Wednesday, August 24, 2016

W.W.J.D.


W.W.J.D

This was once the “it” phrase in church youth groups around the country. When I was younger I had bracelets in various colors that had these letters printed or sewn on them. Other children my age had t-shirts that proudly displayed the acronym. Unfortunately, many of us wore these items as Christian fashion statements instead of allowing the question to penetrate our hearts and lives.

As I grew a bit older I realized the importance behind the letters. You see, W.W.J.D. stands for “What would Jesus do?” During my senior year of high school, I selected this acronym to mark one side of my class ring. Why? I realized that I would be making life changing decisions after high school. It was, and is, my opinion, that the way to make those decisions was by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Isn’t it sort of cheesy? Wasn’t it a bit overdone in the 90’s? Perhaps, but the power of the question is not diminished by its popularity. The question, “What would Jesus do?” is significant and powerful regardless of how many times it was printed on a coffee mug, sewn on a t-shirt, or tattooed on an arm.

How significant can it be? It’s not scripture. But, the concept can be derived from scripture. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Did you grow up with a sibling? Do you remember copying them? You did and said exactly the same as your brother or sister. You imitated them.

The word, "imitate" is a verb and means: “Take or follow as a model. Copy.”

Scripture tells us to be imitators of God. We are to “take and follow” Him “as a model.” We should be copying Him, doing what He does. Therefore, each moment of our day should be filtered through the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Whether this acronym is a blast from the past or new to you, I challenge everyone to remember W.W.J.D.

When you’re on Facebook – What would Jesus do?
When you’re shopping in Walmart – What would Jesus do?
When your husband says something hurtful – What would Jesus do?
When your wife disrespects you – What would Jesus do?
When you’re at church – What would Jesus do?
When you’re all alone – What would Jesus do?

Perhaps you’re asking, “Why are you writing a blog so simple and basic?

Well, in my life I struggle to look like Jesus each day. I have yet to receive a perfect score on my "Did you act like Jesus today?" exam. I need to ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" every day so that I can make the choice to imitate Him. To have compassion like Him. To pray, have faith, and love like Jesus. To be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). 

What would happen if we, the body of Christ, started imitating Him?

I can think of a few things...

Our families would change.
Our churches would change.
This world would change.

How do you know that? Take a look at the New Testament and observe the difference Jesus made in the world. Then notice the impact His followers had. We can have the same impact and it all starts by asking, “What would Jesus do?”

However, our transformation will not be complete if we only ask, “What would Jesus do?”

No, you and I must move on to the second step.

You and I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, must choose to do whatever it is Jesus would do. No matter what situation we find ourselves in we must be obedient. And, if we are obedient then:

We will speak as He speaks (to those we like and those we dislike).
We will move as He moves (when we do and do not want to).
We will go where He goes (no matter if the location is rich or poor).
We will do what He does (whether it is culturally acceptable or not).
We will love how He loves (unconditionally; with truth and grace).
We will serve as He serves (all of mankind). 
We will live as He lives (submitting to the Holy Spirit's work in us, so that we might be holy as Christ is holy).

We will be imitators of God.

And the world around us will change. Because of us? No, because of Christ within us. 

It all starts with one question, “What would Jesus do?”

You see, it is so much more than a bracelet... 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Craving Something Salty...

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I love food. My three most favorite times of the day are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not picky. Whatever makes its way onto my plate will inevitably find its way to my stomach. I really enjoy sharing a meal with people – my husband, family, or dear friends. When I share a meal with my family, my grandmother never fails to cover her food in salt and pepper. Most of the time she won’t taste the food before smothering it in seasoning. She adores the flavor of salt and pepper, especially salt. In her opinion, it makes everything better. Her meal is not nearly as satisfying without salt.

Salt has been important throughout history. You can go on Amazon right now and purchase a book on salt and the influence it has had on mankind for centuries. Salt often symbolized wealth since it was a frivolous extra. Then it became a necessity for preservation.  Meats were salted and vegetables stored in a brine so that their shelf life would extend through barren winter months. Now it has returned as a delicious extra on our tables; used to add pop and zing to certain items like corn on the cob in the summer time.

Have you noticed that after you ingest salt you crave liquid? This is true for me. After I enjoy a box full of hot Chick-Fil-A waffle fries that have been perfectly salted, I can’t help but take a long sip of my half-sweet/ half-unsweet iced tea. Salt makes us thirsty.

This is why Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…” in Matthew 5:13. You, as a follower of Jesus, have been placed here to make people thirsty.

Thirsty for what?

Thirsty for living water – a supply that never runs dry.

It is the water Jesus told the Samaritan woman about in John 4: 13-14. “Jesus said to her, ‘“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Thirsty for Jesus.

We are called to be the salt that causes people to want a drink of everlasting life.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Jesus knew that. That is why He continues in Matthew 5:13 saying, “…but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.”

What do you do with salt that has gone stale while sitting in your seasoning cabinet? You know the kind, you finally need to use it but it has developed a salt rock inside the container that refuses to separate. You attempt to use it but upon tasting it you realize it is bland. 
Regretfully, because you hate to waste, you dispose of this salt. It cannot be used on the meat as a rub, or in the soup as part of the broth; it is purposeless. Why? It has lost its flavor. And what is salt without flavor?

That’s what Jesus is communicating in Matthew 5. Salt without flavor has no purpose. Salt without flavor is not going to lead anyone to drink the living water.

So let’s take away the example for a moment. As a Christian, your purpose is to lead other people to Jesus Christ. The problem is that our salt has lost its flavor.

How did that happen?

Well, are we any different than the rest of the world? What about you is unusual to someone who doesn’t claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord?

Are you just as negative?

Are you just as worried about the state of our world?

Are you angry? Do you lose control and fly off the handle at work?

Do you gossip with the girls during mani/pedis?

Do you accept sin because you don’t want to be alienated for believing in Scripture? Have you accepted sin in your own life by excusing it as a personality trait?

When we do these things, our salt becomes less flavorful. It becomes useless.

Why? Well, who would want more of what you have if it is exactly like what they have?

People look for something different – something salty.

I may sound like a broken record to those who read this blog often, but this is the truth. We must strive to look more like Jesus every day. We do not have time to be flavorless. We must become salty again so that men and women in this world will want to take a drink from the water that brings everlasting life – Jesus Christ!

So what can one do to become more flavorful?

First, you ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Ask Him to reveal what does not belong; what is causing your salt to be flavorless.

Second, through the power of the Holy Spirit, commit to removing those things that do not belong in your life. Disengage from sinful behavior and thinking. Allow Him to form you in a way that reflects the image of Christ daily. This will revive your salt and bring back its usefulness.

Third, you must share your relationship with Jesus with everyone you know. If salt is not being sprinkled, it does not transform what is around it. By sharing your story, the Gospel, with others around you, through word and deed, a thirst develops in this world for what you have – Jesus Christ.

So, remember my friends, “You are the salt of the earth…”


Be flavorful today.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Four Reasons to Praise God

I am often drawn to the book of Psalms when I am in need of encouragement or inspiration. It is a mine rich with gemstones. Beautiful nuggets of praise, worship, and truth come out of this book no matter where I am in life. 

This week, I would like to walk through chapter 111 of the book of Psalms with you.

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

The psalmist begins by declaring to those listening and reading that he is thankful – with his whole heart. 

Our praise to God cannot be a half-hearted action. It must be intentional. When you come to praise God, whether in your room or the sanctuary, give your all. Forget your to-do list, the cell phone, which song is playing on the radio, and praise Him with your whole heart. Hold nothing back for later. Give Him all praise and thanks.

Why?

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.


The first reason is that God has done great works.

Look at the creation around you. When I sit in my “corner” I can look out a window and see gorgeous pine trees, beautiful green grass, adorable squirrels, birds of every shape and size, a sky as blue as cotton candy, a sun so bright it hurts my eyes to look at it, clouds so shapely that they look like cotton balls, and soon that sky will be midnight blue, the sun shining behind a full and pale moon while stars dance around. As I type this I breathe in a deep breath, exhaling carbon dioxide and inhaling the invisible substance of oxygen that my body would die without. All of this happens and exists on a sphere that is perfectly balanced in a solar system in constant motion.

Who is worthy of praise if not God who created all of this from nothing? And, not only has He created it, but has sustained it so that thousands of generations could enjoy this life surrounded by beauty.

The psalmist recognized this as a reason to praise.

He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.


The second reason to praise God is this: He provides our essential needs on daily basis.

If you do not know me personally than you have yet to discover how much I enjoy food. I love it! Breakfast, lunch, dinner… I’m not picky. I love it all. Sweet, salty, good or bad for me – it doesn’t matter. I’ll gladly pick up a fork and dig in. Too often I take for granted that every morsel of food that tantalizes my tongue is a miracle from God. It is a reason to give Him praise. Do not be mistaken. You may have paid the grocer for those items but without God where would they come from and how would you even exist to work for the money in order to purchase those items? I’ll give you the answer: the food wouldn’t exist (because He created it) and neither would you (because He created you) therefore, there would be no breakfast, lunch, or dinner without God.

The fact that we have food to eat and water to drink is a miracle from God. It testifies that He is worthy of praise.

He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.


The third reason is that God keeps His promises. He will never go back on His Word. The psalmist tells the people that God showed His power by making the way possible for them to enter and enjoy the land of Israel and keep it. He declares that the Words of the Lord are trustworthy. His words are true, they last forever, and He is faithful to keep them.

The fact that God keeps His promises to those He has created is amazing. This, quite honestly, blows my mind. It is definitely a reason to praise Him.

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!


The fourth reason is my personal favorite. God is worthy of praise because HE HAS REDEEMED US. Jesus came and died on a cross so that we might live free from sin and death. He purchased our forgiveness with His blood. He offers us His righteousness in exchange for our filthy hearts. He makes us pure. He makes us new. He restores us. Jesus offers us a second chance at life. We are free because of Him!

My heart leaps within me and joins with the psalmist saying, “Holy and awesome is his name!”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!


The psalmist concludes saying “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” By fearing the Lord, we reverence Him. We recognize His greatness. We have a “fear” – a sense of awe – at His power. God is so powerful that He created all we know by simply uttering words. Everything is subject to Him. We are to tremble at such an omnipotent being. Doing so is the beginning of wisdom. Why? Who would stand in defiance of such a God other than one who… shall we say, “lacks wisdom.”

I felt it was important to share this Psalm because I have witnessed too many Christians indifferent about the way they praise and worship God. I am not talking about a physical response, but a heart response. Do not become indifferent. Do not let praise become routine. There are so many reasons to praise God. Did you drink a cup of coffee today? Eat? Drive to work? Arrive at work? Earn a pay check? Sleep under a roof? Talk to a friend? Read the Bible? Hug your spouse? Talk to your children? Play with your dog? See a tree? Watch the sunset? All of these experiences are because of God – they are reasons to praise.


If you cannot think of any other reason to praise Him – praise Him for saving your life. No matter how many times you have thanked God for forgiving you, it is never too often. If someone saved your life from death, would you ever stop thanking that person? I don’t think so. You would say it over and over until they got sick and tired of the praise. The good news is God will never become sick and tired of your praise. So praise Him with your whole heart because He deserves it.

What a fantastic Psalm! I hope reading Psalm 111 caused praise to bubble up inside of you and that this blog will help add fuel to your praise this week. All I can say is, "Praise to the God that has done great works, provided all of our needs, keeps His promises, and forgiven us of our sins! "Holy and awesome is His name!”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

For Hearts Overwhelmed by Tragedy

I shared with you earlier in the year that the “one thing” I was going to focus on in 2016 was writing, which is what I believe God has asked me do. So I took to the keyboard and have tried (unsuccessfully at times) to write an encouraging blog once a week. The very year that I have focused on pursuing this calling has been a year drenched with tragedies – personal, national, and global – which have left me heart broken and sometimes afraid. In the midst of these moments I come to my corner, open the Bible, and hear the voice of God directing me through these difficult times. These thoughts I share with you.

Over the past few weeks our world has seen tragedy after tragedy. Our televisions scream headlines our way while our computers shout opinions at us. By the time we figure out how to respond to one incident, we are hammered by another. Many of us are running for the proverbial hills looking for a way out of the chaos. And some of us have lost sleep wondering about the state of our nation and the world. Worry has become our companion; fear, our neighbor.

Perhaps you have not experienced this in that past few weeks or months. True confession: I have.

In these moments, I open my Bible and God speaks.

Hear these words today:

In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (emphasis added).” He also says, in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (emphasis added).”

When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was close to fulfilling His purpose by being crucified, resurrecting, and returning to heaven. Jesus knew that the disciples’ time on earth would be filled with difficulty and uncertainty. You see, the disciples did not know it but they would face unfathomable amounts of persecution after Jesus returned to heaven. They would be driven out of villages, despised and hunted down by government officials, beaten, imprisoned, burned, exiled, and crucified. Therefore, Jesus gives them peace. Not just any peace… It doesn’t come from government officials, journalists, political commentators, protest organizations, small groups, pastors, hymns, etc. No. This peace comes directly from Jesus Christ.

Do you remember the story of the disciples in the boat? They were sailing on the Sea of Galilee when a storm came and rocked them so furiously that they were overcome with fear. Where was Jesus? Asleep. He had peace. You see, He knew who was in control over all things. Therefore, He had peace in the midst of the storm. Interestingly enough, that’s what He used to calm down the wind and waves. Jesus said, “Peace, be still.” [Read Mark 4:35-41]

This is the peace He offers us. Peace that is rooted in the character of God, not the condition of the world. A peace that always remains and never changes because it comes from Him.

Jesus understands that this world is disturbing and terrifying at times.

This world is under the curse of sin, therefore we will have trouble. There will be disease, famine, hate, war, and persecution. The world will hate us as they hated Christ (John 15:18-19). It will be difficult, uncertain, and at times, painful.

However, we need not fear a battle that has been won nor be afraid of an enemy who has been conquered. The Bible tells us that Jesus has “overcome the world.” When Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated Satan – conquered Him. That’s why the Bible tells us that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).” Jesus won it all. Satan truly has no authority. Therefore, worry and fear have no purpose in keeping you company. No matter how much evil you see in the world, remember the Christ within you. Jesus won the victory. In doing so you have peace through Him.

As you look around and see pain, sadness, devastation, murder, and hatred you might be tempted to panic, worry, fear, or doubt God.

Friend, “Peace, be still.”

Open the scriptures and find your hope, strength, promise, and peace in the Word of God.

Perhaps you are like me and these words from Jesus are exactly what you need today: “Peace I give to you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid… but take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What is Wrong with the World?

Dear friends, this is the most difficult blog I have written thus far because I want it to be communicated in the proper way, but have no control as to how it will be received. Still, I must write it because I feel like we, as the body of Christ, must grasp hold of what I am about to say. So without further ado:

Over the past week our nation has been swept away in the shock and heartbreak following the terror attack in Orlando, Fl. We have been consumed by it. News anchors share their opinions as politicians make statements as to what they will or won’t do in order to prevent another attack. Radio hosts ask people to call in and share their anger or hurt with the listening audience. Bloggers, like myself, rush to their computers to spout their words of wisdom or disgust while social media users share every post they can about what happened or is happening regarding said tragedy. This is our response. It has been for decades. We rush to share our thoughts so we can process what we have experienced. 
Well, I too have thoughts regarding this terrible day, and I would like to share them with you. If you would be so kind to allow me, I would appreciate it. 

As I scroll through my social media newsfeed, I continually see people, including my brothers and sisters in Christ, posting this question: “What is wrong with the world!?”

Friends, I would like to answer this question in this blog.

The problem with the world is this: They do not have a relationship with Jesus. Simple. To the point. 

Yes, they might know of Jesus, that good guy who did some cool miracles a few thousand years ago. But Judas knew Him, yet he still betrayed Him. Simply knowing of Jesus is not the “end all be all.” In order to experience a transformation, one must encounter Jesus, experience salvation, and submit to Him. This is true for every human being – in the church and outside of it. The majority of people know of Jesus, like the children born in 2000 know of Elvis Presley, but they do not know Him personally. A relationship with Jesus is a foreign concept to many people. This is the problem with America – with the world.

We, as the church, have gotten fat and lazy in Zion trusting that the government would handle a job that we have been called to do. Christians have been spoiled by an America who was once dictated by morality. Now, we live in an America who knows not God. And those who do not know God serve themselves because that is all they know to do. (After all, without Jesus in your life, who would you serve?) 

Those without Christ have not been released from their chains of sin; instead, they revel in it. This is why we find people glorifying sin while trampling upon righteousness - which is contrary to the Word of God, as we can see in the following verses:

Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

2 Peter 3:3: “…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.”

Romans 1:28-31: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

These are only a few Scriptures highlighting the problems that result from choosing sin over righteous.

But I ask you, what are we to expect if they do not know Christ?

Why don’t they know Him?

We, as the body of Christ, have not done our job. We have not taken the gospel of Jesus Christ to our country. And here we sit during a time of great tragedy wondering what is wrong with the world. 

The problem is: humanity is living for itself. The longer they serve their human nature the more they will become enslaved to it and the “crazier” this world will become because we are in a downward spiral of immorality. 

For this reason, the greatest tragedy is that people, including the Muslim man, entered into a very real eternity without knowing Jesus Christ. People of God, this means on that horrific Thursday people found themselves in Hell. Because no matter how we try to rationalize it away or claim it doesn’t exist, men and women without Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will spend eternity disconnected from God in a place of indescribable torment. Pain, horror, fire, brimstone, but most devastating of all, complete separation from God. God, who is all perfection and goodness. This means that those men and women who enter Hell will never experience anything good again. Nothing. Why? Because they will be divorced from the only being who produces perfection, love, and all that is good. If you think this world we live in is terrible, wait until God disappears from the equation. That is Hell. 

So you see, the real tragedy is that there were men and women who died in that attack who did not personally know Jesus. 

When a follower of Jesus dies we are comforted by the knowledge that they will be with Him and we will see them again. When a person dies without salvation through Jesus, there is no hope. It is over in that moment. 

Friends, hear my heart. It is time for us to quit playing sides. Quit trying to make it things comfortable for yourself and others. Speak the truth. If you know Jesus then you are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around you. 

This is very real. 

We’re talking about Hell. 

We’re talking about no hope. 

We are not guaranteed how long we have here. Make it count. I beg you. Tell the people around you about Jesus. Make sure that they know the truth. Earnestly invite them to come to Jesus by sharing your story. Share the Gospel. Pray for their heart. Do little things to show them Jesus. You can’t force them to love Jesus but you can give them every chance before they enter eternity – which could be today. 

The attack in Orlando was a great tragedy. My heart breaks for the loved ones who have been left broken and empty. I hope that someone in Orlando is able to show the love of Jesus to those who desperately need His comfort, love, and peace. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions they are experiencing. All I can do is ask God to be present and use His people to minister to the brokenhearted. I ask you to do the same.

Friends, if you glean one point from this blog, let it be this:

Share the truth of Christ, because that is what is wrong with the world – they do not know Him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

... and Peter... and you...

Mark 16:7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.”

Hopefully you have heard a point like this at some time in your life: “Jesus is personal. He cares about you individually. If you were the only person on earth Jesus would have died just for you.”

I believe that most of you have more faith and are less cynical than myself, but for a long time I could not comprehend the truth expressed in those sentiments. I believed myself to be too sinful to be noticed or cared for by an almighty Savior.

So how did I respond? I chose to attempt to earn God’s favor. I bought into this idea that my “good” behavior could convince God I was worthy of His good graces.
I am sure by now most of you are correcting me with what you know of God’s grace. Isn’t it interesting how we can convey the truth to other people but cannot convince our hearts of what we already know to be true?

I have met so many people that have fallen prey to the same mindset as my younger self. They know that Jesus came to save them, regardless of their short comings and sin, yet when it comes to accepting it they struggle to embrace this truth. So, they slave away attempting to earn the greatest gift ever given not realizing that they will never be able to complete enough work to deserve it.

Why do we end up captive to these thoughts? It is because we have believed a lie. This lie tells us that we are the exception to God’s offer of forgiveness and grace. It feeds our heart and mind with evidence by playing each and every sin constantly on repeat. When we think that we might walk in freedom, we see that episode of our most egregious sin which forces us to remain chained to the wall of our past.

There was a man who lived about two thousand years ago who “wrote the book” on being held captive by your past. His name was Peter.

If you are not familiar with Peter, please allow me to introduce you.

Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. He was a fisherman who left everything he had to learn from Jesus. Peter was an eager young man who often opened his mouth merely to insert his foot. Still he loved Jesus deeply and yearned to know more about the Kingdom of God. No matter what Jesus asked of His disciples, Peter was willing to do it (you may know him as the one who walked on water with Jesus). Peter witnessed the miracles Jesus performed on earth. He was destined to build the New Testament church. Overall, Peter was passionate about God and His work.

How is it that a man such as this lived chained to his past?

What did He have to regret or be ashamed of?

Well, if you read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, you’ll find Peter standing in a court yard 
during one of His trials. The people were angry and becoming more aggressive towards this man, Jesus, and his ministry. Three different times Peter was identified as one of Christ’s followers and at each occasion Peter denied even knowing Jesus.

Following the third denial Peter leaves the scene of Jesus’ trial. He was completely overcome with regret. We know from the story that Peter repented of his betrayal, but he was held captive by it. Peter would not allow himself to walk in the freedom offered by Jesus. How could he? Peter wasn’t there when Jesus took His last breath on the cross. He denied Jesus when he thought it might cost him his life. He didn’t deserve forgiveness.

Have you ever had these thoughts? Do you still have them?

Peter had them. Peter believed himself unworthy of God’s grace.

However, we know from the account that Peter would become the leader of the New Testament church and have the honor of leading thousands to salvation in Jesus.

So what happened to create such a change in Peter’s demeanor?

The Resurrection happened.

In Mark 16, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and a person named Salome went to anoint the body of Jesus. This was a part of Jewish burial customs. When they arrived they encountered a young man, wearing white, who told them that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, He had risen! Then he instructs them to do this: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”

Did you catch that?

“Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”

Peter. The one who denied Him, was the one mentioned by name.

You see, Jesus is personal. He is relational.

He knew that Peter was being tormented by his past decisions and Jesus longed to free Him. Jesus specifically wanted Peter to know that He had risen and freedom had been purchased on the cross and forgiveness won!

For those of us who, like Peter, do not believe we are worthy of forgiveness and grace, allow me to take the weight off your shoulders by informing you that you are not worthy of God’s grace.

No one is.

That is why it is a gift – tremendously precious. We cannot earn it. We do not deserve it. Yet, it was purchased for us.

Jesus did not die so that we could remain haunted by our past sins. He came to forgive the murderer, adulterer, liar, glutton, gossip, thief, sexually immoral, idolater, proud, self-indulgent, etc.

He came to free us.

Therefore, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your one and only Savior and Lord, believed that He is the Christ, God’s own Son, and confessed openly that you are a sinner in need of grace; then you are free. Because “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).”

I urge you friends, do not be like me. Do not waste years attempting to earn salvation or God’s good graces. Simply open up your hands, your heart, and accept it.

Why?

Because God wants to write a new story in your life and your past is not included.
Our past motivates us but does not define us. The blood of Jesus does that.
Peter was not the same after denying Christ. His fervor to share the Gospel increased. He never wanted to deny Jesus again. So instead, he shared the message of Christ everywhere that he went until the day he was put to death.

Let your past do the same. Do not repeat that portion of your story again but allow it to be your motive for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that others may walk in freedom.
These two things I leave you with:

 1)      If you do not know Jesus, He wants you to know that He is risen and purchased your salvation at the cross. I am here to tell you that He is alive and offers the gift of freedom to you. Jesus does not want you to live in sin but freedom. And it’s easier than it sounds. Simply accept that he is Savior, believe Jesus is the Son of God, and confess that you are a sinner. With that, you are free.


      2)      If you know Jesus, but are chained to you past, today you must make the decision to believe in the power of the cross. Your freedom was purchased there. There is no need for you to attempt to earn it. He gives freely. Simply accept. Why? So that you can live the story He has written for you. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Dancing Through Life"

James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Hello friends! I am eager to dive into the Word together again. So let’s jump right in!

When I was a little girl I enjoyed dancing. I never took classes or anything structured but I loved going into my bedroom, turning on my favorite song, and dancing. There was something so exhilarating about it. Of course, my stuffed animals always told me I was the best as they begged for an encore.

In high school I was swept away by the “Cha Cha Slide” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” line dances that took my youth group by storm.

You’ve probably guessed that when Zumba came out I was a big fan (although I am terrible at it).

And the first time I danced with a boy was the evening my husband asked me to marry him (Wouldn’t you know that my first slow dance was to “Beauty and the Beast?” Insert everyone’s “aww” here).

With that short synopsis you have the extent of my dancing career.

I am sure by now you’re asking yourself why you’re wasting your time reading about my meaningless dance experience.

Isn’t it ironic how you always ask the right questions?

James may not have intended to do this, but in James 1:19 he provides us with the dance steps of life, as I my childhood pastor, Bob, called it. It’s a simple quick, slow, slow.

Today I would like to share my personal thoughts on this dance with you. 

The first step in this dance is being quick to hear. The work hear is a verb. It’s active. We make the decision to actually hear. Sure our ears take in sound all the time. But when you really want to hear something you focus on it. We should be quick to do this with God and with other people.

First, when you hear God speaking, through the Word or the Spirit, be quick to hear. Listen to what He is telling you. I am positive that it is important and to your benefit to hear His words. So stop what you’re doing and actively listen to His voice.

Second, when you’re talking to other people, be quick to hear them. So often we are consumed by our daily woes that we do not actually hear what people are saying to us.

When the barista says she has had better days and you reply “Good!” That’s a problem. You’re not listening.
When your husband tells you about His day at work, put down your cell phone and listen. Actively engaged your ears to hear him.
When someone asks you to pray for them, listen.

Be quick to hear. So many people are hurting and need someone to hear them. Therefore, we as ambassadors for Christ, need to listen like He does.

The second step flows directly out of the first. We slow down the dance a bit as we become slow to speak.

Just as dancing demonstrates, many of us have two left feet. The same goes for the James 1:19 dance. Friends, I am guilty of fumbling through this step so if you feel as though this is the one that trips you up, you are not alone.

Most of the time those of us that are quick to speak have good intentions. We want to help people -- share our wisdom with them. Or we do not see adults at all throughout the week so the minute we are in the presence of anyone over twenty we explode like a pressurized soda bottle sharing every detail of our life. Or we simply do not pay close attention to how often we dominate the conversation. We do not mean to take up every second but we do. We do not mean to redirect the conversation to our story but we do.

Remember, I told you that I am guilty so please do not feel like I am throwing you under the preverbal bus. I assure you that is the last thing I want to do. However, those of us who get this portion of the dance backwards tend to stumble our way through and end up with our foot in our mouth.

Words are powerful. When we gab on and on we run the risk of saying foolish things or alienating those we are in conversation with. This can ruin our opportunity to share the gospel.

Therefore, be slow to speak. Give others the opportunity to share their lives with you. You’ll never know the impact listening has on someone’s day. Also, if you’re the only one talking then you may never know when the chance comes to share the gospel. We might miss it if we are not slow to speak.
Being slow to speak provides us with the opportunity to listen. Just as in a dance these two steps flow in and out of each other. If we are slow to speak then we will be quick to listen. Isn’t it beautiful how that works out?

The final movement in this dance of life is the most difficult of all. For this step we must be slow to anger.

James instructs us to be slow to anger and gives us a reason (probably anticipating our rebuttal and complaint). Why are we to be slow to anger? Because anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Simple enough.

When we are quick to anger we glorify no one but ourselves. It doesn’t say that it is not right to experience anger as an emotion during certain times in our lives. It says to be slow to anger.

As followers of Christ we must practice self-control. This is a fruit of the Spirit. It is essential. Too often we attempt to defend our emotional impulses. We make excuses for why we yell at the driver in front of us, speak disrespectfully to our husbands or unlovingly to our wives, lose patience with our children, or run our fists into walls. Usually it is the other person’s fault. Or it’s our right to express ourselves. Perhaps, it’s just “one of those things.”

Friends, we are called to be slow to anger. If you have found yourself in any of this, like I have, than ask the Holy Spirit to make you slow to anger. As life presents you with opportunities listen to Him as He instructs you to control yourself and submit your emotions to Him.

This step is very important. When we are slow to anger we appear different from the rest of the world. Look at the society you live in. There are fights in open areas. People are shooting other people. Children are stabbing other children. Parents are abusing their children. Husbands are aggressive towards their wives and increasingly vice versa. Verbal abuse is becoming a common problem in the home.

Why?

Because our society gratifies itself. It lives for each emotional whim (that’s a different blog post all together). When the world is angry they are quick to express it. Let us be slow to it so that we may, in turn, glorify God. When we appear different, people will take notice, and it will present us with the opportunity to share Christ.

You see, that is the purpose of this dance. When we “quick, slow, slow,” through life, people will notice. However, we do not want them to notice us, what’s the point of that? No, we want them to notice Christ within us. This dance will capture their attention and which, in turn, will allow you to share why you dance and who you dance for – you’ll be able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.



Holy Spirit, help me to dance the dance of James 1:9. Would you make me quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger today? Help me to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit by being self-controlled. Please present me with the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with someone as I live out your dance today. Amen.

Now… Let’s dance!

W.W.J.D.

W.W.J.D This was once the “it” phrase in church youth groups around the country. When I was younger I had bracelets in various color...