Concluding Words to Titus

image1

As I was reading through Titus Chapter 3, I was bulldozed with the words of wisdom Paul shared. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with these charges that we are encouraged to uphold:

  1. Be subject to rulers and authorities
  2. Be obedient
  3. Be ready to do whatever is good
  4. Slander no one
  5. Be peaceable and considerate
  6. Always be gentle toward everyone

Honestly, I can’t say that I adhere to these precious reminders that Paul writes to Titus. He goes on to say that “at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, NIV). Can I really say that I don’t live by this foolishness to this day? This led to a time of confession, and thankfully, I follow a God who is quick to forgive and remove my sins from me…as far as the east is from the west.

Which brings me to the next point that Paul so beautifully highlights in this letter – we are saved because of God’s mercy, not because of the righteous things we have done. We have the Holy Spirit poured out on us through the generous sacrifice Jesus Christ our Savior made on the cross, so that we are justified through grace (and grace alone), and so that we have a hope of eternal life. I don’t know about you, but this truth means everything. I don’t have to live out of shame from my foolishness, but instead, I can turn from those ways with the help of the Holy Spirit so that I can devote myself to doing what is good. It’s not my good deeds that save me, it’s my saving faith that leads to good deeds.

This is my prayer – that I wouldn’t be selfish, foolish, and easily deceived by all kinds of passions and pleasures, but that I would use the power given to me by the Holy Spirit to live a life of kindness and love with Jesus serving as my representation. If you know me, then you know this is a great feat. I have the tendency to be mean, hold grudges, resent others, and refuse forgiveness (as if refusing to forgive punishes those who have wronged me instead of myself). Like I said, reading this chapter was like a punch to the gut.

Paul’s final remarks include this: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14). Maybe this is a challenge to you as well, but I know for me, I have some serious re-prioritizing to do.

 

Advertisements

Fun Facts About Australia

Our Home

Our move was a complete success! God has been providing for us in miraculous ways – since the moment we landed on January 19th, we have seen God moving in our lives and in our circumstances.

To provide a brief update, once we landed, we received a car from a member who is joining our church plant! What an amazing provision – we are still thanking God for our car. Within a week, we found a house in a great location, put in an application, had our application accepted two hours later, and we moved in on Saturday (exactly a week after our arrival – almost unheard of). As we were completing the paperwork for our upcoming move-in date, Matt found all of our furniture on Facebook Marketplace – we filled our house quickly and paid ridiculously low prices for our wonderful furniture!

Since then, I have learned a few fun facts about Australia outside of our ministry that I would love to share with you all!

  1. Nature is beautiful, but I stay worried that every creature around will kill me. This makes hanging my laundry an adventure as I jump at every movement in the brush that surrounds our hanging line!
  2. Hanging laundry in Australia is so much easier than what we endured in England…the hot sun will dry our clothes in no time.
  3. However, the sun is so ridiculously powerful that I can get a sunburn in the five minutes it takes to hang our laundry. As I’m writing this, it sounds like a big portion of my life surrounds laundry, which is not true – it’s just a new adventure…so I will move on!
  4. The geckos really like to get in the house. They move incredibly fast, so we have trouble catching them and releasing them back outside. The worst of it was when we found a baby gecko in our bed! Good thing they are harmless!
  5. Now that we live in the suburbs, we spend a lot of time walking around the lake, where nature takes an interesting turn. The lizards are big, I think we saw an eel in the lake, the birds are beautiful…and plentiful, and I saw my first snake while walking around the lake.
  6. We stay inside till about 4 pm due to the heat. They say it’s going to cool down around here, but it’s still pretty ridiculously hot! The nice thing is that the temperatures drop with the setting sun, so evenings are lovely!
  7. I tend to take only cold showers here – the thought of it might be a little cringe-worthy to you, but I have to say that taking a hot shower in the middle of the day (with our AC unit on the opposite side of the house) would be miserable. However, when I get out of the shower, it feels like my towel (hanging in our bathroom) has just come out of the dryer. So, it doesn’t take long for me to warm right back up!
  8. Driving on the other side of the road has been interesting…to say the least! Luckily, we haven’t gone the wrong way around a roundabout…yet – and let’s pray that remains true! We have been caught driving on the wrong side of the road a few times, but when a car comes our way, we quickly correct (just back roads – nothing too serious)!
  9. I have yet to swim in any body of water that isn’t man-made for fear of my life. I waded out in the ocean, but only up to my knees. They do have shark nets to protect against shark attacks, but they say the crocodiles on the beach are more dangerous than the sharks in the water. Yes. Crocodiles on the beach. (However, this isn’t true in Brisbane, apparently you have to travel north to see a croc on the beach).
  10. Finally, the people here are amazing! Everyone is friendly, laid back, and incredibly helpful! We are really loving our new home and the community God has placed us in!

Thank you for your prayers and interest in our lives! Australia is unbelievable, and we are so thankful God has led us to help plant a church in Forest Lake!

Be Courageous; Be Strong

Matt and Tiff

I was reading in 1 Corinthians 16 this morning, and these verses hit me like a ton of bricks: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

This is exactly what I needed to hear as I weigh our future. My husband and I are flying half-way around the world to Australia on January 17th, 2019 to start our exciting adventure as we partner with many to plant a church. There is much to be done in Brisbane, and I know God has led us there to be a part of His wonderful work – his miraculous plan – and I can’t wait to see what He does in and through us!

Despite my excitement for all that is to come next month, I’m still fearful. It will be very difficult to leave behind family. We still need to raise funds as we are not yet fully supported. When we arrive, we need to find a place to live, furniture to fill that place, a car to drive, and so much more. And once we are settled, we will move immediately into ministry opportunities as God continues to open doors. This is where 1 Corinthians 16 verses 13-14 come into play.

Paul encourages us to be on our guard, and I know I need to protect myself from ways in which the enemy is looking to ruin this whole experience. We are instructed to stand firm in our faith, which is so applicable when it comes to our ministry work and trusting God as He provides for our needs. I need to be courageous and strong as I face the sorrows of leaving my loved ones, the hurdles of everyday life that come when you’re leaving everything behind and having to start over, and the struggles – spiritual, emotional, and physical – of such drastic change. Finally, through all of this, I need to do everything in love, especially as we seek to reach the lost through the ministry opportunities that our loving Savior provides!

Epilogue: Finding Hope in Heartache

There are times when there is no rhyme or reason to heartache, but occasionally it is revealed to us why we have had to endure such hardships. What heartaches have you had to endure, and where do you find your hope for healing?

388549_10150454390107991_1221185234_n

Bonus section! As you read through the epilogue of Love’s True Colors, you come to understand what God was doing all along. He was molding Tessa’s heart, changing her character, and teaching her how to rely on Christ. And I think he was doing this to prepare her heart (my heart) to become a pastor’s wife.

As you can see throughout the entire novel, Tessa is resistant when it comes to her involvement in the church. Her wounds were deep, and she also feels like her life experiences would hinder her integrity as a role model in the church.  “He explained that he wanted to be a pastor…I stared at him for a while with my mouth gaping. He knew how I felt about pastors, about being overly involved in a church, about my hesitations toward trusting the church” (page 312). Nevertheless, Mason wanted to follow God’s calling, even if that meant losing Tessa. This placed Tessa in a difficult position, but ultimately, she knew that if this was what God wanted for her and Mason, then He would work all things out for the good.

Your heartaches will be different than Tessa’s, but I’m sure you’re grappling with your own specific hardships. The question is how you deal with those heartaches? Do you see Christ working in the midst of your heartache? Jeremiah 30:17a says, “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord…” (NIV).

Christ is working in your life, whether or not you’re able to see the purpose of your heartache. No matter what you’re facing today, know that there is hope in Jesus. He is trustworthy, and He redeems you from your past so you can use your story for the betterment of others. I always wanted to write my story because I think it’s such a beautiful testimony of who Christ is and how He works in the midst of our lives and heartaches. He’s working in your life too, so place you’re trust in Him because hope can be found in heartache!

Chapter 25: Desires of your Heart

Sometimes we focus on the right things, but for all the wrong reasons.
When have you found your desires changing as a result of focusing on the right motives?

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 10.12.03 PM.png

We reach the beautiful ending of this novel in chapter 25, and there is much to celebrate. However, before we delve into the fairytale ending, we need to step back and analyze Tessa’s heart. She loves Mason, that much has remained true throughout the entire novel, but she misunderstands a conversation she has with him and makes a drastic decision as a result. “I want to be his wife. I want to be the mother of his children. I want to wake up every day next to him. This is my heart’s purest and most desperate desire, but his deliberation on the phone earlier this evening spoke loud and clear – I’m alone in my feelings, and that is why this friendship has to end. Tonight” (page 303).

Tessa isn’t focused on the way God is molding her heart through the pain she’s endured in her relationship with Mason. Instead, she’s focused on how much she can handle emotionally. So, she shuts down. As a result, she is somewhat tainting the surprise that awaits her at the airport. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). Tessa certainly doesn’t spend the flight delighting in the Lord, but He certainly gave her the desire of her heart by the time the plane landed.

What are the desires of your heart? Are you taking delight in the Lord, whether or not you will receive the desires of your heart? Have you ever noticed that, while taking delight in the Lord, He has changed the desires of your heart?

God is sovereign. Delight in your Lord and Savior – the more you make this your sole focus, the more you will realize that God gives you the desires of your heart. Your desires might change as a result of your Christ-centered focus, but that’s the beauty of following Christ whole-heartedly. He molds us, He grows us, He completes us. If you don’t know Jesus today, let my full story be a testimony to how fulfilling and satisfying a relationship with Christ is.

Christ’s steady love, through the highs and the lows, drives the ultimate story of love in Love’s True Colors. There is no other love, peace, or joy that triumphs over a relationship with Christ and all He has to offer us. If you don’t know this to be true, please make it a point to talk with me directly. God loves you, more than you can ever fathom, and He wants to claim you as His child today! Make Him your ultimate desire, everything else will fall into place!

Chapter 24: The Gossip Mill

Gossip not only ruins reputations, but it is also destructive to the
growth of individuals, especially when a difficult past is brought up.
Have you ever judged people unfairly as a result of gossip,
or have you even been misjudged because of the rumors spread about you?

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 9.17.18 PM

In this chapter, Tessa is able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom. During this time, she opens up about some issues she’s still facing as a result of gossip from the past. “I verbalize the emotions that marked my heart the night before, opening wounds that have not had time to heal, no matter how long ago the incident was” (page 292-293).

Gossip can be incredibly destructive. Whether you have believed something false about somebody or someone has believed something false about you, we can all admit that gossip hurts. This is why the Bible says, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5, NIV).

We are all guilty of partaking in gossip, I certainly know I am. There’s just something about juicy gossip that piques our interest, and whether or not we are the ones sharing, we are participating in the spread of rumors just by listening. However, how would that person you’re gossiping about feel if they were sitting in the room with you – if they heard everything that was said? Pretty terrible, right?

Ultimately, not only do we need to consider how destructive our own tongue can be, we also need to realize that we are participating if we choose to listen to the rumors. Guard your tongue and honor those who aren’t in the room to defend against the rumors that are being spread about them. In the end, we don’t like being gossiped about, so this should be reason enough for us not to partake in it. Have wisdom and pray about certain work situations or other environments that have the tendency to cause you to stumble in this area. God is sovereign, and He will give you the strength to keep information to yourself or to get up and leave when someone is gossiping around you.

Chapter 23: Ghosts from the Past

There are moments, maybe even seasons, where we have to grapple with regret. Have there been times where you have had to face your regret or a ghost from your past; and if so, what is the best way of dealing with the emotions evoked?

IMG_4236

This chapter is riddled with complex situations. Tessa has been removed indefinitely from her volleyball team, she endures a conversation with someone who reminds her of guilt from her past, and she runs into a man who has hurt her and her family. By the end of the chapter, she is trying to grapple with these various ghosts from her past. “Tears start streaming down my face, but Mason doesn’t say anything, so my thoughts come pouring out all at once” (page 286-287).

Tessa chooses to talk about her many emotions evoked by encountering these ghosts from her past. Mason listens to her, and he comforts her too (read to the end of the chapter for Tessa’s little ray of hope)! However, despite the benefit of talking through our emotions, we still need to turn to scripture for clarity.

Pauls writes, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV).

Keep your sights focused on Christ. You may be faced with ghosts from your past, but press on toward the goal of honoring Christ with your words, actions, and relationships as you forget what is behind. This is much easier said than done, but choose to forgive and love as you leave the past in the past.