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"God, Today I'm Ready for You to Blow My Socks Off!"

Made in the Image of God

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?  How does this fact affect the way we work in our chosen vocations? As a pregnancy center director I see daily evidence of how not understanding our worth in God’s eyes tends to put people on the path to destructive habits and decisions in their lives.  It is part of my job to make sure that this trend is reversed in the lives of my clients.

One of the most amazing parts of my job is seeing the outcome of a pregnancy that God ordained.  This is equally true of out of wedlock pregnancies as it is for those that happen inside a marriage.  The trick is as a Christian to not condone the sin of sex outside of marriage while still celebrating a baby that was formed in the image of God.  In Genesis 1:26-27 we read “Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Nowhere in these verses do we see that God only created those who were born inside a legal marriage as being made in His image. Why do we see so many pregnancies outside of marriage?  Might I suggest that it is because people do not understand what it means to be made in God’s image?  Sadly, most of the clients I see do not believe in God at all.  They are blinded to this amazing truth.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139:13-16  “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” What a powerful truth this is.  God has put His master craftsmanship into each and every one of us. 

The real work of my ministry surprisingly, is to show our precious clients their worth to God.  I love to quote Jeremiah 29:11 where it states “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” My clients don’t feel they have much hope or any real future much of the time.  This is a sad fact for me to deal with.  

My very vocation was given to me by God.  On paper I’m not a good hire for an executive director of a pregnancy center.  I have not yet earned a college degree and I do not have any leadership positions in my work background.  I did not even want to apply for this job.  I knew I was under qualified and was unwilling to put myself in a position to fail.  I believe because of this, God would not let me sleep during this period of my life.  Sleep deprivation is not something I enjoy.  He made me toss and turn as I considered what applying to this job would mean for my life.  My husband was also after me to not be a “Jonah”.  I did not appreciate the tag team between God and my husband.  Long story short, I applied knowing full well I would not get the job.  The joke was on me.  Two and a half years later I’m still questioning this outcome.  The most amazing thing is that I know I was made for this purpose.  The knowledge that God brought me to this position and He plans to see me through it gives me great hope.  That is the kind of hope I want to offer my clients.  Another quote I like from the Bible is “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong" 1 Corinthians 1:27.  I may be wrong, but I believe this verse to be about people like me. On paper I don’t look good, but to God I’m chosen and made for a great purpose.  This is a truth that could set many, if not all, of my clients free if they could just believe it and move forward in the truth of what God has made them to be.

As a Christian I know there is no question that I’m made in the image of God.  The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states, “The Bible answers the question of the nature of humanity by pointing to the imago Dei.  That humanity by creation uniquely bears the image of God is a fundamental biblical doctrine”.  We know this to be true.  This is also a truth that I can impart in my vocation.   My prayer is that God will let me see the fruit of this when I can see clients come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and to see Him bring healing and change in their lives. That would be the most amazing outcome of this God-given vocation.
Julie
 
 

Condemnation or Love?

For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  John 3:17Recently I have been reading different articles about how we as Christians treat people who find themselves caught in sinful situations.  I find myself wondering, “How should we react?” How Jesus would react may be the better question.  Today I will be writing on one specific instance I have been reading a lot about lately - out of wedlock pregnancies.

I think, as Christians, we judge sins more harshly if they present themselves in a physical way.  I’m speaking specifically about pregnancy outside of marriage.  Now, before I get into this,I want to make sure everyone understands thatI do not see having sex outside of marriage as being a good choice.  There is a great reason God asks us to wait until marriage to have sex, and I believe that those who have not waited have reaped some painful consequences for not waiting.  God’s rules are for the protection of His children are not to limit our free will.  My problem is, when we judge a pregnant woman who is not married, we do so because we see the consequences of her actions in the outward appearance of her expanding belly.  Do we have the same standard for those who are having sexual relations outside of marriage but haven’t become pregnant?  My next question is “Is the child the sin or is the sex act?” Here is where we take a newly beginning innocent life, a life ordained by God, and we add a penalty for the parent’s sin on to them.
 
How many women who are identifying as Christian or churched are having abortions?  According to the Orlando’s Women’s Center who is an abortion provider “Women who obtain abortions represent every religious affiliation. 43% of women obtaining abortion identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% as Catholic; and 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians.”  How is this possible? Growing up in a protestant church, I was taught from a very early age that abortion is wrong.  I also know the Catholic Church believes that life begins at conception and that it should be protected.  Where is the disconnect in our churches?  Can I suggest that maybe it is our attitudes towards unwed pregnancy that may help those who attend our churches choose to have an abortion?  Have Christian parents opted for their child to have abortion so their family name would not be tainted?  Have girls aborted their child because they feared their parent’s reactions more than the consequences that come from having an abortion?

Should we then celebrate pregnancies outside of wedlock?  No, but how about we celebrate a child who God has created in that precious mother’s womb?  Can’t we support our moms without condoning the actual sin?  Jesus loves sinners (that is all of us) without condoning the sins we all have in our lives.  If He who is holy and hates sin can do it, shouldn’t we who identify ourselves in Him do the same?

My challenge to all of us today is to take an honest look at ourselves.  We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are called to love the least among us.  I believe these are the innocents who are in the womb. Could we stop assessing a sin penalty to them?  It is for God to judge.

Let’s change the abortion culture by starting in our own churches and homes.  We can be a beacon of light for life to our culture.

Julie

A Bad Case of the Grumblies


This is Aaron, our first grandchild.  He's modeling his GRUMPY face in this picture. He's the BEST grandchild in the world!  He's only 7 weeks old, but he already knows how to "grumble".
  
Whether Grumpy or Happy this little man-child has been a joy since the day that his Grandma and Papa laid eyes on him.

*********************
So who out there has those days (weeks, months, or years) when you are in a season of grumbling? I have had many seasons of grumbling.  I find myself grumbling about politics, people, my church, my children, finances, and the general state of the world.  I realize it hurts me to maintain this state of mind. How do we snap out of this? It can only happen through praying for a better attitude, reading our bibles, having a true love for others, deepening our faith walk, and the willingness to actually keep working on it.

When we pray for a better attitude we need to be prepared to actually do what is required for that to happen.  I don’t believe God waves a magic wand and fixes us as soon as this prayer hits His ears.  We need to work on the betterment of our attitude.  I need to push myself to think positive.  I’m a natural born pessimist so this poses a challenge for me.  I have the horrible ability to think about everything that could ever possibly go wrong and picture it too.  I always watch people who are optimistic with a mix of amazement and unbelief.   I find myself wanting to be able to look at things as they do.  I know that the things that are happening in the world right now are pretty bad, but I can trust in the fact that God is in control.  If I can keep my mind centered on this fact I see my attitude getting better and my life reflects that.
 
Reading our bibles is a must.  We will never be caught unawares if we do this.  Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.”  I believe this verse is telling us that everything we experience in this world has been experienced before in history.  There is no new sin or scheme of man.  I get fired up when I see terrible injustices happening in the world and I can’t fathom they are even possible.  God says these things have been around since the first sin happened in the garden.  He is not shocked at the lengths people will go to in pursuit of their own agendas. Neither should I be shocked.  This does not mean we simply accept these things, but we shouldn’t get blown out of the water by them either.  God is in control and we can trust in that fact.  

We need to live a life that is pleasing to Christ, pray for each other, and be a light in the darkness that surrounds us.  As we respond to God’s word it will deepen our faith.  If we keep working on this our walk will match our talk.  There is no better way to be a light in the world.

How can we have a true love for others? This one is not as easy as it sounds.  Truly loving someone demands sacrifice.  This sacrifice includes giving our time in prayer for those we don’t care for.  I really struggle here. It is easier to back bite people than to lovingly confront and pray for those who push our buttons.  The Holy Spirit is great at letting me feel disgusted with myself when I indulge in a good gripe session.  We are never going to like everyone we come in contact with but we can love everyone with work and determination.  Love is most certainly a choice.

I find life is much more enjoyable when I’ve chosen to not indulge in grumbling.  What a relief it is to feel free from that heavy weight.  I have to work daily to keep from going back to this habit.  It is amazing to me that the Savior loves me enough to give me do-overs. He sees something in each of us that is way beyond where we are currently situated.  We truly are works in progress.  He is perfecting us for the glorious day when we finally meet Him face to face.  I’m eagerly anticipating that day! 
Julie



Thoughts From The Soapbox


I have been thinking a lot about the state of our country lately.  I find myself a little down every time I watch the news.  It seems like the values I hold dearest as a Christian are disappearing in our nation only to be replaced by an “anything goes” mentality.  As I have thought on this God has been revealing to me a different viewpoint.  He has done this through my reading of my Bible, my pastor’s teachings, my children, my co-workers, as well as many other ways.  Imagine taking the government out of the picture and just concentrating on what God wants us to do as Christians.  He has revealed in the Bible what that should look like. What does He want from His church? What is His church? How are we to live a moral life in an immoral setting? This blog will explore what I believe God is revealing to His people and how we are called to listen and obey.

What does God want from His church?  He wants us to have a love of God above all else first, and then loving our neighbor more than ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments.  It sounds simple enough but it isn’t being done.  Loving God above all else means just that.  We are to love Him more than ourselves, our spouses, our money, our cars, our houses, our children, and everything else.  When we don’t look like a follower of Christ it takes away our testimony with others who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.  What stands out to our neighbors that would make them want what we have?  Who are our neighbors? The whole world is our neighborhood.  Our enemies are also our neighbors.  We are called to look out for each other.  God especially calls us to remember the widows and orphans among us. There should be no hungry children in our neighborhoods (the whole world).  There should be no person out there who feels hopeless and alone.  We as the church are called to reach out in love to the hurting.  He has blessed America abundantly with resources.  Why would we not turn around and use them to give a hand up to those who are not as fortunate?

So how are Christians supposed to live during these times?  We can find the answer in the Bible. 2 Peter 3:17-18 tells us You therefore Beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”  The times we’re living in are not a surprise to God.  We can read this in His word the Bible.  We are instructed to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We are to remain grounded in the principles we learn when reading our Bibles.  We have to read the Word in order to know these principles.  When we don’t know the Word we react to the world.  Let’s try not reacting and instead follow the commandments that the Bible laid out for us.  How different would the world be if Christians did this? We would stand out.  People would see the difference not only in our words but also in deeds. I believe whole heartedly that this would bring about change in many people.  This needs to happen no matter what the times are bringing about for Christians.  This is an exciting time for Christians because I believe God is using all this adversity to raise His church up.  He is calling us to what He originally wanted His people, the church to look like. Just read about the New Testament church to understand what God’s blueprint is for His church today. 

I will end my soapbox thoughts today with this verse from James 1:19-22:   “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
Julie










The Lesson of Fake Nails


Have you ever done something to hide something you don’t like in your life?  I have many times.  Most recently I went and had acrylic nails put on right before our spring banquet.  These covered up my less than stellar real nails but there is more to the story. This blog covers the lesson I learned from having fake nails.

My finger nails have never been something I wanted to showcase.  I have very brittle nails that crack and peel.  I’m also a nail biter from way back so they tend to be pretty short. My nails are something I like to keep out of eyesight of most people.  Right before New Life’s spring banquet I decided to remedy my problem with acrylic nails.  I was pretty impressed by how they turned out.  They were long and done in a French manicure.  It felt “out of this world” to look so glam.  They served their purpose for the evening and life went on.
 
As I went about my life and my work duties I started realizing I had a problem with these nails.  I no longer had the use of my fingertips.  I couldn’t pick up anything off the floor, a table, my desk, or anywhere for that matter.  I also had trouble using my phone.  I really started hating my fancy nails. I made the decision to get them off and headed to the nail salon.  Relief was finally in sight.

As the nail tech started working on my nail I thought about my daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have my nails look good for that? I had the tech fill in where my nails had grown and file them down shorter to give me control of my fingertips again.  My nails looked great for the wedding. I was really happy until I realized that I still didn’t have the full use of my fingertips and again I wanted them off. 

Once again I find myself at the nail salon.  The nail tech cuts the acrylics down and proceeds to remove them from my nails.  It was a slightly uncomfortable experience but I made it through because I knew relief was in reach.  The nail tech asked me if I wanted new acrylic nails. I answered “no”.  He said I would feel naked without them, to which I answered “I will feel normal without them”. He filed my real nails a little, put a little clear coat on them, and he sent me on my way.

I was happy for just a short time after I left the salon.  I now had fingertips again and my life would return to normal.  Not so much.  What I had was razor sharp, chipped, grooved, and weak nails.  I couldn’t wait to get home to file them down and apply some nail polish to them.  I did this but I could not achieve very good results because my real nails were now damaged.


So what is the point of this story?  Never try to disguise or cover up 
something you find lacking with yourself.  The real problem is still there lurking underneath.  By trying to cover my problem up I made it worse.  I now have scarred nails that will take quite some time to heal.  

This is true of my life also.  Anytime I have tried to be someone I was not, it left me scarred.  It took a lot of time, energy, and prayer to heal from these missteps in my life.  It took a kind of silly life experience to remind me to live the best I can as the person God created me to be.
Julie

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