Pornography- The Epidemic Taking Out Our Families

be careful

3,564,591,201 Can you guess what this number might be?

This number is the number of internet searches for pornography since the beginning of 2015. As I put the digits into this post, the numbers continued to climb on my phone beside me, I can’t keep up.

Over the years we have seen many prominent members of the Christian community exposed for their involvement in pornography and adultery. Lives lived in darkness brought out into the light. Many of us were truly saddened; we were disappointed, disgusted. Unfortunately, many stood in pious judgment, almost enjoying being a spectator of someone elses demise.

It has been a reminder to me, that Satan really does prowl around like a lion seeking whom he may devour. Even so, I also know that God will not be mocked. He will not allow His people, to on one hand proclaim His name, while on the other live in sin. It’s time to face it! Pornography is no longer the dirty little secret that hangs out in the back room of a seedy store. It is no longer just subject matter for the frat house, or boys locker room. It is here – in our homes, in our purses, at our desks, in our schools, in our back pockets and unfortunately it has made its way into our churches and pulpits.. It is as easy to access as our favorite recipe blog. It’s free, available and it’s not going away. The statistics are staggering.

  • Every second – $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography
  • 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch pornography at least once a month.
  • 51% of pastors say internet pornography is a temptation
  • 1 in 5 mobile internet searches are for pornography.
  • 24% of smart phone owners admit to having pornographic material on their device
  • 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before they are 18. Most are exposed by age 12. Many are exposed at church youth group.

I could go on. The statistics only get more heartbreaking. So, as Christians what do we do?

It’s an easy thing to push aside uncomfortable subjects within the church. We hope to keep inappropriate things outside of our four walls. However, as the church becomes more compromised and Christians become weaker in their faith, these issues have to be addressed. To be completely honest, I am tired of the devil gaining ground and God’s people not engaging in battle. I am over sin being called a disease or sickness. It’s sin, plain and simple.

But there is good news! God has given us everything we need in His word and through the Holy Spirit, to defeat the schemes of the enemy. There is nothing that we can be tempted by that Jesus did not endure. “Well, He was God!” you say. Yes, He was. He was also God in the flesh, a man. He was open and vulnerable to everything that we are faced with today, and He has provided a way for us to flee temptation and overcome sin. It’s our choice as to whether or not we take the way out.

So, you may be reading this and be thinking to yourself. “It’s easy for her to say, she’s never dealt with this”; “People get sucked in by accident!”; “It’s the devil’s fault!”; “It’s an addiction!”; “She doesn’t understand how hard it is!”

No, I’ve never had to deal with this issue personally. But I’ve walked with many that have. As God’s people, we need to stop putting the blame for sin on others. We each have a choice- a free will.

Men:

It is a choice to type those words into the Google search bar. It is a choice to open that email. It is a choice to click on those pictures. It is a choice to look with lust at the woman walking by you on the street. It is a choice to flirt with the co-worker in the office. It is a choice to watch an inappropriate TV show or movie. I could go on. In all of this, there is a common thread- choice.

The comforting thing is, is that God gives us the greatest choice- His Word. When Jesus was confronted with temptation, He used scripture to fight. God’s promises are for us today! Ephesians 6:17 gives us clear instruction to put on the helmet of salvation. Guys, a helmet is not attractive, or fashionable! We use a helmet for a practical reason. The helmet protects the mind from wicked and corrupt thoughts and schemes. Once again, it is a choice to pick it up and put it on. God has provided, but you have to do your part. Once your helmet is securely in place, do what scripture tells you to do; FLEE!! We are never instructed to fight temptation. We are to RUN!

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

Men, for the sake of your wives, children or future wives and children, do not let the devil steal your future. Put on the helmet and FLEE!

Ladies:

Yes, I’m addressing you too! Even though we tend to think that this is a male problem, we are not off the hook. I am not out to purposefully offend or ruffle feathers, but if I do that in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Before I get attacked for blaming women for mens failings I want to say this; we are not responsible for the sin of others. Men and women make their own individual choices. Their sin is their own. However, we are called to be responsible to each other as believers.

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

We are to bear one another’s burdens, not just physically, but spiritually. So while we aren’t directly responsible for the choices of others, we are responsible to help in bearing their struggles. We are to do everything in our power to not aide in the falling of our brothers and sisters.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

This doesn’t only apply to just food and drink. It applies to anything that may cause someone else to stumble.

So ladies, in short, this is what I ask; please keep your short skirts, and low hanging tops at home for your husband. The only breasts and backside my husband should be seeing are mine!

Secondly, I find it quite alarming just how many women within the church that are exposing themselves to what the world sees as reality when it comes to marriage. We are bombarded by Fifty Shades of Grey style books and Bad Mom movies, and we seldom blink an eye. We enjoy the escape from our boring, humdrum lives. For a moment we are able to leave to demands of house and home and be transported into someone else’s world. We are allowed for a short time to let our hair down, and laugh at those things we’ve been feeling or wanting to say for years. The problem is, (other than the fact that they are completely wrong, distorted and against what God created marriage and motherhood to be), they are leading women into a sense of dissolution with their own families. Visions of ‘life on the edge’ cloud our minds and fills them with falsehoods. Husbands are no longer enough. We long for something daring and freeing. Eventually women find themselves in a place of detachment and discontent. Stop buying in to the fantasy, it will inevitably leave you empty and broken.

Ladies, fix your eyes on things above! Be thankful for the call that God has placed on you as wives and mothers. Find your contentment in Jesus! Ultimately, God is the only one able to squash the desires for things outside of your marriage that are not good. Once again, we have a choice. A choice, that even when we don’t feel like it, we love our husbands anyway. Even when we don’t want to, we are patient and nurturing to our children anyway. Please ladies, fall in love with God’s plan for you. His plan is good and right and will result in blessing.

Parents:

Lastly, I want to address parents.

Our children are in the middle of a battle; a battle for their souls. As their parents, we will one day stand before God and give an account for how we have raised them. That’s a massive and heavy responsibility. We can no longer stand back from our teenagers and give them their space. They need you to draw close now more than ever.

If you want children that serve God, you have to spend the time teaching them how. You can not give them a phone, laptop, tablet or any other device, and not expect them to discover pornography. Whether intentionally or by accident, it is a click away. They will find it, and it will pull them in. Please take the time to check your children’s devices. My children know not to expect any privacy when it comes to their online activity. I check their texts, their device history, and question them often on their viewing habits. We talk, a lot! My kids know they can trust me and my husband as their parents. Do not let anger with their behavior cloud the bigger picture. If your children think you are angry, they will hide. Hide both their activities and their hearts. Ask the Lord how you are to respond. Go to scripture with your children, show them what God says. Pray with them, hold them accountable, forgive them, love them.

It has taken me an hour to write this post. The pornography hit counter is now at 3,565,319,907 and counting. It’s time to step up, stop making excuses for sin, cast aside those things that hinder us, and be the Christian (Christ Ones) God has called us to be.

For those who are stuck in the mire, struggling with this issue and don’t see a way out; there is hope, forgiveness and healing. He loves you and has a much bigger plan for you than you currently see. Don’t settle for the scraps, when you are invited to the King’s table.

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea”

Lord, help us to be your followers. Help us to be blameless in Your sight. Strengthen us for the fight ahead. Help us to get off the bench and on to the battlefield, to stand on truth and not believe the lies fed to us by the enemy. We are belong to You- help us to live like we believe it! – AMEN

Prayers for the Battlefield by Heidi St. John – Book Review

Over the last three months I have had the privilege of being part of the launch team for Heidi St. John’s new book, Prayers for the Battlefield. I have followed Heidi’s ministry for quite some time, and as a fellow counter-culture mom I am always blessed by her encouragement of women to stand uncompromisingly on the truth of God’s Word.

In a day where we are short on voices that point us toward Jesus and the narrow road that He calls us to walk, I am thankful for Heidi and her obedience to walk that narrow road for the sake of the gospel. Heidi’s challenge to get off the bench and engage in the war for the souls of our children is much needed and vital for the advancement of God’s kingdom into the next generation.

In Prayers for the Battlefield, Heidi addresses many of the situations todays moms might find themselves in. From moms who are burdened by the challenges of the daily grind; to moms who struggle with their own short-comings; to the mom who just needs to trust God in the releasing of her arrows.

As I read through Prayers for the Battlefield I was encouraged, challenged, prodded, comforted and convicted. I laughed and I cried- yeah, I cried a lot! The personal stories that Heidi shares throughout each chapter are heartwarming, endearing and real. Each chapter ends with a prayer that is taken and adapted directly from scripture.

I love this book! I see myself reading it over and over as I continue raising my children to be world changers. My heart is to be the mom that passes along everything I have to the next generation, and to launch my arrows straight and well. I am so thankful that we don’t have to walk this journey alone, but that the Lord chooses to give us women such as Heidi who unapologetically walks in the calling He has given her.

Raising Kingdom Minded Kids

Parenting is hard. Being responsible for shaping future generations is a huge responsibility and oftentimes feels like an overwhelming task. So many things in our culture pull at our children, and as parents, we find ourselves simply trying to keep our heads above water and do our best.

Through the years I have had many conversations with other parents in regard to raising children, and it seems that we all struggle with the same basic questions: How do we get our children to be good kids when they are growing up in a godless society? How do we keep them in church? How do we get them to read their Bibles and pray? How do we get them to make right choices when they are faced with the pull of this world? How do we get them to walk with God?

The answer is, we don’t.

Now some of you may start preaching the biblical standards for training up a child and quoting the “spare the rod, spoil the child” scripture, but before you do, let me tell you where I’m coming from. I absolutely believe that the discipline and correction of our children is biblical and necessary. When they are young, it is imperative that they learn right from wrong, boundaries, and good manners and receive all the behavioral training that little ones need. I believe we should start teaching these principles early and be consistent with them. I’ve raised four little ones, so I know how it goes. However, once our children get to a certain age, and are able to make moral judgments for themselves, we need to start focusing less on their behavior and more on their hearts. If the hearts of our children are set toward the Lord, then their behavior will follow.

As a mom of teens, at times I find myself trying to control my kids’ decisions, actions, and responses rather than focusing on shaping their hearts. In doing this I encounter resistance and frustration from my children. This is not necessarily because they want to be rebellious, which is what we may naturally think, but because they are learning to walk out their lives independently with the Lord, and I am getting in the way! If our children are going to live in true and lasting relationships with Jesus, we have to step back and let the Holy Spirit convict and teach them—just as He convicts and teaches us. Our kids should not live to please us, their parents; instead they should live to please God. Out of love for Him should flow their obedience, respect, and honor for us.

Now I’m not suggesting that parenting will always be a bed of roses and we will somehow grow perfect children! Will our kids make mistakes? Yes. Will they cop an attitude now and again? Absolutely! Will they get discouraged? Yes. Will they make unwise choices that get them into trouble? Of course. Might they walk away from the Lord for a time? Maybe. But doesn’t this also describe us? There comes a point in time when our role is to disciple our children’s hearts and choices, not dictate their behavior. Our children’s relationship with the Lord is theirs, not ours, and it may look different than what we expected. Their lives may be led in a different way than we desired, and this is where we have to be reminded once again that we are raising arrows in order to release them. The key word is release! An arrow kept in the quiver has no use and will never be effective.

If our children are going to develop solid, real, and lasting relationships with Christ, we have to get out of the way. Our responsibility is to be quiet and allow God to speak so our kids can hear Him. If our children don’t learn to recognize the voice of God when they are young, then they will always be looking to others for direction and will likely be misled.

So instead of telling our children how to live, we need to show them by example. I recently read a quote by author and preacher Charles Spurgeon that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go—but be sure you go that way yourself.” How can we pass on something we don’t possess? Our children will look to us when they are young and become like us as they grow. We can’t expect them to become spiritual giants if we live lives contrary to the one we are telling them they should live.

We should pray with our kids! When they have a question, or when an issue arises in our homes, our responsibility is not to preach at them; we should go with them to the Word; go before the Lord together. We need to let God’s truth speak to their hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to bring change. He is on His own timetable, not ours!

Lord, help us shape our children into that which You have called them to be by getting out of Your way and trusting that You will guide, direct, and speak to them. May we find joy in the relationships our children develop with You. Give us Your grace to walk alongside them day by day! Amen.

Raising Esthers in a Jezebel World

Have you ever felt weary from the fight? Does the state of our society ever weigh so heavily upon you that you just want to throw your hands in the air and give up? I will be the first to raise my hand and say yes!

Day after day we wake up to news of violence, scandal, disaster, immorality, and death. At times I have found myself in fear for my children, who are growing up, and will possibly be raising their own children, in this day. I wonder how things will look for them as they become adults and seek to live out their faith in the midst of growing opposition to the things of God. It’s pretty discouraging when young people tell you that they question even having kids when they get older simply because of the way the world is going.

In light of all this, it is very easy for us to get discouraged. We think back to the good ole days and wish we and our children had been born in better times. But if we allow ourselves to be overcome with fear and discouragement, we will become ineffective and unable to do what God has called us to.

It is no accident that you and I and our children and grandchildren were born at this time in history. As we look to God’s Word for answers regarding our society, we find Esther. Esther lived in a culture similar to ours. The nation she lived in was morally bankrupt, the region was under the rule of godless leadership, and there was seemingly no prophetic voice anywhere to be found. This is why I love and relate to her so much. She was just like me, just like you! Yet even in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, God used Esther to save her nation.

Can we really save a nation like Esther did? Esther was just a regular person. There was nothing particularly special about her; in fact, her parents had both died, leaving her an orphan and at a disadvantage in life. We are told that she was young, beautiful, and won the favor of everyone around her; other than that she was ordinary. But Esther was willing, and through that willingness, she changed the course of history.

How did one young girl take on a kingdom?

She denied herself. Esther asked for nothing before she approached the king. She came before him as she really was, not pretending to be anyone else (see Esther 2:15).

She held to her beliefs when she could easily have compromised. Esther knew what was right and stood her ground (see Esther 2:20).

She was proactive and patriotic. Esther loved her people and was willing to sacrifice everything in order to mediate for them. She instructed her people to pray and then stepped out to be their spokeswoman (see Esther 4:15–16).

She was obedient. Esther submitted herself to her Mordacai, (her cousin who adopted her after her parents died) who had ultimately challenged her to rise up. He put the fate of the Jewish nation upon her shoulders, and she rose to the occasion (see Esther 4:14).

She was courageous. Esther defied custom, put on her robes, and, risking death, approached the king (see Esther 5:1–8).

She spoke up. Esther didn’t care what the consequences were. She petitioned for what she wanted and called out the evil that was being plotted against her people (Esther 7:1–6).

She brought deliverance. Because of Esther’s courage, the Jews defeated their enemies and were granted a powerful victory over them. The king ultimately bestowed great honor upon them and granted high position within his kingdom to Mordecai.

As we look at the days in which we live, may the story of Esther give us courage to raise our children to be the spokespeople of our day. The responsibility rests on our shoulders. If we do not rise up and challenge the culture and teach our children to become “Esthers” in their world, then we have failed and will see a generation perish. The calling we have is not for the faint of heart, but it’s the one God has given us.

Lord, help us to be Esthers is the day in which we live. When the culture has plans to annihilate Your truth, help us to be bold and unapologetic in our stand. Help us to recognize the responsibility we have and to know that we and our children have been placed here “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Amen.

The Power of Your Words

In our home just lately, we have been talking a lot about the power of words. Having a house full of teens, we tend to have a lot of joking, teasing, and, might I say, “trash talk” between them all. Oftentimes this back and forth is done in good fun and with seemingly no ill intentions. However, at times it can become, in my opinion, cutting and negative; I would even go as far as to say it can be hurtful and disrespectful.

As parents of teens, my husband and I no longer send our kids to their rooms for being mean or disobedient. Those days are long gone. I am thankful that we are at a stage in our lives with our children that instead we are able to sit down, open God’s Word, and see what it has to say about any issue we might have to address. You see, if our children don’t hear from the Lord Himself, then our words of correction can become repetitive and mute. If we don’t show them why they shouldn’t do a certain thing or act a certain way, then they will never truly understand their place in God’s kingdom and their personal responsibility to live Christlike lives.

In our discussions over the past few days, I have realized that it isn’t only my children who need to learn about the power of the tongue. As a mom, I need to realize the power my own words have. They can bring life to my kids’ spirits, or they can bring death. Before I deal with my children, I need to deal with my own heart.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (NIV). The Good News translation put it like this: “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Personally, at times I become so run by my emotions or moods that my tongue becomes unhinged and I forget that there are consequences to the words I speak. Whether I offend, cut down, or crush a little part of my child’s spirit, the result is broken relationship and broken trust. If I can’t control my tongue, I cannot be effective in communicating the love and mercy of Christ to others, especially my own children.

I have seen over and over a breakdown in communication between children and their parents, husbands and wives, all because a harsh word caused hurt that in turn led to resentment, anger, and ultimately a strained or non-existent relationship. We sometimes forget the bigger picture. The devil’s plan is to divide and destroy relationships, because without unity the church cannot be effective. If the church is not effective, then God’s kingdom can not be advanced. See the plan?

There are 137 verses in the Bible that talk about the tongue. Obviously, how we use our tongue is of great importance to God. In Scripture the tongue is often referred to as a sharp, divisive weapon, used to cut and tear down. But is also called wise, soothing, and able to bring healing. It can be used to alienate, but it can also unite and lift up. The choice as to how we use our tongues is ours.

So how do we in times of frustration and irritation pour out honey instead of acid? How do we lead our children by example? Because remember, to expect something of them that we are unwilling to do is hypocrisy. The answer is in daily surrender. Daily surrender to the One who is able to change our hearts and convict us of our need for Him every moment of every day. It’s in realizing that what comes out of our mouths is in direct relation to what is in our hearts. We cannot control our words in our own efforts. Like those New Year’s resolutions, we start strong and ultimately fail. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to die to our flesh and become the people, the moms, the parents that God has called us to be.

In those times when we want to respond in a way that is contrary to the nature of God, may we be willing to stop, take a step back, and ask, “Does this bring life or death?” We should be thankful when the right response comes, but we must be willing to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness when our flesh and our tongues supersede the Spirit! I challenge you to step out and ask God for help. He is faithful and will meet you right where you are.

“Lord, help us to use our tongues to advance Your kingdom. I pray that when we speak, we would speak life and truth. May our words build up, encourage, love, and correct in a way that is pleasing to You. I pray that we would be examples of God’s character to our children and deal with them how You deal with us—patiently, justly, and graciously—and that we can say to them, ‘Follow me, as I follow Christ.’ Amen.”

Sacrificing Families on the Altar of Feminism

I’ve often lamented that I should have been a young mom in the 1940s and 1950s—back in the day when it was the norm for women to relish staying home to raise their children, when women took pride in keeping the home and providing a home-cooked meal at the end of every day, when families sat down around the dinner table to discuss whatever the topic of conversation might be.

Unfortunately, in our day this way of life is more of a dream than a reality. Instead of being the norm, those of us who have chosen this lifestyle are now in the minority and oftentimes looked down upon. The reason? I believe it’s feminism. I’m not talking about the raging protesters who wear body-part costumes and take to the streets. I’m talking about a subtle movement that has taken root in the church, in those of us who are discontented with life as God designed it to be. In those of us who desire to see our identity in more than who we are in Christ.

You see, in our quest for more money, stuff, identity, we have ultimately ended up with less. Less of what matters. Gone are the days when we were satisfied with simple. Feminism has crept in subtly over the decades. Like a seed that’s planted, the more it has been fed and watered, the bigger and stronger it has grown, until one day it will be a giant tree that isn’t going anywhere unless it’s cut down.

Society has taught us, and in turn we are teaching our children, that success is measured by what we have, how big our houses are, how new our cars are, what brand of clothes and shoes we wear. That somehow if we are only mere homemakers then we are repressed, and not reaching our potential.  Because we are under a barrage of feminist ideas that inundate us every day, we are conditioned to think we are somehow advancing, making strides as women—and maybe we are on a personal level. But take a look at the generation we are raising.

Anti-depressant usage is up 65 percent over the last fifteen years, and women are being treated for it at twice the rate men are. ADD drugs are being administered to children at an alarming rate. Children are disrespectful, ungrateful, overindulged. One in three children are overweight or obese—a condition we have seen accelerate dramatically in the last thirty years. We often throw blame for this at the introduction of convenience food or the drive through. But I have to ask, why is there a demand for such food? As women we either no longer have time to cook real meals, or we are so tired that it’s much easier to grab a “4 for $4” and call it good. Divorce is now at an all-time high; 50 percent of marriages now end in divorce. Pornography addiction is out of control, and for that we blame the ease of access to it. Things are a mess, people!

Might I suggest that if we who are women spent more time cultivating and feeding our homes and marriages instead of our careers, these statistics may not be quite as dramatic?

Women were designed beautifully to cultivate and nurture, to cultivate our homes and nurture our families—not to conquer the world, corporate or otherwise. There, I said it! I know it won’t be popular, but I said it anyway. Proverbs 31 is familiar to many of us, and we often use it as justification for work outside the home. I believe we are to be workers; we are to put our hands to things that will benefit our families. But not at the expense of our families.

We have somehow believed that if we are not breadwinners, we are less than. Proverbs 31 clearly describes a woman who is respected and revered, a woman who is looked to for wisdom and advice, a woman whose children bless and praise her. She is also a woman who cooks for her family, who opens her home for ministry and her arms to the poor. Just because a woman’s “job” is different from that of a man does not make her less than, just different from.

I understand that some women have no choice but to work. I believe many that do would rather be home. Scripture tells us that God looks at the heart, and sometimes our situation, in spite of our best effort, is beyond our control. As mothers, we do what we have to for our children. You may be the only source of provision for your family, and if that’s the case, may God bless you and provide abundantly!

I believe that as a result of our striving to be seen as equals, we have lost our uniqueness as women. Good men are becoming afraid to pay a woman a polite compliment. Many no longer give up their seats or open doors for women because their motives may be questioned. It’s a sad state of affairs. I am raising my boys to become real men. Godly men. Men who see being providers, protectors, leaders in their homes as a true calling. I am raising my daughter to value her femininity and future womanhood. Real “girl power” comes when we recognize the amazing opportunity we have as women to fulfill a calling that only we can fulfill: to raise our children and nurture our marriages as only we can.

Lord, let true feminism be alive and well in our homes and families. Help our focus to be where it needs to be—on the eternal and not the temporal. Forgive us for buying into the lie that we need to be more than what You’ve intended us to be. Thank You for womanhood and the tremendous blessing it is. Help us to be different from the culture around us! Amen.

Is Your House Clean?

cleaning-house-2

Have you ever noticed how God uses the ordinary, mundane things of life to teach us? I love that the lessons He has for us are not usually sent by audible voice or great revelation but by everyday things that we can all relate to. It’s a new year! A time for new beginnings, resolutions, and plans.

By the time January 1 arrives, I find myself rather grumpy at the clutter of Christmas decorations and chomping at the bit to take them down. As much as I love Christmas and the beautiful décor that comes with it, I enjoy putting it all away and refreshing my home just as much as I did putting it up! Am I weird, or can you relate?

So earlier this week, I grabbed my storage boxes from the garage and started pulling down my garland and unplugging my lights. But as I did, I noticed something unpleasant: my house was dirty!

I’ve always considered myself a good housekeeper, one of those “a place for everything and everything in its place” type of people. But as I went deeper, I started noticing the crumbs and dust bunnies under the furniture, the dust on the top of my kitchen cabinets, the sand and debris under the living-room rug. Everything looked great on the surface. But those hard-to-reach hidden places that I don’t look at on a daily basis needed a lot of attention.

As I rolled up my sleeves and started to pull apart my house to take care of those neglected areas, it was almost as if the Lord nudged me. “This is what I want to do with you,” I heard Him say.

As I went deeper and moved more things, I found more dirt, more dust, and a couple of stains that I hadn’t known were there. What God wanted to speak to me was so evident. How often do I, do we, look nice and clean on the surface but hide dirt, dust, cobwebs, and stains inside? This is a short and simple truth, but it cuts right to the heart of our Christian lives.

Matthew 23:25–26 says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (NIV). Jesus was speaking to the religious, self-righteous, learned men of the day. He saw their pride and was unmoved by their words and actions. He saw beneath the surface, into the heart of each one.

What was spoken back then is still being spoken today. Not to the Pharisees but to us, God’s people. We spend a lot of time working on the surface stuff that people see, but much like in our homes, we don’t go deeper very often. I believe that as we move further into this new year, God wants us to dig deeper, to move things around a little so we can expose the dirt and stains in our lives that maybe we don’t even realize exist.

As I finished up my cleaning project and started putting my home back together, it felt good to know that even though those hidden places are usually unseen, the layers of dirt and dust in them were stripped away. They were spotless. For now. But I realized that it will be necessary to uncover those areas more than a few times a year. I made a decision to incorporate that task into my regular cleaning routine.

May it be so with our spiritual lives. I pray that God will continue to nudge me this year. To show me through the mundane, everyday activities and jobs I find myself in that He is interested in me, in my heart, and that He wants to make things new and fresh. May we recognize His voice, pull out the feather duster, move around the furniture, and respond.

Lord, help us to hear Your voice and act in humble obedience to it. May we allow You to expose the dirt that we try to keep covered and hidden. I pray that we would be transparent and allow You to do the work in us that You desire to do. Amen.