Motivated by Jesus

This time of year we are uniquely inundated with a variety of social events: work parties, school concerts, community outreach events and family gatherings.  We want to be able to see everyone and be everywhere for everything. Even as I write this it sounds exhausting! The issue laden within these scheduling conundrums is the underlying expectations that are both explicitly stated or, maybe worse, hidden beneath the surface.  How can we please both God and humans? Paul addresses this question in Galatians 1:10 where he asks, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Unfortunately, the answer is that we likely cannot please both.  Rather than being moved by the pressures of people we can instead choose to be motivated by the love of Jesus.
We might shrink from this idea in our humanness as we contemplate possible reactions of those in our lives that might not understand our choices.  However, we are reminded in looking at the birth of Christ that the celebration happened where Jesus was! Both the Magi and shepherds went to find Him, where He was, and were blessed in return.  It says that after the angels appeared to the shepherds they “hurried off” from their fields outside the town of Bethlehem. But what about the sheep? What about their responsibilities? The expectations of the sheep owners?  We don’t know what actions they took in response to their human obligations but we do know that they were following what was most important: the call to go and see the new born king Jesus. As a result, they gloried in the confirmation of God’s revelation to them but also were compelled to share the good news with others!  Isn’t this what Jesus wants for us this time of year? May we magnify the expectation of meeting Him over and above the meeting the expectation of others.
Authored By Katie Rivera of The Baton Pass

More on Family Relationships

As was established in the last blog post, I believe the holidays are a uniquely challenging time for most families due to unmet expectations, unfulfilled hopes and general disappointments. I am speaking this from experience. For many years it has felt like a dead end street navigating these important yet sensitive relationships with others. Once I had grieved about the hurts that have been caused in those relationships and engaged in forgiveness there are things that I came to realize (through the help mostly of my husband and the Holy Spirit) that are vital to the process.  When I prioritize my own health (emotional, physical, spiritual, mental) and that of my nuclear family, I have broken the chains of bondage to other’s responses and am free to model what wholeness in Christ is all about. I have recently (at Thanksgiving and yesterday specifically) seen God's hand move in me and my husband's family in ways that only God could orchestrate. Satan wants to see us discouraged about our family relationships and believe that they cannot change. This is a lie! Unfortunately, familiarity with our family (notice the same root word ☺) sometimes breeds disbelief.  Remember in Mark 6 when Jesus was in His hometown and could do no miracles? It wasn’t for lack of power on His part but rather for a lack of belief on the part of the people that knew him best! We, like these people, can both be labeled and label those in our families in ways that do not allow for the change and freedom that Jesus came to bring. If we have been changed by God then He is able to do it for anyone! My encouragement for you all is that by working on establishing ourselves in the wholeness of Christ that He will help us to navigate and reflect that wholeness to others that they might be moved to do the same.
Authored By Katie Rivera of The Baton Pass

Dear Younger Me Letter

Dear Younger Me,

If I could scoop you up in my arms to hold and comfort you, that’s exactly what you need right now. I know I can’t comfort you that way, younger Me, but please understand as I write these words I know exactly where you’re treading and I know how lonely it feels! Tonight, your husband revealed he’d broken your trust by breaking your wedding vows with another woman. You feel in this moment that you’ve lost your best friend and in one moment you’ve lost the future you’ve longed for. Millions of worries and emotions are flooding your brain. It’s all so hard to process.

I know you’re terrified to raise a child as a single parent and you’re so afraid that your little boys will know the pain of a broken home just like you did. You feel like trust is gone forever and all the insecurities you feel about yourself come creeping in. There’s a war in your head trying to pull you into despair and far away from hope.

But, younger Me, today I also know this – God has another plan! There is such VICTORY in your future!

In a few days God is going to send you a message through one of his daughters whom He’s carried through this same pain. This woman, who will one day become a dear friend, will fill that message with wisdom and tender love. This message will begin your healing process and encourage you to hope. She will beckon you to pray for your husband, just as she had for hers.

Reluctantly, in the coming weeks, in the mist of crying out for God to heal your wound and take away your pain her words will ring in your ears and you will begin to pray for God to heal your husband’s heart. Soon you’ll start to pray not only for your peace but for your husband’s peace as well. You’ll pray to feel God’s love in more depth and for your husband to feel God’s love just as much. In a couple weeks, something miraculous will happen after each prayer you will experience a bit more comfort and a more tender heart for your husband.

How can this happen? Because when you pray for your husband, God reveals your husband is not the enemy. God can help separate the sin from the man and he can help you do this too. You find there is no freedom in bitterness. Growing callous doesn’t allow God to be strength in your moments of need. But there is freedom in love. If we petition God to see those who hurt us through his perspective, His grace will abound in your heart even in the pain that hurts the most.

In this time, you will learn scriptures deeper than you’ve ever known before. Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the POWER of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. And this amazing verse, “If God is for us who can be against us?”'

In a few weeks, you both will commit to fight for each other and grow! You’ll see changes in your husband as he works to earn back trust and become more of the man God intended for him to be and you’ll see changes in yourself as you fall deeper in love with your heavenly father and those insecurities in yourself will be swallowed up as you put on your identity as God’s daughter. With each passing week your heart will mend and your soul will heal.

Younger Me, you’ll find people that want to give you advice. They’ll speak with a heart of love but they won’t be speaking the truth. Their words will cause doubt even though they are spoken with the intent to comfort.  Seek guidance from people that want to see both you and your husband flourish, whether together or apart so that you know their advice is impartial and their perspective is pure. This will become invaluable as you heal. Guard your heart and mind so that only goodness enters.

Find every reason to love, choose to pray when negative thoughts are creeping in, and in moments of doubt cling to Psalm 37. Psalm 37 is a beautiful set of passages to strengthen and encourage you! Remember, as you read these verses and continue to heal that your enemy is not your husband but rather the tempter that led him there.

I write this to you 8 years down the road with two additional kiddos added to the flock and all of your little ones are growing up with both parents in unity! You have NO fear or distrust in your husband’s full commitment to you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you supernatural forgiveness isn’t real. It’s true and bold and mighty! Today, I watch my husband speak with confidence as an advocate for freedom when he encounters other men dealing with these types of temptations. He is transparent about his mistakes and the broken identity that caused him to make unwise decisions. His honesty will allow God to speak His love for these men through your husband. This brings so much joy to my soul!

And you will speak about the power of forgiveness and victory in marriage to ladies who, like you, in this very moment may feel so broken. Today, please know that God doesn’t just pick up the pieces - He restores you to wholeness! God takes those things that Satan tried to use for our destruction and He fashions them into a greater and more beautiful masterpiece than before. You will be a walking testimony of what the power of God’s love can do and how there is NOTHING so broken that your heavenly father can’t fully restore!