Friday, August 11, 2017

Sharp Legs, Big Teeth, and Boo Boos - Oh My!

Happy Friday! :-)

I hope you woke up feeling refreshed and ready to begin your day with the Lord, relying on His strength and grace for every choice you’ll make today, including the choice to begin your day with Him!

When I woke up this morning, I remembered three comments from my students (ages 3-5) from yesterday. Here are their observations of me…

“Mrs. Jacquelyn, you have really big teeth!”

“Mrs. Jacquelyn, your legs are sharp! Ouch! Why are they so sharp?”

“Mrs. Jacquelyn, why do you have boo boos on your face? Is it like freckles? Do they hurt?”

So, not the most flattering of observations, but definitely the most honest! ;-) As a teacher or mother of young children, you have to learn to let these comments roll off of your shoulders. My lovely kiddos don’t have filters yet, and they like to say whatever they observe, whether it’s pointing out my buck teeth (you should have seen me pre-braces! – apparently “small” teeth are better ;-) ), sharp legs (which by the way – that doesn’t mean toned or nice-looking; it meant that I hadn’t shaved in a while…), and my acne (which began when I was 12 and never went away in adulthood like I was promised!). My daughter likes to point out when people are “huge” or when ladies (who aren’t pregnant) have “really big bellies” or when people look old. Of course, she isn’t trying to be offensive, just as my other students aren’t trying to offend me, but these little kiddos don’t understand that what they’re saying could possibly offend other people.

When I woke up this morning and was reminded of these comments, I started thinking about my self-image verses my self-worth – how I view myself verses what my Father thinks of me. Our culture bombards us with sooooooo many characteristics of outward beauty, such as straight teeth, tanned and toned legs, and a clear complexion, that it seems like none of us will “measure up” and my four-year-old darlings will tell you so! You may be unhappy with your weight, your height, or your complexion. You may be ashamed of the size of your nose, your waist, your teeth, or your thighs. You may be embarrassed about a small chest or a large chest. You may want thinner hair or thicker hair or less grays or more eyebrows or thicker lashes or……My friend, the list could continue on and on if we let ourselves go there. But STOP! Please don’t go there again. I absolutely cringe when I read my preteen journals because my body image was down in the dumps BECAUSE I was comparing myself to cultural standards of beauty rather than the Lord’s standard of beauty.

So, this morning, as you wake up and are maybe thinking about how you are disappointed in yourself, whether externally or internally, stop and remember what your Heavenly Father thinks of you! Don’t allow worldly standards dictate how you think you should be. Focus on what God states clearly in His Word:

Psalm 139:13-16
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 147:10-11
“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.”

1 Peter 3:4
“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

God loves you! He made you – each intricate part of your body, personality, spiritual gifts, nose size, hips size, teeth size...everything! He loves you so much – so much that He gave His Son so that you might have eternal life. He doesn’t measure beauty like the world does. Rather, He looks at the heart and longs to find people who seek Him with their whole hearts and who fear Him even when no one is watching. "The Lord favors those who fear Him!" It's not about outward appearances! It's about our hearts!!!

(Side Note: Of course, I know we desire to be beautiful and don't want to completely disregard our outward appearance. However, that isn't primary, and the world's standards certainly aren't the standards by which we should abide! As I think about my big teeth or sharp legs, God directs my mind not to be ashamed of my qualities (ok... hairy legs isn't a "quality"; I just despise shaving and have light hair so I can get away with it...from a distance...but my students don't understand personal space yet either, thus they experience my sharp legs!); rather He directs my mind to remember that He values me regardless of how I may not "measure up" to worldly beauty and He reminds me that He has different beauty standards - inward and outward!)

So as you begin your day, be reminded of God’s love for you. Be reminded that He values you even if you don’t feel worthy or beautiful. His opinion is what matters, and He knows that YOU are beautiful, loved, and valued!

-       READ/STUDY: Read Psalm 139. Meditate on how intimately and personally God designed you to be YOU! Look at how closely he knows every thought, every word, every desire, and every hair on your head!
-       EVALUATE: Do you struggle with focusing on outward appearances more than inward beauty? Do you find it hard to focus on being beautiful and holy on the inside when so many things from our culture are telling you that outward beauty is important if you want to be loved and accepted? I know I do, and the only way I can combat the temptation to focus on outward appearances is to focus on the Word, specifically on what God says of me and how He loves and values me. Also, by focusing on how to please Him (cultivating inward beauty and sanctification), the value culture places on how to have the perfect body or perfect complexion kind of fades away. How can Psalm 139 remind you of how much God values you?
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for creating you in His image. Praise Him for knowing every part of you intimately and loving you, despite the fact that you are a sinner. Ask the Lord to show you your worth, especially of you feel down about how you feel you fall short in light of our culture’s standards of outward beauty. Plead with the Lord to help you value inward beauty far more than outward appearances. Ask the Lord to help you encourage others who may not know or not remember their worth in Christ.

So whether you have big teeth, “sharp” legs, adult acne, or anything else that the world deems as not up to their standards of beauty (according to my four-year-olds), remember who you are in Christ, and remember what God’s Word show us that God values – inward qualities that are of far more worth than clear skin and perfect teeth!

Always, Jacquelyn

Monday, July 31, 2017

When Dirty Dishes are Appealing, We Have a Problem

 Happy Monday! J I know those are two words that usually don’t end up in consecutive order because many of us are not very happy about Mondays, especially Monday mornings, but I do hope that you have a happy Monday.

My Monday began a little different than most workdays. I have recently started tutoring through an online program in the wee hours of the morning, so many of my mornings begin with tutoring. This morning, I only had one tutoring session, so I had about an hour to myself before Riley Grace woke up. This rarely happens. She is usually by my bedside bright and early telling me she’s ready for her oatmeal! But this morning, I had a whole hour to myself! (I know some moms out there are angry and jealous right now for my hour of alone time! Even with only one child, it rarely happens! I know many of you don’t ever have a moment without someone needing you. It’s precious and fulfilling, but also exhausting.)

So, what was I going to do with that hour???

My first thought was….I should open my Bible for some uninterrupted time alone with my Father. This is what I knew I needed to do. However…

My second thought was….I need to be productive!

(Side note: So why did I think spending time with God was not productive???)

As I walked through the living room, I noticed all of my schoolwork (I teach Pre-K) sprawled across the living room. So then, my third thought was….I could finish the planning that I started last night.

Then, I walked through the kitchen to the full sink of dirty dishes. My fourth thought was….I’d really like to finish these dishes before I head to work.

As you can see, I wasted about 10 minutes deciding what to do with my alone time! I cleared my school stuff away and rearranged the sink so that I could get a glass of water. (Does anyone else rearrange the dirty dishes to put off washing them??) And then, I sat down on the couch with my Bible. For the first few minutes of reading, my mind would not quit thinking about the progress I could have been making on my lesson plans. I kept thinking about how nice it would be to come home to a clean kitchen this evening, if I could just do the dirty dishes really quickly before I open my Bible. When have I ever longed to do the dishes? When have I ever woke up desiring to make lesson plans?? When…..well, I’m not sure when, but I’ll tell you why – because I had this desire to be productive, and in the moment, lessons plans and dirty dishes seemed to be more productive activities than spending time with God. Let me say that again.

In the moment, lessons plans and dirty dishes seemed to be more productive activities than spending time with God.

Ouch! That is absolutely awful, foolish, and simply not true! Spending time alone with God and in His Word, praising Him and petitioning Him, is the MOST PRODUCTIVE thing I can do all day. It is the most eternally rewarding. It is the most beneficial for me. It is the most loving thing I can do for my family. It is the most God-honoring activity I can take part in, and yet my body aches to do the other things that would feel more productive to me in the moment, things in which I could see my progress (which I like, as a task-oriented person).

-       READ/STUDY: Read Psalm 33, but in particular, verses 8-9 and 18-19.
-       EVALUATE: Do you fear the Lord? Verse 18 states that His eyes are on those who fear Him. Do you desire for His eyes to be on you, delivering you and sustaining you? Then you need to live a life that fears and honors Him. What areas pull you away from your time with the Lord? What things do you deem to be “more productive?” Do you struggle with wanting to be productive and also wanting to spend time with God, but feeling like “sitting, reading, and praying” are not productive endeavors? I certainly struggle with that feeling. Are there areas of your life where you focus more on temporary things (chores, tasks, etc.) rather than eternal things? I know as women, we have many responsibilities. There are people who depend on us at home, work, church, etc. There are tasks that we absolutely must do for the good of those we love and to whom we are responsible. However, just because time with God doesn’t always feel productive doesn’t mean that it should be neglected! Time with God is vital if you are going to be productive and honor God with any other part of your day! How can you make time with God (in His Word and in focused prayer) a priority, BEFORE everything else you have to do and EVEN THOUGH you have so many other things to do?
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for creating us with a longing that only He can satisfy. Praise Him that we have full access to Him. We do not have to go through a mediator, as God’s people did in the Old Testament. In America, we have access to the Bible and any study tool we could desire. We can meet and worship freely with fellow believers. We can pray and evangelize in public without fear. We can meet with Him whenever and wherever we like. Thank Him for those privileges! Ask Him to deepen your desire for Him, and beg Him to show you that eternal things are far more important and worthy than the temporary, earthly things we spend time on. Ask Him for an eternal perspective. Ask Him for practical things you can do to prioritize your day in such a way that time with Him is primary.

Happy Monday!

Always, Jacquelyn

Monday, April 10, 2017

From "Hosanna" to "Crucify Him"

2,000 years ago, Jesus was preparing to die. The Passion Week had started with His triumphal entry, and it would end with His brutal death and glorious resurrection. I cannot fathom what He experienced during the days leading up to His trial and crucifixion. He knew exactly what was coming in the next few days, and He was a willing vessel for His Father, despite the pain that the tortuous events would bring.

As I read the stories in the Gospels of the events of the Passion Week (aka the week of the triumphal entry/crucifixion/resurrection), I can’t help but notice how people responded to Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem. As you read the Scriptures below, I think you will see why their actions baffle me.

John 12:12-14 – “The next day, the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.’”

Luke 23:18-23 – “But they all cried out together, ‘Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas,’ a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why? What evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release Him,’ But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand would be granted.”

Wait, so on Monday they were worshipping Him like a king, and on Friday that were urgently demanding His murder? On Monday, His disciples were proud to be seen by His side, and on Friday, they were hidden and ashamed to be associated with Christ. That doesn’t make much sense! What hypocrites, right???... Baffling behavior, right???...

Not so much. (I think you can see where this is going…)

We can look at a multitude of examples throughout Scripture where God’s people follow Him one minute and disown Him the next. They worship Him wholeheartedly in one season, and then worship the idols and gods of their neighbors with their next breath. It’s easy to read over those stories, especially the stark contrast of behavior in the Passion Week, and become judgmental at those people. But my next thought quickly becomes a humbling confession that I am “those people”. I am the woman in the crowd who laid down her cloak for Jesus’ donkey, and I am the passerby surveying the crucifixion scene and mocking the “King of the Jews” on the cross. I am Mary, who willingly poured out expensive perfume to anoint Jesus and worship Him before His death, and I am the voice in the crowd urging Pilate to give the word that will end Jesus’ life.

I have no right to judge or condemn the actions of many Jews during the last week of Jesus’ life before He was crucified because I find myself many times following in their footsteps. My worship is genuine one day and then routine the next. My obedience is devoted one day and then hypocritical the next. My attitude is pure one day and then prideful the next. My words are kind one day and then stabbing the next. My commitment to Him is strong one day and feeble the next.

When Jesus went to the cross, He knew this about me and you and about every person in the crowd whose behavior had changed so drastically in four short days. He knew this about mankind, and yet He still went to the cross for us because of His great love – His love for His Father, which motivated His obedience, and His love for us. He endured because of love. He endured because He knew the depth and severity of our sins, and He knew we needed a way of redemption. He loved us so much that He didn’t want us to be stuck in our own filth and depravity. And so, He went to the cross knowing our past AND knowing that once we believed in Him, we would still falter and waver as we navigated our walk with Him. Our need for a perfect Savior outweighed the physical and emotional pain He experienced. His love was greater.

Jesus was fully God; thus He was aware of exactly what was going to happen to Him as the week progressed. Jesus was also fully human; thus He experienced the emotions that the upcoming events welled up, as well as every ounce of physical pain throughout the process. He experienced agony as He begged His Father for this cup to be removed from Him. He experienced sorrow for the sins of Jerusalem, God’s beloved people, and the sins of the world. He experienced grief at the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, and the back-stabbing behavior of the people who shouted “Hosanna” on Monday and “Crucify Him” on Friday. He experienced embarrassment at the mockery of the soldiers as they stripped him naked and beat Him to an inch of His life, dressing Him in a purple robe and forcing a crown of thorns through His skull. He experienced weakness as He was forced to carry His own cross to the crucifixion site, the rough woody splinters weighing upon His back that was filled with open wounds. He experienced immense and unimaginable physical pain as the nails pierced His already pulverized body. He experienced deep internal pain in His soul as He felt the consequences and bore the weight of the sins of the world. He experienced acute loneliness as He experienced His Father turning away. He experienced the feeling of physically suffocating, as He hung on the cross gasping for breath. He experienced the most brutal physical death… Why?  Because of God’s great love.

Praise the Lord that His love is not measured by our faithfulness to Him, but rather by His beautiful character of perfect love, faithfulness, mercy, and grace!

So, when we fail in our walk with Him and change our allegiance from Jesus to worldly pleasures as quickly as the Jewish people during the week He was crucified, we need to remember these powerful truths in Romans 6:1-4, 6-7, 11-14.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life…We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin may be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died HAS BEEN SET FREE FROM SIN… So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourself to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

What wonderful news! Since we have been bought with a price, and as believers, our old selves have been crucified with Christ, we have been set free from sin! Sin doesn’t have dominion over us anymore! We do not have to live defeated lives; rather we can live lives that are completely devoted to Christ. We can present our entire lives to Him as an empty vessel ready to do His will, following in the humble and powerful footsteps of Christ Jesus our Savior and Redeemer. Yes, we each have a past that is scarred with sin and rejection of God’s truth. Our lives before Christ’s transforming work were completely offensive to the holiness of God, and even after our personal salvation, we still can turn away and temporarily be controlled by sin. BUT that is not the end of the story, and that doesn’t have to be the ongoing pattern of our lives! Just as Romans 6 clearly explains, we can live in freedom from sin, from the wishy washy devotion to Christ that we may find ourselves in at times. We can live our lives as FAITHFUL followers of Christ FREE from the bondage of sin!

-       READ/STUDY: Read Luke 22-24, which describes the events of the week that Jesus was crucified.
-       EVALUATE: Pay attention to the details of the passage above. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you new things about what may be a familiar story. Remember, the crucifixion story not just a story. These events actually happened, and they mean EVERYTHING for your life. These events are the reason that your life can have meaning. Don’t let this story become too familiar in the sense that you don’t notice the life-changing power in what Christ did for us. Don’t let this story be far from your mind. Remind yourself every morning of what Christ experienced during the entire Passion Week so that you can begin each day in humble and desperate worship of the Savior who died on your behalf.
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan to save a sinful people. Praise Him for His mercy. Praise Jesus for His sacrificial obedience as He endured so much on your behalf. Ask the Lord to reveal to you areas in which you are like the fickle-minded Jews during the Passion Week – yelling “Hosanna” and “Crucify Him” in the same week. Beg the Lord to empower you to live a life free from the slavery of sin as promised in Romans 6. Expect the Lord to work in your life each and every day, and devote your life to Him in prayer.

“O, Praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead! JESUS!”

As we anticipate and remember the details of Jesus’ painful sacrifice and immeasurable love during this Passion Week leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, let us worship Him with a fresh and growing passion for His name. Don’t merely attend the weekend services and move on with life. Saturate your mind and heart in the events of the Passion Week (and not just this week, but every week!). Devote yourself to knowing your Savior as intimately as you possibly can while you still have breath. Thank Him for loving you despite the hypocrisy in which you sometimes live. And praise Him for enduring everything He endured because of His amazing love for you!

Happy Easter!

Always, Jacquelyn