Oh, the Depth!

Back in September I wrote a post about starting a new year of Sunday school. Yesterday was our last day, and while I’m ready for the summer break, I’m a little sad that it’s over. I love these kids. They’re funny and sweet, and they keep me on my toes. They’re bright and perceptive. I’ve listened to some of their observations and thought, “I’m teaching future elders, pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders.” What a privilege!

All our lessons were about God’s providence. I remember looking through the opening pages of the teacher’s guide and knowing this would be a challenging theme to teach. Many adults have a hard time wrapping their minds around the deep theology of providence. How do you help nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds understand that all things are part of God’s sovereign plan? Some weeks were harder than others: If God is good, why do his children suffer? Do people have free will? If God is sovereign, why pray or tell the gospel? God’s providence is certainly a “big truth for young hearts,” and for some of these questions, the answers remain beyond our finite understanding. As Paul exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his thoughts and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11.33).

Week after week we talked about God’s eternal attributes and his providence over nature, man’s will, evangelism, suffering, prayer, circumstances, and so on. At times I thought it was redundant and was concerned that the kids would lose focus or that they would see God as severe and cruel if we weren’t careful to talk about his love. What I failed to see was how often I need reminders of God’s providence. I need to hear and read about his sovereignty, faithfulness, wisdom, immutability, and love. I need the light of his grace, mercy, and righteousness shining into the dark areas of life in this fallen world (Psalm 112.4). After nine months of teaching, these lessons designed for upper elementary students have bolstered my trust in God and grown my love for him. As we moved through the lessons, digging through Scripture to find answers to profound questions, my students amazed me with the way they latched on to the truth. I hope their trust and love have grown, too.

Through the year, we built a definition of God’s providence, rooted in Scripture and ultimately in God’s character, that, to my heart’s delight, one student quoted from memory yesterday. I hope it sticks with them and with you.

God is present and active in all his creation.
His eye is watching, his hand is working to uphold and govern all creation to fulfill all his purposes for his glory and the good of his children.
(from My Purpose Will Stand by Sally Martin, Children Desiring God)

 

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Work! Work! Work!

reallifeWhen I got married, somehow I thought that it would lighten my workload. We’d share chores, and he’d have a wonderful job so that I could have a part-time job (or no job) and I’d have lots of time for writing, gardening and all the things that I would love to have time for. Well, that’s not what happened. The man of my dreams is a seminary student—which means I work a full-time job and do most of the chores (which somehow tripled when a man was added to the equation) while he slaves away over piles of books to read and papers that need to be written.

Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we expect. And so, my task is to be happy about it or at least not be grumbly about it (Phil 2:14) because this is what God has for me to do. So my spiritual lessons lately have been around the subject of contentment (Yep, that’s right. You still have to “learn contentment” after you get married. Surprise! It’s a lifelong journey…) and seeing the value in the work that I’ve been asked to do.

So here are some things that have helped me to battle my discontent with work:

  • Scripture (specifically these verses): “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). And, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
  • Thankfulness. I’ve been memorizing Colossians this year and have been reminded of the importance of being thankful. It’s a theme that Paul reminds the Colossians about often (Col 1:3; Col 1:9-12; Col 2:6-7; Col 3:15-17; Col 4:2). Colossians 2:6-7 has really stuck out to me during this season: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” There’s so much to be thankful for—every breath, every blade of grass, every flower petal is a gift.
  • Servanthood. Whatever my job happens to be, it is an opportunity for ministry. The people around me that I spend 39 hrs a week with are people that are loved by God. I’ve been placed where I am (and you’ve been placed where you are) to be an ambassador for Christ, a minister on his behalf (2 Cor 5:2).
  • Working women have been vital to God’s plans throughout the years. Women supported Jesus in his ministry “out of their means” (Luke 8:1-3). Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:14), which was not cheap fabric, and she hosted the church in her home (Acts 16:40) in Thyatira. The Proverbs 31 woman had a vineyard (Prov 31:16) and sold clothing (Prov 31:24) to supplement their household income. For these women drawing an income provided an opportunity to bless others. I want to do the same.
  • Work is good. God put Adam and Eve into the Garden to tend it before the Fall. Work is part of God’s good creation and plan for us as His Image bearers. So whether it’s in the home or outside of the home, our work should be done to the glory of God for the good of others.

I know that this is a season of life that will change at some point. Who knows what the Lord has next in store for my husband and me? But whatever situation I find myself in, I pray that I will work hard for the Lord and find contentment in knowing that my labor for Him is not in vain.

Aside

Mondays are the beginning to a new week, a fresh start, a day for a new outlook and perspective on the week ahead. Although, I am normally tired on Mondays, I am normally more productive since I have just experienced some relaxation on my weekend (well most weekends). This Monday in particular, I will be asking myself one question (and I challenge you to do the same). Am I becoming worthless? Yikes! That’s a heavy question for a Monday (I suggest only asking yourself this after at least your first cup of coffee!) The scripture in Jeremiah, said that because Israel was following worthless idols, they too were becoming worthless and exchanging the glory the Lord had given them for something of no value. Again, yikes!

“They (Israel) followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Jeremiah 2:5

“But my people have exchanged their glory for worthless idols.” Jeremiah 2:11

In biblical times when the word idol was mentioned it was typically one made of stone, wood or sometimes precious metals. While these are still very real types of idols in other parts of the world, an idol can be any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion and anything or anyone that we hold in higher regard than God.  In Jeremiah’s time the Israelites were worshiping such statues (which is so weird to me and shows of their desperation). But then as I evaluate my own life I think about how weird the idols in my life are. Modern day idolatry still exist, except in some cases in may not be as obvious as a golden statue. Maybe it is a career, the thought of marriage, another person, social media, yourself..the list could go on and on. The Word says that when we do this—we become worthless. I can testify to that. I have found myself wasting a ridiculous amount of time on social media  focusing too much of my thoughts on the “I am single” mindset, comparing my life with others–only to look back on my day and realize it was not enhancing the Kingdom (no eternal value) nor was I living in the glory the Lord has given me. Instead, I was walking away discouraged and defeated…two things that are not of the Lord.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Is there anything you feel you can’t live without?

2. Is there any priority in your life greater than God?

3. Does God take first place?

4. Do  you worship God or idols of your own making?

In order to avoid idolatry we must look at the Word and do what it says…”put God first” in our lives.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 “

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col. 3:2

So, where do you stand today? Are you living in the glory the Lord has promised or are you living a worthless life by putting other things, others or even yourself before your relationship God? My prayer is that we are all living a life “WORTHY of the calling we have received.” Ephesians 4:1o and one that impacts enternity!

Sharing Grief

Sorrow

This post is not meant to be a downer by any stretch of the imagination – just sharing some of what is going on in my world.

Grief, defined, is: deep sadness caused especially by one’s death.  The definition doesn’t come close to the actual feeling of the word.

In the last three months, I’ve experienced many forms of grief.  And only one has personally happened to me, the rest are the result of sharing life with friends, and how you share and grieve with them.

1.  The weekend we moved from Little Rock, three members of our church died tragically in the tornadoes that swept through the area.  I felt deep sorrow for a sweet little boy about the age of Sebastian who would grow up never knowing his daddy.  Of daughters who would never have their daddy walk them down the aisle.  Of a sweet wife and friend, who would never lay beside her best friend in bed again, or sit with him and talk about their future together.

2.  Shortly after that, a friend told me she had lost the baby she was carrying.  A baby so desired, so already loved.  With so man abortions happening daily in the world, why does a couple who wants children struggle with the ability to conceive and carry a child to term?  And still many others struggle with infertility.  Each month, the woman’s period returns again, therefore signifying another month of not getting their heart’s desire: a baby.

3.  A loss of parents: so many of my friends are living life with burying their parents.  I know we live in a cycle of life and death is part of that, but the burden of living after a death of a loved one is extremely difficult.

4.  For me, a loss of friendship and a possibility.  This may not seem as important – but believe me.  When life throws something at you that you don’t know quite what to do with – and all of a sudden life changes in every.single.way – there are deaths in your life.  I consider friendships to be one of my top priorities in life – and for some friendships to be completely severed over a matter of weeks, life changes.  Thoughts change.  Trust is no longer so easily given.

So, what do we do?

1.  We weep.  We not only weep for ourselves, but we weep for our friends.  I weep for that wife and those children.  I weep for the infertile wife.  I weep for the sons and daughters who are burying their parents.  I weep for friendships lost.  I weep for dreams shattered.

2.  We trust. This has got to be one of the hardest truths of the Christian life: God is good even when bad things happen.  God is sovereign over every storm: every birth: every death: every burial: every body: every dream.

3.  We share.  We live life with friends.  We don’t run away when things get bad.  No.  We sit.  We stare in silence.  We weep.  We continue walking beside them.  We pray together.  We love together.  We talk and laugh.  We press on.

 

Mother’s Day 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is such a precious day. I love celebrating my mother-who she is and who God has made her to be. She is literally the best mother any girl could ever ask for. She is the definition of strength, wisdom, and a best friend.

The older I get, the more Mother’s Day effects me emotionally. My desire to be married is something that has been there a long time, but my desire to have children continues to grow stronger and stronger each year. Looking on social media, it’s hard not to compare other girls my age and how different their lives are from mine, strictly because they have a family.

This month, our Children’s Ministry had an adorable Kid’s Praise Musical on a Sunday night. The production they put on was adorable, including all the cheesy lines and cute snotty nose kids. I have always gotten so much enjoyment out of these musicals, and normally laugh out loud at the cuties, but this year it was different. I fought back tears the entire time, pretending to enjoy their cuteness. What made it different? My hearts longing and desire to be a mother. I couldn’t help but wonder and ask God-“Why haven’t You blessed me with such a beautiful gift yet?”

But, God.

But, God gently reminded me of His Promises and all that He has blessed me with today. He also pointed out all the cuties up on stage that I do know and have an influence over. Then He continued to bring to mind the precious girls He has put in my path to mentor and love on. Those are my spiritual children. He has gifted me with them-to learn from and to teach. He has blessed me with “every spiritual blessing” according to Ephesians.

He has blessed me.

And who am I to question these blessings?

If you are fighting discouragement because you are single and haven’t had the opportunity to have children, or you may even be married and don’t have children of your own yet-remember God’s blessings. He loves you so much and is already blessing you in so many ways. Take heart. Know God’s Truth and Promises. Be thankful. Be faithful with what He has blessed you with already.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all women everywhere who love on God’s precious children!

The Love of My Mother – Guest Post by Kerri Pomarolli

953290_300Kerri Pomarolli is one of the top Christian powerhouse and spiritual warriors in Hollywood. Her clean comedy has people rolling in laughter worldwide and her heart keeps her in front of charitable causes with a passion! I am so thankful to work alongside Kerri and to call her my friend. Kerri resides in Los Angeles with her husband Ron (who is also a comedian), and their two children.  Kerri also just released a devotional  to go alongside the movie “Mom’s Night Out,” called “Mom’s Night Out and Other Things I Miss.” Check it out along with her other books here.

Before marriage, Kerri’s topics for her comedy routines came from her singleness. She has also written two books on the topic, and her ministry has been a great encouragement to me over the years. I think we single ladies can learn a lot from her wisdom. Below is a guest post from Kerri. Hope you enjoy, and I think her post is something that all single ladies can relate to! 🙂

The Love of My Mother

My mom is from the south and had one dream — grandkids. I was in ministry as a single woman for many years. I called it, “Bitter Party of 1!” My mother was so obsessed with me getting married they’d have prayer circles at her church to cast out the demons that were keeping me single! I told her the demons were called “good taste and standards!”

Anyway, she was very pro-active when it came to finding me a man, especially as the years went on and I reached the ripe old age of 26. I was living in California and one morning I woke in terrible pain. I thought for sure I had food poisoning from the sushi I had bought on sale at the grocery store. I ended up in the ER, and having emergency appendix surgery. I was on pain meds and really dazed and confused. I remember while I was lying on the hospital gurney hearing a voice of comfort. It was my mother Barb. She was leaning over the IV in my arm saying, ”Kerri, sweetie, here put some lipstick on. I think the Dr. is single! I’ll be right back. I noticed he did not have on a ring! I’m gonna go get him!” Here I was laying there in my Precious Moments night gown my grandmother had given me for my birthday, looking mildly like a homeless person, and she was trying to apply Maybelline Cotton Candy #4 Lipstick on my face and freshen me up to meet my future Dr husband. This woman had no boundaries. I could barely understand her, but I pretended to still be sleeping. About 40 seconds later my mom runs back in the room and she has a male nurse with her. He looked like he’d been taken captive by a pirate (my mother). She was holding him by the arm and brought him right over to me. “Kerri, honey this is LJ. We just met in the hallway. He works here and he’s very nice.” He looked to be in pain, more pain than me because I was on drugs. She looked at him and his name tag and said plainly, “So what does LJ stand for? Could it be LORD JESUS?” This is my daughter Kerri. She’s a comedian. She’s been on The Tonight Show. Do you like Comedy LJ? Well, say something Kerri!” And yes ladies and gentlemen that actually happened. No, LJ did not call me and the “single  Dr.”  somehow disappeared also. You wonder why I became a professional comedian? It’s for moments like these because with a mother like mine, it’s cheaper than therapy!

Mom finally got her grandkids after I told her I was getting married to a Korean Irish Comedian with no health insurance. We certainly enjoyed her calls to us on our honeymoon saying to my husband “So when am I gonna get some grandkids?” Ron replied, “Well Barbara as soon as you stop callin!”

Happy Easter 2014

dogwood

Holidays as a single are often times depressing and lonely.  But, I think this is the holiday that is least about us and all about Christ.  Christmas we focus on gifts and the gift of Jesus.  Thanksgiving we think about blessings and what we’ve been blessed with through the year.

But, with Easter.  Yes, we focus on what the gospel has done for us – but mostly we CELEBRATE the gift of Jesus and how He rose from the dead.

I was asked to write about how this season of Lent and Easter has gone for me.  Its actually been really hard.  We are going through a moving process in the Campbell family.  This is our last week in Little Rock.  By next week this time we will be en route to Atlanta for a new phase in our lives.

Here are three thoughts I’ve been thinking about:

1.  How does our corporate worship reveal the truth of the Risen King to a lost and dying world?  I know we often talk about the heart of worship – and yes, indeed – God in fact does care about the rightness of our hearts.  But, a lost world, the unbelieving world, can’t see our hearts.  They see our demonstrative worship.  They hear our loud voices.  They see our clapping and hand raising.  They see our heads bowed low or knees on the floor in repentance.  The Psalmist says to sing, clap, play the instruments, give praise!  So, how does your worship, how does my worship, outwardly speaking – show Christ?

2.  Forgiveness.  Such a difficult act.  It is an act of the heart but also an act of the will and will determine how you relate to people.  I’m so glad that Christ has forgiven me.  And in the truest sense.  He doesn’t hold me in contempt.  He doesn’t hold me at arms length.  His forgiveness is perfect.  I still need Christ to work on my heart to forgive fully those who have hurt me.

3.  Easter.  We see so much of what the gospel has done for us.  What Christ means for our day-to-day lives.  What I was contemplating this morning is that I quickly skip over the indicative – what Christ has done, who I am because of that reality and want to get to the imperative – what I’m supposed to do because of it.  I often wonder if I spend enough time with the indicative.  And if I fully grasped that – who I am because of Christ – maybe it would make a difference in how I live out my Christian life.

Hope yall all have a blessed Easter!

Reality Check

look up and look aroundLast Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day when the church celebrates the anniversary of the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. On that day a little under 2000 years ago, the crowd welcomed their humble Messiah with Palm Branches (a national symbol) and with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This whole week, the church will reflect on the last week of Jesus’ life here on earth, before he was crucified and laid in the grave on Friday. Then, on Easter Sunday, we’ll celebrate His glorious resurrection! If you’d like to dive deeper into what happened this week in 30 A.D. (or thereabouts), Justin Taylor is posting a short video every day (4-5 mins each) on his blog, where New Testament scholars look at the last week of Jesus life and break it down into bite-sized pieces. It’s been very good so far.

I’m so grateful to have this week to refocus my thoughts on Christ and His sacrifice, because honestly, I’ve been very distracted this Lenten season. In a previous post, I mentioned that I was observing Lent this year by limiting my tv watching to Friday and Sunday nights and giving up cream in my coffee. I have done those things fairly faithfully, but not sincerely as an offering to the Lord in my heart. It’s been more of a task on my list of things to do—something to just check off and feel good about myself for doing. I’ve filled my nights of no tv with other things like books or cooking/cleaning, and when my husband leads me in our Lenten devotion together each night, I often just do my best to stay awake… and, as for the cream in my coffee, the “bitter reminder” that it was supposed to be to turn my heart to Christ just disappears because I get distracted with something else. It’s been a spiritually dry season. Until this past weekend…

This past Saturday, my dear husband was away on a trip, and I had the house to myself. It was glorious and just what I needed. I got so much done around the house! But, most importantly, I had some time to sit myself down before the Lord and hash out what was going on in my heart. We’re still working on that. But it was still a wonderful morning with the Lord. Then, Palm Sunday was such a sweet, joyful celebration at my church. It was so good for my soul.

This week, thinking each day about what Christ did so long ago (with the help of Justin Taylor’s blog which I linked to above and reading through our devotional) has made Jesus more real to me. He was a real, flesh-and-blood man, living in this tangible world, dealing with various types of actual people, and then dying an intensely physical death. I know these things, but they have become fresh and real to me again. So, Sunday I will celebrate with all the saints—at my church and throughout the world—that this real, flesh-and-blood man is now risen from the dead and is reigning at the right hand of our Father in Heaven. And I will rejoice that all the promises of God have found their ‘yes’ in Him (2 Cor 1:20-22).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

~ Carrie Kelly

Lent Reading 2014

Choosing Forgiveness

hi friends.
We are well into the season of Lent. In fact, in just a week we celebrate the mournful day of Good Friday. And in just a little while we will rejoice that it is in fact Easter.
Usually, I pick up C J Mahaney’s little book, the Cross Centered Life to read. In fact, every year I put the year in the front of the book – I’ve read it 5 times. And I was going to read it this year. But, with life circumstances and knowing what my heart needs to hear from the Lord, I am reading a different book this year.
A friend loaned me Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s Choosing Forgiveness. I loved her book Choosing Joy and when I wanted to work on my discipline of applying the gospel and forgiving people who had hurt me in my life – I knew this was where I wanted to turn.
Nancy’s impactful writing – sincere, down-to-earth, gospel-centered writing – allows me to read and study and yearn for healing. I appreciate the personal stories (from her and others) and the huge amounts of Scripture that fill this book.
I honestly mean it when I say forgiveness is a discipline. We must train ourselves by the Word to do to others what Christ did for us on the Cross. We read of many gospel instances where he forgives others – and ultimately every sin is against the God-head.
So, when I read this book, know of others I need to forgive, and think about the way that Jesus forgave me and God counts me clean and doesn’t hold my sin against me. I rejoice! May you rejoice too.
All of us have received hurt in our lives at one time or another. Some big, some smaller – but all hurt. And if we allow it – hurt will drive out every bit of joy in our lives. But, if we allow ourselves to stand under the blessing of forgiveness we’ve received in God the Father – and pay that forward to others who harm or hurt us – we will indeed rejoice!

I really need this.

Lent is a season on the church calendar that evangelical Christians often overlook or misunderstand. I did not grow up in a church that emphasized Lent, and my current church has not mentioned it this year. Why bother with it at all? What’s the point of giving up something for six weeks if I don’t have to? I first practiced Lent last year, and the personal impact was so meaningful that I was eager to do it again this year. As with any fast, Lent isn’t simply about abstaining from chocolate, lunch, television, or whatever I choose to do without. It’s about deliberately taking something out of my life that I rely on in some way and turning that hunger that it leaves behind into a search for a deeper communion with God, to find him sufficient to fulfill my hungry and needy soul. It’s a preparation for Easter as I see how weak I am, how desperately I need my Savior. It humbles the soul to receive Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6.35). With Easter now less than two weeks away, we’ll share with you about our experiences with Lent this year.

How are things going for me this Lent season, and why did I give this particular thing up? How did giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?

This year I have given up television during meals. This may seem small and too convenient, but I have a good reason. I don’t watch much television as it is, but I always have it on when I’m eating because it drowns out the silence. I eat most of my meals alone and at home, and while I eat the only sound is my own chewing. When I’m doing other things, even routine housework, I find it easy to focus on the task at hand. During meals I’m left with my thoughts, and feelings of loneliness and vulnerability tend to creep in. The T.V. is an easy distraction that pushes those thoughts back into the recesses of my mind where I don’t have to battle them.

The key to Lent, though, isn’t just giving something up; it’s about replacing it with a spiritual discipline. So I leave the remote control on the coffee table and read from a devotional or the Bible or pray or fellowship with someone else over the meal. It is not easy, especially when I’m tired at the end of the day and I only want to zone out for a while, and it has exposed so much junk in my heart and mind, areas where I have not been depending on God, trusting him to be who he is – good, faithful, merciful – and seeking comfort in other things rather than in my all-sufficient Comforter. I want to run from this ugliness that has turned up in my heart, switch on the T.V., and watch the last episode of Call the Midwife I recorded, but by God’s grace, my quiet meals alone have become times of confession, repentance, and lament.

God disciplines the ones he loves (Hebrews 12.6), and along the way, I have encountered my tender Shepherd who doesn’t break a bruised reed (Isaiah 42.3). He restores the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51.12), and in his presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16.11). He has reminded me of my never-ending need for his abounding grace, which he readily supplies. Lent is preparing me for Easter by showing me that the burden and punishment of all these sins and spiritual immaturity are swallowed up in the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I have no need to hide from them because they have no power over me. So I’m eager for Easter, to worship with my church family as we celebrate our risen Lord.

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

                        -Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well With My Soul”