Bearing the Burdens of the Bride

While many people assume Austin and I met through church or some kind of faithscreen-shot-2016-10-17-at-11-35-53-am community, we actually met in college speech. The first time we locked eyes was my freshman year and his junior year. I was pursuing someone else at the time, and as he explains, he was waiting to pounce. For months, he dropped constant hints I just couldn’t seem to catch: giving me a pet name, inviting me to football games, and carrying my VA’s.

Quick explanation. We sometimes use visual aids, or VA’s, in college speech to help
demonstrate whatever we are trying to communicate. They’re typically carried in a black case half the size of my body. If Austin and I were at the same tournament, he never let me carry my VA’s, picking them up and taking them from room to room no matter the inconvenience to him.

This small gesture was the first of Austin’s continual desire to bear my burdens. But he is not the only one entrusted with this responsibility. Galatians is so clear.

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Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Galatians 6:1-3

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We have been given one another for this purpose! We are so often told that we are meant to walk through this world on our own–left to figure out our next step and get over our hardships via getting over it. That just doesn’t seem like the right way though, right? There is a reason we love community so: we were created for it. Let’s look at this passage in Galatians. Let’s understand God’s design for the church and how we can move toward it. For our own good and others’.

Gently assist one another.

thumbnail_Image-1.jpgIf Austin approached me and said, “You’re way too weak to carry those,” and forced the VA’s out of my hands, our love story would have likely never started. Pointing out another’s flaws does not typically make for the beginning of a great relationship. Rather, he gently approached me, asked if he could assist me, and joined me on my walk to ensure I got there as easily as possible.

In the same way, why would we expect it to go well when we harshly point out a brother or sister’s transgressions? Yes, we are absolutely called to call each other out. But that has to be done in a spirit of gentleness and love. Only then truly assist one another in ridding ourselves of the sins that hold us back from moving from “one degree of glory to the next.” 

Bear one another’s burdens.

Moreover, are we really caring for one another if we are only calling each other out? What is the purpose if we are not willing to bear each other’s burdens? There are a few areas we must be willing to do this:

  1. Bearing one another’s burdens of temptation. (Galatians 6:2)
  2. Bearing one another’s sadness. (Philippians 2:4)
  3. Bearing one another’s physical burdens. (1 Timothy 5:8)

In one of Jesus’s parables, He explained to His people that whatever they did  for His church, they in-turn did for Him. Throughout God’s Word, there is a continual theme of serving each other as we serve Christ as a means of serving Christ. That is a hard thing to do in our overly individualistic society. We are raised to think that we first have to care for ourselves before caring for another, but that principle is not what the Bible communicates. Jesus literally took on all the punishment for our sin without even attempting to rid Himself of that burden. He could have so easily given up His horrific death at any point. Yet He chose to endure our deserved pain.

So then, why do we insist on looking down on our brothers and sisters’ sin without offering to aid in getting out of it? Why do we refuse to ask each other how we are really doing, because we fear an uncomfortable answer? Why are we so fearful to help someone out financially or physically because we are afraid we might be cheated? Do we not cheat our Savior every day by spitting in the face of his sacrifice?

We have been given so much. Yet we continually choose to keep that gift for ourselves rather than passing it on as we are commanded.

Recognize where we stand.

The last verse of this passage is one of those that cuts deep every time: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Sisters. Brothers if you are reading. We did nothing to earn our salvation. No matter how much we do to convince ourselves we are “good people,” we must also recognize that we are sinners.

Our attempts to be good people are merely the manifestation of our desire to get through thumbnail_Image-1-1.jpgthis world on our own. We do so to reject the One who tells us He is the “way, the truth, and the life.” Whether we admit it or not, we try so hard to get to gain our own eternal life or recognition via either another means completely or another means and Jesus. For me that often looks like trying to hide my sin, trying to gain the status of a prime church member, or trying to be seen as the most knowledgeable about scripture.

Yet without Jesus, all these things are but dirty rags. When I do them only for my own recognition, they merely exemplify my pride. They are meant to be done not through my own power, but through God’s power alone.

I am not capable of bearing your burdens on my own. You are not capable of bearing my burdens on your own. Austin may be able to carry my VA’s, but his ability to care for me in the way God intended can be done only through the power and the blood of Jesus. I am so grateful that I have my husband, my family, and the Church to bear my burdens. I am constantly reminded that I am not alone in this world. That was His design.

If today you need someone to bear your burdens, find a brother or sister in Christ to get vulnerable with. If you need someone’s burdens to bear, walk in public and look around. We are all either in the middle of something, coming out of it, or going in. Maybe all three. That is why we were given one another.

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Well friends, that concludes our study of Galatians! Thank you so much for joining me on this journey, but it isn’t ending yet. Next Monday I will be starting our next study over a new book. If you have any suggestions, send me a message or comment. I am so excited to keep sharing what God is teaching me through His Word and through my marriage.

Lasting Freedom

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Photo from Popsugar

Over the summer I got my fix on “Fixer Upper.” For some reason, I find it deeply pleasing to see a seemingly irredeemable building torn down and built back up. And there is just something about Joanna Gaines that makes me believe that I too can make a room look like it jumped out of the magazine.

But after receiving so many wedding gifts that would allow me to practice decorating my own living space, I realized just how wrong I was. Two things. I don’t have any clue what I am doing and my apartment is tiny! Because of these restrictions, I do not have the freedom to channel my inner Joanna Gaines. There is zero Joanna Gaines in me at all. She has studied room design deeply. She has practiced, likely trying and failing many times before. So her experience has granted her the freedom to turn bare rooms into masterpieces.

As the presidential election creeps closer and closer, the word “freedom” is getting thrown around more as each day passes. But how can we really define freedom? While our nation’s freedom and Joanna’s freedom are great, Galatians 5 gives us amazing insight into the only kind of freedom that really lasts.

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For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:13-15

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The world’s definition of freedom is captivity.

Freedom only goes so far as restriction. Here’s what I mean. In the US, we like to tout our freedom as if there are no harboring restrictions on our lives. Yes, the freedom is a huge blessing. However, we are only as free as our constitution permits. We are only as free as American borders. We are only as free as our numbered days.

By holding fast to this kind of freedom alone, how are we truly free? We only get a taste of what real freedom is. For example, the world wants to tell me that in my marriage I can do whatever I want, and if it ruins the relationship, I should just leave him and find someone else. Or that I have the freedom to consider my future with only my interest at heart. Those who really love me will follow suit. It tells me that I am not responsible for those around me, and I should not take others into consideration.

This kind of freedom terrifies me. I do not want to be held captive by the the barren promises of freedom, telling me that I can do whatever I want. Charging that as long as we are making ourselves feel good, it’ll all be fine.

But what happens when my pleasures stop pleasing me? What happens when I get bored chasing money or beauty or success? At that point, I may know nothing more than chasing things that the world tells me will bring me happiness, and I will be held captive by that chase–restricted by the dull, fleeting satisfaction it offers. I will be left with the realization that my temporary loves will so soon be taken away.

True freedom seeks to serve another.

But Galatians tells us that this “flesh seeking” freedom is not real freedom. Rather, freedom is the realization that our pleasure cannot be found in this world. It is recognizing that the freedom our country and our world offers will only go as far as our time on earth; therefore, we cannot find our identity in these things. True freedom is only offered through Jesus. Freedom in Jesus says, “I will not be held captive by this world. I will live for the next.”

We have to refuse to give way to the things the world says we need to make us happy. For those of us who have hope that lies beyond this world, we have the freedom to break the yoke slavery to sin. We have the freedom to speak firmly and joyously about our Savior. I have the freedom to look at my husband as the church should look at the Jesus. I have the freedom to serve him and love him. We both have the freedom to reject the world’s definition of love that seeks to only commit as long as we are happy.

What to do with this freedom:thumbnail_image-1-3

If anyone is reading this and does not have an understanding and conviction of Jesus, you are likely very confused by this definition of freedom. I want to invite you to contact me. I will have lunch or coffee or a Skype date with you to talk about how freedom in Jesus has been the most fulfilling freedom I have ever experienced. One thing I do love about this country is that I can boldly proclaim my source of joy, and I want to tell everyone about it.

For those of us that do know Jesus, let us begin utilizing this freedom. Let us put away our preconceived notions this world has laid upon us and find our hope in what The Word of God tells us we have hope in. Let us share this freedom with others, not to be as clanging symbols, but to see our friends and family accept the joy Jesus grants. Our goal cannot be to prove those who do not believe wrong. It should be to be a vessel for the love that has been shown to us. If we are truly satisfied in Him, we should be unsatisfied in the fact that others are not. Let us begin living in this freedom, allowing it to order our lives for His glory.

What About Kids? Answering the Infamous Question.

One of my favorite things about writing online is answering the questions so many want to know, but feel weird asking–especially when the answer allows me to talk about my Savior! For those of you who have been following, we are over half-way through Galatians today. Though not yet finished, this is perhaps my favorite subject in the book. To join me as I continue delving into this scripture, look to the right of your screen–or the bottom if you’re on you mobile device–and click the follow button. Let’s jump right into Galatians 4!

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But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:4-7 ESV

This post is loosely based on John Piper’s sermon, “Adoption: The Heart of the Gospel”

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A few weeks before the wedding, people began loving to ask questions about the next part of my life: Where are you two going to be living? Where are you going on your honeymoon? What’s the plan for kids?

It’s always funny to be asked the latter. People tend to ask, before immediately covering their mouths in embarrassment of asking such a personal question. Yet, as we tell our sweet friends, Austin and I are not shy of being asked this question. The answer? I have my
ideas and he has his, but we will ultimately bring children into this world and our home from the time He tells us to begin until the time He tells us we’re finished. That may look like one child, and it may look like many.

One thing does remain sure: we feel called to not only bear our own biological children, but adopt.

You see, while neither of us were adopted into a family on this earth, we–along with all other children of God–have been taken into The Father’s family via the blood of Jesus Christ. We cannot imagine a world where we do not replicate that reality in our own little family. On a much smaller scale, I hope to go out of my way to bring an unwanted child into my family as my Savior went out of His way to bring me into His Father’s home. IMG_6690.JPGHere are a few reasons why we feel this way as they pertain to our own adoption.

It’s Costly

This seemingly grim sentence brings a smile to my face like no other. Adoption is in no way suppose to be an easy feat. There’s no getting around this. I’m reminded of my adopted friend’s story. Let’s call her Kathryn. Her parents had to fight to acquire custody even after she was already seemingly theirs. Her biological father–a man in no way prepared to care for a child–juggled the idea of giving up custody back and fourth, placing her family in a long period of prayerfully waiting and wondering. That is what makes her adoption so beautiful. Her family fought through months of hardship for the opportunity to love her for the rest of her days. Their fight for adoption cost them time, money, and heartache.

And still the legal red tape surrounding her adoption, though it seemed long, hard, and complicated, was not stained with blood. Kathryn’s parents did not give their own lives for her that she may have the opportunity to live. Yet the red blood of Jesus who gave His own life for us, is what our Father willingly paid for our adoptions. If we can claim adoption is costly for us, it cost everything for Him. How beautiful it might be to feel an inkling of what Jesus felt when fighting to bring in a child. Not easy. Not fun. But nonetheless beautiful. He was stripped of His heavenly status, beaten for our transgression, and murdered for the mere opportunity to love us for eternity.

It’s Blessed with the Pouring Out of Sonship

Yet the story doesn’t end here. Let me clarify what the word “sonship” refers to. It doesn’t change my identity as a woman or make me any less-than. In the context of when this passage was written, the word sonship referred to the adopted child gaining full status of any other child regardless of biological make up. With Jesus’ rising from the grave, our punishment was paid and defeated! We can now be adopted into His Father’s presence with no restrictions. Further, that presence is granted with the ability to call our God, “Abba, Father.” John Piper describes this significance as follows:

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“What is remarkable about [this text]  is the term abba. It is an Aramaic word. Why then does Paul use it, transliterated, in [this letter] written in Greek? The answer is that it was the way Jesus spoke to his Father, in spite of the fact that virtually no one in Jewish culture referred to God with this endearing word abba… [Abba translates to a form of father that is closely related to ‘daddy’.] Therefore, in adopting us, God give us the very Spirit of his Son and grants us to feel the affections of belonging to the very family of God.

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Someone’s status as child is not more apparent than when they look at their mother or father and utter “mommy” or “daddy.” That’s exactly what Jesus called His Father, and that’s what we now have the opportunity to do.

Orphanages and group homes everywhere are stacked with children who the world deems as unwanted. Their cries for a parent are met with our earth’s inability to care for them in the way every child deserves to be cared for. On the contrary, I don’t deserve to be cared for by God. The chasm between my Father and me is far greater than the distance between my future children and me–physically, culturally, morally.The enemy whispers that I am unwanted, but I can look unto Christ and see that He chose to go out of His way and make me His own.

So to answer the world’s lingering question, adoption is in the future of the Groves. That’s not the cool part though. The cool part is that it is in our present. We have been adopted by the only perfect parent to have ever existed. We did not deserve it and do things to prove that daily. He chased after us regardless. No matter when or how many kids God calls us to raise, if He tarries, we hope to demonstrate His love for us by bringing in children and making them our own.

“He has done it himself. He knows what it costs. And he stands ready to support us all the way to the end.” -John Piper

Calling Out My Own Prejudice

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For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28

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A Binding Faith Holds us Together

Every day I wake up in this world, I long for Heaven more. Brokenness is so evident in each social media post I read, in the aching eyes of students I walk past on campus, in the speech and debate rounds I sit through each weekend. I see it in my own sinful thoughts and actions daily. The foremost area I am seeing this brokenness right now, however, is in the way we are treating racial pain in this country.

Christian Brothers and Sisters, where is our binding faith? On Sunday morning and Wednesday night we stand and sing to a God who is peace. He is love. Yet we seem to forget to live by that peace and love when we log onto Facebook the next day. Unfortunately, our idea of this “binding faith” is often found in similar political views, how we respect a song, or ideologies about who’s lives matter.

Christians. Galatians tells us that our eternity is found in Jesus. His perfect love is what binds us together. This world is going to fade so quickly, and with it will be taken our flag, our uniforms, our identity in this world. We will however be left with our identity in Christ, and the other souls we are treating so poorly right now.

Our Salvation is found in Christ’s Righteous Clothing

At the end of the day, our citizenship is not in this world. We are to put on the righteous clothing of Jesus. I can’t help but be reminded of story after story where my Savior looked at those who were in pain and just simply loved on them. I do not believe that if Jesus were here today, He would be fighting to prove a group of hurting people wrong. By doing so, we are neglecting to put on Christ’s character. Jesus listened. Jesus loved. Jesus used the time to reveal Himself. And that is our job. We listen to the pain of those around us. We love on them with NO stipulations. We use that time to share the Gospel.

The Dividing Lines of Humanity are not Jesus’ Dividing Lines

I use to proudly taunt the phrase, “I don’t see color.” I thought that was the right thing to say. I thought by claiming those words, I could erase the notions of prejudice society has deeply conditioned me to hold.

Friends, I am married to a black man, and I still hold my purse tighter when I am on an elevator a man of color.

The dividing lines of humanity are just that: the dividing lines of humanity. Jesus is the one who does not discriminate based on race or gender. We do, and that is part of the brokenness of this world! We have to stop pretending that we do not fall into the sin of prejudice. We all do.

None of us are color blind. No one. It is biologically impossible to not see someone’s outward appearance first. When we do, we then tie our preconceived notion onto them. I am calling out my own prejudice right here in front of the world, but you better bet that I am working each day to fight that prejudice. One day, if God wills it, I will bring little brown children into this world. I pray that before that day arrives, the Church begins to recognize racism and prejudice. Repentance is first recognizing a sin then turning from it. Only whImage-1-3.jpgen we recognize our prejudice can we begin turning from it.

If you made it to the end of this post, I want to encourage you to first, spend some time with Jesus asking Him to reveal how you show prejudice against His creation in day to day life. Then use the platform you have been given. Openly share your prejudice. Not that we would be praised as good people, but that our Father’s power would be glorified in our weakness. If you want to go really public you can comment on here, share it to Facebook, but if you want privacy, talk to a Christian friend or message me in the comments section. James 5:16 tells us that confessing to one another is a step toward healing. The brokenness in this world will not be resolved until Christ Himself returns. But by putting our part in that brokenness out for the world to see, we can demonstrate that He is the only one who will ever bring true peace.

Dirty Dishes & God’s Grace

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I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Galatians 2:20-21

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Living with another person has had a way of bringing out the worst in me. It’s like having the most intimate of accountability partners. One thing Austin makes sure I realize I need work on is the beloved “pre-rinse.” In my childhood home, pre-rinsing meant rinsing the dish until you can’t see anything before you put it in the dishwasher. However, Austin’s definition of pre-rinsing is rinsing until you can’t feel anything on the dish. And with our dinky little dishwasher, you can definitely tell the difference. I had no idea how many dishes I was keeping from being properly washed!

I am also becoming increasingly more aware of my sinful nature: my tendency to exaggerate, my desire to look perfect in front of others, my pride I mask via humility, the list goes on. However, through my study of Galatians 2 this week, Jesus has reminded me a few of His beautiful promises.

Our sinful nature can be quenched by the blood of Jesus.

image-1This is particularly crazy because of the vastness of our sin. I mean think back to the ten commandments. The straight up most basic list of sins, and we can’t even go one day without breaking one of them. That’s not to mention the plethora of other sins the Bible lists. Even committing one of these trespasses is more than enough to separate us from God’s presence for eternity. I don’t know about y’all, but I have messed up enough this week to separate everybody from God…twice.

Yet when Jesus covers us with His blood, our sinful nature gets crucified with Him! Does that mean we will never sin again? Based on my daily disobedience, not even close. But His blood gives us the ability to quench our flesh through His power alone.

That brings us to my favorite thing ever.

He loves us enough to take on our sin through death.

Man. That gets me so hype. Austin is amazing. He is charming and kind and loves me as much as he possibly can. But that’s just it. His love is limited to this earth. He cannot possibly love me anywhere near as perfectly as God’s eternal love that saves us.

Eternal love.

My husband will die one day. My mom will die one day. My dad, my sister, my grandparents, and all the people who love me most in this world. Moreover, they have only been able to love me as long as they have known me. Jesus has literally loved me since the beginning of time. Before He created this earth, before Adam ate the fruit, He knew He would love me and that I would turn my back on Him. Yet He still pursues me.

No amount of good works will earn me His grace.

His pursuit of me is just that. A pursuit. He does not stand still and wait for me to get my Image-1-1.jpglife together enough to come to Him. He left His throne to come to this place where He was mocked for 33 years. His Holy Spirit chases after our sinful souls and beckons us to accept His free gift of salvation. Praise God that I do not have to earn my way to Him because over and over I let Him down. Praise God that even in letting Him down, He grants me the ability to repent and seek to follow Him.

So while I am becoming more aware of my sin, I am also becoming more aware of His grace. I have been crucified with Christ, and He lives in me. He continually forgives my sin and teaches me to be more like Him. While I can never reach perfect sanctification, His blood granted by His love allows me to grow closer the only One who gave Himself up for me that I may live in Him.

Jesus+Nothing

As each season of my life passes, I feel that I daily learn the same theme in a new way: I have got to be in my word.

Whether my scripture reading habit is strong or weak, I never feel that I should spend less time in Scripture. But I am going to get vulnerable for a minute. I struggle. Making time in God’s word a priority is something I always desire but have a very hard time consistently achieving.

Whether my scripture reading habit is strong or weak, I never feel that I should spend less time in Scripture. But I am going to get vulnerable for a minute. I struggle. Making time in God’s word a priority is something I always desire but have a very hard time consistently achieving.

That’s what Mondays are going to be for! Every Monday I will make time in my day to tell you about what God has been teaching me this week. Here is my favorite part: let’s do it together. I would LOVE for you to tell me how He is teaching you right here on this site.

Whether you want to hop over to the contact section and talk to me privately or comment on my post so we can all see and rejoice together, I want to hear how God is working in your life through His Word. For now, I am studying Galatians. Join me as I share how He has revealed Himself this week.

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As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:9-10

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In any life transition period, so many voices are telling us who we should be. For believers, those voices tell us how we should measure our identity in Christ.

“Be an activist! And you’ll glorify God best through the lives you are standing for!”

“Be a perfect wife! Then God will be seen through your family.”

“Be a leader in the church! God is glorified best through the amount of Christiany activities you fulfill.”

thumbnail_img_6582By seeking to be an activist, wife, and church leader as a means of glorifying God, I am completely forgetting why I am even allowed to glorify Him with my life in the first place. Friends, it’s Jesus.

All these things are good. Yet, when I am seeking to glorify God solely–or even primarily–by the means of activism, marriage, or leadership, I miss it. I can be any of those things without Jesus. The Galatians knew this all too well. They were surrounded by people who told them that they could have Jesus, but they had to do a bunch of other things as well to be good enough for the gospel. Without hesitation, Paul calls this heresy out proclaiming, “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” 

The one they received was Jesus! Plain and simple.

My first priority is to be a child of God through the blood of Jesus. Through that lens, I can fight for the oppressed. I can be a wife who strives to glorify God through my marriage. I am able to serve my Church in such a way that seeks to spread the true Gospel.

If I am doing these things and seeking approval from anyone other that Him, its vanity. Nothing. The eternal value has been lost.

This week, let’s make our mundane glorifying to God. Whether we are writing a paper, doing laundry, completing an assignment for work–whatever it is–we are able to glorify God in it because Jesus opened that door with His death on the cross. That is the Gospel we rejoice in.