Sunday, July 1, 2018

Made for Love

I used to believe that Song of Songs was written solely for the purpose of describing two people who intensely loved one another. That it provided a sort of template for what we should expect within the intimacy of marriage.  And though I do believe that it demonstrates that kind of love, I also believe it shows something else as well.

Song of Songs is such a beautiful book and provides such imagery of what life and love can be within marriage, but as I’ve been reading lately, I’ve come to discover another image depicted in the words of this book.

Human love is beautiful but it will fall short. It will fail us. It will betray us and over time, if neglected will turn to ash.

Though Song of Songs speaks of the love shared between two people, it also gives us a glimpse into the way God loves us. It is with a great intensity and fierceness. It is a constant and sustainable love that never ends or gives up. And though the idea of sustained love can be used to describe human love, it is rare. But being those with human hearts, we long to be loved with such an intensity by another.

Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of Jesus and His bride. It speaks of God’s jealous, strong, fierce love for us. It describes a love that our souls long for but cannot be quenched by anything found in human relationships. This yearning is not one that can be satisfied by any other because we were created to love God and to be loved by God. He is our first love. He loved us before any other and His love will never end. And though we might not recognize His love is the love we are desperately seeking, once we discover it we are never the same ❤️

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

He is Able

For the past year Ephesians 3:20 has been a significant verse in my life and one that I have clung to as a reminder that God is able to do what we cannot on our own.

This morning is the first time I have ever read this passage in this translation (The Message). I love the way “extravagant dimensions” is used to describe the love of Christ. What a beautiful picture and reminder of what we can experience when we surrender our lives and walk in step with Him. He works gently within us and does more than we could ever dream possible when we surrender our lives to Him. What an amazing reminder and invitation to open the door and invite Him into our lives ❤️

“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it, not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Ephesians 3:16-20
The Message

“The scripture plainly teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a universal gift to all believers.… We must believe, therefore, that this unspeakable gift, which is meant to help us enter into the glorious realms of the Spirit now, is already
the possession of even the weakest and most failing child of God. It is true, whether we recognize His presence or not, whether we acknowledge and obey His control or not. He is within each of us.… The secret is that we must allow Him to take full possession. We are His sanctuary, His dwelling place, although we may not yet have opened every inward chamber of our hearts to let Him dwell therein … simply recognize the presence of God already within you, and fully submit to His ownership, and allow Him to control every circumstance.”

-Hannah Whitall Smith

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Edges of the Cross

Following Jesus means dying to the desires of the flesh every single day. It means total surrender. It means acknowledging the sacrifice Jesus made upon the cross and the power that His sacrifice holds. How do we avoid this idea of a pleasant religion? How do we refrain from putting our own selfish and sinful desires before His sacrifice? It is a spiritual battle that is fought daily with God’s word and the reminder of the cross....the ultimate weapon ❤️







“Consider Christ’s ultimate weapon—His death on the cross. To the onlookers at Golgotha that day, the cross looked like a defeat. They had no way of knowing that it was the mightiest weapon ever wielded, and it was in the hand of God. In his fantastic commentary on the gospel of John, J. C. Ryle wrote,

“The form of the cross is that of a sword with the point downward; above is the hilt toward heaven, as if in the hand of God; below is the point toward earth, as if thrust through the head of the old serpent the devil.”

In the same way, our weapons don’t look threatening to human eyes, but in the spiritual realm, they are recognized as mighty. We use confession, prayer, meditation, and community alongside silence, obedience, and gratitude. Scripture teaches us that we also use forgiveness, grace, love, and mercy. And perhaps that brings us to this point—the greatest of all, the Word of God itself.”

Sheila Walsh
In the Middle of the Mess

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Child of God

And a sermon shared by our pastor not too long ago,  he spoke about being a child of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What he had to say gave me much to process as clearly there is so much more to being a child of God.

My husband and I began a new Bible study on God‘s love and the lesson for the past couple days has been on the Holy Spirit. Being a child of God is so much more than a simple prayer. It’s a daily surrender to follow Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our life. But today’s lesson and the verses that follow really made an impact on the way in which I view my own walk and the way in which I need to take my head knowledge and allow it to absorb into my heart.

We can know a lot about God, the Bible and faith but that knowledge means nothing if we are not living out truth and walking in faith. Denying the Holy Spirit to live through us but instead attempting to live in our own strength will not get us very far. I have so much more to learn and so much more growing to do. I’m so thankful for the way in which the Holy Spirit continues to tenderly show me new things. So thankful for His unending mercies that are new every day.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

John 14:16-17

“But people who aren’t spiritual[a] can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

1 Corinthians 2:14

Friday, May 25, 2018

#Churchtoo

Ephesians 5:13 says, “but their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.”

For years I have been resting and trusting in this verse. For the past nine years, I’ve waited for the issue of spiritual abuse to be exposed. Especially spiritual abuse within the churches. 

For me, all of these issues with Paige Patterson have hit home. I experienced Spiritual abuse first hand by my home church which sits a little over 4 miles from the seminary. In fact, many of the staff members at that church had gone to Southeastern Seminary and several faculty members attended there as well. Not to mention the countless seminary students attending the church. 

The beliefs of Paige Patterson have truly helped me to understand more of what I went through and why. I sat under the leadership of men who had attended that seminary where the belief system was that women were inferior and that abuse was acceptable if it meant leading someone to Jesus. I sat under leadership that told me that I needed to submit more, pray more, read my Bible more, and have more sex because what was happening (the abuse) was my fault.  And because they were my leaders, I did exactly what they said. Even at the expense of feeling like a prostitute. A feeling that I shared with the leaders because I couldn’t understand why I was supposed to be intimate with someone who dishonored me in many ways. 

I was under the leadership of men who threw their weight around and used scripture to control me.  Men who instead of helping me, accused me of adultery because that was easier. Men who told me that God didn’t communicate with me because I didn’t go to seminary and because I was a woman. Men who stood in my home and yelled at my mother telling her to shut up when she tried to speak up at the pastor who was in my face yelling.  A leader who claimed that his yelling was a form of righteous anger making it okay.  Leaders who after threatening me with a letter of discipline if I did not do what they said then followed me to the new church I was attending to tell them that I was an adulterer and liar.  Leaders who told all of those in my circle that I was in a whirlpool of sin and they were no longer to associate with me.  Leaders who sent me a letter saying if I ever stepped foot on the church property again, the police would be called. (That in and of itself is a whole other story.)

I was abandoned, belittled, shamed, and tossed aside. I was made to feel like I had done something wrong. I had no support from the church that I had served in for almost 10 years. A church that I had given so much of my time to faithfully.  I was left feeling rejected and shamed and in the end, made the decision to leave the church altogether.  For me, if this is who God was, if He found the way I was being treated to be acceptable and He viewed me this way...as having no value or worth other than an instrument of leading somebody else to Jesus at the expense of my safety and health…then I didn’t want anything else to do with God or the church. 

Like many others, I have patiently waited for this day to come when God would expose the darkness hidden in so many churches. The darkness of pride. Men who find it necessary to demean women and use the gospel to do so. 

But again, all of this information that has come about regarding Paige Patterson has helped me to better understand the sinfulness of man. To understand why this happened to me and many others. It doesn’t make the hurt go away but it helps to validate the experience we each had and to know it wasn’t our fault. That these men believe these things. That God had given them some kind of priveledge that I was not granted. They were made to believe that God would never speak to me because I was a woman. Because I did not go to seminary. 

When I look back on it now it is completely ridiculous.  It’s completely ridiculous that I ever allowed a man to make me feel such rejection and shame. It’s ridiculous because now I understand scripture. Because now I understand truth. Because now, after living in the dark for so long under the teaching of men that have been taught wrong, God showed me the light.   Because now I know how Jesus viewed women. That Jesus chose the woman at the well to share with her whole town about who He was. That it was at Simon’s house where He praised the woman who sat at His feet and washed them with her tears. That he stood by the woman being accused of adultery and instead of accusing her, pointed the finger back at her accusers. Now I look back and feel sadness for these men because I understand the accountability that now falls upon their shoulders. 

Over the last few years God has revealed countless other women who were a part of that church who were treated the exact same way. I was not alone.  And there are moments when that leaves me feeling relieved because then I know I’m not alone however it creates so much sadness in my heart to think of the countless other women who have had to walk that road like I did.  Someday these men will be held accountable for the harm that they caused. That they had a responsibility as leaders, as godly leaders to defend and protect those being oppressed and instead chose not to.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not one to take revenge. I truly believe that vengeance belongs to God. And in many of my life situations I’ve done my best to react with grace and wait for God to right the wrong that has been done. I believe that time has come. And I believe that someday, if it hasn’t happened already, those men who hurt me and many others, will be held accountable for the choices they made and the way they used their power and scripture to abuse women.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you're honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord. 

                   Romans 12:17- 19


Disclaimer... This is not just an issue of Southern Baptist churches. Spiritual abuse occurs across multiple denominations from Episcopalian to Southern Baptist. Scripture is used continuously to bully and control individuals. It does not matter your denomination, your race, your gender or what translation of the Bible you use...I believe it occurs because of the sinfulness of man and the power of pride.