Failing the Test

Have you ever had something you said, or worse say often, come back to haunt you? I got a little taste of that a couple of weeks ago. The statement I have made multiple times in the past is this: “Laying down my life for Christ in John 15:13-14 is obedience to Christ’s commands TODAY, not just allegiance to Christ at the point of martyrdom. If I am in the habit of dying daily through reverence and obedience to Christ, I won’t have to worry about allegiance. I’ll be well-practiced at at dying for Christ if that day ever comes.” So how am I doing at dying daily? Well friends, not very well. I failed the last test. And I didn’t just fail it, I made a royal hash of it. Here’s what happened.

A few weeks ago, my husband was diagnosed with COVID-19. This precipitated daily calls from the state health department, beginning with instructions that I needed to quarantine for 14 days from my last day of exposure to him. To get my quarantine completed as soon as possible, we were instructed to sleep in separate areas of the house, use different bathrooms, wear masks, and stay six feet apart when in the same room. We had to take our temperatures twice daily and keep a written record. I had to sign a statement that I would voluntarily quarantine and acknowledge that I would be under mandatory quarantine if I refused. Every day the health department called to ask if either of us had fever or other symptoms. All of this felt very invasive to me. Just informing us of the state guidelines would have been sufficient. We had no intention of exposing others to the virus, but it seemed like government nannies were treating us like disobedient five-year-olds. In addition, the health department ignored my husband’s statement about the onset of his symptoms and set his onset date four days after his symptoms began, which extended our quarantine period. I felt violated in my health privacy and in my own home. And I responded with anger. For several days I felt unsettled, irritated, and resentful. And my behavior was rather prickly. My sinful self was in control.

Then the Lord reminded of about my own admonition about dying daily, considering every trial as coming from the hand of God, and an opportunity for practicing faith, all the while considering it all joy as James exhorts us. Really, Lord? How did this sneak up behind me? I, the preacher of dying daily to self and being prepared to give up everything for the name of Christ Jesus, discovered I am not as prepared as I thought I was. Why did I fail to recognize this as an opportunity to practice reverence and obedience to my Lord? Two thoughts come to mind. First, my thoughts were more on my circumstances than on my Lord. And second, is the warning, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Because I wasn’t on guard, I had failed to heed the warning light of rising internal stress over the 2020 election and the future of our country, coupled with the disappointment of canceled trips to celebrate our anniversary and to visit my mom in another state, missing friends and family, and interrupted ministry due to the pandemic. I didn’t take all those stresses to the Lord, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ when they first appeared. I wasn’t tending my confidence in Jesus to keep it growing and strong. I needed to re-center my heart and mind. I needed to remember the promises of God: that though Christ’s followers would have trouble in this world, Jesus Christ has already overcome the world; promises that Jesus will never leave or forsake us; promises to provide everything we need; promises to shepherd us through our deepest valleys; and the reminder that our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. I also needed to remember that when I bowed my heart to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I gave up all my rights, including the “right” to be offended.

So what to do? How could I grow my confidence in Christ and His promises? How could I be more willing to give up my “rights”? How could I move my preparations from theological theory to theologically-driven actions? After taking these questions to the Lord, I realized there are no new answers to these questions. God has already given me what I need in what are often called, “the ordinary means of grace”- the Word of God, prayer, and the sacraments. The Word reminds me of God’s promises and His faithfulness to fulfill them (2 Cor. 1:20). Prayer brings me boldly before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper remind me of my identification with both the death and the resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-5). But these ordinary means of grace must be intentionally practiced. Thinking further about turning my heart’s focus to my Lord, I have found that the music of hymns helps plant rich theology deep in my heart and then brings it to mind and tongue again and again (Eph. 5:17-20). Corporate worship and fellowship encourage me through the faith of sisters and brothers in Christ and remind me that I am not alone (Heb. 10:24-25). I can ask the Lord to help me recognize opportunities to practice death to self while waiting for His eternal kingdom, and I know that when I ask according to His will, He will give me what I ask (1 John 5:14-15). Finally I can remind myself often that nothing comes into my life without my Father’s sovereign oversight, and I can say with my Savior, “Not my will, but Yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42).

I suspect there will be many opportunities in the coming days to practice trusting Christ’s promises, opportunities to submit to government authorities without grumbling or being resentful, and opportunities for many other little daily deaths. Practice makes better. Thank You, Lord, for Your grace when I fail. Help me lay down my life today.


What We, Us, and Our Would Do for the Church

Pray-Chris & Jamie Crop

God used the terms “us” and “our” when He created man (Gen. 1:26), and rightly so. Scripture reveals that all the persons of the Trinity worked together to create image-bearers: God the Father is referenced throughout the creation account, the Holy Spirit is named in Genesis 1:2, and John 1 credits Jesus with all of creation.  Jesus used the term “we” referring to Himself and the Father. He even went so far as to claim oneness with the Father (John 10:30). Then Jesus prayed His followers would live in oneness just as the Father and Son live in oneness (John 17:21). If we are truly image-bearers of the triune God, should oneness and unity not be stamped upon us? What change would our focus undergo if we, the Church, intentionally took hold of this concept? What changes would result from such a transformed focus? My husband calls me an idealist, and he may be right, but indulge me for a few minutes. Come and dream with me a bit about the possibilities of a mindset shift from “me,” to “we.” Because this ideal is God’s, and we should pursue what He says is ideal.

If life in the Church was “we” instead of “me,” shame would be reduced, because a “we” mindset would help us recognize that every believer is sinful, no one has it all together, and we all must deal with sin in the same way (Isaiah 53:6). Thinking in the plural would diminish our sense of shame, which is based in pride of wanting to be as good as or better than everyone else. Shame is often a by-product of comparison. We would lose our false impressions of other believers, knowing that each one of us has sins, obvious or not. The level ground at the foot of the cross should make “King of the Hill” difficult to play. There wouldn’t be much point in hiding sin and insecurity. Recognizing that we’re all in this together, and we’re all the same in our sinfulness and need for a Savior, would encourage transparency and result in improved spiritual health as we speak the truth to each other in love and humility.

Compassion for one another would grow as we realized that we are all in this together, and that no other believer is sinless or without hardship. Recognition of my own sinfulness and my struggle with sin, and my desire to be righteous should give me compassion for the very same struggle in my brothers and sisters in Christ (Col. 3:12). We would pray more for each other, forgiveness would flow into encouragement. A “we” perspective gets our focus off our own needs and onto the needs of others. Eventually, we would be thinking of others more than we think about ourselves. (Phil. 2:3-4). Generosity would become easier, and needs would be met (Acts 2:44).

Unity would abound if we quit seeing ourselves primarily as individuals, and instead as members of the same Body with the same trials and sins, the same forgiveness, the same Savior, the same purpose, the same future, and the same hope. We would be drawn together to help each other in the struggle against sickness, hardship, and sin. We would desire to pray for each other in the battle against sin and the effects of sin on each other, and on the Body as a whole (Eph. 6:18). We would work together for the same goal – to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20). The need for competition would disappear as we ceased envying one another, and instead had a passion for the salvation of the nations and the health of the Church (James 4:1).

The stunning, irresistible beauty of God would be clearly visible to the world if we really did demonstrate His love and support and compassion for one another as living stones built together into the Family of God, Temple of God, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ (Phil. 2:14-16). What an amazing community of which to be part and in which to thrive! What a glorious witness we would be to a watching world of what life in the Kingdom of God is like, because this is what God is like and we bear His image (2 Cor. 4:6, Rev. 21:22-27).

God would be glorified, and Christ would be pleased with our we, us, and our attitude, because this is His plan for the Church (Phil. 1:27). As any parent desires unity and love among their children, so God desires unity and love among His children. He created us with unity of heart and purpose in mind, and when we live as one family, one body, one living temple, we will discover just how very good God’s plan really is (Psalm 133).

So, how do we begin to effect such a seismic, vital shift? After all, this is is a tremendous change in the American Church. As always, the best place to start is on our knees. We can pray that God would give each of us and our church body His vision and concept of how we are to live as believers and serve our Savior in unity. The Scriptures referenced in this post might be a starting place for prayer and meditation. There is much more Scripture about oneness among God’s children, perhaps select some passages to pray through. For the next 30 days,  try  substituting the words “us,”” we,” and “our” for”” I,” “me,” and “my'” in reference to the Church. What might happen to your thinking, and to your heart? Thinking in terms of unity in plurality is changing my perspective on life and enlarging my heart for others. I would love to hear what it is doing in yours.

Grace and peace,


“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” – Philippians 2:1-16 (ESV)

Rebuilding Again


An aha moment, a revelation, an epiphany, call it what you will, I had one today. It began with a rather mundane, and somewhat discouraging event, one that would not normally be something worth writing about. But since it concluded in an encouraging perspective on the Christian’s never-ending battle with sin, it merits sharing.

This morning, I decided today was the day to test my ankle. Today marks six weeks since ankle surgery, and I’m anxious to get it rehabilitated. My hope was that the ankle is healed enough to go beyond the gentle stretching, massage, and ice therapy I’ve been doing for several weeks and might be ready for a little more strenuous exercise in a controlled situation. So I got on my rowing machine and gave the ankle a gentle three-minute workout. Getting off the machine, I thought, “Wow, three whole minutes. Even if the ankle tolerates this well, (the next twenty-four hours will tell!) it’s going to take a while to build back up to my normal rowing time. And even longer to rebuild strength and flexibility in the ankle. Sigh. Rebuilding again.” You see, this is the eighth surgery on this ankle, the eighth time I’ve started over, the eighth season of rebuilding. It seems as soon as the ankle is pain-free, strong enough for moderate activity, and not interfering with daily life, something goes wrong and I’m back in surgery and starting over. Discouragement was lurking in my thoughts. It was time for some truth-telling here. Time to remind myself of what I know, of the truth that encourages and keeps me persevering and hopeful during times of rebuilding. Time to dwell on truth that evokes the gratefulness that will banish discouragement and quash self-pity.

So I reviewed the facts in my mind. Thirty years ago, prosthetic ankle joints didn’t even exist, and I am so thankful to have been accepted into the clinical trial that provided mine thirteen years ago. Without it, I would barely be able to walk by now. The Lord has blessed me with an incredible pioneering surgeon who is highly skilled, internationally acclaimed, and really cares about his patients.  My husband has become a selfless pro at caring for me through surgeries and sometimes long periods of inability to walk during recovery. He never complains. Our family has been supportive and helpful through round after round of incapacitated Mom, and always with cheerfulness. The body of Christ has come alongside us and helped in a myriad of ways by praying, bringing meals, cleaning, making the six-hour post-op trips to Dallas with me, and providing companionship during long weeks of restricted mobility. I know each surgery is correcting a problem, and I’ll be better in the long run. The downtime and rehabilitation is worth the reward of a season of improved function and reduced pain. That’s a mountain of blessing to be grateful for, and a strong antidote to discouragement.

As I countered discouragement with truth this morning, and adjusted my attitude toward rebuilding the ankle, the Aha! struck.  I realized that this process of rebuilding an ankle is not unlike the spiritual reconstruction God does in His children. Jeremiah 31:28 describes the tearing down and rebuilding of Israel, “As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. Israel’s gracious God was speaking of wounding to heal, of tearing down to rebuild something better. God had broken down the cities of His people, Israel, due to their sin. He had plucked them up and sent them into captivity in Babylon. Physical disaster had followed their sinful spiritual disaster. Pain and discouragement had been Israel’s familiar companions in Babylon. But then God spoke of bringing them back to their land, of healing their wounds, restoring their spiritual health, rebuilding their nation, and renewing their hope and their joy. Ultimately this prophecy would find its complete fulfillment in the New Covenant, inaugurated by their long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. But for a time, Israel had been brought to repentance. The nation was ready to be rebuilt, replanted, and restored. And God would send the prophet Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding and to speak truth into their discouragement during the arduous task.

Our gracious heavenly Father not only performs spiritual surgery on an entire nation, He is Jehovah Rapha, The LORD Who Heals each one of His children of our sinfulness. The cutting out process is undoubtedly uncomfortable, but when we submit ourselves to the loving ministrations of the Great Physician, we can be confident that His work of reconstruction will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). I had the opportunity to undergo such spiritual surgery a few months ago. The problem was a past pattern of sin that the Lord had dealt with years ago: worship of the opinions of man. I was so thankful He had freed me from this bondage, and for many years it wasn’t a problem, but now it was back. How appalling to see it resurface! I was so dismayed and discouraged, “Lord, here I am again, dealing with the same old sin that I thought was gone. I’m so sorry. Whatever will You do with me? I feel like a hopeless case.” It was time for some truth-telling, and a review of God’s Word. Our tender healer Father doesn’t see one of His children as a hopeless case, because He has the power to change us, to sanctify us. Sanctification means to be set apart from the world, reserved for God’s purposes, and in order to do that, the Lord must rebuild us. It is a process of tearing down our old thinking and behavior patterns, constructing new thinking and a new way of living, and letting us concentrate on that for a season.  Later, there will be other issues in our lives that God will address as He sanctifies us, and we will go through the cycle again. Discipline, spiritual surgery, is a normal, expected, and good thing in the life of a Christian. Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us that discipline, or chastening, by the Lord proves His love and acceptance of us as His child, for He disciplines us as a father disciplines a child he delights in. We also learn from these verses how we are to respond to His chastening. We are not to rebel against God by rejecting, despising, or refusing His discipline. Nor are we to respond with the opposite extreme of sickening dread, loathing, or grief. In Hebrews 12:5-6, the author quotes Proverbs 3:11-12, and describes this response as “losing heart.” He goes on to explain that every true child of God receives His discipline, and we should submit to it because it is for our good, that we may share in God’s holiness. Though it seems painful at the time, God’s discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:5-13). So we are not to be discouraged when we feel like we’re back to a spiritual square one. Sanctification involves tearing down in order to rebuild, and it’s a welcome process, a blessing in the life of a Christian. Chastening reminds me that I am truly the daughter of God, a sister of Christ, and dearly loved. It reminds me that my Father is working to develop holiness, righteousness, and peace in me. That, too, is a mountain of blessing to be grateful for, and a strong antidote to discouragement.