It’s a Selfie World

shutterstock_199956071It’s a selfie world. Sigh.

This fact was recently highlighted on a popular television show. The producers staged strange events in the middle of a busy pedestrian destination.

The purpose: to see if anyone would notice. And guess what? No one noticed! The people were all too engrossed in their own selfie shots appreciate the irony.

The situation was hilarious…and all too common.

So are selfie shots the problem or just the latest outlet for an age-old issue?

If one thing is true, human nature does not change. And humans have always been inherently distracted by self-interest.

Two thousand years ago, the Apostle James taught, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14, emphasis added).

Nearly three thousand years ago, King Solomon lamented, “Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

It’s true, selfies and selfie sticks are a recent phenomenon, but they are not the enemy.

The enemy: every human heart throughout time beats with the venom of selfish vanity.

So what does self-interest distract us from? What do we have to lose? Just a good laugh? Or something more?

First, selfish vanity keeps us from God’s good and perfect gifts.

Scripture says “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

“Good and perfect gifts” include divine protection, miraculous healing, anointing, peace, joy, love, comfort, provision, to name a few.

The Disciple Peter ran into this issue. He was in the midst of experiencing a radical miracle when he took His eyes off Jesus and lost it. Jesus allowed Peter to walk on water even though Peter was living in the same natural world and in the same mortal body that we live in today.

But when Peter became distracted by the howling wind, the roaring water, and his mortal limitations, he began to sink.

We too risk sinking in the midst of our radical miracle if we become too engrossed in our “seflies.”

Second, staying focused on Jesus enables us to bear and produce fruit for the kingdom of God.

“Whoever abides in me and I in them, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Abiding in Christ requires continual, habitual investment in a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s not a once and you’re done kind of thing.

We do this by constantly reading the Word of God, fervently praying, and honestly reflecting on our sinfulness. It also requires us to intentionally plant the Gospel seed in the lives of others, so that they too can accept Christ as Savior.

What do we have to gain by bearing fruit? Only getting whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name! “And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (John 15:16).

That’s enough motive to keep my eyes peeled on God.

Third, self-interested people are more likely to be lured away by the enemy.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

A moment of distraction is all Satan needs to exploit our selfish desires. As we pursue selfish desires, Satan sabotages our efforts to abide in the Word of God. The fruit of neglect to the Word is disobedience.

Disobedience leads to painful mistakes that adversely affect our life and the lives of those we love.

Obedience begins with loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways . . . (Luke 9:23).

And Jesus emphasized, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33)

All of these require us to put God first, which cannot be accomplished if we’re too busy focusing on our “selfies.”

In the end, we stand to lose a lot more than a good chuckle; we stand to lose the wonderful protections and blessings of God.

The Passover Connection to Christianity

IMG_1326Jesus has had many titles. Among them: Messiah, Christ, Lord, Master, Son of God, Son of Man, the Word, King of the Jews, Son of David, and Emmanuel, to name a few.

John the Baptist, a Jew, addressed Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”

The Lamb of God has particular significance for unpacking the connection between the Jewish tradition of Passover and Jesus.

The Jewish Passover celebrates the Israelites’ divine deliverance from Egyptian slavery, endowing the Passover with the dual themes of slavery and deliverance.

In the days of Moses, the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery was a physical one. As explained in the Jewish Haggadah, if not for divine intervention and the Exodus, the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt.

So, what was the divine intervention?

God ultimately delivered the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptian pharaoh through the sacrifice of a perfect lamb.

As directed by God through Moses, the Israelites were to spread the blood of such unblemished lamb over their doors so that the angel of death would “pass over,” sparing the lives of those inside.

It’s no coincidence that these same themes of slavery and freedom establish the foundation of Christianity.

Instead of physical enslavement, however, Christianity addresses deliverance from humanity’s enslavement to sin.

Why do we need liberation from sin?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Freedom from physical slavery is important. But freedom from spiritual enslavement to sin is essential.

We can be physically free from bondage in this life and still be spiritually enslaved to sin.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Thus, everyone, both Jew and Gentile, needs to be saved from sin.

As predicated at the Passover, the only way to be freed from our enslavement to sin is through the blood of another perfect lamb: Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist knew the purpose that Jesus came to accomplish. “‘The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29).

Like the unblemished lamb at Passover, God required an unblemished human to stand in the place of our judgment and spare our eternal lives. And since Jesus was the only human who never sinned, He was the only sacrifice able to atone for the sins of humanity.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The sacrifice of the perfect lamb at Passover foreshadowed (in form) the ultimate freedom that Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to accomplish (in substance).

Christ’s death and resurrection breaks the chains that bind us to sin and spiritual death. The consequence spiritual death is eternal separation from our Creator.

We can avoid this devastating consequence by accepting Christ’s sacrifice, enabling the angel of eternal spiritual death to “pass over” us as well.

Can You Help a Foster Child?

My husband and I recently hosted an event in our home with the State Department of Children and Families. We invited couples who had expressed an interest in adopting or fostering, as well as couples experienced with the system who could offer their advice and perspective.

We were happy to do this. And while we viewed the event as important, we did not expect it to make front-page news.  But it did.

Why?

For one, it was the first event of its kind in Connecticut. I can honestly say, I had no idea no one had ever offered to open their home to bring awareness to the need for foster families and the needs of foster children. It seemed like the natural thing to do.

I initially made contact with DCF to inquire about hosting foster children for Thanksgiving. Through this contact, my awareness of the need grew.

Unfortunately, for many of us, fostering is something other people do–for no other reason than it just hasn’t broken through as the norm. It hasn’t been demystified.

As a result, foster children and families tend to be a marginalized population that rarely gets the notice or attention they need.

But that’s precisely why Scripture advises us to help orphans in their distress like these foster children (James 1:17).

A reporter stopped by our small event to inquire as to why we would do such a thing. He asked the questions that many in the community might ask: “Why do we care?” and “What is a foster child?” and “Where are they now?”

Here’s The Lowdown

We care because God tells us to care. We were orphans once too. God adopted us into His family through the death and resurrection of His very own Son, Jesus. When we accept Jesus, we are reconciled with our Creator for eternity.

Foster children are either neglected or abused by their biological parents and must be removed for their welfare, most often at a moment’s notice. These precious children can range in age from days old to teenagers. Many are hoping to find forever families who will adopt them and provide care and love they just did not receive from their own mothers and fathers.

Foster families provide temporary homes for these at-risk children. Our state, as well as yours, needs many more families who will provide safe, stable and loving abodes for these most vulnerable kids. The need is so dire, some children move from foster home to foster home, feeling the sting of rejection and instability each time.

How You Can Help

As a result of our experience, we want to encourage others to host in-home awareness events. You can do so by contacting the government department that runs the foster care program in your state. Feel free to reference this article.

In addition, Fruits of Faith has begun a ministry called “Operation Love Pack.” We seek to provide each foster child entering the foster system with a rolling suitcase in which they can put their belongings. Most children are removed from the only home they have ever known without time to prepare. Many enter their temporary home with only a plastic garbage bag in which to transport their things.

We can help care for these precious children in their distress by giving them a respectable suitcase to pack their most important items. In so doing, we let them know God cares about them; God loves them, and is sending His agents to provide for their needs.

Please read more about what we provide in each Love Pack: https://fruitsoffaithministries.com/operation-love-packs/

Also, if you are moved to contribute, please consider giving to our Go Fund Me campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/operation-love-pack/

I Am Not A Man

img_5312-jpgWell, I am not a man.

This fact has been well noted as I approach the birth of my fifth child. As a woman, I am blessed with the privilege to steward the life of another eternal being. Having experienced the pain that can accompany an unrealized pregnancy, I acknowledge that this blessing is not something to be taken for granted.

There’s a wave of perception, however, invading the conscience of society that threatens to undermine our female distinction.

Perhaps the messaging has struck you as well? That by embracing pregnancy and motherhood, you are relegating women to the lesser gender. At its extreme, the movement views motherhood as a form of bondage and oppression; a curse to be avoided and destroyed.

As a child of God, I’m glad He doesn’t feel the same way. According to God, even though I am female, I have been equally created in His image. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).  And as a matter of salvation, “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Yet, we women may look at a man and think, I want what he has.

It’s no coincidence that Satan used this same trick on us in the Garden of Eden. Human nature is to want what we can’t have or what others want, distracting us from appreciating what’s already ours to enjoy.

Lest we forget, bearing children was not the consequence for Eve giving into temptation. The privilege has always been the woman’s to serve as the vessel through which God would proliferate the human race. The consequence, rather, was to bear children in pain. The role remains no less an honor.

Thankfully, God is fair. We women weren’t the only ones to feel the effects of the Fall. Sin also adversely affected man’s God-given role. Instead of eating freely from the earth, he now had to toil in pain to sustain life from the ground.

And so, I choose to view motherhood as a gift bestowed on the chosen gender.

Unfortunately, perception is reality.  And it seems the enemy’s propaganda has worked to distort the perceived worth of the woman, relegating her strength to a weakness.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe women should ever stop advocating for equal rights. My fear is that in our pursuit for equal rights, we may lose sight of the power inherent in our ability to bear the future generations. Our true power is in embracing who we are.

Thus, I no longer believe the lies; that reaching our potential means assuming the role of the man; that our XX chromosome imposes an undue burden rather than an undeniable privilege; that motherhood is a role to be marginalized rather than celebrated; that freedom is disposing of a life as a matter of convenience rather than experiencing the indescribable honor of stewarding a life to his or her God-given purpose.

As I embark upon the road to motherhood once again, I thank God for this most honored privilege. I advocate for society to support the women who choose to embrace motherhood and pregnancy. I encourage men to lift up and cherish our most sacred role.

And I pray that all women will proclaim with pride, I am not a man. I am a woman.

Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade Died a Pro-Life Advocate

norma-mccorvey-cover1

What would it take for you to change your stance on an issue? It probably depends on your level of commitment to the position.

What if your stance on an issue started a worldwide movement? You could lose a lot of face changing positions when you’re in that deep. For Norma McCorvey, however, the cost was worth it.

Perhaps you don’t recognize the name? Norma was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. Norma McCorvey is “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade.

Norma McCorvey died this week at the age of 69. Those associated with the prolife endeavor may have to resist the urge to begrudge this woman. Those on the pro-abortion side of the debate may want to pay homage to an idol.

Neither side, however, has it right. While her case changed this nation’s policy on abortion, Norma’s real story stands in stark contrast to the rule that promulgated from her original plea.

It might surprise you to learn that Norma McCorvey never aborted her child. She gave her up for adoption.[1] In fact, Norma regretted her part in the abortion movement. Why?

Norma initially became involved in the pro-abortion movement to justify her part as “Jane Roe.” What she encountered, however, changed her mind, her heart, and her eternity.

In the process of advocating for her “right” to abortion, she learned a lot. Norma realized she didn’t have all the information. She did not understand that the process would end a human life.[2]

As Norma relayed, “I had no actual experience with abortion until that point,” becoming “even more emotionally confused and conflicted between what my conscience knew to be evil, and what the judges, my mind and my need for money were telling me was OK.”[3]

Norma wrestled with a guilty conscience, lying to create a more sympathetic picture to the courts. She claimed that her pregnancy was a result of gang rape, which she later admitted was completely false.[4] Sadly, Norma confessed that she found out about the decision from the newspaper “just like the rest of the country.”[5]

But the clincher that changed her mind might surprise you.

Was it money from a book deal? A falling out with her attorneys? No.

What ultimately shifted Norma’s paradigm on abortion was the love, acceptance and grace of the pro-lifers she encountered while working at an abortion clinic. Norma became a Christian and started her own ministry called “Roe No More” in 1997.[6] She could no longer deny her conscience in light of the compassion and truth from those on the “other side.”

As Norma herself wrote,

“Maybe it is you, Sir, who have a wife, sister, mother, or aunt who has had an abortion, or a friend, whom you have helped turn around to the loving mercy one gets from Our Heavenly Father, through repentance, and love for Jesus Christ, His Only Son!

You, young man, whose girlfriend had an abortion that you didn’t know about until after the fact. Or you, whose wife had an abortion and doesn’t speak of it, then or now. Is there anyone out there who needs peace-of-mind through forgiveness?

Look up into the heavens, as one old woman did, one hot Texas afternoon, and say: “God, I was wrong, selfish, bold,” thinking she had done the right thing by getting involved in one of the most controversial issues of the Twentieth Century, ABORTION, in a test case against the State of Texas, called then, and to this day, Roe v. Wade!

. . .

There is hope for us all!”[7]

 

The hope is that we too will have a change of mind and heart like Norma. No matter how committed, we’re never in too deep to change our stance. And it will be worth it by the grace and forgiveness of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom there’s no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

 

 

[1] Affidavit of Norma McCorvey (June 11, 2003), in McCorvey v. Hill (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Civil Action No. 3-3690-B and No. 3-3691-C).

[2] Norma McCorvey’s testimony before Congress in 1998. See “The 25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Has it Stood the Test of Time?” Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 105th Congress, 2nd Session (January 21, 1998).

[3] Norma McCorvey’s testimony before Congress in 2005.

[4] See Norma McCorvey’s testimony before Congress in 1998 as well as her testimony at the 2005 hearing, “The Consequences of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton:” Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109 th Congress, 1st Session (June 23, 2005).

[5] Affidavit of Norma McCorvey, in McCorvey v. Hill.

[6] Endroe.org, “The Story of Norma McCorvey; The Woman Who Became ‘Jane Roe,’” http://www.endroe.org/roebio.aspx, accessed February 19, 2017.

[7] Priests for Life, “Roe No More Ministries Newsletter,” February ’99, http://www.priestsforlife.org/plgroups/normanewsletterone.htm, accessed February 19, 2017.

Blessed Are the Meek

img_0146Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

But what is meek? I’ve heard it so many times. “I don’t want to be a doormat.” But what does that look like for the Christian? Can you be meek without being a “doormat?”

For most, it means being “nice to a point.” And the breaking point? It depends on the person. It’s all relative by human standards.

For the person who has endured the testing of his or her faith, that point may be little further down the line. But for most of us, we have a long way to go in training our flesh not to “break” too early.

Take Moses, for example. Early in his walk of faith, an Egyptian tested his patience by beating an Israelite without cause. Moses responded with brute strength. He killed the Egyptian. The condemnation Moses experienced from his extreme response to the injustice caused him to run and hide in the wilderness.

But God wasn’t done with him. Despite his failure, Moses grew in faith and wisdom. He learned that God could really use him if he chose to go God’s way rather than be lured by the reactions of his flesh. And by learning restraint to the point of obedience, God used him to do supernaturally powerful things.

He came to realize that self-control requires even more strength than exerting physical force or demanding his way in a situation. Restraining feelings to obey God takes a lot of humility and faith.

God calls this meekness.

Being meek is not weak, it is choosing restraint so that God can do His work in a situation. It means staying the course of obedience no matter what we feel like doing.

We are never a doormat if we choose to respond the way Scripture tells us to respond. We have the strength of the Lord Almighty on our side.

Being meek is a good thing. It’s a characteristic that God can use for His glory. We can choose today to embrace the blessings of meekness.

Confessions of a Not-So-Perfect [Christian] Mother

shutterstock_400379908It happened. If you knew me, you may have noticed something a little different. A dreamy look in my eye. A little lighter in my step. A cheesy smile on my face.

My son was complimented, unprovoked, on social media. Someone even gave me the credit in the comments. The mother graciously noted on my Facebook page how my son had returned the extra change inadvertently given him at the school store. “What a good kid” and “Great parenting” were two of the compliments included. Whoo-hoo.

If they only knew..

It couldn’t have been more than two days prior that an emotionally-charged me stormed off an email stating “I don’t want to do this anymore!” after a less-than enjoyable volunteering experience at our elementary school.

If they only knew….

Maybe five days prior, this same son who acted so nobly returning the money had broken a Christmas ornament in a store. I watched inconspicuously as he carefully placed it back on the shelf, putting the pieces back together as if nothing had ever happened—all the while looking over his shoulder to make sure no one noticed.

If they only knew…

Every day my one year old goes down for a nap–my precious, loving, adorable one-year old—I do a little happy dance and whisper “freedom!”

If they only knew…

(And this is really embarrassing) In the span of a month, I had to explain myself to the police—twice—for my bad parenting. First, my dog jumped into the minivan unbeknownst to me, so I didn’t know to roll the windows down. Only a few minutes passed, but when we returned to our car, the police were writing my license plate number down and a concerned citizen stood nearby on her phone. All in front of my kids. (The dog is totally fine thank goodness).

Then, my daughter and I were playing in the backyard, she in the playhouse, me in the garden when someone came and asked if I had a toddler. In a matter of seconds, she had snuck out of the playhouse and wandered out of our yard onto the sidewalk. Another wonderful and concerned citizen thankfully grabbed her–and called the police.

Both times the police responded with compassion, and thankfully nothing truly bad happened. But seriously, the guilt and shame of bad parenting and the “what could have happened” overwhelmed me.

Those are the most recent. The list could go on and on with the criticisms, solicited and unsolicited; warranted and unwarranted, I’ve gotten for my parenting.

So when another mother took the time to note with appreciation something good; something that reflected on all the hard lessons we spend 99% of our time trying to teach our children; the fruit of the repetitive chiseling of Godly values we painfully etch into our children’s hearts, I can’t help but rejoice.

Maybe that’s why God says to “Honor Thy Mother and Father.” He knows how flawed we parents are. We try and try and still come up short on occasion. But the parent who takes the time to instill the “way they should go” and use even these shameful, embarrassing moments as teaching moments, may occasionally get the “atta-girl”. Just maybe.

When my son tried to get away with breaking the ornament, I knew how he felt. If I could have snuck away from any of the situations described above and acted like they never happened, believe me—I would have!

But like God who disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), I love my children too much to let that become apart of their character. I made my son go back, get the broken ornament, and confess to the clerk what had happened. He cried, embarrassed and ashamed.

Nevertheless, the responsibility for molding a child’s heart falls on the parent. So, I tried to explain that it’s better to get in trouble for being honest than get away with something for being sneaky—whether it was intentional or not.

The clerk was compassionate. I believe that‘s why my son returned the money a week later. He learned it’s not so bad to fess up and it feels a lot better on one’s conscience to confess and take the rap (if necessary) than live with the guilt of trying to get away with something.

Bottom line for me—I love the Lord and I love my children. I give thanks and pray everyday for the supernatural protection God provides when He stands in the gap of my parenting blunders.

At the end of the day, I pray that our efforts to mold the hearts of our children, albeit painful, will transcend our mistakes. And I pray in the end, our children will honor us, their parents, and glorify God by living lives obedient to Christ; serving as lights in the dark world.