February 26, 2010

Cheap Grace

"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous."

1 John 3:10-11


"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

1 John 4:7-12


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

John 13:34


"It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."

2 John 1:4-6


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

John 13:34-35


"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 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."

1 Peter 3:8-9


"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

Ephesians 4:2-3

Lately my own walk has been rocky and unstable because I am dealing with issues of loving those whom I feel are "unworthy" of my love. This morning I spent time looking up passages talking about how we are to love and becoming completely overwhelmed by the conviction that it is commanded if we truly love God to love others. There are people in my life who I feel have been cruel and hurtful and it becomes very easy for me to act is if they do not exist. The more I read this morning the more I realized how much of a sin this truly is.

Biblical love is not confined to a primary feeling or sexuality. We are taught in scripture that love is a commitment and does not come from a place of warm, fuzzy feelings but instead of a place of selflessness and obedience. Instead of focusing on what we need and ourselves we choose to extend ourselves for the goodness of those around us. When we choose to love, especially those who have hurt us, then those good feelings will be produced within us. The act of obedience is what will bring us true joy, fulfillment, and goodness. Jesus was that perfect example for us of selflessness when he gave up His life for our benefit.

We are commanded to love one another and that means everyone. Choosing to disobey this command is a sin and our sin in turn leaves us in debt to God requiring His grace. When we sin, do we find ourselves in mourning for what we have done wrong? Do we even recognize that passing a neighbor and deliberately ignoring them is a sin? Every time we choose to disrespect one another, we choose to disobey what God has commanded us to do and in turn are practicing cheap grace. Cheap grace is asking for forgiveness without truly seeking repentance. It is assuming the offense has been paid in advance and continuing to commit the same sin repeatedly with no thought to the cost of the sin, which was the cost of God's only Son upon the cross.

Do we choose cheap grace? Do we choose to deliberately disrespect our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than extending grace and love to one another? Rather than choosing to love our neighbor, we hurt one another. Instead of seeking His will for our life, we seek our own. Instead of forgiving our enemies, we choose to attack. We all are sinful and disobedient and every day we choose to break the heart of God when we choose to mistreat another one of God's children. As a mother of five, I can begin to see what God sees when we behave in this way. If anyone treated my children the way that I have treated some of those who have hurt me, I would be angry, disappointed, and ready to retaliate. Because I am a child of God, I feel that He looks upon my hurts with the same anger and disappointment. Scripture reminds me that only God can justify and condemn the actions of others.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

Romans 8:28-34

In order to be obedient I must choose to love, forgive and encourage as He has called me to do. No matter how hard I try to justify my lack of love or forgiveness towards someone else because of the hurt they have caused me, it will always be an act of disobedience, an act of sin and a practice of cheap grace. I will choose to love others over myself because I want to love God and obey Him for the sacrifice which was His only Son for me.



February 23, 2010

What to eat?

"When your words came, I ate them; 
       they were my joy and my heart's delight, 
       for I bear your name, 
       O LORD God Almighty."

Jeremiah 15:16

Many of us are spiritually starving to death. We have settled for the garbage of this world instead of indulging on the goodness of God's Truth.

We eat of this garbage each time we fill our minds and hearts with sexually suggestive movies or music, each time we value the praise of others over the praise of God or when we try to revenge on someone who has hurt us. We are so full of all of this junk that we are no longer hungry for the things that are good. There is no room for the goodness of God's Truth in our lives.

When we are hungry for God, He satisfies us yet leaves us hungry for more of Him. St. Augustine said, "You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

Healthy eating requires effort and selection of the right foods. We do not eat just by being in the same room as food just as we do not take in the Truth of God by being at church or a retreat. We recognize our need for spiritual nourishment when we take the initiative and recognize our need for Truth in our lives. We should be aware and selective when given options by this world as to where we seek Truth. Just as there are many different groceries stores with many different choices and varieties of food, the same exists with where Truth will be found and what we will be spiritually fed. These things can only be recognized when time is spent in His Word and we are grounded in His Truth. Only then, will we feel the fullness of His goodness and find satisfaction in being filled with His love, peace, joy and strength.

February 18, 2010

Bless or Curse???

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

An enemy is defined as a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent. Our enemies are out to harm and hurt us but Jesus says that we are to bless and pray for those who mistreat us. Why should we be kind to those who cause us harm? We show kindness to others because we are to be a reflection of Christ and we are to be God to the world. God is kind-even to those who are not and He loves those that we think are hopeless. We should not base our kindness on what we think our enemies actually deserve but instead because we are to love and forgive them as Christ loved and forgave us.

Kindness is the sign of a heart that loves and one of the greatest virtues. God is our perfect model of kindness and the kindest act ever committed was when He sent His own Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that we might spend eternity with Him in heaven.



February 15, 2010

Cobwebs, dust and boxes full of junk

"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed."

Deuteronomy 30:16-18



It is the middle of February and right around the corner is spring. Time to throw open the windows and let the fresh air fill the rooms that have been closed up tight for months and give everything a good cleaning. How often does God want to get inside of our hearts and do a little cleaning? For me, He probably would like to do it every day.

I have realized lately that I have a tendency to hold on to things that I need to let go of and that are causing me harm. It is kind of like all those boxes of things I have stored up in the attic that I just cannot bear to part with that would make great kindling for a fire. So many things that need to be removed in our lives that takes up space and is harmful. Relationships that hinder our walk and discourage us instead of holding us accountable and bringing us encouragement.

For me it is letting go of what makes me comfortable. For eight years, my identity had been found in a particular activity. It was my passion and gift but it became my crutch. I relied on it to keep me going and to keep me surrounded with "godly" people. I figured that if I stayed where I was there was no way I could go astray because I was doing God's work and working with other "godly" people. I was wrong as I often times am. For several years, God had been trying to clean house in my heart and get me to move on but I chose not to listen. I was comfortable where I was and the possibility of having to do something else made me quite anxious and fearful so I disobeyed and with my disobedience came my destruction.

I got lost in all the clutter. I was trying to clean out the wrong things in an attempt to ignore what He really wanted me to do away with and just found myself lost in all the clutter. How silly when we try to do what we think is best instead of listening. I am realizing that God knows my heart and my ways unlike anyone else and so He knows when enough is enough. He knows when we have been in one place for too long and have become complacent and that place no longer has any effect on our lives. He knows when we need something new to awaken our hearts much like that warm bright sun shining through those open windows after a long winter.

Change is not always fun but it is needed in order for us to take necessary steps forward in our lives. We cannot stay in one place forever or it will become too comfortable and there will no longer be the challenge to be more or do more for Him.


February 13, 2010

Do not fret

"Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;

for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land."


Psalm 37:1-9





YJM6G4C4GGDM

February 11, 2010

Faith is thicker than Blood

From the beginning, I have told myself, that I would not write a bunch of superficial, hyper-spiritual fluff on this blog. I want to be as honest and as real as I possibly can in order to share who Christ is in my own life as well as whom He is for everyone. I believe everything that I share and I believe that the Bible is God breathed and that every word of it is true. Knowing truth and applying it to our lives does not make us perfect Christians. Truth be told, NO one is a perfect Christian or person for that matter. Many portray a life that will lead others to believe that they have it all together or that they live without sin but it just is not true. We each are human and because of our sinful human nature, we all sin.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:23


"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives."
1 John 1:8-10

Because of our sin, we hurt others. I truly do not believe there is a sin out there that does not in one way or another touch the life of someone else when committed. This means that we need either to ask someone for forgiveness or be the one to forgive and that can be a HUGE undertaking. I know because scripture commands it, that I am to forgive those who have wronged or hurt me but actually following through with that command is a very different story. Sometimes our hurt runs so deep that it consumes us. Sometimes our hurt comes from years of pain that our hearts become callused that we just do not know which way to go. Sometimes we think we have forgiven until we actually see that person again and want to run the other way due to the pain we feel stirring within us.

God created each of us with a unique personality and the will to choose the decisions that we make in our life. When we are hurt by someone and want to forgive, God does not just flip a switch within us that then makes everything better. Every trial, struggle and pain that occurs in our life happens to grow and mature us in our faith.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

James 1:2-4

Forgiveness is a process and takes times. If we do not truly forgive, oftentimes we push our hurt to the back of our minds and try avoiding it all together and it becomes "scabbed" over. As time passes, things pick away at that scab and the wound is revealed yet again and may become infected from lack of forgiveness. If we ignore our pain instead of choosing to deal with it, it will begin to fester within us and our whole spirit will be infected by the bitterness and resentment caused by this pain. Once infected by bitterness, it requires healing that can only come from our Heavenly Father, the greatest Physician and the One who can heal every hurt we suffer but can only be accomplished when we actually turn it over to Him.

Now for the honest part of this posting. I need to forgive. There is forgiveness that I need to extend and quite a bit of hurt I need to let go but the struggle is quite great. I know what I have written is true but my sinful nature reminds me every time I think of these people, the hurt they have caused me and I actually find myself dwelling upon it at times. I guess it is safe to say that my wounds are not healed and I am picking away at those scabs completely on my own. I have dealt with unforgiveness in the past and the bitterness that it causes and I do not want to find myself there again. I want to find the good in people and I want my faith in people to be restored. I want to know that "the church" IS for good and that "the church" IS family. In a sermon on Sunday, it was said that Faith is stronger than blood. Simply put, being Christians makes us a family and we should stand beside one another and love one another just as we do our immediate families. This means extending forgiveness and showing grace to not just our immediate families but our church families aw well. We are to love and forgive just as Christ loves and forgives. Doing this requires effort and love but when Christ leads us, it can be accomplished in our lives.

It is safe to assume we have not all lived a Pollyanna life that has been filled with rainbows and butterflies and where forgiveness comes with a simple "I'm sorry". For those who have suffered hurt at the hands of someone they have loved and trusted, know that forgiveness takes time. There is hope when we trust in the Lord and allow Him to clean out the hurt and begin to heal our wounds. We just have to allow Him to do so and once we do, there is a peace that comes and we are able to understand God's grace and mercy in much greater ways.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
       and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways acknowledge him, 
       and he will make your paths straight." 
Proverbs 3:5-6

February 9, 2010

Unclean

"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean'."

Matthew 15:18


The Pharisees did all the right things. They attended every service, gave ten percent of all they had and prayed several times a day. People looked at them and thought they were truly committed to God but they were not. Jesus called them "whitewashed tombs" who appeared to be neat and clean on the outside but inwardly they were dead and rotten. All their words and actions were meaningless due to the sinfulness of their hearts.

It is just like a sponge. Squeeze it and whatever comes out is what is inside. When the circumstances in our lives challenge us, our hearts and lives are tested and whatever comes out of our mouths, is a clear indication as to the condition of our heart.

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."

Matthew 12:34b-35

Whatever flows from our hearts, will be revealed to the world through our words. Do we speak words of encouragement to those who are down? Do we keep our mouths closed when we could say something to hurt someone the way that they have hurt us? Do we praise and thank God for His faithfulness and strength? Do we choose to walk away from a conversation that is tearing down someone's character? Do our words reflect a passion for God?

There is evidence in our lives when our hearts are full of self but oftentimes we do not even recognize it as evil because we have become so numb it. Doing the right thing just isn't enough. We need hearts that are pure.

"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "

Matthew 15:18-20

We cannot make our hearts pure. Only God can do that because a pure heart is a work of God. The Holy Spirit identifies the evil within us but we must claim and confess it in order to become clean. We can be encouraged by David. He not only sinned terribly by committing adultery with Bathsheba but he also committed murder to try to cover it up. When he finally came face to face with his sins, he threw himself on God's amazing grace and repented. He experienced true forgiveness and was washed clean. He did not just want to be forgiven of his sins but wanted God to change his heart and make it pure.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Psalm 51:10

We see the wretchedness of our own hearts and attempt to change but oftentimes fall back into our own ways. We have to seek God for stability to pursue a pure heart and our stability can only come from a daily walk with Him. Each day we must recognize that we can only depend on Him in order for our hearts to be purged and purified. We all could use a heart change and one day we will all have to give account for the careless words we speak.

"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Matthew 12:36-37

February 8, 2010

Edify

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

1 Thessalonians 5:11,15

"The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Proverbs 18:21


We each are given the choice whether we will be an encouragement to others. We decide whether we will help to lighten another's burden or help to lift their spirits. The words we speak have the power to kill or give life.

In a world where people feel empowered by bringing down others, encouragement is greatly needed and God gives us the great power to strike down the negativity brought on by others. Telling people that they matter and are accepted are wonderful ways to speak encouragement into a life.

We can become the voice of God's grace in others and may be the only encouraging word they hear in a day when we speak words of kindness, love and support.

The definition of encouragement in the New Testament means to edify or come alongside of another just as Christ did and does with each of us. When we choose to focus on things above and not things of this world (Colossians 3:2) then we will recognize the opportunities that surround us to be an encouragement.

So make the choice. Will you encourage those around you? If so, then choose to commit to encouraging others as well as value those around you and in that you find that you will be encouraged as well.

February 5, 2010

A Gift

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Ephesians 4:29

When our resistance is weak and we have grown tired, we need someone who will come beside us and show us understanding. We need someone to root for us and motivate us to have the strength and dedication to move forward. When jobs are lost and the money is gone, we need an encourager. When we become a single parent and the world seems against us, we need an encourager. When friends and family turn against us, we need an encourager. Those who encourage inspire us with courage and hope. What we would not give to have someone to come alongside of us and comfort us. We must make the choice to follow the example of Christ and choose to encourage others. "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus" Romans 15:5 Encouragers give us a beautiful gift when they bring renewal through encouragement.



February 3, 2010

Evil for Evil

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody."

Romans 12:17

"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."

1 Peter 3:9


I am someone who does not handle injustice well and is truly hurt when having to watch someone suffer from being falsely accused. Injustice is defined as unfairness, an act that inflicts undeserved hurt, an act that involves unfairness to another or violation of one's rights.


Why is it that the people of this world who lie, cheat and steal seem to be the ones that succeed? Why do they get away with their evil deeds and then are looked up to by the world?


Thinking about those people finally having to pay their dues may bring a smile to your face for the moment but in the end, vengeance does not belong to us. It only corrupts our soul and hardens our heart. When someone has wronged us, we should leave vengeance and revenge to God and instead lift up in prayer those who have harmed us. We cannot control the actions and words of other people or stop people from taking advantage of us but we can cry out to God who protects and loves us. He knows the truth, the motives and the hearts of all people and He responds in a just way. Knowing this truth, we can find peace in the middle of all the evil of those surrounding us.

February 1, 2010

Good or evil?

"The tongue can kill or nourish life" Proverbs 18:21



Most people do not realize the power of their words and how they can be used for great good or for evil.


Not long ago, a neighbor carelessly and without any idea of harm said some negative words about me that for quite some time have had a profound impact upon my thinking. It has been a warning to me about the consequences of the words I use toward others. The harmful words of this neighbor affected my self-image. It has taken time but I have been able to put it aside. Someone told me, "You don't count your critics, you weigh them." When I came to realize that the neighbor was being unwise and careless in her comments, it no longer had any significance in my life.


I got to thinking about that incident when I read about a young college girl who returned home for Christmas after her first semester at a university. It had been an extremely difficult time for her both socially and academically. She really had no knowledge of what worldliness looked like in a college setting.

Because of loneliness and the fear of being rejected by her peers, she fell into a number of temptations that went against her convictions. One morning she decided to meet with her pastor and struggled to get out the words in her cry for help.

When she arrived, her pastor was happy to see her and wanted to hear all about what she had been doing during her time at college. She blurted out that she was a complete mess and that between the alcohol and sex she could no longer stand herself. He responded to her with "What? You, the most stable and mature Christian girl in our church? You should be ashamed of yourself." The girl immediately ran out the door crying.


Often times, Christians lose their opportunity to be redemptive because of their judgementalism. Sometimes our outbursts of rejection can drive people completely away and further into sin. Before we speak, we should consider our words wisely and think ahead to the impact they might make on the life of another.

"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and healing to the bones" Proverbs 16:24