Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5 Ways to know if it's a Sin

There are a lot of gray area these days...aren't there?

Good Christians are reading romance novels, sharing hotels rooms with the person they're dating, drinking, stalking married exes on Facebook, and watching TV shows with intense sex scenes.  And other good Christians are not.

If you are trying to figure out if that thing you're thinking about is aaaaaactually a "sin", you're probably starting in the right place- Because you want to know.  Chances are you won't find a verse that's exactly about it, so here are a few different perspectives to help you think about it in a fresh light.

1.  Yes.

Sin is anything that falls short of the glory of god.  So the bad news is, if you have to ask about it, it is probably a sin.  We all actually sin a LOT more than we think we do.  Romans 3:23.

2.  No.

If you think of sin as something that separates us permanently from God, then the answer is No.  If you are a follower of Christ, nothing you can do can separate you from his love.  We are forgiven.  Already.  For anything we have done, are doing, or will do.

Does that mean it doesn't matter if we sin since we're forgiven?  Should we prove that we are different than the "crazy" Christians by ignoring all of their rules?  Forgiveness is so much bigger than that.  Suddenly we CAN be the people we want to be, we don't have to be trapped by strong pulls or addiction.  That's freedom.  Read Romans 6.

Freedom in Christ is only restricted by God's love for us and our love for God (2 Corinthians 5:14).  There are plenty of horrible things I could do to my kids or husband, and they wouldn't leave me.  They're my family.  We are committed for better or worse.  But I know who I want to be as a wife and mother and I know they love me and I love them.  I am not trying to do the minimum to avoid divorce, I make sacrifices and go out of my way to love on them because I am investing in a lifelong healthy and loving relationship with them. It's the same way in our relationship with God.

3.  Does it threaten your intimacy with God?

Song of Solomon talks about catching the little foxes that threaten to ruin the vines (2:15).  What it means is that in the relationship between these two lovers, little things sneak in.  Not lions.  Foxes.  They nibble at the blooms on the vines, and if you let too many in these seemingly harmless creatures can ruin the whole vineyard.

Guilty pleasure confession.  Reality TV dating shows.  I know.  Ridiculous!  There's nothing wrong with it (other than that they are fake and poorly written ;)).  It came to a point recently, though, that I had to stop watching for a while.  As parents of two kids under two, we can get a little starved for romance from time to time.  I was suddenly bitter that my husband didn't take me bungie jumping or to foreign countries for dates.  That's really not fair!  So I gave it up simply because it wasn't healthy for our relationship.

There are things that may not even be bad that are not healthy for the intimacy we have with God.  Are there "innocent" things are negatively affecting your perception of or intimacy with God?  It may not be sin, but guard your relationship with God with the same voracity as you would guard the most important relationship in your life.  If you don't feel like you are starting from a place of intimacy, fight to get there.  It might mean giving some things up, but it is more than worth what you will find in return.

4.  Do you tell your friends about it?

Satan loves to work in the dark.  If there is something that you are wondering "Is this bad?", ask a friend.  Bring it up in your small group or with a trusted Christian friend.  If it's not something you feel comfortable talking about, it's not a good thing.  Get free of the grip!  You already have freedom in Christ.  Bring it into the light and ask a few trusted friends to pray with you through it and claim your freedom!

If you don't have a trusted Christian friend, ask God to bring it into his light and pray through it with Him!  He will happily forgive you, love you, teach you and strengthen you. (Psalm 139:23-24, James 1:5, Romans 6:22)

5.  Is it just not worth it?

Here is the crazy truth about sin: It's not about how much God will tolerate, it's really about how much YOU can tolerate.

Every little one takes you further from God, further from joy, and away from your true calling. Sin will bury you.  The fruit of the Spirit in contrast with the results of living by this world are a stark and ugly contrast (Galatians 5:16-25).  You don't have to live sin-free to live free from guilt and shame.  God doesn't expect you to be perfect, He couldn't be more clear that you aren't and He's already forgiven you.  But you can't live with the full joy of knowing that unless you let God speak to you moment by moment- telling you that you are free, forgiven, loved, and your life is meaningful.  When we sin we break that relationship, end the open dialogue, and isolate ourselves in the dark.  Is it worth it?

Sin will take you farther than you wanna go...leave you longer than you wanna stay...[and] cost you far more than you wanna pay.  - Harold McWhorter

Let's live in victory and freedom.  It's the life we were meant for.  We can do it in God's power, and with a little help from one another.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Am I as good as she is?

Sometimes I say things even though I know people might think I'm crazy, if I feel them strongly enough.  So I put my hand on the elbow of a woman I had just met.  I looked her in the eye, and said "Give yourself a little grace.  You are a great mom and you are doing a good job.  None of us have it figured out."

I've been thinking about it a lot since, and there is just one problem.  None of us really CAN give enough grace to ourselves.  

There is only one giver of grace.  Only one who can pour out enough grace for our tired moment, for our insecure heart, for our fears we may not be strong enough to hold our kids, husband, household, and selves all up at the same time.

So here is some Grace.  Straight from the source.

God is easily impressed.

I've read at least a dozen or so blogs condemning Pinterest and Facebook for making moms feel bad.  It is true that it never ends well when we compare ourselves with others- especially when we are "comparing their highlight reel to our behind the scenes."  To be totally honest, I think most of the moms I know are actually pretty good about trying to be genuine and real (even if we hide our laundry piles before someone comes over).

The truth is, it's not Pinterest and it's not Facebook...it's us.  We can tell ourselves that the other mom who can do things, create things, or afford things that we can't is somehow secretly unhappy or over stressed- but what if she isn't?  What if instead of imagining her miserable in some unknown way we just allowed ourselves to be impressed, gave her a genuine compliment, and didn't let it affect the way we felt about her or ourselves?

Being a mom doesn't always come with a loud cheering section.  I've been amazed at how inadequate I can feel for the task some days, even though for the most part I know I am doing a good job.  When I was at work or even in ministries I used to be involved with it was easy to keep track of my success with numbers, milestones, and money.  I do sometimes hope that baking for my playdates or throwing an amazing party will fool people into thinking I am good at my new "job"...but could it be that it only makes some of them feel as insecure as I do?

The truth is we are all holding a different hand of cards.  Income, time, support from spouses or extended family, kid's ages, stages, or sleep habits...you may have it better or worse in any of these areas than any other person.  Guess what.  It doesn't matter.  God sees us, loves us, provides for us, and calls us to care more about what HE thinks of us than how impressed everyone else is (Galatians 1:10, John 5:44, John 12:42-43).

I LOVE new parent posts on Facebook.  The total thrill and excitement with which it is announced "He rolled over!!!"  or "She ate with a fork!".  It doesn't take much for our little lumps of baby to impress us, does it?  God is SO thrilled with us.  When we humbly serve our family, look for ways to love and forgive one another, and try with our wobbly baby legs to walk in the Spirit.  He can be the loudest cheering section in the universe if we allow Him to speak to our heart.

Let's just give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Assume we are doing our best with what we have, and try to remember the goal is not to win:  It's to look like Jesus when we love our kids and love each other.  

God loves it when we don't have it together.

Do you know that back when the Bible was written there were people who looked like they had it all together- the Pharisees.  Do you know who Jesus chose to hang out with?  The tax collectors and the prostitutes.  Because they wanted him, worshipped him and needed him (Luke 7:47).  So for all of us moms who have forgotten to put shoes on our kids before going to Target, who have said a little prayer during our toddler's tantrum in an all too public place, or ran into an old friend while wearing sweat pants and zero makeup...God loves us.  He loves that we DON'T have it all together, so there's no need to pretend like we do.

We need His peace and love and grace daily whether or not our house looks like a page from Pottery Barn Kids...but for those of us who wonder if we will be featured on "Hoarders" anytime soon- man do we KNOW we need His peace and love and grace for our day- and THAT ladies, is a blessing.

God is SO MUCH bigger if we let Him be.

If only I lived in the daily realization that God's plan for the world and my place in it had absolutely nothing to do with how soon I lose my baby weight, how early my daughter starts swim lessons, or if I have custom invitations for her birthday party.

God's voice is never unkind.  When He disciplines us or corrects us it is very direct and always because of sin- not because we let our kids out of the house in pants that clearly did not match their shirt.  That voice: that tells us we are not doing good enough, that tells us if we "had more" or "were more" we would be happy, that tells us we should be bitter, resentful, jealous, insecure, or defeated- that is NOT our Father talking.

God calls us into His kingdom of love and grace.  We can live for Him, seek His voice, and let Him tell us there is no need to be afraid.  That even if we aren't enough or don't have enough, HE IS and HE DOES.  We can do anything we need to do in his power (Philippians 4:13).  And suddenly, when we look at Him, all other opinions and shallow badges of american motherhood fade away (1 John 2:17).


Does this blog feel long?  I think it's because it's something that no matter how many times I shine God's truth on, it always comes back around again.  For now I will NOT let Satan ruin my chance to build community and friendships with moms who need love and encouragement just as much as I do over...ugh...jealousy.  At the end of the day, that's what it is and it does NONE of us any favors.

1 John 2:17 "And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever."

Galatians 1:10 "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

1 Corinthians 3:3 "for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

God.  Let me bask in your view of me.  Let me love others, admire them, encourage them, and build them up generously and without thought of how I will benefit.  Let me love unconditionally like you love your church.  Help me to not be jealous.  You have blessed me and forgiven me beyond what I could ask for.  Remind me of that on a daily basis.  Help me serve and bless other women without thought of how they see me, how popular I am or am not, or competing in any arena.  No judgement, no competition, no jealousy. Love, mercy, grace, contentment.  Let me be a blessing to everyone I meet and serve them the way you call me to.  I'm sorry my heart is like a broken shopping cart, always swerving toward jealousy and competition.  Fix me.  I want to live in your Spirit.