Category Archives: Faith

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There is no Junior Holy Spirit

There is no junior Holy Spirit.

For the past 10+ years, I’ve been blessed to have church leaders who regularly utter (and wholeheartedly believe) these words.

I know not every Christian can say the same, or would even know the difference, but I want to explain (briefly) the difference.

I grew up in a quaint small-town Methodist church, filled with kind people. We learned all about the Bible and the love of Jesus in Sunday School each week (hopefully earning awesome prizes, like pencils that rolled around in drawers forever unsharpened, or a small plastic something-or-other that made just enough noise to annoy your big sister…). It was a good church, full of Godly people. And I was completely oblivious to the fact that something was missing.

It wasn’t until after college that my husband and I discovered the large network of Vineyard churches and began attending. That first year was filled with eye-opening, aha-moment type learning experiences. The spiritual realm made more sense than ever before. Church was vibrant and life-giving. We had found our tribe. The activity of the Holy Spirit was clearly what had been missing in my previous church experiences.

Now, years later, I’m more thankful than ever that God led us to the Holy Spirit when he did. Why? Definitely for the sake of my husband and me, but mainly for the sake of our kids. We have three awesome kids, and if it hadn’t been for all we’ve learned through the Vineyard Church, their upbringing would no doubt look very different.

You see, I would have been more inclined and content to raise “church kids.” You know the ones I mean – good kids who go to church, learn their Bible lessons, and live happily ever after doing their best to be good enough. I was a church kid. Maybe you were too. And let me say this – it’s totally okay to raise church kids, as long as their faith becomes real to them and they make it their own.

Cue the Holy Spirit. The part of God that lives inside us when we accept Jesus as our Lord. The part of God that works in and through us every day, as much as we are willing to listen to him, anyway.

The reality of the Holy Spirit is life changing. The Holy Spirit is what transforms religion from an obligation into something irresistible.

I’ll say it again: There is no junior Holy Spirit. This means that the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is not only accessible to grown-up Jesus followers, but to children just the same.

Ponder that. Doesn’t that sort of blow your mind?

We have the amazing opportunity to teach our children and raise them up knowing the Holy Spirit lives inside them and has the power to transform not only their lives, but the lives of others through them. We get to raise up the next generation of Holy Spirit filled Jesus followers to know that the darkness on earth has no power over them, as long as they are connected to the Source.

So let’s be quick to speak up in defense of our (collective) children when well-meaning “church grown-ups” try to say they’re too young to understand or it’s “grown-up” stuff. We’re all at different levels of understanding and we always will be. This is complex stuff!

Just because a child, perhaps, doesn’t have the same capacity of understanding, doesn’t mean they can’t experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. After all, Jesus himself said (in Matthew 19:14):

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

So let’s all heed Jesus’ instruction and encourage our kids to experience the fullness of God’s power here on earth, here and now. Not just when they turn eighteen, or twenty-one, or whatever the assumed magic number may be.

The one and only Holy Spirit is for everyone who calls Jesus Lord, whether they’re three or a hundred and three. No junior version needed.

What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit? What about your kids, if you have them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below!

Brief Update: My upcoming middle grade novel “Power Up” is coming to the end of the editing process. I’m so excited to share it in a couple of months with parents who, like me, want something deeper for their children. Something that will challenge them to go from “church kid” to “Spirit kid.” My hope is that “Power Up” will be one of the tools that inspires them along the way.

Power Up

Do you ever wonder if there’s more to life? If what you’re experiencing is really all there is to experience? You’re not alone. I’m excited to share this post today to hopefully bring you some encouragement, and also share what’s been going on with me in my writing journey. Let’s jump in!

The way I see it, there are three types of people in the world.

1.The first type of people are not Christians. They don’t know God, or if they do know him, they certainly don’t understand him, which is why they have not yet accepted him.

2. The second type of people are Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus and they try to go to church regularly and be good people.

3. The third type of people are also Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus, and have opened their lives to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They do their best to love others with the love God has shown them, and they seek and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Think for a second…are you a 1, 2, or 3? I’d venture to guess that most people who care to read this blog identify with 2 or 3. And if you’re a 1 and you’re still reading this – thank you! I’m so glad you are!

Lots of people identify with number 2. I’d say that’s where the majority of American Christians have landed. It’s a great place to be, but if you stay at number 2 for too long, you may begin to get restless. You may find yourself wondering if there’s something that you’re missing; more to the puzzle than what you’re seeing.

Let me just say this: if you’re a Christian, and you find Christianity boring, there is more to it! It doesn’t have to be a dull life filled with potlucks and polite greetings (I’m a fan of both of those things, by the way).

The Holy Spirit is the piece of the puzzle that so many people are missing, but they don’t even realize it yet. All Christians have access to the Holy Spirit, but we have to choose to let him actively work in us and through us. We have to choose to seek him out and listen to him when he speaks to us (and he will speak to us!).

The Holy Spirit is what turns a hum-drum Christian life into a daily adventure. It brings the spiritual realm alive. And when we realize that the King of Kings has issued us a personal invitation to work with him, up close and personally, each and every day, it’s sort of mind blowing, don’t you think?

Have you ever been walking through Target or Walmart and felt a nudge from God himself to pray for a stranger passing by? That’s the Holy Spirit, and it will rock your comfortable world. Have you ever felt like God was showing you something about another person and asking you to pray for them during your own personal prayer time, when you otherwise wouldn’t have known what was going on with them? That’s the Holy Spirit. He’s like Jesus without a body, living inside us, in constant communication with us. Or as constant as we’ll allow and recognize anyway. I’m telling you, it’s an adventure!

If it sounds a little scary or unpredictable, be assured – it totally is. But it’s also incredible and life changing, and with practice, it starts to feel more normal. And anyway…lives aren’t changed inside comfort zones.

Some may think the Holy Spirit is only for adults, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

As a mother of three kids ages ten and under, I can say with confidence that many children’s church programs don’t expect enough from kids. Our family has visited quite a few churches, and I can see that it’s becoming more and more common to provide lots of entertainment, water down the lesson to include a feel-good moral, and send kids on their way. (Let me interrupt myself to say I’m not intending to criticize – leading kids’ church is hard work and I have great admiration for those to do so.) I’m sure the leaders have good reasons for going this route, but from my view, this is producing a culture of “church kids.” Church kids are great, don’t get me wrong! But I want more for my own.

I want to raise Jesus kids. Spirit kids. Kids who know they have the power of the living God himself living inside of them, accessible at the drop of a dime. Guiding them, encouraging them, and inspiring them to love the world recklessly.

And that’s why I wrote Power Up, a novel targeted to kids age 8-12. It’s a book where readers will follow an eleven-year-old girl named Lexi on a journey of transforming from a “church kid” to a “Spirit kid.” It’s an entertaining, messy, grace-filled journey of doubt and trust and empowerment.

You see, two years ago I was looking for Christian fiction books for my daughter. Everything I found was floofy (aka non-substantive). “Be a good kid and say your prayers while living your otherwise secular life” type stuff. All well and good, but my kids wanted something meatier. Something that painted a picture of what an active Christian life could look like. Something that inspired them to greater depths. And I couldn’t find it.

So I wrote it. Power Up is scheduled to release from Elk Lake Publishing around May 2019.

If you believe it’s a worthy goal to help 8-12 year olds transition from “church kids” to “Spirit kids,” would you pray with me? Pray that Power Up will make it into the hands of those who need it most. Pray that eyes are opened and lives are changed. Pray that God is glorified and the Spirit empowered. And pray that I can handle all that is asked of me when it comes to marketing and such, as it’s a bit overwhelming to think about for this introvert. Thanks for joining me on this journey – it’s so good to have you along. Your support and encouragement means the world to me.

Now let’s revisit the beginning of this post real quick. The Christian’s journey should always be evolving and growing. Are you a Christian? If not, ask yourself why not and then seek answers. Email me if you have questions that you can’t get answered and I’ll do my best to help.

Are you a God and Jesus Christian? Then think – do you want to grant the Holy Spirit access to your daily life? I promise, you won’t regret it.

Are you a God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit filled Christian? Then what can you do to open the door even a little wider for the Spirit? Give him the wheel even more fully. (This is where I am, by the way. I can always give the Spirit more control over my life.)

My prayer for you today is that you’ll take a next step. A baby step. Whatever size step you can handle right now. Give your life to God, let the Holy Spirit lead, and let the adventure unfold. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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It DOES Affect You.

“My daughter doesn’t want to be a preacher, so it doesn’t affect me.”

Actual words spoken by an actual human being on the topic of whether churches should empower women in ministry. Maybe it’s just me (I’ve been a little passionate about this topic lately), but I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after this one. It’s akin to hearing someone say “I don’t work outside the home so the issue of equal pay for women doesn’t affect me.” (Uh…what about the rest of society?)

Now before you close your browser thinking, “oh no, she’s going to preach at me or try to get me to change my mind,” please don’t. Stick with me. My goal isn’t to make you think what I think, but simply to encourage everyone to give the issue of women in ministry the thought it deserves (as it affects 50% of the population and all). So join me while I attempt to get your wheels spinning by taking you through a couple of points you may have never considered. And if you totally disagree with me in the end? That’s ok!

Here’s the thing—whether you’re a Complementarian (one who believes the Bible prohibits women from teaching and preaching) or an Egalitarian (one who believes the Bible empowers women to teach and preach), hopefully we all claim to hold our beliefs for the glory of God and the purpose of obeying his instructions.

(Let’s endeavor to read scripture responsibly and holistically.)

Romans 14:5 is a great verse that addresses disagreements in the church that are non-essential (they’re not “make or break” for your salvation). Let’s take a quick look:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

In light of this verse, as long as you attempt to make informed, biblical decisions, I can respect you even if I disagree, and I hope you can do the same. None of us want to be “those people” who try to make the Bible say what they want it to say or blow off certain passages because it doesn’t line up with what they want. I believe scripture is the inspired voice of God and we should treat it accordingly.

One concept that is new to more people than you might think is the importance of reading scripture in context. Who was the letter originally written to and for what purpose? What was going on in society at the time that may have influenced certain writings? This stuff makes a difference!

We also must read scripture holistically. If, for example, one verse commands women to be silent and one commands them to pray and prophesy, we clearly can’t just choose our favorite at the exclusion of the others; we have to understand them in light of the overall message of the Bible. Not doing this is precisely how people defended their “right” to own slaves for centuries, and it’s simply irresponsible.

The reason there’s so much controversy about this particular topic is because the Bible appears to speak out of both sides of its hypothetical mouth, which only means the topic requires thought, study, and guidance from the Spirit.

Here I’m going to pause briefly and ask you to read 1 Timothy 2:8-15. (It’ll be quick, I promise!)

*pausing, pausing, hum da dum dum dummm.*

Okay, are you back? Great. After reading that passage, you might ask how anyone can believe that women should be empowered to be pastors when Paul clearly says in 1 Timothy 2:12:

I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (ESV)

Sounds clear as day, yes? But is it really? This is where I want to challenge you to think outside the box.

Let me point out that verse twelve says “I (as in, Paul) do not permit…” If this was a verse to be applied to all people for all time, it seems to me a big enough command (as it applies to 50% of the population for all time) that he would have wanted to point out that it was God’s command, and not simply his own.

Could it be that Paul was writing this letter to a certain church that he oversaw, and because of the patriarchal society they lived in, the spread of the gospel message (Paul’s ultimate goal) would have been hindered coming from women?

Could it be that in our modern, women-and-men-should-have-equal-opportunities society, the spread of the gospel is most effective coming from men AND women, and therefore this verse is not a rule to be followed for all time, but simply a glimpse into the beginnings of the church?

(Male and female – equally powerful as the Spirit leads.)

I’m not claiming to have all the answers. While of course I would love for everyone to equally empower men and women, I’m honestly just trying to get your thoughts churning on the topic and open your mind to the complexity of the matter.

Let’s look at two other points in 1 Timothy 2. In verse eight Paul says (according to most translations), “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling…” (ESV)

Imagine this verse taken literally and tell me you didn’t laugh! If we are applying every verse exactly as written, why don’t we see Christian men at Walmart or Lowes or EVERYwhere, praying and lifting holy hands as they shop and do life? Is there something less special about this verse that makes people take it less literally?

And in verse fifteen Paul says, “Yet she (woman) will be saved through childbearing…” (ESV)

Who among us truly believes that women are saved through childbearing? Can anyone honestly claim that this verse alone rules out salvation for women who never give birth? Looking at the New Testament holistically (as we should always do), it’s clear that we are saved through grace by faith alone, and not through the physical experience of childbirth. So yet again, we’ve found another verse in this passage that’s not to be taken literally for all time. Why is it so easy to ignore certain verses in favor of others?

Now let’s say your reasoning leads you to believe that while not all of these passages are meant to be taken literally, the one prohibiting women from teaching and having authority over men is, in fact, meant to be taken literally.

Let’s follow that path real quick.

Many churches translate this verse into not allowing women pastors. But that’s not what the Bible says, is it? Nowhere that I’ve found does the Bible limit this exclusion to pastoring, nor does it limit it to the church environment. So to take this to its logical conclusion, it seems that if you believe there shouldn’t be women pastors, you must also believe there shouldn’t be any women professors (for at what age does a male student become a man?), nor should there be any women CEOs or bosses of any kind.

Finally, consider this: when you read through the “gifts” passages of the Bible (such as Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, 28), which talk about the various gifts people receive from God (teaching, prophesy, wisdom, etc.) gender is not once mentioned or alluded to. What is made clear is that God imparts these gifts as he chooses.

So whether your daughter wants to be a pastor or not is beside the point. Someone else’s daughter (my ten-year-old, currently) does. And before you tell her she’s not allowed, I beg you to give this topic the prayer and research it deserves.

I won’t pretend to have it all figured out. There are several people in my life whom I love and respect very much that simply disagree with me here. But as long as we’re convinced the other is basing their beliefs on the Bible and the instruction of the Holy Spirit, we can each continue to serve the Kingdom of God the best ways we know how with a clear conscience. And surely that’s all God asks of us.

(To be clear, this post only scratches the surface of this topic, which spans the whole Bible and New Testament in particular, not just 1 Timothy. If you want to reach out for further discussion, please go to my “contact” page where you can email me directly.)

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and if you haven’t yet subscribed to receive these posts directly to your email, now is a great time to do so! Stay tuned for my next post in a couple weeks where I’ll tell you a little more about my middle grade fiction book, Power Up, which will be released in a couple months! So exciting! Have a blessed week!

Steadfast Like Mary

I feel like I just blinked and the whole Christmas season passed. Though it feels like a blur, I can still look back and see memories being made, character being grown, and relationships being strengthened. And throughout it all, I must say I’ve had Mary on my mind this season.

Mary was only a teenager when an angel appeared and told her she would conceive the Messiah, of whom she’d heard prophesies about her whole life.

She readily and joyfully accepts her assignment (in spite of the risks to her relationship with her fiancée Joseph, their families, etc.). She says yes to God, even in spite of knowing the details of how it would all work out.

Fast forward about nine months. Mary could give birth any day now, but suddenly is required to travel 80 miles with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Possibly by donkey, possibly by foot. Either way, this was a very pregnant woman traveling 80 slow miles.

Let’s just pause here for a sec.

I mean, honestly. If I was Mary and knew I could give birth to the Messiah any day, I don’t imagine I would have been quite so agreeable. My thought process probably would have gone something like this: Uh, God…seriously?? Did you hear what they’re asking of me? Let me politely remind you how I already said yes to this giant assignment you gave me of birthing the Messiah – surely you aren’t going to make me travel 80 miles on a donkey. Right, God? Right??

Maybe she had similar thoughts. Then again, maybe she didn’t.

Finally the time comes for Jesus to be born and there’s no available lodging anywhere in town. After 80 miles on a donkey this strong, determined, pregnant teen labors and delivers our Savior in a stable, surrounded by animals.

Let’s recap real quick: Mary accepted the assignment of being the mother of Jesus, daunting as that would have been. She then traveled 80 miles only to give birth to the Savior in a barn.

We’ll never know the thoughts that ran through her mind, but if it was me, it probably would have been something along the lines of: This whole being the mother of Jesus thing is absolutely incredible, God. But, uh, a barn? Really? This is The Promised One, your son—why on earth would you let him be born in a barn?

Basically all Mary knew from the angel that visited her when she conceived was that Jesus would grow up to reign over a great kingdom. Fast forward 33 years and imagine banking on THAT promise from a human perspective, then witnessing your perfect son going to trial and being crucified, the most horrible of deaths. What a horrifying turn of events.

But through her sorrow, Mary believed Jesus when he said he’d rise again in three days. She was steadfast. Steadfast. Though time and time again things didn’t go as she expected, she kept saying yes to God. And you know what? All of God’s promises came true. He was faithful, as he is today and every day.

Though his promises came true in ways that were unexpected and maybe even seemed a bit backward to Mary in the moment, his promises still came true. Because he had a bigger, better plan than she could have dared to dream.

You see, God’s big-picture plan extended to all of humanity whereas Mary could only see the plan through the lens of her life in that moment. But still, she said yes to God, again and again.

Can you imagine if she hadn’t?

In this coming year, I pray for everyone who reads this to receive the strength, the steadfastness, and the faith Mary exhibited. I pray that when you step out in faith to follow God and then roadblocks pop up, that you will still see God moving for the good of humanity and keep saying yes to his plan. I pray that God’s goodness would not be brought to trial in your mind when problems come (and they will come), but that your faith in God’s character would lead you forward in confidence.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

Thanks for spending some of your valuable time reading! Here’s a quick update on me – the editing process for my middle grade novel, Power Up, is still rolling (rather slowly). It should be released this year, although I have no idea when at this point. I have a couple other works in progress that I’m excited about, although I did take a couple weeks off from writing over the holidays to be able to relax and celebrate the season with my awesome family. I hope you all had a great Christmas!

One last thing – please consider leaving me your email address in the sign-up box provided (if you haven’t already) so you can receive each new blog post directly to your inbox! Thanks!

Ark-Building Faith

I love a good checklist, don’t you? For groceries, to-do’s, the year ahead – it doesn’t matter. I function best with a plan and a list.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to fly by the seat of my pants more often, moving in whatever direction seemed best at the time. (Ah, carefree college days…) But now the unknown is more likely to stress me out. If, that is, I’m focused on my own goals and agenda.

That’s the interesting thing about following God…learning that he has his own agenda for you and being put in the place to choose God’s path or your own.

I’ve learned that there is a spectrum of Christians. There are Christians who love God, go to church, and are kind to others. They do their thing, go on their way, and love God in the process. And that’s okay – that’s where they are on their journey with God.

And then there are Christians who truly believe that God will guide their way if they let him. So they make as much of a plan as they can, but then sit back and let God guide their way.

Over the past ten years or so, I’d say I have morphed from the first type to the second. And let me just say what an adventure it’s been letting God lead.

Sometimes I’ve felt crazy. Sometimes others have thought I was crazy. You have to be willing to be thought of as crazy by others when you decide to let God pave your way. After all, you don’t have sound logic to back you up, aside from sheer trust in the Lord and his ways.

A man by the name of Noah comes to mind. He had the crazy-sounding faith to build an enormous ark in the middle of the desert, working day after day in the hot, dry sun as onlookers laughed at the seeming ridiculousness of the situation. All because God told him to, whether it made sense to him or not. (Check out Genesis chapters 6-9 for the whole story.) And it’s a good thing Noah was faithful, or else the entire population would have been wiped out.

Five years ago my family and I packed up and moved to Valparaiso, IN to help plant Rolling Hills Vineyard Church  http://www.rollinghillsvineyard.org. What a great and challenging experience it was, though it did include a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Okay, not much blood…if any.)

It truly was an incredible experience! So when my husband, www.chipmattis.com , and I both felt God leading us to Bloomington, IN four years later, you can bet that many people we had grown to love in the church community we helped to build “disagreed” with our decision. It was tough.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t our decision. It was a hundred percent God’s. In fact, I have a backlog of journal entries to demonstrate all the ways God was preparing us and those around us for our move to Bloomington, months before we were even in on his plan for us.

It’s clear as day to Chip and me that God was paving the way, but I’m sure there are still a few people from the church we left who think we’re crazy for moving “for no reason.” And that’s okay. Maybe someday they’ll understand. Regardless, we aren’t seeking man’s approval.

(Side note – sometimes it takes time for God’s reasons to unfold, but you can bet when he directs you that he has reasons even if he hasn’t unveiled them all to you.)

We followed God’s lead and moved to Bloomington a year and a half ago, and truthfully there have been plenty of difficulties and disappointments. But they pale in comparison to the overwhelming peace we have, knowing we’ve followed the Lord. We’re adjusting and adapting, slowly making friends and settling in. Good things take time, right?

God’s timing cannot be rushed, and as utterly frustrating and sometimes maddening as that fact is, it’s a truth that can’t be changed. BUT, we find rest for our souls remembering that he knows infinitely more than us and he loves us so much that he will always guide us down the best path if we’ll give him the trust and permission to do so.

God is a gentleman.

God is a gentleman. He won’t force his ways on us, but he’s ready and waiting to lead us down the best path for us as soon as we give him the go-ahead.

And just because it’s the best path, it doesn’t mean it will be an easy path. We’re still human beings living in a fallen world, after all. But during the difficulties that will inevitably arise for all of us, we can move forward in life knowing that God’s will is being accomplished through us. And that’s a peace and confidence that is unrivaled by this world.

So I’ll stick with my check-list making ways…when it comes to groceries, Christmas lists, and other non-life altering decisions. But when it comes to the path of my family’s future? I’m giving God the pen and letting him make his own list for me.

My goal is to exercise ark-building sort of faith.

What about you? Is God calling you in a new direction? Is he asking you to change jobs, move, or reconsider the plans you made for your own life? I encourage you to listen. Seek his voice. Seek his word through the Bible. Seek wise counsel from Christians that you trust.

His perspective beats our limited view every time. Not only that, but he LOVES you more than you can even imagine. Which means he wants the best for you.

Following God is an adventure, for sure. And making the choice to follow God’s lead is something you will never, ever regret. Making the choice to disregard God’s lead…now that’s a life of regret in the making.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you – please share your thoughts in the comments below, and also let me know if you have an idea for a future blog topic you’d like to see me cover. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up with your email address so you can get future posts delivered directly to you!