Week 22 – Slaves to What?

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But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

Just a few weeks ago, I asked an acquaintance if she would like to come to church with my family and me. From the look on her face, it was almost as if I had asked her to come clean the toilets in our house. She tried to be polite, but the look on her face screamed “Ick, no way!”

“I’m not really big on church. Christian are such hypocrites!”, she said. I looked her right in the eye and I said, “You are right. Christians are hypocrites. We ALL are.  Christian or not, we are flawed, sinful, hypocritical, judgmental people because we are human. Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you forgiven and gives you are stronger desire to seek God so He changes our hearts to look more like His.”

She wasn’t really sure what to do with all of that information and said, “Well, maybe I’ll come to your church some time. Just once.”

Isn’t this the problem with so many we are praying for to come to know Jesus? They judge us as much as we judge them, but we are the ones who are supposed to show Jesus through our actions so others will desire to know God. Whether we like it or not, as Christians, others watch us more closely, they study our reactions to situations, they may even test us at times.

Most days, I’m grace-filled because the Lord has been working in my heart for many years (and I still have a long way to go), but sometimes when my heart is heavy or frustrated, when I haven’t taken the time to fill up on God’s word and my tank is running on empty, I can fall into that old trap of judgemental, hypocritical, yuck-yuck! Thankfully, as a Christian who relies on God’s word for direction, rebuking and guidance, I know that although being a Christian doesn’t make me perfect and sinless, it does make me forgiven and free to get up and try again with God’s grace and guidance.

With Christ, we can transform from slaves of sin and shame to slaves of freedom who are blameless before our King.

Please don’t miss this important distinction! As Christ followers, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we will sin. We will mess up. We will be hypocritical and judgemental sometimes, but God will tug at our hearts. The trick is to let go of the shame and guilt that can come with messing up when we know we should and want to do better for Christ. Instead of letting those feelings creep in, we need to cling to His tender love and graciousness. We are still flawed, but with the Holy Spirit living within us He will mold and shape hearts and lives to look more like his every day.

With Christ, we are blameless before our King because Christ died to stand in the gap and cover all our sins from the past to the future with His blood and great love for us. Praise God!

 

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Week 21 – Now Faith, By Faith

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Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

First things first! I adore how this chapter of Hebrews starts with the definition of faith. As many of you know, it’s one of my favorite tools for studying scripture. In verse one, our work is done for us.

Because no amount of good works could gain us access to eternal life, the only way to God is through faith. I think this turns some people off for several reasons: 1) people look at faith as weak and ignorant 2) faith feels too easy or 3) too risky.

To them, I say it’s not our faith in Christ that saves us! It is Christ Himself! Our faith must be in the Word of God (Bible) and it should be our foundation. We must strive to honor the instruction, discipline, and lessons God has given us through His written Word. When we read, discover and trust in His Word then faith will come naturally and there is nothing weak or ignorant about that. It isn’t too easy either, in fact, it can be difficult.  For a long time, I struggled with the reality that I was worth it to God. Worth it for Him to send His only Son, Jesus, to die for all my mess and honor me with forgiveness and grace. And as far as risk goes . . . well, I think it’s much more of a gamble and risk to live without faith in God than it is to live with it. I don’t know about you, but I’m sticking with the man who rose from the dead and has an empty grave!

As verse 1 says, Faith equals hope!  Faith doesn’t equal fear, risk or ease.

Those who have gone before us (our own ancestors) like Moses, Noah, David, Abraham, Esther . . . all acted and lived by faith. They weren’t perfect and made mistakes. They didn’t make it to God by their own efforts or good works, but by faith and hope.

Many say they don’t believe God exists because they can’t see Him. I say, if you look for Him, you do see Him. In the sunsets He masterfully paints in the evening skies, the birth of a new baby, the tears that flow from eyes heavy with loss, the embrace of friends, the forgiveness of unspeakable things, the rainbows and majesty of His creation and the mystery of how it’s woven together so perfectly from dust and dirt to brilliant starry skies.

Have you seen Him?

Week 20 – With God!

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Give us aid against the foe, for human help is worthless. With God we will perform valiantly; He will trample our foes. Psalms 60:11-12

I began this week by reading, verses 11 and 12 from Psalms 60, in a couple of different translations. When you read these verses in the Message translation it says, “Give us help for the hard task; human help is worthless. In God we’ll do our very best; he’ll flatten the opposition for good.” 

The first two questions that came to mind were, What tasks are hard for me when it comes to the enemy or my foes? What do I need God to help me with? Ah, EVERYTHING!

I don’t think I reflect on those facts enough! Honestly, human help is worthless when it comes to courage, forgiveness, grace, love, faith and obedience. We were not created with the ability to do these things without God’s power and might. Without God, we can’t love those who persecute us, hold a marriage together after betrayal, survive the grief that comes when we lose someone close to us, show grace to those whose mouths drip with anger, release bitterness and resentment from our hearts, or overcome the many trials, disappointments, and ramifications of sin that will always take aim at our joy through life.

Our faith in God will produce a steadfast confidence in His provision and protection. It will also provide an understanding and peace that He no more made us capable of handling all our foes alone than He made us able to fly.  Most of the time, I find great comfort in this because I remember that very fact, but there are always those times when my body or mind begins to act before I think and call on God.

I adore how verse 12 tells us that “with God, we will perform valiantly and He (NOT WE, but HE) will trample our foes”.  With God, we can overcome. With God, we will prevail. He will give us what we need to “perform valiantly”, but He will be the one to trample our foes. We have a knight in shining armor in our Lord and Savior. A real fairy tale hero that is awaiting us to follow Him and ride away with Him on His horse. One that is actually capable of never letting us down. I’m in! I’m all in!!!! How about you?

Victory in Christ!

 

 

Week 19 – Soar

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but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

I have always loved this verse, even from childhood. Maybe it’s because my dad was a pilot in the Air Force. Although he retired long before I could enjoy any of the living overseas adventures, my brother and I grew up learning to fly and traveling by plane to most places because of my dad’s love of flying. There is something amazing about flying in the midst of big fluffy clusters of clouds in a small airplane. As a girl, I would press my face to the window of the airplane and imagine the angels sitting on the edges and cliffs of the clouds we whirled quickly through. I always felt close to God in the clouds. It would leave me awestruck.

Unlike the beginning of Isaiah, which is focused on judgment and tribulation, Chapter 40 begins with the word “comfort”. It’s the perfect transition into the final chapters of this prophetic book where we see a focus on how our Lord will be our comfort in times of suffering and trials. I point that out to illustrate why most of the verses we cling to for hope, like verse 31 (above), are found in the later chapters of Isaiah. There is a distinct transition in the book of Isaiah from chapters 1-39 to 40.

If we study Isaiah 40:31 closely, we see three levels within it. First, we see those who will soar or mount up. Second, those who will run and lastly, those who will walk. Interestingly, many scholars and commentators feel these three levels of movement represent the three main stages of Christian growth.

Young Christians will mount up and soar like eagles, adult Christians run, and mature Christians walk. Depending on what’s going on in your life right now, your energy level may vary. You may be coming out of valley or storm and experiencing such a deep gratitude that you are soaring like an eagle. Maybe you are in a valley and feel as if you are so weary you are aren’t even walking, you can only crawl. I’ve been there. Whether you are in the valley, coming out or going in, you can lean on God and trust that He will come alongside you. He will run or crawl at your pace and give you the strength, courage, and peace to keep moving forward. He will give you ALL you need. He will guide you, sustain you, comfort you and love you through every valley and storm.

People always say the storms will always come. My response to that is, “and so will GOD!” Amen!

Week 18 – Be Transformed

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Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

These are my FAVORITE verses. I read them regularly when I’m speaking to women (just not this translation). Although I’ve heard these two verses most of my life, and feel as if I already have a great understanding of them, God always has something more. A deeper place of discovery for us, when it comes to His word. There are several phrases that seemed to be bolded in my mind as I read. This week, I want to tackle those with the hopes of gleaning some new treasures and truths from these familiar verses.

Mercies of God” Would you agree that it is easier to consider and appreciate the endless mercies of God after we have done something wrong and need it? Something struck me this week as I reflected on these verses from Roman. Those mercies we only consider after the BIG sins are the same mercies God extends to us every single minute of every single day. Even when our hands aren’t doing something sinful, our minds are working or our mouths are moving. There is no doubt in my mind that God should have run out of “mercies” just on me, but God’s mercies are endless. Notice it doesn’t say His mercy, but by “His mercies”. Please know and trust that no matter what, He doesn’t ever run out of mercy to extend to each of us. This is a beautiful reminder for me this week of our loving Father and because He loves me and I love Him, Paul continues and tells us to

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice”. Thankfully, Jesus has done the hardest part for us. He died a criminal’s death on the cross with nails through His hands and feet. God only desires for us to use our personalities, gifts, talents, time, and love to share His great love with His other children (our family members in Christ). Your eyes to see someone in need and give, your mouth to share a conversation over lunch with a friend (or stranger), your smile to encourage someone who is broken with sadness, your intellect to reach the minds of those who surround you at work, your introverted or extroverted personality to shine His light. . . He has blessed us with the bodies (no matter how broken, saggy, dysfunctional, young or old) He will use them if we offer them up to Him.

Don’t conform to this age” Wow! What a concept, right?! These five words haven’t lost any relevance since they were first scribed thousands of years ago. Now that my children are approaching middle and high school, I feel as if I am always reminding them of this. How do we teach ourselves and our children to savor and expect the uncomfortable? How do we instill in them the fact that, as Christians, we will never fit into this world? This isn’t our home, heaven is! Instead of changing how we look, act, feel, think and believe, to look like what is going on around us, Paul implores us “do not conform.” If we are fitting in with our culture then we are doing something seriously wrong in our walk with the Lord. Embracing the uncomfortable and ordinary will bring us to a point where we can “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Transformed into what? Well, not an actual Transformer©, but similar. When we allow God’s mercies to save us, present ourselves to Him with open arms to serve and love, and look to Him for our direction, God will transform into something new.  Our old heart, life, and mind will be transformed into new and beautiful offerings that will become eternal treasures that will never fade, rust or be lost.

It all sounds a little complicated, a bit difficult and even more challenging. However, it’s all about perspective. Now, I’ll let you in on my favorite translation of Romans 12:1-2. If you have followed me for a while or read any of my books, you will understand why these verses strike a fire in my heart. After all, aren’t we all just ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God? He is the one who turns my ordinary into the extraordinary. It’s never by any of my own doing. Just follow with an obedient and willing heart. Place your life before God and He will take care of everything else.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)