The Beauty of my Interracial Marriage

“Stomp, hop, step, fa-lap, step, stomp,” I whispered over and over again, though my feet did not follow the words coming from my mouth. My seven-year-old self just knew she was going to be a phenomenal tap dancer. The little girl next to me had it down, so naturally, I asked her to help me. We were fast friends, ready to take over Dance Arts with our mad tapping skills.

After what felt like an hour to a tiny body, we went out to meet each other’s Mommies. As she brought me to a woman reading a magazine, I became confused. I looked at my new-found friend’s ebony skin and then to her mother’s face of porcelain. “This is your mom?” I asked.

“Yep!” As though she had been asked one thousand times. “My mom is white, and my dad is black.”

Then we moved on. Her, unscathed by the conversation. Me, baffled by this new idea.

I was seven years old before I knew that people of separate races would marry each other. Not because anyone was hiding the idea from me, but because I lived in a community where it was a rarity. Funny, because the Lord knew it would be my own future. From that moment, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was preparing me for my own marriage. He was preparing me to face resistance. He was preparing me to stop talking and listen to the heart of my husband who is part of a marginalized community. He was preparing my family to exemplify the heart of Colossians 3.

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If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 

(Colossians 3:1-11 ESV)

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“But Lauren, no one cares about people of different races getting marriage anymore. What does this verse have to do with that?”

Yet we forget that the Ku Klux Klan proudly taunts–even to this day–Interracial marriage is a violation of God’s Law and a communist ploy to weaken America.

We may even see this horribly deceiving excuse by a self-proclaimed Christian:

As individuals, ‘they’ are precious souls for whom Christ died and whom we are to love and seek to win. As a race, however, they are unique and different and have their own culture. . . . I would never marry a black. Why? Because I believe God made the races, separated them and set the bounds of their habitation (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26). He made them uniquely different and intended that these distinctions remain. God never intended the human race to become a mixed or mongrel race. So, while I am strongly opposed to segregation I favor separation that the uniqueness with which God made them is maintained.

Let me be clear: these passes of judgment, both explicit and implicit, are in direct opposition to the kingdom of God. They are lies. They are wrong. And we cannot be silent any longer. 

Look with a Kingdom Lens

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Christians. Hear my heart. Setting our minds on thFullSizeRender.jpgings above means seeing people from a kingdom lens.

American Christians. There is a big problem when we only go so far as to say, “I am okay with interracial marriage,” or “It doesn’t matter to me.”

It should matter to us! We should be overjoyed when we see two people who love the Lord uniting despite the expectations of this world. We should be dancing in joy. We should be singing praises to the Lord. We should be standing strong against the quotations that blasphemously used the Bible to promote white supremacy.

Get Over the Differences

“…Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

This is a distinction–this is a call–to get the heck over our cultural, ethnic, and racial differences. Only Jesus has to be the common denominator. Jesus. A Galilean man. A man of color. A man of rich culture. A man who was not American! In fact, I am confident He would verbally oppose many aspects of American, cultural Christianity.

Through my marriage, because it is interracial, God has taught me more about the reality of Christ’s binding blood than any word from a pastor’s mouth or book from a bestselling author. It has taught me to look at people and see the image of God. It has taught me to appreciate the hardships of my brothers and sisters–hardships that I will never, ever understand. It has taught me to HATE racism, my blood to boil at the sight of sin when I hear even something as small as a microaggression.

It has taught me to mourn with those who mourn, to appreciate the experience of another.

It has brought out some of the true colors of people I am surrounded by.

More than anything, it has taught me grace and love.

Beloved, Jesus died that gentiles and jews might lose all division. How much more than, can Austin and I (both gentile), a black man and a white woman, be free from the world’s divide. Jesus died that I might have His spirit. Jesus died that we might all unite under the outpouring of His blood.

You’re probably wondering the relevance of these words. It has been years since a message like this might have been surprising to a reader. I am writing these words that interracial relationships–friendships and marriages alike–would be celebrated. I am writing that this might become one of the staples of the Church. That we would have mouths that teach our little ones this from the time they can understand. That we would have hearts that seek diversity in every situation. That we would welcome people we don’t understand with open arms. That we would have ears to hear what these brothers and sisters might be experiencing.

Let us stop holding our tongues when we hear an insinuation that races should be divided from one another. Let us joyfully celebrate the uniting of every family. Every black family, every white family, every Asian and Hispanic and middle eastern family. And let us stand in celebration with families who choose to combine races.

12647553_10205775037552064_7985111898117520107_n.jpgHere is the bottom line. We will see color. We should celebrate color. God placed the exact melanin he desired for each of us within our skin cells. He loves culture and differentiation because when His children are different, it demonstrates the beauty of His uniting.

When I dream of bringing children into this world, my heart cannot but well up at the thought of two races literally becoming one. My heart cannot help but ache at the knowledge that they will experience marginalization that I cannot control beyond my own household. But the beauty will not be the color of their skin–though I am sure it will be beautiful. It will be the celebration of two becoming one. Two becoming one in marriage. Our becoming one with Christ. Two races meshing together and creating one beautiful human being. The combination of the different is one of the beautiful designs of God’s hands.

I write this post that when my little girl is in tap class or basketball or speech or whatever she wants to do, that the sweet little white girl next to her will be unphased by her existence. That she will look at her without question. I write this post more importantly that when she sits in church on a Sunday morning, she would not notice eyes cutting over at her mom and dad. That she would see the church so overjoyed by the beauty of her family and the picture of Jesus that it creates, that she might know and understand the Gospel better.

 

Being Knit Together in Love…

I am a camp girl through and through.

Starting as an eight-year-old, I marked my calendar for that one anticipated week each year. I began packing weeks in advance, planned out all my outfits for worship, and looked forward to nothing more than getting out of my hometown for five days to spend time with my friends, meet new people, play ridiculous games, and spend some quality time with Jesus.

When I aged out of the camp stage, what better option was there but to work at 11750719_417749041755610_7638210941610345245_ncamp? Then when I couldn’t do that anymore, of course, I would be going with the high schoolers from my church.

Over the last thirteen years, there has been one year without a hint of camp: the summer after my freshman year.

That infamous summer was the worst.

In the mornings, I woke up early wishing I was in the old hotel room waking up next to my friends dreading the upbeat morning celebration. I missed the camp food–though it was never that good–at lunch time and longed to play the silly table games everyone hates but can’t seem to escape. Every night at 7:00 pm, my heart ached because I felt my brothers and sisters entering the solemn worship room, preparing their souls to become one with the Spirit.

All that longing sparked something in me, however, that no week at camp ever had before. It sparked a necessity to be on my knees in prayer for whatever was going on in the mountains of North Carolina where my favorite people resided. It made me enter my own place of worship with the souls of the saints on my heart.

More than ever, I understood the idea of “absent in body, yet…with you in spirit.”

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For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those in Laodicea and for those who have not seen me face-to-face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery which is Christ in whom we are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For although I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 

(Colossians 2:1-5 ESV)

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You see, Paul was missing out in a much greater, more heartbreaking way than my missing Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.39.21 PMa single year of church camp. He was imprisoned for his faith. Shackled because he loved Jesus. He couldn’t walk alongside his fellow believers, and so, had to teach them from a dark cell through the frail ink of a pen. He had to use his words poignantly because he was not assured of even being able to finish the letter–much less get back to join them.

This small, yet flaming passage of God’s word gets straight to the point: we have to work toward firmness in faith. 

Firmness in faith.

I am sure we would not find it hard to share a few reasons we have to be firm in our faith today, but let’s rewind to this time. Let’s consider the amount of firmness the Colossians had to build just to make it from one day to another with any kind of rejoicing.

First, they did not have the Bible. Yes, they had access to pieces of the Old Testament, but nothing close to the New. Further, most of them–assuredly the women–had no idea how to read, so another person reading this text, alongside word-of-mouth knowledge of Jesus Christ, was the basis of their belief.

To make matters more interesting, people were teaching one-hundred-and-fifty-two different things about who Jesus was in relation to God. Was He a profit? Was He crazy? Was He God? And how are we to know the difference?

The rhetoric was overwhelming. The argumentation was intense. All they had was faith. And faith Paul knew how to have, indeed.

1. Be knit together in love. Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.35.46 PM

Oh, Church, why do we fall so short here? Why do I struggle so greatly to feel the brokenness of my neighbor? Why does my patience run short when someone needs to unload their sins onto my heart? Why am I slow to forgive and even slower to forget?

Two things about knitting: the entire piece comes from one place, and every square centimeter is intertwined.

When God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit began creating time, space, and humanity, they all came from one common denominator: the mouth of God. He spoke and breathed all things into existence. All things for His glory. Then we screwed up, and He gave us His son. One common denominator.

He is the one that knits us together! He is the love.

The reason we fall so short in showing love has got to come from somewhere deeper that simply, “we are sinners.” Think about it. If I truly allowed myself to be enveloped by the Savior’s love, if I meditated on it and asked Him to help me understand it, would I not desire only to relive it to the best of my earthly ability? We have a crisis of love on our hands. Not that we are not loved but that we refuse to take part in it ourselves. We refuse to acknowledge that if we have Jesus, we are all part of the same thread. We are bound by the same crown of thorns. Our sins were crushed by the same nails. If this is true, we are intertwined in every way.

We are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

We won’t be able to help but to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” I Thessalonians 5:14

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

2. Reach all the riches of assurance of understanding and knowledge.

Friends, Christians, I cannot help but ask myself, what excuse do we western-world Christians have to remain void of knowledge? 

We have scripture free at the flick of a fingertip on the screens of our phone. We have commentary apps. We know more about the context of the time the Word was written than any time before. We have the ability to cross-check concepts against another in scripture.

How much more then can we be firm in our faith when we have the answers at our disposal?

If we do not know our Word, I mean know it, of course, arguements of the world will creep into our mind and try to destroy any confidence we have in our Savior? What more would the enemy want than to discredit the personhood and divinity of Christ through the misunderstanding His own children? 

Because “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:18

And because “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

And then, oh brothers and sisters, once we have become knit by the love of Jesus and into His eternal church, once we are full in assurance and knowledge, then will our faith be firm. Yes, it may exist without those things, but it will be flimsy, ready to fall down when even the slightest wind blows.

With His sovereignty and our obedience to participate in His will, our faiths will bind us in uncertainty. Our faiths will build us in years of destruction. They will restore confidence. They will demonstrate mercy. Our faith will be that which can move mountains. It will be used by God to draw the eyes and ears of the saints and the future saints.

So as Paul sat in his jail cell, as his stomach growled and his infected wounds burned and his broken limbs quaked, he prayed that the Christians in Colossae would do these things. He fell on his knees when the rest of his body was crumbling beneath him. He cried out to the Father for spiritual healing than his own healing. He pled that the Church would see Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.40.34 PMGod more clearly.

I hope we simultaneously become Paul in the cell and the Colossians in the throws of Christian persecution. I hope–I pray–our hearts are so drawn into the needs of the Church that our own pains are nothing in comparison to our longing for spiritual maturity among our fellow Christians. I pray that is the case because we are so knit together that we cannot separate our souls from one another. Because we understand the goodness and mercy and love of Christ that we are obsessed with communicating it beyond the walls of our own minds.

For although I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 

The Brilliance of Jesus

Simple truths guide our lives.

It’s simply true that I have class at 9 am most days. It’s simply true that if I drink coffee too late, I won’t go to sleep. It’s simply true that I have got to go to the grocery today or I am going to starve my husband.

Last week, we dug into the most simple of truths–the one that guides existence. The Gospel. 

In studying Colossians, we are over and over reminded of some of these. Perhaps my favorite one, though, will be the simple truth of the brilliance of Jesus. Turn with me to Colossians 1. Drink in one of the most vivid pictures of Him we get in His word. Join me in learning what His brilliance is, how it guides our lives, and why it matters in the most crucial of ways.

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He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. 

(Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

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The brilliance of Jesus beckons Him the firstborn

In Jewish culture, firstborn meant far, far more than “the oldest.” It communicated preeminence. It held position. This child received his family inheritance, he acquired all responsibility, he was number one in rank. Therefore, Jesus is the highest in rank of all creation.

But how is Jesus one with creation if He Himself was not created?

You see, this passage does not communicate that Jesus was literally “born first,” it reminds us that He is the authority. His word goes. His way is higher and better and greater and He bore the responsibility of the sins of creation.

Because it was by and for and through Him that all things were created

He cannot be created because He did the creating. This is the beauty of the trinity–the God-in-three-persons miracle that is our one saving grace. God the Father was creating the universe for God the Son and God the Spirit, and God the Son and God the Spirit were creating for God the Father. It is this gorgeous cycle of three separate entities all working and living as one that defines the very being of God.

Let it confuse you.

Let it blow your mind.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.01.56 PMIt doesn’t make sense to humans because we are not God.

Know this, beloved. You and I are creation. We are the very thing that was created by, for, and through Jesus. We were crafted by His hands. We were crafted for His glory. We were crafted through His likeness…

…so that He could hold us together completely.

Yesterday I fell apart. I sat on my bedroom floor and had my first anxiety attack in years. It came suddenly. It came swiftly. It came with the fullest of forces, knocking me off my feet and into a heap on my carpet. In the prior weeks, I had felt good–like I had it all together. Like I was further ahead in spiritual discipline than I ever had been and closer to Jesus than I have ever known to be.

I still broke.

I am going to break. I am going to crumble. I am going to fall apart when I feel so eloquently put together. My chest is going to cave in and I will stop breathing for a few moments.

But even so, my God, my God does not forsake me!FullSizeRender 31

Jesus cried out on the cross so that I would not have to cry out on my bedroom floor. I don’t have to cry out because He is already with me.

If He is holding all things together, if He is allowing the earth to spin at just the right speed, the sun to stay at just the right distance, and galaxies to shine in worship of Him, why do I doubt that he might not hold me together? This is a God who didn’t come live and die so that the universe might last. He lived and died that we might eternally live in brilliance with Him.

And He will lead us as we do so.

Church, let us stop trying to lead on our own. Let us stop becoming obsessed with the correct ministry strategy and speaking points. Let us let Him. Let Him determine the sermon and bring who He may. Let Him guide us to our ministries. Let Him be in everything we do. Everything. The food we eat, the games we play, the attention-getting devices we use to draw the masses.

Oh, my brothers and sisters, the masses are not ours to draw. They are His.

We simply allow Him to be our head as we follow. My hand doesn’t choose to lightly tap the keys on my computer. My feet are not choosing to get up and walk to the coffee pot. My back does not straighten itself. My whole body is nothing but limp if my head does not tell it what its next move is.

As bodies of believers, we have got to be willing to allow the Father and Son and Spirit to lead. Period. As individual believers, we have got to stop trying to convince people that Jesus is better. He is. But our spreading of His name can only be effective if it is done by His moving through our limp bodies.

Through that, we can be reconciled to Him.

Reconciliation. In the Greek, this word means to change.

Yes, our spirit changes. Yes, our lives change. But what is so much more beautiful is that our relationship with God changes.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.07.59 PMWe were lost and are lost without the sacrifice of Jesus. We are void of inheritance, confused by glory, anxious, self-seeking sinners who cannot have a right relationship with God because He cannot be associated with anything less than perfect.

But Jesus.

Jesus in all His brilliance is just what reconciles our relationship with the Father.

And though His body hung limp on that dull, rugged cross, though darkness prevailed for a few days as His being lay lifeless in a tomb, His glory flew out of the empty shell of this earth and is the most blinding brilliance this world will ever see.

It is the brilliance of the Firstborn of all creation. It is the brilliance of the one who all things were created by, through, and for. It is the brilliance that casts out anxiety, the brilliance that leads our ministries, and the brilliance that blots out our sin that we might live eternally with Jesus.

Let’ss let go.

Let’s let go of our beloved control and give in to the brilliant Savior.

I had an anxiety attack yesterday. I continually try to control my ministry. I sin against Him more than I am even aware of. And He still holds me. He will hold you. Brilliantly.

The Simple Gospel

The Gospel is the means by which I breathe. The means by which I am married. The means by which I write.

Sound dramatic? Maybe. False? Absolutely not.

Let me clarify.

My entire being longs for my own satisfaction. Every time I see something or someone I know will bring me glory through pleasure, popularity, or the gaining of possessions, I am inclined to run toward it no matter who or what I have to mow down to get it.

My own nature is the means by which I sin.

It is the reason I have so struggled with gossip. It is the reason I have lost friends. It is the reason I fail over and over in my marriage.

It is the reason that I often choose watching Netflix over intentionally loving my husband. It is the reason I choose reading articles over reading God’s word. It is the reason I roll my eyes at what I disagree with rather than dropping tscreen-shot-2017-02-27-at-4-05-26-pmo my knees in intercession.

However, because of the Gospel in its simplest form, we who are believers have been given the power to overcome all these things and breathe, write, marry, and anything else we want to His glory. 

This month, the Lord has been revealing to me the immensity of my sin. He has also been revealing to me that He has given me a way to escape breathing by and for my own comfort and turning over all I am for the sake of the Gospel. He has revealed to me that I have been clinging tightly to my own chains of sin when they have already been loosed by his sacrifice.

He has been doing this through prayer. He has been doing this through worship. He has been doing this through the book of Colossians.

If you have been following this blog, you know that we just finished studying God’s faithfulness in the book of Ruth. Today we are going to continue our study of His word, but we are going to dig into Colossians. Join me in reading this passage from its first chapter. Then we are going to do what I love doing so much. We are going to get back to the simple Gospel. We are going to be reminded of how and why we can live by the Gospel. We are going to challenge and love each other through it.

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And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

(Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)

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The Father qualifies us to share the inheritance of the saints. He set the Israelites apart from all else as His own in Genesis 13, but He dared not stop there. He did not have to allow His blood to cover we who are not of Jewish heritage, but by His grace and mercy alone, we getscreen-shot-2017-02-27-at-3-44-04-pm to dance in the blessing of heritage beyond lineage. We get to sing the song of adoption–the song with lyrics declaring that we were chosen though we did not deserve it.

The Father delivers us from the domain of darkness, and this is not the first time he had done so. Exodus 6:6 declares the promise God made to bring the Israelites out from Egypt, the land that enslaved them. The land where their bodies were worked to death from birth until their fragile skin and bones could no longer take the weight of the agony.

He defied every odd. He miraculously delivered them.

FullSizeRender 30.jpgThen in Isaiah, He proclaims that he wasn’t even close to finished. That He would buy his people out of sin slavery with something far more precious than silver or gold. Our redemption would be perfect. We would be forever removed from the weight of our pride–the pride I was talking about when you first started reading this. Our eyes are opened. Our being is made new.

The Father transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Oh, this word beloved. It is the name by which I give this site, the name in which I address you, and the name in which the Father addresses Jesus. It is the name by which my husband describes me, the name I might one day use to describe my children, and the name Jesus cherishes us by. We the church are adored by Him, made perfect through him, and treasured that we might enter His kingdom.

Then, my beloved brothers and sisters, after we have been qualified, delivered, and transferred according to His glorious might, can we be strengthened with his power.

We can run our race with endurance and patience. We can do it all with deep joy. 

Joy.

Endurance with joy? But endurance means bearing hardship?

Patience with joy? But patience means a willingness to endure?

You see, this is why I say and I will say again and again that the Gospel gives me–and you if you are a believer–the strength to breathe. My breath is tainted. It is sinful and blameworthy and disgraceful.

Yet because of His blood, His breath fills my lungs. My endurance becomes patience. My transgressions are overwhelmed by His grace. My afflictions are covered by His blood. How simple and yet how profound is His greatness.

How simple that I might only accept His sacrifice to attain it.

How profound that it might become the very thing by which I live my life upon.

I was asked recently how Austin and I have such a good marriage. Well, first of all, we have a sinful marriage because we are both sinful people. Second, we do not have a good marriage by any stretch of our own strength. If I were living the way in which I was inclined, every way in which I treat him would be with the intention of making myself happy.

So I will say it again. The Gospel is the means by which I breathe. It is the means by which I marry. It is the means by which I make my bed. It is the means by which I write.

Does that mean my breath, marriage, writing, and bedspread are perfect? Heck no. They are so tainted.

But if God has done all this–all of what He said in His word–let us give these things to Him not one time for ten minutes in our morning quiet time, but daily, hourly, even minute by minute.

And so I will point out the final and most beautiful implication of this simple and profound Gospel.

Because the Gospel is the means by which we breathe, because it has qualified, delivered, and transferred us, because we have been made to be patient endurers, we can be capable of walking in a way worthy of the Lord. It is right here in His word! 

It says that we can bear fruit in every good work, meaning that the good deeds we do would not only be for the good of our own name or even for the good of people here on earth but that they would bear eternal fruits of the Gospel. It says that we will increase our knowledge of God, meaning that we will gain a supernatural comprehension of what we do not yet understand in His word.

So what does this mean?

It means stop growing complacent in what you are being called to do by the power of the Gospel.

Are you called to read a book a day rather than a chapter? Do it.

Are you called to share the Gospel in an uncomfortable situation? Do it.

Are you called to end a relationship because it is unpleasing to the Lord? Do it.

Are you called to step up in your marriage?

To stop looking upon others with a judgmental eye?

To spend hours a day in prayer?

To fast?

To forgive?

Do it and do it and do it and do more.

We have been given this power. We are capable because His might is infinite.

This Gospel is simple. He died painfully, we live abundantly. We don’t deserve it, but how dare we not take part in it. Let’s live in and for Him in every facet of every nook and cranny of our lives.