to let fear get in the way of answering God’s call. I reminded my church family that it’s not about us and our qualifications, but about God’s plan, His power, and His presence.

I have a special place in my heart for this section of scripture. And I believe every word I said.

But then Monday came. And I found myself alone in my bedroom, sobbing, feeling inadequate, less-than, and incapable. I asked God if He is really calling me into ministry; is that really His plan? And if it is, am I really equipped for that call? Who am I to stand before others and teach them Your word?

I know this routine well by now, having taught a handful of Sunday services and leading a few women’s retreats. It’s what I refer to as the “day after attack.”

When I speak or teach I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, and in that moment it feels palpable and beautiful, like God is doing something big and letting me be a part of it. But then Monday morning comes. And I return to my normal routine, working my normal job, packing normal lunches, looking at my normal reflection staring back at me in the mirror.

And the enemy whispers in my ear: who are you? What makes you think you are qualified to teach others? I recall the yawns and bored looks during my talk. I remember the surprised expression on the neighbor’s face when they found out I was teaching at church (you know the kind of surprise that says “what are they thinking?” not “isn’t that wonderful!”). I recount every person or article that’s declared women aren’t supposed to preach God’s word. I play back the recording of my message and cringe at every “ummm” and “uhhh”, seeing every flaw, hearing every flub.

And the enemy says, “See? You are not very good. You are not anything special.”

I think of all the practical reasons I cannot answer this call. I need seminary training. That costs money. I’m still paying off that Master’s Degree in Marketing and Communication, a degree I’ll never use if I go into ministry. I have a family to support, kids to put through school. We love our town, we can’t move just so I can go to school. Maybe in a few years…maybe when the kids are out of the house….maybe.

And the enemy says, “You’ll never be ready for this. You are just a middle-aged woman who wishes she was being called to serve God in some big way, but that is not your life.”

I am not equipped. Please, Lord, will you call someone else? Someone smarter, stronger, younger, older, richer, better?

And then the irony of this day-after beat-down by Satan and my own insecurities strikes me. I can’t even go 24 hours without succumbing to the very thing I just encouraged 45 other people to resist.

There is one thing that gives me hope, though. The fact that God never gave up on Moses. Even after he tried to deny his call five times, even though he was 80 years old, God still used Moses for the good of His plan. Even though Moses didn’t speak well and needed his brother’s help, even though Moses got overwhelmed when the Israelites complained and fought, God still used Moses to lead His people. Even though Moses lost his temper, even though he continued to questioned God’s plan along the way, God still spoke to Moses. He still loved Moses.

I know I’m not equipped to do anything. And, honestly? I don’t know exactly how God plans to use me. But I cling to the knowledge that He will use me in His time, according to His purpose.

He will never give up on me.

The littlest evangelist

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

I read a story today about an early Twentieth-Century evangelist named Gypsy Smith. As the story goes, Gypsy came to know Jesus as a child, but he was worried about his uncle’s salvation. Being a child, he knew it would be seen as disrespectful to say this out-loud to his uncle, so he fervently prayed instead. One day his uncle said to him, “Child, why are the knees in your trousers worn out?” And little Gypsy replied, “They have been worn out from praying for you to know God and become a Christian.” Gypsy’s uncle put his arm around the boy, and then fell to his own knees and accepted Jesus into his heart.

I don’t know how much of this story is true, but after watching my own children, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a pretty accurate re-telling. As a parent I spend a lot of time thinking about how to raise my children up to have a strong relationship with Christ. I see my husband and I as their teachers and my children as the students, and so it always seems to catch me off-guard when God uses my children to teach me something.

But the truth is my kids, with their child-like faith and audacious love, have taught me a lot about discipleship and evangelism. You see my kids are chronic “inviters”. They will not hesitate to invite a friend to come over to play, spend the night, even join us for an entire weekend! And they are constantly inviting friends and neighbors to come to our church, or join us for small group Bible study. It is second-nature to them and they never think twice about extending an invitation or coming up to me and begging “puh-leeese mommy, can’t my friend Susie come with us to Bible study? Pretty, pretty please!” They ask with earnest and sell the idea to their friends with conviction.

They are uninhibited by the lies we adults tell ourselves. Things like: “oh, I can’t invite my neighbor to church, they’ll think I’m a Bible-thumper,” “I can’t talk about my faith at work, it will make people uncomfortable,” or “I’m not going to tell that stranger in Target all about the Bible study we’re doing, they will think I’m crazy!”

This fear of making others uncomfortable by what we believe, it’s really more about our own comfort zone and our unwillingness to push past it. Our worry about being politically correct or being rejected are all lies that the enemy plants in our hearts. I’m ashamed to admit I have succumbed to these lies too many times.

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But my kids? They are amazing. In the last year all three of them have invited friends to church or our small group Bible study. And you want to know what has happened? In at least three instances the parents have followed! Instead of being offended or uncomfortable about this invite, these families were eager to accept. Some of them were looking for a church. Others were waiting for an invitation and someone to welcome them. And some have been broken or hurting and needing to receive hope and love.

I believe when Jesus said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:3) this is what he was talking about. We grown-ups need to let go of our insecurities, ignore the lies of the enemy, and stop worrying so much! We need to live our faith boldly, bravely and invite everyone we meet to join us. Because for every five people who decline, there will be that one person. That one who’s been waiting for an invitation, praying for God to give them a sign.

And don’t for a second underestimate how God will use you to answer other’s prayers. He has big plans for how He wants to use us, if only we’ll let Him. If only we will become like little children.