June 30, 2008

Eternity

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11


 

How often do we find ourselves in the rut of frustration with our lives? We cannot obtain satisfaction no matter where we look. Suddenly, nothing in our lives seems sufficient. Our house is too small, our cars are too old, we are not successful in our job, we are not popular as others may be, our wardrobe needs updating and so on. Our life appears void and we compare who and what we are to those we come in contact with and before too long, we are resenting the whole world. How does this happen?

We do not get frustrated that life has no meaning but instead become frustrated that we have not discovered its true meaning. We each long for a life that is full of purpose and worth, aspiring to make a difference. We recognize in our hearts that we are part of a bigger plan and that there is a great deal more to ourselves and thus we begin the pursuit for the meaning of life, our life. We have an immense awareness that our purpose and value extends much further than that small circle we find ourselves connected to and we yearn to be a part of something so much bigger. That something is eternity.

God has placed that desire for eternity in our hearts. We long to know Him and to make His name known to this world. Until we find ourselves in an intimate and personal relationship with Him, our life will remain frustrating and empty. Until we find ourselves involved in the work of God and making His name known to this world, we will not find our way out of the dark tunnel of frustration.

As Christians, many of us know about God, we know the stories and we have even memorized the verses but do we really know God? Until we encounter Him and develop a love relationship with Him, we will never experience the true joy of life. In order to find our purpose and place in this world, we must draw close to Him. Once we offer Him control of our lives, He is able to direct us down the path that He has planned for us and we are able then to experience the meaning and purpose of an abundant life that He has promised us.

"Father thank You for life even though I do not deserve it and for giving me a life with purpose. Thank You for the opportunity to share Your name and allowing me to make a difference in this world."

June 26, 2008

The Fellowship of Love


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

(John 13:34 NIV)

Love is an act of our will and God says that we must choose to love one another no matter how we may feel towards someone or how unlovable we may think that they seem. No matter how difficult it is at times to love, we are constantly and deeply to love those believers that God brings into our lives at church, at bible studies, our neighborhoods and our families.

Love is a command that was given to us by God and it is our decision as to whether or not we will love as an act of obedience to the One who told us that we MUST love.

"And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

1 John 4:21

Scriptures says that love and obedience are synonymous with one another and Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will obey His commandments. (John14:15) Obeying is connected with love because it is a reflection of our unity as believers in Christ and that our foundation is in God. Jesus destroyed the illusion that love is based on feelings and He has pressed that definition to a higher level. Real love is the sacrifice of one life for another. Real love is Jesus on the cross and dying for us even while we are still lost in our sins. (Romans 5:8) We are to view one another as valued children in the eyes of our Heavenly Father realizing that everyone is well worth our time and energy because we are all a part of God's family. We must choose to love and not selectively choose whom we will love.

Love requires us to be in fellowship with one another because we cannot be obedient to the command of Christ if we are living in isolation. We must be connected in some way in order to show love to one another. God created each of us differently with different personalities and perspectives, which allows us each to bring something different to the table. It also means there will be hurt feelings or hang-ups because we will not always get along. Pride results in a lot of our issue but another reason is that it can just be too hard. We fail at being authentic with one another in our relationships and genuine relationships require a lot of work. We must be willing to be transparent and honest and able to confront one another in order to have relationships that are real and meaningful. It is always a lot easier to have those superficial relationships that allow us to condemn one another when we disagree about something and run the other way instead of committing to uphold what God has given each of us. God placed within us the need for real commitment and because His commitment to each of us is unbreakable, He wants us to extend that same commitment to each other. What I have learned is that this kind of commitment takes time and that is something that has become incredibly scarce in our lives today because of the self-centered way of thinking that has been taught to us by this world. It all comes down to choices and our commitment to Christ. Relationships allow us the opportunity to grow in Christ and love for one another as we learn to deal with conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation and commitment.

God planned for us to have healthy Christian relationships and this is how He designed it IF we are willing to make each other a priority and make the time to spend with one another. Proverbs 18:24 says that there is a
"friend who sticks closer than a brother"
and the only way to become this to one another is by focusing on having quality relationships in our lives and reflect Christ.

"A friend is always loyal,
      and a brother is born to help in time of need."

Proverbs 17:17

The love and commitment of Christ is a high standard to follow and it means that we should always be striving to reach towards that standard through His grace because on our own, it IS impossible. We must fully rely on His Spirit living within us to love as He loves and we must practice the most basic behavior of commitment and that is simply showing up; being there for those God has placed in your life.

"Father, may I not run from relationships because they become too hard. Teach me a love and commitment that can come only from Your Spirit living within me. Help me to always be available to those who need me and not focused on myself and my I always be reminded of my unbreakable commitment with You."

June 23, 2008

A Sister in Christ

"Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."

Romans 12:10

What kind of sister are you to your fellow believers? Our love for God can be determined by how much we love other people. We are to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul and many claim to do so but actions and words do not always reflect this in our relationships with others. Do we really love as we say we do?

I believe that our relationship with God is truly reflected by the relationships we have with others. Scripture says,
"If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:20-21 We must take the time to search our hearts and evaluate where we are as individuals, where we are with God and with one another.

There are times when we get upset with someone, someone offends or hurts us or we become disconnected from others and these situations become a reflection of what our relationship with God looks like and how we are presenting Him to the world. Our lives are to reflect the Glory of God and so all that we do should be reflecting who He is within us. Do we truly love God when we have unloving feelings for our sister? Scripture says "NO". We cannot justify our feelings by saying things like "they don't like me", "they hurt me", or "they don't care about me and my life anyway" because when we love God and we choose to be obedient to Him we must live like Him and love others unconditionally.

Jesus says, "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

We need to be more like God and His perfection and less of how this world has taught us to be; self-centered. We must stop reacting as the world teaches us to react to the stress and hardships of our everyday living. We have to remember that our positions, our callings, our representation is to be that of a reflection of Jesus. There can be nothing less!!

There are things in our lives that clearly impede us from loving one another as we are called to love.

1. We should not judge one another. We all are guilty of this sin and it is one of the biggest hindrances in our love for others. All other obstacles trickle down from our judging what others have and what they do.

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in your brother's way."

(Rom 14:13).

2. We should not pursue lawsuits against one another. How can we really love someone if we are suing someone over trivial issues?

"The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"

(1 Cor. 6:7)

3. We should not devour each other with our words.-The more we pick out one another's flaws and focus on the things of others, the more it will consume us and make us bitter and unhappy.

"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."

(Gal. 5:15).

4. We should not be jealous of one another-We cannot want the things that others have. God made each of us unique and gave us each our own gifts and in that, we must find contentment.

"Let us not become conceited, irritate one another, or be jealous of one another."

(Gal. 5:26).

5. We should not speak evil or complain against one another.-Gossip is the killer amongst relationships. As Christians we are supposed to be representing Christ and so when we are out and "speaking evil" of our sisters, what kind of example are we setting and what are we saying about the God that we claim to love.

" Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it."

(James 4:11).

"Do not grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!"

(James 5:9).

6. We should not seek glory from one another.

"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"


(John 5:44).

John 5:44 points out the heart of this problem. When we do not recognize our sinfulness and need, without faith in Jesus and the cross, without truly finding rest in who we are in Christ and His acknowledgement of us, we look towards others for justification and our sense of refuge and worth. When we seek glory from one another, it makes us unable to love one another in the biblical sense according to the Word. We find ourselves becoming obsessed with things such as:

How well do I do things?

How do I look?

How important am I?

When we are seeking glory from one another, we impede our ability to trust in God's approval and His evaluation of our lives. This kind of trust causes us to seek from others only that which God can give us. Seeking glory means, we are seeking our self-assurance and sense of worth from the praise, applause, and approval of others rather than resting by faith in God's promises of His Truth. Ultimately, the glory that comes from God is found only in Jesus Christ, and it is through Christ we find our confidence and purpose. Not only must we come to Christ to be righteous, but also we must learn to rest in God's opinion of who we are in His Beloved, the Lord Jesus.

Loving one another can be such a difficult thing when we each are so different but because we have a commitment to Christ, this makes us each a sister in Christ. When we fail to love one another as God has called us to love, we hinder the relationships that God has given us and things around us become damaged, including the image of God. We are to take the command given to us by Christ to love one another seriously because it is a powerful force for a watching world to see.

There are things we can do in order to love as God has commanded us to love.

We must remember that we each are a child of God. No matter how annoying people can be or how much you disagree with what they do, God loves them just as He loves us and they are just as precious to Him as we are. These people are the true test of our willingness to love as He has commanded. We must also always be willing to except others as they are and not play favorites. We love because we are commanded to love and not because we are looking for something in return. We must stop asking God to change everyone else and instead ask Him to change our own hearts and attitudes. We must learn to love people as they are and not just tolerate the things in them we do not like. It gives us the opportunity to practice patience, humility and grace.

We must forgive those who have wronged us and move on. We all are a work in progress and will fail repeatedly and Jesus told us that we are to always forgive those who have offended us and in fact we are to love them even more and move forward.

We must not be afraid to go to one another and confess the sin in our life. We should be able to pray and encourage one another. We should be able to come to each other and share our lives, which allow us to draw closer and have relationships that are more intimate in the Lord. We can help to carry one anothers burdens and help one another to find healing. When we live with integrity, we are able to encourage others and be an example of what faith looks like to the world watching.

We must serve one another. This means our time, our money and our lives.

We must be there to comfort one another in times of loss, pain and loneliness. We must be willing to share the hope of Jesus with those hurting so that together we may draw closer to God and one another.

We need to challenge one another. We have to learn humility and be able to accept that we do not know it all. There will always be someone else out there who knows more than we do or that can do something better and so we must learn to be humble, stretch ourselves, learn new things and hear what others are saying.

We must be willing to confront or correct one another when we are being disobedient to the authority of God. It can never be done out of spite but because we love one another and want to restore intimacy within our relationships with the Lord.

Loving as God commanded is not always easy but when our eyes are focused on Him and we are His disciple and He is living through us then our desire becomes to reflect Him and bring Him glory. When we finally give Him our lives and allow Him the control then we are able to love, minister, forgive, and so forth as He has called us because we are living through His strength and not our own.

Spend time with Him allowing Him the access to your heart. Allow Him to show you the areas that you cling too tightly too that keep Him from having full control of your life. When you finally let go and allow Him to do the work, it makes being His follower, His disciple a little bit easier and loving your sister a lot less complicated.

"Father, search my heart and show me the dark places that I try to hide from You. You see and know all things and so convict me of the areas that keep me from loving my sister as you have called me to love. Give me eyes to see my sister the way that You see her; Your beautiful and unique creation that loves You like I do."


June 19, 2008

Your first love?

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:18-20


The last words that Jesus spoke before ascending in to heaven were that of a command to go and make disciples. This was a command given to all believers and it is the responsibility of every believer to go and share Christ with the world. It is a responsibility given to each of us regardless of our gender, occupation, personality type, status, circumstance and the list goes on.

What is involved in being a true disciple of Jesus? To find the answer, we have to look no further than what Jesus says about being His disciple.

To start, we must define what the word disciple means. The word disciple literally means "a learner" and according to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, it translates as "one who follows another's teaching." A disciple is not just one who learns what they are taught but also puts in to practice what they have learned. They become an imitator of their teacher with a goal of wanting to be like their teacher. Jesus Himself said that
"every disciple will be like his teacher" - Luke 6:40 If we claim to be a follower of Christ and claim that we are obedient to His word, then that makes us responsible to share and disciple those around us. He is our perfect teacher and so we should strive to be just like Him.
"We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ." Colossians 1:28
According to the apostle Paul, God's purpose of the redemption of man is that they be conformed to the image of His Son - Romans 8:29.

Jesus gave us some "identifying marks" of discipleship that can help us to recognize whether or not we are a disciple of Christ. One of the first attributes of being His disciple is that we are abiding in His Word.(John 8:31) This means we are a student of Jesus, carefully studying His word and taking time to meet with Him daily allowing Him to speak truth into our heart which leads to an intimate relationship with Him. Another attribute is that of being a doer of His word. This means that we do not just talk about what Jesus has done or talk about what we believe to be true but that we put these things into practice and live a life reflective of who He is in our lives. In other words, a true disciple does not just talk a good talk but they put it into action within their lives. A disciple is also one who loves others. John 13:34-35. They have a love that is patterned after Jesus and a love that is visible to the world. A disciple takes every opportunity to get to know, encourage and draw closer to other believers through time in small groups and fellowship because that is where we teach one another and provide accountability to one another. They would not fail to read or study the Word and would not refrain from opportunities to study with others. We have to remember that a disciple is one who wants to be like Jesus and so we sacrifice our time and our effort in order to draw closer to Him and become His true reflection. This is the desire of a disciple.

"Jesus told us that we would be known by the fruit we produce. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

John 15:8

Notice the word "much". This is important because scripture also tells us that if we fail to bear fruit, we will be cut off from Christ. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2. Now I do not believe that this means we lose our salvation but I believe it does mean that we have fallen away from the will of God, put ourselves on the throne and negate the blessings He has for us.

So far, do you recognize these attributes as being evident in your own life? Do you have a desire to follow Jesus?

Being a disciple of Jesus comes with a cost and is not always easy. Ultimately He must always come first in our lives and we must love Him above all else.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26.
He must always come before our family, our friends and even ourselves because we cannot serve two masters. Not only must we love and serve Him above all else but we must be willing to suffer for Him. We must be willing to lose our lives to Him and all that our lives encompass. We must be willing to give up our "stuff" in order to follow Him. Our desires for our worldly possessions have to be put to the side and our contentment has to be found in Him alone. We must be willing to give up everything in order to follow Him.

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me."

Matthew 10:37-38

Choosing to follow Him in an ungodly world can bring about persecution and ridicule.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2 Timothy 2:12.
The world will come against us and abandon us at times but there is joy and peace in knowing that our life is being lived to glorify and honor God and above that, there is nothing else.

Following Jesus means a radical redirection for our lives. It means turning against all that the world considers "normal" and walking in a different manner and keeping our focus upward and our eyes upon the cross. Living for Jesus is a radical, passionate, exciting and consuming adventure that changes your life forever. He should be our first love and once we have truly experienced the abundance of Him in our life, we will never be the same, we are forever changed and our desire will be to share it with the world.

"Father give me a hunger and passion for Your word so that my desire in life is to follow you alone and share You with the world. May I be filled with a consuming love for You that flows out of my life and into the lives of those around me always and may I want nothing from the world because my contentment and worth is found in You."




June 12, 2008

Inner Character

This posting and the following one are to address an anonymous comment sent in regards to "Letting go".


What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:1-11

Justification of our sin through action in itself is a sin. 1 Peter 3:9 says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing" which means there is no room for ungodly response to someone else's actions. If we feel that someone has wronged us, Jesus again said that we are to take it to that person and make him or her aware. Many times, we do not give people the benefit of the doubt. Often our wandering minds have no control and so something someone says or does in complete innocence is taken out of context and turned into exactly what Satan wanted you to hear or see. That is why we must always be thinking on truth. We must always be aware of Satan and his attacks because he is only here to steal, kill and destroy our families, our marriages and our friendships. He wants nothing more than to separate all the things that God has brought together.

"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."

James 3:16

James says that most of our quarrels and arguments come from our own selfish ambition. It comes from our own personal desires. We see something in someone else that we wish we had or maybe do have and do not recognize and it becomes Satan's feeding ground in our life turning it into our heart issue. We become quick to point out every flaw we think we see in someone because we make it our own personal mission to find fault in his or her life. My worship pastor reminds us a lot that when you are pointing a finger at someone else's sin or faults, that there are three fingers pointing back at you. I have really had to think about that because how quick are we to focus on someone else's issues when really the issue at hand is our own heart. Whatever is in our heart is very visible to other people every time we open our mouths because the words that come from our mouth speak loudly to the condition of our hearts.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

Luke 6:41-45

There is in fact a reason that we should be very careful and slow to judge because we all have huge flaws that must be dealt with in our own lives. A judgmental spirit can often reflect someone who is self-righteous or superficial or possibly, who has an insensitive heart. It is hard to look clearly at the lives of others when we have a plank in our own eye because it blurs our vision. We can examine ourselves for our self-righteousness by considering how often we are quick to correct others rather than correcting our own attitudes and actions. Jesus does not tell us not to examine the lives of others because we should help hold one another accountable but we must be careful to make sure that our eyes are also cast towards ourselves. We must be walking in humility in order to walk more closely with God.

We are to reflect good character and our relationship with God should be producing good fruit. Our fruit exposes where our lives are rooted and whether they are rooted in Christ. To judge a tree's fruit, we cannot just look at that one particular moment or season of production but the whole period of production from that tree. The product of that tree reflects the heart and the product of the discipleship of that tree reflects the inner character, which Jesus refers to as the treasure of the heart. (Luke 12:35) Simply stated, our works, our speech and actions are a snapshot of our hearts. A good heart is faithful while a hypocritical one is not. Obedience is not about keeping the rules we create but that of faithfulness to God. We cannot acknowledge the authority of Jesus if we are not pursuing our commitment to walk with Him in our daily lives. Trusting in God because of our faithfulness in our walk frees us to treasure the relationships that are at the center of our lives. Do we value one another by serving and giving to one another or do we value our selves and hoard up all that we have because that ends up being the true reflection of our heart? All we have to do is look at our heart to know if we are fully trusting God and walking with Him.

"Father, may we not look at others with a tainted heart but that of a heart that is filled with a love for You. May we not point fingers at others but recognize in our own lives the areas of our heart that we need to examine and make pure. Help us to love as You have loved and to be a blessing to others at all times. May we always be able to turn the other cheek and show true godliness in our lives."







Walking in Truth

This is a posting I wrote and posted on April 28, 2008. I am reposting it in response to a comment that was sent about the Letting Go posting. I hope this will help to answer the question that was presented in that comment.


 

"Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Matthew 22:37-40

What is truth? Paul wrote that we are to think on truth. We are to think about the truth of God and His word as well as ourselves and others at all times. It is important that we know truth and that we view the world and those in it through the truth of God and not ourselves or our circumstances.

God created every one of us as a wonderful and unique creation. He did not create one mold and then destroy it saying that everyone must fit into this likeness. We each are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalms 139:14) our Father who loves each of us just as we are flaws and all. He created each of us with a purpose that He so carefully planned for our lives. (2 Timothy 1:9) He gave each of us our own unique and special gifts that can be used to serve others and glorify Him (1 Cor 12:7-11) and He loves and accepts us when the rest of the world may turn their back in rejection towards us. This is truth and when other thoughts enter into our mind, to the contrary we must recognize the source as coming from the father of lies. We may know what is true about ourselves and be secure in it but suddenly someone walks into our life and we find ourselves comparing who we are to who they are and thus enters sin.

As women, we must guard our minds from the overactive tendencies we have that can interfere with our relationships with friends and family. We must guard our hearts and minds by knowing truth so that Satan may not gain ground in our lives. It is so very easy for us to allow our minds to wander as we try to read between the lines of a conversation or the actions of someone else. Our minds can come up with all kinds of things to justify the behavior of others. Essentially, we are playing mind games with ourselves. The question when we head in this direction should always be "is this truth?" Praise the Lord for His truth because without it we would have no hope and no trust.

When our hope and trust comes from the Lord, it makes thinking on truth easier to accept. Hope and trust come from being secure in His love and loving others with His love. 1 Corinthians 13 clearly talks about love and what it is and it is not. As believers, we are called to love one another. Let us look at the meaning of this passage.

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. 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 perfection comes, the imperfect 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 childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor 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 13:4-13

Truth clearly states that "love does not delight in evil" and that it "rejoices in truth". Really read over that passage. When we find ourselves being jealous or keeping record of wrongs then we are not walking in the truth that God has laid out before us. When we question someone's actions or words or even distort them then we are violating what is required of us to love others as God has commanded. When we read into their words or actions instead of accepting them as they were presented then essentially, we are making that person out to be a liar. We must always ask ourselves what is true and what is real.

One of the hardest things to do is to train our minds not to think evil about another person. Trying to not second-guess or read between the lines is so hard because our sinful minds automatically want to assume the worst in people. We as women are very sensitive and emotional and many times take things out of context and lose focus and when we find ourselves second-guessing or analyzing each other, we then hinder the opportunities of having healthy relationships with one another. This leads us into Matthew.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

Matthew 18:15

In order to have healthy relationships we must obey truth. When someone has hurt or offended us, we are to go to them in private and bring it to their attention. This means that we should not waste away our days wondering and worried about what others think about us because truth says that if they are walking in truth then they will bring it before us. Instead of being hung up on whether or not people are having critical thoughts about you, turn toward God and His word or towards your mentor. They are the ones who know your heart and your attitude. They do not look at you through judgmental eyes and they will help you recognize or identify wrong attitudes.

The conclusion,

The wicked man flees though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1

Basically, if you are not guilty, don't act like it. If you are walking in truth then do not allow the world to condemn you and reject you because Christ is living through you. Enjoy your relationships that are from God and do not hold back from giving yourself to others for fear of what they may think. God places people in our lives for many different reasons and we decide whether they will be a blessing or a burden by whether or not we are walking in the truth of God's word.

"Father, help me to hide Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against my sister. Help me always to think on truth and to shy away from the tendencies of second-guessing those in my life. May I always take them at their word and remind me to always seek Your approval above all else."

June 11, 2008

Letting go

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom
and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.”
Psalm 107:13-15


How can the lack of forgiveness and hurt affect our walk with the Lord? So many of us walk around bound in the chains of the past and become stuck in a place of unhappiness. Everyone at one time or another experiences the pain of betrayal by someone we love and care deeply for whether it be a spouse, a friend, a child or a parent and we all also carry the experiences of our own sins and hurts that we have caused to others. It can literally destroy our lives if we let it and severely hinder our walk with the Lord if we do not let it go because we can become bound up and miss the opportunity of fully living in the present.


Once we have made Jesus Christ Lord of our life, we hand over the reins, giving Him the control of our lives able to lead us in the direction that He wants us to go. It means that we are no longer our own and have been brought back to God by the shedding of His Son's blood for us. When we allow Him to lead, we have to let go of the things in our past that are controlling us and hindering us from being able to walk in God's perfect plan for us. Jesus said that not anyone who is trying to move forward in his walk for God the Father - but keeps looking back - is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62) When we are walking with the Lord, we are to let go of the past and press forward because if we do not, we become stuck right where we are unable fully to accomplish all that God had planned for our lives. We cannot walk with Him if we are carrying loads of baggage because we are choosing the bondage of our past instead of the future He has for us. This then mean either we choose to throw ourselves pity parties, blaming everyone else for our misery or we can choose to rise up and be a brand new creation in Christ, choosing fully to surrender our lives to Him. Once we do that, He cleans out those closets and begins to heal our hearts making us usable for the plan that He had laid out for us even before we were born.


Now it is important that we learn from our past and realize where God has brought us but it cannot consume us to the point of becoming our focus. God is our healer and He is able to break away those chains and heal our hearts IF we fully believe that He can do it. For me, this came with the forgiveness of someone who betrayed my trust and hurt me deeply. I lived with anger towards this person for quite some time and every time I saw them, it would rage within me. Here is what I have learned. When someone hurts you, that person moves on with his or her life. If they have sinned and repented of this sin, for them it is over, God has forgiven them. They have moved on and God has redeemed them, giving them a new song to sing and a new life to live for Him. For those of us left in the wake of their sin, we must deal with the pain and hurt of the turbulence they caused in our lives. We are the ones who must deal with the resentment, bitterness and anger while they go about feeling freed of their past. Does not seem quite fair? Well here is what I have learned. It is totally fair because we too have sinned against someone in our own lives just like they have and we too have had to seek forgiveness from God for the hurt we've caused someone else and we too have moved on. So, why then do we dwell in self-pity and allow resentment to rage within our hearts? This is called human nature and happens when we are not willing to let go of the baggage we cling to so tightly instead of grabbing a hold of and clinging to God. You see, you cannot hold on to both things together because you cannot worship and follow God when you are clinging to the past, which has become your idol. He has to be your focus and He should be your focus because He is worth it all!


“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14


We have to put into practice not focusing on what is behind us but instead pressing ahead toward the goal, the life God has planned. We must reach ahead and surrender every part of our lives to Him so that He can accomplish all that His plans entail for us. If not, we are allowing the past to steal our joy and happiness and distort our thinking. We must offer true forgiveness that can only come from the Holy Spirit living within us and turn it over to the hands of God and His justice. He is the One who will right every wrong ever done to us and because of this; we are able to relinquish even our worst enemy over to Him. It all comes down to us reaching out and grabbing His hand and allowing the Holy Spirit to clean up the wounds in our life so that we can live out the life that God has for us. It is our choice as to whether we will continue to allow it to strangle and paralyze our lives or say enough is enough and give God that control and move forward.

June 10, 2008

Being a Conqueror

"We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

Romans 8:37

Life can be so difficult and most people choose to get through simply by coping. We can find ourselves unhappy in our marriages, in our friendships, being a parent and our jobs and so we settle with doing the best we can to get through. We look at it as if "oh well, this is the card I was dealt and so I'll just settle for this life/this circumstance". Do you really believe that this is how God wants us to live?

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul talks about life as a race and that the goal is not just to finish this race but also to win. Our goal in life should not be to just simply sit back and cope with the circumstances that are before us but to conquer and overcome them. When we choose to overcome the difficulties that we face in this life, not only does our faith grow but also our walk with the Lord becomes stronger. Romans 8:37 says, "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us". We are to be conquerors in this life and not just settle for getting by. When we choose the attitude "of just getting by", we are choosing self-pity and focusing totally on ourselves and not the One who gave His life to save us so that we could live a life that is abundant and full of His blessings. How do you choose to handle life? Have you chosen to cope with what life has thrown at you or are you choosing to be a conqueror, to overcome your circumstances? What is required of us in order to overcome the difficulties of this life?

Jesus told us to
"take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33) and so
we must remind ourselves that Jesus has already had the victory over the world and over Satan. He has already gone before us and prepared the way. He knows our every circumstance and He has already had the victory over every one of them whether we are willing to accept this or not because He is
"greater than the one who is in the world." (1John 4:4)
It is imperative that we find the joy in knowing that He has had the victory over the world. As believers, we are continually struggling with sin, Satan, doubt, and fear but we are running towards the finish line ahead and Jesus is at the end with His arms outstretched waiting for us to win, to recognize the hope that He offers to us no matter how hard we think our life is. There are spiritual battles that are being fought around us all the time and it is possible for us to stand against the enemy but we have to remain focused at all times on the prize. Spiritual deception is all around us and if we stay focused on the prize of Christ then we can stand against that deception and overcome it with His strength.

If we find ourselves choosing only to cope, we become apathetic in our Christian walk. We still believe the Truth but we make the choice to forfeit the abundance of it. When trials and hurts, persecution and attacks and troubles and disasters come our way, we must not give into fear or self-pity. We must rely on God alone to give us the strength we need to overcome in our adversity. You see, He does not usually deliver us out of the circumstance but He provides us with the strength that we need to get through it. God promises to supply our every need (Php 4:19) no matter where life has taken us but we can choose to be separated from Him by our own rebellion or by refusing to trust Him completely. If we are choosing to run the race that is life, we must practice spiritual discipline and turn over everything to Him allowing Him to move within us giving us the strength to overcome. When we are weak, we must ask Him for strength. We must allow His love and His power to fill our lives so that we can do more than just cope, we can overcome.

"Father, I praise You that you have overcome this world! You have had victory over the enemy and the trials before me and so I take joy in knowing that I can conquer all circumstances with Your strength and love. Make my heart yearn for more than just coping so that I may honor You with my life."


 


 

June 5, 2008

Who steals our joy?

"So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."

[John 16:22]


Who steals our joy? We in fact steal our own joy. We as Christians know and believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for our sins so that we may spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We know who God is and that He is for us and with us always. We know how great the depth and height of His love is for us. All of these things are reason alone for us to be full of joy at all times and thanking Him for all He has done for us in our lives but sometimes, life can make that difficult. Circumstances come into our life that cause us hurt and pain and so we tend to focus on those things instead of the radiance of Christ, the One who saved us. Sometimes, we get too busy in our day to day living that we forget who He is and can't even find time to praise Him even for a minute. Moreover, of course, there is the sin that we each commit daily whatever that may be. All of these things get in the way of being able to experience the fullness of joy by the Holy Spirit.

Many like to think that Satan is the one who takes our joy, that he can rob us of it. This is not my belief. I believe that once we have the seal of the Spirit upon us, Satan cannot touch the spiritual things given to us by God. I do however believe that our various acts of sin are what cause us to lose our joy and I believe that Satan is the one who leads our minds to the places that then lead us into sin. Sin entails many things and Galatians does a good job of spelling them all out for us.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21

I think each one of us can admit to recognizing one if not more of those sins listed above in our lives. Satan is the tempter and he comes to steal, kill and destroy, but we ultimately make the decision as to whether or not we will succumb to his temptations. We, because of human nature and selfish attitudes decide if we will choose the path of sin and turn from God and towards ourselves. When this happens, we are giving away our joy.

How sad that we can forfeit the joy that God has for us by focusing on ungodly things. We need to claim Philippians 4:8 and think on things that are true, think on God's word and not what "the world"/Satan is whispering in our ear. We have the incredible opportunity to walk in joy always by abiding in Christ but that can only happen when our minds are focused and set on Him. His word says that we should, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10. This is not just a suggestion but a command from the One who brings us joy and loves us enough that He wants us to experience the never-ending flow of it.

What robs you of your joy? Do you find yourself sad, angry, depressed or just too busy to love or serve others? These are just some of the things that can take away our joy because we have become focused on ourselves and not the One, who saved us, forgave us and gave His life for us. He should be our reason for living, the reason that we get out of bed in the morning. He should be the reason why we do EVERYTHING that we do. If we do anything for any other reason, then it is very likely they we will lose our joy. He is our reason to live and He alone should be our EVERYTHING. If our hearts, minds and souls love Him above all else and our eyes are focused on Him, then we will know His joy, a joy that will never fade.

"Father, I thank you for all You've done in my life. I praise You for Your mercy and grace and that You loved me enough to die for the sins in my life. May I not become so focused on myself that I lose focus of you and forfeit the joy that You have given to me. I pray that my mind and eyes stay upon You at all times and that I not become distracted by this world and the things is it."






June 4, 2008

The fullness of Joy

'At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.'"

Luke 10:21

As I wrote about the fruit of the Spirit yesterday, I would have never thought that God would allow me to experience joy in the way that He did. My little girl prayed and accepted Christ into her life yesterday evening and when she did, I literally thought that my heart was going to leap from my chest. There is nothing like experiencing the joy that comes from the Lord because He is the giver of our true joy. We as Christians experience moments of fleeting happiness but inner joy flows like a mighty river and can only come from Christ. This incredible experience comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit when we seek after Him and allow Him control of our lives.

The joy I experienced was a joy that comes from knowing my child's name is now written in the Book of Life and knowing that her salvation and identity are now found in Christ alone. It was such a gift and a blessing. In fact, I had planned on cleaning house and finishing some laundry but God had a different plan for me and let me just say how thankful I am that I stopped what I was doing and acknowledged the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart when my little one walked into the room.

As you read Luke 10:21, I love that God chooses to reveal Himself to the children. Here are wise men that have studied and learned but they rely on their own strength and knowledge and have not the faith of a child. God looks to the children, the ones whose faith is great and recognize who He is. There is no doubt in their minds as to who He is because they have not been tainted by the world and so they see Him in a way that our tarnished minds cannot. I cannot even fathom keeping a child from receiving Christ into their life. God planned it that way. He seeks after their soft hearts and begins to move within them in a way that we as adults cannot understand because at times we find that our hearts have become hardened by the doubt and deception of the world. It is our job as parents to recognize, encourage, guide and teach them God's truth and direct their love for Him. When we obey and allow Christ to dwell within us, we are able to experience His Chara-His abiding joy and share this with our children. What an honor and a privilege that He remains within us and that the same joy that filled Christ, fills us too.

Exactly how do we experience this kind of joy? Well scripture tell us to "rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20. The word rejoice in Greek is chairete which means that we should constantly rejoice in the fact that our name is written in the book of life and that our home is in heaven with God. Our fellowship with God is such a privilege and on top of that, we have access to His exciting power. In this, there is real joy because we have everlasting life with God that can never be taken from us and our rejoicing should never end. We also experience joy when we recognize His strength in our lives. As troubles come our way, we can choose to cower and be afraid or we can stand tall in His strength
"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) and encounter the joy of knowing that He alone carried us through our troubled times.
We also experience His joy when we serve and love others out of our obedience to Him because ultimately we are serving Him. There is incredible joy when we choose to minister to others instead of focusing on our own needs and desires. Putting others first will always fill us with great joy.

Now, it must be understood that joy is not an all the time thing. It can be lost and it will be lost at times. When we give and give to others and choose not to seek after Him, we can lose our joy. When we neglect our rest or caring for ourselves, we can become exhausted and lose our joy. Sometimes we may feel as if we are all alone in what God has us doing and all we are doing is setting ourselves us for a spiritual fall, which will take our joy. When we lose our joy, it is because we have given it away because joy comes from knowing that we cannot be defeated because our strength comes from Christ alone. However, there are these things and more that can rob us of our joy, but we can be sure that when we choose to obey His word and abide in Him, our joy in Him is restored.

The fruit of the Spirit stems from the very of heart of God.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

John 15:11

As we abide in Christ, our attitudes and hearts will then reflect that of Christ. We must cling to Him in all circumstances and refuse to retreat no matter what pressure is placed upon us. We must be "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20), abiding in Him and adhering to His presence. We must rejoice always "rejoice in the Lord always, again I way rejoice" (Philippians 4:8) and no matter what the circumstance when we seek after Him and allow Him control of our lives, then we can experience the Chara joy that He has for us.

June 3, 2008

Taste of good fruit

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

There is nothing like the life of the Spirit filled believer, it is a life led by the Spirit that is abundant and full. I keep this verse posted in my home and have made each of my children memorize this verse because to me, it is such an important verse because it is how we as believers are recognized. When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His fruit. We are given the seal of the Spirit, the identity of Christ, which means we have Christ-like character. The fruit of the Spirit is made up of nine character traits that set apart a believer from a non-believer. They are the result of being filled and led by the Spirit when we pray and ask He to daily fill us full and reside on the throne of our lives.

Jesus taught us that genuine believers would be known by the fruit that they produce,
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:16-20) He promised that having the presence of the Spirit in our lives would produce in us the fruit of love and obedience. When we have these qualities and we "live by the Spirit", we are fulfilling the requirements of God's people.

The fruit of the Spirit is made up of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these qualities paint a beautiful picture of what relationships should look like when we are walking in the Spirit but the first and most important of the fruit is love. We know that God has commanded us to love Him and others. We are to love God with all our mind, soul and heart and to love others as ourselves. We are to "serve one another in love"
(vs13). Love fulfills the law, "The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) and it is the truest expression of our faith,
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)
Love was best demonstrated for us in the sacrifice that Christ made for us upon the cross and we in turn demonstrate love through our love and service to one another. All the other characteristics of the fruit flow from that of love. Once we understand and have godly love, the other traits will flow naturally from us.

Joy is the result of loving one another unconditionally and having healthy relationships. When we understand God's love and forgiveness and we practice it in our lives, we are filled with His Joy inside of us. Some may never know true joy because they cannot let go of resentment and anger and cannot find love and forgiveness in their hearts towards those who have wronged them. When we cannot let go of our hurts and we are focused on ourselves, we cannot experience the fullness of joy that fills our hearts when we allow the Holy Spirit to reside on the throne of our lives. When we practice true love in our relationships, the result is the renewal of joy in our lives.

Peace is the result of serving one another in love. We are more likely to have peace in our lives when we are focused on the needs of others and not ourselves. There is satisfaction in serving and ministering to those we love and through this, our Spirit finds peace.

Patience is the quality of staying with the people who constantly irritate us or who have hurt or wronged us.

Kindness and goodness go hand in hand with patience, teaching us that having a soft, non-judgmental heart and doing good for others is how we stay on the course of God's true love.

Faithfulness is keeping the commitments we have towards one another in our relationships. It means seeking truth at all times no matter what our minds may lead us to think about those around us. Only living in the Spirit can generate true devotion in our relationships.

Gentleness is the result of humbleness and it involves considering the hurts and needs of others before our own personal goals and agendas. It means giving our time, money, even ourselves when we may not have it to give. It means trusting and having faith in God that He will provide and bless because you are choosing to live to love those that He has commanded you to love.

Self-Control is having the strength to say no to our desires and to sinful nature. It is knowing truth, recognizing when our desires become sinful, and having the strength to walk away.

When we put to death our sinful nature and become a new creation in Christ, we open the way for the Spirit to come and reside within our lives. It means that we die to our sinful desires and turn from our evil passions. Just because we become filled with the Spirit does not mean that all those sinful ways will disappear. It is up to us to crucify those sinful ways. It means that when we hear a bit of juicy gossip, we choose to say, "no, I don't want to hear it" or when there is pornography before our eyes, we turn the channel or throw away the magazine. We make the choice as to whether we will sin or honor God. We are "to keep in step with the Spirit" (5:25) by serving and loving one another at all times. We do not have the right to say we are too tired or do not have time. It has been commanded to us to "love one another as ourselves "and to "serve one another in love". (5:13) When we choose ourselves over the needs of others, we have entered into sin and have returned to our sinful nature thus taking Christ off the throne. We must keep our focus upon the cross and the One who was the perfect demonstration of love for us for if we do not have love, we have nothing.

"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. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing."

1 Corinthians 13:1-3


"Without Him I could do nothing. Without Him I'd surely fail.

Without Him I would be drifting like ship without a sail.

Jesus O Jesus, do you know Him today? You can't turn Him away.

O Jesus, O Jesus, without Him, how lost I would be.

Without Him I could be dying. Without Him I'm be enslaved.

Without Him life would be hopeless, but with Jesus, thank God, I'm saved."

Hymn-Without Him

Mylon R. LeFevre 1963