Every day, Christians around the world die because of their belief in Jesus Christ. More suffer torment, abuse, rape, imprisonment, and persecution of all kinds. Men, women, and children. No one is immune. Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”
Tune in to this final installment of our summer series and hear what you can do to come alongside those who are being persecuted and how to prepare for the persecution you may also suffer. Even in the darkest night, we have hope in Jesus Christ who saves.
Find stories of those who have suffered for their faith at these sites below. You can also find ways to contact via letters those who are imprisoned, in an effort to encourage and strengthen their hearts and minds. There are also petitions to sign and places to donate financially so that those imprisoned will have access to legal counsel.
Please read these stories and see how you can help today!
If we are born into this world we will, at some point, experience the exquisite pang of loss. We will weep for what was and mourn what will never be again. This world, it seems is the perfect training ground for grief and sadness.
But Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, as found in Matthew chapter 5, tells his followers, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
He doesn’t elaborate on this point, or frankly, any of the points he’s making in this exact moment of his discourse. He leaves it plain and simple. Essentially what he’s saying is, “The people who mourn will be happier than those that don’t because they’ll be comforted.”
Well, that seems odd, doesn’t it? Because like I said, if life teaches us anything, it’s that we’re all going to mourn at some point. So, what makes this statement so poignant?
This week, Brandy explores this brief beatitude by looking further into Jesus’ own suffering, the mission he was prophetically called to when he stepped into humankind as a man, and the mission of his second coming.
We’ll be looking at Matthew 5:5, John 11:32-38a, Isaiah 61:1-3, and 2 Corinthians 1:3.
The fact is, we are not alone in our suffering and grief. We have a God who can relate to our pain and has stepped into it with us.
Listen to this week’s episode to find out how well he can relate to us and what he promises us as our future with him unfurls.
As a follow up to last week’s discussion wherein Matt and I shared what it looked like for us to recover after an affair, it seemed only fitting to also share with you some things we have learned that made our marriage vulnerable in the first place.
It is our desire to equip and encourage married couples to not only stay faithful but to thrive while doing so. It’s true that God’s grace and power are big enough to heal a marriage, but wouldn’t it be better to just avoid that crisis in the first place?
Some common pitfalls that any marriage may stumble into:
* Pornography and an indulgent fantasy life
* Unrealistic expectations from your spouse
* Comparing your spouse to an idealized version
* Believing it could never happen in your marriage…every marriage is vulnerable!
Some practical steps to keep your marriage protected (this is NOT an exhaustive list!):
* Guard yourself against pornography and sexual triggers
* To “spice up” your sex life, look to Christian resources (a few links below)
* Understand that the person you marry isn’t a project; they may ever change (and if you’re hoping they will, it might not be time to marry them, just yet)
* See your marriage as a team effort; you’re working toward the same goal. Act like it.
* Tend to your own pasture…the grass is never greener. Trust me.
These are some of the things we talked about in this episode. Of course, we didn’t cover ideas about finding shared hobbies or interests, or how to effectively listen to your spouse or any one of a hundred other ways you can foster a loving relationship. Those, I’m sure will be covered in future episodes.
There are so many more resources available for the Christian couple. Whether you’ve got questions you’re uncomfortable asking anyone else, you want some ideas for how to put the spark back in your marriage or you simply want to know how to make your spouse feel more loved, there is a myriad of books out there.
To see Christian books only and not be worried about being bombarded with potential triggers or porn, check out Christian Book Distributors.
This is a vast subject so today’s show only skims the surface. If you have more specific parenting issued you’d like us to discuss, please email us!
Due to technical difficulties, there is no transcript at this time. To view transcripts from previous episodes check out our Show Notes in the blog archives.
Also, we are looking for clever names for our new segment where we talk about all the things we love about road trips. If you have a great name for us, drop us a line!
Likewise, we want your road trip stories! Share your favorite or most memorable road trip, who your favorite traveling buddy is, where you like to go…whatever! You can e-mail us your (brief) stories to be featured on the show!
Here it is, the greatest commandment all summed up: Love God. Love people.
Well, that seems pretty simple. It almost seems passive, really. Like, you just have to have good feelings towards God and people, right?
Well, that’s how I’ve been approaching it more or less and today as I was doing the dishes, griping in my mind about how I seem to be the only one in our home that ever does anything to support the everyday running of our home, including all the times this past week that I’ve cleaned up after the newest member of our household, a very cute and sweet puppy named Milo, suddenly and without warning, God did what He seems to do expertly with me. He sucker-punched me. In the head.
It went like this:
Me: (scrubbing aggressively on a poor, unassuming plate that had done nothing wrong, and in fact, had done it’s job and done it well by holding the food I’d made for last night’s dinner…) Ugh! I just…. I mean…. Why do I have to always…? Ya know, God, it’s just not right! (Continues to scrub overly hard on successive dishes while slamming them into the dishwasher, meanwhile huffing and puffing about how messy our home is, how no one else seems to even see the mess, much less clean it, and about how completely unfair my overwhelmed life is).
God: (Calm, cool and collected in his best James Earl Jones impression) In all that you do, do it unto the Lord. That’s me.
Me: (Stops cold.) Yes, but the dishes, God?
God: Imagine that I’m coming over for a visit. Oh, look. I’m already here.
Like I said, sucker-punched. By God.
So what in the world does this have to do with loving God and loving people? Well, my friends, everything.
We love God as we obey. We love Him as we hear and respond to His voice (even if it’s in the form of a weird James Earl Jones type thing). We love Him by serving…people.
We love people by giving our time and energies to meet their needs. We love them by listening when they need to bend our ear even though we’ve got places to go, people to see and laundry to fold. We love them by being present. We love them best when we sacrifice our own agenda to meet them where they are, the very same way Jesus did as He carried that cross and felt the separation from His Father so that we could know His presence.
You see, I am not especially happy to be in our kitchen. I’ve never been a big cook and honestly, the more you cook the more dishes you have to wash. It seems like a lose/lose proposition to me. It turns out, though, my kids kind of like to eat. And they prefer when they don’t have to fend for themselves, settling on Top Ramen…again.
So I did it. I finished washing the dishes I had left. I washed the countertops and the kitchen didn’t look half-bad. Less than an hour later, though, it was time to create the dinner mess. And I did that, too. It wasn’t fancy…unless you call adding mashed bananas and yummy flavors to pancake mix fancy (in which case, I may be the greatest chef ever). We sat at the table, ate our syrup-drenched discs of goodness and chatted. I don’t think any of us even remember the conversation and that’s okay. The fact is, we had it.
God showed up when and where I needed to hear him – in the middle of my messy kitchen. And, at least this time, I responded to His voice out of obedient love which enabled me to turn around and love the people I am with. Because, let’s face it, sometimes the hardest people to love are the ones you share a roof with. But here’s some good news: if you can love them, you can love other people, too.
And that’s all we’re called to do, friends: Love God. Love People. So, go forth and love.
*Authors Note: The above account is entirely true, except the whole part about nobody else ever doing anything to help. The author would like to state that her frustrated state of mind likely led her to voice thoughts that were not entirely true. Though, Milo the puppy does not seem to be at all interested in making the housework any easier.
I’ve been thinking a lot about intentionality lately.
There are so many areas of my life that end up getting the ‘left-overs’ of my time, thoughts and action. I think some of that has to be with being a stay at home parent. It’s easy to get sucked into reactionary living – preparing meals when kids are hungry, driving everyone to their classes and activities, comforting a broken heart and helping to navigate a child through the difficult teen years. Not to mention breaking up fights, disciplining sass and saying ‘No’ to a toddler more times in a day than even seems possible.
I also tend to be highly gifted at the art of procrastination. I am currently writing this in the library with my daughter across the table working on her school. This is the first day we decided coming to the library might be a good place to do our work, as we’re both prone to distraction. I’ve been ‘meaning’ to write for days, yet there is always something that demands my time and attention. Sometimes that thing is Netflix, but that’s another topic for another day.
Needless to say, unless I am FOCUSED, DISCIPLINED and INTENTIONAL even basic things like laundry and dishes end up getting piled high before I think to do them. It needs to hit a critical ‘we-have-no-clean-underwear-or-spoons’ level before something will get done.
Now, I’m sure there are a bunch of pyschological things going on inside my brain that keep me stuck in this cylce of procrastination – anxiety, depression, fear of failure, fear of success, laziness, overly ambititous to the point of ineffectiveness – I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. What I KNOW though, is that I’m not alone. I have heard the word ‘intentional’ tossed around for the past several years. Clearly there are other people wrestling with how best to use their time to make the most of the life they’ve been given.
Recently I’ve begun the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. I exercise daily, eat more whole foods and am drinking water…at least I’m trying to, but let’s be honest, the siren song of coffee is real and I am captivated by it. I’ve also started writing out a routine for household chores. One would think that 20+ years of marriage would mean I’d have that figured out by now, but it seems that every new season of life uproots whatever system I’ve incorporated and now I find myself back at square one.
But the intentionality that I most want to pursue, that of a deeper relationship with God, seems to somehow elude me.
What does it mean to be intentionally relational with God? Is it daily Bible reading and prayer? Is it journaling? Is it volunteering my time at a shelter or in the church nursery? Is it weekly Bible studies or fellowship groups?
I think it’s all of those things and more. Honestly, if I evaluate my life, I’m doing most of those things on a fairly regular basis. I’m plugged in at church, both in serving and with small groups. I read the word and pray daily (honestly, the reading isn’t quite that consistent, but close). I have friends that call my bluff and don’t let me get away with things. And yet…
I still feel like something’s missing.
Listen, this is a journey, I know. That’s the nature of relationships – they are ever-changing and growing. I just don’t want to get stagnant or complacent in my pursuit of God. I want to know Him more. I want to hear His voice more clearly and see the works of His hands more evidently in and through me. I want to be ever-awed by His amazing grace, weak at the knees when I think how far He’s brought me and how far we still have to go. I want more.
Maybe that’s the first step of being intentional. Just the simple desire for more – more order in your life, more energy for your body, more depth in a relationship.
I’m going to spend some time over the next several months exploring this idea. I really don’t have any answers or insight right now, just a desire to invite you on the journey with me. What do you do as an intentional pursuit of God? What areas do you think you need to grow in (reading, prayer, fellowship, giving, etc)?
As for me, I am wanting to incorporate other spiritual disciplines into my life, beyond reading the Bible through and praying. I want to have a solitude retreat, to fast, to memorize scripture and hide it in my heart. I want to use my artistic bent to journal my walk with God.
I’ll definately come back to this topic again and give y’all an update. In the meantime, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. I’m open to suggestions if you have any spritiual disciplines you practice that have been beneficial to you. Also, why not lift each other up in prayer?
After all, we’re all on this road home together. -Brandy
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” -Proverbs 16:18
I hate Pilates.
This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I have recently taken up exercising regularly for the first time in a long time. Part of my routine includes both Pilates and Yoga, two days a week. Here’s the thing: I keep hearing from everyone how much they love it! So as I warmed up for my first round, I was pretty excited, thinking that I’d finally be one of those sleek mamas, wearing her yoga pants and feeling great.
Nope. Didn’t happen. Not even a little.
Here’s what does happen when I partake of this particular endeavor: I get angry. Seeing. Red. Angry. Like, I want to punch someone in the face kind of angry! Now, I thought Pilates and Yoga were meant to not only work out your body, elongating your muscles and such, but also, to help you focus and bring clarity and peace into your mind. Let me tell you, that is a bald-faced lie.
Here’s a little back story:
I grew up in a little mountain town with only boys for neighbors. We ran loose in the woods for days on end, jumping creeks and building forts. It was required that I kept up if I wanted to have any friends to play with. The one thing I couldn’t/wouldn’t do was climb. (My fear of heights was real, y’all.) But everything else…oh, you can be sure, if the boys did it, I was going to do it, too. I hated being made to feel like I wasn’t tough enough or strong enough or smart enough.
As a kid, every time something came up in my life that I wasn’t good at, I felt the crushing weight of being ‘less than’ or ‘not good enough.’ I hated that feeling. As an adult, I learned that I could, for the most part avoid having to do those types of things. I mean, how often does the average person really need to use algebra? (Honestly, I don’t know…I don’t even like balancing our check-book because you guessed it, I’m no good at math.)
The other day I got to doing some self-reflecting while I was praying and felt kind of burdened by this word: humility. So I did the only rational thing and asked that God would teach me humility. But, y’all, I’m not stupid. I’ve prayed for things like patience before and then been stalled out on the freeway behind the world’s S L O W E S T drivers, so I know not to just write that kind of blank check when I pray for God to teach me things. So I phrased it real smart. I said, “Lord, please teach me humility in little bite-size chunks – in little ways – so I don’t have to have a monumental fall.” See how smart that was?
The next day I did Pilates.
I was humbled. And here’s why: my body, created by the God of this Universe, has been endowed with a very short little torso. Add to that the extra weight I’m packing (hence the exercise) and the absurdly short arms I have (painting quite a picture here, aren’t I?), and what you have is the very picture of a person who will never – no matter what – ever be able to do some of the moves that Pilates and Yoga require a person to do. Even with modifications. I have tried. It does not work. It will not matter if I lose every ounce of fat and become as flexible as I was the day I was born, my body will not do it. And that makes me super mad!!! I don’t want to do something that I’m not good at!
So, apparently I’m not going to be stretching my body as much as I will hopefully be stretching my spirit twice a week as I work to do what cannot be done. And hopefully I will realize that it’s okay to struggle and even fail and not be good at everything you try. Maybe I’ll even learn to accept that my body (as goofy as it is) is fearfully and wonderfully made.
But the biggest lesson is this (and I’m giving it to you for free): be careful how you pray, people. Because even when you think you are being clever, God knows your heart and He will do what must be done.