Back to Basics: Coveting

In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.

Back to Basics: Coveting

In the early 80’s, as part of a diversity program, the Denver Independent School District bused kids from the suburbs of South Denver to urban North Denver for K-3rd grade, and reversed the route during 4th-6th grades.

After a couple years of watching buses load and unload South Denver kids in front our aged, red-bricked schoolhouse, it was time for me to get on the bus and head south to a modern school building for 4th grade.

For a kid traveling south on I-25 back in those days, it was a treat to see the mountains to the west each morning. That part of Denver belonged to everybody. But as we crossed over the Platte River, the contrast was clear.

We were in the land of the new, two-story houses with the neat lawns and the nicer cars. As the bus squealed into the school parking lot, you could see moms and dads walking kids to the entrance. There weren’t any liquor stores within walking distance. No gang graffiti was in sight. All looked good.

This was my first real look at life on the other side, and as I rode the bus each week, I began to covet that life.

From what I knew, coveting was a bad thing mentioned in the 10 Commandments and responsible for bringing banishment to Cain, trouble to Jacob, and heartbreak to King David. I didn’t want to covet, but as a kid, I didn’t know what to do with it.

I’d find that even though I’d move to a decent Texas suburb, attend college and get a good job upon graduating, coveting never took a vacation.

Unfortunately, it never will.

Type A Christianity

Type A Christianity

We all have our thorns, right? Some are more obvious than others. Some lead to tougher earthly circumstances than others. Some feel debilitating while some are just plain annoying. Nevertheless, they are unwelcome interruptions that hold the potential of affecting our relationship with the Lord and with those around us.

And one of the very unfortunate tendencies among believers is to play the comparison game, and I am just as guilty as the next guy. It happens in a number of ways, but I would like to focus on one particular avenue the enemy takes in order to cripple Christians when it comes to comparing our thorns.

Who can relate to this scenario?

You’re sitting in a Bible study, church service, or even a big worship event. The speaker or facilitator starts to share what they’re setting up as a deep, dark secret or huge confession. They proceed to spill the beans on this devastating stronghold they just HAD to get off their chest and you’re left sitting there dumbfounded thinking, “Seriously? That’s it? That’s the big, ugly, dark sin you’ve been carrying?”

Please tell me I’m not the only one with both hands in the air right now?

But it’s true, right? It feels a little bit like when a spoiled, rich kid starts complaining about having to settle for Gucci instead of Louboutin. “I mean, how do you even cope with life?”

So there you are, squirming in your seat because your wretchedness is glaring at you in the face harder than ever, and not just because you’re that much more aware of your “real” sin but because now you’ve also managed to trivialize the sin of another believer.

A Living Sacrifice

A Living Sacrifice

Followers of Christ are instructed in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

This is the only time in the Bible that the words living and sacrifice are used together. I’ve been a church-going, Bible-reading Christian for over 30 years now but only recently did these two words jump off the page at me in a way that awakened me to a fresh view of God’s grace and mercy.

What comes to mind when you hear or read the word sacrifice? For me, it’s death. Something must die, usually a pretty gruesome death, for a sacrifice to be complete and effective. When I study the Old Testament and all the sacrificial practices, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that we no longer have to go through the rituals they had to before Jesus. The smells, the sights, the sounds, all of it. I’m sure at a point the Israelites had grown almost numb to the process involved, but I can’t believe for one second that there wasn’t some level of emotional pain felt by those performing and watching the sacrifices take place. If for no other reason than they were keenly aware that this animal was brutally stripped of its life for their sake. That has to leave a mark.

Enter Jesus.

The man who left glory to come put up with humanity for a time – to walk in our shoes, breathe our air, break our bread, experience our joy, and endure our pain, only to be scorned, beaten, and killed. But His death and glorious resurrection turned the tables completely, didn’t it? It didn’t necessarily eradicate the need for sacrifices completely, but it did redefine what sacrifice would look like for the rest of time.

Hear me out.

Back to Basics: Murder and Anger

In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.

Back to Basics: Murder and Anger

When I was eight years old, I moved in with my grandparents in North Denver for a few years. They belonged to a cult that only believed in reading the Old Testament and it was my only view to the bible at the time. I knew the 10 Commandments said not to murder, but I didn’t find too much in the Old Testament about avoiding anger.

There were a lot of fights in our neighborhood. It seemed “an eye for an eye” was an agreed upon policy. I remember a few times where adults decided to duke it out in front of kids. Soon, I started getting in some fights. One incident at school resulted in me having to write 100 times “I will learn to control my anger” on loose-leaf paper in the principal’s office.

But, I didn’t learn.

I fought on the school bus. I fought while playing sports. I even fought in the very center of the street one time wearing my new Kangaroo sneakers and being encouraged to “kangaroo-kick” my opponent by crowd of neighborhood kids. Anger just seemed to have a place and our neighborhood offered a ready outlet.

That’s until I saw a fit of anger that would change the trajectory of my life. My grandfather asked me to bring in groceries from the car and for some reason I thought I could handle a large watermelon all by myself. It slipped out of my hands and hit the sidewalk.

From the look my grandfather gave me, I knew I was in trouble. He really loved watermelon and he also had a problem with alcohol. Though he had never hit me, I knew his temper had landed some blows on other family members. He started toward me and I took off running for several blocks until I reached a friend’s house. I called home to ask my grandmother if it was safe to come back. She assured me my grandfather had sobered up and wouldn’t murder me for not being able to carry large fruit.

After that incident, I reunited with my mother sooner than expected and landed in a Texas suburb where fighting and arguing in public didn’t seem so commonplace.

But that image of anger in that incident stayed with me. It was the first time I felt I was really in danger because of someone’s anger toward me and it gave me a glimpse of avoiding wrath by running to escape it.

Years later, when I met Jesus, I learned how he made it possible for us to avoid God’s wrath by not running from Him but to Him instead.

Motivation For Obedience

Motivation For Obedience

“BECAUSE I SAID SO!”

Four words that every parent has uttered, even though most of us probably vowed when we were young to never say them.

But as adults, we have a better understanding that there’s more to that phrase than can be heard by the ears of our children. I know that when I say those words to my boys, I am actually saying, “You need to obey what I’ve told you to do or not do because I know what’s good for you and I only have your best interest in mind. So just trust me when I instruct you. Believe that I will take care of you and protect you.”

But let’s face it, to a stubborn seven year old, that sounds like pure gibberish and does nothing to quench his desire for immediate gratification. And so we lean on that old crutch to get them to respond and hopefully obey.

Don’t you know our Heavenly Father gets a good chuckle every time he hears us use that phrase? Because we, like our stubborn children, are just as guilty of rebelling or avoiding obedience when it doesn’t scratch our itches. We obey quickly and easily when there’s something in it for us, but as soon as He asks us to do something that interrupts our agenda we hesitate, and sometimes even outright refuse.

A few months ago I found myself in a similar predicament that wound up having a profound effect on my understanding of obedience.

Parenting With Grace (For Yourself)

Parenting With Grace For Yourself

When I got married at the age of 27, Stephen and I knew it wouldn’t be terribly long before we would start our family. We knew we wanted two or three kids and we had no idea if getting pregnant would be easy or difficult for us. So with only about five or six months of marriage under our belts, we started trying. By God’s grace, after only a few months we found out we were expecting our first baby, and the following May our Bishop Anthony arrived. A perfect 7 lb. 11oz. bundle of pure joy. I remember just sitting and watching him sleep. At different times, Stephen and I would look at each other and say, “What did we ever do before he was here?”

Well fast forward nine and a half years and two little brothers later, and I can list for you about 364 things we used to do before he was here. Things like . . . go see a movie after church every Sunday, eat at a restaurant for under $25 and with almost no meltdowns, drive little cars with 2 doors and tiny gas tanks, and sleep uninterrupted ‘til 10:00am every Saturday. I wish I could say that there’s never a single moment that I wouldn’t give anything to go back to those days, but I’d be a liar. Because the bare-naked, raw, honest truth is that over the years we’ve moved from “What did we ever do before they were here?” to “Why did we have children again?” We are just in a really hard and trying season of parenting. I realize that every season of parenting has it’s own struggles, but for us right now, with energetic boys who are 9, 7, and 4, even the thought of going out in public with all 3 of them sends me into the fetal position. Just about every night I go to bed disappointed that I let another day go by without managing to control myself and my responses to the boys. And just about every morning I wake up praying that maybe this would be the day I don’t let them push me over the edge.

Right now we are wrapping up a three-week stretch of winter break from school. Their old school in Texas got out a week earlier than their new school here in Tennessee, which means their new school starts a week later than their old school. So for 21 solid days we have had zero structure and to make life crazier, we made the biggest move we’ve ever made in the middle of it. And I don’t know about you, but we are a family who thrives in structure and without it we sort of fall apart at the seams. Needless to say, Monday morning could not come fast enough for me . . . I mean, us.

Lately I’ve been going to the Lord and pleading for Him to show me how to be a better mother to these boys; to give me more patience as I deal with their defiance, more understanding as I mediate their arguments with one another, and more of a desire to enjoy them during this season. Something I felt Him say to my spirit is that I’m way too hard on myself. I’ve set my expectations for myself, and for the boys, way too high. I compare our family too often to other families. Then it hit me . . . I give myself zero grace so why on earth would I have any grace left to extend to our children? I strive every day to parent on my own strength, by my own standards, with my own expectations. Until I can get to a place where I’m willing to lay that down, nothing will change.