Monday, December 22, 2014

10 Ways to Know Your Christmas is Out of Whack

It's not too late. Christmas will be here in a few days and it's a good time to sit back and think about where my heart is. Here's a list of reflections from my own life for knowing when Christmas is out of whack:

1. When I think more about the how-when-where-what of celebrating and activities than I think about Jesus and His love for me.

2. When I am irresponsible with my resources—I am at the end of my money, my energy, my time, my patience, my ability to cope with life.

3. When I become consumed with how I appear to others (Did I get the cards out on time? Do I have a new dress for Sunday? Will the neighbors “die for” my goodie plate?).

4. When I mistreat those closest to me in an effort to impress others.

5. When my schedule is too full to tend to daily, regular obligations.



6. When I don’t see or have time for those who are hurting.

7. When I am regularly disappointed at others’ lack of gratitude for my efforts.

8. When I am no longer troubled by the world’s focus on more, bigger, better, mine, can’t-touch-this.

9. When I have failed to consider the real cost of Christmas.

10. When worship is no longer "Jesus;" it’s "Jesus and…."

Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  Hebrews 13:9-17, 20-21

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grumpy with God

I was grumpy with God the other day. Maybe it had to do with the fact that my plan wasn't happening according to my timetable or that other people had ideas of where I should be and what needed to be done. Maybe it simply crunched my sense of...my sense of...yeah. My agenda. Maybe you know how it feels.

The inner irritation and frustration reminded me of the times my husband, David, would travel and come home--or, nowadays, get out of the tractor after harvest. It's an adjustment. "Re-entry"can be a bit shaky at times. Re-entry means I step down from being in charge, from manning the ship, hoisting the sails, turning the wheel. I acknowledge the captain and resume my post. If only it were that easy.

wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Tall_ship_Christian_Radich_under_sail.jpg
It's no different with God. Too often I forget He's there--really there--and I execute plans as if I'm in charge. I run up the sails, set my course...and the winds rise. The rains fall. Plans run amuck. And I get grumpy.

If only I would remember, acknowledge, submit and follow. How hard could it be?
So I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit and God's loving, faithful hand and perfect goodness.
'Nuff said.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 
James 4:1-10

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sleeping Giants

If you have children, you probably know that they grow when they sleep. Really. They can be busy, busy, busy during the day, but the hormones that cause growth are released after they fall into a deep sleep.

Lately, I've been watching spiritual growth occur and making observations. Spiritual growth typically happens after times of increased stress and difficulty. As we come up against hardship, we have a choice. We can submit to the Lord's work in our lives with joy and an attitude of submission or we can do our own way. At the time we don't see change, transformation and Christlikeness, but as the situation deflates and we fall into a new routine, we find we're different people than before. Maybe.

The maybe that affects spiritual growth is how we respond in the midst of trials. It seems we don't grow when we work and work and try and try to handle life our own way. We want something specific. We want what we want and we're determined to get it. Maybe it's relief, or recognition; we want someone else to change or we want to reach thus-as-such-a-goal as a result of the pain we've suffered.

Those of us who want what we want worry and fret. We come up with this idea and that plan. I'll be the first to say making an effort and coming up with a plan are important steps of growth and change, but the worrying, planning and effort don't actually change us. Take a look in the mirror of God's Word and ask, "Am I any different at the end of the crisis than I was before?" If I am part of the problem, trusting myself doesn't work. Trusting others is no better, but leads to failure, discouragement, bitterness and resentment.

copyright certified-child-sleep-consultant

The people who visibly grow and change are the ones who put aside equations and formulas. They take God at His Word and live by grace, courageously doing it His way. There's no "Plan B." As they rest and put themselves in the Lord's hands, the spiritual sleep hormones kick in. Sleep is perhaps one of the best examples of humility. When we sleep we are defenseless, entrusting ourselves to the Lord. Is it any wonder He calls us to rest in Him?

As I watch those who do what seems reasonable and responsible (free of manipulation), it's not particularly comfortable. Is it easy to let go of the outcome? No. Is it difficult to take that first step of obedience against past experience and one's personal understanding? Absolutely. But faith is like most things. It takes practice. And as we move forward, it takes less effort than before resulting in different--and far better--outcomes than we ever thought possible.

What does it look like? Walking by faith in trials means saying, "Lord, I don't want to do this, and I don't know how, but if it pleases You, help me _______." That may mean changing my attitude from one of irritation to acceptance. It might mean praising others and speaking with gentelness instead of snapping or clinging to silence. We might have to give up what we think is best--or what we really want to do--to be at peace with others.

The children's song, "Read your Bible, pray every day," isn't far off--but the proof is in walking by faith, submitting to God, resting in His plan and outcome. As we fall into the deep sleep of faith, we will find peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control--the image of Jesus Himself--growing and becoming more evident in our lives.

Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind 
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
“For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
 “I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds...." (Jeremiah 17:5-10)

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

“For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
“Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,

For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:6-13)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why? Because...

I used to tell our children, "Because." "Because I said so." "Because I'm the mom." "Because. Because." I was a terrible parent. So bad, in fact, that I hid our early family movies for fear of the influence they would have on our younger children. Oh, my.

Thankfully we attended a wonderful parenting class--with real people, a loving pastor and a LOT of Scripture. And by the grace of God my answer changed from "Because I said so" to "Because I love you." The wonderful thing about that answer is that it still works. It's true. And it's multipurpose.



Why do I have to wear my coat? Because I love you.
Why can't I go with my friends to XYZ? Because I love you.
Why? Why? Why? Because I love you.

Lately I've been reviewing Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, Counsel from the Cross, and discovered a grown up version for believers in Christ. It sounds like this:

God, why do I have to love that neighbor? Because I love you. Remember Jesus?
God, why am I stuck in this place with these people? Because I love you.
God, why this trial? Why this situation? Why this heartache? Because I love you. Jesus.

And the fact of the matter is, God's love shown to me through Jesus is timeless. Eternal. Immeasurable. Free. Full. Complete. Now. And it's enough. So much more than enough. It's all the "why" I'll ever need.

When I need to do what I don't want to do and I hear the whine beginning in the back of my head, I'm learning to say, "Because Jesus loves me. That's why."

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Brief Thought on Thanksgiving

A friend who is getting her master's in linguistics recently told me there is a relationship between the words "joy" and "awareness." As we talked about what that implied, we realized the more aware we are of the blessings and work of God, the more joy we experience.



For example, when you stand along the ridge of the Grand Canyon and take in its expanse and depth, what do you feel? Awe. And if you know the Creator-God personally? Awe and joy. That's what it is to see the glory of God revealed. We see Him, we know Him--and He fills us with inexpressible joy!

May today, every day, be filled with moments of awareness, gratitude, thanksgiving--and joy--as you see the work of God through our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap  bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,

“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:9-15)


Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:12-16)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

But I NEED It!

"But I need it!" How many of us have heard that cry from children in a store, in our kitchen, even from our own heart?


How do we respond when our husband asks us to do something that has neutral consequences? Sometime we grumble (honestly, we do). Sometimes we procrastinate or forget.  But what if doing what he asks leaves me in a bind or has negative consequences. What if it stands between me and my needs?

"If you make a reasonable appeal and your husband insists, you do it."

I realize this flies in our face like un-American pie. I sound like someone from the dark ages who lives in a cave...alone. To answer your questions, yes, I live in America today and I am married to a real man.

Lets' face it, our primary problem in giving in to a husband's request is pride. "What am I, chopped liver?" No, of course not. But God designed marriage with a leader and a follower (before sin entered the world--not after). Living as a helper/follower is within the planned bounds of perfection. Pride is a result of the Fall. There's nothing wrong with following.

Second, you and I don't see the purpose in suffering as the result of our husband's choices. If he looks like a fool, we feel the fool. If he leads our family into debt, we all suffer. It's true. But as we pick at him, complain and correct, we're not being followers. Not only are we failing to do our job, we're frustrating his, making it more difficult. How often has your husband thrown in the towel because you had an objection? It's not long before a man loses heart and gives up altogether. This is the choice: live out a negative consequence in a God-honoring way or evade negative consequences with selfishness, hatred and discord.

The third problem we face is need. Gritty, grisly going without. I don't like that very much. In fact, I want what I want when I want it and, in our time and culture, there's very little I do without. At the point of going without, my heart says, "Doesn't he know I need this? If he only understood....if he could only see _____ (again, fill in the blank)!" In studying Genesis, I discovered that need is okay. It's not bad and doesn't require an immediate fix--God knows my need. He will make a way for my needs to be met. He even allowed "need" in the Garden of Eden.

Where? In chapter 2 God created the animals and paraded them before Adam to be named. Male and female, one after another after another. "But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:20). What a wonder. God allowed Adam to see his need, but it was need without anxiety, care, anger, and discontent. This was need in absolute trust. And God miraculously met that need with Eve. "It is very good."

Your man will most likely have to see your need before thinking about how to fill it. And that's okay. God knows. He really will meet your need. He sees and hears and answers. In the meantime, be a helper and follower with prayerful dependence. God Himself has promised to be your portion, to meet your needs, and be your all in all. You will grow in Christlikeness--and so will your husband!

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 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. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 2-3:9)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When It's Okay not to be Okay--and When It's Not

Guess what? It's okay. It's okay to fail. It's okay to see your failure. It's okay to be imperfect and make mistakes and do things wrong because...because that's our nature. It's who we are. Imperfection is part of our existence.

What's not okay is to stay okay with not being okay. I made a crusty, sarcastic remark to my husband. That's not okay. And while it's okay not to be okay, what's wrong is to continue not being okay and act as if I did noting wrong, hurtful or unkind.

Why? Pride would puff itself up and tell me it's "his problem," "he deserved it," "it was just a little comment, I didn't really mean it, " etc. etc. But those offenses grow. They create rifts and chasms between me and others--between me and God. Living life in and out of the wrong lane with no correction leads to living there habitually. Ignoring failure in my life results in broken lives, in destruction, loss of property, relationships, dreams, and potential. It's the type of life every man, woman and child lives apart from acceptance of Jesus' death and resurrection for personal sin.



When we belong to God, the indwelling  Holy Spirit works against our sinful tendencies. Guilt and remorse are gifts of mercy that draw us back to our Heavenly Father. We are convicted by His Word and called to obey; to confess our sin and repent. God woos us to His side offering forgiveness, the opportunity to learn and change. That's why it's not okay to remain not okay, striving against God's ultimate purpose and design for our lives.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that our lives, lived in the mercy and grace of Christ, is a witness to others and to unseen powers. God's will is that, for eternity, we will be living displays of His kindness. I am a trophy of His grace. You are a trophy of His grace. We are made to imitate Christ; to reflect His glory and image (Ephesians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29)--and God will use all means necessary to achieve His purpose (Romans 8:28). Why? Because He loved you to the death and beyond--and that love is active, present, eternal. He wants what is best--and Jesus is the best. Is anything more amazing, supernatural, or extreme than reflecting the God-man, Jesus Christ? How pitiful for us to choose the mud works of our own little un-okay world.

If you've gotten stuck or you don't know how to get turned around, find a godly friend or pastor and ask for help. It's not too late. God provided His Body, His Word and His Spirit to help us--all of us. Read Psalm 51 prayerfully and follow King David's example. Here is a worksheet with Scripture that has been a helpful tool for getting back in step after failure: "Recovery Plan After Failure".

God knows we are made of dust. He knows our frailty and propensity for failure and He's given us direct instruction and help in His Word--over and over and over. It's okay not to be okay but it's not okay to stay not okay. Why? Because God loves you--and He loves His glory. And how amazing is it to think that He allows us to reflect Himself to others. When we get that, our hearts will swell with gratitude and humility. He uses us despite failure... No, more than that--He uses us with the full intention and design of His glory ruining around, in and through our failure. What a God!

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:13-8:4)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When it Doesn't Go My Way

So what does it look like to trust God instead of getting my grubby paws in the middle of _______ where they don't belong?

One of the first things I do is ask myself, "Is this my personal responsibility--is there something only I can do in this situation?" If the answer is yes, then I need to get busy and git 'er done (by God's grace and with His help). If the answer is no, I need to step back and pray about it. It's a concern, but it's not my job--it's someone else's (maybe even God's).

"But...," you say. "But..." Yes. I hear that "but."That's when you and I need to remember that God is. He is in control. He is working all things for the purpose of making His children more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Content that I am His child and He is both able and intentional, I rest. And wait. And watch.

The question isn't "What can I do to fix this?" The real question is, "Am I content? Do I trust Him?" You and I are never more Christlike than when we are being humbled by difficult circumstances and fix our hope on God. And, the truth of the matter is, most of our meddling is not the result of suffering for doing good, it's because we think we must or should or want a desired result. It's a choice. Will I demand my way and throw a spiritual tantrum, making demands and refusing to obey or will I quietly submit and trust God with the outcome?



When I do what God has called me to and trust Him to do what He has promised, my life is one of joy and peace, contentment, rest and goodness. It's just the way God is.


Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 131)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doin What Comes Natur'lly

We're fixers aren't we? Men don't want to listen to problems unless they can fix them. Women not only talk about problems, they work out things that aren't broken...yet. It comes so naturally! And since we come by it so naturally, we might think that's what we were made to do--solve problems. Or is it?



The thing that strikes me every time I read Psalms is how little the psalmist actually does. He doesn't seem to fix anything! He writes about enemies. He writes about problems, bigger problems than I hope I'll ever have--the threat of death, loss of his kingdom, betrayal of his son, and sin of adultery. And I ask myself, if he had all these problems and they're bigger than mine, what's the right answer? How did he deal with them?

1) He told God--and he was brutally honest.
2) He reminded himself of who God is and what He does.
3) He responded to God, not the situation.

In other words, David, the psalmist, didn't try to fix the problem. He doesn't record ideas of how to get away this time or thoughts on if he said this then she would say that and they could do this.... From other books in the Bible, we know he made decisions. He used common sense and logic in light of God's Word, but first and foremost, he praised God. He sought the Lord. He trusted. He settled his mind on the goodness of God. He didn't manipulate circumstances or worry about people. He didn't fixate on a desired outcome. He took comfort. He rested. He waited. And the result?

He found peace. Hope. Contentment. Rest.

How often we need to stop our brains and talk to God--not ourselves or others. We need to share our frustrations, difficulties and sorrows. We need to recall who He is and how much He loves us. And we need to wait. If He can create the known universe, He can change my circumstances. If He moved from Heaven to Earth, lived, died and rose again, He can mend broken relationships and change hearts. I can't.

And that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? As long as I fret and worry, I feel a sense of importance, control and crucial involvement. What? Give it up? Never. Because. Because...it's mine. It's about me. If I stop, it may not turn out according to my design. Honestly, I'd like to think I can come up with a way to make it work. If I rest in the Lord instead of working my design, who gets the credit? Oh, yeah, God does. And if I wait on Him, it's not as much fun--what will I do with all the extra time and energy? (How many "I's" do you count in that paragraph? Very telling isn't it?) Oh, how easy it is to give in to self and fear forgetting we live by faith, faith in a loving God who is very, very capable.

Doin what comes natur'lly is just that--my natural bent, living as if God doesn't exist. Harsh, but true. When I do it supernaturally--wait, rest and praise--He works amazing things. Without my help. Imagine!  And in the midst of it all, He is enough. More than enough.

 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
 
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:
 
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:5-8, 12-15, 31-39

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blind Man Walking

This summer I traveled to St. Petersburg, FL with three teenage farm girls. We had a fabulous time trying on the latest fashions at Walgreens, taking pictures of geckos, eating unique food...and learning how to get by in the city. It didn't take long to realize the importance of traffic lights. Go means go. Stop means stop.


The same is true of God's Word. We live in a world riddled with danger, temptation, obstacles, and (may I say it?) our own stupidity and ignorance. Those of us who trust Christ walk by faith, not by sight. We know the importance of observing God's traffic signals and living by the Creator's play book. Or do we?

How often do you and I effectively say, "Wait, God, I've got a better idea!"

"I know it says ________ but didn't You really mean _________." Somehow, we expect God to miraculously stop the car coming around the corner! How guilty I am of reading God's Word and twisting it to fit my own past experience, personal judgment of others, or desire to control the outcome!

If I had taken blind teens to the city, it would have required extra care. That is the world without Christ--the drivers, walkers, and crowds of people who surround us. They are not only hindered by the influences of the world, they cannot see it for what it is. And that was me. I once was blind, but now I see--not all of it, the future nor person's path beside me, but the path and direction God would have me go. He guides me daily by His Word, empowered by His Spirit. Why? So I might walk as Jesus walked.

What does that look like? To touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable; to seek the lost, to help the needy, to make Him known. The goal isn't financial success or human popularity. God doesn't guide and direct us into fulfilling careers and living out our full potential--not for our sake, our glory and happiness. God's desire is greater, bigger. His goal is to recreate the image of His Son. When you and I reflect Jesus, when local churches live in a way that makes Christ known, God is revealing His wisdom to the blind and lost as well as rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:8-10). That's our calling.

Today's choice; walk by faith or blinded sight? Knowing God through Jesus allows me to see and walk worthy of the calling with which I have been called.

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesian 3:13-4:7)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Where's Jesus When We Need Him?

The woman looked at me, pain in her eyes, "Is there anything you can do to help?"
It was a moment for honesty. "I can't solve the problem or make it go away. But together you and I can find God in this. It's an opportunity for you to draw near to Him. Together, we can find peace. You can have peace with God and peace in this situation." I paused. "Are you willing to give it a try?"



We used to say love makes the world go round but that's not true anymore. Psychology makes the world go round. When a problem or crisis hits we may google it, ask our closest friends, or, if it gets really--I mean "really"--bad, we may talk to the pastor. Then, after days and weeks and months of struggle, we look for professional help and seek a psychologist or psychiatrist. That may or not make a difference.

If you are a person of influence in your church, you have had opportunity after opportunity to speak to broken, hurting hearts. And if you're a person like me, those hearts are not only outside, but inside your home--and your head as well.

Let me challenge each of us to get real about who Jesus is and what He can do. Does He love me? Real, down-to-earth love or love that was written on a page 2,000 years ago and forgotten? Does He know what's going on my life? And does He care? If it's true that He cares, where is He in this mess called life?

You and I can quote rote answers to the questions of life and suffering, but until we have tried Him and found Him true, until we know Him, have studied and questioned and lived Him, we can never place our full weigh and dependence on Him. If you are struggling with not seeing Jesus right now, where you are:

- Pray and ask God to reveal Himself. He wants to be found (Isaiah 55:6)
- Spend time daily reading God's Word and calling out to God. If you don't know where to start, begin with Psalm 42 and continue. Make lists of who God is and what He does as well as proper responses to His wonders, grace and love.
- Praise God. Yes, that's right. Praise Him. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. God is worthy--even in our pain. Put Him in His rightful place with your prayer, words and actions.
- Seek help from godly sources. Talk to your pastor, a godly friend, or biblical counselor. Seek books that exalt God and direct your focus to Him in the midst of your suffering.

When we have tried and tested Him ourselves, we are equipped and able to answer those who ask, "What can you do for me right here, right now?" In that moment, we will say, "Not I, but Christ. He is here. He is waiting. He is enough." And in that moment, as we love and give of our lives in response to their pain, Jesus has given, is giving...and loving--through me and you. Will you be His Body, broken for them?


 
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me....


"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you....

"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 16:32-17:26 NIV)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Creating a Biblical Counseling Office


Maybe you, like me, never said, “I want to be a biblical counselor when I grow up.” I didn’t know they existed. I wouldn’t have known what one was if you’d told me. But now I know who they are. They’re real people in real skin with real struggles that come alongside other real people in real skin with real struggles. Biblical counselors are Jesus in our midst, individuals God has gifted to teach and equip those who are hurting and seeking change within the local church.
After acting as an advocate for a friend who sought biblical counseling, opportunities to counsel continued. During this time, my husband expanded his business and created an office I could use any way I chose. Prayerfully, I set it up for writing and counseling, but could find nothing (nothing!) online under the heading “design biblical counseling office.” If you are a pastor, you’re no doubt equipped, but if you’re a counselor-in-training, you’ve probably wondered how to create an effective place to meet and interact with counselees.


Here are some things I found helpful and true:
- If possible, separate your meeting space from your living space.
- Decorate with appealing colors and art work.
- Make yourself at home, but keep it clean.
- Think about your counseling style and function: would you prefer meeting at a table with chairs or in easy chairs with a coffee table? Keep it comfortable; choose furniture that accommodates different shapes and sizes (i.e. women feel vulnerable if their feet don’t touch the floor).
- Invest in scent-appeal. Keeping a consistent scent will help counselees feel at home and link learning from one session to the next. 
- Place a white board within easy reach of your chair.
- Strategically place a clock on the wall behind your counselees.
- Offer water or coffee on arrival and/or as needed.
- Provide Kleenex and pens within reach of counselees.
- Place a wastebasket near the door.
- Provide Wi-Fi if possible.
- Use white noise if you’re within earshot of others.
- Keep files: professional and personal. Create separate filing systems. Include diagrams and hand-outs at the ready for counselees.
- Keep books well-organized and within reach. You will need them.
- Be prepared to look up Scripture references in guides books or online.


Notes:
- I’ve counseled over the phone, chasing children, doing laundry and sitting in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, but a home presents a sense of obligation for me to host and the visitor to be polite. It’s difficult to work around intrusions and distractions. This can be easily overcome, but must be intentional.
- As much as possible, make the room appealing. Avoid a sterile, clinical environment. People like to have something to look at when they’re thinking or taking time to respond. Strategically provide art or Scripture that redirects or refocuses their attention.  You will spend more time in this room than anyone, so choose things that encourage and refocus your thoughts as well.
- My office has three easy chairs with a round coffee table because I counsel women and welcome advocates. You may choose to seat a different number of people or meet at a table with chairs. The choice is a matter of function and preference.
- Most often I usher counselees to the chairs on the far side of the room and sit closest to the door. On the wall beside that chair is a dry-erase board which is very helpful for diagrams, explanations, Scripture verses or interactive discussion. Across from my chair is a clock which allows me to be polite and punctual. Keeping my word means ending appointments on time.
- The most important function of my office is at-homeness and comfort. I want counselees to feel safe, wanted, prepared for, and listened-to. It should look, feel and smell like somewhere they want to be.
- Have a place to keep files. Not only will you want to keep duplicates of counseling hand-outs and articles, you will want a protected place to keep files of counselees. You may find it helpful to keep Bible study materials, personal Bible journals, and professional files as well. I have found it best to keep separate file systems, organized alphabetically by topic or by the books of the Bible.



But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.


Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.
(Jude 1:20-25 NKJV)


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Writing Your Life's Letter

In our church circle, missionaries come home every few years and travel from one supporting church to another, giving stewardship reports and sharing encouragement. Years ago a missionary from India challenged us, "Each one of you should be able to stand up at any time and share fifteen-minute's worth of what God is doing in your life. If you don't have that much to share, you need to get busy." In my mind, I often stop and wonder what I would share if I had fifteen minutes to tell someone what God's doing. That's where this blog comes in.



As I consider what I would say--or write--to supporting churches and individuals, I think about what's important. How am I using the gifts and abilities God has given? What if others were footing the bill? Would that make a difference in how I use what I have?

If I had to justify the use of money this last month, how it was used for the Lord and His kingdom, how much would I have to tweak? Could I share honestly and judiciously with a clear conscience?

If I was called on to explain the use of my time--both professional and personal--it would be obvious who's important. Would my time reflect more love for God or for myself? Would someone who loves the Lord wholeheartedly provide financial support based on the way I spent my time?

And relationships. Am I intentional about building relationships with those who don't know Christ? Do I seek and invest in people regardless of how they make me feel, or whether or not I have to leave my comfort zone? What drives my relationships and the ways I choose to give of myself, even within our local church Body? Who do my friendships belong to? Me or God?

You'll notice I'm not going to answer my own questions--at least not here and now--but it's something I think of often. I ask myself, "If I sat down and wrote a letter like the apostle Paul, or my missionary friends, how would it encourage others? Would I be able to say, as Paul said, 'Follow me as I follow Christ?'" How about you? What would your letter say?

The truth of the matter is, our life is being recorded. There is an eternal record and it's not based on what others give us. It's a real-time, honest, can't hide-behind-curtain-number-two account of what the Lord has given. And, though we may not speak of it often, there will be a day we stand before Almighty God and justify the use of those gifts: time, money, relationships. May He be pleased by our dependence and trust in Him as we live each month, each day, each moment, for His glory, by His grace.

we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;  and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:6-21)
 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Homeless People Don't Buy in Bulk

As we drove down a country road, I spoke aloud, "If I were homeless I wouldn't buy birdseed." My husband gave me a strange look. We'd recently walked city streets, then left to drive through the surrounding countryside. The marquis outside a farm store advertised 40-pound bags of birdseed and I immediately pictured myself dragging a forty pound bag of birdseed along the streets of Boston. Total non-starter.


Admittedly, I enjoy comfort--and the things that bring it. I can pack a LOT in a small space (i.e. suitcase or car) and I dislike being unprepared. But if I didn't have a place for my stuff, how much would I carry all day, every day? Just enough. Just enough food. Just enough clothes. Just enough to be clean and warm and...what else? That's about it. No laptop, no smart phone, no extra gazillion shoes or hair accessories or paper products. Just enough.

And in that moment, I was reminded that I am a traveler, a pilgrim, a journeyman here on earth. My eternal home and riches and valuables are not here. They're in Heaven with Christ. He has given me everything I need without the extra weight and burden of lugging it from one place to the next. In fact, He has given me "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3). Really?!

That means I have the freedom to travel light. And permission to ask hard questions. "Why am I doing this?" "What is the benefit?" "It was on sale, does that mean I need it or want it?" And I begin to think differently about opportunities and endeavors. Is this the best use of my time? Am I obedient and responsible with the blessings and callings God has put on my life? What is most immediate and pressing? What can be laid aside?

Perhaps more convicting is the real stuff I already have. James says, "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten" (5:1). In other words, the stuff you have has been untended so long it's falling apart. The clothes that could have been worn are no longer useful. The things you kept for "a rainy day" are past the point of return. You sat on them so long they have given up the ghost and you have wasted not only their benefit to yourself, but their benefit to anyone. If you don't need it, give it to someone who does! Ahem. Yes. My closets and attic testify to my at-homeness, my I'm-here-for-the-long-run mentality. And stuff takes time. Time to acquire. Time to sort. Time to find. Time to dispense. Time. And that, dear self, is limited. Travel light.

Perhaps you know this song by Jim Reeves I heard many times throughout my childhood:
This world is not my home I'm just a-passin' through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Think about it. I know I am. Who's running my life? Who's filling my cart? Me? Others? My schedule? Or God? Hmmm.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:3-14
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Personal Worship, Corporate Benefit

 
Is it true that our everyday life is separate from our church, Sunday life? Think again. Because worship is a lot like eating.  It's personal.  What goes in is who we become.  What's been ingested is evident to others, lacking the details.  Worship and eating are both private and corporate practices.

After a piano offertory a gentleman approached me and asked, “Do you ever play for just you?"

"Of course.”  

"I thought so," he said with a smile.

When each of worships God personally, our corporate worship becomes richer, fuller, deeper.  One of my friends prays Scripture passionately, especially the Psalms. Her words are tinged with heartfelt humility, rising, falling, tapering to silence.  Before she completes a petition, my eyes and face are moist. My heart is more satisfied than before; I have experienced God differently through her love and expression than my own.

Regardless of how we minister in our local churches, when we come having set aside self, God is revealed in a powerful, personal way through His Word. What thoughts or Scriptures aid you in personal worship and ministry? They’re not yours for keeps, they’re yours to share.

 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Children Trump...Ministry?


Being a mom has many facets—and reveals more about me as a person than me as a mom. What’s really important? What do I love—more than anything? What matters and what doesn’t? Where I spend my time and energy reveals my heart.

If you read the earlier blog on how husbands trump ministry, you know my struggle with ministry and marriage. My parenting came under conviction around that same time (and continues—maybe your parenting convictions came all at once, lucky you—twenty years later).

God used the story of Manasseh, a wicked king of Judah, to pierce my heart. Manasseh was raised by a godly father, Hezekiah—God even ran the sun backward for him—but became king at the age of 12 and rebuilt the altars and high places his father had torn down.  What happened on those altars? He “made his sons pass through the fire” (2 Kings 21:6). That’s saying it nicely.  In truth sacrificed his sons as a means of worship. Their lives for his benefit.

As I looked at my own acts of worship and service within the Church, a voice inside asked, “Sydney, where is your focus? What does your life communicate about what’s really important?” I was convicted by the many times I gave in to meeting the needs of others over and above the needs of my immediate family. There was a sense of immediate gratification and appreciate from others that didn’t happen at home.

Children are not designed to appreciate and laud me. They are a gift to make me more like Jesus. Jesus willingly gave up everything for me—his comfort, reputation, glory, even His life. Children are my opportunity to practice giving my all with or without applause. They are long-term disciples, living and learning, watching and waiting. To overlook or neglect ministry to them is to neglect my God-given responsibility.

God’s response to Manasseh and those who offered their children to false gods was this, “They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Nimmon to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind (Jeremiah 7:31). God does not require or ask us to offer our children. He calls us to sacrifice ourselves. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

On a dangerous, personal note: your god may not be ministry or the church. You may sacrifice your children on the altar of career or special interests, charity, personal goals or hobbies. May each of us be challenged to love our children as God loves us.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma….

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-21)