May 27, 2015

Christians...Search Your Hearts

Are any one of us better than the other? Does being a Christian make you a better person than one who is not? God affords us all the same love, forgiveness, and wisdom. It is just that some of us choose to take it, while others do not. That does not mean that we are wiser or more level-headed than those who haven't accepted Christ, because those attributes come from God alone. So just as we have embraced our Savior, those who are not Christian can come to know the Savior as well and obtain that same wisdom and level-headed thinking. To be honest, I know some people that aren't Christians that are the most wonderful people I've ever known. And I know some Christians that are the most judgemental, self centered people I've ever known. It doesn't go along with the label of being Christian, it goes along with where your true heart and desires lie. If they lie in doing the Father's work and in learning God's ways by living according to Jesus example, then that makes you a Christian. Being saved makes you a Christian, you have accepted Christ and He is in you. Just because you have not accepted Christ does not mean you're a bad person, does not mean that you are more lowly than those who have, and does not mean that you are less deserving of love, mercy, and redemption. It simply means that you have not reached out to embrace the blessing of Jesus sacrifice that he freely gave for you.

"Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven." (Jude 1:22 MSG)

He took the nails in his hands for YOU. He took the nail in his feet for YOU. He took the thorn of crowns and the spear in his side for YOU. He took the ridicule, the harassment, the disbelief, being spit on, and being tortured for YOU. And the ultimate price, being separated from the Father while taking on our sin. It is a heartbreaking thing to think that some may never either come to know these facts or accept them in order to find life in paradise and eternity with Jesus Christ. We need to remember not to judge or condemn those people, but rather reach out to them in love and kindness so they can see Jesus shine through in us. And for those of us that have accepted Christ our Savior, may we be mindful to look at our actions and our behavior as well. Just because we have claimed to accept Christ, just because we have been baptized, just because we are active in our church and at every service does not mean that our hearts are right with ourselves or with God. If you find something in yourself: envy, jealousy, judgement, conviction, condemnation... these are NOT of Christ. These are of the enemy and they are of this world. Just because we carry a Christian label does not mean we do not have to search our hearts so that God can continue to refine in us what sometimes even we don't see. We can be hurtful, without even knowing it.

"...and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first to be raised from death and who is also the ruler of the kings of the world. He loves us, and by his sacrificial death he has freed us from our sins." (Revelation 1:5 GNT)

The fact that we are Christians does not mean we are better than anyone else. In fact, sometimes we have more work to do than those who don't even know Christ. But it does mean we become righteous. Not in a way that put us above anyone else but in a way that should help others see love and pureness in our actions, our words, and in a way that pushes us to live our lives to honor Christ so others may clearly see the difference between those that live for the world and those that live for what is above and for what is to come. Be mindful of your heart, search it and ask God to do the same in you. Then let Him slowly take away those things that even you don't see that may be hurting others, that may be pushing you into a superficial or judgemental attitude...and most importantly...pray. Pray hard. Pray for God to give you a heart like Jesus, to blind you to the world's ways and your own opinions and attitude. To embrace only the love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding that Jesus gave us as an example. He paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice. Let that be remembered every time we open our mouths, choose an action or reaction, and let it be what guides the way we live our lives.

"Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life." (Psalm 139:23 MSG)

May 13, 2015

Good Christians Say Yes

There's a need for service positions in the church, yes! There's a new group being formed, yes! There's a need for group leaders, yes! There is an opportunity to lead Bible studies, yes! There is a new book that can help you grow in your faith, yes! Isn't that the way that Christians are seen a lot of the time, as people who say yes at every opportunity because that is the 'good and right' thing to do? Not necessarily.

"Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed." (Psalm 37:3 AMP)

Sometimes saying yes to all of these things makes us unconsciously say no to God and what He has for us. When we put ourselves so much into our horizontal relationships, groups, and commitments that it causes us to lack our vertical commitment to invaluable time with God, following His will, and making sure we are prioritizing correctly in accordance with His guidance, this can lead to a discontent heart. Don't get me service, Bible studies, groups, reading to grow in your relationship with Christ...all of these are beautiful and wonderful things. I will openly say these are all things I take part in. And so much more. But I am slowly learning to say no, and I'm learning that it's not a negative thing, it's not a selfish thing, and it's not something that you should feel guilty about. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28 MSG)

We can only give so many yes's to other things and people, and can only take so many no's for ourselves in the process. What good can we truly be for others (or even for God) if we are not taking care of ourselves? What good are we to others if we are not pouring into our own time and relationship with God? By saying yes to service and being included in fellowship and activities, we are doing something that very much pleases God and that definitely brings us great joy and reward. However, there does still need to be a balance between what we commit to outside of our home, and what we are doing inside of our own hearts and minds.

John 10:10 - "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."


May 6, 2015

You Were Born An Original

"Their circumstances are not the same as mine. Their outcome will not be the same as mine. His path for them is not the same as His path for me. Focus on the gifts He has given specifically to me, and not the gifts I see others using in their lives."

This is the dialogue I have to repeat to myself, sometimes daily. Remembering that it takes all of us using all of our gifts to make up the body of Christ, this is necessary for God to fulfill His purposes. Don't try to run somebody else's race, yours will have enough hurdles and joys of its own.

One of my biggest flaws is comparing my lack of what I feel I'm doing in ministry or in life or in service to the depth of what I see and hear other people doing. But God gently nudges me and reminds me of some key things I seem to always sweep under the rug. "That person that you're trying to measure up to, that person that is doing all of the things that you think you want to do, remember--they do not work a full time job. They have a husband who provides and who is at home. They have no children, or their children are grown. You are trying to enter into the same depth of service and tasks in a season of life where you DO work full time, and often double shifts and extra hours each week. You are in a season where you ARE a single mother and you DON'T have that other partner to help you provide, help you around the house, help you raise the children. Your season of life entails three children who are still very young and have years of raising ahead of them. How can you compare your race to someone who has completely different circumstances? How can you try to serve in the exact ways that someone in a completely opposite season from you does? I made you YOU for a reason, don't try to mirror the service or path of others. I gave you your own gifts, your own path, your own timeline in which things will unveil themselves. Quit reaching and grasping to mirror something that's meant for someone else. I have special things in store for you, and you are doing exactly what you are meant to. When you look at others, remember that you are only seeing a small window into assumptions about their lives. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors, you don't know that you're not hugely blessed beyond measure compared to what you think you envy about someone else. You are in unique circumstances, and I put you there or have allowed it for specific purposes. Just trust in Me. It's okay to question it, but just trust in Me. Follow YOUR own calling, live YOUR own purpose. You are in ministry every single day in your own ways and they are not meant to look anything like anyone else's. Don't just try to do what others are, but instead do what I called you for and what I guide you to."

Follow YOUR own calling, and encourage others to follow THEIRS. It will continually creep up on you, just as it does with me. That's how the enemy works, by trying to repeatedly put something in our heads until we start believing it. Don't give him that power. It often comes back to me and I say, "But God...I'm not married. I'm not wealthy. I'm not serving in church as much as I see others are able to. I'm not a size 5 anymore. I'm not filling my days with the right priorities sometimes." And each time these insecurities and feelings of inferiority hit, God sweetly whispers, "Beautiful child, stop looking at all of the AREN'T issues. I only see the ARE blessings. What you are is a mother, a nurse, a business owner, someone who's finally comfortable with her curves. You are an encourager with an amazing testimony to share, and someone who has a passion for knowing Me and growing in faith. You give back every day in faithfulness, leadership, and love. You continually seek the teaching of My Word. Do you think those things are not enough for me? Are they not enough for you?"

Sweet friends, there are so many more ARE blessings to focus on in your life than AREN'T issues. We can all use the gifts, talents, and treasures that we were awarded freely by God (which we know we are undeserving of, but should remain extremely grateful for), and we as a church body of people can knit them together like the tightest woven tapestry and help bring God's beautiful Kingdom to fulfillment. You are YOU. You are unique. You DO have a path of your own. Don't ever question that, don't try to be who you're not, don't try to measure up. You are already enough in God's eyes, you are endlessly loved, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Believe in that, walk your OWN path to arrive at YOUR calling so that you can live out YOUR purpose. It won't look like anyone else's, and it's not supposed to. Isn't that comforting to know that your eyes need only be fixed on Jesus and where your own feet are heading?

"You saw me before I was born.The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began." (Psalm 139:16 GNT)

"Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else." (Galatians 6:4 NIV)

"For just as the body is a unity and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)." (1 Corinthians 12:12 AMP)

"God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would spend our lives doing the good things he had already planned for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 ERV)

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:14 ESV)