it’s not just semantics :)

I lead a small group at my church for “young ladies” – most of them are women aged 19-29, a few maybe older, a few maybe younger.  In between curriculums, we occasionally like to watch sermons on video, and we have a few favorite speakers that I keep “on hand”.

In one of our favorite in-between-curriculum-sermon DVDs, the speaker mentioned a certain “roadblock” or “hindrance” several times.  It wasn’t even the point of the message, but it seemed that she kept on saying it, using it as an example, mentioning it in passing on the way to the real point…. I’m going to skip naming “it” here. I don’t want you to get “hung up” on an issue and miss the forest for the tree.  Just “fill in the blank” yourself today – what hindrance to Christian growth comes to mind right now for you?  (Is it alcohol? Pre-marital sex? Coarse language? Fill-In-The-Blank?) Got “it” in your mind? Okay, then – that’s the one.

When the video came to a close, I brought “it” up. An issue that touched all of us in that room in some way, an issue that one probably wishes to avoid in the presence of the pastor’s wife, but I jumped in anyway.  Usually, its best to “tell the truth and shame the devil”.   One of these ladies had an insight/wisdom to share: she said that if you have to JUSTIFY an action or behavior, it is most likely an indication that you are being convicted of it in your spirit. How true, and it applies to everything we do. The Holy Spirit is a gift, and we need to follow His guidance and seek His guidance in all things.  However, like a fly gets caught in the spider’s web, we can get caught up in “words” and “perceptions” and “semantics” and become stuck.  Let’s clarify a few important distinctions to be made as we navigate through life, avoiding as many hindrances, pitfalls, roadblocks as we can:

JUSTIFICATION comes from our sinful self nature I’m not talking about the justification of sin by grace – I’m talking about the homophone justification, where we justify our own sin.  Where we tell ourselves that “it isn’t SO bad”, “it could be worse” or we make ourselves feel better by comparing ourselves to others (“I might have done THIS, but at least I didn’t do THAT”).  Truth is the only measure – the only comparing we should be doing is ourselves to the Word of God.  If you find yourself justifying your actions like this, that should be a red flag letting you know that something is not right.  Backtrack your steps.  Go to the Bible.  Don’t be afraid to tell the Lord that you messed up (He already knows). Don’t be afraid to tell the people around you (the ones who are watching you as their example, the ones who may be hurt by your actions) that you messed up.  Don’t stop at the words – turn around, repent, and get on with the business of being better.

CONDEMNATION comes from our enemy the devil Romans 8:1-2 teaches us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (NKJV). Condemnation is when an adverse or unfavorable judgement has been passed on you.  Condemnation is what you feel when you make a mistake, commit a sin, and the enemy of your soul (the devil) is right there to tell you: “you aren’t worthy, you aren’t lovable, you are bad”.  The devil wants you ashamed.  The devil wants you to hide.  The devil wants you to keep secrets.  He wants to condemn you and block your view of your Heavenly Father, who is standing arms wide open ready to love us in spite of our shortcomings.

CONVICTION comes from the Holy Spirit and is meant to gently guide us back to truth and transparency Hebrews 12:6-11 states, “My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God” (MSG).  While you feel the conviction, take every opportunity to feel the LOVE of God! If He didn’t love you, He wouldn’t care whether you were involved in sin or not. If He didn’t love you, He would leave you to your own devices.  When you feel convicted, feel deeply LOVED by the ultimate parent, who would rather you go through a moment of discomfort than an eternity of separation from the truth and the protection He offers.

WISE JUDGEMENT is an ability to see rightly and still operate in the love of Christ The word “judgement” has almost become a four-letter word in Christian circles as much is it in “worldly” circles. No one wants to be called “judgmental”, and we might even avoid telling the truth just to avoid being called “judgmental”.  Get over it!  The ability to judge rightly is a gift.  Determining a person’s worthiness by what you judge is being judgmental. Please appreciate the difference. Zechariah 8:16 states, “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates”.  Do not allow the fear of being called “judgmental” keep you from speaking the truth in love to yourself and to those around you.  Do not let the fear of being “judged” keep you from receiving truth from the Bible and from godly people around you.

Refuse to be distracted by condemnation (that’s from the enemy – reject it).  Refuse to be distracted by a wrong view of conviction/correction (that’s from the Lord – welcome it). Refuse to be distracted by a misunderstanding of judgement (it IS okay for one to recognize right and wrong.  It is NOT okay for one to determine a person’s value based on their behavior)

The word of God is a “light to our feet and lamp to our path”(Psalm 119:105). The ability to apply it correctly and continue to grow in grace is a TREASURE, though it doesn’t always come easily.  Praying that you recognize the Light and continue to press forward!

❤ Jennifer

pay no attention to that man behind the curtain :)


Well, that’s how I wanted it to be this morning as I sat in my usual spot in the front row. Pastor’s wife, full of faith and confidence and spiritual example to the congregation…. and bawling her eyes out throughout the entire service.  To be honest, I’ve felt it off and on all week.  One minute, I’m strong and “it’s going to be fine” and “God’s grace  is sufficient” and “the Lord is my refuge” and all the right confessions of faith.  Projecting the “right image”. The next minute, I’m a puddle and I’m crying and I’m heartbroken for what was lost.  As much as I know the Lord is able to restore and rebuild and heal, I know that His faithfulness cannot be judged by my circumstances.  God is STILL faithful, ALWAYS faithful, no matter what I can see in the natural.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a green curtain to hide behind in my front row seat. So I cried, right out there in the open, in the front row, raw and exposed.

What happened this week?  Hurricane Irma.  All over our newly renovated-paid-in-cash children’s wing.

Oh y’all, trust me.  It’s SO MUCH WORSE than it looks, honestly.  I know it just looks like a hole.  I know what you are thinking: “Put a tarp on it” (we did), “Hire a roofer” (we will), “don’t you have insurance?” (we do).  I’ll spare you all the details, partly because I just can’t form the words without crying so hard I can’t see the computer keyboard. It’s just worse.

I’m mourning today. I’m mourning the loss of that beautiful new room.  It cost us so much more than money.  It cost a year of our lives. Hard work, hard people, hard labor. Days I thought would nearly kill us.  Days were I learned from first hand experience that people actually do leave the church over the color of the carpet. Honest promise – before 2016, I thought those were just stories people made up, some kind of ridiculous exaggerations to distract us from the work.  Now I know – the struggle was real.  (We didn’t actually lose anyone, but it wasn’t because the devil didn’t try).

I’m mourning the loss of what my flesh counted as provision.  We raised the cash for that renovation.  New sound, new lighting, new computers, new furniture, new carpet, the best we could do and cash every step of the way. That felt good.  That felt like blessing.  It felt like the blessing of obedience. (Do you see this conversation going downhill?  I’ll continue so you don’t miss it….) It felt like security.  It felt like a reward. It felt like, “since y’all did this, the Lord will do this“.  That felt like sunshine.  That felt like winning.  It felt like getting ahead. It felt like being the “head and not the tail” (in my misguided way of translating Deut. 28:13 in this situation).

Really, it wasn’t ANY of those things.  You know what it was?  It was a building. It wasn’t the sole evidence of God’s faithfulness.

What I want is to connect all these symmetrical lines in my life, tying my world up in pretty finished bows.  I like a finished project. I like a beginning and an end.  I like feeling the ground beneath my feet. When something is unfinished or unexplain-able, it throws me off balance – but only for a minute.  Then I remember.

I remember heroes of faith from the Bible who struggled AND were blessed. I remember that one of Jesus’ promises was that we would have tribulation in this world (John 16:33) AND that we would never be left alone (John 14:18). I remember Habakkuk writing,

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18)

That’s not really the verse that I wanted to write today – it doesn’t exactly draw the line from tragedy to comfort in the way my flesh wants it to.  Want to know what the truth is? The truth is, God’s faithfulness cannot be measured by human’s standards. On my fantastic days, God is faithful.  On my terrible days, God is faithful. His character is not defined or determined by my feelings.  I did feel good when we finished that wing (because feeling good feels good) and I praised God for being faithful (because He is faithful).  Where I “went south” was connecting my fleeting good feelings to God’s consistent goodness.I’m not only reminded in this moment that God is good, I experience the ultimate comfort because I know that God never changes, even if my circumstances change.  I will JOY in the God of my salvation!

It’s true that I am a person of faith. When I’m projecting the right “pastor’s wife image” there in the front row, when I’m smiling and my mascara is on my lashes (and not running in hot streaks down my cheeks), I’m operating in faith and trust in the Lord.  The congregation can look my direction and feel good that all is right with the world because I’m smiling at the right times and I’m allowing a few tears at the right times (oh the pressure).

It’s also true that I am a PERSON. When I am bawling out crying and I look like I just lost my best friend, I’m STILL OPERATING IN FAITH AND TRUST IN THE LORD. Mercifully, there are dear ones in our congregation (God bless them!) who get their confidence from the Lord. They realize that even though I’m the pastor’s wife, I’m still a fellow pilgrim on the journey forward.  These dear people know that even when I’m not projecting the right “pastor’s wife image”.  They know I can be sad AND full of faith all at the same time.

It’s such a relief to be able to be understood when I say, “I KNOW it’s only stuff. I KNOW that God will restore. It’s just that I liked that stuff and I didn’t want it to be destroyed by a hurricane”.  Some people understood – and when they hugged my neck, I could tell they felt just the same way.

This is one of my favorite psalms, and it seems to fit just right here:

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion” (84:5-7)

Passing through the valleys, being refreshed by the rain and scorched by the sun and moving forward in spite of feelings….. I might make it with the occasional mascara streak and I’ll definitely make it with smile wrinkles too, but I’m gonna make it.  We all will.

Standing on the promises of God – and I mean ALL of the promises, not just the ones that make my flesh feel good – is a treasure.  God is good, whatever your circumstances.  Praying you find a reason to praise our amazingly kind and constant Heavenly Father – even if it’s a “in spite of” praise – today

Jennifer ❤