When Your Issues Seem Like Sticky Boogers

Okay, let’s get real…we all have them…yes, belly buttons. No, I’m talking about boogers! And thank goodness! They do actually serve a purpose, to moisten, warm and filter the air we breathe. You know what purpose they should never fill…an accessory on your pants leg! And yet, my children seem to think my leg is their giant personal tissue. While I’m on the subject of kids and boogers, can someone please explain to me how they wake up with boogers in their hair!?!? It’s like that scene from Something About Mary…but I digress…

So we all have boogers, and guess what else we all have…yes, butts. No, we all have issues! Somewhere along the process of becoming an adult (despite the opening of this blog, I do claim to be an adult), I somehow got it stuck in my head that I had to be perfect in order to succeed or be accepted. My need for control slowly crept up and up until the fear of uncertainty and the future became crippling. Self-condemnation stole from me moments of joy, as I was constantly judging and feeling unworthy of love from God, others, and even myself. My pride prevented me from seeking help and airing out my weaknesses. Shame made me feel isolated and alone in the world of “nobody else has these thoughts, so there must be something wrong with me.” Anxiety over failure of any kind consumed both my waking moments and some of my sleeping ones too!

Like a sticky booger that I couldn’t seem to flick away, my weaknesses just seemed to always stay stuck on me. So, I decided to air my boogers…


Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Cor 12:9 (NLT)


 

Certainly pride makes airing weaknesses counter-intuitive. It’s painful for us to allow others into our struggles. We want to be thought of as always strong, always competent, always happy, always on. But like I said about boogers…we all have issues. And just like boogers, thank goodness for issues! They have a purpose too!


And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness….And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Romans 8: 26a, 28 (NLT)        


 

If boogers actually keep us healthy (despite their grossness), perhaps, issues or problems keep us healthy too. Personally, my struggles with anxiety have forced me into the realization that I cannot possibly be perfect, I cannot possibly do everything all by myself, and I cannot possibly be certain of anything that will or will not occur in the future. My issues have brought me to my knees, more than once, and shown me that I must have a complete dependence on God. The maker of all (including boogers), can surely handle my worries too.


He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136: 23 (NLT)


 

To this day I still have issues, well, and boogers too. I can’t believe I’m actually going to put this in print, but hopefully I always will have issues, well, and boogers too. They both keep me healthy. My issues help to keep me spiritually fit…they keep me aware of my dependence on God, my maker and great protector. They keep me adept to attacks from the enemy. They keep me humble to the knowledge that I can do nothing by my own power, but by the power of Christ living inside me. They force me to always remember that greater is He living inside me than he who lives in the world.

And each bad booger that shows up, God is always there, letting me use his giant robe as my own personal tissue (well, I am a child of God after all). He is so faithful and loving and merciful…and He doesn’t get grossed out by boogers—or our issues, no matter how horrible they may appear to us.

Much Love,

Olivia

Father, grant us peace amidst the struggles of this life. And help us remain focused on your word and promises over our problems. May we always seek you with confidence in knowing you are right there with us always, shaping us and helping us through whatever we may be dealing with. Amen!

Gathering or Scattering

Our guest post this week is from our friend, Gary Liederbach. Gary is a husband to his vivacious wife Nancy, father to his beautiful teenage daughters Paris and Milan, friend to many, and faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Gary also pastors One Direction Community in Madison, Alabama. ODC is a missional community of disciples who gather in house churches; ODC’s mission is to relationally reach out to those who society would label “un-churched” by living out Jesus’ commandments to: Love God, Love Our Neighbor, and Make Disciples. (ODC’s Website: https://onedirectioncommunity.squarespace.com/). Thanks for sharing with us this week, Gary!

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Gary and Nancy Liederbach

Last night during Community Dinners — more information about this gathering available here.  I looked at all the empty chairs that a hungry person, both from lack of physical and spiritual food, could be sitting in at our table and receive both foods.  During Monday Night Worship that followed. Find more information about that here I prayed over this and asked the Holy Spirit to help me discern why seats were empty.  He led me to this passage I was not expecting because the passage was directed towards me.

 “Knowing their thoughts, he (Jesus) said to them, “…Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  (Matthew 12:25, 30)

 

The persecuted church in China is growing, and they are gathering.  When you look into it, one of the reasons for growth is that every Christian there tells someone daily about Jesus.  They are compelled to share the Gospel each day with at least one person.  When asked why this is, they say that the Government officials and others who are persecuting them, throwing them in prison, and trying to eradicate the church, daily do not share the Gospel.  Each day our persecutors refrain from speaking the name of Jesus.  If there is a day we do not share the Gospel or tell someone of Jesus, whose side are we on that day?  Who do we align ourselves with: Jesus or our persecutors?  Are we on the side that gathers or scatters?  “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  (Matthew 12:30). Jesus knew their thoughts.  He knows yours and mine as well.

 If every day you are nice to people, do what is right, treat them fairly and show them respect but never share with them the Gospel, your friends and popularity will increase, but your ministry will decrease.  You appear to be gathering, but to what?  You are, in reality, scattering. Jesus said the following about when we come before him one day, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me,” (Matthew 7:22). His main and only concern is that you know HIM!  His heart is not about the nice things you did, but did you know him?  His desire for you is not to simply introduce people to kindness but to introduce people to Him!  What is the benefit to all the good you do for someone if you never gather them to Jesus and they are scattered from his presence when he states, “I never knew you.” 

I hear people say, “Share the Gospel, and at times use words.”  When I hear this I sigh inside.  That is like saying “feed the hungry, and at times give them food!”  How wrong would it be to invite a person who is perishing from starvation over to your house for dinner, treat them kindly as a guest, share a delightful evening with them, and yet never serve them a meal?  Then wave at them as they leave your home as starving as when they entered!  How wrong is it to invite a person who is perishing spiritually into a relationship with you, treat them like a friend, spend quality time with them yet never share the Gospel with them? Then hug them before you walk away from them as spiritually dead as when you met them?  Paul tells us, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved,” 1 Cor. 15:1-2

 

 Say a church of 20 people commits to sharing the gospel like the Christians in China – to share Jesus with one person a day.  They each do this and fail 98% of the time to lead a person to faith.  With a failure rate of 98%, only a 2% success rate, at the end of one year that church would grow to 146 people.  If those 146 members share once a day, and still have a pitiful 98% failure rate, at the end of year 2 that church would have grown to 1,065 members.  Same failure rate, and at the end of year 3 it grows to 7,780.  Failing 98% of the time, at the end of year 4 it grows to 56,794.  And at the end of year 5 it grows to 414,596!!!  With a 98% failure rate! This is how the church in China is exploding.  This is how Jesus intended our churches in the west to explode.  You can’t build churches big enough and fast enough to keep up.  It is a spread of the Gospel walls cannot contain!!! Guys, we do not have to be good at it.  We can fail 98% of the time!  What we need to be is obedient.  What we need to be is not against Jesus but with Him.  We need to be on the side that gathers, not scatters.

 

Take time to pray today.  Read this passage again:

“Knowing their thoughts, he (Jesus) said to them, “…Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  (Matthew 12 :25, 30)

 

Reflect on your life and level of obedience.  Whose side are you on?  In what ways are you for Jesus?  In what ways are you against him?  In what ways are you scattering?  In what ways are you gathering?    Who is Jesus calling you to intentionally gather?

The Lesson in the Leftovers

I’m not talking about food—I’m talking about the abundance of blessings that God has given you and even what He has in store for your future. Maybe you have noted some basic blessings, but are you even aware of the abundance? It’s so easy to meander through this life unaware of the overflow. What is your lesson in the leftovers?

You have all probably heard about the time when Jesus fed the five-thousand with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, right? It’s one that I learned as a child in Sunday school and have heard in sermons countless times over the years. But I read it today and had a revelation! In John 6, Jesus challenges Philip with a framed question. He asks him how they will be able to buy enough bread for all of the people. Philip responds with defeat, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Jesus knew what was about to happen, but he tested Philip’s faith.

I discovered that I am a lot like Philip! I confine my options to only logical, earthly, limited solutions. When God gives me an idea that seems way bigger than anything I could logically pull off on my own, I feel defeated immediately. “That will never work! I don’t have what it would take.” But recently, during 21 Days of Prayer, I felt God convict me of this and ask me, “Why do you limit my resources to what you currently have?” And, because He is so faithful, He then showed me this story to teach me to think more like Jesus and less like Philip.

Feeding 5,000 people seemed impossible for the human mind, considering the available resources. (Scholars actually believe that the men totaled 5,000, but in fact, there were most likely many more women and children as well—possibly 20,000 people total!) But Jesus has no limitations to resources, my friends! His power transcends beyond our earthly constraints! It’s the principal of multiplication. He takes whatever we can offer, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, and multiplies it to bless His people…and will even bless us with the leftovers.


After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.   (John 6:12-13)


 

Not only did they feed the 5,000+ people, but there were leftovers. Twelve baskets of leftovers, to be exact. When our resources seem limited, God can bless the offering and provide the abundance! It’s so illogical; but God is, was, and always will be a God of miracles! What are you faced with today that feels confined by logical, earthly limitations? Has He given you a vision or a dream that seems so daunting that you are unwilling to make the first move?

I love when I read a story in the Bible that I’ve known my whole life, and suddenly, He teaches me something new. I learned a lesson in the leftovers today. I don’t have to wait until I have enough. I just need to trust Him, discover what I have to offer, ask Him to bless it, and allow Him to do His work.


For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.  (Corinthians: 9-10)


 

What about you? Search your heart and discover what you actually do have to offer Him. Maybe it’s not loaves and fish, but maybe it is time, talents or abilities, or even money (or any other resource you may have on hand). In order for it to multiply, you have to give it away. Don’t withhold the offering because you don’t feel like you have enough to carry out a God-sized mission. Just take the first step—believe that God can multiply your offering and even leave you with leftovers! Then, humbly ask Him to bless it and let it go. May the God of multiplication reward your humble offering and bless you with the leftovers!

Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the leftovers.  Forgive me for limiting your provision to the confines of my earthly view.  Please soften my heart and show me whatever I can offer so that I may bless others and see the power of your multiplication.  I surrender my plans and hand them all over to you.  I trust you, Jesus.  Help me to get out of the way and allow you to do more than I could ever ask or imagine. Amen.

Love,

Jamie

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Spiritual Jealousy: How Envy Rots the Bones

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Right now I am in a season that requires me to wait for the Lord to act. There are needs I am fervently praying for that I am entirely dependent on God to fulfill. I have (unfortunately) discovered that as I wait for God to step in and do what only He can do, I am not only impatient but also jealous at times. I see people who have the things I am praying for, and my heart burns with envy. I see prayers that God has answered for others and I think, “why not me, God?” How perilous is this way of thinking! Proverbs 27:4 reveals that “anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous” (NLT). Wow.

As the Lord convicted my heart about my struggles with jealousy, I continued to search the Scriptures covering this topic. What does the Word of God have to say about jealousy? What causes it, and how can I fight against it?

In Matthew 20, Jesus presents the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. Here is the synopsis of this parable: a landowner hires some laborers early one morning to work in his vineyard. The landowner and his new employees agreed on a wage, and they went to work. Three more times that day (at 9:00 AM, at noon and at 3:00 PM) the landowner hired a few more people, agreeing to pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. He went to town one final time, around 5:00 PM, and employed a few more people who were otherwise unable to find work that day. When the end of the day came and earnings were doled out, the landowner chose to pay the workers hired early in the morning the same wages as the workers hired at 5:00 PM. Those who began working in the early morning were not happy with this decision. The landowner reminded the workers that when they chose to take the job that morning, the wages were discussed and agreed upon. So what changed? Why where they now angry to be paid what they agreed was a fair wage just a few hours earlier?

They began to compare what they received to what their neighbors received, and jealousy took its bitter root. Isn’t it funny how we can be perfectly happy with our current situation until we compare it to someone else’s situation? What is jealousy without comparison? The landowner asks the laborers, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” (Matthew 20:15, NLT).

Ouch! When I read this, I heard the Lord saying those piercing words directly to me – should you be jealous because I am kind to others? Should you be jealous because I answered someone else’s prayers when your time has not yet come? His kindness, compassion and faithfulness to others does not take away from his kindness, compassion and faithfulness to me! He is infinitely kind, infinitely merciful and always faithful.

The bottom line is this: do we really trust the promises and character of God? We struggle with jealousy when we lack wisdom and understanding. Scripture says “they who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, MEV). Jealousy occurs when we lose perspective of God’s sovereignty and goodness; it happens when we look at our neighbors rather than looking to the God who supplies all of our needs from His glorious riches, given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). Do we believe Him, or do we think He is trying to short-change us? He created everything in existence, including me and the loved ones I am praying for, and He always knows what is best. How foolish is it for me to look at my neighbor’s lot and suggest to the God of the universe that perhaps He could do a better job running the world and writing my story, starting by taking pointers from me?

Here is my challenge to those who, like me, struggle with jealousy: Get your perspective in check. Do this by spending time worshiping God. Turn on some worship music and focus on His goodness until your attitude changes. Recall to memory all the times he has been faithful to you. Remember all those times he saved you from all those destructive things you thought you wanted. Meditate on his flawless character that is revealed in the Word. Make a list of the things you are thankful for. Spend time making gratitude a priority.

I will leave you with these wise words from our sister in Christ, the late Elisabeth Elliot. “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful–“severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.”

In Christ,
Lacey

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me the gift of your Holy Word that directly addresses issues I struggle with in my life on this earth. As I read your Word, please continue to teach me how to surrender my jealous tendencies until my heart is overflowing with gratitude. I believe your promises are unbreakable, and I trust you completely. In Jesus name, amen.