When messy and tough are worth it

In my post last week I talked about how important it is to go to the Bible in order to learn what God says the life of a Christian should look like. I'm going to be honest with you here, writing a blog about conforming our lives to the truths of the Bible is much easier than living a life conformed to the truths of the Bible. When we start living according to God’s normal, it many times involves hard, counter cultural things. Perhaps deliberately living in a smaller house when everyone else is upgrading for bigger or better. Giving up your “perfect” family to take on a child with special needs. Having a large family in a world that says two is more than enough. Choosing to forgive and love people who have done nothing to deserve it.

We can look at the disciples in the Bible and applaud how they so willingly followed Jesus when he called them. But I highly doubt it was a normal or easy thing to leave your entire fishing livelihood in your boat and start following a homeless teacher around (Luke 5).  So, are you willing to stand out? Are you willing to put into practice what you read in the Bible despite what people might think of you? Are you willing to follow God’s way, even if it is hard? I think we all would say yes, but the reality of living that out is hard.

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  -  1 Thessalonians 2:4

It is all too easy to walk around and try to portray that we have it all together. For me that would mean that I have the cutest multiracial family; that foster care has been all hugs and giggles and that I never mess up, make mistakes or get impatient with my husband or kids.

family
family

But the truth is something totally different from a cute cuddly picture. Being a foster parent is HARD in so many different ways! No my kids don’t always get along, in fact, scratching each others faces has been become the weapon of choice between my daughters. Our foster daughter usually screams at the end of every meal because food is her comfort. And sometimes, we end up just having cereal for dinner because it has been one of "those days".

I think on the outside it’s easy to look at people living for God and see the heroic side of things. But if I’m honest, living our lives like the Bible says is anything but that. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t say this to discourage you; I say this to encourage you. How does that make any sense? Well the truth is it’s way too easy to avoid and give up on things that are tough, messy and challenging, thinking they aren’t worth it.

Isn't it better to live a life that is comfortable and easy?

No way!

If you look at the lives of Jesus, of his disciples, or of Christians throughout the century, comfortable and easy would be the last words that come to mind. In fact, I would say just the opposite is true. Their lives were extremely challenging! But that doesn’t mean that all their sacrifices were for nothing.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. – Phillipians 3:7-9

We were created for this very purpose: for service in the Kingdom of God; for something bigger than ourselves. Although for my husband and I, conforming our lives to the Bible and stepping out in faith and living out what Jesus has called us to has been the most challenging, tiring thing we’ve ever done, it has also been the most rewarding, amazing, purpose-filling, life-giving, joy-bringing things we have ever undertaken! Life is an adventure, with twists and turns we never expected. We’ve experienced God moving in our lives so many times and feeling so near to him is the most amazing comfort!

So where are you today? Are you feeling called to step out in faith and serve God in some way, but worried what others might say/think about that choice? Are you in the middle of a messy marriage, struggling to finally put God first and feeling like it’s not making a difference? Are you mentoring someone who just seems to continue to make mistakes and backslide? Are you the one making mistakes and backsliding? Rather than fixing your eyes on the struggle, the problems, or the obstacles in front of you, fix your eyes on Jesus. He isn’t afraid of messy. He isn’t intimidated by the obstacles you face. He isn’t scared by what you bring to the table. He doesn't even care what everyone else is saying about you and what you are doing. All he wants is you; fully committed to him and willing to keep pressing on no matter how hard it gets.

While I’m not going to lie, the life of a Jesus follower does not guarantee comfortable and easy. I can guarantee that it is filled with joy, purpose and eternal rewards that will far outweigh the struggles, disapproval, judgments or questions you may get from those around you.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

the way of gratitude

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9  I am a 30-year-old gal with an amazing husband and precious son. Our family lives our days in a yellow house on an acre of land where we sleep and eat and laugh til our sides hurt. We have multiple cars, sufficient incomes, good health, closets full of clothes, and clean water. I exercise in the morning, fill mason jars with flowers at noonday, and wash dishes in a sudsy sink in the evening. The people around us, friends and neighbors, are kind and giving. 

This life overflows with blessed

most of all hhh

Our needs are met and the extras are abundant. 

But I don't always see what's right in front of me. 

Sometimes I take things for granted. 

It can become dangerously easy to do that when days are carrying on so smoothly, but nothing should be left off of my daily thank you list. The bird's morning song, the weight of a sleepy head on my shoulder, the encouraging text exchange with a friend. 

The love of family, the beat of my heart, the hand I am holding. 

The God who loves, redeems, forgives, and provides. 

I want to live a life of constant gratitude, to breathe out steady thanks for the gifts I am handed each day. 

To help with this, I write blessings down on paper. Scribbled in the corner of the weekly church bulletin, the back of a coloring page, my calendar, I pen at least three things to be intentional about truly seeing. I write the words and let them linger. When I look at God's grace and goodness straight on with wide eyed wonder, my heart swells, overwhelmed with thankfulness. 

My response to His Love is praise. 

For today, I wrote out these three gifts :: 

three things hhh

Josh. 8 years ago this week, he took me as he bride. He is my best friend, my encourager, and my leader. Josh gets a front row seat to my highs and lows and, through it all, loves me so well. His thoughtfulness, energetic spirit, and heart for Jesus make me smile. 

My country. This country offers, among many rights, the freedom to worship in the church of my choosing and read my Bible anywhere I please. The brave who fight to preserve those precious freedoms and to protect us deserve the utmost respect! I'm so very proud of the family and friends I have who serve in the US military. 

My parents are living and healthy. Their home is on the other side of Lake Michigan, but they are always just a phone call away. My folks are incredible examples of humble, faithful, joyful Christian servants. They are two of my dearest friends. 

Dear Jesus, thank you for showering me daily with your gifts even though I don't deserve them. Open my eyes to each and every blessing. I don't want to miss a thing! For in everything, you are there. My thanks and praise belongs to you alone.

 

What are three things your heart is grateful for today, friends? 

 

RachelSignature

 

Overcoming the American Dream

We are raised in a culture that continually tells us we are all entitled to the American dream: Perfect house, perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect family. It’s our right to be happy, healthy and wealthy and to avoid anything that would lead to the contrary. While driving and talking with my husband the other day, I was hit by the hard truth that this mentality has become a stumbling block to many in the Christian Church.

I read the Bible and I’m blown away by what a follower of Jesus is called to do. Give what we have to the poor (Mark 10:21). Care for the needy, the widow, the orphan. (Matt 25:40, James1:27). Be the servant of all (Mark 9:35). Forgive and love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us (Luke 6:27-28). Go preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15). I mean, YIKES! This is some serious stuff!

But, I look at God and say...

"You’ve given me an amazing life! Look how happy I am! Look how cute my kids are; how much we enjoy our home! What if following you into broken places changes that? What if life gets complicated? What if my children don’t understand? What if we give so much that we have to downsize and cut back? You don’t literally mean you want me to do that stuff, right God? Don’t you see how good my life is? Can’t I just reach out to the clean cut, ‘normal’ people?”

Then I search his Word, and God breaks through my misguided idea that I’m entitled to an easy life.

I came into this world as a naked, broken sinner and if Jesus Christ had not scooped me up as his child that is where I would still be today. My life, my breath, my eternity are all the gracious gift of my Creator. But all too often I love and treasure the “things/people” he has given me rather than treasuring God himself (Matt 10:37-39).

God tells us he has come to give us life, and life to the full (John 10:10), but that doesn’t necessarily equal the American dream. God says that in him we find life, joy, purpose and every good thing. We were made to worship God, to live our lives in service and complete surrender to him. Only in Jesus do we find life to the fullest. Notice that easy and comfortable are never mentioned in this list. In fact quite the opposite is true:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  - John 15:18-19

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. - Luke 9:24

For too much of my life I sat immobilized by the fear that living my life completely for God and setting out to do the work He has called me to do would cause me to lose or miss out on some of the great things I had felt I was entitled to.

But God reveals to us a new way of life, far better than the American dream and totally contradictory to it.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

My life may get uncomfortable. My possessions may not be as a glorious and up-to-date as others. My “perfect,” cute, family may look different, act different and live different. But I’m willing to give up the things the world says I need in order to "set my mind on things above." I'd rather have a “life to the full” (John 10:10).

When you walk down the road of living out what the Bible teaches, I'm not going to lie, life might become less comfortable. I've realized that the things I've had to "give up" in order to follow God have paled in comparison to the joy I've found in living my life for him.  I’ve jumped in headfirst, and what I've found is this: a life lived with abandon for God does not disappoint.

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