The Freedom of Speech

Heart Matters

 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” Matthew 15:18

I have been a person who for most of my years called it like I saw it.  I was told as a little girl that I was “sassy”.  Later it became “opinionated”, “strong-willed”, “direct.”  However, the truth was that I really didn’t speak out on things unless I really felt very strongly about them.  I guess you can say I can be very vocal about the things I’m passionate about.  I believed the things I spoke out about were worth speaking about and that the end result would be worth all the struggle.  But that wasn’t normally the case.  My words almost never yielded the response I was hoping for.  (I know now that’s because my words have no power unless the Lord puts power into them and He will only do that when He commands me to speak into someone’s life).

Later when I became a Christian, actually much later in my walk of faith, I began to realize the damage my self perceived “gift of gab” was wreaking on those who were “blessed” enough to be on the receiving end of it.  In an effort to quickly change and control my mouth, I started overcompensating.  When I would feel really strongly about something, I’d silence myself.  It was just too dangerous to risk it.  I was already dealing with the repercussions of my unbridled tongue in several of my relationships and so I became almost fearful to speak my mind and share my heart.  I failed often at this and so every time I did speak up, despite my good intentions I was always worried afterwards that I didn’t say it exactly right or that some miscommunication happened along the way and I would be completely misunderstood.  The struggle was real!  I was going against my nature and although I was doing so out of an desire to be obedient to Christ and bridling my tongue the way I believe HE wanted me to, I was going in alone-depending on my own strength and ability. And so my all or nothing behavior once again left me stranded feeling like I was in the middle of no where.  Although I was trying to be a good Christian in this area of my life, I had the feeling I was missing the mark.  Falling short of true submission before the Lord and suffering the consequences of my fleshly failures.  I was miserable!

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The Conviction of Conscience

Heart Matters

“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”  John 8:8-9

I recently submitted an article to a Christian Magazine for publication.  The subject was about the importance about not judging others.  As a believer who fell hard into legalism at one time, I’m serious about not wrongfully judging others (both believers and non believers) and about not having a wrong heart attitude towards other people.  But I have to say I submitted that particular article out of obedience to the Lord. I truly felt after much prayer and seeking His face that it was the article He wanted me to submit for publishing.  However, out of all the articles I’ve written, it wasn’t one of my favorites, also because it’s (judging) is such a delicate subject and one which can difficult to rightfully understand, I felt apprehensive about it.  “Judging Others” is a subject which can be greatly misunderstood, so  I carefully reviewed my article over and over again to make sure it was doctrinally sound.  The last thing I’d ever want to do is water down the truth especially as it pertains to God’s call to holiness in the life of a believer.  I’m not oblivious to the fact that there are believers out there who are big on “not judging others” but who refuse to ever hold other believers accountable.  I also know there are those Christians (like I used to be) who are almost consumed with making other believers behave and live in a holy manner acceptable in their sight leaving no room for God’s own process of spiritual growth in the life of His children.  They impose their lists of “do’s and don’t” on the lives of believers and unbelievers alike and in doing so do much damage to the cause of Christ.  We can all tend to lean to one extreme or the other.  But God is a God of Balance.

By the way, I did submit the article for publication.  It hasn’t been published yet because these things take time.  But we will see if indeed it was the one God wanted me to submit if it is chosen for publication.  I’ll keep you posted.  Now back to the blog (Lol). Lately I’ve been thinking, no realizing  that often times when people accuse you of judging them, since they have no real way of knowing the intent of your heart, they can have it all wrong. I’m starting to see that the real reason they feel you are judging them is not because you are, but rather is because their own conscience is convicting them.  WOW!  Okay for those of you who are reading this and saying “duuuhhh Kirsten”, I’m sorry but y’all are going to have to indulge me for a moment.  I mean, wow, there have been so many times when I have been accused of judging when I really felt I wasn’t.  I would self-examine and just come to the conclusion that I must have come across that way.  My personality is such that I’m straight forward, to the point, and no holds barred.  But I am also a very loving and kind person (and yes Kat, I still think I’m sweet too) too.  I always took full responsibility when that indictment was handed down to me.  I had a past of legalism and actually being a judgmental out of order person-guilty as charged.  But I wasn’t always being judgmental and there have been times when the label has been permanently affixed to me when it wasn’t further from the truth.  Chains loosed!

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Divine Intervention

Heart Matters

“I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.  Psalm 119:75

Every now and then I muster up the courage to catch a couple of episodes of the series Intervention.  I have to make sure my heart is prepared for the brokenness I’m about to witness, the sadness I’ll have to partake of, just because of my decision to watch the show. At times it seems almost sinful to watch a show which reveals a person at what seems to be their utmost lowest level ever.  It’s hard to watch a young lady so intoxicated she’s falling down in the street as she tries her hardest to make it to the store to buy even more alcohol.  It’s heart wrenching to see a person having so much potential yet spending day in and day out completely checked out of life and suffering every moment of their sobriety.  It’s a tough show to watch.  Yet something about it draws me to it.  I’ve watched it enough to know there are always two main points regarding the person’s life that’ll be revealed: the painful event(s) which led to their brokenness in the first place, causing something inside of them to seem to have a subconscious desire to die; and the result of the intervention when their loved ones all pull together for the common goal of getting him/her the help they so desperately need. The reason I’m willing to go through the discomfort of seeing another person’s pain is because there’s a chance I’ll also get to witness their healing.

Intervention is a show which reveals how extremely broken we can become when we are abused, mistreated, and greatly hurt.  It shows how for some, when that brokenness is left unresolved and hasn’t properly been dealt with, it can lead to a road of inconceivable addiction and unbelievable dysfunction.  When the sinful actions of others break and crush us we can tire of our very lives and many on the show, in their effort to escape their pain and sorrow, choose instead to live in a sort of catatonic state, closely resembling the walking dead.  Occasionally, I watch Intervention because it’s a show that offers hope and a chance for a new life.  However, in order for that to happen truth has to show up, and be dealt with, and get accepted.  The person has to tire of their same old ways and habits and realize that they can’t do it on their own. Only then can the person make  the choice to accept what’s been prepared for them, to save them out of their addiction, heal their brokenness, and break the chains of bondage.

Okay so this blog isn’t a promo for the show Intervention.  However, whenever I watch it I can’t help but think about how broken we all are, or have been, in some shape or form. Like the addicts on the show, for some of us, we too weren’t able to be rescued until we hit rock bottom.  For some of us it’s not until we are completely down that we’re able to look up and cry out for help to GOD. For many of us, this is how we were led to our salvation. Our brokenness caused us to accept the truth-that we are broken, separated from God because of our sin, and the fact that only Jesus made a way to save us and fill our void. When we made the choice to believe in the resurrected Christ and HIS finished work on the cross, our wounds were healed, our chains were loosed, and we were set free to freely live for HIM. Our brokenness ultimately led to our wholeness in Christ and we now know that only JESUS could have ever filled our voids.  But that’s not the end of it…..no, as we begin our new life in Christ-it is only the beginning!

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Set-Up To Sin

Heart Matters  

“Even my own familiar friend whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:9

If I were to ask you what do you think I mean when I use the phrase “set up to sin”, I’m sure you’d think I’m referring to the obvious, to being lured in some way into some sort of temptation to commit the sins of the flesh.  It makes logical  sense to think of coming face to face with those outright sinful things we would just love to partake of and indulge in; the things we’ve turned away from and have no intentions of returning to. Most of us know the areas in which we have a propensity to sin. Those places for which we’ve purposely established boundaries to keep ourselves from stumbling and falling.  When the word “sin” is spoken, it doesn’t take long for our memory to recall our record, the areas in which we have been repeated offenders.  Our history prevents us from being oblivious to our capacity to sin.

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Encounters With Christ-The Woman At The Well

Heart Matters

“The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” John 4: 17-18

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but here it goes-as a middle aged woman (ouch) there are certain terms the African American young culture have come up with that I find quite clever and spot on!  One such term is the word “thirsty”-as in someone being desperate to the point of degradation and humiliation.  I find it very accurate and appropriate for the day and age we live in today-one in which there is simply no shame.  With the popularity of social media and the visibility it affords it seems everyone wants to be famous.  The majority of the young women today seem to think they have what it takes to be a top model. They take selfies while in restrooms, at the dining table, and even while driving in the car. They can apply their makeup like they’ve been to cosmetology school and some of them are able to transform themselves in a way that without their glam they’d simply be unrecognizable. They’re selling something, it seems to be themselves, and so they don’t even shy away from revealing their barely clothed bodies even though they know hundreds, for some, thousands of strangers are watching.  “THIRSTY.”  Whether they know it or not- they’re thirsty-for attention, for acknowledgement, for affirmation.  I suppose the number of “likes” can temporarily provide some satisfaction, quenching their thirst at least for a moment-that is until they thirst again.  Yes, I do believe the word “thirsty” aptly describes many of the broken and misguided young women growing up in our world today.  Until they turn to the One who provides “living water” they will thirst, over and over again.

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Encounters With Christ-She Touched The Hem Of HIS Garment.

Heart Matters

“For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” Matthew 9:21

Recently I’ve been thinking about those who’ve had a face to face encounter with the living Lord Jesus when HE walked the earth as a Man (GOD-MAN) thousands of years ago. Those who saw Him in His flesh and were never the same.  They beheld His glory, they believed, and as a result their lives were changed forever.  Is it not the same for every single believer today? Were we not just going about our business, living our lives, struggling to cope, survive, or even thrive when the unexpected happened?  Were we not oblivious, blissfully living in the ignorance of the deception we accepted from the world, our flesh, and the devil? Did we not all have a deep void which we tried our best to either ignore or pacify by attempting to fill it with the  temporal and/or the shallow? Yes, I believe this is how it was for us up until the moment we first believed.  There we were doing life as normal, that is until like those all those many of years ago who cross paths with Yeshua, we too found ourselves face to face with our desperate need for the Savior.  He met us where we were, He allowed us to see who He was,  we believed and He saved us, and now we too can say we have never been the same since.

While it’s true that today we didn’t actually encounter the Lord in the flesh, we still were able to see Him in the supernatural way He brought us to Himself.  Through those who shared the Gospel with us, we heard Him speak. Through those who served us in His name, we felt His touch.  Through those we knew who lived their lives lifting Him up, we were drawn to Him.  Face to face with Jesus we were also faced with a choice-we (believers) chose to believe and we became altogether new.  Yes it was then when we first believed, at that moment of truth, that Jesus came into our lives and wrecked us like nobody’s business.  We became children of God, new creations, Christians!  It never ceases to amaze me when I hear how others came to faith in Christ.   No matter what corner of the world the person is from their salvation story always testifies to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  It always reminds me of the Scripture which says “The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to everlasting life.” 2nd Peter. 3:9 Yes it is the LORD who pursues us.  He sends others to tell us about His great love for us.  He allows circumstances so we can see our great need for Him.  He draws our hearts to Himself. Although He resurrected and ascended many years ago, He did not leave us alone.  HE sent His Holy Spirit.  Although the LORD is no longer walking in a specific location on the earth. The Holy Spirit is moving and working in the life of every single believer!

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Acknowledge Him In All Your Ways!

Heart Matters

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

I’m sure many of you are very familiar with this Scripture verse.  It’s a verse we turn to for comfort, to renew our minds when we face unforeseen circumstances or have to make difficult decisions.  Many of us have this passage memorized so we can recall it with the quickness when the opportunity calls for it.

I believe the meaning of this verse is plain and clear.  Proverbs chapter 3 speaks of the importance of having a heart for the things of God.  Things such as obedience, trust, mercy and humility. It’s about wisdom and understanding, knowledge and honor.  It’s a Proverb which beautifully conveys the blessings we receive when we walk closely with the Lord.   It’s about having a heart that desires God Himself and realizing when we do, everything else will fall into place.  In Proverbs 3 we can find both comfort and confidence.  We can know that if we walk rightly with God we don’t have to try to figure it all out. Instead, we’ll be able to trust Him even with the most challenging and confusing situations.  And once we get this, we can then let others know where we stand and what foundation we’re standing upon.  Once we get this, we can acknowledge that we’re trusting our God through our actions, the way we react or respond to adversity.  Yes once we get it and do this, we can know that He will direct our paths.

But what does it really mean to acknowledge Him in all our ways?  Does it mean we can only acknowledge Him when we respond to our life challenges in faith?  Has our understanding of acknowledging Him been relegated only to the realm of showing others how we are getting it right?  Or are we also able to acknowledge Him in our ways by allowing others to see our process, our journey, our struggle?  Hmmmm?  I’ve been thinking about this because I’m always fully aware of one of the biggest mistakes Christians make in their walk of faith (because it’s a mistake I’ve made and one I lived in for quite a number of years in my Christian walk).  It is the mistake of thinking we have to come across  in a certain specific way as we interact with others, both believers and non-believers.  For some reason many Christians believe the lie that once we become Christians we are no longer human.  When in all actuality, the Lord is okay with our humanity (He joined us in it and die for us because of it).  We fail to understand that although the Lord desires for us to be holy, He never wants us to live as hypocrites.  He’s okay with our process – how we sometimes take two steps forward and then one step back. He knows that at times we will get tripped up, stumble, and even fall and yet He’s always there willing and able to pick us up.  So why then do we feel we need to act and live as though we now have it all together?  Why can we feel as though we have to portray an image of perfection to others?  Why do we fall to the deception of self-righteousness and the travesty of hypocrisy.  Why?  I believe because it is a lie of the enemy.  Remember satan loves to try to pervert anything the Lord creates.  And so he want us to believe the real change we feel as new creatures in Christ is actually the result of a superior status.  He wants us to believe that since we now know the truth, we now also have it all figured out.  He wants us to live before others as though we’ve already fully arrived as opposed to letting them see our journey.  The devil wants us to do this because living in such a way hinders the Gospel from being communicated and reflected in and through our very lives. God is in the journey.  We haven’t already arrived but are being sanctified day by day. When we transparently share our weaknesses and willingly expose our struggles, it is then that the world is given the opportunity to see Christ being lifted up.  When we acknowledge HIM in all our ways it is then others can witness the presence and the power of Christ.  Jesus is okay with us being honest about where we are because it is only then that He can take us where He wants us to go.  He is The Truth, so it’s time to get moving!

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“…the valley of the shadow of death…”

Heart Matters

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalms 23: 4

I swear (figuratively) it seems the older I get, the weaker I get. Sometimes it feels as though life has just beat the mess out of me and I have no more strength left.  Yes, at times I get weary of feeling worn and I can so relate to Mary J. Blige when she said “No More Drama.” The older I get (I’ll be 48 this year), the less tolerance I have for the nonsense.  I guess this is partly due to the wisdom that comes with aging, the smarts to know how to pick our battles, and the ability to discern when we should engage altogether. But I’m starting to realize that as I grow older some of the things I used to be able to conquer and/or rebound from quite easily are now the same things that can cause me to isolate and retreat.  It’s crazy because oftentimes I don’t even realize the reason why I’m growing weary or experiencing feelings of frustration.  It can take me a while to put two and two together almost as if I’m in denial of my feelings (and believe me-this is not me). Then when I finally recognize the culprit, if I choose to respond to it in my flesh by taking cover instead of taking it captive to Jesus, I can eventually find myself feeling as though I’ve been thrust into a deep and dark valley, like the valley of the shadow of death.  Although the realization of being there is shocking, almost startling, I’m sure it didn’t happen overnight. I’m almost positive that most times the descending road to the valley of darkness is one of many twists and turns propelled by such sins as unforgiveness, failure to trust the Lord, or an unrepentant heart. How do we get there?  Disappointment leads to Discouragement leads to Discontentment leads to Depression.  When left uninterrupted or undisturbed this trajectory is one of a downward spiral and we can quickly find ourselves hitting rock bottom and under the shadow of death.

Before I continue, I must say I use this reference “the valley of the shadow of death” cautiously as I know my valley experiences may not be even close to what being in that ominous valley has been like for some. I decided to use it as the title for this blog because this is what the Lord Himself recently used to meet me where I was.  It is the very verse and this very subject He used to redirect and rescue me.  So just as His Word always speaks life into me, I’m praying He’ll use this blog to do the same for you.  So let’s suffice it to say that this valley, “the valley of the shadow of death” doesn’t always have to do with facing death itself or even the worse case scenario, but is instead a vast and complex place where we all have visited at one time or another and have come face to face with a darkness personalized just for us.

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My Faith Journey

Heart Matters

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2: 6-7

A Christian organization recently asked me to write a brief summary of my faith walk thus far. Although there is so much more I could share regarding the 24 years I’ve been on adventure with the Lord, I believe the content is such that it could be worth sharing.  As such I’ve decided to use it as this week’s blog post.  Please remember that this is only a summary. (For some reason The Holy Spirit had me record how He insisted I get free from my stronghold of fear and relinquish my need to control before calling me into ministry. So if you struggle with the same, perhaps this one’s for you). As I said, I’ve been saved for 24 years and as such there’s many lessons I’ve learned on my journey thus far.  I also know there are many lessons I’m still learning and have yet to learn.  Believers are always a work in progress.  When I blog I’m always writing from that place-one of all the lessons and principles The Lord has taught or is teaching me as He causes His Word to wreck my life (in the bestest way possible) for my good and for His glory.  I have to mention that this is not my testimony regarding how I came to faith in Christ.  If you haven’t read that blog post, I encourage you to do so.  It’s called “My Testimony.” One other thing before I post it, as always I pray the Lord Jesus uses whatever He’s done in my life to do what He aims to do in your life.  “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17  

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The Sacrifices of Righteousness

Heart Matters

“Be angry, and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.  Selah  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” Psalm 4:4-5

The sacrifices of righteousness!  What exactly is that?!  Well if we just look at this one scripture passage it seems to have something to do with giving up our perceived rights in regards to certain matters or a specific circumstance.  In this passage of Scripture David inspired by The Holy Spirit – wait – let me back up and give you verses 2-3 first so we can truly understand the context:  “How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?  But know that  the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him.”

David starts by addressing the malevolence of those who are grieving him, angering him.   He’s calling for their repentance as he reminds them that he is God’s boy so to speak and as such, the LORD Himself would take care of him -and them on his behalf.  David lets them know that whatever unjust behavior they’ve once again asserted against him, they would be accountable to God for it.  It is then that we get to the Scripture passage listed above under “Heart Matters.”  David starts addressing how we’re to handle anger.  Anger is a valid emotion. It is a God-given emotion.  A product of our conscience and convictions, oftentimes anger is subjective in nature, if not always.  When we feel the strong emotion of anger, the emotion in and of itself is not sin.  However, it is such a passionate emotion that when left unchecked, and we fail to take it into captivity to Christ, it usually is the predecessor of sin.  So here David says it’s okay to be angry-just don’t let that anger lead you-cause you- to sin. Sounds familiar?  Ephesians 4:26-27 says “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” (Once again we’re given till the end of the day to release it and get rid of it before we take it to bed with us and sleep with it.  There must be something about allowing it to rest with us which allows it to rest deeper within us.)

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