Weakness is Powerful


Get over it.

Don’t be such a baby.

Suck it up.

Toughen up, butter cup.

Society is selling us a HUGE lie: be tough. I would imagine no one could actually remember and count all of the times someone has told them to be tougher, don’t cry or don’t let anyone see their weaknesses. TV shows, commericials, and movies all send the message that the ones who win are the ones who show no weakness. We begin to set toughness as the goal and the expectation and yet, that is the exact opposite of what God is asking of us.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul is writing this astounding message right after sharing that he has a weakness, a thorn in his side, that drives him so crazy, he has asked God multiple times to take it away and God is unwilling. God is insisting there is value in this affliction, so He’s leaving it there because He is declaring that His grace is all Paul needs to live. God then goes one step further to say that not only is His grace enough for Paul to handle this issue, the issue itself causes God’s power to be made complete. What?! This just flips everything upside down for me.

I hate my fears. I know hate is a strong word and we really shouldn’t use it, but the truth is that I do hate them. I hate wondering if a new building has steps because I am terrified of elevators. I hate calculating how long it would take me to drive somewhere because I find flying so hard. I hate longing for a drink of alcohol because then the edge of anxiety goes away. I hate feeling like something is going to go wrong when thing are going well. I have been told time and time again, by well meaning people who love me, that my anxiety is “in my head” and that I need to just feel it, face it and forget it. I’ve had people explain how irrational my fears are and I’ve spent hours learning the mechanics of elevators and planes just to try to alleviate some of my anxiety. I’ve done all of the things I’ve been told to do, I’ve spent loads of time with counselors and reading books, and yet, this is still an issue that I can’t get over. I have asked God more times then I can count to take away my fears and guess what, He hasn’t done it. I can explain all the rational reasons for my fears, I can even tell you what started them, but in the end, all I want is for God to remove them. I have shamed myself time and time again trying to suck it up and face them and even when I do, the anxiety lingers. It feels like I’ve done everything! And yet…

Here’s what I haven’t done, I haven’t boasted in my weakness. I haven’t tried to see my anxiety as a gift that allows God to move in my life. In the original text, the word boast here means to “glory proudly, live with head held high by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter.” (Strong’s Exhaustive, 2744. kauchaomai) Light bulb! Ah ha! I have to live with my anxiety in perspective, a right base of operation, in order to live successfully with it. So what is that right base of operation? Christ’s power.

Only by seeing that my anxiety is a gift that actually keeps me reliant on God can I live with it successfully. God’s power is made complete in the thing I hate the most so, shouldn’t I stop hating it? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to both me, and my testimony, to simply acknowledge that yes, I have more anxiety than I actually like and yet, God wants to be powerful through me in this thing that I call affliction and He calls grace? My weakness is where I find God’s strength most powerful! 

But there’s a catch: I have to stop holding on to and hiding my anxiety under a dark cover of shame. All of those statements at the beginning of this post, those create shame. While they may be said to help encourage, they do the exact opposite and they are actually deeply harmful. I’ve been told that my weakness is something I should be ashamed of, not share, not acknowledge and therefore by implication, not allow God to use. In order to remove the shame and for God’s power to move through and be made complete by my weakness, I have to stop asking Him to remove it and start asking Him to give me the power to find joy in my anxiety and do the thing I fear anyways. No shame. No guilt. Just acceptance, joy, boasting and grace.

What’s your weakness that keeps you from experiencing God’s grace and power to the fullest? Are you fighting against God by trying to power through on your own? Are you, like me, exhausted by the work? God’s invitation in this message from Paul is to stop trying on your own because the simple truth is, you don’t have enough power. God’s grace and God’s power is made complete once you can joyfully accept that your weakness is where God shines. He will give you what you need when you need it, just be open and boast about your challenges. This is where you trade your shame for His glory and He shines like the brightest star in the sky.

Shalom,

KA

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My Nemesis and My Friend: FEAR

I had an interesting situation happen recently. I had opportunity to need two references for a ministry position, so I asked two people who know me well. I gave them the form to fill out without reading the form myself. I did that mostly because I trust them and didn’t really need to know the questions. This meant, of course, that I didn’t know what they would be asked about me so I wouldn’t be able to do any coaching or ask them later what they said. I was blind and that was ok. 

When the interview came, one of the questions was, “Both of your references mentioned fear as an issue for you, tell us more about that and what it means.” Gulp! My friends had betrayed me! They gave away my secret kryptonite! How dare they tell anyone else that I have fear issues! For a moment I felt paralyzed, I turned my head to the side and thought about how to answer in a way that wouldn’t make me look weak. Then I smiled and in my heart I laughed. Two people who know me well, but don’t know each other, said the exact same thing about me. Awesome!! 

I strive to be transparent in every area of my life. I really believe that if you followed me around at work you would see the same person as if you followed me around at the mall. And guess what? Fear plays a larger role in my life then I wish it did and clearly, that shows to the people around me. Much like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, I have begged God to take away my fears like a magician. I want to wake up one day and just feel different, knowing I no longer have fear. And exactly as He replied to Paul, He replies to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) I have been successful in being transparent about my fear with my friends and now, I had to test that by telling strangers about it.

I took a deep breath and started to tell my story. I told them that I have PTSD and one of the ways it manifests is through situational anxiety. I shared that when I face an elevator or even the thought of flying, I freeze and am filled with fear. I then talked about Paul and his “thorn in the side” and how I believe fear is mine because it forces me to rely on God even more than I already do. I have held a lot of shame about my fear because society says things like, “just get over it”, “do it anyways and then it won’t scare you anymore” or “stop being a baby”. I’ve actually heard all of those statements from people who love me and are trying to help but are doing more harm than good. So, I had stopped talking about my fear, at least publicly. And now, in an interview with people who could stop me from moving forward, I had been ratted out by my friends and had to talk about my nemesis, fear.

Here’s what happened in that moment as I shared my fear…it became my friend. The thing that drives me the most crazy and brings me the most angst, when held up to the Cross of Christ, is that thing that makes God’s power in my life greater. Here’s the catch though, God’s power is only made perfect in my weakness if I allow it. God is huge proponent of free will and choice, this means He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. I have to choose to let His power, His Spirit, flow through me into the situations that cause fear and do that thing I am afraid of or else I’m not living out His grace as sufficient. This place is where I fall short frequently. 

Every morning as I walk into my building at work and I head for the staircase because I don’t want to face the elevator. I do the same thing any time I have a meeting on another floor, and every night when I leave. The thought of the doors closing me into that box brings so much fear and dread, that I simply don’t do it. I have to make the choice that I’m going to let God empower me to use the elevator. My PTSD is triggered by being stuck in one space without the ability to get out. Doesn’t matter how small or how large the space, being stuck is my worst nightmare. I’ve spent lots of hours and money pinpointing why, now I have to activate my faith and trust, and let God empower me to get in the elevator. I no longer shame myself or judge myself, which is super helpful and a true gift from God. God’s grace and love cover me, He knows my struggle and He knows my heart as He patiently waits for the times I do allow myself to face the fears. It’s not an act of disobedience on my part to take the steps, it’s simply a missed opportunity to deeper faith. 

The more I think of fear and anxiety as the enemy, as my nemesis, the more power I give it. God is showing me that the way to diffuse the power is to accept it as part of who I am and grow in my faith that His word is true and that His power really IS made perfect in my weakness. But that’s only the first part, the second part is that I need to talk more about it so that I can help others. Anxiety is a lonely place because so many people don’t understand and in their desire to help, they hurt. Anxiety causes heeps and heeps of shame and judgment which makes it feel like an elephant sitting on your chest. You dread going to new places because you don’t know what you’ll have to “be brave” through. Anxiety often leads to depression. It’s a downward spiral that can completely take over. It’s the primary reason I drank alcohol, because when I was drunk I had no anxiety. I love that Paul gave us this example of sharing our story, challenges and successes, when he said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

May we all find that our nemesis is our friend as it leads us to a deeper relationship of faith with God. His grace really is sufficient and it is waiting to walk with you whenever you are ready.

Shalom,

KA

Living Like Christ-Represent

Have you ever heard the saying, “You’re the only Jesus some people will ever see”, or something close to that message? Do you believe it? I think it’s really easy for us to feel unimportant and lose sight of our value to the Kindgdom because the world is so big and we are so small. I mean in all seriousness, as of a 2016 count, there were 7.4 BILLION people in the world! We had 323 million people here in the United States and in my home state, there were 7 million counted in 2016. In my home time alone we currently have around 88,000 people so it’s no wonder we feel small. 

Small doesn’t mean insignificant. One of my favorite pastors and authors, Corey Russell, has a saying that gets my choked up every time I hear it, “Small hinges move big doors.” Go look at a door, the size of the hinges compared to the size of door is astounding when you think about the fact that without the hinge, the door won’t open. We are all small hinges on the big doors of the world around us, our immediate communities. We are the ones, as followers of Jesus, who represent Him in all that we do. And here’s the deal, even if you aren’t talking about Him directly, you are representing Him. You are either representing His importance in your life, or you are representing that you don’t think you need Him. How are you representing?

I never want it to be a secret that I follow Jesus. Sometimes that stops me from having influence in a particular moment because lots of people have negativity towards God and towards Christians. We have a tendency to think, and act, like Christians are above bad choices and that simply isn’t true. So, when someone who is known as a Christian makes a public mistake, they rock the boat in a negative way for all of us. That’s just a side effect of human nature and right or wrong, statistics show we have an easier time judging someone in a negative light than giving grace. The best thing we can do is live as authentically as possible and show the love of Jesus at all times. This is a choice, a habit and a level of self-control that places priority on Jesus and not us.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

Paul isn’t telling us what to do here, he’s telling us how. No matter what your are doing or saying, you are representing how you see Jesus in your life. Our lives are a continual flow of worship and praise, inviting people to see Jesus! Our lives are prayers of thanksgiving for all that God has done! Even in the hard times, you can shine Jesus. Remember that the night before He was taken into custody, Jesus had a raw and honest moment with His Father where He asked to be removed from the pain of the next day. Was He still 100% Jesus in that moment? Yes! Was He being raw and honest with God? Yes! Did God do something amazing? YES!!! 

Life isn’t always great, so don’t pretend it is because that’s not honest. Sometimes life just flat out sucks. And in those moments, with the people God has placed in your life, share Jesus. Share the emotions of the moment and the faith you are trying to have so that people see you represent Jesus as real. Give thanks for everyone word and deed that allows you to shine Jesus, no matter how hard or how easy. In this big world, you really and truly are the only Jesus some people will every see up close so represent well. Be human, be authentic and be you.

Shalom,

KA

Living Like Christ-Words

Words. We all know that the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” isn’t really true. Words do hurt us which is why God made sure to include several verses in His word about our language. Here are just a couple tried-and-true verses to live by when it comes to how to speak to people:

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

There are plenty more verses about our words and how important they are, if you haven’t read them I would encourage you to look them up. God has made it very clear how He feels about language and the impact on both the speaker and the listener. But I don’t think how we speak is the focus of this verse in Colossians.

As I was reading the Colossians 3:16, I was struck by a question I had never really asked before, “What is the ‘word of Christ’”? This verse is very specific what kind of word we are to let reign in our lives so I think it’s worth exploring just a little bit. In John 1:1, we learn that Jesus Himself is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So if Jesus IS the Word, what is Paul referring to when he is talking to the believers in Colossae?

I did a short study on the original word for “word”, logos. This word is the same in both John 1:1 and Colossians 3:16, it means “a word, speech, divine utterance” (Strong’s concordance, 3056. logos) When Jesus lived here among us, He said a lot of words and gave several speeches so again I asked, what is Paul referring to? So I started praying for some guidance because I was feeling a little lost and overwhelmed at exactly which word of Christ was I supposed to let dwell in me and how could let them all live in me richly without trying to memorize every word He spoke. I also made an assumption that since Paul is talking to believers, he isn’t simply trying to tell them to let Jesus live in their hearts as in salvation. So I don’t think Paul is talking about a saving knowledge of Jesus when he says, “word of Christ” in this verse.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, and with all of your souls, and with all of your mind.’ That is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

For me, as I was reading these verses in Matthew, it became clear that Jesus summed up how we are to live in these very powerful words and that if I want to have the word of Christ live, dwell, drive my life, this is the word I need to follow. All of His other words point to these veres. All of His ministry point to these verses. All of His death point to these verses. All of His resurrection point to these veres. To let the word of Christ dwell richly in my life, I have to live with God being the focal point of every single area of my life first, and then the outflow of that focus will be that I love myself because I know who I am in God and I love the people around me. And in case you are wondering, this is again agape love…unconditional.

Shalom,

KA

Living Like Christ-Peace


Peace. Much like love, I think it’s time that we take a close look at what peace means and redefine it for our lives. In Colossians 3:15, Paul is directing us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. This verse can be frustrating if you just look at the chaos of life. However, if you go a little deeper into heart issues, this verse is very empowering because Paul is clearly showing us that peace, specifically the peace of Christ, is an option at our disposal. All we have to do is let Christ’s peace rule in our hearts.

Much like everything else in the Bible that tells us how to live, it seems really easy on paper but feels much harder in real life. I mean come one, Paul doesn’t understand that I’ve got kids who all have their own activities and I have to drive them all around. Paul doesn’t know what it’s like to have a spouse that doesn’t help. Paul never had a boss like mine. I could go on and on with the list of reasons what it’s not “easy” to follow Paul in this directive and yet, I would be wrong on each count. 

Making a choice lie this always sounds hard but if it is directed by God and empowered by Holy Spirit, it then becomes about me, not the outside forces around me. I can absolutely choose to feel peaceful in Jesus no matter what the situation is that is trying to cause chaos in my heart. How I enter and stay in a moment is my choice. I can’t control anything around me, I can only control me. Through Paul, God is giving us a blank check to an endless account of peace…all we have to do is sign it. Once we sign off on this truth that we can feel peace no matter what, then we let it rule in our hearts and we live in peace like Jesus lived in peace.

This morning as I was reading this verse I started to try to think about what the “peace of Christ” looks like. Here are just a few examples:
* Jesus feeds thousands of people without any apparent distress. The disciples are concerned about how everyone will eat but Jesus isn’t! 
* Jesus sleeps on a boat through a storm. The disciples are being battered by the storm and when they find Jesus, He not only is peaceful, He’s asleep!
* Jesus calmly goes with the Roman guards. The disciples are reacting to the Roman guards coming to take Jesus away but Jesus calmly refuses to engage in the chaos and agrees to go with them.
* Jesus quietly stands before the Roman authorities. The disciples have scattered and are filled with fear but Jesus chooses to stay in peace knowing that His Father is fully in control.

There are many other situations where Jesus was in the midst of chaos and instead of engaging and adding fuel to that fire, He chose peace. In Colossians 3:15, Paul is reminding us that if Jesus lives in our hearts and is in control of our lives, then we have access to the same peace He had in His life. The peace of Christ doesn’t engage in the chaos of the world because it is focused on the love of heaven.

I don’t know what kind of chaos and stress is happening in your life as you read this, but I know that if you will let it, the peace of Christ will rule in your hearts and the negativity that can clog up your mind and emotions will melt away. This isn’t a one-time choice, this is a habit you have to make. Start today by inviting Holy Spirit to give you peace throughout your days and then continue to invite that peace into each situation and moment. Jesus is with you.

Shalom,
KA

Living like Christ – Love

Love. Just say this word out loud and then sit in the emotions you feel for a moment. In a perfect world, the word would conjure up feelings of warmth, joy, security and acceptance. We all know that we don’t live in a perfect world so for some, this word brings about pain, fear, insecurity and anger. In order to live like Christ, we need to love like Christ and that can make many people feel uncomfortable.

In this passage, Colossians 3:14, Paul is directing us to live in love at all times because love creates unity. The question we have to ask now is, “what kind of love?” In this verse, and SO many verses in the New Testament, writers are referring to agape love. This type of love is unconditional in all circumstances. Agape love is more action than feeling because it shows the receiver that no matter what they do, say or believe, the giver loves them and is going to do their best to support them. Agape love doesn’t care if you agree or disagree, it stays to help and support. Agape love has no measure of deserving because all are equal and fully cared about regardless of any extenuating circumstances. In agape love, there are no extenuating circumstances; all are loved.

Now, here’s where human nature starts to get in the way. How can I love someone I don’t agree with? Agape love is unconditional and therefore, is not built on what you do or do not believe as far as a faith system or lifestyle. Agape love says that because you exist, I love you. Agape love is perfect love, it’s God’s love. Agape love is a choice you make every moment of the day. It’s a choice to put another person above yourself in order to bring about community, even when you don’t like or agree with everything that person is doing or saying. Agape love has as its final desire unity and unity leads to community. You can easily be in community and not believe the same if you will decide that connection is the most important outcome.

Here’s what agape love is not: a license for abuse. In all of our interactions, there should be healthy boundaries and that same principal applies to agape love. At not point does God expect us to live in an abusive relationship under the guise of “love” because honestly, allowing someone to abuse you is not showing them love. It is possible to make the choice to love someone, hope and pray for their very best in life, and not be part of their every day life. In agape love, you are able to say, “I love you. I truly want the best for you and I can’t provide support when you are hurting me.” You aren’t taking away the desire for connection, you are setting up a list of expectations that must be met in order to love the person, you are simply providing a safe boundary where love can actually grow and flourish. God shows us this throughout the Bible and all of life. He is always present, always loving but, He is not always condoning our actions. If God IS love, agape love, then boudaries are part of love.

it’s time for us to redefine love. God is not asking us to like everyone, He is asking us to love everyone. My loving you doesn’t imply that I agree with you in every aspect, it simply means that I’m willing to hope for your best, support you as I am able, and desire unity with you. My actions will always be drive by my desire to create unity through love. If we could live out this mandate, love like Christ loved, no one would ever associate anything negative with love again. May we love like this all of our days.

Shalom,

KA