by Erin Olson on October 20th, 2017

We see it far too often…people abuse power and authority by manipulating people and situations. It is, unfortunately, part of living in a fallen world.
 
For many generations, well-intentioned teachers and pastors have lumped David and Bathsheba together in the sin of adultery. The only ones (and believe me, there are not many) who do try and take a different stance on this account are labeled as “biblical feminists.” I don’t know about you, but I am not sure why it takes a feminist to read the passage in 2 Samuel 11 to see that David was a man in authority whose fleshly desires affected the lives of so many people.
 
Here is what it says in 2 Samuel 11:1-4:
 
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period.

Even as I read these verses again for the hundredth time, I can’t see why the names David and Bathsheba are wrapped together in an adulterous affair scenario that makes grown people blush on Sunday. This passage shouldn’t make us blush; it should make us angry.

David didn’t just wake up one day and decide to sin. It was a process. David started out his sinful spiral by not going off to war with his men. It was the king’s job to go to war. While his men were off winning battles, David was just plain lazy – I mean, he took a nap in the middle of the day! What could he possibly be tired from? 

     photo of Old Bathtub on Rooftop - Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia by Mark Richards

Verse two is where everyone begins to blame Bathsheba for this sordid mess. Bathsheba was bathing late in the afternoon on her rooftop. We read later in verse four that she had completed her bathing ritual after her “monthly visitor.” This is an important fact included in scripture because it makes known that this was Bathsheba’s best chance at becoming pregnant and that there was no doubt it would be David’s child and not Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, who had been away at battle.

What gets even more frustrating is that most people when they talk about this account act as though this was totally consensual. They say Bathsheba knew what she was doing and somehow she knew precisely what time the king would wake up from an afternoon nap and walk outside on his rooftop. We know from the woman at the well in John 4 that most people were inside during the afternoon because it was so hot. It was late afternoon when Bathsheba took her bath…the hottest part of the day. As a Jewish woman, this bath was not optional but was required as part of her custom and she needed to get it done. When better to do it than when most people were inside?

King David didn’t know who this woman was before he sent for her. Verse three tells us that he sent for someone to tell him who this woman was. Unlike Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:6-18 who harassed Joseph daily and tried to seduce him, we see no indication in scripture that Bathsheba seduced or tried to become known to King David prior to this afternoon.

King David had time to repent of his staring at a married woman (once he found out who she was). David, himself, was married at the time he saw Bathsheba. In fact, he had multiple wives by this time and yet, he was not content with what God had given him and he wanted more. He was already in a place of disobedience to God by not going to war like he was supposed to and therefore he found himself restless and pacing back and forth on his rooftop in the middle of the afternoon. Does anyone else think it odd that only women could be charged with adultery? Men, at that time, had multiple wives. It wasn’t right because Jesus said so later. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

King David had time to think about what he had already done and what he was about to do while he waited for his messengers to bring Bathsheba to him. Nowhere in scripture do we see Bathsheba just show up to David’s door for an afternoon rendezvous. If the king sent his messengers for and requested Bathsheba’s appearance, she would have very little opportunity to say no. She didn’t even have a husband at home to consult with or question the request.

We know what could happen if one were to go against the king. Queen Esther, who was married to the king, couldn’t even go before him without an invitation and without fear of being put to death. Esther 4:16 says, “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

King David had time to change his mind. When Bathsheba arrived at his palace, he could have sent her away. However, he was already in a sin spiral. This is what happens to a lot of us when we start making bad choice after bad choice. One sin leads to another sin and then another and before we know it, what at first seems minor turns into something major.

King David used his power and authority to request Bathsheba’s presence, and then they had sexual relations. Again, I am not sure why many pastors and teachers illustrate this as consensual. King David yielded authority over Bathsheba and David clearly was not thinking with his God-loving heart or mind at this moment. We cannot infer what is not there when we interpret scripture. Just because a man and a woman sleep together does not mean it is consensual on both sides.

King David had the authority to kill Bathsheba for denying his request, and he could have used his authority to have Bathsheba killed instead of her husband, Uriah. Adultery was punishable by stoning and David could have easily said that Bathsheba got pregnant by another man while her husband was out to war. Perhaps by David killing Uriah instead of Bathsheba, people throughout the generations have assumed that this relationship was consensual and it was Bathsheba who lured David into this sordid affair and it was her to blame.

Just because Bathsheba, for whatever reason, was bathing on the rooftop, David should not have sent for her. He didn’t have to make the choice to sleep with her and sadly, he didn’t have to make the choice to kill her husband to cover up his sin. Bathsheba was a victim of an abuse of power like many are still today.

If we are not careful, we are all just a step away from sinful choices and the only way to keep us out of sin is to stay close to God. Had David been doing what he was supposed to have been doing, this story would have never made it to the pages of the Bible and David’s family would not have had to “live by the sword” as a result.

How else can we see this was David’s sin and not a sin on the part of Bathsheba? David repents to Nathan after Nathan called out his sin (2 Samuel 12:13-14), “Then David confessed to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.’”

We never see Bathsheba repent anywhere in scripture. Not only do we not see Bathsheba repent, even though the child born from this mess died, God gave her more sons, including Solomon, who would later become the wisest king. Her name is also only one of four women (not including Mary) in scripture named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

It was David who God could have killed for what happened (Nathan told him so), not Bathsheba. Bathsheba suffered as part of what happened to her…she lost a child and she lost a husband. She, like Esther, could have chosen to go against the law and refuse the king and choose death over life, but she didn’t. That would have been her only way out of this mess.

As a society, we need to learn from this. People in authority often times use their position to harm, harass, and abuse others. They think of no one but themselves until perhaps, like David, they feel remorse and/or get caught. We can only hope that a “Nathan” comes into their lives so they can repent and right their wrong. 

As a society, we also need to recognize that women were not created to be abused by men, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Instead of being seen as helpers, women have often been seen as property, possessions or objects by some men. If society continues to view women in ways other than how God created them, chaos ensues. We will end up seeing more sexual assaults, sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and a disruption in the ideal regarding marriage. And, all of our women are at risk, including mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends. No one is off limits.

There are good men out there who need to take a stand for women. Men and women need to speak out against harassment and abuse, including those in the Church. We can’t ask the victims to shoulder all the responsibility, and we certainly can’t continue to sling mud at their character like we have for far too long with Bathsheba. 

by Erin Olson on October 7th, 2017

I started writing a book titled, Spiritual Orphans: A Generation in Crisis, shortly after the Manchester bombing in May of this year. The book is slowly coming together but after the events of this past weekend in Las Vegas, my heart is heavy once again for the spiritual order of our generation. 

If we could peel back the layers of the Bible and really see what was taking place from God's perspective, we would see at the core of every physical problem described in the Bible there was a problem with the spiritual condition of the people. As people moved farther away from God, chaos increased. If our generation continues to move farther away from God, chaos will also continue to increase. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the chaos. I can't stop madmen who choose to shoot hundreds of people enjoying a weekend concert, but I can choose to use my voice to reach people with the hope of Jesus Christ. Many people who find themselves bound in the shackles of sin are not usually people you or I want to associate with on a regular basis. However, if we don't speak with them about Christ, who will? My sin, your sin, and their sin affect us all whether we like it or not.
 
The Holy Spirit has challenged me to see the lost not as bad people or even as my enemy, but as people who are in need of their Father. They are spiritual orphans wandering our streets aimlessly guided by the powers of evil. They need us...you and I...to come alongside them and be their spiritual mothers/fathers. He calls us to care for the orphans. Are you willing?

Excerpt from Spiritual Orphans: A Generation in Crisis:

Spiritual disorder contributes to physical chaos. We aren’t the first generation who has had to deal with this problem.
 
Sin separates us from a holy, heavenly Father. The Old Testament required a blood sacrifice to be made for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus ultimately paid the price for all with the shedding of His blood. Jesus' gruesome death exhibited God's immeasurable love and grace toward people. God's desire is that not one person should perish for eternity but that all would receive His free gift of salvation by believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior. This decision results in the new believer having access to the power of the Holy Spirit. This power source is critical for the believer to stay on the right path God has chosen for him or her. The unbeliever is someone who has never placed their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

For the believer, the repetition of cherished sin—unconfessed sin, known or unknown breaks the relationship with the Father. It's hard to stand in the presence of a holy God and have His Spirit reside within you and be wracked with sin. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” When we sin (even after salvation), we drive a wedge between our Father and us. We can’t live lives of disobedience to God and expect the world to be okay.

For the nonbeliever, there is no roadmap to right living (believers get this information through the Bible). Some people believe that everyone has a moral compass, but if your compass is being filtered through the hands of the ruler of this world, your destination, desires, and actions are generally not going to line up with right living. The wide gate nonbelievers enter and the broad road they walk on lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13). Sadly, this happens to far too many people.

The question is, do you care only about your spiritual condition and the spiritual condition of your loved ones, friends, and fellow believers? Does your heart break for the souls of those who don't know their Father right now and therefore are not a part of your spiritual family? Do you believe that an encounter with the living Christ can change the worst person you can think of? God is in the business of miracles. We need a miracle in our generation, and a miracle will only come as we seek to shift the spiritual atmosphere in our hearts, our homes, our churches, and our communities.
 
When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the forbidden fruit, their sin resulted in expulsion from the garden. They lost their fellowship with the Father. Fortunately for Adam and Eve, even though they lost the close fellowship they once enjoyed, God never left them completely. They still knew who their Lord was. God blessed them with two sons, Cain and Abel. Abel was the good son. Cain was not-so-good. Abel gave his best to God while Cain only gave some to God (Genesis 4:3–4). When God confronted Cain about his anger toward his brother, God warned Abel, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). The answer to be accepted by God was not to sin.
 
Cain, it turns out, could not rule over sin. His sin ruled him, and he ended up killing his brother, Abel. Abel's murder angered God. His response to Cain was, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12b). Cain chose to follow in the footsteps of his parents and allow sin (going against God’s instructions) to rule over him. He left the Lord’s presence and moved east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Anytime anyone moved east, it always meant moving away from the presence of God. Later when the Temple was constructed, the Beautiful Gate was located on the eastern side of the building while the Holy of Holies was located toward the back of the western wall. Even within the Temple, the farther a person moved east, the farther away one moved from the presence of God.
 
Cain’s family was wrought with sin and rebellion against God. Cain’s pride caused him to name a city he founded after his son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17). Cain’s great-great-great grandson, Lamech, married two women—something not originally designed by God. This was just another example of pride and rebellion against God. If that wasn’t enough, Lamech also murdered a man and announced what the punishment would be for someone who killed him (Genesis 4:23–24). Lamech had heard family stories about his great-great-great-great-grandparents who also believed they were on the same playing field as God thanks to that little, slippery snake. Sin and rebellion led Cain out of the presence of God, and his choices left his future generations wandering and outside of God’s presence. God gave Cain the antidote to sin—do what is right—but Cain chose his way over God’s way.
 
Do you ever wonder how bad it must have been for God to flood the earth? We’ve seen how Cain was making some bad choices, but come on, were they really that bad? If Cain existed in today’s culture, how would he rank? Cain’s family consisted of adulterers and murderers, and who knows what else. Eventually, the sons of God took many beautiful wives. Scholars disagree as to who exactly these sons of God and beautiful women were. Some say the sons of God were fallen angels, some say the sons of God were descendants of the righteous Seth, and some say the beautiful women were daughters of Cain’s descendants. Regardless of exactly who they were, the mere fact the sons of God took many as their wives thrust these descendants to a whole new level of polygamy.
 
Seth was Adam and Eve’s third son. He was born after Cain killed Abel. Eve was convinced God granted her another son in place of Abel (Genesis 4:25). It was as if just speaking these words of affirmation over baby Seth caused him to grow to be righteous just as Abel had been righteous. Ultimately, Seth had many children and had a large legacy. Seth’s great-great-great-grandson, Enoch, walked so closely in fellowship with God that one day, he disappeared because God took him (Genesis 5:24). Enoch didn’t experience death. Enoch’s great-grandson was Noah. Most everyone who knows anything about the Bible knows the account of Noah. According to Scripture, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9). Some translations say that Noah was the only blameless person living on earth at the time. Noah was righteous when everything around him was anything but righteous. God saw what the world had become—corrupt and violent.
 
God’s solution to this corruption and violence was to wipe out all the living creatures and the entire earth. He chose to spare only one family, and two of each animal (one male and one female).
 
In ten generations (one thousand six hundred and fifty years), people went from living in the garden of Eden in complete fellowship with God to being completely wiped from the face of the earth. Because of the sin of one couple in the Garden, all but Noah and his family were wiped from the face of the earth. God didn’t even offer up a second chance to repent. He was done with them.
 
Are we any different from the people in Noah’s day? How would our generation hold up to the scrutiny of God looking over the earth? What would He say about the things we think, imagine, and do? Oh, how our generation must grieve the Spirit and break God’s heart.
 
I wonder if any of Seth’s descendants tried to reach Cain’s descendants with the Truth? Or were they so hard-headed like Cain, their ears and hearts were closed and hardened? God himself had a conversation with Cain about how to rule over sin, and for Cain, that didn’t seem to make a difference. He voluntarily chose to leave the presence of God, and consequently, his offspring never returned to the presence of God. They wandered as homeless orphans wreaking havoc among people wherever they went. All of it was displeasing in the sight of the Lord.
 
On a day designated by God, God shut the door on that chapter of humanity when He closed the door of the Ark (Genesis 7:16).
 
However righteous Noah was, not one of us is righteous, no not one (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The closing of the Ark door represented the salvific gift Jesus would eventually offer to the world through His sacrifice. On the Cross, Jesus closed the door to our past and opened the door to our future.
 
Not too long after the flood, people found themselves struggling again to do what was right. Noah’s son, Ham, shamed the family after Noah drank too much wine and stumbled naked into his tent. Instead of helping his father (as was the custom), Ham went and got his brothers (Genesis 9:21–22). Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth, did what they were supposed to do and covered up their father’s nakedness. When Noah woke up, he heard what Ham had done and delivered a curse upon Canaan, the son of Ham:
 
Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. (Genesis 9:25)
 
Not only did Noah curse Canaan, but he blessed Shem and Japheth.
 
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth's territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth. (Genesis 9:26–27)
 
I’m sure that didn’t go over well at family gatherings!
 
Noah’s descendants kept moving east (Genesis 11:3)—hopefully, you are noticing a trend by now—the farther we move from God, the easier it is to sin. At one time, everyone in the world spoke the same language, and they eventually settled in the land of Babylonia (Genesis 11:1–2). However, bad habits die hard and the sin of pride and rebellion once again rose-up in the people. The people wanted to make themselves famous. Sounds very similar to the fame and power Lucifer wanted, too. The people began to build a tower that shot straight up into the sky toward heaven. This time, God went down from heaven with His angelic force, confused the people with different languages, and scattered them all over the world so they would not be able to continue in their self-reliance (Genesis 11:7–8). The people whom God had spared from complete destruction fell into a lifestyle of sin and estrangement from God just as all the others had before them.

But God….
 
God had another solution for these wayward people. He was about to call a spiritual father for these spiritual orphans. His name was Abram.
 
Abram was from the lineage of Noah’s son, Shem. He was the son of Tehar. Abram lived in the land full of people doing life far from God. But God was about to move Abram and set him on the path to his purpose. We don’t know much about Abram, but we know his family was into idol worship. As people moved farther from the presence of God, their need for new gods increased because if God wasn’t their priority, they were going to seek assistance from something other than God. God knew Abram would be distracted, and quite possibly discouraged, by the culture he lived in so God told Abram to move.
 
The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. " (Genesis 12:1)

God chose this man, Abram, to be the father of many nations. The spiritual tone Abram set would affect future generations of God’s chosen people. Would it be possible for one man, and one woman, to parent these ungodly people? Apart from God, no. With God, anything is possible. Abram wasn’t perfect, but God is a God of covenant. Just as with Noah, God kept His covenant despite the fact His people always returned to sin. God told Abram that nations would be born from him and that is exactly what happened. Were the nations perfect? Unfortunately, no. What could have possibly made the outcome different? Multiplication.
 
There is power in multiplication. One becomes two, two becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen…and so on. Father Abraham couldn’t do it all by himself. He needed others who would also make the decision to do what was right in the sight of the Lord. Their right living would become an example to others to live rightly. If sin can be duplicated so too can right living. We need more people today who will live right so that others may see right living modeled.
 
Do you ever have self-righteous conversations with your Bible when you are reading it? I hope I’m not the only one! Sometimes I find myself saying things like, “Good grief. What will it take to convince you people to do the right thing?” or “How could you miss it? You saw the glory of God on the mountain and yet, you were down below wrapped in sin. What is wrong with you people?” It’s in those moments when I think or utter these words that a spirit of conviction and grief well up in my heart. I was that person. We are that people. We live out our days under the shadow of the Cross and the rolled-away stone, and yet, we are no better than those who tossed their jewelry into the fire and worshiped the golden calf that emerged from the fire (Exodus 32).

I can only imagine how Moses must have felt when he threw down the stone tablets during his holy temper tantrum.
 
When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:19) 
 
Why was Moses so angry? Because before Moses went down from the mountain, he pleaded with God on the people’s behalf (Exodus 32:11–14). He begged God not to destroy the people. We are sort of like that today. If we pray, we pray for people to change, but the minute we see that no change has taken place, we get angry and throw temper tantrums. We sometimes withhold our grace and instead replace it with judgment and anger. What right do we have to do this? Absolutely none. God gets to choose whom He wants to spare and forgive. He’s the only one righteous enough to fulfill this role. All God asks us to do is to tell the world about Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Our sinfulness and need for a Savior should always be at the forefront of our mind. Otherwise, if we forget where we came from, we run into the quicksand of becoming self-righteous like the Pharisees and grace-less.
 
How can we care for the spiritual orphan who is without their Father if we look at them in disgust and disdain? Jesus, on the Cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The spiritual orphan knows nothing about grace, faith, and obedience because they don’t know their Father. It’s our job to show them who He is. We do this by extending love and grace to all. 
© Erin Olson 2017
Spiritual Orphans: A Generation in Crisis

by Erin Olson on September 26th, 2017

Motherhood is about sacrifice, and it is only the presence of the Holy Spirit that ensures the success of the servant’s mission.
 
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
 
Moms, do you see yourselves as anointed messengers of the Good News in your home? The word “poor” in this verse can mean, “conscious of one’s spiritual need.” We live in a time where salvation is available to all…the time of the Lord Isaiah prophesied about. Our sweet little children…without Christ…are poor, blind, and oppressed…until they find their freedom and salvation in Christ. You, mom, are your children’s first point of reference to the Gospel. What are they seeing?
 
Second, do you see yourself as a servant with a mission?
 
I’m a huge fan of authenticity and transparency. I think we can’t improve our lives by acting like someone we are not or hiding our struggles, our failures, our doubts, in addition to sharing our wins.
 
I grew up attending church. My parents took my brother and I to church, but we weren’t living a life on fire for the Lord. Honestly, I didn’t even know what that meant for so many years. As a young mom, I repeated the cycle of what I learned from my parents. I made sure my family went to church, but outside of that one hour a week, we weren’t doing much to die to self and live for Christ. My marriage suffered because of that, my parenting skills stunk because of that, and I found myself in a deep pit searching for answers to heal my past. God pursued me in that mess, and He sent a person to speak a word to me that only God knew. I didn’t know the person whom God had sent and he had no way of knowing what I was struggling with. At the age of 34, I gave my life completely to Christ. I said, “Wherever and whatever.” That wherever and whatever needed to first start in my home. At the time, my children were 5 ½, 3, and almost 1. They didn’t need me to change the world at the time, they needed me to change the atmosphere of our home first.
 
The other afternoon, I asked each of my children and my husband, “If I were to ask you what the mission of motherhood means to you, what are the first three things that come to mind?”
 
My 15 ½-year old son’s response: “Feed, do laundry….” He couldn’t come up with a third thing.
 
My 12-year old daughter’s response: “I have no idea.” Clearly, I am doing a great job with her!
 
My 10-year old son’s response: “Raise their children in godly ways, teach them valuable skills they will use their whole life, and protect them (food, shelter, etc.).” This third child truly is a gift from God, and he lives up to his middle name of Samuel!
 
My husband’s response: “Train their children, create a homey, peaceful culture in the home/family, and be an example for their kids to follow.”
Two of the four responses make me think of Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
 
Moms, we are responsible for our children’s starting points. Just as we set them on the ground to take their first steps, so, too, should we set them on the right path to find Jesus.
 
I recently came across this blog on missional motherhood. In it Rachel Jankovic writes:
 
“At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood…. Look at your children in faith, and see how many people will be ministered to by your ministering to them. How many people will your children know in their lives? How many grandchildren are represented in the faces around your table now?.... You cannot have a heart for the gospel and a fussiness about your life at the same time. You will never make any difference there if you cannot be at peace here. You cannot have a heart for missions if you don’t have one for the people around you. A true love of the gospel overflows and overpowers. It will be in everything you do, however drab, however simple, however repetitive.” (Rachel Jankovic, Guest Contributor on John Piper’s Desiring God) 
 
Powerful and convicting, right?
 
I get it, being a mom isn’t always that glamorous. Doing laundry, scrubbing floors and toilets, changing diapers, battling temper tantrums…it’s not the kind of stuff that makes headline news or gets your name into history books, but motherhood is a calling God has allowed in your life. Stop right there for a moment and read that again, “Motherhood is a calling God has allowed in your life.” God allowed it. God authored it. God created your child.
 
From the moment of conception, our bodies begin to sacrifice…even before we realize we are pregnant. In utero, the growing baby takes some of our nutrients. The sacrificial process begins whether we like it or not.
 
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a beautiful picture of a sacrificial mother. When she heard what the angel of the Lord had to say, she realized the situation was bigger than herself. She had to make the decision right then and there to sacrifice every ideal she had imagined for herself when the angel said in Luke 1:26-38 (NCV), “During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, 'Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.' But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean. The angel said to her, 'Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor.  He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.' Mary said to the angel, 'How will this happen since I am a virgin?'  The angel said to Mary, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God.  Now Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old. Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months.  God can do anything!' Mary said, 'I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!' Then the angel went away.”
 
Mary said, “Yes!” The angel told Mary she was going to have a baby…a very important baby. And this baby wasn’t coming by the traditional means, but instead from the Holy Spirit, not her soon-to-be husband. Mary knew this could mean her death (because adultery was grounds for death and she was engaged to Joseph), but the angel of the Lord had already told her “the Lord has blessed you and is with you.” She didn’t fear man at this moment because she feared (or revered) God more, and she knew His promises to be true.
 
“What do you think of when you hear, ‘Fear God, not man’?” Whom do you seek to please more…yourself, others or God?
 
In verses 46-55, Mary sings a song of praise to God. She knew His promises to the children of Abraham. She would have known what the prophets said about the coming Son of God. She knew his life wouldn’t be easy, and therefore her life wouldn’t be easy. She was raising the son of God and Mary was responsible for that child just as we are responsible for our children.
 
So, getting back to the list of things my 10-year old said the mission of motherhood is:
 
  1. Raising children in godly ways
  2. Teaching them valuable skills they will use their entire lives
  3. Protecting them (food, shelter, etc.) 
I have already mentioned Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” But what does this mean? It means a whole lot more than just taking your children to church.
 
First point: Raise children in godly ways.
 
The Hebrew word for “train up” or “start” is chanak. It means to dedicate. Many of us dedicate our children in a church setting (whether that be through baby dedication or in some cases, infant baptism). Mary did this with Jesus. This is our way of giving our child to the Lord for service, and confirming that we are agreeing to raise the child to honor God and teach them about God. We do this not only by going to church, but also by leading by example. We are all anointed ministers (or proclaimers) of the Gospel, so we need to know the Gospel. Knowing the Gospel begins with knowing Jesus. We discover things about Jesus by reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus through prayer.
 
Mary and Joseph participated in the Jewish customs and traditions and traveled for the festivals (remember the story where they lost Jesus one time?!?!?). She didn’t stop doing these things or bringing Jesus along just because Jesus was the Son of God. You and I are no different. I see so many today who think their children will have a saving faith because they do or they say, “Someday they’ll all get back into church when things slow down.” Sadly, so many children are in danger of slipping away from the Kingdom before they’ve even had a chance to enter the Kingdom because they are banking their salvation on their parent’s faith. We’ve got to be intentional with our children and let them know that their faith is theirs. It’s personal. Yes, there’s a greater likelihood your child will be saved if you and your husband are saved, but it’s not a guarantee. I know a lot of adults desperately waiting for prodigal adult children to come home because they neglected to raise their children in godly ways. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
 
As your little ones start to venture out more and more from your care as they enter the school aged years, they are going to be getting a lot of “culture” thrown at them. Your job as parents is to make sure their foundation is secure…this includes securing your own foundation because for a little while, they are tethered to you.
 
What we start, our children will start. If we are on the right path, our children will start on the right path. If we aren’t on the right path, our children won’t start on the right path. Some of you reading this right now may not be on the right path. But take heart, you can make the choice to get on the right path today, and place your children with you on that path. Let me assure you it is much harder to put your child on the right path when they are walking and running on their own. If your child is still young, make the choice to put him or her on the right path while you still carry him or her on your hip and in your arms.
 
Second point: Teach them valuable skills they will use their entire lives
 
What are you teaching your children both directly and indirectly? What do your children see as important to you?
 
In our house, we have a family mission statement. It reads: “We are a family of Jesus followers who are committed to doing all that we do to the glory and excellence of God and to serve others as lights unto the world.”
 
By making our mission known to our children, we set expectations for what we expect from them, as well as confirming what we believe and are also doing. Our family mission statement teaches them what our only priority is (our relationship with Jesus). We say “only” in our house because if we number our priorities (God, first, family, second, work, third, etc.), we can re-order our priorities from time to time. It’s fine to number all the priorities other than God, but He must remain the constant priority at the center of your family. God will allow you to move Him from the center or first, but the result usually isn’t pretty.
 
You and I aren’t just raising the next great soccer player, football player, ballerina, CEO, lawyer, doctor, or pastor. No, we are raising Christ-followers who just so happen to have the talent and gift for sports, leadership, medicine, preaching, and the like. We shouldn’t be so focused on training them for an occupation that we miss the ultimate calling, to be eternally focused in all areas of their lives. This “aha moment” for them can come sooner rather than later if we are sacrificing our time and energy to teach them the ways of the Lord. In Psalm 86:11 David prayed, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.” Until your child can learn to pray and ask God directly for understanding, they rely on you.
 
I watched a PureFlix movie on Friday night called Coffee Shop. It's a cute little romantic movie. In it, the main character was describing her late mother to someone she had just met. She said, “My mom was always talking about the Bible and loving others.” This woman had watched her mom live out the two greatest commandments: “Love God. Love Others.” She, in turn, was living a life that very much reflected the same things. People knew this woman loved God and loved others.
 
What is it that your children will remember being taught or lived out by you?
 
Sally Clarkson, who along with her husband, has a ministry that encourages and equips Christian parents said this in one of her books:
 
“I’ve come to appreciate the importance of the many thousands of routine moments in a mother’s life, for it is in these moments that real greatness tends to be caught and taught….It’s the way I respond to my children in everyday moments that gives me the best chance of winning their hearts. If I have integrity and patience in the small moments of life that are so important to my children, and if I approach them with a servant’s heart, then I have a far better chance of influencing them in the larger and more critical issues of life.”
 
What’s caught is because it’s taught. Let me clarify something, this doesn’t mean we answer to every whim and give up ourselves for the sake of our children. We want to train our children to be servants not just people to be served. There is a fine balance between sacrifice and self-care. If we aren’t daily being filled with the Holy Spirit and have not daily put on our own armor of God, we can’t help our children put on theirs. We can only serve out of the overflow of what’s in us. If our relationship with God is right, it helps our closest relationships be better because our filter now has a God lense on it.
 
We need to teach our children about who God is, we need to teach them about Jesus’ character, and we need to teach them about what is and isn’t expected of a Christ-follower. Our children are our disciples. If we are to go out and make disciples, we can’t neglect those in our home who need discipling. We can’t delegate this task…especially in their younger years. We demonstrate discipleship for them so that hopefully, one day, they will disciple others just as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all people.” The choices we make in our homes influence not only our lives, and our family’s lives, but also all those who we, and they, will encounter throughout our lifetime. If we are teaching our children valuable skills…life skills, social skills, discipleship, worship, prayer, doing life in community…they will last a lifetime. We want our children to model this kind of behavior not the behavior of some of the television families we see or sadly, some of the families of children they do life with at school, sports, church, etc.
 
We all want the best for our children. We want them to have great health, get a good education, find a wonderful spouse, get a great job or love their occupation, and someday have a family of their own. Their best will come if we teach them the ways of the Lord…their tents will flourish as it says in Proverbs 14:11, but on the flip side, if we don’t teach them, someone will and that someone will be the world. The next verse in Proverbs 14 warns where that way ends…“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” v. 12

We can’t force our children to accept Christ, but we can teach them what it means to follow Christ, why it’s important, and age appropriate, what it looks like when we don’t follow Christ.
 
Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
 
We need to train our children to not be fools, but to seek wise counsel and be okay with being the student…the disciple. We need to not think their rebellion is cute (it might look cute at two years old, but I can assure you that it doesn’t look cute once that child is 12 or 16). We are responsible for teaching our children that obedience to God is for their benefit and well-being (this helps them understand why it is important to obey) and to love others.
 
Third point: Protect them (food, shelter, etc.)
 
Did you know the lioness’ job is to provide food, shelter, and nurturing to the young cubs? The lion doesn’t help with any of that. The lioness’ goal is to grow the cubs so that they can go out and start the cycle all over again.
 
We do that, too, moms. We do lots of grocery shopping, meal preparation, patch up boo-boo’s, nurture tender hearts, and raise our children in community (like what you all are doing here). If we neglect to feed our children, provide shelter for them, and protect them, harm could come to our children.
 
What we do is like the shepherd who tends his flock. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice just as our children know our voice and nuances, and we know theirs. We shepherd our homes. We must keep the enemy out even if that means staying up nights to keep guard. It’s sacrificial. 
Protecting our children also means that we sometimes must say, “No.” “No’s” aren’t always fun, but they are often necessary. We shouldn’t strive to be the “fun mom” or the “best friend.” Fun runs its course and friends come and go. Moms, you need to remain steady and constant. As my husband said, it’s the mom’s job to set the comfy, peaceful culture of our homes. The tone you set each and every morning can impact your family’s entire day. Find joy in the calling because of who called you to your calling and equipped you, through the Holy Spirit, for your mission. On your bad days (we all have them), don’t take things out on your kids or your spouse, take it all to Jesus. He gets it. Take your weariness to Him and He’ll carry it.
 
Lastly, I don’t want you to think that being a mom is the only thing you are called, qualified or capable of doing. Your family should be your focus, but don’t be so focused on your family that you don’t do anything else. Some of you may or may not work outside of the home. These suggestions don’t incorporate the work/mom balance. I don’t know how working moms get it all done…it’s amazing, and I haven’t worked outside the home for a paycheck since I had my first child. I don’t even want to venture into talking about an area I have no knowledge or experience in. Some of you may be called to work outside the home. But regardless of whether you work or don’t work outside the home (“work” as I use it here is defined as something that earns you a paycheck), you can also do the following: Love your spouse well. He was your love before your child came along. Be sure and nurture that relationship. You can volunteer. Find places where your children can get involved with you in serving. This way you are modeling serving people outside of your home. Serve in your church. There’s no better training ground than for your children to see you committed to, and participating in, your local church. Involve them when it is possible. If you don’t have opportunities where families can be involved together, maybe talk to your church about that or seek out organizations that allow families to serve. Teach your children to give. Help them understand why it’s important to give sacrificially of their own money and time without expecting recognition in return. Serve your neighbors, friends, and extended family. Even if they are not involved, they’ll see you preparing meals, delivering meals, babysitting a friend’s child, helping a sick family member. They’ll quickly learn the world doesn’t revolve just around them. Minister to your child’s friends and their families. Your child’s friends and their families may never step foot in a church. You might be the only church they ever witness. Make sure your life serves as a strong witness reflective of the person of Jesus Christ. Spend time with friends who are like-minded and build you up. It’s okay for the occasional girl’s night out, but make sure you are doing things you wouldn’t mind your children watching you do. Just because we are adults, it doesn’t mean we should be doing some of the things moms are doing. Assess your foundation and make sure it’s rock solid because raising children in this world is hard work on the mission field.
 
Katie Davis Majors in her soon-to-be-released book, Daring to Hope, makes this Bible verse a prayer over her sweet family, “The children of your people will live in security. Their children's children will thrive in your presence.” (Psalm 102:28) Personalize it for your family, “My children will live in your presence, and their children will remain with you.”
 
The sacrifice of a mother begins long before we even realize they are ours, and it goes on and on. Commit to not only being a mom but to be a mom on mission. This mission is not just about your child’s soul, but also for the unknown number of people who will be impacted by your sacrifice in the years to come. And remember to always love God and love others.

by Erin Olson on September 15th, 2017

​This past week as I reflected on all that was happening in the United States—the two hurricanes, wildfires burning, and general unrest, I slowly began to reflect on the horrible events of September 11, 2001. I sat and wondered, would we have been able to handle the likes of social media on this horrible day?
 
Throughout the hurricanes, riots, protests, and offenses committed against persons, we have become all too familiar with things like Facebook Live. We can now witness live time events that we may have never been privy to before. Where once we relied on eyewitness accounts, and perhaps a news reporter/photographer, a whole new world has opened up to us.
 
I recently visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library, and a large section of the library is dedicated to the events that unfolded on that day and the days after. On a large screen is the transcript of a voicemail Brian Sweeney left for his wife, Julie.
 
“I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times—same to my parents and everybody—and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.”
 
There were many other recorded conversations, texts, and voicemails left that day, but one thing I cannot imagine is watching the whole thing unfold on the likes of Facebook Live. To watch someone’s final minutes is just too much, and on this fateful day, close to three thousand people lost their lives. I have a hard time looking at the hard images as it is from that day—you know the ones where people were jumping out of the buildings. However, as I reflected on the fact that I have a hard time with things like this, I wonder if this is what it is going to take to get our attention. Maybe we need a moral outcry in this country. Perhaps, we need to sink to all-time levels of depravity before we can really see our wickedness and complete turn from God.
 
The prophet Isaiah witnessed and prophesied to people not unlike us. In Isaiah 22: 12–13, the people saw what was coming, but instead of repenting and changing their ways, they went on doing what they were doing (and maybe even stepped it up a notch) because they were going to die anyway.
 
“At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep. You feast on meat and drink wine. You say, ‘Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”
 

I feel like this is the train wreck I am watching every day in America. I want to scream, “There is still time! We can change the course of this country by seeking God and doing what He says, not what we want to do. Stop partying and carrying on, and listening to the wicked! Follow Jesus. His ways are right.”
 
My heart is burdened, and I know others feel the same way. There are watchmen on the wall everywhere watching for what is happening and what is coming. We run with messages and thankfully, some hear and listen. However, others…many others…turn and ignore us. And yet, God still has us among them. Their choices affect us every day. The more sin there is in the world, the less God can bless. Our generation will live amongst the ash heaps unless we are bold enough to love, care, and share. We can’t place the burden on our children and our children’s children.
 
If you are a Christian, your life should look nothing like the depraved world. Sadly, many lives do. That’s a mixed message. If you Facebook Lived your entire day or week, would anyone know you are a Christian? Would they see you as different than those who are unsaved? Maybe that’s a challenge we each need to consider. If we are to “let our lights shine in the darkness” (Matthew 5:16), we need to filter our light through God’s Word.
 
We need to be sickened by, and uncomfortable with, wrong living. If we possess the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit does a good job of telling us what is wrong and right in His sight. That pit in your stomach or uneasiness in a situation is a pretty good indicator that what you are seeing or participating in is probably not a good thing. I witnessed this last night with my tender-hearted nine-year-old son.
 
A friend of ours who is a country music singer was in town for a quick outdoor, festival appearance. We went out to see him and listen to a few of his songs. The entire time, my child was miserable because he witnessed what adults act like after they’ve been drinking and smoking (“Where there is clearly a “No Smoking” sign,” he said). His Holy Spirit barometer was off the charts. Thankfully, they are not in many situations like last night, but I know my children will soon be as they venture off to college and jobs, and sometimes even in ministry situations we find ourselves in as we minister to those far from the Lord who are making bad choices.
 
The world will be full of sin and trouble until Jesus returns, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is. If Christians would act and live like Christ-followers, we’d be a whole lot better off. And fruit will grow from our right living.
 
As a new season is upon us, may we commit to thinking about what He would think of our live feed, and may the Holy Spirit filter out what is not good so that much fruit may be produced in and around us in the days and weeks ahead. Be expectant!
 

by Erin Olson on September 7th, 2017

​As hurricane season is upon us, we see firsthand the dangers of living near God's unpredictable creation. There is so much beauty surrounding bodies of water; whether that be an ocean, a river or a lake. When things are calm, these places serve as a place to refuel your soul. People escape to the beach or the lake to retreat from it all and relax.
 
However, when these waters churn and rise, they become dangerous and often deadly. Man alone can't calm the sea or stop the rivers from rising. We become helpless. We can often only watch in utter despair and pray in hope.
I've been thinking about the perilous hurricane season this year and the parallels of being a Christ-follower. When all is going well, our walk with Christ seems perfect, calm, and often, serves as a respite from our weary days. However, when storms arise, and the waves of uncertainty pound against us, we lose sight of the Anchor amidst the storm. Sometimes, we even try and pull up the Anchor in the middle of the storm or break ourselves free from the Anchor altogether.
 
My land (America) is silently (and sometimes not so silently) becoming hostile to the things of Christ. As a Christian, it's easy to think it is not because I can bubble wrap myself with church activities, godly friends, and parental controls on the televisions and computers. However, I have to enter the land at large, and it looks a lot different than my bubble wrapped life.
 
I'm embarrassed by what I see around me. I'm ashamed by what I see. I'm heartbroken by what I hear and see.
 
But isn't that what a Christian is supposed to feel? The not-so-good or disobedient things of this world should look starkly different than our own lives. If our lives look the same as the world, we are not followers of Christ; we are followers of the world. 
 
“That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
 
There are seasons where our Christian lives are gentle and calm. However, there are seasons in our walk that might be dangerous. The danger doesn't always come from what we are doing in our lives, but instead from the fact we've said "Yes" to God using our lives. Just as a person who lives by a body of water assumes the risks of living there, Christians assume the risks of being a Christ-follower. You may not be the most popular, the most liked, the most silent, or always welcomed, but you, my friend, get to bask in the beautiful glory of Jesus Christ each and every day. What you possess within you by the power of the Holy Spirit is what people want even if they don't realize Jesus is the thing they desire and need the most.
 
Our land is in dire need of Christians to be bold and loving in sharing their faith. We need to love others more than ourselves and our comforts. If we say we love but don't care about the condition of another's soul, we don't really love well at all.
 
Enjoy your beautiful view of Jesus today, but also share Him with others. The thing you love most is always the thing you want to show off and share. Invite someone in today to see your view, and let God do the rest.
 
“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise, you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity” (Hebrews 12:14–15, The Message Translation).
 

by Erin Olson on September 1st, 2017

It has been a tough week in Texas. Hurricane Harvey forever left its mark on this state. Out of this tragedy, it has been heartwarming to see the response of people helping people. Would this have happened this way in any other state? I would like to think, yes, but I am not so sure. Perhaps because the weeks prior to Harvey were so filled with hate, this country needed something more out of humanity.
 
Did you know the name Harvey means “battle worthy?” Harvey came with the power of a mighty army and the people responded in return. Is there something bigger in this battle?
 
I have been encouraged by the mention of God in the media (at least the media I watch and read). Yesterday during Vice President Pence’s stop in Texas, a woman led a prayer during the press conference. This doesn’t happen during every news conference…although in a lot of cases, it should. Governor Abbott signed a proclamation during this same news conference declaring Sunday, September 3, 2017, as a “Day of Prayer in Texas.” Sounds good, right?
 
Yes, until you read the proclamation.
 
In his proclamation, Governor Abbott wrote, “I urge Texans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers on that day….”
 
The governor had already stepped out and decided to make this proclamation, but it is so jumbled. In one sentence, he said we should “seek God’s wisdom,” but in the next, he is vague about to whom we should pray because he welcomes the prayers of all faiths and religious traditions. Not all faiths pray to God. Ugh, when will we learn? How important is the wording in a proclamation? Very.
 
I immediately thought of the king of Nineveh. Remember when Jonah finally made it to Nineveh and delivered that fateful message, “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4)? The people believed this prophet wandering around the city shouting to the crowds. They believed that the message was from God, and they responded by fasting and repentance.
 
Once the king heard what was going on, he stepped down (took himself off the throne of himself), dressed in burlap, and sat on a heap of ashes. He sent a proclamation throughout the city that read:
 
“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” (Jonah 3:7–9, emphasis mine)
 
This was not a man of God issuing this proclamation; this was an evil man. Clearly, he understood his life and the lives of all 120,000 people living in Nineveh at the time were in danger. Yet, he recognized it was only God to whom they could pray. He didn’t instruct the people to call upon their idols or pray in the way they felt led. No, he called upon God, and God responded. The people were spared.
 
In the conversation between Jonah and God, God said to Jonah, “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:11) God’s disposition always includes the possibility of mercy, but He has conditions. The first condition is to love God above all else. The king of Nineveh recognized the position of God above all else when he stepped down from his throne.
 
Jesus spoke about the people of Nineveh to the Pharisees. In Matthew 12:41 Jesus said, “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah.” He said a similar thing about the queen of Sheba. After making these statements, Jesus spoke of evil spirits. Jesus said that an evil spirit flees into the desert, but finds no rest so it returns to inhabit the person again. Not only does it return, but the evil spirit finds some friends to come along with it, and cause even greater damage. Jesus said, “That will be the experience of this evil generation” (Matthew 12:45). What was Jesus referring to exactly? The rejection of the Messiah. A rejection of the Messiah is a rejection of God and His ways.
 
Can we continue to walk around in spiritual darkness without contemplating the weight of it all? Are we really okay with instructing people to pray to whomever and whatever? Are we sure we want to be the generation who leads people further and further into spiritual darkness? It is only God who can tell the wind and the waves which way to go. It is only God, through Jesus, who gives life. Jesus said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand” (Matthew 13:9). If the king of Nineveh listened and understood God’s power, will we?
 
I was scrolling through pictures this morning and found a picture of a George Whitefield quote I had saved:
​I don’t want to be a part of a lost and undone generation. I know God’s mercy is great, and He will respond if we seek Him. We must seek Him. We have people dying by the minute, we have catastrophes worldwide, and more storms and wars are on the horizon. Repent and pray to God alone today and now

by Erin Olson on August 23rd, 2017

​​On Monday as Americans were watching the solar eclipse, something strange and wonderful was happening in my little corner of the world. In between running in and out of my house and sliding on my solar eclipse viewing glasses, I was engaged in a conversation with someone I didn’t even know.
Monday, as I mentioned on my ministry social media accounts was the first day of Elul. In the Jewish culture, Elul is the first of forty days of repentance. I also found this article written in 2014 about the solar eclipse that occurred on Monday. It is a very interesting read, and with all that is going on in America right now, it feels as though we are headed for something (http://watchfortheday.org/leoeclipse.html).
 
Back to my conversation. A person whom I do not know reached out to me via my ministry Instagram account. A picture was posted through their account that basically said something to the effect that Jesus is not God and that I should reconsider my position. My Sandalfeet account was the only person tagged in the photo. I later discovered this person was a Muslim man, who from what I can tell from the pics posted on that account, is a Syrian who is not a fan of the Assad regime. I only discovered he was a man because he asked if I was related to his wife because he said I argued the same way his wife did (ha…my husband should get a kick out of that!).
 
This man had access to Scripture and was desperately trying to provide me with an opportunity not to be “suckered in by only what my pastor says” and “really think about things.” He couldn’t believe that God would come down in the form of Jesus, and he believed that faith was not enough and not a concrete enough answer. As I pushed him further to tell me why he believed in God (his Allah) and where he believed he would spend eternity, his reality sunk in. He had no guarantee he would spend eternity in the new heaven. He said that he would only come to find out on his judgment day.
 
It was right about this point that I about gave up on the conversation, but I was pressed to ask a series of final questions: 1) what would it take to convince you that perhaps what you’ve been taught is incorrect (as he was trying to teach me that what I was being taught was corrupt and incorrect), and 2) what would it cost you to change your mind?
 
His response was exactly what mine would have been, “I would rather die than to change my faith.”
 
However, his next response was rather interesting. I had already told him earlier in our conversation that it was he who sought me out (not the other way around) so perhaps the Holy Spirit was pursuing him, and that my job was only to share the Good News and it was the Holy Spirit who convicted and changed hearts.
 
So, what did he say? He said, “If you could convince me, I would change my faith right now.”
 
At that point, I had already begun to wrap up our twelve-hour dialog and hadn’t seen this last response yet. I reminded him to be kind to his wife and wished him the best. As I went to bed that night, I prayed for this unknown man and his family that they would come to know Jesus as their Savior.
 
Tuesday morning, I woke up and checked my Instagram account to see if he had posted anything further overnight. Nothing. Our entire conversation was as if it had never happened. I wonder now if he deleted it because of his last response, “If you could convince me, I would change my faith right now.” I know the cost his family would endure for making such a change in his country.
 
I struggled on Monday with how we approach God these days—the Creator and Sustainer who set the stars in the sky. The same one who caused the events of Monday to occur in all its miraculous glory is still working all things for His good. I felt guilty on Monday because I didn’t spend the day worshiping God (I was in awe for sure, but my day went on after the eclipse was over), and I thought a lot about what people in the Bible would have thought about a sign in the heavens. And then I realized, God is still doing a work. Someone far, far away would have never been able to connect with someone in America during Bible times. It wasn’t a possibility. In a way, this man was like the Ethiopian eunuch who was trying to understand God’s Word (Acts 8:26–40) or Nicodemus who approached Jesus during the night (John 3:1–21). If God provides an opportunity where someone is asking questions, we need to be ready to answer. How they respond is not up to us.
August 21, 2017, began the forty days of repentance. Jonah was sent to Nineveh to warn them to repent, or in forty days they would be destroyed. The king listened, and the people repented, and they were spared. We all need to be seeking the Lord on our knees with repentant hearts asking God to give us opportunities to reach the lost. Evangelism is not a hobby or something to do when you have time. It’s a commission Jesus gave to all who believe.
 
Spend some time reflecting on Matthew 24. We need to be burdened again for the things of this world that oppose God and for the people who are completely lost without Him. You and I can be the Jonah’s of today warning the people because the alternative is something you and I don’t want our family and loved ones to endure.

by Erin Olson on August 14th, 2017

This side of heaven, there will always be need. God enables us to be a part of meeting the needs of others. He asks we do so joyfully not with bitterness and resentfulness. “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly” (2 Corinthians 8:12a). We should be eager and inclined to give.

The Greek word charis means gift and grace—the word is the same for both. Charis should remind us of the grace we received so we can be gracious to give out of the overflow of our gratitude. Why? Because the Lord gives generously. Jesus willingly left the comforts of heaven to come to earth, so you and I could live. The Cross should change us and motivate us. If God provided the ultimate provision for each one of us, why are we so afraid to think He will not continue to provide for us and others through us?

Are there times you don’t give because of fear of not having enough? Maybe you are holding on tightly because the world tells you to hold on. Are you saving for something you may or may not ever get or need? Parents, are you saving for your child’s college education and holding on tightly to that money while people are in need today…when perhaps God could provide a way for your child to go to college without ever having need of these funds? Are you putting a lot of money into your 401k for retirement, but you don’t even know if you will live to see retirement? Are you living for today or saving for the maybe? Or are you being asked to give, but won’t because you don’t know if you will have enough? Don’t be reckless, but be faithful.

God provided enough for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16). He provided manna. To those who gathered much, they had enough. To those who gathered little, they had enough, too. Everyone had just what they needed. The provision came with a warning. Don’t hold on to it overnight! What happened to those who did? Maggots filled the manna.

Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them. (Exodus 16:19–20)

For Christians, there is joy in sowing seed and sharing with others. Unity is brought among Christians when we give joyfully. We don’t give with a complaining heart; however, we give with an empathetic heart.

We don’t give by holding back from something by giving to another. That’s just a transfer of funds. You see, the churches in Macedonia, Galatia, and Corinth still needed to take care of their own church business in addition to taking care of the needs of others (specifically in 2 Corinthians 8, the church in Jerusalem). We shouldn’t watch a church, ministry, or family in need struggle and fail because they are giving to help others. God never asks us to go without to help others. “Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13).

Christian giving is marked by generosity and may entail sacrifice at times. What does it look like for our modern-day sacrifice? Maybe it means we don’t take that vacation this year or eat out so much for a month. Or maybe it means we go a season without buying new clothes. Maybe it means giving up a hobby for a season. What is it that God has been asking you to give up so you can bless others?

In 2 Kings 4–7, we meet a widow who owed a debt. If she didn’t repay the debt, she risked losing her sons to her creditor. She desperately needed help from others. The prophet Elisha told the widow to go to her neighbors and ask for empty jars. She obeyed Elisha and gathered all the available jars. Elisha then told her and her sons to go inside their home and pour the only remaining thing they had of value—the small jar of anointing oil—into the jars. The oil filled every jar. He then told her to go and sell the oil. She not only had enough to pay off her debt, but she had money left over. 

If she hadn’t been faithful and obedient,  she and her sons would have died. If her neighbors hadn’t been generous, she wouldn’t have been able to repay her debts. She needed the generosity of others for God to perform a miracle. God used people, and He is still in the business of using people today. So I ask. “Are we people who are willing to be used by God?”

​Giving is not always about writing a check or making an online payment. Giving is also about serving. If we can provide the gifts someone needs with a joyful and willing heart, we can lessen their burden. This is a sacrifice of our time.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Sadly, it is often those having the least, rather than the most, who are the generous givers.” Charles Spurgeon once received a wealthy man’s invitation to preach at his rural church to help the members raise funds to pay off a debt. The man offered Spurgeon the use of his country house, his townhouse, or his seaside home to hold the meeting. Spurgeon wrote back and said, “Sell one of the places and pay the debt yourself.”

Most often, we have what others need at our disposal. We have funds—even if they appear to be limited—and we have time and talents. However,  we must decide before the needs of others arise whether we will have generous and joyful hearts when God asks us to give, go, or serve. We need to prepare our hearts in advance for the work God will ask us to do because if our hearts aren’t right with God and aligned with His will, we’ll hold on tightly to what we have as if it is our own.

Prepare your heart today to always be available to generously charis others. The simplest act—giving a jar—could save someone’s life.


by Erin Olson on July 10th, 2017

I read an interesting fact this morning. It referenced the division that ensued among Christians when Darwin introduced his theory of evolution. Many argued that the theory of evolution would give rise to the moral decline of people. However, long before Darwin, the Apostle Paul said the moral decline of people would start if, and when, people failed to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in their lives (Galatians 5:19–21). Paul’s response was to “Let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:25).
​The problem is not necessarily with people discovering new things and introducing new ideas, but whether you are going to stand firm on your foundation and not waiver.

We are still arguing about evolution, yes, but one of the bigger issues threatening the Church today is the concept of being content. Far too many people associate the idea of being content with being comfortable. They are not the same.

The Greek word for content is autárkēs which means “contented with one's lot, with one's means, though the slenderest.” It means being content no matter the circumstances, and in most cases, this isn’t about comfort. Paul, who wasn’t leading a comfortable Christian life, left his comfortable life when he made the decision to pick up his cross and follow Christ.

In this verse, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth” (1 Timothy 6:6), Paul was exhorting Timothy to stay the course and not to be swayed by those who would contradict the teachings that promote a godly life (1 Timothy 6:3). Paul was warning Timothy that people might try and tell him that he could have both—contentment and comfort—but if they did, he needed to recognize that this was not true and to run as fast as he could from this false doctrine (1 Timothy 6:11).

When we get too comfortable in life, we often become like those who are wealthy (regardless of whether we have an abundance of wealth or not). We tend to be selfish, complacent, and less concerned with the plight of others. Sadly, sometimes our comfort even leads us to make foolish and harmful decisions.

Jesus was never comfortable, but He was content.

The disciples after being filled with the Holy Spirit were never comfortable, but they were content.​

Many missionaries and Christians in the past were never comfortable, but they were content.

Many believers today are not comfortable, but they are content.

Are you comfortable or are you content?

Some would say that not being content is wrong. Some might even quote Philippians 4:11, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” But there’s a difference between not being at peace and not being content. I believe the stirring you are experiencing is not because you don’t have peace, but because you aren’t content to be comfortable.

Bobbie Houston in her book The Sisterhood says, “Change never occurs without first a willingness to be made aware—and willingness to be made aware is the catalyst of all change.” Most who are comfortable will rarely eagerly take on change. There’s a reason someone has coined the phrase, “Get out of your comfort zone.” If you are not content to be comfortable, you are much more likely to be open to change. In the Christian sense, this also means being led by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of your life whether you like it or not.

Jesus warned that the cost of carrying your cross would be great (Matthew 10:37–39). There is a cost to laying down all your comfort, but there is a great reward in your willingness to be content.

Darwin’s theory of evolution shook and divided the Church because if people actually believed they evolved from animals, they might act like animals and ultimately stop believing in the Creator. The same can be said of the Church when it becomes too comfortable. We start looking more like the world and acting like the world, and we, too, stop believing in and relying upon the Creator. We can’t allow that. We, the Church, need to be content, but we don’t need to be comfortable. Lost souls out there need Jesus, and God needs us to deliver His message of Hope.

by Erin Olson on July 5th, 2017

Not long after the flood, people found themselves struggling again to do what was right. Noah’s son, Ham, shamed the family after Noah drank too much wine and stumbled naked into his tent. Instead of helping his father (as was the custom), Ham went and got his brothers (Genesis 9:21–22). Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth, did what they were supposed to do and covered up their father’s nakedness. When Noah woke up, he heard what Ham had done and delivered a curse upon Canaan, the son of Ham:
 
Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. (Genesis 9:25)
 
Not only did Noah curse Canaan, but he blessed Shem and Japheth.
 
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth's territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth. (Genesis 9:26–27)
 
I’m sure that didn’t go over well at family gatherings.
 
Noah’s descendants kept moving east (Genesis 11:3)—hopefully, you are noticing a trend by now—the farther we move from God, the easier it is to sin. At one time, everyone in the world spoke the same language, and they eventually settled in the land of Babylonia (Genesis 11:1–2). However, bad habits die hard and the sin of pride and rebellion once again rose-up in the people. The people wanted to make themselves famous. Sounds very similar to the fame and power Lucifer wanted, too. The people began to build a tower that shot straight up into the sky toward heaven. This time, God went down from heaven with His angelic force, confused the people with different languages, and scattered them all over the world so they would not be able to continue in their self-reliance (Genesis 11:7–8). The people whom God had spared from complete destruction fell into a lifestyle of sin and estrangement from God just as all the others had before them.
 
But God….
 
God had another solution for these wayward people. He was about to call a spiritual father for these spiritual orphans. His name was Abram.
Abram was from the lineage of Noah’s son, Shem. He was the son of Tehar. Abram lived in the land full of people doing life far from God. But God was about to move Abram and set him on the path to his purpose. We don’t know much about Abram, but we know his family was into idol worship. As people moved farther from the presence of God, their need for new gods increased because if God wasn’t their priority, they were going to need to seek assistance from somewhere else. God knew Abram would be distracted by the culture, so He told Abram to move.
 
The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. " (Genesis 12:1)

God chose this man, Abram, to be the father of many nations. The spiritual tone Abram set would determine the culture of the future generations of God’s chosen people. Would it be possible for one man, and one woman, to parent these ungodly people? Apart from God, no. With God, anything is possible. Abram wasn’t perfect, but God is a God of covenant. Just as with Noah, God kept His covenant despite the fact His people always returned to sin. God told Abram that nations would be born from him and that is exactly what happened. Were the nations perfect? Unfortunately, no. What could have possibly made it different? Volume.
 
There is power in multiplication. One becomes three, three becomes eight, eight becomes seventeen…and so on. Father Abraham couldn’t do it all by himself. He needed others who would also make the decision to do what was right in the sight of the Lord. Their right living would become an example to others to live rightly. If sin can be duplicated so too can right living.
 
Do you ever have self-righteous conversations with your Bible when you are reading it? I hope I’m not the only one. Sometimes I find myself saying things like, “Good grief. What will it take to convince you people to do the right thing?” or “How could you miss it? You saw the glory of God on the mountain and yet, you were down below wrapped in sin. What is wrong with you people?” It’s in those moments when I think, or mumble, those words that a spirit of conviction and grief well up in my heart. I was that personWe are that people. We live out our days under the shadow of the Cross and the rolled-away stone, and yet, we are no better than those who tossed their jewelry into the fire and worshiped the golden calf that emerged from the fire (Exodus 32).
 
I can only imagine how Moses must have felt when he threw down the stone tablets during his holy temper tantrum.
 
When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:19) 
 
Why was Moses so angry? Because before Moses went down from the mountain, he pleaded with God on the people’s behalf (Exodus 32:11–14). He begged God not to destroy the people. We are sort of like that today. If we pray, we pray for people to change, but the minute we see that no change has taken place, we get angry and throw temper tantrums. We sometimes withhold our grace and instead replace it with judgment and anger. What right do we have to do this? Absolutely none. God gets to choose whom He wants to spare and forgive. He’s the only one righteous enough to fulfill this role. All God asks us to do is to tell the world about Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Our sinfulness and need for a Savior should always be at the forefront of our mind. Otherwise, if we forget where we came from, we run into the quicksand of becoming self-righteous like the Pharisees and grace-less.
 
How can we care for the spiritual orphan who is without their Father if we look at them in disgust and disdain? Jesus, on the Cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The spiritual orphan knows nothing about grace, faith, and obedience because they don’t know their Father. It’s our job to show them who He is. We do this by extending love and grace to all.*






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