Monday, October 13, 2014

What Is Your Vision?

By Kristen Wetherell
Be thou my vision / O Lord of my heart...
As I sat pondering a vision that had seemed a long-time formed, yet still a far way's off, this hymn ran its lilting melody through my thoughts. Praise the Lord that he provides reminders of the truth, a renewing of the mind, when the world and its desires tempt us to lose focus of what is true.

Here's what I mean by this. There is so much pressure to do something great for the Lord, to find one's area of giftedness and run with it to the max. (Aubrey actually wrote a post on this several months ago that I would encourage you to read.) So much pressure, and much of it, I must admit, comes from my own expectations for myself.

I want to believe that my intentions are good, that I truly desire to honor Christ in whatever "things" he leads me to "do."

But what I read this morning in Matthew chapter 23 challenged these intentions. And my hope, in sharing the passage with you, is that God's Word will lead us both to pursuing an even bigger vision for our very lives.

The passage is what has come to be known as "The Seven Woes." Here's the beginning of the story from Matthew's Gospel:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:1-12).
Regarding the reading of the Bible: The question to ask is not, "What are my life experiences telling me about this passage?" but, "What does the truth in this passage tell me about my life? What does it tell me about Christ and the gospel?" 

In asking these questions about Matthew 23, I realized that Christ's words here are directly tied to my recent musings about vision. So I ask, "What does God's Word have to say to my understand of what true vision is? How does this passage shape my understanding of vision?"

It led me to contrast two very different profiles outlined by Jesus:
The Humble look to Christ as their vision. They look to serve others, rather than be served by others. They walk in the way of Christ, rather than merely giving lip service to his commands. The humble find their success not in what they "do," but in being united to Christ Jesus. 
The Proud look to worldly gain, recognition, and peoples' approval as their vision. They look to be served, not being willing to move a finger in the labor of love towards others. They consider themselves so great and lofty that they do not even walk in the commands of God, themselves, though they teach them to others. The proud find their success in the accolades of men. 
In looking at these two profiles, I find myself considering the motives behind this vision I've had in mind for so long. And I am cut to the heart when I realize that I often "do" in order to be seen by others. I often "do" because I think God most certainly must use these astounding gifts he's given me (what else would they be for?).

But my heart is misdirected. Suddenly, this vision has become about me, about being seen by others, about being served rather than serving.

Everything within me cries, "Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart! Naught be all else to me, save that thou are! Thou my best thoughts by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light."

Please do not hear me say that having a specific vision is selfish or wrong; it's not. Christ had a vision to save his chosen ones, and praise God that he obeyed it perfectly.

But it led him to the cross.

The road was not easy, not glamourous, and certainly was not complete with mens' accolades. Christ suffered so that those who put their faith in him might have life. Christ looked to his Father for vision and followed him obediently all the way to his death.

Knowing Christ, abiding in him, and following obediently is the greatest vision a person could have for their lives. We can rest assured that, when we are seeking to know him, he will show us the specific paths in which we are to walk, while leading us by the power of the Holy Spirit. This will absolutely lead to doing the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do, that we should walk in them.

But these specific visions and good works come from first seeing Christ as our whole vision and loving him above all other earthly things.

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." May we all, who call Christ Lord and Savior, be humbled by his great glory and authority over our lives, making him our vision and practicing whatever he would command us to do. Let's take up our crosses and follow him, wherever he may lead.

Lord Jesus, All authority belongs to you, on earth and in heaven. You have made us your disciples by your grace, when all we deserved was judgement. And you have lavished your riches on us, preparing good works for us, that we should walk in them. Give us clear direction about what those good works are in your timing, and provide us the strength to obey, wherever you may take us. Be the vision of our hearts, humble us to your glory, that we may love you more and know you better every single day. 


[Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.]

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Don't Waste Your Season

By Anna Bachinsky
It’s that time of year again. 
The leaves are beginning to change colors. Clouds are starting to fill the sky and replace the sunrays with rain. My sandals and my sundresses are going back into the back of my closet for the remainder of the year.

Fall is officially here.

And just like any season it means I must say good-bye to what once was and embrace the changes at hand.

I think if there is anything that the changing of seasons teaches me it’s this: nothing really lasts forever and, as long as I find myself in a certain season in life, I need to make the most of it.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” and those words are true not just for the environmental seasons in our lives, but even more so our personal seasons.

There was a time when I was a child and had to learn all there was to know about the world around me.

There was a time when I started going to school for the first time and my mind expanded every day with new knowledge and experiences.

There was a time when I was going through my teenage years trying to figure out my identity and where exactly I fit in.

And with every new season in life I grew and matured and become the person I am today.

Each season has its own challenges and its own unique blessings and even more so, lessons to learn if we are careful to face each one with the guidance of Christ.

The problem is sometimes when we don’t find ourselves enjoying the season we are in we waste our time wishing we were in the season we were before or waiting for the next season to come, and by doing so we end up missing out on the moment we have at hand.

Often times college students dream of finally graduating and starting their careers that they miss out on the opportunities they have to not use their years wisely not only to get educated  in a certain field of study but also to minister on campus as Christ’s light to everyone around them.

Often times singles can’t wait to finally get married and all they worry about is looking for “the one” and what they seem to be missing in their life that they waste precious time worrying about the days ahead when they could instead be devoted to serving those around them with the time they have and developing their relationship with Christ.

Often times married parents are so excited for their children to grow up and get out of the house that they forget they only have a very limited period of time to invest into the futures of the next generation, and they don’t devote as much energy as they could to building their children up.

Which season do you find yourself in today and are you making sure to use it wisely for God?

If you are a college student then your college campus is your mission field. Don’t miss out on sharing the gospel because you’re in a hurry to graduate and get out.

If you are currently single then everyone around is the mission field. Use your time wisely to minister effectively because when you’re married your time will be a lot more restricted in ways in which you can serve.

If you are married then your children are your greatest mission field. Teach them wisely during their developmental years because they won’t be under your roof and your guidance for too much longer.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, make the most of it.

Don’t wish for your yesterdays to come back and don’t start pining for what tomorrow might bring.

God has specific ways that He can use you during this season in your life.

Don’t allow this one to be one that you will remember as being the season you just couldn’t wait to move on from.

Let it be the one you gave wholeheartedly to God to grow in and to serve in.

Just like summer ended and fall came, so eventually the season you find yourself in will one day end, whether it’s a fairly easy season or a challenging one.

Don’t waste a single moment of it.

Like Paul says to the church in Ephesus “Be careful with how you live and make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16) because tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.

Dear Jesus, please help each one of us remember that the season we find ourselves in today is only temporary and we need to serve you wholeheartedly in it. Please show us daily how we can make the most of our time during this season so that when we look back we can say we spent it all for your glory. Thank you. 


[Photo courtesy of]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Checklist Christianity

By Kristen Wetherell
Follow the rules, and be good enough.
Christianity often becomes a "how to get to heaven" checklist. Attended church on Sunday. Check. Didn't get (too) angry with my co-worker. Check. Read my Bible for fifteen minutes and prayed before work. Check and check. Confessed my sins. Check.

And we wonder why we're frustrated and exhausted.

So what does it take to get into heaven? Jesus, himself, was asked this very question by a young man in Matthew chapter 19. Here's the account:
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Matthew 19:16-22).
As I read this account this morning, it became increasingly clear that nothing is new under the sun: people today are still wondering, "What do I have to do to get into heaven?" Eastern religions seem to offer the answers to this question by claiming that salvation comes by good works, a good life, good karma. If we're good enough, then good will come to us.

But here's what is striking to me about how Jesus initially replies to the young man's question. He does not say up-front, "Sell what you possess...and follow me." No. He gives the confident young man (whom we're told is also very rich) a nice, tidy checklist of the commandments required to "enter life." Jesus knew that the young man would assert his fulfillment of those commands...but he also knew that his completed "checklist" would still leave him lacking.

The young man is not unlike us, in that he sees all his efforts to "be good," and yet he comes up short. So short that he must inquire of Jesus, "What do I still lack?" I feel like I've come up short, even still, he thinks. I feel like "being good" just isn't enough, and it hasn't satisfied me. The deep thirst of my soul for eternity is driving me mad because nothing I do has helped me to attain it. My checklist has given me no assurance whatsoever. 

Notice where Jesus carries their conversation next. He cuts to the very core of the rich young ruler's identity, to the self-made foundation he has built as an attempt at finding security and being satisfied: "Sell what you possess...and come, follow me," Jesus commands. Yet, at the heart of this is not another command, not another rule to obey to "be good." No.

At the heart of Jesus' words is a calling. A calling by the very Son of God, the Lord and Savior of all. A calling for this young man to secure his assured eternity not on the basis of his own good works, but through Christ, who perfectly completed God's checklist, who never once sinned in all his days walking the earth as God incarnate. 

Only the goodness and righteousness of Jesus Christ is sufficient to save the insufficient sinner, to save to eternity men and women who never could get there on their own efforts. To save people like you and me. 

Pastor Tim Keller writes this: "Christians, you see, are people who know that their Christianity is impossible, a miracle--there's nothing natural about it, it flies in the face of all one's merits. Everybody has to recognize that we have been resting our hopes on some form of personal merit. And it's our personal merit, our moral worth, that keeps us from understanding the cross" (King's Cross, pg. 132-3).

Come, follow Jesus. Lay down your good works as a means to your salvation, understanding that they'll never get you there. Surrender the shaky foundation of sand you've attempted to build your life upon, hoping it would satisfy you. Christ laid down his life because he was intimately aware of your inability to save yourself. He obediently went to the cross, bore God's wrath, and rose three days later for you! 

Lay aside your checklist, and come.

Precious Lord Jesus, I praise you for your perfect life! That you obeyed the Father perfectly is astounding. And even more astounding is that you would come to save a sinner like me, a rebel and a hater of God. I trust in you to be my sufficiency before God. Clothe me in your righteousness. I stand on your merit. I confess I cannot save myself, and I need you to cleanse me from my sin and give me a new heart that loves you. I rest my assurance on you.


[Photo courtesy of]

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Sin in Fear

By Caitlin Williams
About eight months ago, I was in the middle of the interview process for my current job, which required me to make a big move. 
During one interview in particular, the Executive Pastor of the church I now work for said, “Does the idea of picking up your life and moving across the country to a place where you don’t know a soul scare you at all?” I said, “No, it doesn’t scare me.” He chuckled to himself and said, “You are brave.” Without thinking, I blurted out, “No, I’m not brave!” (Why he hired me, I have no idea.)

Brave is a word I would never use to describe myself. I can confidently say I’m the most fearful person I’ve ever met. Fear is my biggest weakness and the enemy’s most secure stronghold in my life. Until fairly recently, I thought fear was something I couldn’t control. I thought it was just part of who I am. I would never have considered fear to be a kind of sin. 

But through the grace of the Lord’s discipline, I’ve discovered otherwise. Looking back, I can attribute every major mistake I’ve made to fear. Let me lay out the path of how fear has manifested itself as sin in my life.

It starts with me being afraid of something—either something that I don’t want to happen or something that I’m afraid won’t happen. What’s really going on in those initial thoughts or realizations is that I’m doubting God. I’m doubting His sovereignty. I’m doubting His love for me. I’m doubting the perfection of His will. If instead, I trusted in those things, what would I have to fear? 

Next, since I don’t trust that God is who He says He is, I take action (even if just in my thoughts) as if I am better able to address the situation than the Lord of the Universe. I start to plan. I begin an endless list of: “If this [fill in the blank] happens, then this [fill in the blank] is what I’ll do.” Then, if left unchecked, those thoughts and plans turn into choices. I make choices in an effort to manipulate circumstances, events, or people in such a way to protect myself or get something I think I need. (Read: poor choices.) 

The path I just described is what it looks like when someone is trying to trust in her own will rather than God’s. What initiated that slippery slope? Fear.

Conservatively, the phrase, “Do not fear,” appears in the Bible over 100 times. Depending on the translation, the concept of not fearing appears over 300 times. Friends, look at the words—“Do not fear.” It’s a command. And like all of the Lord’s commands, it was given out of His love for us. In His infinite wisdom, He knows exactly the kind of havoc fear can wreak in our lives. He knows that fear is more likely to pull us away from Him than to point us toward Him.

Ironically, the first verse I ever memorized as a kid was Isaiah 41:10. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. (It’s like the Lord knew what my weaknesses would be or something.) Notice that even in this verse that offers comfort, He brings attention to the righteousness of His hand. His hand and His ways are righteous, not ours.

If you dig in and look up those 100-300 verses that address fear, you’ll find something wonderful. So many of them juxtapose instruction to not fear against the faithfulness, the strength, or the love of God (Matt. 6:25-31, Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:9, Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 43:1, Lam 3:57, and the list goes on). He doesn’t owe us justification for any command He gives, but He justifies this one with His unfailing love for us.

1 John 4:18 says this, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.” If we abide in the Father, who is love, then we allow ourselves to be sanctified by His love. There is no room for fear in that process of sanctification. He commands us against it.

Friends, there is no amount of faith that can completely eradicate fear from our hearts until we either leave this world to be with Jesus or until He returns for us. But in the meantime, let us not sin in fear. 

Keep careful watch over your fearful thoughts. Do they lead you to your own devices or to your knees? If it’s the former, stop what you’re doing and seek the Lord. Ask for the ability to trust in His will rather than seek after your own. Psalm 34:4 says, “ I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”

Father, our hearts are fickle and wayward. Bind them to you, and drive out our fears with your perfect love. Be our strength in the constant battle between our will and yours. Help us not to give the enemy a foothold into our lives with fear. I ask these things in Jesus’ worthy name. 


What are you fearing? How does God's command not to fear speak to your heart today?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Three Important Q's Every Leader Should Ask

By Kristen Wetherell
If you're in a leadership position of any kind, you need to read Psalm 115.
I found the Psalm extremely pertinent for those to whom God has called to leadership in ministry; leadership in marriage and family; leadership in the workplace; you name it.

Reading this song leads us to ask three very significant questions:

ONE: In looking at your life, would it be apparent to people that Jesus is LORD?  

The Psalmist says this: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness" (v. 1).

What do my attitudes, words and actions -- not to mention my thoughts -- relay to nonbelievers? What do they relay to my brothers and sisters in Christ?

The other morning was one that seemed, in all respects, crazy. The dishwasher was full, so the remnants of our breakfast were scattered across the kitchen counters; the laundry was overflowing; and both my husband and I were running late to work. It became clear to me, praise God, that Jesus' lordship spoke even to that crazy morning: Would I blow through the doors of work frazzled, complainant, and worried? Or would I reiterate the gospel-truth I believe: Jesus is Lord, even over the messy house I abandoned. 

As believers in the risen Lord Jesus, we don't want to give any person a reason to say, "Where is their God?" (v. 2). Rather, we want the world to proclaim along with us, "Our God is in the heavens! He does all that he pleases!" (v. 3).

Is it apparent to others that Jesus is your Lord?

TWO: In what areas of your life are you displacing Jesus as Lord with a useless, dissatisfying substitute that destroys faith and points a watching world to you, rather than to Christ?

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands...they have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them" (vv. 4, 7-8).

Idols are lifeless and therefore useless, to no purpose. When we forget that Jesus is Lord, that he has accepted us fully and given us everything we need for life and godliness, we will seek satisfaction in other places, though unsuccessfully.

What a tragedy for a believer, created in God's image, to become like the idol he or she worships: useless and ineffective.

What idols are you worshiping? 

THREE: What is your only hope, in life and death?
Here's our promise: in Christ, God has blessed those who fear him! The Lord has remembered our weak frame; he knows that we are dust.

"O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and shield...The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us...he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great" (vv. 9, 12-13).

Let us turn aside from our functional idols, from vanity, from useless pursuits, and let us grab hold of our perfect Help and Shield, Jesus Christ. Let us lead others by fearing and praising Jesus as Lord and making our hope in Him our cry to a watching world.

Our Help and Shield, we look to you for help and hope! Any effective leadership or ministry comes by knowing you and turning from all other unsatisfying substitutes. Reveal where in our lives we have forgotten that you are Lord; reveal the idols of our hearts; and remind us of the glorious gospel, that you have given us grace and mercy through Jesus. 


Photo credit:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

From Harsh Words to Ugly Thoughts, There Is Grace

By Morgann Burres
"How can I be a better partner to you?"

This is one of the things that my husband and I have started asking each other periodically. It opens us up for dialogue, correction, exhortation and encouragement. 

Recently, I asked Nathan, “How can I be a better wife to you?”  He thought about it for a while and then spoke gently to me, “Sometimes you say things that really hurt me.”  Wow.  Those words hit me like a ton of bricks.  I let them sink in, and we proceeded to talk about how I can be careless with my words and my tone of voice.

Do you know what’s really ugly?  Sin.  Sin is really, really ugly.  Sometimes I tend to think that some sins are uglier than others, especially when they’re someone else’s sins and not mine. 

Praise the Lord for his graciousness in revealing my sin to me. 

More and more, I find that I like to invite God into the pretty parts of my life – my Bible reading, my small group, my prayer times.  But you know what’s even more difficult?  Welcoming God into the ugly parts of my life – my speech, my words and my inward thoughts.  God’s already there and he already sees and hears, but having a welcoming spirit toward Him is challenging because I don’t want him to see my ugliness.

God’s word speaks some incredible truths about the power of the words he has given us:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person (Matthew 15:18).

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Proverbs 16:24).

Our words have the power to kill and to destroy, and they also have the power to build up and bring health and life.  What a responsibility we have!

I have started to pray that God would use my words to bring life and healing, hope and joy, peace and sweetness to the soul of those who would hear.  I want to challenge you to do the same – welcome God into this part of your life, invite the Holy Spirit to guide you and correct you. 

I am so thankful that even in my harsh words, there is forgiveness.  Even in my sharp tone, God extends grace.  Even in my ugliest thoughts, Jesus rescues me daily from the prison of my own sin.  God’s grace is sufficient!  His power is much greater than my struggle with words.  It is in Him alone that we find victory in this area of our lives.

God of all things, We ask that you help us to use our words for your glory and for the building up of others.  We ask that you help remind us of the incredible power we possess when we speak.  May we be women who speak life, healing and sweetness.  May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord.  For you are our Rock and our Redeemer.


Have you ever struggled with your words? What about with inviting God to point out your sins? Share with us in the comments.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Starve to Death Outside the Banquet Hall

By Kristen Wetherell
The mercy of God is utterly true of him, all the time and in every way. 
Yet, for the believer who is struck with a clear indication of sin within the heart, the mercy of God can seem the first attribute to fly out the window. How easy it is to forget that the blood of Christ is enough, in fact is final, to cover over every sin that rears its ugly head within us!

There is preaching of the gospel to be done for ourselves in times of discovery of sin and our confession of it, so as to remember that our rest is found in the divine mercy of our God, purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is compassionate.

A.W. Tozer examines two responses to God's mercy in The Knowledge of the Holy:
We may plead for mercy for a lifetime in unbelief, and at the end of our days be still no more than sadly hopeful that we shall somewhere, sometime, receive it. This is to starve to death just outside the banquet hall in which we have been warmly invited.
Or we may, if we will, lay hold on the mercy of God by faith, enter the hall, and sit down with the bold and avid souls who will not allow diffidence and unbelief to keep them from the feast of fat things prepared for them.
(p 92)
Believer, if you are struggling to come to terms with a specific sin in your life today, you have two options:

Respond in unbelief, somehow believing that God's compassionate mercy does not extend toward least not right now, or;

Enter the banquet hall of mercy, to which you've been warmly invited in Christ, who has prepared a place for you by His righteous covering over your sin.

Which will you choose? Jesus is Lord, which most certainly means we will account for sin, but Jesus is also the Savior of sinners. And if you have put your faith in His ability to save you from sin, then rest assured, there is now no condemnation for you in Christ.

What Good News to preach to your own heart today!

Merciful Father, Thank You for extending grace and mercy to Your children in Christ! We never could have saved ourselves: we were desperate and rebellious, yet You showed us mercy. Reveal sin in our hearts, so that we may approach Your throne of grace with confidence, asking for Your help in overcoming sin and aiming to please Christ...knowing full-well that we are fully accepted in Him. Help us to attend this lavish banquet of grace You're prepared for us! We don't want to miss out.

In Jesus' Authority, Amen.
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