Tag Archives: Jesus

A Choice I Need to Make

Today’s devotion was uncomfortable, can be uncomfortable. It talks about truth, and for those of us who fudge on the truth or outright like, it can make us very uncomfortable. This truth shouldn’t though. It is the truth that sets us free. The truth of this faith we say we follow.

Before I go any further let me define this word I’m talking about today. According to the dictionary, truth means, “a fact or belief that is accepted as true.” Wikipedia uses a similar definition. “Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.”

So, truth is a fact or belief that is true. Isn’t that what we believe when we accept the truth of John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This is the hallmark verse of our faith, and one of the first ones many of us memorize, me included.

The question I want to ask today is why do people accept this verse as true, but not the verses that Jesus and God tell us about ourselves–the truths we should hold onto every second of every day.

There’s an easy answer to this question, especially if you read my post from yesterday.  https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/the-lies-we-believe/  We listen to Satan’s lies. We let Satan inundate us with every bad thing we’ve ever done. I’m as guilty of it as you are. Pain can overwhelm me when I am trying to do something for Jesus, and I let go of the good thing to hold onto the bad thing. I don’t want to hold onto the bad thing, and I’m sure you don’t either. But, we do. It’s part of being human.

I want to do better. I want to strive towards those other verses that tell us how Jesus wants us to live and what He wants us to believe about ourselves. This means I need to be reading and studying my Bible to see what nuggets of truth God wants to share with me. And there are so many nuggets. From verses in Psalms that explain how God wanted us to be born despite the circumstances we were born into to verses in Jeremiah that tell us God’s plan for us to verses in the New Testament that tell us about our true identity in Christ to verses in Matthew when Jesus confronts Satan in the wilderness, there is so much we need to commit to our hearts and minds.

There is one very big but (as my pastor likes to say  🙂 ) that we need to keep in mind though. We can read as much of the Bible as we want, but if we don’t make the choice to believe all of its words, all of its truths, every day, we will be stuck at the beginning and not receive the true abundance God wants for us. God doesn’t leave us alone while we are making this choice, and that is what we need to hold onto. I end with this prayer from the devotional we can all use as we are making the choice God wants us to make. “God, tell me the truth of who I am. I’m listening. I want to be free from the lies–do that for me. Rescue me. Bring truth like a waterfall.”

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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The Lies We Believe

Here we are at Week 2 of my 100 Days to Brave series with quite the provocative title. The Lies We Believe. I don’t know about you, but there are many lies I believe about myself. I do know they come from Satan before anyone feels compelled to comment on that truth, but, for me, it’s a little more complicated than that. Because, I get confused when I think about how to combat these lies. Between the biochemical imbalance in my brain and thinking that I always need to pretend everything is okay if I’m going to be seen as a “good Christian”, I’m not sure how to claim God’s victory over what Satan is trying to make me believe. I do my best though, and that’s what I want to focus on today–how God provides a way through Satan’s lies for me.

 

The first way is through music. I listen to Christian music each morning between when my husband leaves for work and my son and I begin our home school. There is a lot of good music out there which inundates my mind with God’s truths and begins my day on a positive note. I play one song, in particular, several times a day. It is a song called “Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns. The first time I listened to the lyrics, I could hardly believe it. It was exactly how I felt about myself. Here are the lyrics so you can see for yourself.

 

“There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
But this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so

 

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

 

She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for

 

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

 

When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

 

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day”

 

This song tells me Jesus considers me worth it even though I know I don’t deserve it, even though I’m ashamed of what I’ve done and what I’ve been through, and even though I know I’m not beautiful. And I don’t say those last words to garner any kind of attention. I know I’m not beautiful and not worth it. At least, this world considers me not beautiful. But Jesus does, and that’s what makes this life worth it! When I listen to “Wedding Day” and other songs like it, it’s easier to believe the truths of God and not believe the lies of Satan.

The second thing I do is read Scripture and pray. There are so many Bible verses that reflect my feelings of the moment. I’m grateful I can read each one and claim victory over whatever’s going on knowing that even though the situation might not be fixed, my God hears and understands what I face even if no one else does. I also pray. There’s nothing that beats talking directly to my Lord and Savior. I talk to Him and listen to His guidance. Even if I don’t have the specific words for my prayer, He can still hear my heart which settles my heart when nothing else does.
Finally, I spend time with children when I need to see and hear God’s truths. There’s something about the honesty of a child and playing with a child that takes me straight to Jesus. I had that experience last night with two little girls at my church, and it was wonderful! During the event, we played school, walked around the auditorium, colored pictures, galloped like horses, and ate dinner. (There was a football game on the big screen? 😉 ) I also pushed the younger girl on a riding toy. There was no pressure to achieve, no pressure to fit in, no pressure period. I was able to experience a truer sense of myself than I usually do and was able to just breathe. God gave me that, and I am so very grateful!
As I wrap this up, I want to issue a warning to those who are trying to navigate their way through Satan’s lies and to those who want to try to help them. I say this because some Christian adults can be the hardest to talk to about the head and the heart. They think victory can be claimed by a prayer and a statement that whatever’s going on is a lie of Satan. And while this can be true, a lot of people have the tendency to claim a victory and move on to the next person who needs their “help” leaving the person suffering from depression and hearing Satan’s lies alone once more. No, time must be invested and a relationship must exist before trying to help someone combat Satan’s lies and the person wanting to help must be willing to open their heart as well. We are all broken, and God wants us to show our authentic, broken selves as we live together in community. I pray that God will give us all the courage to be authentic with each other.
God’s blessings on you all today!

The Least of These

Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time is familiar with the phrase I chose for today’s blog post title. They are words Jesus actually spoke in Scripture. The least of these. We read the words and tell ourselves we help the people rejected by society or rejected by church society, but more often than not, we really don’t. We get so busy and caught up in our own lives that we forget people who are alone or the people who are carrying burdens way too heavy for the rest of us to think about. We go to our jobs, spend time with our spouses, and parent our children–all of which are good things, but aren’t part of the business God wants us to be about.

Before I go any further, let me quote the Scripture so you can see the words. From Matthew 25:34-40: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

This Scripture goes on to say that those who did not do these things for the least of these would go on to eternal punishment while those who did would go to eternal life.

Now, I’m not trying to say we have a work-based faith. Far from it. The verses that are featured in this blog are just as true today as they were yesterday and as they will be tomorrow. God prepared us through grace to do these good works–not before we are saved, but after as it says in Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

These words of Jesus did get me to thinking though. How tolerant are we of the least of these in our churches? Oh, we’ll go out and help them. We’ll feed the homeless, volunteer in a pregnancy crisis center, give someone a place to stay, or visit the hospital. But, how tolerant are we of the people who think differently or who are the least of these in our churches? Are we tolerant of the person who appears poorer than us? How about the person who walks in alone? How about the person who is a different race or gender than us? There can be an element of shame involved among those of us who are different. Don’t believe me? Let me go through some examples.

How about the statistic that the Sunday morning worship hour is the most segregated hour in America? This statistic was first quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we celebrate today in the United States. Ashamedly, so many years later, a poll finds that 86 percent of church congregations are composed of mainly one racial group. (LifeWay Research). We want to worship with people who look like us and have no interest in changing it. Reading those statistics brought me to tears.

What about differences that can’t be seen? I have a friend who runs a ministry to people whose career is not desirous in our churches. She invited some of these people to come to a particular church. At first, it was all right, but then their career became known, and she was asked not to bring them back. It’s not like they had dressed for their career to come to church. They were wearing clothes like the rest of us wear. But, people were still uncomfortable enough to not want them there. I’m pretty sure Jesus cried when that happened, and I did too. Another lost opportunity to bring people to Jesus.

Now, to bring the differences a little bit closer to home. I had a relative in the 1960’s who became a widow with the early death of her husband. She became different from the other people in her church. Different enough that people didn’t know what to do or say, and her family was left by the wayside. That abandonment traveled across the generations, made it so I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and still affects me today. Yes, things have changed for women in a lot of ways, but if a woman wants to serve in a church and is not married, she is relegated to serving with other women or with children. What happens when a woman is called to more than that like I think I am? I believe Jesus expects a woman to fulfill her calling whether she is called to something in the church that is traditional for women or something that is not so traditional.

There are also differences in thought, differences in how we think things should be done in our churches, and differences in sins committed as well as many different ways we can be the least of these. In other words, we are all different people who don’t fit the mold some churches say we should fit in. It’s almost a relief to type these words. God made us all differently, and we need to reflect that in our churches as we minister to the least of these. I pray that God gives us the courage to break out of the molds we have set for ourselves and bring more people to a saving relationship with Him.

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Safe Place

Last week, I started a series related to the questions my pastor asked in his New Year’s Eve sermon, and I thought I would continue it today. Last week’s question was “What does this trial expose in my heart?” (https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/refined-like-gold-and-silver/) It brought out a lot of good words and uncovered some things that needed to be exposed in my heart. Just like I’m sure this week’s question will.

So, without any further adieu, here is this week’s question. “Am I a safe place for hurting people?” I would like to think so. I’ve experienced many hurts within the church over the course of my life, and I would like to think that people could talk to me without worrying what would happen to their words.

But, then the question spurs more thoughts. Thoughts I’m not comfortable dealing with. Thoughts I’m not sure how to deal with. They begin with an offhand comment someone gave me after service last week. A friend of mine had gone up after service wanting prayer. I knew she had been struggling so it was a no-brainer. I went up and laid my hand on her shoulder as our pastor prayed as did a few other people. I hugged her when he was done and went back to my seat. After the service was over, another friend said she had noticed I had gone up and that I was a real prayer warrior. I wasn’t so sure about that. I’m not as comfortable when I don’t know the person wanting prayer, and sometimes, I feel like they wouldn’t want my support because, well, they have the support of the staff or the elders.

These thoughts brought me back to a few years ago when someone didn’t want me to pray with them; they wanted me to help them find an elder. I wondered why. Wasn’t I just as capable of praying? I know I am now, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with my own prayer life over the past few years. People still have their opinions though. If they’re at the church and want prayer, they would rather have someone on the staff or an elder pray for them. It’s like people who are lay members and want to serve don’t even exist. I don’t understand.

This brings me to more thoughts, and they are more of the selfish kind. I’ve watched people go up wanting prayer, and they were surrounded by a sea of people. It’s almost like I was seeing a popularity contest come alive right before me. And I wonder why I don’t get that kind of support when I ask for prayer. Before anyone says anything, yes, I know that’s a selfish thought. I’m just wanting to explore it and put it back in the place it needs to be. There are a couple of reasons, I think, that this happens. One, yes, there are people in the church who are more popular than me, people who have a better handle on their faith than I do. They are held up as an example to the rest of us, and I can understand why people flock to them. Two, people have a tendency to flock to trauma. If they know something bad has happened to someone, they want the person to know they are praying for them. Three, there is a request for people to pray over someone who is leaving the church for whatever reason, and many people tend to go up for those kind of prayers.

Now that I’ve explored why many people go up to pray for certain people, I want to state why I think some people are prayed for alone. One, no one knows what is going on. How do you support someone when you don’t know what’s going on? Two, some people have an innate sense of privacy that keeps them from wanting other people to know what is going on. Three, some people just have a need for someone to pray with them, and they don’t care if anyone is with them or not. I’m not sure what category I fall into. Sometimes, it’s two, and sometimes, it’s three. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three.

I’ve gone far afield of the question I first presented, but it was necessary to explain my thoughts to get to the conclusion I’ve come to. I think my best service to God is not going to be in the church. It’s going to be in the relationships I form and the writing I do. God wants me to put my words about Him and about my faith out there so people will know I’m not perfect. So people will know that I am a safe place. I shared a quote from an article on my Facebook page last week that I want to share here. “My desire now is to be the woman that God calls me to be. No more. And no less.” http://yellowhammernews.com/faithandculture/called-childlessness-surprising-ways-god/  I wrote this in response to the quote. “Though I did have the opportunity to be a mother, this spoke to me greatly especially now that my children are grown. The church expects women and men to fit a mold that they were often not made to fit. Thank you, Jesus, for being a mold breaker!”

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

A Heart Like His

My sons have often asked me why I want to know something before everyone else does. I suppose it could be the natural inclination of wanting to be the first to tell someone information they don’t know. Or it could be the chance to tease someone about it. Did you ever say these words as a child? “I know something you don’t know.” This usually resulted in your friend pestering you until you told them whatever information you had. We all have a natural inclination to want to be first so thinking this would be my reason is plausible.

But, for the most part, this isn’t my reason for wanting to know something first. As a writer, I have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world that demands time for me to think and process what I learn about my world. I need that time to process new information so I can write about it. Some of that writing is just for me, and some of it, I share with the world. The more time I have to think about and process a topic, the better my writing usually is. I understand the topic better as well, and it becomes rooted in my heart. Not only can I write about that topic specifically, I can use my knowledge as I write stories and blog posts further down the line.

I think it’s going to be that way with what I found out yesterday. I went to a ministry leader, shepherd, and staff meeting at my church. I’m grateful that these kind of meetings are open to all whether a person holds one of those titles or not. But, I digress. Yesterday, I found out what our theme for 2018 is going to be. A theme which all the sermons and Wednesday night classes are going to be intertwined with. A theme which, I think, will be beneficial to my own personal faith walk. And before the suspense gets to be too much, let me reveal the theme–A Heart Like His. How do we develop a heart like Jesus’ heart? Interesting question, right? We’ve spent the past year looking at Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus, and this year’s theme will deepen that idea. It’s a good theme, and one I will have a lot to say about in the coming year.

But, for now, some preliminary thoughts. Does having a heart like Jesus mean doing the increased amount of dishes that comes with having everyone home without complaint? Or scraping gum off the church carpet yesterday though I know I looked funny sitting there while people were walking out? What about being willing to sacrifice someone you love to a form of service in the church because there aren’t a whole lot of people willing to volunteer for that particular service? Or being content with what I have and not wishing I would have taken a different path twelve years ago?

I’ll remove the suspense. All of my questions come with “yes” answers, and those answers bring me closer to the heart Jesus wants me to have. Why do I wonder though, and why do I want to be selfish especially with my family’s time? Sin nature, I know, but still, why is it so hard to be the person Jesus wants me to be? Why doesn’t doing these things come automatically to me like they do to so many others? Why do I feel so deficient with my faith when I look at others who seem perfect? We all know these kinds of people. The people who never seem to have anything wrong with them. The people who never wonder. The people who never seem to struggle. The people who are never curious about the things they think are wrong. The people who never think differently.

I think that’s why God gave me that sense of wonder and curiosity though. He wants me to ask questions. He’s not afraid to dialogue with me, and He doesn’t want me to be afraid either. I have to tell myself that over and over, and some days I am more successful than others. But, as 2017 closes and 2018 beckons, I am going to do my best to move forward each day and use the gifts God gave me to bring my heart closer to His.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Forgiveness

Trying another one of the prompts from bibleconnectionnews.com today as part of my challenge. This one promises to be difficult because it involves something that’s hard for me and, more than likely, hard for the rest of us too.

First, here’s the prompt. “Forgiveness. Is it easy or hard? That likely depends on whether you are the one doing the forgiving or receiving it. Why do you think forgiving someone can be so difficult? Who do you need to forgive? When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?”

I think forgiveness is hard, but I believe what it really depends on is what side of the forgiveness table you are on. Last week, I wrote about justice and grace, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/justice-and-grace/, and how we like it when some of the definitions of grace are extended our way, but not when we need to extend them to others. I believe the same thing applies with forgiveness. It’s easy to be the gracious one when extending forgiveness (most of the time). It puts us in a “higher” position than the one doing the asking and gives us a level of “control” over the process. We can say yes. We can say no. But, we have “control”, sometimes more “control” than what God wants us to have.

The hard thing, for me, is having to ask for forgiveness. It means admitting I’ve done something wrong. It means I have to let loose of some of the “control” I supposedly have over my life. It means letting someone in past the shields I have put up and letting them see the bad person I have been. It means being true and authentic when I have no reason to be true and authentic or when I don’t want to be. It’s easier to just avoid the situation and pretend like nothing’s wrong.

But, God doesn’t want us to do that. He wants us to exhibit the same grace and forgiveness that Jesus did. He wants us to ask for it and to extend it. He wants us to be our true and authentic selves as we live in community together. He wants us to live like we actually have Him in our hearts and let go of our “control.

There is also a misconception of what happens after forgiveness. Some people believe you have to let someone back in your life after you forgive them and since that might  not be a good idea, it brings up another reason to hesitate on the forgiveness front. No, God doesn’t want us to put ourselves in situations that are dangerous to us whether it be physical or something else. Forgiveness is more for us than for the other person in these situations. Actually, I believe it’s more for us in any situation. It’s bringing the peace of Jesus back into your life and releasing the hold Satan has on your heart and mind. It takes away anger and resentment and brings back the love that Jesus wants us to have for others.

We all have people we need to forgive, me included. I need to tell them I am sorry for avoiding the conflict between us and forgive them for things that have happened in the past. This is the part that’s really hard for me especially since I have never handled conflict well. I was taught from an early age to bury bad feelings and told I was too sensitive when I had them. This has carried into adulthood, and I have had a hard time giving myself permission to have bad feelings. Conflict has always been something to be avoided at all costs.

I would like to say I’ve gotten better at this in recent years, but I can only say I’ve worked on it. It has taken every ounce of courage I’ve had to address instances of conflict in my life, and for the most part, it hasn’t gone well. I would venture to say that other people also have problems with addressing conflict and asking for forgiveness. 🙂

But, I’ll keep trying, and the reason I’ll keep trying is my answer to the final question of this prompt. “When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?” I received it when Jesus, my Lord and Savior died on the cross for me. I didn’t deserve it and never will deserve it, but Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a way for me to be with God eternally. As it says in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Because God gave me this gift of forgiveness, I need to turn around and give it to others like He has asked me to. May we all be willing to forgive!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

How Jesus Really Sees Us

I’m taking a break from the prompts today to explore this topic because, sometimes, I don’t think we, as believers, truly understand this. I know I don’t.

What do you do when you get up in the morning? Do you take a shower? Wash your hair? Ladies, do you put on make-up? Guys, do you shave? Do you make sure your clothes and hair look the best they can look before you walk out the door? If you do that, you are presenting your best face to the world. Who am I kidding? We all do that. We want the people in our world to see us in the best possible light.

It’s not in how we physically appear either. When we are around other people, we want the best parts of our character to be present so they will love us. We want to do good deeds, have good attitudes, and be seen praising God even if we don’t want to. In other words, we put our best front forward.

As all of us know though, our best front doesn’t stay good all of the time. We get mad. We’re sad about something. We’re difficult to get along with. We’re unreasonable. We’re demanding. It’s all a part of sin nature. And that doesn’t even count the deepest things we hide at the bottom of our souls. Things that don’t come out at all, ever, even on the pain of death. That’s what sin nature is.

Jesus knows everything though. What, you didn’t think He knew? 🙂 Yes, He knows everything, and He still loves you. He died on a cross for you.

Sometimes, though, I need words and imagery to come from another place. And, in this instance, how Jesus really sees me comes from the words of a song. One of my favorite songs, as a matter of fact. If you’ve ever been married or you have participated in a wedding, you’ll understand this. Everyone looks their best on their wedding day. It’s a moment of significance that, hopefully, will last for a lifetime. But, our sin nature still exists underneath all the finery. Jesus knows all the things we’ve done wrong and will do wrong. We should look like dirt to Him, but we don’t. That’s why I love the song “Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns. Even though the words fit a bride more than they do a groom, I believe all of us can take something away from this song. Jesus loves each and every one of us, and we appear perfect to Him though we are not because our sins are covered by the cross. I’m going to quote the verses of this song so you can see what I mean. May we all understand how Jesus really sees us today!

“Wedding Day” by Casting Crowns

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
With this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says you’re beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day”

I am so glad my Lord and Savior sees me with the cover of the cross. May God bless you all today!