Tag Archives: Jesus

Can I Raise My Child to Choose Jesus?

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”Proverbs 22:6″ type=”center”]”Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” [/blockquote]

This verse is one that Christian parents hang on to with everything they have while raising children.  I know I did.  All three times, from the moment I knew that I was going to be a mom, I began to pray that my child would grow to be all that God would have him to be…that God would bring him to a complete understanding and acceptance of Jesus and that he would follow the principles of God every day of his life. If there was a way to ensure my child’s salvation I was determined to find it and do it no matter what. Who wouldn’t.  Is there a way to make sure our kids choose Jesus?

I know many people who were raised in Christian homes and yet DIDN’T choose Jesus.  I watched it happen too many times to count. Recently a mother of a rebellious teen asked me, “Doesn’t the Bible say that if we train our children in the ways of God then they won’t turn away?  Isn’t there a promise that says when they are old that they will come back to the Lord?”  After examining Scripture I am certain that this verse does NOT mean what many people think it means.  It can’t.  Even Solomon, who wrote Proverbs 22:6  had a son named Rehoboam who turned from the LORD.  Rehoboams last 17 years is explained like this “..he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” 2 Chronicles 12:14.

Godly training is extremely important. I believe that what Proverbs 22:6 means is that all the training a parent puts into their child will never leave him.  And, he will never leave the training; It will always be a part of him. Parents can’t accept Jesus FOR their children or make Godly decisions FOR them.  But they do have the privilege of showing Jesus to them in hopes that they will follow Him. Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Pastor, Jim Cymbala, has a daughter who walked away from her faith and her family.  After several years of living in sin, she laid in her bed unable to sleep, listening to NYC traffic in the middle of the night.  The Holy Spirit brought to mind what she had been taught.  She wept as she remembered the Godly songs and Scripture that had been poured into her.She gave her life to Jesus that night and reconciled with her parents that very day.  Thank God she couldn’t depart from the training of her parents!

I recently asked several people who never left their faith WHY they chose to be faithful to what they were taught in their Christian homes. I really enjoyed reading their answers.  Their words are filled with wisdom, especially for those who are raising children.  It is clear that Godly training led them to genuine faith in Jesus. This is what they wrote.

[line]

I am a 4th generation Christian. I was raised by parents who taught me right from wrong, how to pray, how to love God, how to be obedient, and so many good things. They showed me what real Christianity looks like…what a real Christian is.  I was saved and baptized at an early age.  I never had a desire to leave my faith. I really believe that what I was taught was truth.  I didn’t stray because I love God.”  Janel, age 21

[line]

I am a 2nd generation Christian. I was raised in a home where my parents taught me a lot of good things.  We worked and played hard but Jesus always came first.  I have been around church and Christians my whole life and I’ve never heard of one single person that has regretted living for God.  Quite the opposite.  Many people who look back on their lives have an overwhelming regret that they wasted time and didn’t spend time on things that affect eternity.  I am thankful that I learned the Bible and grew up with Believers.  I’ve had to face some very tough times and without God and my church family I couldn’t have gotten through. I see things differently when I think about the truth of eternity.”  Brett, age 31

[line]

I am a 3rd generation Christian although I can trace Christianity in my family a lot farther back than that.  Why didn’t I leave my faith when I was old enough?  I saw an amazing, positive, genuine Christianity lived out in my parents lives.  They were not perfect, but they were real Christians.  They never spoke bad of others in our church, they loved being at church and they lived the same way at home as out of the home.  They told me how happy they were that Jesus saved them and lived that way….grateful for Jesus.  When I was old enough to make the choice: is my parents God going to be my God?  Well, it wasn’t a choice at all.  I wanted God and all that came with that.  I’ve never, ever regretted my decision.  Sue, age 51

[line]

I am a 2nd generation Christian. Honestly, what kept me choosing Jesus is that my parents practiced what they preached.  How they acted at church was how they acted at home.  I watched them filter everything through the Bible and do their best to please God.  They were happy and fun and didn’t make following Jesus look like a chore or a list of  “don’ts”  They thanked and praised God for everything.   I wanted God for myself and to live for God the way that they did.”  Brie, age 34

[line]

“I am a 3rd generation Christian. From as young as I can remember I was taught about Jesus. I learned who He is and about relationship with Him. If I chose one reason that I stayed faithful to God and Christianity I would have to link it back to the way Jesus was introduced to me.  It wasn’t about attending church… it was because I was taught and then understood about having a relationship with Jesus. About what He did for us so He could be with us.”  Matt, age 31

[line]

“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  The reason I stayed faithful to God and how I was raised was because I was shown true Christianity.  Although I made some mistakes and poor choices I learned from them.  I learned that what I was taught is truth.  I was taught to hate sin and love grace; that all sin will eventually lead to destruction and that Gods grace is a gift to me.   I had to experience it as a young adult to really believe it for myself.  I am thankful that I was raised in a Christian home.  I am even more thankful for my salvation.”  Jake, age 29

[line]

“I am a 4th generation Christian. Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity like some people do? My parents stressed the importance of having a relationship with Jesus and they lived it out in their own lives.  They didn’t have extreme rules or man made standards for my brothers and I.  They, along with so many Christians, modeled the love of Christ to me.  Because of that I want to go to church and  grow in my relationship with God.”  Kyle, age 26

“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  My parents taught me to put Christ first in everything, how every decision I make should reflect what God wants and to love others like Christ does.  They modeled this for me.  They encouraged me to learn from the positive and negative examples of others. I didn’t walk away from my faith because I realized that Gods commands are there for my protection and because He loves me.  My faith in God became my own. I want to please the Lord with my life because of all that He has done for me.”  Kaitlin, age 26

[line]

“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  Why didn’t I walk away from my faith? My parents taught me true Christianity.  To love God and to compassionately love people.  My parents had good balance with rules in my life and they lived by the same rules. I desired the Jesus that my parents pointed me to.  He was real to them and I wanted that in my life.”  Sarah, age 22

[line]

“I’m a 3rd generation Christian.  Why did I choose to stay faithful to what I was taught? My parents did their best to practice what they preached.  They backed everything they taught me with real love. I’m thankful that my parents actually “parented” me. They taught, instructed, disciplined and loved me. They glorified God in our home. I knew God was real because I saw Him in my mom and dads life.  It was during a difficult time in my life that my grandfather, a preacher, pointed me to Jesus. That was when Jesus became real to me and  I chose Him for myself.”    Jared, age 29

[line]

“I am a 4th generation Christian.  My parents demonstrated how to love God and how to faithfully serve Him. They showed generosity and hospitality to others, had a hunger for Gods Word and showed me the power of prayer.  I grew up in a church where people encouraged and invested in me.  All of these factors surely influenced who I am today.  I am thankful for my heritage but this didn’t make me a Christ follower.  I repented of my sin and asked Jesus to be my Savior at a young age.  After 38 years, even though I have not always been faithful Jesus has always been faithful to me.  Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity?  Because I love Jesus.  If my faith was based on the behavior of others, the circumstances of life or my own ability to measure up to Gods glory, I too might depart.  But I am compelled to look at Jesus.  Is it the prayers and godly example of  the generations before or saturation of the scriptures that give me power to stand fast? Here lies the mystery and power of the Spirit of God.  We can do the very best we know how to do, but its the Spirit of God that draws people to Himself.”  Michele, 43

[line]

Can we raise our children to choose Jesus? No. That is a choice that is theirs alone. But we can do our best to model our love for Jesus to them.  I never asked the people above to tell me what their parents did right or to give credit to them.  The question was simply, “why didn’t you walk away from your faith like so many do?”  I think it’s interesting that all of them pointed out that their parents genuinely modeled Jesus. If I could live motherhood again, I would pour even more of Jesus into my children than I did. More of Jesus and less of everything else. Because in reality it is He thats makes life stable, wise, successful, and purposeful!  In Deuteronomy 6, God gives the Israelites clear instruction before they entered a new land, where there would be unbelievers who would influence their children to turn away from thier faith. He told them to teach their children the laws. Teach them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might. He told them to remind their children of all the things that God had done, like how he rescued them from bondage and all the miracles in the desert. All so that their faith might be strong and continue from one generation to the next. Don’t get weary in training….It may be the very avenue that is used so that your child chooses Jesus!

“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in they grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that it is in thee also” 2 Timothy 1:5

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Philippe Put http://flickr.com/photos/34547181@N00/15589452139 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

two words that have strengthened my faith

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comThis morning I was thinking over  the many Bible passages that have changed my life and my thinking.  The words “But God” are mentioned 42 times and as I was reading the verses, one after the other, it brought me to tears. I realized how much these two words, written together, have strengthened my faith.

But God.

After Jacobs father in law deceived him over and over I read, “BUT GOD suffered him not to hurt me”. Genesis 31:7

Joseph’s brothers had deeply wronged him.  As he faced them years later he told them not to be grieved or angry. He said “It wasn’t you who sent me here, BUT GOD…he has sent me to be a ruler.”  Gen. 45:8 Joseph said it again “ye thought evil against me BUT GOD meant it for good.” Gen. 50:20 A passage in the New Testament says “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph in Egypt…BUT GOD was with him”. Acts 7:9

Saul was intent on killing David and the Bible says “Saul sought him every day, BUT GOD delivered him not into his hands”. I Sam. 23:14

David, speaking of death, writes “BUT GOD shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave”.  Ps. 64:7 And, “My flesh and my heart faileth, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”Ps. 73:26 David says, “BUT GOD is the judge”. Ps. 75:7  No matter what the circumstances.  He is The Fair and Righteous Judge.

Mark writes “Who can forgive sins BUT GOD alone.” Mark 2:7 And Luke writes “BUT GOD knoweth your heart.” Luke 16:15

My favorite “BUT GOD” verses speak of Christ. And of us. “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him from the tree, and laid him in a sepluchre. BUT GOD raised him from the dead.” Acts 13:29.     BUT GOD commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom 5:8

There is so much more that is written…BUT GOD chooses the foolish things to teach the wise.  BUT GOD alone gives and takes away.  BUT GOD who is rich in mercy shows his love. BUT GOD is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above which you are able but will always, always, always make a way of escape.

[blockquote type=”center”]BUT GOD.[/blockquote]

IT IS MORE THAN I CAN UNDERSTAND.  Creator God, the Most High, who looks upon the earth to see if there is any that seek Him.  He steps into our circumstances and although we deserve eternal separation from him he doesn’t offer us what we deserve. He offers us these words. Wait a minute! Hold on! Time out! BUT GOD….Meaning, instead of what is deserved He offers us grace and protection and redemption and eternal life. If those words never entered human stories where would men be? Each time they were written the entire direction of the story changed. Preceding those words was despair and after those words we see the goodness of God. Jacob, Joseph, David, Mark and all mankind…which includes you and I…are given God-breathed hope and meaning to every situatuation we ever walk through. BUT GOD….He showed his love for us and while we were yet sinners He died for us. Eternal hope. The good news of Jesus. No matter what happens in our life, God has a purpose, He is the judge, He accomplishes His will always for a greater purpose.

Two of the greatest words ever written, BUT GOD.  This is what I am meditating on today.  My prayer is that these words bless you as much as they have me.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]To God Be the Glory, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Infomastern http://flickr.com/photos/infomastern/12737852125 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Do you believe in God?

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comI walked down the streets of NYC in awe.  In awe of the variety of people, of sin, of poverty & materialism, of smells…some good and some horrendous. I saw homeless teens taking shelter in cardboard boxes and people digging through garbage for scraps to eat.  No one else seemed to be alarmed by these sights. I was taking it all in for what seemed like hours as a heaviness eventually settled on my spirit.

Then I heard someone preaching from what I thought was the Bible. There were groups of men monopolizing corner after corner on street after street. They were dressed in robes and stood on ascending, throne-like platforms. As I got closer I heard clearly their confusing message.  They screamed into microphones… words of racial hatred and Bible mixed with blasphemy. They shouted loudly in Hebrew, and made hissing sounds, at several Jewish men who ran past me.

The man on the top of the platform yelled into his hand held mic “YOU, lady with blonde hair, DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?” Out of hundreds of people walking by, he was looking and speaking directly at me. I yelled back to him “Yes, I do believe in God.”

Later I thought about this experience and wondered how I would have felt if an evil man had held a gun to my head while asking me the question, “Do you believe in God?” The same question that the young college students in Oregon were asked this past week. They stood up and and declared their faith in God. And then were shot and killed.

[blockquote cite=”Hilary Mantel, author” type=”center”]I cannot unbelieve what I believe.  [/blockquote]

Where does such faith, such belief, come from?  A convicting, amazing faith that sees beyond this life and chooses Jesus over all else?  Unless a person knows Jesus, God incarnate, they cannot possibly understand.

Those who lack faith will not understand how Christians can stand in the face of death with sadness, yet boldness; those with faith know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Those who lack faith will not understand a belief in something you cannot see; those with faith see Almighty God and His glory in everything. We see with spiritual eyes the purpose and meaning of this temporal life. Temporal… short, fleeting and passing quickly like a vapor. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

[pullquote cite=”Isaiah 26:3″ type=”right”]Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why, in the face of death one would not save himself, if even out of fear alone; those with faith understand grace and peace. How it pours over one who needs it every single day and in perfect timing. We also know that Christ gave His life for us so that we can have life eternal.  I’m not sure every person who says they are a Christian would stand strong for Jesus in the presence of their murderer.  But I do know that genuine Christians would; there is no other choice.

Those who lack faith will not understand why God would allow such things like the tragic death of innocent students; those with faith understand that God is Sovereign. That nothing passes through His hand without his permission and that even the most horrible things are exchanged for a greater purpose. No heartache is wasted.  (Psalm 139)

[pullquote cite=”Revelation 21:4″ type=”left”]And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why parents and families and a nation must suffer at the hands of such awful tragedy; those with faith feel deep sorrow and weep for the hurting.  We know that God miraculously heals broken hearts and comforts those who are suffering.  We know that one day all things we despise… sickness, sorrow, heartache, physical death and evil will come to an end. We know that we must walk through life so that we can understand good and evil. So that we learn to hate unrighteousness with all that is in us. We are living among the consequences of sin in a fallen world. One day there will be no more tears. It is then that we will understand the meaning of love and righteousness in all its fullness.

Those without faith can’t understand how Christians can believe in eternity; those with faith know that the dash between our birth and physical death is a tiny dot on a long line of never ending life. “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

It is open to everyone….this invitation to receive faith in Jesus; this hope beyond understanding and peace that is not explainable.  This faith that gives one the ability to grasp the incredible love story of God-incarnate humbling himself to walk with us and become the payment for our salvation.  So that mankind might be saved from eternal separation from Himself.  So much is not fair in this upside down world.  Like homeless teens living in cardboard boxes. Or people eating out of garbage cans.  And, students being murdered for their faith.  But Jesus promises to make all wrong, right.  To settle every score and bring peace and righteous judgment.  He will do away with evil and we will forever praise Him.  He is the ONLY HOPE for all men.  It is for these reasons that we can never deny Jesus or that we belong to Him.  Not ever. As Hilary Mantel stated so simply, “I cannot unbelieve what I believe.”

My heart aches for the families of the murdered students in Oregon. Their loved ones proclaimed their faith in God through Jesus with their very lives.  Then their faith was made sight and they heard ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the JOY OF THE LORD.” (Matthew 25)

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Singing hallelujah, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Fey Ilyas http://flickr.com/photos/renneville/3161518829 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

unity matters

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comMy parents always loved music, so when I was young we went to plays and musicals and orchestra events and music festivals. There was always music playing in the car and in our house. They exposed me to all sorts of genres, and I naturally settled into those that I liked best – some that they weren’t so fond of, and some that they loved themselves. As a kid I had a leaning toward concerts that were loud and crazy…I liked the lights and the feel of the bass vibrating through the ground. But now I love certain concerts for a different reason – and I just recently figured out why.

unity mattersLast week I went to see Rend Collective, which is a Christian band from Ireland whose music really inspires me to worship. My husband and I sat down in our seats at Roberts Wesleyan College’s performing arts center, and I people-watched a little bit as we waited for the show to start. There were people from my church, people we knew from other churches, people from the Christian school I graduated from, and many people we didn’t know at all. All of these people, all together, waiting for the same band, waiting to worship together. All of us were excited to be there, and we all had something in common so even those who didn’t know each other felt free to talk and ask about each other.

The lights went down and the crowd went silent, and finally the music started – and everyone sang along. And what I realized at that moment was that none of us knew or cared about the details of each others’ Christianity, other than that we were in agreement about the most important thing – that Jesus saved us from our sin, and that He is the One we should worship. We had no idea what version of the Bible the person in front of us read, or whether the person behind us was Baptist or Pentecostal. We didn’t know whether the woman across the aisle had a Calvinist or Armenian leaning, or which denomination the band was. The details seemed less important at that moment because we were gathered for a common reason – to worship the one true God together.

unity matters

I looked around at the rows upon rows of people and wondered whether that would be what heaven will be like in some respects – all different Christians, from all different backgrounds, worshipping God together. Different in the details, but unified at their core – in their belief of who saved their souls from the sin they could never pay for themselves.

In our minds I think we know that there will be many different kinds of Christians in heaven. We say amongst ourselves that we will be surprised who will be there and who will be absent (Matthew 7:21-23). We think we have a good grip on the fact that God alone sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But so many times in practice we look at other Christians and the biggest thing we see are the differences – and we dwell on them. We allow our feathers to be ruffled because other Christians listen to and worship using different music, read different versions of the Bible, and attend churches with different labels. We are called to unity as a body of believers but we look skeptically at each other, and even question each others’ salvation at times, because of details that we don’t agree with. We so often don’t consider that perhaps others truly ARE seeking God, and that He has for them a different freedom or a different restriction than He has for us.

This is dangerous ground, I know, because our convictions and preferences are part of who we are, and they determine how we live out our faith. There is theology that we strongly believe, and we can back it up. There are practices and traditions that we strongly adhere to for reasons that we may never loosen our grip on. We have a defense for what we do and why we do it…we have seen results, and fruit, and blessing. We have a defense for why we disagree so adamantly with certain others. Our views and interpretations and ways of life are important to us – and they should be. Practices and traditions and theologies ARE important, and some of them are worth fighting for, and fighting over. But not all of them. Not all of them are worth sacrificing the unity of the Church – and by the Church I mean the whole body of Christ.

When Colette and I started this blog, we came upon an issue that we didn’t agree on…It really doesn’t matter which issue so I won’t go into that, but we had to face a conflict. So we came together, talked about what we believed about that issue, came to an understanding about its importance, and came up with a solution that we believed that God would be pleased with. What we did not do was allow an important but non-essential issue (meaning an issue that isn’t truly central to salvation and Christianity) to divide us completely, and we were able to work together in unity regardless. You’d never know we disagreed at all! Extend this situation to the Church – the body of Christ…If we can grab hold of unity, if we make it a priority, we can accomplish things together that would never have been possible otherwise.

[blockquote cite=”Richard Baxter” type=”center”]In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.
[/blockquote]

Christ said in John 13:34-35, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are commanded to love other Christians as Christ loved us (laying down our lives for each other), and the we be perfectly unified as followers of Jesus. We are, of course, bound to disagree on some things – but that doesn’t mean that our love and our unity in Christ should be compromised.

I know, beyond a doubt, that when we get to heaven our eyes will be on Christ alone, and not on each other. If we can practice that here, before heaven, we can accomplish so much more together. The world IS watching to see how we love each other, so when we are tempted to dwell on the details instead of on Christ Jesus who unifies us, let’s remember the amazing place heaven will be when we will worship together in spirit and in truth – one Church, one body, one focus.

The song I’ve included below (or if the music isn’t your preference, I included the lyrics there below as well) has become my favorite for so many reasons – it reminds me of those who have gone to heaven before me, of how unworthy I am of the salvation I have been given, of the power of the blood of Jesus, and now of the unity we have in Him, despite our differences. I looked around me at that concert as tears rolled down my face, and saw others doing just the same…Overcome with emotion because they know what I know – that we will approach Him one day, and that we have everything to celebrate. Fix your eyes today on Jesus – and not so much on the details.

[blockquote cite=”Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration)” type=”center”]
By grace alone somehow I stand
Where even angels fear to tread
Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands
Into His everlasting arms

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

Behold the bright and risen Son
More beauty than this world has known
I’m face to face with Love Himself
His perfect spotless righteousness
A thousand years, a thousand tongues
Are not enough to sing His praise

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Celebrating who God made us , Melissa[/custom_headline]

bragging rights

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comFour years ago a group of seven other people and myself decided we should try to do the Tough Mudder, which for those of you who aren’t familiar is a 12 mile long military-style obstacle course. It entails what you might think of as “normal” obstacles – like scaling 12-foot walls, army crawling under barbed wire, and jumping from three stories into water…But there were also what I consider to be the “extreme” obstacles, like jumping into ice water and running through hundreds of dangling live wires that electrocuted us as we ran through them. We trained for ten months (we didn’t practice the electrocution part!), and in September of 2012 our team traveled to Maryland and completed our race.
[column type=”1/2″][/column] [column type=”1/2″ last=”true”]DSC09496[/column]
Our particular race had two electrocution obstacles – one that I described above, and another which I think was way worse. I started through the obstacle and thought that it wasn’t too bad, but then I heard the sound of a grown man screaming…and I knew I was in trouble. I got through, after being thrown around by the travelling current of electricity, and that man that I had heard was still standing there waiting for the rest of his team. I looked at him and shook my head and said, “We PAID for this!” and we laughed at the irony.

[column type=”1/2″]
DSC09600[/column][column type=”1/2″ last=”true”][/column]

Why DO people pay for those races? Why do they subject themselves to the torture? I’ll give you two words: bragging rights. Sure, our team wanted to accomplish the feat of finishing, and it was fun to do it was a team. It was great to be in the best shape of our lives. But an equal component of us wanting to do that race was bragging rights. When I wear my Tough Mudder finisher shirt outside my house I can be sure that most of the time I will get a few glances, if not a full blown conversation. People are intrigued by a person who would do that to themselves on purpose, and so it gets attention. The race is far gone now and I’m kind of over it…but at first it was really fun to talk about it with random people.

[column type=”1/2″][/column] [column type=”1/2″ last=”true”][/column]
This gets me thinking about all of the things we do in front of other people in terms of serving and obeying God, and about our motives. We serve and take selfies of ourselves doing it…We post quotes and verses on Facebook that we read…We share stories about what our kids say about God or church or heaven. We make our walk with God public, which in many ways is a very good thing, but we need to be careful that we are directing others to who GOD is instead of to who WE are. I like to underline what I think are great passages in books and then take a picture and post it – but I wonder if that’s more for God or for me and my image? Am I bragging on Him because of something great that He showed me, or am I bragging on myself for reading it? I need to be careful.

At some point in all of our walks with Jesus, there must be the realization that we cannot do anything good without Him. The truth is that we can’t do ANYTHING without Him, because it is He whose will holds us together. The sin of others should pale in comparison to what we know is in our own hearts, and because we CANNOT save ourselves in any capacity, we should be humbled and broken before our Holy God. And the bragging rights fade.

As we live our lives for Christ “out loud” as a reader so aptly put it recently, we need always to consider who we are bragging upon.
[blockquote type=”left”]

We are lost, and our Lord Jesus finds us.
We are blind, and He gives us sight.
We are sinners, but He is good.
We are in need, and He is our provider.
We are guilty, and He is our defense.
We deserve punishment, but He is merciful.
We are hungry, and He is the Bread of Life.
We are weak, and He is our strength.
We walk in darkness, and He is our light.
We are wavering, and He is our Rock.
We feel alone, but we can be assured that He is with us.
We strive for more, but He is enough.
He is EVERYTHING.

[/blockquote]

Brag on Jesus, because all of the good in you is HIM in you.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For HIS glory, Melissa[/custom_headline]

the heart of friendship

Melissa @ awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”[/blockquote]

We NEED friends.

The Bible talks a LOT about relationships, and about the needs that we have that only a true friend can provide. God made us for relationship, and right from creation we read about people needing people. Adam and Eve, Moses and Aaron, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Christ and His disciples, Christ and God the Father…The Bible is full to the top with people who needed other people. Even God desired fellowship with man – a thought I can’t even wrap my mind around – but it just goes to show that we weren’t made to go it alone. I’m naturally introverted, so I gravitate to solitude. Instinctually I want to be alone, and I want to prove my worth by taking on challenges by myself. But God made me to need others, and despite my tendency to make an island of myself it’s important for me not to think that I should do life all on my own. We need each other for so many reasons…For accountability, for companionship, for joy, for sharing heartbreak, for corporate worship, for encouragement, to learn humility, to learn about what insights others have into the heart of God. God gave us friendship for our benefit!

Friendships change because other people change.

[pullquote cite=”C.S. Lewis” type=”right”]“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” [/pullquote]Friendships begin under all kinds of circumstances and conditions, and it’s unlikely (if not impossible) for those conditions to always remain the same. A friend who had a particular need at one time will more than likely grow out of that need; a friend who was strong at one time may stumble into a period of weakness; a friend who was always available may become busy and preoccupied with other things – and so on. We know in our HEADS that people change and that their circumstances change, but it’s difficult to swallow when a friendship we value changes. A dear friend of mine always says that there are “seasons” of friendship – even endings of friendships – because all of our lives are in a constant state of flux. Change may not be what WE always want, but so often it’s what a friend needs.

Friendships change because WE change.

Are you different than you were when you were seventeen years old? Of course you are. We all have seasons of life which will dictate our needs, and we tend to seek out friends that can fulfill those needs. It sounds pretty selfish, but we all seek community with those who understand us best. My daughter was in sixth grade this past year, and as far as friends are concerned she did a lot of growing up. She had a group of friends at school, and she ended up deciding that they weren’t people that she wanted or needed to be around – so she kindly started sitting with another group of people and integrated herself into a new group. That’s no small feat for someone her age! It showed me something important – that it CAN be done. Our needs can and will change, and we can kindly engage in new friendships that better fit us – all without animosity and drama.

Some friendships exist not because WE need them, but because someone else does…So we need to consider what God has for us in those relationships. There are friendships that are REALLY messy and inconvenient, but God can show us so much about ourselves and about Him through those friendships. Let’s be careful not to count out the people that are hard work to be friends with…Those might be the people who need us most.

BFFs are few and far between.

To find a friend who understands not only what you’re going through but who you really are is rare and precious. I’ve only had a handful of people over the course of my life who I’d say were “best” friends. They are the ones who I let see me at my worst, the ones who lovingly tell me when I’m wrong, the ones who encourage me to be the woman God wants me to be, and the ones who stand by me during my own seasons of weakness – times when I give nothing back. They are friends who can see how I feel without my having to say anything, and who know what I need before I realize it myself. If you have a true BFF, cherish them and be a great BFF in return!

It takes one to know one.

Good friendships come from two peoples’ involvement, not just one. Granted, there are times when one person or the other will bear more of a load, but overall a friendship needs to be a two way street. It’s easy for us to analyze the quality of friendship based on someone else’s performance, but we can’t forget to evaluate whether we are being good friends ourselves.

Friends will let us down because they’re people.

No matter how good our friends are, they WILL let us down – because they’re human. I’m not saying that we should overlook it when friends consistently treat us poorly, but we should expect some imperfection – and at times let it roll off. The trade off is that we, too, will let our friends down, as well-intentioned as we might be, and those friends will hopefully do the same for us.

Jesus is our ultimate example.

[pullquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”right”]”Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.”[/pullquote]One thing that I cherish most about Christ is that He is predictable – always good, always loving, always just, always righteous. No matter how I change, He is the same. He’s reliable, eternal, invested, perfect…PERFECT. His expectations of His friends always remain the same, too – simply obey (John 15:14). That’s a tall order, but I can rest assured that His expectations will never vary.

During His ministry He called Himself a friend to those closest to Him, and He laid down His life for them. Even before He was crucified for the sins of man He laid His life down for those around Him – He was patient, kind, forgiving, generous, self-sacrificing, sympathetic, honest, gentle, loving, and endlessly seeking the souls of others.  He calls us to do the same – to lay our lives down for our friends. THIS is true friendship. John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Leaning on Jesus, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better – AGAIN!!![/custom_headline]With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes Godiva Chocolates, a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!
[/content_band]
Feature image attribution: flickr photo by Dani_vr http://flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/8261614253 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

six things we must remember in an argument

Melissa @ awriteheart.comSince last week’s Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, I’ve read and heard a LOT of debate…Unfortunately the vast majority of those discussions ended poorly or without resolution. As I’ve continued to read and listen to these dialogues, a few thoughts have come to mind that I believe we must remember when arguing or debating with someone. Whether it’s an online discussion or an argument with our spouse, remembering these principles can help us keep the peace even when we can’t agree.

Your “opponent” actually believes what they’re saying.

The person who is so adamantly opposed to your viewpoint, whether that’s your husband or some online stranger who thinks your opinion is too extreme, really truly believes what they are expressing to you. They believe it with the same passion and vigor that you have for your own opinion. We tend to think that those with opposing views haven’t thought out their opinions, and are just argumentative people looking for a fight – and sometimes that IS the case. But most people hold their opinions for a reason, and can substantiate why they think and feel the way they do. They aren’t unintelligent, they aren’t necessarily uninformed, they aren’t crazy, and most of the time they aren’t intentionally trying to oppress anyone…They just happen to disagree.

There may be angles that you haven’t explored – and that’s ok.

In any argument, we all are hesitant to admit when we’re unprepared or can’t defend ourselves…but in truth, everyone is unprepared for what could be said. It isn’t always the worst thing to tell a person that you don’t know the answer to a question, or that they brought up a good point that you never considered. Conversations can be continued after you’ve done more research, or after you’ve thoughtfully considered new points of view. Being defensive about someone’s thoughtful conclusions won’t win anyone over – so in humility, be willing to concede that you haven’t thought of everything.

People can believe whatever they want – and that’s a good thing.

This is America, right? Unless you’re reading from a place that doesn’t allow citizens the freedom to speak and believe what they want, no one is obligated to believe as you do – and that is something to be thankful for. God gave us freedom to choose, right from the time that He created us, and we can’t take that freedom from others. As well-intentioned as we might be trying to “convert” people to what we believe is the right way of thinking, it isn’t our job to change anyone’s mind or heart.

Listening well goes a long way.

5 things to remember in an argumentThink about the last time you had a heated discussion with someone. While the other person was talking or writing, were you thinking about the next thing you were going to say? So many times, our lack of willingness to stop and listen prevents us from  hearing where another person is coming from, and all we do is reiterate our own opinions over and over instead of having a real dialogue. Understanding someone’s point of view is valuable even if you don’t agree with it, and the person on the other end of the debate will be more likely to feel as though you respect them if you conscientiously listen to and acknowledge their side.

Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation.

How many times can I say this…Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation! Humor, sarcasm, compassion, kindness, sadness – all of those are difficult to convey by written word, and it’s easy to misread someone’s tone or miscommunicate your own thoughts and feelings. Too short a response can be read as aggressive…No response can be read as passive-aggressive…Too long a response can be read as controlling…Too long between responses can be read as uncaring…Too many responses can be read as overbearing. We make some pretty sweeping assumptions based on how and when others respond. So be careful debating or arguing online or over text massages…And if possible, just take the person out for coffee and talk it out.

Love for God and for others is your obligation, even if the conflict remains unresolved.

My pastor mentioned something this past week that really stuck with me – we aren’t supposed to be a balance of grace and truth…We as Christians are supposed to be FULL of grace and FULL of truth. That’s how the Bible describes Jesus in John 1:14 – He was 100% grace, and 100% truth. So no matter what the argument is about, be like Christ when you write and talk to others about things you disagree on. Rarely did Jesus exhibit anger toward others – and when He did, it was because of hypocrisy or oppression of those in need. He also never chased anyone down to make sure they did what they were supposed to. He told them the truth in love, and then allowed them to make their own life choices. Following His lead takes the pressure off of us, and leaves it to the Holy Spirit to change someone’s heart…And that’s how it should be.

Arguments and debates are often unavoidable, but we can take steps to work toward a peaceful ending. It’s possible to disagree while maintaining a positive tone. Romans 12:9-12 calls us to do our best to live at peace, and with God’s help we can!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]In His perfect peace, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Colette’s July Giveaway Will Just Keep Getting Better![/custom_headline]

With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! The first thing in Colette’s basket is…GODIVA CHOCOLATES! Read our next post to see what she’ll add next!
colettesbasketday1

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!

[/content_band]

Featured image attribution: flickr photo by pj_vanf http://flickr.com/photos/vanf/6124579928 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

my King and my expectations

Melissa @ awriteheart.com I’m not a big spoiler of my kids, but not too long ago I went out to get them gifts just because I wanted to…And because I had Kohls cash and a 30% off coupon. I got something tween-y for Hannah (12), something girly for Naomi (6), and a train toy for Jude (4). Jude and Hannah were thankful, but Naomi, instead of being excited, looked at her gift and informed me of what she would rather have had…She asked me if we could take it back to the store so she could choose something different. I was angry. I expected hugs and kisses and ooohs and aaahs, but instead I got complaints. I wanted recognition for my gift and instead I got an insult. I sulked for a while, and of course eventually we resolved it and I forgave her, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

This is a little example that was easily resolved, but I know that you can think of plenty of times when unmet expectations ruined your day. Or your year. Or your life. I’ve had some very deep cuts from those who were supposed to love me better. People who I love have left; they have failed; they have hurt me; they have disregarded me. And I, in turn, have been deeply disappointed. Some of you are disappointed with your life right now, maybe even secretly disappointed in God for letting this happen to you. Or maybe it’s not so big – maybe your husband came home late, or your son is sitting in detention, or your co-worker was rude to you. We’ve all experienced the feeling of let-down when others don’t live up to who we think they should be.

[pullquote type=”right”]…maybe God allows us to struggle with disappointment so that we can contrast it with who He is.[/pullquote]In every disappointment and unmet expectation, the same conclusion comes to light in my life…Christ is the only constant, the only good, the only One who will not change, the only One who delivers what He promises 100% of the time. The truth doesn’t erase the disappointment, but maybe God allows us to struggle with disappointment so that we can contrast it with who He is. He is steadfast, an anchor, a beacon. He is always forgiving, always loving, always just. He always hates sin, and always seeks obedience. He is our refuge, our strength, and our hope.

On this eve of Good Friday, there is JOY because of who He is and will always be! When you are disappointed, or when someone fails to meet your expectations, remember your King and celebrate.

~Alive because He lives, Melissa~