Tara’s Blog

“Unity is the irresistible witness of the church.” – Ken Sande of RelationalWisdom360

OK … I’m trying to give myself a little grace even though I’ve been quite a FAILURE at blogging “live” from this Peacemaking/Unity Conference …

But I have learned a thing or two:

1. It’s hard to blog a conference when you’re SPEAKING during every single workshop slot; and

2. It’s really hard to blog when you’re ASLEEP.

🙂 !!

That said … I did want you all to know that I am here and, even though I have received three extremely harsh criticisms amidst a SEA of gospel-infused love, encouragement, and care, all is well! God is helping me to learn from even the graceless criticism and to not fixate on the unkindness, judgment, and rejection that even professing “mature” Christians seem oh-so-comfortable pouring out on me.

Anyhoo!

The bulk of my teaching time is over (I have only one more workshop to do on Saturday)–so I’m hoping to POSSIBLY catch you up with lots of details before too long.

But let me tease you with just a few insights from Ken Sande’s wonderful opening plenary session Thursday night. With his typical humor, insight, and Christ-centered love, Ken reminded us:

– There is something remarkably different about the unity we have as Christians (the unity the Jesus talked about in John 17:20-23) because our unity it built around a PERSON, not a cause.

– That as Believers, we join together from every political party, class, ethnicity, race … men and women, little children … we all join together in a way that no other man in the world could unite us because we join together to WORSHIP CHRIST. This makes our unity unique when compared to people joining around a cause or political party or for any other reason.

– Unity can be defined as being “one in spirit and purpose by loving Jesus Christ and making Him known to others … while at the same time delighting in God-given diversity because we’re all moving in the same direction toward the same goal: to love Jesus Christ and make Him known.”

Ken then went on to remind us of five basic commitments to demonstrate unity (Ephesians 4:1-16):

1. A commitment to love Jesus Christ above all things and to sacrifice all of our mini-agendas for His sake (Eph. 4:1, 6). Love is the driving force; the gospel is the driving power-—the motivation and the model for peacemaking.

2. A commitment to develop Christ-like character, especially humility and submission. Eph 4:2-3, Phil 2:3-4. (No church that unilaterally “excommunicates / kicks out” a family or splits through a series of votes and lawsuits is known by humility and submission.)

3. A commitment to sound doctrine, which never sacrifices the truth, but always prioritizes it in a spirit of grace (Eph 4:4-6, 15; John 1:14). We have a tendency to move toward one side or the other (truth/harsh/inflexible; grace/truth doesn’t matter/let’s just get along). But we need both.

4. A commitment to respect and pursue God-given diversity and accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Eph 4:11-12, Rom. 12:3-8, 15:7).

5. A commitment to strive earnestly and prayerfully to pursue genuine peace and reconciliation, despite personal differences. Eph 4:3, 1 Cor. 10:10.

Ken reminded us that loving Jesus and making Him known is what is most important! And that love for Jesus unites us across denominational lines, gender lines, racial lines.

** Unity is the irresistible witness of the church. **

(And the flipside is true, too: Nothing damages the witness of a church like graceless judgment, self-protective threats, and abandoning of people at their greatest point of need.)

One closing example and then I must run …

Ken read a letter from a man in prison in Uganda who was three weeks away from being released. The man had just completed a peacemaking course in that prison and was hoping and planning to go to seminary upon his release. In his letter, he explained that he had recently had a conflict with his friend. These are his words …

“Instead of fighting, I went and asked him to forgive me. Again and again and again. Then I went to him with my elders. And finally—now we are reconciled. These are the ingredients and fruits of this course.

When I was arrested, I was frustrated and asked why me; why my family? I had planned to teach my accuser a lesson … to set his house ablaze and sit with a gun so no one could run out and survive–not even a rat. I praise God for this sentence so I could take this course.

God has cleansed my heart with His blood shed on the Cross 2000 years ago. By His grace, I have forgiven my accuser; I no longer hold my accuser in my prison. He will be amazed when he sees me kneeling before him next month when I am free—I will ask HIS forgiveness.”

Do you find those words convicting? Are you holding someone in the prison of your unforgiveness?

Do you find those words delightful because you know the joy and deep, abiding peace of what it feels like to be forgiven–really forgiven!–in this way?

Dear God–may I look at the 10,000 * 10,000 prison doors behind me–where You have released me from the prison I deserve for my lifetime of debts over and over and over again 

And in response, may I never hold anyone in prison again by unforgiveness, bitterness, gracelessness, judgment, rejection, abandonment, self-protection, lack of love.

Even the people who hurt me the most. Especially the Christians who hurt me the most.

May I never treat them the way they have treated me. Please, God, guard me from the bondage of the prison of unforgiveness and help me to treat even my enemies the way You treat me: with compassion, grace, slow to anger, abiding in love and faithfulness; maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin (see Exodus 34:6-7).

God’s blessings to you! Please be sure to explore the WEALTH of wisdom on Ken Sande’s new ministry website: RelationalWisdom360!

In Christ our Hope,
Tara B.

[A re-post from 2007 with Ken Sande’s new ministry links added]

If I Had Absolute Power, Would I Take Revenge? (In secret, of course …)

I recently heard an excellent sermon that I highly commend to you:

Joseph in Egypt, Not of Egypt

Of course, I’ve read Genesis 41 countless times. I’ve heard a great number of sermons and teachings about Joseph. And I’m a huge Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream fan. (What a blast! What a fun musical! Terrible biblical exegesis, but wonderful tunes. And Donny Osmund was fabulous in the 1990’s productions.)

But until this sermon, I never thought about the truth that when Pharoah appointed Joseph to his position and fitted him with fine linens, a robe, his signet ring, and the gold collar necklaces, Joseph went from absolute poverty and powerlessness to absolute wealth and power. And thus? Just think about the revenge he could have taken upon Potiphar’s wife and even Potiphar himself.

This is the point that I cannot stop thinking about. It reminds me of one of the little diagnostic tools I often use to help identify the heart idols of clients in a mediation, preschoolers on a playdate, or women at a retreat. I ask them what they would do if I could hand them over the “magic princess wand of all power” and they would suddenly be able to do anything or  force anyone to do anything … what would it be?

  • I would make that (professing) Christian businessman honor his contract and his word so that our family would not be bankrupted and homeless.
  • My elder would remember my name—more or less pray for and shepherd me.
  • We could go back in time and my husband would not visit prostitutes and lose his pastorate (our only way to make a livelihood) and devastate his teenage son, all of our friends, and of course, our marriage.
  • I would have just one friend in the church. Just one. I don’t need a bunch. But oh, how my heart longs for even just one woman who really gets me and enjoys me and lights up when she sees me. I’m so sick of being misunderstood and only tolerated.
  • She would let me play Elsa for once (!). I’m sick of being Anna.

What about you? If you could do anything or force anyone to do anything … what would it be? If something comes quickly to our minds, I wonder how much we have given ourselves over to jealousy. Envy. Covetousness. I wonder how much we deeply desire revenge—even if only in secret, so our wicked hearts wouldn’t be exposed.

Just this morning, I was reading in Galatians 5 and I was struck yet again by how easy it is for me to list the Fruit of the Spirit, but not the works of the flesh. (Can you list the works of the flesh without peeking? I couldn’t.) And also, just look at how many works of the flesh are related to relational damage often tied to competitive, covetous heart idols (I’ve highlighted them in bold):

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

As we read Galatians 5, it can be so easy to focus on the sexual sins (and we should! they are serious); but how often do we  fail to recognize the seriousness of our jealousy, rivalries, and envy. Especially when we are so incredibly rich! (We are. Some of us might not think we are, but that’s only because we have no idea what real poverty is. Today? I have no fear that my children will die of starvation. I have never had one day when I was afraid that I could not provide clean water, healthy food, shelter and clothing for my children. We have Bibles a plenty in this house and we have the freedom to gather and worship with the local church. Thus, I am rich. And I have no doubt that millions of mothers in the world would lay down their lives to be able to make similar statements. So everything else: books, toys, the opportunity to go to school, to serve my neighbor and help to rescue the orphan and slave—more or less computers and Internet access so I can read blogs by rambling mothers who are procrastinating a bit re: their Monday morning workouts? Well. See? I really am rich. And so are you.)

How do we use our riches and power? For mercy? Or vengeance? For God and others? Or for self?

The pastor in this sermon says that “it is easier to be faithful in the pit—in our suffering—than in power and pleasure.” In fact, he says that our greatest peril is actually the presence of power and pleasure in our lives. That satan doesn’t have to beat us and imprison us, he just gives us what we want so we are easily distracted by our pleasures. (We have full refrigerators and then we complain about what is in them. And we covet our neighbors stainless-steel fridge while despising our 1970’s white plastic—but still functioning—fridge.) We envy our neighbor’s education and career. And then we envy our neighbor’s husband and children. We compete over who has the nicest house and car, body shape and clothing; then we compete over who lives more simply and gives more away to the poor.

The pastor said that “Satan gets us to hell by popcorn and movies.” How true this is! We worship designer shoes, hip-coffee-house-brewery-evangelism, homeschooling (or public / classical / private / Christian schooling—just wanting to keep the peace there), being well read, successful, productive, simple, peaceful, grateful, efficient, effective, busy, contemplative. Then we group up with others who are just like us. And before you know it, we are given to pride, dissension, and strife. We judge. We hold grudges. We focus on this life and forget God. We are unforgiving and our lives are fruitless.

But not Joseph.

Even in the naming of his first two sons (not with Egyptian names, but Hebrew names), Joseph theologizes about the God who enables him to forget “all the troubles in his fathers house” (i.e., how his brothers hurt him). How easily Joseph could have given himself over to bitterness because of what he suffered at the hands of his brothers! Isn’t this exactly we are most vulnerable to lose our faith and hunker down into deep loneliness behind the towering emotional barriers we have constructed? When we are hurt by our brothers. Sisters. Mothers, fathers, fellow church members, church leaders. Our family lets us down and we respond by pulling back and keeping a list of wrongs.

But not Joseph.

Just as God’s forgiveness is expressed in the Old Testament as forgetting (Isaiah 43:25), Joesph “chooses to remember this sin no more.” He holds onto God’s promises and fixes his heart firmly in the disposition (position) of forgiveness towards his brothers. (Actual, transactional forgiveness and reconciliation would come later.)

How about you? Are you clinging to some hurt? Is a vine of bitterness strangling you? Strangling your faith? Remember the promises of God and forgive! Why? Because Christ has forgiven you and is on the throne.

Pharoah will fall. The person who has wronged you will one day die and either be held accountable for their transgression or be reconciled to you for all eternity because he or she is covered by the blood of Christ. There is nothing to be gained by being harsh, judgmental, unforgiving, and bitter in this life. Nothing. So let us turn today away from a life of whining, complaining, and discontentment. Let us forgive the hurts in our past ” just as in Christ we have been forgiven” (Colossians 3:13). Let us even repent of our hidden desires for vengeance—for that is the only real time we are repenting at all.)

Then, and only then, will we be like the name of Joseph’s second son: fruitful. The pastor in this sermon says that there really is no way for us to live a fruitful life if we are refusing to commemorate the works of God in our lives and refusing to forgive. Oh, that even this very day, we would remember. And obey.

With love from snowy Montana–

Your friend,
Tara B.

[a re-post from March 24, 2014]

Going to Church as a Family

Worshipers file into a sanctuary during a religious pilgrimage.

Loved this Challies link:

Ten Tips for Going to Church With Your Family

In our home, I try to always refer to Sunday as:

“It’s Sunday! The BEST day of the week!”

And from toddler stage on, I encourage our girls to RUN to our pastors and give them a big hug and say, “Hi, Pastor!”

We also try very hard to look around and find new people and (even though it’s not easy or comfortable for us introverts!), go up and introduce ourselves, get to know them, hopefully make them feel welcome.

We practice the creeds and confessions and Lord’s Prayer and doxology at home so often that even now (at two and a half), Ella can chime in with the congregation.

We work hard to take sermon notes and discuss the sermon over lunch. We say often:

“Worship is work.”

And it is. There is pleasure of course, too. But to attend to the entire 90 minute service and actually listen to God’s call to worship and actually confess sin and believe God’s forgiveness; to care about prayer requests and praises; to be fed through the Lord’s Supper; to seriously take our membership and baptismal vows? That’s a lot of work. Good work! But work nonetheless. We are not passive (like viewing a movie). We are engaged and active in response to the amazing truth that the God of the universe is engaged and active in our lives.

Oh. And we tithe and give offerings. Even now. Fifty cents of a five dollar allowance? To the church. 10% of birthday cash? To the church. Deacon Barthel and I say it to young people who seek out counsel and we try to teach it to our girls too:

“If you always tithe, you’ll never miss it.”

(Plus, then, of course, we strive to live simply enough to give far beyond the 10% tithe too.)

So … I hope you enjoy the article! And I hope you have a wonderful day of worship and rest this coming Sunday.

Blessings and joy,
Tara B.

[A re-post from May 30, 2012]

I had no hope because my eyes were on ME …

Last week*, Fred and I had one of the most disturbing — fights? difficult conversations? “opportunities”? future peacemaker seminar illustrations? — of our lives.

The — let’s just call it a fight — the fight itself was nothing new. Seriously — it was fight #24 or something in our marriage. But here is the truly frightening aspect of it …

Unlike most of our “challenges” (fight just sounds too strong), at the end, we usually reconcile rather quickly. We may be hurt, but we readily confess, forgive, and begin to move on. That didn’t happen last week.

In fact, I became extremely, extremely sad. I was grief-stricken. Overwhelmed. Disturbed in my spirit such that I jumped headfirst into an emotionally dark, lonely place that usually takes me a few days, weeks, or even months to dig into. Even now, while I am nowhere near the level of despair I experienced last week, my heart is still a little sad. Tender. Tentative.

If I had my preference I would only be with my Golden Retriever (70 lbs of love and acceptance–furry, but 100% sweet) and my safest friend.

Why why why?

If you’re thinking that I wanted to pull away from Fred “until he changed” (got his act together, stopped doing the offensive thing, started doing whatever I was hoping for) — you’re wrong.

Even in the midst of our “exchange” — I knew that I did not want to allow even righteous, good, “wifey” desires to become Monster Wants that demandingly rule me and put expectations and punishments on Fred. (Thank you James 4:1-3 and Corlette Sande’s The Young Peacemaker!)

No, I didn’t want to run away because of Fred — but because of me.

I had no hope because my eyes were on me.

I looked to the future and saw things only getting worse and worse and worse. Why? Because instead of speaking truth to the situation, living by faith, trusting in the Lord of All Creation, my heart was fixated on my own weakness, sin, fallenness, ugliness, “worthy-only-of-rejectedness-ness.”

To paraphrase my dear friend and pastor’s wife:

Of course you were despairing, Tara! When you focus on the situation, the other person, or yourself, you will ALWAYS despair!

True. True. So very, very true.

So where does that leave me? Us?

– Tentatively grateful — that though I am often faithless, He is ever faithful.
– Though I grieve — there is hope.
– Though father and mother reject me, the Lord, the Lord, the Compassionate and Gracious God will never reject me.
– Once I was lost, but now I’m found. (By Someone bigger and stronger than me.)

I can run and try to hide. But where can I flee from God’s presence? Impossible!
I can try to seek solace in a friend or in a Golden — but their love will never ultimately satisfy.

Instead, by faith, I can pray for the grace to believe on the Lord! To lay hold of His promises! To lay hold of Christ.

And, of course, to find that He is the One laying hold of me all along.

Epilogue
So what about Fred and me? We’re doing OK. Navigating an intense work time for Fred (new database and website for Fred at work – cool, but tremendously time consuming for Fred!). Gearing up for my busiest two months of travel (fun, but lots of details to coordinate). Enjoying a visit from relatives (but harder to sneak in emails and work stuff). Totally delighting in Sophia’s ever-growing vocabulary (‘Me-See!’ = ‘Please show me!’ and ‘Gee-Mee-Mee’ = ‘Good Morning’ and her big-sister-ness commands to our Golden, Choza: ‘Come!’ ‘Sit!’ ‘Settle!’)

And also continuing to prayerfully, thoughtfully work on some of those ‘husband-wife’ details and opportunities and areas for growth too. Specifically, I am starting to meet regularly with a godly, wonderful friend for accountability, counsel, and help. And Fred is working to set up an appointment with our pastor to do the same. Thank God for the Body of Christ! No lone rangers here.

PPS
Just so you don’t worry about us also having joy and even hilarity in our lives, check out our sweet Lilikoi—all set and ready for her first luau! 🙂

And all cozy and ready for our Montana weather …

* This is a re-post from August of 2005.

Growth in Grace Measured over YEARS …

Eleven years ago, a woman in my church quoted Peacemaking Women to me:

“Tara? People don’t need fixing, they need growing.
And growth is measured in terms of years, not projects.”

What a kind thing to say.
What a gracious way to live.

Six months later, this woman’s sister wrote me an email that was similarly kind:

“Tara? We all struggle. Sometimes we struggle with the same thing over and over again and it seems like we are not making progress. But herein lies the truth: God is at work. His will is to sanctify his children. And nothing can thwart God’s will.

God IS working in us, Tara – because He said He would, and He who began a good work in us will carry it to completion. Let us rejoice that we are HIS! Let’s go through life remembering that His GRACE is toward us. Let’s keep giving that grace to one another.

And all the while, let us constantly remind each other that God’s love for us does not depend on our performance.”

Oh, man. This is the truth.
This is our only hope.

Grace over TIME
Redemptive time.

GROWTH in grace for the long-haul.
Years.
Decades.

How grateful I am to be taught my ordained and lay leaders who understand these truths and live them out through faithful, patient love and care.

They confront me when I am blind to my sin, failures, and weaknesses.
They help me to repent when I inadvertently cause offense.

They keep no record of wrongs; but instead demonstrate how to “forgive just as in Christ we have been forgiven” (one of my pastor’s all-time favorite verses in Colossians).

Oh, how I pray that we will all keep helping each other to think, feel, and believe in line with the Truth of God’s Word—Who God is and all he has done for us in Christ.

Amen & Amen!
And many thanks to my redemptive, kind friends.

Gnite and God bless,
Tara B.

[A re-post from 2006]

Uncharitable Presumptions & Being Really, Really TIRED

Today would have been a very easy day to think some extremely uncharitable presumptions about me. I didn’t make it home from my event until midnight (which was around 1AM for my body because of the time zone differentials.

Getting ready for church felt like I was lifting arms and legs made of 300 pounds of concrete. But I did it—I was eager to be at corporate worship and happy to be together as a family. Still. If you were one of the 500 people past whom I walked without a cheerfully greeting? (I tried! Believe me, I tried! But it got to the point where a migraine started in and I could barely keep my body in an upright position, more or less make small talk.) … Well. It would’ve been very easy to think:

“Boy! That Tara sure is rude.”
“Gee. She didn’t even greet me. Guess she doesn’t like me very much.”
“Tara is a terrible church member! She never sacrifices for others. I bet she doesn’t care about me at all.”

When, in actuality, a charitable presumption, especially if you know what’s been happening in the last month of my life, might have sounded more like this:

“Man. Tara is FRIED. Maybe we should take the girls for them for a couple of hours so that they can just go home and get some REST.”

And that is exactly what our friends did.

Nice people, those church friends. Their lives are filled to overflowing too, and yet they grabbed Ella’s car seat and popped it into their car like it was nothin’. And then they lavished their love on our girls so that I could go home, climb into bed, and once the wave of utter exhaustion passed, actually TALK with Fred about everything that happened at the Fear Not retreat.

Grace grace grace. I am a blessed woman.

And I’m working REALLY hard to try to get back onto some semblance of a normal schedule—but normal in that, “going to be on East Coast Time again Thursday-Saturday” sort of way. Wow. It’s going to be great when this month is a happy, blessed memory.

I love doing what I do. Our family CHOSE to accept these opportunities to serve. But now, knowing what my 41-year-old body can handle, I don’t think we would pile three events (Europe, Midwest, East Coast) back to back to back again. Apparently, I’m just a little too weak to handle it all.)

But in my weakness, God is strong! And tomorrow is a domestic diva day—homeschooling, maybe a little cleaning, lots of cuddles and reading, and hey! I even have a plan for dinner. OK. FRED has a plan for dinner, but I’m going to execute it. (Notice I said execute IT, not execute PEOPLE with my lousy cooking. 🙂 This is a fail-safe-even-I-can-do-it breaded pork chop meal. Nummmy!)

Hope your Sabbath was restful—
And that a friend reached out with care and help, rather than criticism, distance, and lovelessness.

This life is hard enough! We dont need to be mean to each other along the way, too, do we?

Sending my care,
Tara B.

[A re-post from 2011]

Frank and Open Discussions About S*X

Years ago, a woman in our church and I have held Sunday morning “discussion times” with some of the teen and young adult women in our church. My co-teacher did an amazing job of summarizing and presenting all three years of the Susan Hunt curriculum for teens during our classes last year.

This summer, we wanted to go even deeper into concepts related to biblical womanhood, so I created handouts and homework each week around the following topics:

Women as Courageous Leaders (trusting God and using our gifts in the home, church, workplace, and community) with a specific focus on formal education money/debt, career, marriage goals / infertility issues. Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism. Feminism vs. Radical Feminism.

Covenant Relationships Among Women in the Church (Titus 2 / spiritual mothering / and how relationships often really are / biblical peacemaking/slippery slope; sarcasm/gossip; inclusion/peer pressure)

E-Living: Online Life and Long-Distance E-Relationships (what is wise and appropriate re: Facebook, Twitter, relationships via cell-phone/texting/email etc.)

Duplicitous Living (acting like a Christian in certain situations but not others). End with a vision of united living / consistency in private and public living.

Romantic Relationships / the Power of Eros (and the greater power of the gospel re: purity of thought and action)

That last topic was so important that we added an evening session at a private home to continue the discussion and WOW. I was simply amazed at how God gave us the courage to talk openly about really personal, sometimes embarrassing, but extremely important things related to s*x.

Oh! Did we laugh. And Oh! Were there quiet moments of slightly awkward silences after I had broached certain topics (often with a cautionary example from my covered-by-grace-but-still-to-be-avoided choices as a young woman).

I was praying hard as I drove home from our time together. I was so happy! And SO exhausted. My prayers went something like this:

I pray that these dear young women KNOW that they are not alone in thinking certain thoughts and struggling with certain temptations. I pray that they always remember that they can talk with me or another adult about ANYTHING. At ANY time. And we will love them; love love LOVE them; and pray for them and cheer them on and comfort them.

And most of all, I PRAY that they observe enthusiasm and happiness and HOPEFULNESS in us re: God and s*x and purity as they navigate their teen years and twenties and for the entire length of their lives.

I just don’t think there are words enough to describe how much I admire and care for these young women. And how honored I am that they would spend time with me and help me as a woman and help my entire family (especially as Fred and I raise two young women)! Grace upon grace.

I am going to bed so very grateful this evening—

Hope your day was a blessed one too!

Your friend,
Tara B.

[A re-post from 2011]

Not able to remember what it feels like to have a dream and a goal and a purpose …

In order to prep for my “Persevering with Grace When Our Leaders Let us Down” workshop (that I’ll be giving at a women’s leadership conference in a few days), I am deep into pruning 80+ pages of notes down to 20.

(Eek!! Eek for the fact that these conferences are HERE this week and EEK that I still have so much work to do!!)

In the middle of my outlines, I found notes from a conversation I had years ago with a woman in my church. She was helping me because I was in a real spiritual funk (depression?) and one of her points was that I was not submitting to God and living in step with my current roles in life. I wasn’t content! And so I was turning to various sins to “escape” my unhappiness.

Over time, I had grown used to my sin. Whether it was anger, bitterness, escapism … I was used to it and it just felt like it would take WAY too much energy to ever change.

At that point in my life, I didn’t even remember what it felt like to have a dream and goal and purpose. I couldn’t remember what it was like to be happy.

I was sinning and it was tearing me in two.

Thankfully, my friend helped me to see how my MISERY was a sign of God’s covenant-keeping CARE!

Quoting Kris Lundgaard’s (wonderful!) book, The Enemy Within:

‘Believers are the only people who ever find the law of sin at work in them. Unbelievers can’t feel it. The law of sin is a raging river, carrying them along; they cannot measure the force of the current, because they have surrendered themselves to it and are borne along by it. A believer, on the other hand, swims upstream—he meets sin head-on and strains under its strength.’

She reminded me that the biblical response is repentance and the hatred of sin:

– Admit sin
– Be confident that God forgives sin
– Put your faith in the finished work of Jesus!

God says to us in Ezekiel 18:22: ‘None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.’ Ephesians 2:4-5 reminds us that ‘God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.’

God’s forgiveness is not a begrudging forgiveness. It is his NATURE to forgive!

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7

Your sins, no matter how big, are NOT bigger than God’s pleasure in forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS! It’s real!

And then my friend prayed for me:

‘Father, Tara has sinned. Again. Change needs to happen in her life. But it would be unjust for you to condemn her because you would exacting judgment twice for the same sin—from Christ, Tara’s Advocate, and from her.

Please help Tara to believe what she knows to be true: when we confess our sins, God is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9). Jesus has already made atonement for her sin. He is her righteousness.”

And she closed our conversation by exhorting me to NOT read the Psalms and say “This is what I should be doing but I’m not.” But instead to say, “This is what God is doing in me too. These things are possible for me because David’s Redeemer is MY Redeemer. He is my God as well.”

Psalm 32 … ‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him …”Amen & Amen!

Thank God for grace!

Off to make my hubby and muffin some lunch and then get right back to work–

Yours,
Tara B.

PS
If I had to guess, these notes are probably ALSO a mixed combination of notes I took from some fantastic CCEF books and my pastor’s sermons too. Just wanted to mention this in case I’ve inadvertently quoted Ed Welch. Again. 😉

[A re-post from March 7, 2009]

Family Worship

As I’ve poked around things this morning, I’ve enjoyed clicking through a bunch of links from blogs I read re: the topic of family worship. These two were particularly helpful, I thought:

– If you’re just getting started, maybe feeling a little intimidated by the idea, or discouraged because you haven’t been able to maintain a family worship time: Three Main Steps to Starting Family Worship

– If you already have some semblance of a basic family worship, but are looking to take things a little more in-depth: Compilation of Resources for Family Worship

(That second one has already prompted me to do a little online book shopping this morning.)

Most of all? I encourage you to just jump in, even today, and take even one baby step towards developing this discipline in your family’s life. I remember when our pastor counseled us re: family devotions years ago—well before we had any children. He said something along the lines of:

“You are a Christian family. So every day, pray. Open up the Bible and read a little. Then talk about it. And pray again.”

It sounded so simple when he said it. I remember we both thought, “We can do that.” And we did.

We’re still working to develop lots of other disciplines that we “should” have in our lives—disciplines that, I’m sure, many of you excel at. But I am grateful that every day, we open the Bible, discuss it, and pray. This is a tremendous evidence of God’s grace in our lives and I hope these links encourage and help you to do the same. Not for legalistic purposes. Not because you “should.” But because God is great and glorious! This is His world. He is beyond our comprehension, and yet He is our loving Heavenly Father; the Shepherd Who seeks His sheep.

It’s good to spend time saturating our minds in His truth—especially because most of our days we are bombarded by the opposite.

Happy Wednesday to you!

Yours,
Tara B.

[A re-post from April 28, 2010]

How to Have a Healthy and Vibrant Church

Quite awhile ago, I received an email from a blog-lurker who asked if I had any book recommendations on how to have a healthy, vibrant church that loves one another. My snow delays and misconnected flights yesterday …

… gave me the time to (finally!) respond. So here’s the list I came up with (plus a few additions). I’d be curious to hear if you would’ve added other books:

– Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline

– Edmund P. Clowney, Living in Christ’s Church

– James Thompson, Our Life Together

– Bruce Milne, We Belong Together: The Meaning of Fellowship

– Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

– Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?

– Lane & Tripp, How People Change

– Wayne A. Mack and Dave Swavely, Life in the Father’s House: A Member’s Guide to the Local Church

– Ray Stedman, Body Life

And, of course, on a ‘meaty’ level (but it’s really readable!), Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is not to be missed.

[A re-post from April 20, 2010]

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