God’s Authority or Your Own?

God's Authority

Even THE ALMIGHTY GOD doesn’t require us to grovel and beg for His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  God does not require us to beg and try to prove ourselves worthy of forgiveness; we could never prove ourselves worthy.  His Word says we only have to ask.  He is a wonderful, merciful and loving Father, full of grace.

Our heavenly Father only asks that we confess our sins in order to be forgiven. Yet, so many times when someone offends us, they’re often made to feel as though there is nothing they are able to do to ever earn our forgiveness. And grace is merely something that is only sought to receive and never a gift to be given. Who are we to put ourselves in a position of higher authority than God? Is that not what we’re doing when we carry a grudge and hold on to the bitterness of unforgiveness for an offense which God has forgiven?

Imagine sitting in a court room hearing a judge say to an offender, “You are free to go.”  Are you in a position of higher authority to override the judge’s decision and condemn the offender to prison?  What if you were the offender?  Would you say, “Hold on your honor, but I think I need to be returned to my cell”?

You see, the same is true of forgiving ourselves.  So often, we want to condemn ourselves to sit in a cell of shame, guilt and self-condemnation when the blood of Christ has unlocked the cell and broken the shackles and chains that are now lying at our feet. Who are we to place ourselves in a position of higher authority than God by condemning ourselves to sit in that cell when He has commanded us to walk in freedom?

Is there someone you need to forgive today?  Could that someone be you? James 4 tells us “submit yourselves to God” and John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Have you submitted yourself to God?  Are you walking in God’s authority or your own?

 

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Transforming Power In His Love

Transforming power

A little over a year ago I asked the Lord to search my heart and reveal anything in me that was unpleasing to Him. It wasn’t long at all after this prayer that I received a phone call on a particularly joyous day from someone that I didn’t like very much at all because of the history between us. I was extremely unhappy with him for calling me on this particular day and attempting to steal my joy. After the phone call I sat stewing in my anger and I cried out, “God help me! His ignorance infuriates me to the core!” Then my Father answered me, “Did you not ask me to search your heart? Did I not command you to love one another?”

Don’t you just love it when something happens and the Lord reminds you of what you’ve been praying for and you realize He is answering your prayer, stretching you, teaching you, strengthening you, and helping you to grow in Him?  I hung my head down and said, “Yes Father.  I don’t hate him but do I really have to LOVE him?”  The Father answered, “Yes.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13

So, in March of last year I began the journey of going deeper in Christ, exploring love, seeking change and growth in order to love more like Christ wants me to love.

Some define love as an emotion; others, a state of mind, and there are those who define it as an action.  One thing I have learned about love personally is that when it is sought after in Christ, it is like this extremely gentle, yet powerful force that gradually overtakes you and changes you from within.  Therefore, in my opinion, words like emotion or action are inadequate in defining the love referred to in 1 Corinthians 13:13; love that is greater than faith and hope.  I’m not sure that there is any particular word to describe such love but I can tell you what I have found.

This kind of love is more powerful than hate, more powerful than vengeance, and more powerful than wrongdoing or hurt that may come our way.  This kind of love has the power to overcome anything.  It has the ability to take us beyond ourselves.  It sees beyond offenses and cares deeply for the heart of the offender.  Not only does it care about the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the hurting but it cares about the spiritual needs of others.  This love takes us beyond forgiveness and enhances the healing that comes as a result of forgiveness because not only are we to forgive our offenders; we are commanded to love them.

 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

This kind of love possesses transforming power! There is transforming power in His love that continuously changes us as we seek Him!

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Live With Abandon

little girl jumping

I really like the Newsboys song, Live With Abandon.  It’s such a profound song to me, especially this part:

I wanna live with abandon

Give You all that I am

Every part of my heart Jesus

I place in Your hands

I wanna live with abandon

I’ll drop everything to follow You

It’s only Your hands I hold onto

 To “live with abandon” means to live in complete surrender to something, with complete disregard for anything else.  Paul lived with abandon to the assignment God had given him. He surrendered himself totally to the goal of serving God with disregard even for his own life.

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  – Acts 20:23-24

Many of us don’t live in abandon to God’s working in our lives and allow him to use us to build the Kingdom, glorify him and accomplish all that he wants to accomplish through us. Unless the Holy Spirit is leading you into a mission field, stepping out in faith and testifying to the gospel of God’s grace does not present the threat of prison or death for us like it did for Paul. So, what holds us back?  Everything that relates to our flesh holds us back.  The lies of the enemy holds us back if we allow them.  Fear of the unknown can hold us back. Looking at ourselves instead of God can hold us back. I can’t imagine how different our lives would be if we could get over ourselves to the point of being as obedient to God as Paul was.  I know I sometimes feel like a little girl being beckoned by her Father saying “Jump!  I’m here to catch you!”

Lord, help me to say “Yes!” and to live with abandon; completely surrendered to You; to jump into all that You have for me and to bring You honor and glory. Amen.

 

 

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Who’s In Your Church?

church doors

This post is not an attempt to scold anyone; only to encourage each of us to examine our hearts and grow.

My husband and I were out of town several years ago visiting a family member and had planned to attend church with them that Sunday morning.  Our family member had warned us that the Church was upset with their pastor.  She explained to us there was this man who had been attending the worship services on Sunday mornings who may have been homeless and obviously had an issue with alcohol because he still smelled of alcohol when he attended church on Sunday mornings.  The pastor refused to allow anyone to ask him to leave.

My family member and I were in complete agreement with their pastor and couldn’t imagine a Church filled with the Holy Spirit wanting to ask someone in such obvious need to leave the church instead of reaching out to him.  I mean, seriously, could you imagine Jesus asking the people who approached Him with their needs and issues to ‘leave Him’?

My husband and I were received warmly by the Church when we arrived that Sunday morning.  We took our seats and as we were waiting for the worship service to begin, this man entered the sanctuary and took a seat on the pew directly in front us. I knew it was the man my relative had refered to because I heard the lady sitting with her husband behind us say, “Someone should really ask him to leave.”  I looked at my husband and said, “If anyone asks him to leave we are getting up and walking out of here with him.” Thank God, no one did and he remained throughout the service. However, this experience made an extremely profound impression on me.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occasion in some churches today. So many claim to want people to come through the doors to worship with them but they feel the need to pick and choose who they want to welcome or not.  They seem to have some predetermined image of who is acceptable and who is not. It’s as if they expect their guests to be transformed and refined by the fire before they are welcomed through the doors.

Later, someone made a comment to me expressing her concern over rumors surrounding someone who had began attending the same church she had been attending.  She was concerned to the point that she was considering leaving the church because this couple was attending and their pastor considered the rumors gossip and refused to confront it.  It turned out these rumors were based on someone’s perception rather than anything of real substance.

Seriously, what has become of the Church?  Who do we think we are?  Who does the Church think the church is for?  Who do we think the Church is for? Aren’t we supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus?

1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  

Aren’t we commanded to love one another as Christ loves us? YES, we are!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that Jesus Christ was willing to meet me right where I was in the pit of my life and save me. Praise God!  He didn’t ask me to leave.  He didn’t ignore me.  He didn’t reject me.  He didn’t leave when I arrived.  He met me right where I was and accepted me just as I was.

The Church, every single one of us, including myself needs to come to our knees and pray regularly, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24  

We all, every single one of us needs to examine ourselves regularly and ask God to search our hearts and change us.  We need to desire and seek that change.  His Word tells us:

 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

Seriously, what kind of Christians are we if we aren’t transformed and we look like the world?  Why would anyone want what we have if it looks no different than what they find in the world?  When visitors walk through our church doors who do they find?  If we are the body of Christ, shouldn’t it be Christ or someone who resembles Him that they find within our doors?  Who’s in your church?

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How Great Is Your Love?

loves much because she is forgiven of much

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

I am so in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so glad that He loves me, has seen me through so much, forgiven me of so much throughout my lifetime and changed me. I am also thankful that He is not finished with me and is helping me to continually grow in Him and be changed. He is the source of all things good in my life.  I suppose my heart is so full and I love so much because I have been forgiven of so much.  Because of Him and His wonderful love, mercy, and grace I am able to walk in freedom.

I am sure many of you can relate.  However, the enemy will sometimes use others to try to rewrap us in the garment of guilt and shame from our pasts that we’ve fought so hard to take off.  He will use them to try to hand us that self-condemnation we struggled to finally release and hand over to God. When they do this, we just have to remind them that we gave that garment to Jesus and refuse to wear it.  We have to refuse to carry the condemnation of the sins from our pasts for which we’ve been forgiven. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Continue to walk in freedom and pray for those who condemn and persecute you.

1 Peter 5:8-9 warns of the enemy’s tricks.  We must be careful not to pass judgment on people and condemn them because of things we’ve heard about them from their pasts. We shouldn’t claim to know enough about someone’s relationship with the Lord to accuse them of hiding behind Him because they seek a relationship with Him. We can’t claim to know a person’s heart when we really don’t know the person at all or anything about the struggles that they’ve gone through to come where they are in their relationship with Christ.  If we have an issue with someone, Matthew 18:15-17 tells us how to handle it.

We are a world full of people who have been hurt and have hurt others.  We are a world full of people who are on both the giving and receiving end of love and forgiveness.  If we plan on arriving at our ultimate destination we are all going to have to figure out how to give as much, if not more love and forgiveness as we receive.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

How great is your love?  Are you willing to love much and forgive much in order to be forgiven?

Thank you, Lord for forgiving me of much, for giving me a heart that is full and loves much and for filling me with Your peace. I will love You and praise You forever!  Please Lord, grant Your children strength to be alert and stand against the enemy’s tricks, lies and deception.  Please Lord, help us to forgive one another so that we may be forgiven. Help us Lord, to love one another and extend grace to others in order to forgive them.  Take us deep in Your love Lord and help us to give that which we expect to receive.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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No Turning Back

no_turning_back_by_expiredcupcake

A few days ago, I was thinking about Abraham and his son, Isaac. Thankfully, because of Jesus Christ and the new covenant, we no longer have to make such sacrifices today as in Abraham’s day, but as I thought about Abraham, I couldn’t help but wonder how different my life might be if I possessed his level of faith, courage, and obedience.

When God tested Abraham, Abraham was faithful and obedient.  Abraham was willing to obey and honor God’s command and sacrifice that which must have meant the absolute most to him in the entire world, his son Isaac. As I thought about this, I asked myself, “How far would you be willing to go in obedience to the Father?”

Later, I thought about the hymn, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”.  The lyrics to this song are pretty profound:

“I have decided to follow Jesus;

Though I may wonder, I still will follow;

The world behind me, the cross before me;

Though none go with me, still I will follow;

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

No turning back, no turning back.”

“No turning backREALLY? How many times have we expressed a willingness to follow Jesus but given up when the going got tough? Given up, when we didn’t see the progress we thought we should see?  Given up, when we had to walk away from things or people in the world that we didn’t want to walk away from?  Given up, when we had to stand up and stand out from the rest of the crowd?  Given up, because we were afraid of being criticized?  Given up, because we were afraid of failure?  Given up, because ___________?

Mark 8:34-35 tells us that Jesus, “called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’” 

Then again in Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

In Matthew 10:38-39 He said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

What does it mean to take up your cross, to deny yourself, to lose your life?  I believe it means to crucify our flesh.  I believe it means to kill our own earthly desires and surrender ourselves absolutely and completely to God and his will for our lives. I believe it means to die to anything and everything that would cause us to turn back and give up on what God has called us to do. I believe it means to get over ourselves and to do whatever God asks of us even when we don’t want to do it. That is exactly what Abraham had done.  When God tested Abraham, Abraham crucified his flesh, his own desires, and he desired to obey God at all costs.  Abraham didn’t give up!  Abraham didn’t turn back!

As Abraham reached in his pocket and pulled out the knife to slay his son the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham and called out to him saying, Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:12

After the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and stopped him from sacrificing his son, the scriptures in Genesis 22:13-18 go on to tell us, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’  The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspringall nations on earth will be blessed,because you have obeyed me.’”

God spared Isaac! God provided an offering! God blessed Abraham and his descendants because of Abraham’s obedience! I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve failed God’s tests and sold myself short of God’s blessings through my disobedience or how many I have refused to allow God to bless through me.

Far too often we lose sight of eternity because we get so caught up in ourselves and this life.  We all need to remember that this life and all that is in it is only temporary.  The only things that really matter in this life are our investments in eternity.   When we understand this, then there will be no turning back.

Heavenly Father, please grant us faith and courage to be obedient in all that you ask of us.  Help us to take up our cross, to die to self, and fulfill your will and purpose for our lives.  Lead, guide, and direct our paths so that we may bring you honor and glory in all that we think, say, and do.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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Lord, Carry Me Through the Fire!

fire

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy!!! He is nothing but a liar and a thief!!! He wants to deceive us into believing the Lord doesn’t hear our prayers and that He doesn’t care about our pain, but I know He does because Jesus Christ came to give us an abundant life“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

I saw something the other day that said, “The only hell a Christian will ever experience will be here on earth.”  We all go through our own form of hell on this earth but how wonderful it is to know that the hell I experience on this earth will be the only hell I will ever have to endure.

Each day can present so many challenges, so many fears, and so many unknowns. Life can often feel like we’re trying to swim up a waterfall but we have to hold on.  We have to cling to the Truth of God’s Word and his promises.  We have to refuse to listen to the enemies lies.  We need to seek God every day but seek him fervently on those days when we just feel like giving up and hiding from the world and the issues we sometimes face in life.  On days that are overwhelmingly difficult we don’t need to turn away from God, we need to turn too God.  We need to spend time in the Word, spend time in prayer, get alone with God and pour our hearts out to him.

We will face things that we don’t understand in life but we must trust the Lord always.  We are told, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 

We are loved so much by the Father.  John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 Romans 5:8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, evenwhen we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved.”

One thing I know for certain is that the Lord loves us.  I know whatever we may face; whatever situation we may have to endure, our Lord is with us every step of the way and wants to carry our burdens for us.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

Psalm 55:22 tells us, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” And 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Whatever you may be facing today, I pray that you know Jesus Christ loves you enough to suffer the cross for you.  He hears you and is there for you.  He’s waiting to relieve you of your cares, your worries, your fears, everything that is weighing you down today.  Cry out to Him, “Lord, carry me through the fire!”

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