Tag Archives: Christian

Following Jesus

For the last several weeks, my church has been going through the Gospels–reading one chapter each day and listening to a sermon on Sunday that covers material from the previous week’s chapters. Doing this has been good for me. I’m using a Bible with study notes, and I’ve read these notes for each of the chapters. God is using the notes to help me come to a clearer understanding of His Word.

This understanding has made me uncomfortable which is the point, I think. All of us who are Christians have our own understanding of Jesus. We try to make Him like us so He will be easier to understand. We think He needs to be the same race, sex, socioeconomic status, and physical and emotional health as us for us to follow Him. We also think we need to add rules to what He wants us to do as we follow Him. None of this is true, and we only need to look in Scripture to find this out.

Luke 10:27, “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.'” That’s it. Spelled out with such beauty and simplicity. It can be uncomfortable, this journey of leaning into His love and grace and sharing it with other people. But it is so worth it. It is so very worth it.

I have listened to two songs recently that illustrate the beauty and simplicity of what Jesus has done for us. The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe is one of them. The chorus of this song is especially meaningful. “For this cause I live. For this cause I’d die. I surrender all. For the cause of Christ. All I once held dear, I will leave behind. For my joy is this. Oh the cause of Christ.” I also liked this part of the song because it reminded me that Jesus is Jesus. I can’t add anything to Him nor can I take anything away. “Jesus my Jesus. For Your glory, for Your Name. Jesus my Jesus. I will only sing your praise.”

The other song reminded me of what Jesus did for me on the cross. I can’t add to or take anything away from that either. From Man of Sorrows by Hillsong: “Now my debt is paid. It is paid in full. By the precious blood. That my Jesus spilled. Now the curse of sin has no hold on me. Whom the Son sets free. Oh is free indeed.”

It is freeing to know that God doesn’t want us adding anything to what Jesus did for us. Jesus is Jesus, who died on the cross for all of our sins and who was resurrected from the dead giving us a path to God we didn’t have before. It’s simple to follow Jesus. Make the choice to believe and then love him and love your neighbor with all your heart. God handles the rest!

Praying for God’s grace and love for you all today!

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Giving it to God

How many ways have we tried to solve tough situations on our own? Going through a tough situation is against our nature so when it comes upon us, we do our best to get away from it as quickly as possible. We do such things as talk to the people involved and ask others for advice. We feel such emotions as worry, anxiety, and depression. We pray too, but we are mostly just consumed with what is going on. I’m sure all of us have had these same emotions and thoughts and sometimes, more than one at a time which can get confusing.

God doesn’t want our lives to be like this though. He wants us to leave our burdens at His feet and find rest as it says in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Christ’s burden–I like that better than the burden of feeling left out because there was no room in the car or the burden of trying to convince a family member that God loves them even when nothing about their situation changes, and they keep dealing with the same fears over and over again.

Earlier in this post, I wrote a list of the things people do and the way they feel in tough situations. One of those things is beneficial–something that God wants us to do along with releasing the burden to Him. Prayer. Talk to our Lord and Savior about anything and everything. He wants that deep relationship with us, but sadly, most of us just include prayer in a list of things to do in a tough situation and don’t believe there is power in prayer only offering up a superficial prayer, at most.

There is power in prayer though, and I’m starting to think God is wanting me to take it off of the list and depend on it alone. Ā Jesus says this in Mark 11:22-25. “‘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 your sins.'”

Wow! The power in these verses. The power of the words can be heard when they are said out loud. I want that power in my life. Shouldn’t all of us who are believers want that power in their lives? Now, before anyone says they have prayed and prayed to God and nothing has happened, let me offer some disclaimers. I know I’m not going to get everything I want by praying, and I know for sure that money is not going to pour out of the sky in my direction. Everyone would be a Christian if those kind of “pie in the sky” prayers worked. šŸ™‚

No, God wants our prayers to be honoring to Him. He wants out prayers to honor Him and to honor our faith in Him. He wants our prayers to be the “Even if” and the “Your will be done” kind of prayers. Those are the kind of prayers which have power.

Some of you might remember me speaking of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me several weeks ago, and I think the chorus of the song is the perfect way to end this post.

“I know You’re able, and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.”

My hope is in my Lord and Savior alone, and today, I give everything in my life to Him!”

 

Praying for God’s blessings on you all!

Growing and Changing

There’s a reason new believers are encouraged to read Scripture, pray, and participate in the life of a church. That’s how they learn about this new faith they’ve adopted and learn how to listen for God’s voice. I think that’s also the time when their hearts are most open to change which makes it a good time to fuel their excitement.

But, God wants us to keep our hearts open to change and growth all of the time which is what I’ve been learning in my Bible study. Our hearts can grow static when we get to a point where we think we know it all or where life has beaten us down so badly that we’re unable or have no desire to listen to what God is trying to tell us. I’ve had all of those feelings recently, and it was challenging to pick up my Bible or talk to God.

Through all this though, I’ve done my best to keep an open heart and what I was hearing in my heart was the same. ‘Keep reading, keep studying, keep praying. You don’t know where I’m taking you, but I do.’ So, the discipline of opening my Bible every morning and writing in my journal continued. As we all know, the Bible is the Word of God and is where we learn His truth. It can change our hearts if we let it, and I can sense the changes happening in me.

A truth was brought home to me earlier, and I think God put me in that place so I would hear it. I’ve always thought I needed to be willing to do things for God, and yes, I do. But, what I’ve not considered is that God wants to work through the person that I am. The person who is an introvert. The person who is a watcher and a noticer. The person who takes a little longer to enter a situation. The person who writes her heart out so that others can know how much God loves us. All of this is life liberating for me. God created ME to share His love even though I’m not a person who people flock around. I’m valuable to God just the way I am.

This doesn’t mean I don’t ever want to grow and change. That IS the point of this post. It just means that God wired me to be a certain type of person, and that person is the person God wants to work through to share His love with a world who needs it desperately.

Praying for God’s blessings for you all today!

 

Healing in my Heart

Last week, I wrote about a new Bible study I was starting. A study which talks about rejection and how God can fill those empty places caused by rejection if we would just let Him. “Let go and let God.” We’ve heard these words; we’ve seen these words written down, but do we really practice them? Like I said last week, I fail at practicing them a lot. They seem so simple, but they can be difficult in our Christian walk.

Something happened though as I was dealing with that difficult situation from last week, and I realized that, through it, God has already opened my heart for His healing to start pouring in. My open heart has made me more open to hearing His voice (through prayer and Scripture), to hearing the author of the Bible study as she imparts His truths, and to releasing any guilt I might be feeling for taking a step back. Keeping my eyes on Jesus and not on the world has been the best thing for me as I am listening for what He wants me to hear.

God has also met me with specific words about the situation I was dealing with, and this is where releasing guilt comes in. My Lord has given me many gifts, but dealing with preteen boys is not one of them. I could feel guilty about not doing my “part” at church to help out with them, but it is not my job to acknowledge and use gifts that God has given to other people. That’s between them and God.

I also had some other takeaways related to the Uninvited study. I’m not a popular person at church and won’t ever be the popular person at church. I’m not going to be close with everyone, but Jesus commands me to love everyone. (I’m still figuring out how that works.) Prayer is the most important thing we believers can do as we live out our lives here in this world. Making the effort in relationships is what God wants us to do even if it turns out badly. Pulling back for a season is ok too.

The previous paragraph is a hodgepodge of disparate thoughts, and one might wonder how they would work if a person is in an environment where they are experiencing continual rejection. One of these is covered in the Uninvited study. The session this week talked about going into a situation being filled by God as opposed to expecting to be filled by others. As I’ve studied Scripture and prayed, I have come to realize the truth of this statement. God is waiting to fill us. We only need to ask Him which I think, sadly, not a lot of us are doing these days.

I think the other thing though is a sad statement on all of us who are believers. We have all done our fair share of rejecting people–only seeing our differences and not seeing the things that are the same namely that we who are believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Personally, if someone is in a church and experiencing continual rejection, I would question the salvation of those believers. Harsh words, yes. But, we all need to know the truth of what God wants from us. Rejecting others is a sin. He wants us to embrace our differences and our similarities as we live out our lives as one body.

It has been life changing and healing to be a part of this study so far. To have God’s healing grace moving in my life has helped me understand what He wants from me as a believer. I’m looking forward to what else He has to teach me through it.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Uninvited

This week I have started a Bible study with this title by Lysa TerKeurst. I’ve only read the first few chapters, and it has already blessed me. Because, you see, I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I was alone even after I accepted Jesus. I think that’s why God led me to the study. He wants me to settle, once and for all, the question of how much He loves me. This post is not going to be a review of the book or the study. Rather, I’m going to record my reactions to it and how God is working in my life through it.

The first three chapters were a litany of ‘Yeah, that’s me. Yeah, that’s me. Yeah, me too.’ As you can see, I have a lot of work I need to do in being absolutely certain of God’s love for me. There have been times I’ve done well with this concept. I’ve been able to minister to the people around me with Jesus’ love. I’ve kept a positive attitude and a positive emotional state and felt like I’ve done the things Jesus wanted me to do. In other words, I have felt His love and have been able to pour it back out to people.

But, as I read the first three chapters, I saw many quotes that reflected what I have felt at other times. Alone and left out, not as good as other people in the church. I have walked up to people and conversations have stopped. I have had people walk away from me. I have been rejected, and it has hurt me down to my core. I know some of you know what that feels like. I have fought the fight though especially during the last five years. I have studied Scripture and know the words of our Lord and Savior. Rejection doesn’t come from Him. It comes from our sin nature. It comes from us wanting to feel more important than other people. In fact, not loving someone because they are different from us, is not what Jesus calls us to do. He calls us to love everyone and not reject them.

The question I have struggled with though is how that works with other people. How can we love other people when the sting of rejection goes down to our core? How can we reflect what Jesus has given to us? I know what Jesus has given to me, and I believe that with all of my heart, but many times, I fail in the practice of it. I believe this study will help me as I read and listen and move forward with this journey called life, and I will feel more certain of God’s love for me.

Earlier, I wrote about the quotes I had read in the book that fit how I felt when I felt alone or left out. This is the quote from the book I would like to get to. “God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.” Seems easy enough, but it’s so hard to put in practice. Why, you ask? Well, after I finished my reading last week, I had a disaster of a day on Saturday. I volunteered for something I shouldn’t have. I ended up being the only adult with a group of children from kindergarten-preteen age. They didn’t know what to expect, and neither did I. It went from good to bad quickly. The preteens decided to see how far they could challenge me, and it was not pleasant. In fact, it was a truly awful experience. I went home with hands shaking and tears flowing down my face. I felt like a failure which is why I, at first, decided not to tell the parents of any of these children. It was my failure not theirs. I had the experience and decided I would never put myself in that situation again. I felt like all the experience I had with children in the past didn’t matter.

After I thought about it some more, I changed my mind and approached some of the parents the following day. (Did I mention confrontation is extremely difficult for me?) It took every ounce of courage for me to do so because I still felt like a failure though I knew I was only part of the equation. The conversations went well which I was happy about. I still need to have some conversations. I hope they go well, but if they don’t and I am rejected for what I have to say, I am praying I can remember the quote from the book and feel God’s love in the depth of my bones despite being rejected.

I know this post has been all over the place, but it’s where my thoughts have been going since starting the study. I don’t know where God is going to take me with this, but I’m looking forward to healing and learning how to “live…loved.”

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

The Honesty of Children

I had the choice of two titles for this post today. I chose this one because the other title had more than one meaning, and I didn’t want it to distract from what I was trying to say.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, children. The other day I kept the daughter of a friend of mine. She’s little (4), and I planned things to do I thought she would like. Since my sons are 20 and almost 18, it had been a long time since I had a young child in my home. My younger son and I went to get her in the morning and stopped at a local store before we went home. The first thing I noticed was that she could change her mind at lightning speed. She would tell me she wanted to do something, and then, seconds later, she would tell me she wanted to do the exact opposite. It was dizzying to keep up with.

After we arrived back home, I took her to see the lake at our apartment complex and then to the playground. It was fun to see things through the eyes of a child and to see her joy. I think we adults lose that sometimes.

Another thing we lose is our ability to be honest. Think about it. If a child doesn’t want to go to bed or eat his green beans, he will tell you in a heartbeat, right? And then, he will throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get his way. Now, some things are necessary even if a child doesn’t like them, and it’s our job as adults to show them what is important. But, that’s not my point. Children are honest about their likes, dislikes, fears, and joys. Their feelings can be seen on their faces. They haven’t learned to conceal them yet like adults have.

These thoughts continued to roll through my head as I watched her play a video game with my son, eat her lunch, and help me make chocolate cupcakes. She didn’t have to wonder if she was loved. She had a joy in living that I struggle to find sometimes. I remember, in particular, what she said when I gave her one of the cupcakes to eat. She wanted to watch my son play his game while she ate so I gave it to her in a little bowl and reminded her to eat it over the bowl so she wouldn’t spill crumbs. She looked up at me and said, “Mrs. Alisa, this is so much fun! Thank you!” Every part of her face and body radiated her joy. I told her I had enjoyed spending the day with her, and she proceeded to eat her cupcake.

Later on, I thought about what a good day we had. My family has a treasured relationship with this little girl and her family. Love is there and in a big way. It is not at all like my relationships with other adults. Not like when I look at my relationships and see the lack of them wondering what I’ve done. Not like when I stiffen up and find it hard to talk to people. Not like when I depend on regular gatherings to keep in contact with people and then they stop. It’s hard to know the answers to my questions because, as adults, we are trained to not be honest in our relationships. We are trained to be afraid of anything that is different from us. We are trained to not have joy.

I wonder sometimes if God looks down at us and wonders why we are not coming to Him as little children do. Why we can’t be honest about our joy and our tears. Why we hide behind a shiny veneer of ‘Everything’s great. Everything is just fine.’ instead of allowing people to see our broken hearts and our broken spirits. My guess is that He sadly shakes His head.

I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be the one who life has beaten down to the very nub. I want to be more like my little friend who shows her joy and her sadness, who shows her likes and her dislikes. I want to come to Jesus like a little child.

God’s blessings on you all today!

The Prosperity Gospel

What do you think of when you see these words? Are your thoughts positive, or are your thoughts negative? Does bile gather at the back of your throat as it does in mine, or do you think you’re hitting all the marks in your faith because you have a huge house, your kids go to a private school, and you’ve gone on a cruise this year?

People have strong opinions on this topic, and they are what have inspired my post today.

First, what exactly is the prosperity gospel? Wikipedia defines it as a “religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. The definition goes on to say that “if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”

I would dare to say that most everyone who claims Christ as Savior has encountered this philosophy if they haven’t embraced it at times. And why wouldn’t they if things were going well. Wouldn’t it be obvious to assume God is blessing a person if thingsĀ areĀ going well? Many of us have heard such examples from television evangelists or even from the pulpits of our own churches. I used to believe in it myself. It made sense to me that God would bless the people who believed in Him.

But then, life happened to me, in a big way. I lost grandparents, my in-laws, good friends; my husband had multiple surgeries which put a strain on us physically, financially, emotionally; we were betrayed by people in former churches which caused us to spend several years outside of the church; public school turned out to not be a good fit for my children, and we began homeschooling them. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I’ve written before in this blog about how God brought our family back to Him and to the church. In the last five years, my faith and my relationship with God has come to mean more to me than it ever did before. Along with that growth, as you would expect, I’ve read and studied Scripture so I would know how to follow this God of mine. It has been an amazing journey. I’ve read through the complete Bible once, and I’m working on doing so again.

This past week I was in Proverbs, and I came across some of the same verses that people use to claim prosperity in God’s name. I thought about all the “wealth” that television evangelists and pastors I have known in the past had and how they used this wealth to beat down other people in God’s name. Literally, the whole concept of pretending that God thinks better of someone because they have money disgusts me to the core. That’s not my God! That’s not my Jesus!

How do I reconcile that with the verses in Proverbs though? Verses such as Proverbs 3:16-17. “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.”

What about Proverbs 8:18-21? “With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the ways of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.”

Wealth? I don’t have wealth in the traditional sense. How am I supposed to take these verses then? The Bible I’m reading right now is the NIV Life Application Study Bible (with lots of notes). I’ve been reading the notes as I’ve studied, and they’ve made things clearer to me. Here are what the study notes say for Proverbs 3:16-17. “Proverbs contains many strong statements about the benefits of wisdom, including long life, wealth, honor, and peace. If you aren’t experiencing them, does this mean you are short on wisdom? (I would add, are you not as good of a Christian?) Not necessarily. Instead of guarantees, these statements are general principles. In a perfect world, wise behavior would always lead to these benefits. Even in our troubled world, living wisely usually results in obvious blessings–but not always. Sometimes sin intervenes, and some blessings must be delayed until Jesus returns to establish his eternal kingdom. That is why we must ‘live by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). We can be sure that wisdom ultimately leads to blessing.”

So, they are “general principles” instead of “guarantees”. I’m thankful for the person who wrote those notes to make some of these proverbs clearer, and I take comfort in that as I seek to live in God’s will. I’m also thankful for more Scripture verses which state that worldly wealth shouldn’t matter to us and that serving God should matter more–all things I have learned as I have studied the Bible on a more consistent basis. I’m grateful, as well, to have them demonstrated in real life by a pastoral staff who consider the words of Jesus more important than any standard of worldly success. The gospel is “prosperous” in that it brings us closer to Jesus, the one who is the Savior of all of our sins, and not because we can get worldly things out of it. May we all become more “prosperous” today!