In Good Conscience

In Good Conscience

I had the music turned up much louder than necessary on my radio, the traffic was light, and I was enjoying my kid-free cruise. The fact that I was out of the house after dark was nearly unheard of, and I was soaking up every minute of it.

(Photo credit: A.L.)

(Reluctantly) I turned down the music and pulled into my driveway at an angle to back into my space as usual. I shifted to reverse and noticed how warm and cozy the house looked from the outside with the lights on and children playing, and- CRACK!

Oh no.

The drain pipe.

Pause: Now if you ask me, a professional, the drain pipe from our driveway is in the worst possible position mainly because it’s in the exact path I frequent to back into my spot. Sure, my husband would say it’s placed as closely to the house and landscaping as possible and I cut it way too close but, well, who asked him anyway? So because I know this pipe exists from nicking it a few times before, and because my husband has cautioned me so many times to watch out for it, I knew exactly what the crunching sound was as I grimaced and hit the brakes. 

Back to the story.

I paused and looked inside; waited for him to come out to see what the noise was. A minute or two went by and the back door never flew open. Sure he must have heard, I finally examined the damage and went in to explain myself. He asked how my trip was and went about his evening.

He didn’t know.

Should I tell him? My affinity for one vehicle fender benders had always been an inspiration for his humor (and everyone else’s). ‘Maybe I would just leave this one out,’ I thought.

Ultimately I busied myself in the kitchen for all of about three minutes before awkwardly blurting out “I RAN OVER THE DRAIN PIPE!” in mid conversation. His expression was calm. His reaction was mild. My sweet husband. He is never surprised by any of my antics or backing mishaps.

– • – • – • – • –

Do you ever have those cartoon-esque moments when you can almost listen in on your conscience trying to tell you what to do? Maybe a little angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other? For some of us the voice is clear, and for others its volume has diminished over time. Our conscience is one of God’s powerful tools in guiding our decisions and directing our steps. Paul spoke wisely to Timothy, a young leader, when he gave this advice:

“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Following the instructions of your conscience, or that inner tug that makes something feel morally right or wrong, will help you “fight well in the Lord’s battles” (1 Timothy 1:18). But disregarding what you know to be right and choosing otherwise will leave your faith shipwrecked. Destroyed. The actions we are meant to take for Christ, crippled. Or, more effectively as the Life Application Study Bible (NLT) states, “each time you deliberately ignore your conscience, you are hardening your heart. Over a period of time your capacity to tell right from wrong will diminish.”

That explanation struck a cord with me and made me realize why so many of us may have a warped sense of right and wrong, whether it’s in reference to what TV shows we think are acceptable, the kinds of relationships we allow, or how we treat others. Though connecting with your conscience seems so small, perhaps it’s why both great things and terrible things are accomplished by people in this world today. Their actions are results of a lifelong relationship with an inner compass.

So how do we keep our conscience clear?

“For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.”
“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭2:13, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 

  1. Listen to that gut feeling God is giving you
  2. Demonstrate what is right

Thankfully “our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:22‬ ‭NLT‬‬) To have that grace and forgiveness is an incredible gift, rather than an excuse to continue on in sin. It’s a hope and a fresh start to live a life in Christ, guided by Him through that sweet, kind inner voice that steers us in the right direction.

Have there been times you’ve felt your conscience at work? Looking back, how do you see God’s influence in that moment?

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How Delightful!

How Delightful!

The room was dimly lit with the sleepy light of a late summer day of rain. The rocking chair I’d settled into was neatly angled from the corner of our comfortable living room, and in close proximity to the fresh country air pouring in from the wide open window. The sound of water up against the porch awning was gentle and unobtrusive, more comforting than any lullaby.

I rested my head on the back of the rocker as it glided back and forth. I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I was thankful that my husband was off working at a job that provided for our family, that my son was sitting in classes he enjoyed, and for the bliss of being nestled beneath the weight of a sleeping baby.

(Photo credit: Danielle Dolson)

“This is Heaven,” I thought. I knew even then that it was one of the best moments I had ever, and maybe would ever, experience in my lifetime. I was deeply contented and my heart was truly delighted.

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Oh, those traveling verses! Have you ever come across a line of scripture that begins to follow you around? You start to see it on wall hangings, on a passerby’s t-shirt, or maybe more subtly in a book you’re reading or in conversation with a stranger.

This Psalms passage has been making itself known and as I read it again, a line jumped out at me: “take delight in the Lord”. Do you ever find that there are some common phrases in the Bible or church setting that we kind of take for granted and may not have spent time figuring out? This line occurred to me as a “taken for granted” kind of line, particularly because of what is said next: “take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” Well sign me up! The last part peeked my interest because of course, who doesn’t want to be granted their heart’s desire?! It’s like the Bible is saying- God will give you whatever you want, just follow this simple instruction! So naturally you backtrack to examine the instruction more carefully, (and while there is more to it) its true meaning becomes clearer.

(Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska)

To get a better grip on the phrase “to delight in”, I tried to plug it into my own life. Here’s what I came up with:

  • I delight in peaceful rainy days with the windows open like the one I described earlier.
  • I delight in funny cat videos.
  • I thoroughly delight in long slow walks through Joann Fabrics with a hot coffee in my hand.
  • I delight in seeing my kids play well together and not push each other into piles of Lego’s.

The phrase begins to take shape. “Where is your heart?” it seems to say. Now I could edit my post and put “I delight in doing God’s will and studying His Word” at the top, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The little joys in life- which are certainly supplied by God- were my more immediate thoughts. Of course there is delight in living a God-led life, but it’s often His blessings that catch our attention first.

While it’s good to enjoy what God has given us, we shouldn’t allow it to replace our delight in the Lord. As the passage says- take delight in the LORD and he will give you your heart’s desires. The gifts in this life are to be enjoyed, but soon pass away. Our heart should find its happiness in the One who never fades or ends or changes, because then our joy will be unwavering, too. If we delight in the Lord, our desires will naturally evolve to ones that are good and pleasing to Him, and I believe He will in turn grant them.

(Photo credit: Lesly Juarez)

“He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So what does God delight in? He delights in us- our hearts devoted to Him! There’s no need to get caught up on figuring out any more than that. Just as we delight in our children, so God delights in us. Psalms makes sure to rule out the unnecessary as well:

“You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand — you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God doesn’t need us to check serving, attending service, or activity in a small group off of our list- even though those are things that often come naturally as a result of a devoted heart. He just wants to be the priority on our list. When we study His Word and really grasp what it is to have His Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we will find delight in Him and doing His will becomes a natural side effect.

“I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart. [Heb. 10:5-9.]”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

It’s the beginning of what I hope is a delightful holiday week for you all! Enjoy your many blessings as you reflect on them this week- and feel free to share a little about them in the comments below!

Best Dad Ever

Best Dad Ever

Every once in a while I catch a case of wanderlust and sneak onto a travel site. I check out different locations and see how many mortgage payments it would cost to go to my dream location. I wonder what it would be like to slip on some giant sunnies, board a plane, and step off of it in a Mediterranean paradise. Or what it would be like to take an Instagram-worthy photo of the best foreign food- assuming my camera was faster than my fork.

(Photo credit: Shifaaz shamoon)

While I’ve never been overseas, there are countless pictures, personal accounts, and even movies to tell me what it must be like. It seems so different from what I know, but it becomes easy to imagine and wish for. Even with all the information I can find online, having never experienced it, I don’t really know what it’s like in those distant countries I admire.

(Photo credit: Zach Ward)

Sometimes there are aspects of our relationship with God that can be difficult to experience or understand because of lacking elements in our earthly relationships.

One aspect of our connection to God that I’ve always loved and held dear is our relationship with Him as a father. Understanding who God is as a father is a crucial part of understanding His importance in our lives. But how can you do that if you’ve never had a right relationship with your own earthly father?Understandably, it’s difficult.

How can I know what a fresh cannoli tastes like in a mom and pop Italian bakery if I’ve never been to Italy? How can I know what it smells like when it rains on the streets of Paris if I’ve never walked them? And how can I experience God’s fatherly love and the consistency of His presence in my life if I’ve not had that from my human father?

(Photo credit: Derek Thomson)

For starters, know that this is a place for your faith to grow.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It’s said that there are things concerning how God works that we’re not meant to know or understand in this life, and this may be one of them for some of us.

But if you peek into the lives of others, you’ll see that you are not singled out- that there are opportunities for faith to grow in them, too. For those who struggle with addiction, their opportunity may be in the long recovery process. For those who are limited due to illness or inability, their opportunity may be in their limits. And for some of us, our opportunity for faith to be grown may be in a hurt or missing parental relationship.

If we lack these things- sobriety, physical ability, emotional stability, etc.- how do we fill the space they should inhabit? What a beautiful empty room those things create to be filled with God’s presence, beauty, and great ability to provide.

(Photo credit: Philipp Berndt)

If you don’t know what to expect from God as your father or how to identify Him in that way because of a lacking relationship, Psalm 145 gives great representation of our Heavenly Father:

Fatherly Characteristics of God (According to Psalm 145)

God is……..

  • Merciful (v. 8)
  • Compassionate (v. 8, 9)
  • Slow to anger (v. 8)
  • Filled with unfailing love (v. 8)
  • Good to everyone (v. 9)
  • Promise keeper (v. 13, also Psalm 146:6)
  • Gracious (v. 13)
  • Righteous (v. 17)
  • Filled with kindness (v. 17)
  • Protector (v. 20, also Psalm 144:2)

In His grace, God has planted in His Word all the information we need to have a clear picture of who He is as our father. Though we may not have the chance to experience these qualities in our human relationships, God is faithful and fulfills them all- not just some! In the emptiness a broken relationship can leave behind, God fills the space and overflows from it with his abundance of loving qualities. We can relate to Him because we learn through His Word who He is, and we build trust by relying on Him consistently.

Some of us may never get the social media-worthy photo of extravagant travels or Norman Rockwell family moments. (Even if we did, surely we’re wise enough by now to know that there is always production magic going on behind the scenes to make those things appear better than they really are.) But there are no special effects in the image scripture gives us of God the Father. It’s cut and dry- a candid depiction of the constant qualities of the only unfailing parent we will ever know.

And what’s more, God is eternal and omnipresent. That’s forever. That’s everywhere. That’s never waiting on the front porch in disappointment realizing He isn’t going to show, or living life after He’s gone. He is always with us, completely constant in all of His perfect qualities.

If you’re left wanting from your earthly parental relationships, take heart in this scripture from Psalms 27:

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:10 NLT

What great encouragement it is to know that we are never alone, even if our most foundational relationships in this life fail! God is always close to us, and always able to supply His perfect peace if we are faithful to ask for it.

What quality of God as a father are you most thankful for?