Monthly Archives: May 2014

Is the daily cross you carry getting heavier?

by Trey Campbell, treycampbell1010@gmail.com

Challenges.  Sin.  We face these daily.  Some are more easily overcome than others, like fighting the urge to drink a Mountain Dew before bedtime (this is more of a challenge for some).  Others are a bit more menacing, like fighting the urge to participate in your favorite sin.  These are what are known as our “selfish ways.”

In the Gospel of Luke, there is a phrase in a verse that has always stuck with me about our selfish ways.  Take a look:

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             – Luke 9:23-24

The entirety of both verses capture my attention, but specifically the line that wows me is “take up your cross daily.”

daily cross, follow meWhat does this mean?  Each day offers us a new challenge and often a new sin.  With all of the challenges and sins we face, we have a choice – which is to turn from our selfish ways.

The choices we make determine whether or not we simply get splinters or wrench our back from the cross we bear.

Our choices are made by how confident we are in our faith and how willing we are to turn from our own selfishness.  But it boils down to a statement Phil Wilson, Lead Pastor of the Bridge Fellowship in Lebanon, Tennessee, said in a recent sermon:  WE CAN CHOOSE OUR WAY OR GOD’S WAY.  We often choose our way.  This is a heavy cross to carry – and a burden we put on ourselves.  The irony is, it doesn’t have to be as heavy as we make it since Jesus has already carried the cross for us all that covers the burden of sin.

You see, it was through his sacrifice, he was able to save us from the wickedness in our sinful hearts we are born with.  This may sound a little “fire and brimstone” to the passive or new Christian.  But the fact is, this is the crux of what we believe as Christians.

We can’t escape sin.  And we will always have a cross to bear – each and every day.  But we do have a say in how much we have to carry.  By turning away from our selfish ways to follow him, we redirect that weight back to Jesus who lifts us out of sin.

We all have our daily crosses to carry.  The question is, will you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, or falter under the heavy burden of your sin?  It’s our way or God’s way.  Which way will it be for you?

Really? God just spoke to me through a couch?

by Erica Pearson, ericalovesbooks@gmail.com

I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, God has been known to speak to people through some pretty odd venues, but a couch? Before you worry about me, this was not a burning bush experience. I did not actually hear a voice coming from my couch, so no need to call an intervention for me. God did, however, choose to use a very ordinary circumstance to teach me an extraordinary lesson. I’m beginning to see a pattern in how He chooses to speak to me. First overflowing toilets (story for a different day), and now a couch. I love that He visits me in the ordinary. It’s a very humbling experience.

Sectional sofaI received a call that a friend had their sectional couch for sell. I was very excited because I had been wanting a new couch for some time now. There was nothing necessarily wrong with my old couch, other than the fact that it was terribly uncomfortable and I am sure belonged in the clouds above a beanstalk somewhere. I jumped at the chance and brought this new sectional couch home.  My dream came true, only to find that the couch did not fit just right. You see, it sticks out just a little in the doorway that leads into the playroom. Not a big deal to most, but to me, Mrs. OCD, it created a small problem. A problem apparently big enough to wake me up at 2 am wondering if I had made the right choice. (For this I just may need an intervention…)

I awoke to go clean and sit in my living room looking at my new space. It was a change that would take some time to get use to. I found myself wanting my old couch back, the one I had grown to dislike strongly. Why would I want that old couch back when I had received such a wonderful blessing? That is when I heard Him speak. Very gently He said,

“Are you really going to discount this blessing because you are focusing on one small flaw?… Daughter, you need a new perspective.”

That is when I noticed from where I was standing, you could not even tell the couch was too big. This is where lesson #1 from my couch was found:

#1. Don’t miss out on a blessing because you are focusing on a negative in life.

The Lord did not stop there. He was not through with this lesson just yet. The next lesson was a little harder to swallow. Oh how I love that He loves me enough to be gentle! His next words of wisdom,

“You have two beautiful, healthy children and your up in the early morning worrying about… a couch?”

Ouch. Yes Lord, I admit, I am being very petty right now. Why am I striving for perfection when I have so many blessings in my life? This is where lesson #2 from my couch was found:

#2. Count your blessings and you will always find something to be exceedingly happy about.

I kissed my children and went back to bed laughing at myself and loving my heavenly Father.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 
                                                                                                                                                          – 1 Kings 19:11-12

Today: Don’t miss out on the gentle whisper of your Father. What is it He is trying to teach you?

Fear is not the weakness you may think it is

by Erica Pearson, ericalovesbooks@gmail.com

Why do we as Christians not allow one another to feel fear?  On more than one occasion I have seen the chance to encourage one another with God’s Word be turned into a belittling session in God’s name over the issue of – FEAR.  I’ve even been personally chastised over not having “enough faith” in God when I chose to be transparent and admit I was fearful or anxious about certain situations.

head in hands

These experiences have caused me to ask the question, “What is it that causes us to be real with God about every emotion besides fear?”  We seem to believe that within each of us is some kind of “faith meter”.  As if we could determine where someone stands with God based on how they are feeling.  In my own experience, if I ever mention being fearful of a certain situation, my “meter” is assumed to be on empty.

Nothing could be farther from the truth!  It is in those moments of fear and doubt that I am clinging to the Cross. It is my faith in God that causes me to look up and ask Him for help. My human emotions may fail me, but my faith in God never waivers. I take comfort in the fact there are several examples in scripture of Christ followers who felt fear, my favorite example being Peter. Peter stepped bravely out of the boat only to be overcome with fear at the sight of the crashing waves. Did he somehow, at that moment, lose all faith in God and give up? No! In fact, I believe it was his faith that caused him to quickly look back up at the one who could save him and take the extended hand of His Lord. If he had somehow lost his faith due to fear, we would read of Jesus having to pick up a flailing, panicked Peter out of the water. Based on my personal experience here is what I have come to personally believe about the emotion we call fear:

Fear is not the absence of faith; it is the human emotion that takes us to the throne room of God.

Without fear, I would feel invincible. Without fear, I would not seek God. Without fear, I would blindly believe I was in control. I am learning not to feel like a failure when I feel fear or anxiety. I know that fear is a thorn in my flesh. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord to take it away, only to find the same response Paul received when he begged to have a similar thorn taken from his flesh: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Therefore I can also say, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses (fears), so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

What are you struggling with today? Are you afraid if you share your struggles, your faith will be seen as lacking? Be encouraged. God’s Word says we are to share one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Let’s get real and begin to help one another through the various storms of life. Don’t hesitate another moment to find a friend and take your burdens to the throne room, knowing He is anxiously waiting to meet you there.

Uncomfortable truths and useless servants

by Trey Campbell, treycampbell1010@gmail.com

Often, I’ll hear something I have to write down because it’s just that good.

This happened last year.  Actually, it happens all the time.  But in this particular instance, it was April of last year.  A particular phrase from a sermon by David Layne at The Bridge Fellowship in Lebanon, Tennessee made an impact on me.  He said:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for God’s people to do nothing.”

Wow!

There’s some wisdom in those 16 words!  When Christians are complacent, evil is allowed to run rampant and invade us like the flu bug.  Our defenses are down and our immune system is low.  The worst of it is that it’s something we choose.  In a book I’m writing and hope to publish one day soon (ATTENTION: This is a first sneak-peek!), I briefly discuss our noncommittal attitudes and actions when it comes to our Christianity and whether we are answering God’s call for our lives.  I call this an “uncomfortable truth.” (This particular one is #4 of 5).

You see, intention without action is useless.  Sometimes our best intentions don’t add up to acceptable results.  A term used in the Bible for this is “useless servant.”

three servantsIf you recall the parable of the three servants, you may see where I’m going here.  In Matthew 25:14-30, we learn about the three servants who were entrusted with their master’s talents while he was away on a trip.  Each servant received different amounts as related to the scope of their abilities.  Two of the three invested the talents and worked to increase them, garnering positive results.  The third buried the talents keeping them safe, but not multiplying them.  When the master came back, he surveyed the results, praising the two servants who built further wealth and gave them additional responsibilities.  The third servant, well, he was not so lucky.  He was described as a useless servant (Matt. 25:30 NLT).

Is this not what we are when we commit to God by intention only?  We are often no different than the third servant.  He was a partial, useless servant.  Our attitudes and actions need to reflect our commitments and beliefs.  We can have the best intentions to do right by God and others, but unless we act, we allow the enemy to prevail.  We need to be all-in!  If we are a useless servant, we make it easy for evil to triumph because we are doing little to nothing to overcome it. Basking in the complacency of our Christianity falls way short of our spiritual potential.  God asks more of us and, quite frankly, we should be delivering.  And to be honest, I personally have some work to do.

Time for a little self-audit: Do you find a little bit of the third servant in you?   In what ways? (Challenge: Anyone brave enough to leave a comment specific to your own challenges in this area?)