May 30, 2008

True Love

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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."

1 Corinthians 13:1-8


What is love? Is love a feeling? Is there such thing as true love? Is there such thing as being in love? Is there a difference between Christian love and worldly love and if so do we even know the difference? Lately, this has been the topic of more than one conversation and so I decided to investigate it a bit further.

Most of what we understand about love is based on what we have learned from the world and what we have seen on TV or read about in books. We do not fully understand the biblical and godly characteristics of what love is and what it is meant to be. As Christians, our lives should be based on truth and love and it should not be what motivates us. Love does not come naturally for anyone and it must start with loving God above all else. Love must be based on the Truth of God's word and not the philosophies that have been taught to us by the world.

What is love? One of the many definitions according to the dictionary is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. What is love according to what God has for us? God's love is self-sacrificing, it is a commitment, and it is unconditional and disciplined. The world has taught us that we can fall in and out of love. It has taught us that if someone hurts us then we no longer have to love him or her. There are conditions that have to be met in order to know "true love"; we have to "work" to gain the love of someone. We are taught that love can fade or die and that the purpose behind it is to get something from it, not to give in return. This view of love is self-seeking and it is why we have such a distorted view of what love should look like.

Matthew 22:37-38 says that we are to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

The first thing to recognize in this passage is the command to love. Is does not command that we are to receive love but that we are to give our love away. We are to love God with all that we are and then we are to love others as we love ourselves. Nothing in this verse declares that what we want or need should be first or that it even matters. Love means looking past the annoyances and bad habits of those around us and instead serving and ministering to them. Now, this is not an easy thing to do but scripture tells us "Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]." 1 Peter 4:8
This means that we cannot focus on the faults of others because if we truly have love in our hearts, then we are able to overlook those things and focus totally on the person and the command that God has given to each of us.

When it comes to relationships and loving, it is not something we are good at but when Christ is our focus and our purpose for living, His love shines through us. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that is given to us when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives. Once He resides there, He alone allows us to love in the way that we are called to love.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Galatians 5:22-23

We on our own cannot love anyone because we are selfish and sinful and we only want for ourselves. We have been manipulated by "the world" into thinking that love should look and feel a certain way and this is just not truth based on God's word. It is however, what Satan, the father of lies, wants us to believe and it is why "the world" is always looking for "perfect love". They search and search because they can never find satisfaction in anything because what is really missing is that intimate relationship with Christ. Because of this, their lives are lonely and unfulfilled and they look to people and things to fill the needs that can only be met by Christ.

God's love is divine and it can be compassionate and authoritative; forgiving and stern; satisfying and demanding; and gentle and hard. Divine love is doing what is best for a person in light of eternity no matter what the cost. It is a sacrifice and it has to be based on God's truth because without truth we cannot know love. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says that "love rejoices in truth". Truth is what defines love, it interprets love, it protects love and without truth, love turns into a disaster because of what the world makes it. Love is the manner and method of speaking truth and it is the servant of truth. If there is no truth given in love then it becomes conditional and therefore is not complete. Love can never be allowed to take the place of God's truth and it cannot be allowed to change because truth in the hands of an self-seeking, unloving, selfish person becomes corrupt.

Christian love should be based entirely on truth and the truth of God's word knowing that it is not emotional or conditional and it should not be defined by the standards set by this world. God's love should be seen as a commitment and one's commitment to be obedient to God and His word. When this kind of commitment to Christ takes place, love becomes a natural by-product. When we love Him above all else and give our lives to serve His purpose then we understand and can live out the love to others the way He commands us because we are not looking for something in return. This kind of love is not easy and you will be asked to stretch in ways that you have never been stretched. If you want to live the life that God has called you to live, than you must let go of the simple definitions that this world has placed on love because God's love will not fit into that box. This kind of love requires discernment and wisdom and self-examination of our hearts to make sure our focus always remains on the One who IS love.

"Father teach me Truth so that I may walk in love as You have commanded me. May I know the love that comes only from You and may I share that love with all those that You have placed around me. Show me how to love like You love."





May 29, 2008

Our Foundation

"So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer."
2 Corinthians 5:16

How often do we live according to the views of this world? How often do we accept the jargon of how the world diagnoses issues as truth instead of that of God's word? I truly believe that we have become desensitized to God's word and at times have become blinded by Satan and his ideas. I woke up this morning with such heaviness on my heart about how we have allowed the world's view to corrupt the truth of God's word. I have been thinking about personalities. Do you know that the world has actually broken personalities down into 16 different types? Do you know that most of us take this as truth? We actually put ourselves within the box of these views and limit the potential God has for us by accepting these personality limitations. We really have to ask ourselves, are these ideas truth and do they align with the truth of God's word?

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Matthew 7:24-27

As we look at Matthew 7:24-27 and the story that Jesus teaches about the wise and foolish builder, one who built upon the sand and the other upon the rock, it speaks very clearly as to where the foundation of our lives should lie and the result of choosing the right foundation. The foundation of our lives determines who we are and who we become. Your life can be compared to that of the building of a house. You have the foundation, the walls and the materials. Of what are the materials of your life made? Normally, our lives our founded on our families, careers, incidents that occurred in our lives, possessions, education and so forth which can be broken and destroyed, not one being solid. Jesus said that the wise man built his house upon the rock. Jesus Christ is our rock, our firm foundation that can never be broken, destroyed or washed away. The walls are made of the storms that come into our lives, (things such as divorce, health issues, natural disasters, death, etc.), the views that others have of us (parents, friends, TV, magazines, books, etc) and choices we make according to the world. The walls can be crooked and unreliable. On our own, we try to repair the damages done to our walls but because we are not the builder, the repairs we make will crumble with time.

When our foundation is built upon self and our walls are formed from worldly things, our personalities develop and they too are unstable. We begin to see the world's diagnosis as truth. We begin to label ourselves because that is what the world has told us is truth about ourselves. Suddenly, we become restricted and we restrict Christ living within us. We begin to use things like fear, idolatry, guilt, jealousy, people pleasing, our own ego, manipulation, laziness, twisted reasoning and so on as ways to define who we are without even realizing what we are becoming. These are all things that come from "the world", from walls built focused on self and not on God. When our walls are built with a focus toward God, our personality reflects that of praise, God-pleasing, biblical thinking, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, beauty, truthfulness, care for our "temple", zealousness for God, desire to minister and so on. These are the attributes of a God-focused personality.

When we become a believer, our life, our personality should change because we are no longer living on our own but have Christ living in us. He begins to change us from the inside out taking away all the old "junk" that we have used to repair those damaged walls on our own that have now become unsteady and unstable. He becomes our foundation making us strong and bold because He now lives within us and He replaces our damaged walls with new walls, which are now straight and secure. We are no longer afraid of the world or the people in it because we have a confidence that comes from our security in knowing Him and so the walls of the world no longer restrict us.

Are you wondering what your foundation is made of? Where is your security and foundation found? Do you crumble at the thought of the world and its view of you or are you confident in knowing who you are in Christ? Are you willing to step out of the comfort zone that the world has designed? Are you ready to step into a life that is abundant and full in Christ? Are you ready to be given a new life, a new personality? When we give Him control of our lives, He becomes our anchor and our rock and He gives us strength and courage to step out in boldness to do things that on our own we could have never accomplished. We are given a personality that is no longer of ourselves but a reflection of Him.

As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the LORD ?
And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.

2 Samuel 2:31-33

"Father, make me a new creation in You. Help me to release the thinking of the world and to accept Your truth as the Only Truth. Give me boldness and courage to step out and do things to further Your kingdom that on my own I could have never done. May You always be the focus of my life."


What our transformation in Christ should look like:

The World View/Non-believer

The Wanderer/ The disobedient Christian

Truth/ The

obedient Christian

Focused on self-Want to live life according to what makes us happy.


We hear truth, come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and are converted.

Focused on self-want to live life according to what makes us happy

We again hear truth and come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit

Focused on Christ-live life being obedient to God-Called to the Great Commission

In bondage to Satan-we are his

In bondage to self-not yet died to self and still living for self. We are afraid to step out of our comfort zone for fear of rejection and so we miss out on the blessings God has for us

and are then Sanctified (to be made holy)

In Bondage to Christ-turned life over to God and are now His making us confident and bold to go and do as He calls us.

Conviction of the Holy Spirit-being found guilty of our sin


Discipline of the Holy Spirit-Disciplined for lack of obedience

Controlled by the Holy Spirit-Given Him control of our lives and live to please Him above all others.

Christ is our Judge-even though one is not a believer, ultimately Christ is still the judge of what we do

Christ is our Lord and Savior-we are His children but have not turned our whole life over to Him

Christ is our life-He is our everything. We are secure in our life with Him.


Ruled by Satan-controlled by the world and its views


We co-exist with Satan-We struggle with our own worldly desires verses what pleases God


Attacked by Satan-He is on the attack because we are now choosing to live for Christ and he will do whatever he can to make us fall short/sin.


May 28, 2008

Drought

Living in North Carolina, we have had issues with drought this past year. It was actually pretty severe and water restrictions were taken very seriously. It led to the pastors at our church praying together specifically for rain. Like all things, you do not always realize the importance of things until you are without it. Days, weeks, then months went by and there was still no rain, rain that was needed to keep our lakes full so that we would be able to sustain the water needs of the people in the community. People were looking to the skies hoping that when they saw clouds, the rain would come but when it did not, people began to lose hope. Now, God is not in the business of granting our every request but He does know that we cannot live without hope. The question we must ask ourselves is; where does our hope come from?

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.

Psalms 62:5

Just as faith is a gift from God to us, so is hope. It is this wonderfully sweet blessing from God that is given to us when we enter into His family. Our hope is found in His unfailing love for each one of us and the fact that our full redemption is guaranteed. God Himself protects this precious gift for us in heaven.

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love.

Psalms 33:18

Droughts are bound to come into our lives and when they come, where do we find ourselves? Do we find ourselves surrounded by doubt or are we hopeful and our faith strong because we know God is faithful? When those droughts come, we must be prepared to sustain them by being filled with His word and His spirit in our lives. Our nature requires that we need something tangible when troubles come our way and so God has provided His word as a way to show us that there is hope.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

The bible is God's promise to us and all of His promises were made to us through Jesus. Jesus Christ is our living hope, our promise, the source of all Truth, our Anchor. Hope is what allows God's grace and kindness to pour into us and it is our link to strength and courage. If our hope is not found in Christ alone then we will surely flounder when times of despair and trouble come our way because there is no other hope for our rescue.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:20

The story of Abraham is another perfect example of Gods kept promises to us. There are times we may have to wait for His promises which can be hard, but we can be sure that when our hope is found in Christ, we will receive what is promised. (Hebrews 6:15) God's promises that were fulfilled in the past are our assurance that He will fulfill those promises in the future.

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Hebrews 6:15

When you experience a lack of hope, you have to believe that God "will make the Valley of Anchor a door of hope". (Hosea 2:15) God takes our troubles and turns them into a doorway that leads to Hope, to Him. When we enter into a time of distress and worry, we do not have to be afraid to walk through the doorway where Jesus is standing on the other side ready to take our troubles. When we turn them over to Him and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and become our living hope, His faithfulness and love will give us the hope we need and we will not be let down.

"Father, may my soul find rest in You and may You be my source, my living hope when the droughts of this life come my way. May Your Word and Christ be my sustenance, strength and my Anchor."




May 22, 2008

Do we trust when tested?



"I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you."

1 Chronicles 29:17


"Yet you know me, O Lord; You see me and test my thoughts about You."

Jeremiah 12:3


"Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says:

"See, I will refine and test them,

For what else can I do because of the sin of my people?"

Jeremiah 9:7


If you watch the news, you probably heard this morning about the five year old daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman(contemporary Christian music artist) being killed by one of her older brothers in a tragic accident. This story brought me to tears realizing the heartache and pain that this family is dealing with right now but praise the Lord we know where they will find their hope. I thought about how God will cover them with His love, peace and comfort and how they will experience His strength in a way that none of us will ever understand because they have chosen to trust Him with their lives. This led me to thinking about those in my own life right now who are dealing with some hard stuff, none that could ever compare to the death of a child, but still stuff that causes hurt and pain in our lives. We think that when we are in the middle of a storm, that there could be no worse place than where we are at that precise moment. We become consumed with our emotions and our own selfish hurts that we lose focus of what truth looks like and why the actual storm appeared. It led me to look at the prophet Habakkuk who lived in such a time of distress. He was surrounded by wickedness and became frustrated questioning God with "Where are you in all of this?". Where do we find ourselves when we're in the midst of a storm? Do we find ourselves questioning where God has gone? Have you ever thought that the storm you are in may be a testing of your faith or perhaps it is discipline for disobedience? I thought about the three verses I listed above and the areas in which God will test us.
  1. He will test our heart and the attitude of our heart in order to instruct us to be honest, teachable, generous and joyful just as He designed us to be. He wants us to have an attitude and behavior that demonstrates integrity and truthfulness. (1 Chronicles 29:17)
  2. He will test our thoughts to see what our attitude is toward Him. Do we really trust Him to be faithful in all our circumstances? (Jeremiah 12:3)
  3. He will test us because of our sin. When we rebel against Him, we are refusing to obey and trust Him and so in order to bring us back into His grace because of our sin, we must experience His discipline. (Jeremiah 9:7)
When we enter into a time of testing, it is imperative that we seek after the truth of our circumstances. We must evaluate the attitudes of our heart and the choices we are making. Are we walking along side of Him or are we choosing to go our own way. The Israelites wandered for 40 years because they chose to put their trust in themselves instead of God. They chose disobedience instead of putting their faith in Him. They felt they could do it on their own and do it better than what God had planned. When those trials come into our life, we have to make a choice. We have to choose whether we will rely on ourselves or turn to God for His strength. All we have to do is ask for His guidance and He will begin to reveal those issues in our lives that are leading us right into the middle of a storm, a storm that we have created all on our own due to our lack of faith, trust and obedience. God provides for our every need and it may not always be what we planned but He has already been down that road and prepared the way for us and so He knows exactly what we need.
If you have found yourself in the middle of being tested, you must be aware of the choices that are laid out before you. Whether it is wealth, friends, family, neighbors or your own understanding, you will always come up disappointed with the result. When we find ourselves in the thick of the storm, our only refuge is the Lord. He cares for those who trust in Him (Na 1:7) and those that trust in Him will be filled with joy, peace and hope (Ro 15:13). He is the only True Way to find our way out of the storm.
"To become tenderhearted, insightful and responsive to the Lord and others, we must first wade through out [own] losses. That means a willingness to feel the effects of our loss, to examine our hearts under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, to release tears and to relinquish our rights to understand. In doing so, we will feel the pain, but we'll learn appropriate ways to express it. Sometimes it will be through the healing release of tears, prayer, some form of art, or words (spoken or written)."
Patsy Clairmont

May 19, 2008

Everything

I love this song and want to share it. As you listen, read the words and allow them to speak to your heart. The desire of our hearts should be to love Him from the inside out and it should consume our very being to the point of only wanting Him to be our everything.

May 16, 2008

Which Road?

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

To expand on the issue of people pleasing a little more we are going to look at how it can affect the decisions we make for Christ. Have you ever been afraid to take a step forward because of how others may view you? Afraid of how they may take what it is you are about to do? So many times in life, we come to a crossroads in which we must make a decision that can influence our life and the lives of others in tremendous ways. It may mean going against the grain, ruffling some feathers and walking alone enduring some obstacles along the way. It means traveling down a road that others may not have journeyed. It means that we may displease those around us and this may be disheartening for many including myself.

When we choose to obey God, that road is not always easy. Sometimes it means giving up the things we love or love doing. It means that we no longer focus on what it is that may bring us pleasure or happiness because at the time those things may be merely a distraction from what our one true focus should be, God. Taking that first step down this road can be scary and extremely lonely. Now, at first, you may have those that say, I will go with you but as the journey begins and the road gets rocky, it may not be long before they abandon you. This then leads us to question if we even headed in the right direction to begin with and we find ourselves questioning God. Now, the questioning begins because you have headed down a road that Satan does not want you on because you are being obedient to God. Suddenly, there are things in this road that begin attacking you, your family, your finances, your ministries, your relationships and the list goes because Satan wants you to give up and run the other way. Instead of getting discouraged, we should be encouraged because when Satan attacks we know we have entered into a battle and have become warriors for our King. You see, when we begin fighting for the Lord, Satan is going to be there with opposing forces trying to end the battle you have begun. We can be encouraged knowing that God has already been down this road. In fact, He prepared the way and He has already had the victory over every circumstance in which we will encounter. If we are relying on Him and His strength then He makes it possible for us to endure the journey ahead. The road may seem scary but He is a big God who can defeat all those who long to tear us down and destroy the work He began in us. God is mighty to save and He is right there to lift us out of whatever danger we may encounter along that path and He promises to protect us not just from THE enemy but from the enemies who surround us in our everyday lives. Because of His great love for us, we have no need to fear anything that crosses our path because God's love is perfect and He IS our Mighty Conqueror.

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the Stronghold of my life

Of whom shall I be afraid?

When evil men advance against me

To devour my flesh,

When my enemies and my foes attack me,

They will stumble and fall.

Psalms 27:1-3


Satan wants to see us defeated but with God, the victory can and will be ours if we trust Him in ALL our circumstances and in this He takes great delight. In the end, when we have made it past these obstacles, He rejoices over us with singing because we were faithful in our following of Him. When we choose to please Him and Him alone, He blesses us beyond measure and offers to us His unending grace.

"Father thank you for preparing the way as I travel down the road you laid out for me. Remind me that you always there to protect me because You know what lies ahead and You have already won the victory of it all. To You alone, may I always be found faithful and obedient to Your will for my life. May I not get caught in the trap of trying to satisfy those around me but instead live to honor and satisfy You. Thank You for blessing my life and extending Your grace to me."


May 15, 2008

Our Own Distress

"Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

Jonah 2:8

On Wednesday nights at church, our worship team has a bible study that is usually led by our worship pastor. This week he happened to be out of town and so his second in command shared with us what God had shown her in her own quiet time that morning. She and I have talked on numerous occasions about how similar we are in areas of being people pleasers. To the point that it consumes us at times and we can easily lose focus of truth. Last night she talked about the story of Jonah and the whale and wow, did God use her to speak to me.

First, for those who are not familiar with the story of Jonah here is a brief synopsis. (Jonah 1:1-2:10 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah%201:1-2:10;&version=31; ) God commanded Jonah to go and preach to a city, which Jonah felt, was too wicked for God's mercy and forgiveness and so he fled and boarded a ship to run away from God. While on the ship, a great storm came which threatened the life of all those on the boat. The crew woke Jonah up and told him to call upon his god to end the storm. The crew knew that Jonah was running from the Lord and so they asked him what they could do to stop the storm. Jonah knew he was the cause and told them to throw him over the side of the boat. At first, they were reluctant and tried rowing back to shore but were unsuccessful and begged for God's mercy for taking the life of Jonah as they threw him into the water. Once they did, the sea grew calm. Now, because God is faithful, He provided a "great fish" which swallowed him up for three days. While in the belly of the whale, Johan prayed and called out to the Lord and He commanded the fish, to spit Jonah out.

Jonah caused his own distress out of disobedience to the Lord. He found himself in the middle of a storm and the only one who could end it, was the One he was running from. How many times do we run away from God instead of into His arms? Clearly, His arms are the safest place to be and there is protection from the elements of the world within His arms.

Sometimes we think that God's mercy and grace may not be deserved by all and so this attitude will put us in harms way especially when we try to people please and take care of the situation ourselves instead of turning it over to the Lord and obeying Him.

Here is what I realized.

  1. Sometimes we cause our own distress. We can easily make a situation far worse than what it may be by not acknowledging God and giving Him control of it.
  2. By trying to take control ourselves, we end up in that "belly" where it is dark, cold, and lonely until we become broken and recognize our need for a Savior and His mercy and grace.
  3. Once we call out to Him, He will deliver us no matter what we have done or where we have been because of His love and forgiveness.

Jonah 2:8 says, "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." A point she raised last night was that so many times, we think of idols as a wooden statue or money or TV but there is more then just these. For me, my people pleasing issue is my idol. I worry about what others may think or feelings that I hurt because I am being obedient and it becomes my focus. Because of my disobedience and lack of faith, I cause myself more distress and may miss God's grace and blessings. Wow, what a revelation!! Now, do not get me wrong, a sensitive heart towards others is not a bad thing but it can become one when it becomes our focus instead of God.

Clearly, there are two important messages in this story that we should not forget. First, we should never run away from God because it will not bring about positive things. When we run, we can cause some serious storms for ourselves that we can avoid if our focus is on pleasing and obeying Him instead of others. He IS the calm in our storms. Second, His grace and mercy are for everyone. We are not to judge who is worthy of His forgiveness because Christ died for everyone and He extends His grace to all. When we forget this, God will quickly remind our narrow hearts by those storms we encounter.

"Father, may I not cling to those idols which take my focus from You. Remind me always that Your grace and forgiveness are open to everyone who will accept it and it is not my place to decide who is worthy enough to receive it. Keep my focus on pleasing You instead of others."


May 13, 2008

The Song we sing

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:15-17


God created each of us with something very important to say. We each are this living, breathing testimony to His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness and His greatness. Our life is an incredible gift that He meant for us to share with others. We all have something to say in regards to who He is, what He has done in our lives and where He is taking us. There are those in this world who do not know Him and who are waiting for us to open our mouths and speak.

What is keeping you from sharing who He is with others? Is it the fear of saying the wrong thing? The fear of rejection? The thing is that when we accept Christ into our lives, we become a new creation because He then resides within us giving us strength and boldness to accomplish things that we could have never accomplished on our own.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

He created every one of us to be a Beth Moore or a Billy Graham because with Him, ALL things are possible. It does not mean that we all may stand before millions and speak but we all have something to say. None of us can do anything on our own because if we did, it would be wrong. His hand has to be all over everything we do and say in order for us to get it right. If we stand firm in who He is then we become bold and strong for Him because He is our strength alone.

When we accept Him in our lives we are then filled with His love, which means we have a love for the world, the lost, and there is this desire to speak and share so much so that it flows out of us much like a song being sung. Once you start, there is no end to its melody because what flows forth is so beautiful and so melodic that the world then is caught up in its melody and they begin singing it along with you. Before you know it, there are many singing the song that you began and are singing it to others.


Redeemed how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed thro' His infinite mercy,

His child, and forever, I am


Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed, redeemed, His child, and forever, I am.


I think of my blessed Redeemer,

I think of Him all the day long;

I sing, for I cannot be silent;

His love is the theme of my song.


Hymn-Redeemed, How I Love To Proclaim It

Fanny J. Crosby- 1882


Think about it, would anyone miss you if you disappeared? I am not talking about your spouse or your children; I am talking about a dying world that is looking for a void that is missing within their life? Are you making a difference for Christ? Are you singing a song about Him to the world so that they may know the God you know? You do not want to look back someday wondering if you gave everything you had for Him. Let His love speak through you and make you complete as only He can so that you can be that song in this dark world making a difference for Him.

"Father help us to recognize that You created every one of us with something to say. You have called us to love and share You with those who do not know you. Give us boldness and strength to step out of our comfort zone and to stand firm in You and who You are. Thank you for giving me a song to sing for You."

May 12, 2008

Prayer Request

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Mark 11:22-25


 

Those of you who read this blog, I have a request of you. Two weeks from today, Gordon will be arriving to stay for the week. For those of you who do not know Gordon, he is a soccer coach from Scotland who became a part of our family last August. He visited with us for a week last August and then returned later in November and stayed two more weeks with us in which he only grew closer to our family. While he was here, he attended church for the very first time ever in his life. In fact, he was able to go with us twice while he was here. I spoke with his aunt and uncle in Scotland who are very strong Christians and they have been trying for years to get him to go to church so this was a huge answer to prayer for them. I firmly believe in God's timing and I know that God placed Gordon in our lives at this time for a reason just as He placed our family in his life. He called yesterday to wish me a Happy Mother's Day and an overwhelming sense of fear came over me. He is 22 but I have come to love him like he is one of my own and the thought of knowing that if something happened to him I would not see him again breaks my heart and stirs up a feeling of loss that consumes me at times. Kevin and I have not once pushed him into conversations. We just allow the Lord to lead when the opportunity presents itself. He does not have a relationship with his mom so it is not uncommon for him to call me from Scotland wanting parental advice. At times, it would overwhelm me but I always knew it was the Lord allowing me the chance to share with him Truth. Right now, he is in Nebraska leading soccer camps. After his trip in two weeks, he will be coming out again in September to go to Disney World with us for a week and then back out to stay in November until he goes back home to Scotland. Please pray for this time that we will have with him that God will use us to reach out and love on him. Pray that God will use our words to speak to his heart so that he may hear truth. Pray that his heart will be softened and receptive when opportunities arise for us to share with him. I just ask for prayer for our time together.


 

I know many of you who read this have sent me emails in regards to your own friends and family who do not know the Lord. Please know that I pray for them daily. I don't get very much feedback from those of you out there reading this but please know that I pray for you all already and would love to pray for you more specifically and the requests you may have. Send them to the email address alignwithhim@gmail.com or if you prefer post it as a comment. All comments are moderated so if you would rather others not see your request just mention it and it will not be posted otherwise I can post it so that everyone can prayer together for your request.

May 7, 2008

Negative vs. Positive

"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?] But we have the mind of Christ."

1 Corinthians 2:16


What we focus on, we become and so if we think in a negative way then we can quickly gain a critical spirit. We all know someone or may be the person who has "the gift" of suspicion. This person is everywhere we go. They are the ones who always seem to think the worst of everyone. No matter what good deed or nice word someone may give, this person is always there to comment in some negative way. They are the people who will say, "I just call it like I see it?" How familiar does this sound to you?

How easy is it for us to point out the shortcomings and failures of someone else? It has become so easy that we tend to focus on what we think is wrong with everyone else. As long as we can focus on the rest of the world then we do not have to focus on our own issues, which is much easier and less painful. Negativity is very difficult to deal with and we often try to undermine Satan and his attempts to create this stronghold in our mind by saying "I'm a pessimistic person". Well, that is the first step to recovery.

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

John 16:7-8

The second step would be to confess to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to search our hearts and point out to us our own sin. When we allow Him to examine our hearts, He will convict us and show us truth. (John 16:8) Many times, we read the word world in scripture and smile because we feel it is referring to all the lost and sinful people out in the world. This is true but we have to remember that we too live in that same world and are still sinners.

As God's children, we need conviction in our lives and we need the Holy Spirit to explore deep within us so that we can deal with the issues of negativity in our own lives. There are non-believers in this world that are positive but because they do not know the Lord, Satan already has control of their mind and so he has no reason to attack them with negativity.

Satan attacks us where we are weak and vulnerable. We all have weaknesses whether it is gossip, being prone to pessimism, lying or deception. None is worse than the other is and we all have to conquer our own sin. We need the Holy Spirit to come and reveal to us these natural places where we fail and where Satan will choose to attack. Only the Holy Spirit can convict and set us free from these strongholds. The only way this can be accomplished is if we allow Him control of our life.

Do you think anyone has ever thought of you as that person with "the gift" of suspicion? I am sure at one time or another we all have fallen into that category. We can change our way of thinking by focusing on having a mind like Christ.

"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."

1 Corinthians 2:16

When we become believers, we are "given the mind of Christ" because He is alive within us. We should no longer think as we once did because we are a new creation and so we should begin to think as He did. This means we should stay focused on the many blessings within our life that He has given us and who God is within us. When the Holy Spirit is living within us our whole attitude and thought life should change.

When you think about what all Jesus went through, the deception and desertion by his own disciples, He remained positive and was always able to offer out encouragement to others. What this means is that because we have the mind of Christ, when negativity creeps in, we should instantly be aware that our focus is not on Him and that we should turn to thinking on what is true and right.

We have the opportunities to think in a negative way but when we think this way, we have then chosen our old mind-set instead of the mind of Christ within us. Each situation presents the opportunity to make these choices of good or bad. When we choose negativity, we are following the patterns of our old mind and not the mind that God has given us. Once we receive Him into our lives, He promises a new heart and spirit but ultimately we make the choice. We should be aware of our mind-set and attitude so that as we go about our day we remain focused and a reflection of Him.

"Father make me aware of my mind-set daily so that my old ways do not control my way of thinking and lead me down the wrong path. Help remind me of the love You have for me so that I may be an encouragement to others. Give me a discerning spirit so that I am aware the moment that negativity begins to take over my mind. May Your mind be active in my life."

May 6, 2008

What matters most?

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7


We know that we are to take our thoughts captive and think on truth but we also have to be careful about what we focus on because wherever we focus our attention or energy, those things can and will develop in our words or actions. Basically, whatever we focus on, we become.

When I get a craving for cheesecake, it does not take long for me to pursue that desire and I end up at Target picking up a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. Our thoughts stir our desires and emotions and lead us to make choices, good or bad, where we must decide whether we will follow through with them. If we find ourselves only focusing on the negative in our situations, lives or relationships then we become negative and develop a critical spirit. Our conversations and actions become negative and it begins to consume us to the point that we lose the joy that God has placed in our lives. To think that we can lose our joy based on one negative thought.

When trouble arises in our lives it is important that we evaluate where it came from because most of the time, we create our own drama based on our focus and thought life. When we feel depressed or discouraged and cannot quite put a finger on where it is coming from, we should examine our thoughts and find what it is that is fueling our emotions. It is so important that we keep a reign on our minds and feelings. We can choose whether to think the worst or best in our life and in our relationships. Scripture says that we are always to think on what is true, right, good, lovely, noble and pure which means we are to think the best in our lives and of people. We should focus on God's grace, mercy and love and not on the things we do not have. I saw a quote once that said, "As you wander through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole." It is somewhat corny but there is a lot of truth to it. Too many of us focus on what is not there, what we do not have or what is not right.

How often do we talk negative about the things God has given us? I live in a neighborhood that has homes that were built by a Christian builder. He told us once that he prayed over this neighborhood before it was built asking that it would be filled with families that loved the Lord. God heard his prayer because there are four families alone that all attend the same church and have a desire to obey the Lord. What breaks my heart is knowing that there are people who complain about what flowers are planted at the entrance of the neighborhood or how something in our home was cheaply done. God has blessed our families in this neighborhood with beautiful homes and wonderful neighbors who care for one another but sometimes people focus on the negative and allow Satan to devalue what God has so graciously given to each of us. These are the very things that shape our character and speak to the condition of our heart. (Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23) What is it that really matters in our lives? Is it Him? I cannot help but hear the words to this hymn while writing this post.


"O soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There's light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace."


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen H. Lemmel-1922


Our happiness and direction in life are decided by our thought life and this is a powerful thing because our thoughts are not just something that passes through our minds and are then gone. We have to remember that our mind is like a battlefield. Satan is always looking for the opportunity to find his way in and take our focus off Christ. It does not matter how well we live our life if our thoughts are not true or right and especially if they are not pure. We must focus on the things that have eternal value and stay clear of those things that will lead us down a path of discouragement and unhappiness because are we truly happy when we're complaining?


"Father, keep my eyes turned and focused on You. Forgive me for the times that I allow my thoughts to focus on the things that are not pleasing to You. Help me to keep my mind filled with Your truth so that my focus is on what is true, right and pure. May all that I do bring honor and glory to You."

May 1, 2008

Stretch me Lord

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Hymn- The Solid Rock
Edward Mote-1832
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

Today I am going to talk about how God has stretched me. It again is personal and will reveal a bit of more of who I am in Christ. I am excited to get to share with you how He alone has changed me.

I have shared about that shy, scared high school student, the square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Impossible right? Let me just share how awesome and amazing God is!! No matter how much you think you are that square peg, when God comes into your life, He molds and shapes you until you fit into that round hole. When you stand in His truth, allow Him control of your life, and are obedient to Him, He changes you. Suddenly you become usable, a vessel that is doing work for a King. WOW!!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2Corinthians 5:17

Due to my lack of self-esteem, I would have never thought to find myself in front of people speaking or singing. It is not even something that I wanted to do but God began working on that area in my life after my first child was born. I began singing on the worship team at my church back home, which was a huge step for me putting that microphone in my hand, standing on a stage and singing. I was afraid that someone in the crowd would actually hear and judge me and it terrified me. So much so that freedom in my worship was lacking.

Now, fast-forward two years to my church in North Carolina. I now am under the teaching of my mentor and my worship pastor growing and finding my freedom in Christ. Suddenly there is freedom in my worship (clapping, raising my hands, etc) without fearing what others think about me because my security was in Christ. Now, I still had the microphone and still had the fear that someone was going to hear me but felt a bit more secure because I was singing with seven other people.

Fast forward four more years to an invitation from a youth pastor friend from back home. He invited me to go with his group to summer camp and asked me to speak to a group of teenage girls. Imagine the laughter from me when those words left his lips. He was asking me to not only stand up in front of a group of girls and women counselors and speak but also to write what it was I was going to share. Could there have been anything more ridiculous. Here enters obedience. I told him I would pray about it and get back to him. As soon as I got off the phone, I was in my chair praying when the words started pouring onto the paper. Two months passed and I had the opportunity to stand in front of a large group of girls at different times pouring out my heart and what God had shown me over the past two months. IT WAS AMAZING!! This is when the awakening began.

How many times do we put limits on God or withdraw when a situation gets uncomfortable? It is amazing what God can do when we freely and finally let Him. You see I have learned that He can stretch me far beyond my comfort zone when I am obedient. It is not anything I ever do on my own but it’s through His strength that He makes all things possible in our lives. (Philippians 4:13) He has already gone before us and He knows the outcome of all we will do so He prepares the way for us. I have learned that the moment we find ourselves saying never is the moment He will begin to work and show us how wrong we truly are and exactly who is in control. The sad thing is our lack of obedience. If we are not obedient then I believe He allows things (sickness/injuries, job loss, financial burden, struggles in relationships) to bring us to a point of brokenness until we submit and follow His plan for our life. I’ve been to that bridge and I’ve had to cross it and it was not pleasant but on the other side was a wonderful blessing from my Father. Now when He calls, I hear Him and have a desire to obey because He made me into a new creation with a confidence and boldness that brings me security in knowing that He has it in His hands.


Again, fast forward four more years to just these past few months when this blog started. One of my biggest strongholds was that of fearing what others thought of my writing. This led me to seeking the approval of everything I wrote. When this blog began, Satan used peopleand so many times I wanted to give up but God used a friend who encouraged me not to give up and so God began to work boldness in my walk and took that fear of man out of my heart. Now don’t get me wrong, that fear constantly tries to sneak back in but now I recognize it, take it captive, and think on what is true.
He stretched me even further just this past Sunday when I sang my first solo. The moment the opportunity presented itself, the fear of man crept right in and consumed me not to mention the immediate feeling of wanting to be sick. If it were not for the people around me encouraging me and loving on me I think my fear would have won in the end. Praise the Lord that He puts people in our lives at those moments that He asks us to stretch. He always makes a way and He always provides when we focus on Him and truth.

Has He ever stretched you in this way? Have you allowed Him to stretch you? This process of being stretched is never complete. It will not be complete until we stand in His presence but in the mean time, we have to allow Him control over our lives to shape and mold us into whatever He has planned and no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. For myself I do not ever want to look back at my life and ask myself whether I gave every part of myself for Him or kept Him from stretching me to my full potential in Him. He is awesome and life changing!!!

“Father, mold me and shape me into the creation You have planned. Thank You for preparing the way and going before me in all that You have laid out for my life. Through You I can do all things in Your strength. Help me to never forget how perfect Your strength is in my life.”