The Race Well Run

Have you seen the meme that says, “If I’m running, you better run too, because it means something is chasing me”? I feel like whoever thought that up first would be someone I’d get along with really well!

I’ve never been a runner, even at my fittest. I must breathe really weirdly or something, because I’ve never been able to run more than a couple of minutes without feeling like I’m going to die.

I guess that’s partly why the references in Scripture to running a race have never really struck a chord with me. I understood the picture they were painting, and felt like I could apply the imagery to my spiritual journey well enough without being a runner.

Recently, however, I was listening to a Bible teacher who was, in fact, a runner. Tempted to check out till he got back to something I thought mattered, I couldn’t help but find myself wrapped up in his portrayal of this thing I felt so ambivalent about. As he described the mental game required of him to run a physical race, I began to sense there was more God wanted me to glean from these running passages than I had really ever allowed myself.

Over the years, God has been incredibly gracious to show me the critical importance of a well played mental game. At times, that mental game has felt more like a marathon than any physical race ever could, even for this non-runner! I’ve experienced the freedom that comes from replacing lies with God’s Truth in many seasons, but it has never come without mental and emotional exertion.

As I listened to this man describe the thoughts he needed to conquer throughout the various legs of a race, I found myself fighting back tears. In a season of my own race where the mental game was proving to be more than I could seem to win, I was keenly aware of the endurance required to run in the way Paul and others so often described. Endurance that seemed to elude me the same way physical endurance has always eluded me in running.

I forget the particulars the teacher shared in that lesson, but what stuck was a draw toward those passages I had for so long neglected. Passages like,

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24


“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

but particularly

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

I think I’ve always read that last passage through a particular lens. Perhaps not a completely faulty lens, but an incomplete one to be sure. I’ve focused on the ‘to-do’ list of the passage. Which makes sense, given my propensity for boiling complex things down to nice neat lists I can check off and feel a sense of accomplishment over. My list looked something like this…

-lay aside every weight

-and every sin

-run with endurance

-look to Jesus as an example along the way

Trouble was, I was not getting many things checked off my list. Any sense of accomplishment seemed to be standing on the sidelines of my race taunting me. Heckling me. Mocking me. It shouted, “why bother running if you can’t do it well?”. A familiar sentiment.

As I spent some time letting the passage marinate, I decided to do an image search. Perhaps I would be inspired to run better. (a sarcasm font would be helpful here)

As I scrolled through page after page, something struck me. Images of steam rising off the hot pavement filled my screen. There was an occasional shot of the starting or finish line. Most of the pictures, however, were artistic shots of the runners themselves.

Intense faces, gaze fixed on the finish line.

Muscular calves, flexed mid-sprint.

Trendy running clothes and shoes, which clearly were what set these people apart as athletes.

Those same tears that threatened while listening to the teacher describe his mental battle during a race, returned as I stared at my screen.

These images were such a stunning representation of my flimsy ‘to-do’ list.

If I were just stronger, I could run better.

If I weren’t hindered by distractions and discomforts, I could be a stellar athlete.

If my own laziness didn’t get the better of me, nothing could keep my gaze from that finish line.

My eyes tend to fix themselves on all the ways I should be improving my spiritual running game, and all the ways I fall short.

But the author of Hebrews instructed us to look in one direction…Jesus.

Jesus, the founder of my faith. And “He who began a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it”. (Philippians 1:6)

Jesus, the perfecter of my faith. That somehow “we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2)

Jesus, who has promised me the same joy that was set before Him once He endured the cross. This joy promised to “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17)

Jesus, who despised the shame of the cross and cast it aside as powerless in light of that joy set before Him. Who calls me to despise my own mocking shame, and trust that He is “making all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)

And finally, Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of God and has promised no one can pluck me from that hand. (John 10:28-29)

Sometimes, the thoughts I need to capture and replace are not just the blatant lies. Sometimes they are the seemingly admirable thoughts of bettering myself and running well.

The far better place to look is to the One who has already finished perfectly.

We Can’t Outsource Our Sanctification.

I love to do things well.

I don’t always love to struggle or practice or do the hard work required to do things well.

Call it perfectionism, call it laziness, call it whatever you want. It’s probably some combination of all of it at the end of the day. The bottom line is simple-I tend to avoid things that are hard, regardless of how much I want the end result.

My desire to play the piano well never exceeded my disdain for practice. My desire to fit into the jeans I could wear “x” number of years ago doesn’t come close to my masterful avoidance of exercise and healthy eating.

Those things can be frustrating, or even discouraging. But there is one end result I desire, for which I cannot afford to avoid the process.


I want my heart and my mind and my affections molded to be more like Christ’s!

The trouble is, that doesn’t happen incidentally. Oh, to be sure, the process of sanctification is a work of God’s grace, and not something I can create or produce on my own. But that doesn’t negate the active role God allows me to play in the process!

The Westminster Shorter Catechism describes sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness”. It is definitely a work of God, but there are lots of things He uses to accomplish this work in us. Probably more than we will ever know, but at the very least we know He uses time in the Scriptures, prayer, other believers as iron sharpening iron, and even suffering to shape us to be more like Christ.

What amazes me about this grace of God is that it’s not just behavior modification. For God to sanctify us means that an actual transformation takes place in our hearts and minds, which causes us to think and respond more and more like Christ!

I so desire that transformation!

It would mean that instead of tolerating a difficult person I would actually have the mind of Christ toward them!

It would mean that instead of pretending to be happy when really I want to curl up in a ball and sleep I would actually have the joy of the Lord as my strength!

It would mean that instead of repeating a cycle of the same sin over and over again I would love the glory of God more than any temporary satisfaction this world could ever offer, and I would despise sin enough to turn from it!

It would mean that I would not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but would be transformed by the renewal of my mind, and that by testing I may be able to discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Yes, I desire that transformation! I desire it WAY more than I desire to play the piano proficiently or lose some weight.

So why do I often try to avoid the very things God uses to accomplish the work of sanctification in my life?

A couple of months ago a respected teacher and leader challenged me (and group of women I was with) to not “outsource our spiritual warfare”. As I considered that challenge, and whether it was something I was doing, it occurred to me that I have a tendency to try to outsource pretty much every part of my spiritual growth.

It has been incredibly encouraging (ironically) for God to show me some of these tendencies, as I’m confident that He does not reveal our weaknesses or sins for any reason other than pruning that we may bear much fruit. I pray the same for you, that you may be encouraged to ask the Lord to show you ways you may be attempting to outsource your spiritual growth-and ask Him to prune you in those areas!

For me…

I’ve tried to outsource my study of the Word.

I believe sincerely it is by the Word of God that we are transformed, through the Holy Spirit. And yet, as much as I’m fascinated by the intricacies of the Scriptures, I have a tendency to want to jump straight to commentaries in my study time and books about the Bible in my personal reading and devotion time.

Let me be clear. Commentaries and solid books about God and His Word are wonderful gifts from the Lord! They can be anointed and incredibly helpful as an addition to our time reading and studying the Bible.

But they are not the Bible.

I began to realize, as I would study to teach a particular passage or idea I would read it, but the very next thing I would do would be to research it. Meaning, read what other people had to say about it.

As God began to show me this tendency, He also reminded me that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I want to want to do the hard and uncomfortable work of sitting a while in the Scriptures themselves and allowing the Holy Spirit to be my teacher.

I say “I want to want to” because I don’t always want to. But I also know that there is an equipping promised through the study of Scripture, that isn’t promised through the reading of excellent authors and theologians.

So, while I’ll continue to use commentaries and read great books, my prayer is that God continue to teach me not to outsource my study of His Word. That He will teach me to trust Him to be my teacher and trust His Word to do what it alone can do.

I’ve tried to outsource my prayer life

It should come as no surprise that the admonition to not outsource my spiritual warfare caused me to consider how actively involved I was in my own prayer life. Perhaps more than any other area, this is where I’m convicted the most. Prayer is just a portion of spiritual warfare, but since that’s not what this post is about, I won’t digress.

Prayer is one of the areas I’m still most likely to believe lies from the enemy. I don’t have anything new or important to say… I haven’t prayed much while things were smooth sailing, so what right do I have to come to Him now?…My mind is too distracted, it would be better for me to wait until I can focus better (which of course, that time never comes)… and on and on.

It becomes too easy to ask others to pray for various requests, and somehow think God gets the message in my asking of others. But as He has been pruning me in this area, I’ve had more and more moments of turning off the car radio and facing the awkward silence with sincere prayer. It has been a humbling series of joyful and often convicting encounters with the One True God. Through them, I’m beginning to see more clearly how he uses those encounters to shape my mind and affections to be more like Christ’s, in a way that nothing else can.

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit brings to mind the truths of God’s Word to replace anxious or misguided thoughts, and also to convict and encourage. I’m seeing the outworking of Philippians 4:6-7 where Paul says,  “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve tried to outsource my suffering

I know, I know. How do you outsource suffering? But I manage to find ways.

Perhaps one of the primary ways I’m tempted to outsource my suffering is to think that if I just learn from the lessons hard-learned by others, then I won’t have to learn them the hard way myself.

Self-help books, blogs, even mentoring relationships…wherever I might be able to glean some insight and wisdom from someone who learned things the hard way, sign me up!

But at the end of the day, my quest for wisdom and insight is not ultimately an attempt to know all the things. It’s not really even an attempt to ensure that I’m glorifying the Lord in particular areas of my life.

It is, at its base, an attempt to circumvent suffering.

And yet, James tells us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).

And Peter reminds us that “in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

It’s in and through the suffering that we are shaped to be more like Christ, not in finding ways to avoid it.

I’m certain there are more ways that I attempt to avoid the process of sanctification while still desiring the end result. My prayer is that as God shows me these tendencies, He will develop in me a desire for holiness that eclipses any desire to outsource His designed process of sanctification.Desejando-lhe uma


Did God Really Say?

Sometimes the enemy works really hard to cause us to question God’s character and promises and the value of His instructions to us, doesn’t he?

We saw this in the garden. We saw it in the wilderness with Jesus. We see it in our own lives all of the time.

“Did God really say that He would work all things together for good for His children? I mean, look at your circumstances…either He’s not keeping up His end of the bargain or you’re not really His child”, the enemy will whisper.

Man, the he’s really good at causing us to doubt God and His word, isn’t he?

But you know, I’ve come to realize that sometimes he is just as content for us to believe God whole-heartedly about something He never said.

I imagine most of us wouldn’t have to look hard to find something lying around our house with Jeremiah 29:11 on it. Probably a gift given to us at graduation or another momentous life event. The implication here is usually that we are embarking on some new or unknown season of life, and should be encouraged and rest in the knowledge that God knows the plans He has for us and those plans are for our good and to bring about a bright hope and future for us.

Sweet, right?

For me, it’s a picture frame. It was a frame that was given to me by the man I would ultimately marry, but at the time was in the early dating stage with. I have to admit, when I was gifted that frame, a part of me latched on to the shallow promise that my “hope and future” God was promising me would come through my one day marriage to this man of God. And so, of course, I immediately put a picture of the two of us together inside and gazed at it longingly, daydreaming of what it would be like to one day be married to him. As though me getting married to an amazing man was my ultimate hope and future.

It’s not so much that there’s not truth in the idea that this passage speaks of God’s plans for our lives and the goodness of those plans, it’s just that those plans are so much bigger than anything we can imagine.

For me, my limited scope of what those plans might entail meant a happily ever marriage. In other seasons of life it might have meant getting the right job or networking with just the right person to catapult an idea or ministry opportunity. For you it might have been something altogether different.

But that passage was speaking collectively to the people of Israel. And the hope and future it was referring to had nothing to do with the particulars of God providing the right job or the right spouse. It wasn’t even a promise that many of the listeners at the time would get to see come to pass. God told the people He would deliver them from their oppression, but He also told them that it would be another 70 years before He would do so! It was a promise of deliverance both from the physical oppression they were experiencing in exile, and a foreshadowing of the ultimate deliverance God would bring through Jesus, and the point was for the people to trust in the Lord in the meantime.

It’s not that God doesn’t care about whom we will marry or what job we will get. And it’s not that He’s not intricately involved in the details of our lives. He does and He is! But, when we try to apply promises like this one to the minutia of our lives we do ourselves a disservice.

We take something that is meant to be massive and hugely encouraging to us (like God’s sovereign plan and the fact that our lives are part of such a bigger story) and we whittle it down to things that amount to chaff in the wind.

God did allow me to marry a Godly man and has used our marriage (good times and bad) over the years to teach us amazing things about Himself, and draw us each and as a couple closer to Him. But even as wonderful as my husband is, and as grateful as I am for our marriage, it is a small part of what God has used in my life to bring about His ultimate plans for me…it’s not the ultimate plan itself.

Had God allowed me to remain single and never marry, this promise would be no less true for me.

The enemy is thrilled for us to know the Bible but not really know it. If he can get us to hang our hats on flimsy promises taken out of context, then he can bring in seeds of discouragement and doubt when God doesn’t seem to hold up His end of the bargain.

So many times over the course of my life, the enemy has leveraged my surface-level knowledge and understanding of scriptures to cause me to question my faith, question God’s character, question my position and relationship with God…I could keep going.

But what I’ve found is that when I take the time to dig deeper into some of these passages that get lazily thrown around, I actually come away with a much more solidified faith, God’s character comes clearer into view, and I’m more secure in my position and relationship with God.

What does it mean, for example, when the Psalmist says to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”? Was Paul referring to my recent health and fitness goals when he said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Because that would be super helpful!

I encourage you to ask the Lord to show you where you may have been settling for a lesser interpretation of His word, and ask Him to be your teacher as you strive to know Him more and more!When we hang our hats on flimsy promises taken out of context, we set ourselves up for disappointmen.png


It IS My Problem.

I think when I began this blog site I assumed it’s content would revolve around the misconceptions and lies that kept me from personally walking in the freedom of Christ. I battled for so many years on the fertile soil of my own broken mind that my perspective of taking my thoughts captive was pretty limited to those misconceptions and lies that related to who God was as He related to me. There were plenty of those to keep me busy writing for a while!

Lately, however, I’ve come face to face with the realization that often my misconceptions and lies that I believe have a much farther reach than my own mind.

I know that in theory. It makes sense. But as much as I would like to think that I’m not the self-absorbed teenager and young adult I once was, the reality is I’m a whole lot more concerned about getting my thoughts right for my sake than I often am about getting them right for the sake of others.

The past several weeks our social media feeds have been set ablaze with opinions and perspectives on some very controversial and difficult issues surrounding race. I have friends and family who would all “check” the same box on a survey question regarding their faith, and yet their Facebook and Twitter feeds could not be further divided than they are on this issue.

It breaks my heart.

And it seems to point out to me that we are all in desperate need of some thought capturing.

Myself included.

I posted recently on my Facebook page that I was struck by the realization that while I have a lot of things I am tempted to worry about for my son and husband, whether they will be victimized as a result of their race or profession is not one of those things.

And if I can’t call that a privilege then I’m deluded.


That buzz word gets thrown around a lot and seems to stir up a lot of anger among the people who are accused of having it.

But at the end of the day, privilege, and in this case, white privilege, is simply the reality that there are things that I do not have to experience for the sole reason of the color of my skin.



As a Christian, part of what God calls me to do is to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). I’m called to love others with brotherly affection and “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). That means I’m supposed to give preference to others.

I don’t think that command is there to remind us to do those things with people who are like us and have similar experiences to us and are easy to know and love.  I think it’s probably there because sometimes, particularly in cases where people have differing life experiences and worldviews, it’s difficult to do those things and we need the reminder.

If I’m going to weep with those who weep, I have to know what they are weeping over.

Which means I have to ask and listen.

In asking and listening I’ve learned a lot. And part of what I’ve learned is I have a lot more asking and listening to do. Another part of what I’ve learned is that I have an opportunity and a responsibility to speak on behalf of those who may otherwise go unheard.

Which is biblical, actually.

Proverbs 31:8 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” What that verse means is that we are to plead the cause of those who would, in pleading their own cause, experience oppression from adversaries.

I encourage you, as I continue to challenge and encourage myself, to ask the Lord how He might be calling you to open your mouth for the mute. Ask Him if there are unexposed parts of your heart, hidden prejudices or even just areas where you are unaware of your own privilege that inhibit you from doing so.

If you have time, I encourage you to take a moment and read and/or listen to the links I’m posting below. These are just a couple of voices I’ve come across that seem to rise above the chatter and confusion and speak clearly into our current conversations on race. And if you have other resources please feel free to share them as well! I do encourage you to be discriminatory of what you allow yourself to read and hear. It’s too easy to look for the voices who are saying what we already believe to be right and true.

Let’s be intentional about taking all of our thoughts captive, not just the ones that directly benefit ourselves to do so. Because as believers, the problems of others are our problems too.

The Gospel Coalition: How Can Blacks and Whites Stand Together on Racial Injustice

Tony Evans: A Biblical Response to Race

...weep with those who weep

Every Stone Will Sing

I’m on (what I pray is) the tail end of a week and a half long cold. Over the course of this past week I’ve been struck by how easy it is to forget.

When my mind is fuzzy

When my body is weary

When my strength is gone

I forget.

I forget that the same God who delivered me from strongholds is the same God who holds me now.

I forget that the same God who provided a way when there was no way, is my source of provision now.

I forget that the same God who has ordered my steps this far is the same God who “hems me in” now.

Yesterday, as I turned a corner and began  to feel better physically, I decided it was high time I began to get my emotional and mental feelings in check too. After some time in prayer, I dug into my Bible study which had only been half-heartedly approached while sick.

Over and over I was reminded of truths which I know full well!

I’ve been commanded time and again to “take every thought captive to Christ”, “fix my eyes on Christ”, “think on these things”, “set my mind on the things above”, and encouraged that “He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him”.

And yet, there are times I forget.

My feelings and emotions are not dictators of truth, nor are they typically  even stellar responders to truth. But when my head is fuzzy and my body is weary and my strength is gone, they sure can seem louder than truth.

Which is why it’s so crucial to remember.

How often do we read about the Israelites in Exodus and face palm at their spiritual amnesia? We’re incredulous at how quickly they forget all the Lord had done for them, and how they complain and doubt Him in their current situation. It may surprise us, but it never surprised God. He knew their tendency to forget, just as He knows mine. Often He would instruct people to build a monument after He had acted on their behalf…so they would remember the next time they were tempted to forget!

It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, “Heal the Wound”. There’s a line that says, “I’ll build an alter with the rubble that you found me in. And every stone will sing of what you can redeem!”


I’ve got a lot of stones capable of singing, sometimes I just need to revisit the monument.The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.

Think On These

I love when my son comes in the room at around 5:30 AM, wide awake…said no parent ever.

But when you’ve lost your second tooth, and the tooth fairy has made good on her promise, I don’t supposed you can stay quietly in your bed for another couple of hours. You just gotta tell someone!

Hence, my early morning jolt into consciousness about a week ago.

What was so intriguing to me following this unpleasant wake-up-call, was how my brain was so quick to create a scenario to make it all make sense. I was asleep. As in dead-to-the-world mouth breathing asleep. I have no clue what I was dreaming about. I do know that at the exact moment my five-year-old turned on our overhead light I dreamt that I dropped my cell phone, which landed face down and somehow turned on the flashlight. In my split second dream I was blinded by the cell phone’s flashlight and scrambling to turn it off. My husband’s voice telling our son to turn off the light was what was finally made me realize what was going on in the real world!

I was reminded of this dream a few days later, when it occurred to me that there is a reason I dreamt my phone flashlight turned on inexplicably as opposed to a regular flashlight. I don’t use a regular flashlight…ever. But I use my cell phone flashlight multiple times a day. I know that seems simplistic, but the brain just fascinates me. And so in thinking about it, I couldn’t help but notice that in that split second, my brain had to cling to something familiar to make sense of a situation. It went to the light source that would be most likely to be blinding me. What, you don’t accidentally turn on your phone’s flashlight while staring right at it? That’s just me??

Well, I also couldn’t help but think about how not unlike our waking hours this experience was. When faced with a stressor, a quick decision, an opportunity to respond to a person or situation…our brain has to cling to the familiar to create some sense of grounding.

As I think back over various seasons of my life, it should be no surprise to me that the times when I’ve been best prepared to squelch the enemy’s lies have been the times when I was most saturated in God’s Truth. Because our brains cling to the familiar.

For me, this has involved two primary things…devouring God’s Word and regularly reminding myself of His personal faithfulness in my own life.

When I’m routinely and richly dwelling in His Word, it is fresh on my mind. It is the familiar that pops up when my brain needs to make sense of a situation. And when I’m regularly thanking Him for His past faithfulness in my own life, it is not hard to bring those times to mind when a difficult situation arises.

But you know, the opposite has been true for me as well. Seasons of my life when my time was spent complaining, consumed with Facebook or mindless television, and frankly, avoiding God’s truths have been the seasons when my first reaction has been negative. Typically my impulse reaction was paralyzing fear, anger, bitterness, doubt, discouragement, or even despair.

It’s one thing to say that we want to take thoughts captive and replace lies with truth. But when it counts, in those split second moments, our brains will default to the familiar.

May we become so familiar with God’s words and truths that our brains default to them. When bad news comes, and it will, may our instinct be to recall His past faithfulness and rest in His sovereignty. When hurtful words are spewed at or about us, may our minds immediately remember that we are not in a battle against flesh and blood, and may we be quick to do battle against our real enemy.eveningskies

How Do I Bear Much Fruit?

Recently, I sat down to write a short devotional on the “Fruits of the Spirit” for an event our women’s ministry was having at church. I started by looking online to see what was already out there, which, disappointingly, was not much. There are few devotions about what each fruit is and how it should look in our lives, but most of the devotions are written for children. After reading the scripture in its entirety, and studying some thoughts of a few individuals on the topic, I was able to glean some really good perspectives on this passage that many of us have become complacently familiar with. I shared those thoughts with the ladies who participated in that evening, but I thought today I would share them here as well.

I think for many of us, the issue we have in interpreting this passage is not,  “what are these fruits I’m supposed to be exhibiting?” but rather, “how do I exhibit these fruits when my natural tendencies are not necessarily loving or joyful, kind, or gentle?”.

There aren’t many devotionals or blog posts about that, but I think I know why. So often, we look at this list of fruit as the syllabus for our life as a Christian. We’ll know we’ve completed the course when we can say that we see all of these fruits evident. The problem is, every attempt we make at producing this fruit for ourselves ends up failing or coming up short.

Most of us probably at least initially learned the fruits of the spirit in isolation. But, if you look at the scripture that the fruits of the spirit are listed in, they are a small sentence at the end of a much longer chapter about freedom.

First let me summarize the first 12 verses of Galatians chapter 5, because they can be a little confusing if you don’t know the context. Paul is continuing a point he began in earlier chapters that believers are brought into a right relationship with God by faith alone. That there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation. The people have heard this from him before, but they continue to try to keep the law in an attempt at righteousness. He’s telling them again, if you do not have faith that trusts Christ is your only way, and if that faith is not expressed through love, then all of your efforts to keep the law are in vain. You’ve missed the point. You’ve missed Jesus. You’ve missed grace.

Picking up in verses 13-14….“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He makes it sound so easy, right? You can fulfill the entire law by doing just one thing! All you have to do is love your neighbor as yourself, no big deal!

Of course it’s a big deal.

John Piper says this, “… if you take this command seriously, it is so contrary to our natural inclinations that it seems utterly impossible. That I should get up in the morning and feel as much concern for your needs as for my own seems utterly beyond my power. If this is the Christian life — caring for others as I care for myself — then it is hard, indeed, and I feel hopeless to ever live it out.”

So Paul doesn’t stop there. He acknowledges the internal battle that is inevitable within us all. Verses 16-21 pick up here, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Don’t get distracted by the acts of the flesh that seem deplorable to you. Look at the ones that you can see you have a propensity toward. Perhaps witchcraft isn’t really a daily struggle for you… but what about jealousy, or selfish ambition?

We all, even once we are in Christ, still battle the flesh. The flesh is the part of us that wants to try to do things on our own. The part of us that still exists in a state of self-preservation. Until we are gone from this earth there will be a battle within us between the flesh and the spirit. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When the Spirit is winning that battle, there is fruit evident.

Moving on to verses 22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

So how do we make an effort to walk in the Spirit, without making it about our own effort?

It’s in the language Paul uses in verse 18. “But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law”. Piper describes this as the difference between the pace car in the Daytona 500 and a locomotive on a train. The Holy Spirit is the locomotive, not the pace car. If He were the pace care, the focus would still be on our ability to follow Him. But since He is the locomotive, the focus is solely on His ability to live and work in and through us. We can do nothing to create forward motion but allow Him to pull us along. It’s in that place where we find rest from our striving. And it’s in that rest that the fruits become a natural expression of the Holy Spirit residing within us.

I encourage you that when you see the list of the fruits of the spirit, you don’t let it be 
something that reminds you of a list of character traits you need to polish up on. Let it be a constant reminder to you that you fight a constant battle between your flesh and the Holy Spirit in you. And let it remind you to stop trying to work to keep the law, but rather to rest in the completed work of Christ on the cross for you.But the

Reasons I’ve Said Never, and Why I’m Never Saying it again. Wait…

You’ve heard it…’never say never’. It’s truly become comical in my life, this pattern of me  assuring others of this thing I’ll never do…only to be humbled by God later. The end result is typically me realizing it was precisely the thing He had for me, and it was good.

Nowadays, in conversations about life decisions, I may say I have no intention of doing something in particular. However, I’m quick to follow that up with ‘but I’ve learned to never say never.’

I’ve determined there are some common factors underlying all of my significant ‘nevers’.

I’m wondering if these ring true for anyone else?


A few of my ‘nevers’ have been deeply rooted in fear. Feeble attempts at self-preservation or avoidance of anything resembling a challenge. I’ve come to realize that for me, the greater potential something has to be a blessing in my life, the more it seems there is to lose. This results in a tendency to avoid whatever it may be out of fear of being hurt, disappointed, jaded, etc.

I’m also learning, however, to recognize the difference between short-sighted fear which can be paralyzing, and God-given discernment which leads to caution.

Over and over in scripture, we are told not to be anxious. So anything I find myself avoiding because I’m afraid of an uncertain outcome, I remind myself that any fear in the form of anxiety and worry is not from God. “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭ESV‬

Rather, when faced with uncertainty and the potential for hurt and disappointment, I can rest in the truth of God’s sovereignty, and ask for the things He has told me I can ask for. Like wisdom. If a situation has true cause for avoidance, I can trust that the Holy Spirit knows that and is able to guide me-provided I’m able to recognize His voice as a result of consistent communion with Him and the Word.

“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭ESV


Unfortunately, many of my ‘nevers’ have been rooted in pride. Whether it was an attempt to avoid embarrassment or simply avoiding seeking the Lord on a matter, the root was the same. My mind was on myself…my need to be seen a certain way…my belief that I knew best.

I’m reminded of something I’ve read from Lysa TerKeurst.

“Thinking, talking, and complaining about things is not the same as praying for them.” 

Pride says, “I don’t need to seek the Lord on this decision”.

‘Pride before a fall’ isn’t just a Pinterest catch-phrase, it’s scriptural warning. 

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬


Often, my ‘nevers’ have been rooted in the fact that I was emphatic about something I didn’t have full knowledge of, or the life experience to provide a fuller perspective. I suppose this can be closely linked to pride, but I do think there is a distinction. With pride, there is a willful ignorance because I believe I can figure out what’s best on my own. Sometimes, though, my ignorance simply stems from the fact that I couldn’t foresee all that would take place which would ultimately change my mind.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭ESV

Whatever the root, the result has been the same. Over and over again, I’ve been humbled by God when I’ve arrogantly declared what I would never do. And over and over again He has shown me that His ways are truly best…for bringing about my good and His glory.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭ESV‬

He Knew Them…Do I?

My heart has been burdened for a while now with something I couldn’t quite find words for. So this is an attempt to put into words what I’ve been wrestling with.

First of all, I hate the news media. I see it as a moderately necessary evil. Some days, if I could just completely stick my head in the sand and avoid the headlines, I wouldn’t hesitate.

The headlines of late are not unique. They’re not new issues. The responses to them are not new either. What is relatively new is how quickly we are able to share and like opinions and information. It’s these responses that have me so troubled.

This post is not about any particular headline, there are plenty to choose from. It’s about how quick so many believers are to pick a side and argue a point.

There are certainly absolute truths, and the Bible is very clear on a lot that we like to make muddy. But I think we would be wise to always remember that we each bring our biases, rooted in our past and experiences, when making judgements about the actions and motivations of other people.

As a believer, I hold strong convictions about several things. I have very clearly defined views on lots of things I believe God considers sin.

That said, I also feel so strongly that it is not my place, nor is it beneficial as a believer to try to educate the masses about the particulars of those convictions or views through Facebook or any other social media. And I’m burdened by the fact that so many of us see social media as our platform to help others see the truth about their sins or foolishness.

I’ve seen an interesting comment made several times recently. When someone posts a blast attacking Christians for their hate-filled judgement and brings up the point that “Jesus would have loved these people and so should we”…a common response is to point out that Jesus also would have told those people to “go and sin no more”.

For a while now I’ve seen that response and felt conflicted, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why.

Because the reality is, it’s true. Both parts.

Jesus would have sat down with the adulterer, the murderer, the gang member, the racist, the woman who had an abortion, the homosexual, the parent who neglected their child, the political leader who abused their power, the young person who disregarded authority, the individual in a position of authority who misused it…and He would have loved them something fierce!

And then, after ministering to the root issue that got them where they were to begin with, He would have instructed them to ‘go, and sin no more’.

God loves us just the way we are, and enough to not let us stay that way.

But I think we have to remember who Jesus was to these people to be able to apply this part of his ministry to our lives.

He knew the people He ministered to. It may have been their first time meeting Him face to face, but He knew them. He knew their hearts, their desires, their past, their heartaches, and their hurts.

I just have to wonder, for each of these ‘issues’ that believers are so quick to to form an opinion about, and are so eager to share the truth regarding…do they personally know someone in those shoes?

I don’t mean do they know of someone. It’s not the same thing to say, ‘oh, I have a family member who…..’ as it is to have a relationship built on mutual trust and communication with someone who…fill in the blank.

Here’s why I think this is important to consider.

Yes, there are things that are black and white, right and wrong, wise and unwise. And in some situations, we may know the Truth that can set someone free. But we are fooling ourselves if we think we’re breaking any chains by sharing statistics casually through Facebook or re-tweeting a person’s opinion who says what we are thinking about a hot-button issue. And if our posts are not bringing about another’s good, then why are we posting?

Yes, Jesus both loved and admonished those He encountered who were living contrary to God’s ways.

He also knew them.

If you are angry at a parent who has neglected or abused their child, I encourage you to go to where there are most likely to be parents who are struggling. Struggling to make it as a single parent. Struggling to parent through the fog of mental illness. Get to know the parents of the children in your child’s life. Invest in them and their children. Make yourself available to meet tangible needs. Listen. Ask God for wisdom and discernment to know how and when to speak Truth into their life. And love them.

If abortion is a burden for you, then you could go somewhere where real women are being faced with the decision. Don’t anonymously hold a sign in the parking lot. Make yourself available to her. Listen to her. Pray that God help you understand her and give you wisdom and discernment to speak Truth to her. And love her.

If the race wars are frustrating to you and you don’t understand why people can’t just ‘let it go and move on’, then go where there are people who are not like you. Meet people who bring an entirely different set of experiences and perspectives and get to know them. Lovingly ask questions for the purpose of understanding and not for the purpose of finding answers to validate your perceptions. Allow God to chip away at the prejudices that we ALL bring to our interactions with others, and to give you wisdom and discernment to know how and when to speak Truth into their lives. And love them.

Convictions are real and important. God calls us to holiness and is grieved when we disregard His laws. It’s perfectly appropriate to challenge those whom God has placed in your sphere of influence in areas where sin is evident.

But words matter.

They matter because they can build up or break down the person you are hoping to ‘save’ or convince or sway. And they matter because ‘…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’ (Luke 6:45). 

What are our words reflecting to the world, particularly to unbelievers or new believers? Do they reflect a heart that is full of wisdom, compassion, discernment, and grace? Or do our words reflect a heart that is full of fear, pride, speck hunting (Luke 6:41-42), and hate?

My prayer is that when we see headlines and statistics that are troubling, we would be quick to go into our closet and seek the Lord and His mind concerning the matter. And that we would be slow and prayerful about how we respond, particularly publicly.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (‭Colossians‬ ‭4‬:‭5-6‬ ESV)Out of the

Don’t Think About a White Bear

Whatever you do, don’t think about a white bear. No white bears. Try it..close your eyes and don’t think at all about a white bear.

How long did you make it??

Sometimes it seems like the harder we try not to think about something, not to worry about something, not to be distracted by something… the more pervasive “it” becomes!

Or is that just me?

Did you know there’s actually a term for this? Studies have been done to test the “Ironic Process Theory”, coined by Dr Daniel Wegner. It basically says the harder we try to suppress a thought, the more likely it is to keep coming back.

I’m pretty sure I could have told him that.

Even if you don’t battle anxiety or depression or any of the other so-called ‘biggies’, I would imagine you could have told him that as well.

Even when I’m thinking healthily, I still find myself so frustrated with my distracting thoughts at times. Whether it’s listening to a friend and thinking about my to-do list, or trying to pray and catching myself having a mock conversation with someone I’m praying about (please tell me I’m not alone in this?!), the more I try to make myself not think about something, the harder it persists.

Regardless of what your distracting thoughts are, I think we can all find common ground in that they aren’t focused on God. I imagine most of them are focused on ourselves.

I’ve talked before about the pivotol moment for me, when I really understood the fact that even a lowly perspective of myself was still focusing on my self instead of my God. But even after coming to that realization, it was several more years before I began to understand how to turn my focus off myself and on to God.

I love this response to a quote from William Temple, in which he basically says what I mentioned above…humility is not simply thinking less of ourselves.

Gary Inrig replies, “That is true but it stops short of telling you how not to think of ourselves (emphasis mine). The answer is that we are to fill our minds with the lord Jesus. It is worship that drives out arrogance and pours in love.”

I see three primary aspects to our thought processes, and I believe scripture speaks very clearly to each one. Intentionality in each of these aspects is how we “fill our minds with the Lord Jesus”, as Ingrig writes.

1. We are intentional with the information we allow in from the outside

Perhaps one of the most referenced verses when it comes to how we ought to filter what we allow into our minds is this-
“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

We can’t think on these things if there’s nothing in our daily lives that meets the criteria! If the only sources we have to draw on for our thoughts are the antithesis of this passage, we have no hope of fullfilling this admonishment. What we read, who we listen to, what we watch…these all play a role in our ability to think on these ideals from Philippians. I’m not saying we can only ever read the Bible and only ever watch or listen to Christian teaching and radio. I am saying that at some point, whatever we’ve allowed to be the input into our brains becomes our white bear.  If you’d never seen a white bear or known what it was, it would be much easier to avoid the distracting thoughts it produces.

2.  We are equipped with the words of God to replace any thoughts which are contrary to Him once they do get in.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

In order to take our thoughts captive, we must be equipped with truth to replace the lies. As I’ve become more intentional with what I allow in from the outside, the lies and thoughts contrary to God have lessened. However, the enemy hasn’t gone anywhere. And when he finds something that can easily get my focus mixed up I HAVE to have words and thoughts that are true to be able to literally fight that battle in my mind.

Knowing what God has to say about the white bear is the only way to make it go away.

3.  Our filter for what comes out of us is just as intentional as what comes in.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” 2 Corinthians 5:17

At first glance this scritpure might not seem to speak to this point, but stay with me for a second. If we are alive in Christ, our old selves are crucified with Him. That means that our speach and actions will increasingly reflect the mind of Christ and not our own. In the meantime we are in this strange place where thoughts that were once pervasive and distracting will continue to pop up from time to time. If we are intent on not thinking about the white bear, but we continue to talk about it with those around us…well…it’s not going to go anywhere!

This means that when thoughts of gossip or slander cross our minds, we not only replace them with truth but we keep them to ourselves!

When thoughts of self-loathing creep back in, we don’t allow them to be multiplied by the regret of verbally vomiting on the nearest listener.

I don’t mean to say that we bottle everything up and exhibit false piety. Far from it! But we can be transparent and vulnerable and authentic with others without sharing everything. I can acknowledge that in my own strength I’m still a mess without giving you a laundry list of all the reasons why. Which of us does that benefit?

If I need you to know all of my shortcomings to help me overcome them then I am attempting to use you to meet a need for me that you were never intended to meet.  And if you need to know all of my shortcomings in order to feel better about your own, then your eyes are off of Christ. There is no level of satisfaction or redemption that another person’s insufficiencies will ever bring you. Christ alone took on our sins and failures, and Christ alone is our redemption.

So we ask the Lord for discernment and wisdom as to when it is appropriate to share more or less with others, for their edification and His glory. But we don’t look for opportunities to tell everyone around us about the white bear we are doing our best to not think about.

In each of these three areas we must be intentional, because we have a very real enemy who is intentional toward our demise.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

But thankfuly, we have a Father who loves us more than the enemy can ever despise us. He will help us in our weakness, lead us, teach us, and guide us.

Thank you, Father, that “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” Isaiah 26:3You Keep him in