Tuesday, July 17, 2018

From Weak to Strong

Father, please. Two words. Sometimes the only prayer we can mutter when the weight of our circumstances pushes us to the floor in tears. God, help! Two words. Sometimes we feel as though we are drowning in an ocean of disappointment and despair. The verbose, eloquent public prayers that we pray in our churches are reduced to stammering, barely audible, broken gasps of petition when our need is greatest. When life knocks the wind out of our lungs, all we have is the breath of God to draw upon for survival. When facing a life-threatening illness, not all the words in the world can do more than “Lord, heal.” Two words.
The cry of our heart can be as simple as two words, three words, or maybe even no words. Maybe our souls can only groan what the Holy Spirit interprets for us. The crushing defeat that life can bring is a reminder that we need a Savior. Our hope is in Jesus Christ alone. Our humanity, no matter how grand in our own eyes, will fail. We do not have the ability to save ourselves. We need help, infinite help. As long as mortality exists for us, we will have moments of severe weakness.

The apostle Paul said it best in II Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul understood that Christ shines brightest when our flesh is broken down and burned up at the altar. All of our big words, fancy speeches, grandiose titles and mighty positions mean nothing when we can barely raise our voices above a whisper to say, “Lord, have mercy!” Our weakness is our greatest strength because that is when God can work best in our lives. After we have gotten out of the way with all of our brilliant yet unsuccessful solutions, God can step in with miracles.

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's a Miserable Trap!

Wisdom may not come with age, but it certainly should come with experience. That’s a nice way of saying that I’ve learned a few things over the years. One of the biggest lessons I think I’ve learned in my lifetime is to never compare yourself to anyone else. Never compare what you’ve got with what someone else has. By never, I mean NEVER!
Comparing leads to coveting, and coveting leads to misery. It’s a trap! The enemy wants to keep you focused on what you don’t look like, what you don’t have, and what you aren’t getting. He wants to make you feel ‘less than.’ Satan has no vested interest in you being content. He can’t tempt you with angry outbursts, body shame, or depressed episodes of defeat if he can’t make you miserable. What I have found is that we tend to help him out by focusing on what this world offers instead of what God offers.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul admonishes us to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. What are you thinking about? Are you thinking about how much money your coworker makes? Are you thinking about that luxury car your neighbor has in the driveway? Are you looking at the model on the magazine cover wondering why you can’t get your clothes to fit like that? STOP. Those things aren’t excellent and worthy of praise. Those things are someone else’s blessings or problems.
You have plenty to be grateful for. You have no idea what someone else has gone through to get what they have. Even if they haven’t gone through anything, it’s still not yours. Be content with what you have. The best tool to fight misery is gratefulness. Start thanking God for the oxygen you inhale and carbon dioxide you exhale. Start thanking God for the ability to blink your eyes and keep them from drying out. Start thanking God for literacy (because you’re reading this). I’m not saying you have to be satisfied with where you are. You can always do and be better, but you can be content on the way to your next level of God’s blessings. Contentment will keep you from comparing and coveting, and therefore keep you out of the miserable trap.
Lord, I thank you for the Holy Spirit that lives in me to help me treasure your Word above everything this world has to offer. I believe what your Word says about me and the promises that You have for me. I know that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else or covet what anyone else has because You love me just as I am. You know better than I ever could what’s best for me at what time in my life, and I am so grateful that You are God. You created me with my purpose in mind. No one can have better plans for me than You do, and I give You all the praise, honor, and glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Philippians 4:6-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Freedom to Live!

John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Galatians 5:13 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

If you know me personally, it’s likely you’ve heard me say that religious bondage is still bondage. There was a time in my life that I followed religion more than Jesus Christ. I followed the church rules; I did what was expected of me. I put church above all else. I was a faithful church member who supported all the functions and happenings at the church building. I was the person that would step in and fill in the gaps when no one else would volunteer. I was contributing to every fundraiser, volunteering at every event, and changing my plans at the last minute to accommodate the church’s schedule. I walked the walk; I talked the talk. I was also the one who was burned completely out.

Jesus never put all that on me. I put all that on me. I took on more and more and more until I resented the day I found a gift to use. There was no one to blame but myself. Satan had stolen my joy, killed my excitement, and destroyed my fervor. I was looking to the wrong things for fulfillment. Jesus came to give me a rich and satisfying life. Serving Him is where I found my purpose. One day I just quit “church” because I realized that there was so much more than the routine I had accepted as faithfulness. The Lord showed me that there were people out there who actually needed me, and not just people who wanted to use me. There are some church people who take advantage when presented with the opportunity. We’re all human; we all have flaws.  
I can live my life in freedom and be fulfilled just by doing what Jesus Christ has asked me to do. That’s my purpose in this life. Following a religious movement, or belonging to a church building is not my purpose. That’s where I receive my training, but my job is in the fields that are ready to harvest. Spending every waking moment doing church stuff is not what God had for me to do, which is why it didn’t last. If you want true freedom and the rich, satisfying life that Christ promised you, follow His plan for you – no one else’s. Spend time listening to what He is asking you to do. Put the brakes on auxiliaries, programs and services for a while. Hear His voice. Serve in the areas that He has gifted you. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t make it your calling or your passion. If you are feeling ‘meh’ about what you’re doing, stop doing it. You aren’t doing anyone any favors, least of all the KINGDOM.
I want all the joy, peace, happiness, love, kindness, and fulfillment that I can get. It begins and ends with Jesus Christ. All that religious stuff is expendable.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Convenient Faith

Hello, everyone! It’s been a while since I blogged, but I feel compelled today to address this convenient faith that social media makes so attractive. I don’t profess to know what Jesus Christ is thinking, but I’m pretty sure He’s not telling you to fake it until you make it. Being a follower of Christ is a lifelong journey, not an immediate “arrival.” We develop, we grow, and we change as we are molded daily into the image of Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. Stop pretending!
Blessing and cursing are coming from the same person in the same day. One minute you are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, and the next you don’t know how you’re going to make it through a financial dry spell. Today, you’re a super saint because God came through in a pinch, but tomorrow a co-worker is going to make you lose your religion. We suffer through fifteen posts about your pastor’s sermon this Sunday, but you’re mysteriously quiet next Sunday when you don’t go to church at all. Are you feeling guilty that you didn’t go? Why do you think so many people are falling away from the church? A lot has to do with us, the so-called Christians.
We have hindered many people collectively by the way we live, the words we use, our attitudes and behaviors. We expect new converts to automatically achieve perfection, when we are trying to hide our imperfections. We could reach people on a much deeper level if we could be vulnerable enough to show them our true selves. Yes, I’m human too, so we can do this together. If we could spend more time being honest with people instead of putting on these shows for our social media accounts, I think we’d find that people could actually relate to us. Some of us are so deep that we’re drowning in our own self-righteousness … alone. We’ve built our fortresses of lies and false pretense, and we’re dying on the inside.
Let me encourage you. You don’t have to pretend to be something you aren’t yet. If you are allowing the Holy Spirit to move in your life, I promise it will get better. You will have more joy, peace and contentment. We are all being changed; none of us is perfect. Feel comfortable being just who you are on the way to who you’re becoming. Jesus loves you. You should love yourself. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you don’t want to improve, but it should mean that you won’t deny who you are. Admit that you’re a work in progress just like the rest of us. It’s okay.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our Responsibility with the Word

II Timothy 2:15 (NASB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Chances are that if you’ve been in the church for a while, you’ve heard some variation of this verse. My concern is that we’ve gotten so accustomed to it, that we don’t really focus on what it’s saying anymore. We’re throwing around opinions and politics like they’re gospel, while the word of truth is being perverted and misunderstood. We have gotten so good at cherry picking the parts of the Bible that we want to beat people over the heads with that we’ve forgotten the pieces that we’re violating on a daily basis.
We are guessing and supposing, rather than seeking God for His divine revelation. The Holy Spirit is available to help us understand and interpret how to apply the verses that we have abused. By reading and studying the Scriptures in context, we gain a better and more thorough understanding of what they mean. We have a responsibility to handle the Word of God accurately. There are people looking to us for spiritual guidance and help with applying the bible to life. We cannot hastily interpret Scripture without properly studying and praying. It doesn’t work that way. There is no magic formula; it takes time in the Word with prayer and meditation.
When you know better, you do better. I am doing better. If I’m not sure, I research, study, pray, and ask questions. Our opinions are not going to hold water at the pearly gates. We have to rightly divide the word of truth (as the King James Version puts it). There are even suspect things being said across sacred pulpits. Preachers and evangelists are humans; mistakes are made. Don’t take anything at face value. Look it up, research, pray, meditate, seek God for the answers. By all means, don’t agree with something if you aren’t sure. Saying “Amen” is your agreement. The last days are approaching, and we need to be diligent about sharing our faith – and sharing it accurately.
I challenge each of us to hold the other accountable. If you catch me using Scripture incorrectly, call me on it. I don’t want to cause anyone else to stumble. We owe it to the Kingdom to do our best to represent it well. We can’t afford to be the reason someone falls away from the Truth. Jesus Christ died for all of us and each of us, and we owe Him our best. Let’s encourage one another to do and be better. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Follow Directions

Leviticus 10:1-2 (NLT) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.
Just because something is good in your eyes, doesn’t make it what God asked you to do. Don’t tarnish your anointing with disobedience. When God has anointed you for a certain task, it is yours to perform (not alter, assign, transfer, delegate, etc). Your anointing comes with specific instructions.
Nadab and Abihu had a particular job in the Tabernacle. They took it upon themselves to alter that job, and it cost them their lives. Somehow, we think that God’s instructions don’t apply to us either. We insist on doing things our own way, no matter what God has commanded. Particularly in the church, we do things that are pleasing in our own eyes. We are so consumed with filling seats and offering plates that we don’t always stop and seek God’s will.
We assume that since we are doing good work that God is okay with our methods. That isn’t necessarily true. Every good thing might not be a God thing. John 4:24 states that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. In spirit and in truth means God’s way. We can’t just throw anything at God, and expect Him to take it as a worthy offering. God is holy, and He must be approached in the way He has commanded.
We have it so much easier than the Levites. We have Jesus Christ. We can hide ourselves in His righteousness, and allow Him to consume our fleshly faults. We can be holy and acceptable to God through a relationship with His Son. The Holy Spirit is a free gift that we obtain with that relationship, and He helps us daily to fulfill our calling. He will keep us if we choose to allow Him. We don’t have to be guilty of burning the wrong kind of fire before the LORD.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Real Freedom

There are plenty of believers who are enslaved to what they think they have to do to be good Christians. That isn’t why Jesus came. The freedom He died to afford us is absolute. We are not only free from sin, but we are free from religious bondage. Trying to follow a list of rules and acceptable activities for Christians is futile.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, what was His answer? It wasn’t a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. His answer was about relationship with God and with each other. Of course, when we love God and others, there are things that we will certainly do or not do based on that love. That might look a little different for each one of us. We can’t judge other people by what we would or wouldn’t do – only by what God said. More often than not, we are judging people based on manmade, religious standards.

Our responsibility is to love. I have never felt so free in my life as when I decided to stop following religion and start following Christ alone. When I chose to love people like Jesus did, I was free of judging them. That, my friends, is real freedom. That’s what will allow you to live more abundantly, as Jesus Christ intended you to live. The organized church has burdened its members with so many rules and taboos that people are leaving in droves. Some denominations are trying to figure out how to recapture whole generations of people that have disappeared.

This is not a new issue. Based on conversations that Jesus had in the Bible, religion has been burdening people for a very long time. Religion cannot offer salvation; only relationship with God through Jesus Christ can do that. If you’re reading this, you have the opportunity to start living in the freedom Jesus died for you to have. You no longer have to be a slave to sin or religion. You don’t have to follow a list of things to do or not do. All you have to do is love God and love people. You love them and love them and continue to love them. Just like Jesus loves you with all your flaws, you love others unconditionally as well. Stop trying to identify their problems, and love them.

It’s time for you to be free of having to be perfect. Because that’s what you do when you point out someone else’s flaws, you pretend to be perfect. Don’t stress yourself trying to hide your struggles from the outside world; show them that you’re in need to a Savior also. Love people all the way to the feet of Jesus. Love them to life! Live in the freedom that Jesus offers you every day by grace through faith.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT) “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.