What Are You?

What are you? Male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, American, immigrant, Republican, Democrat…? How about human?

If I were to ask you what church you go to, we’d also have many different answers. Some may not even go at all…But, when the religion question comes up, what do you say first? Baptist, Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Methodist…? How about Christian? I think this says a lot about what we value most.

Do you consider yourself your denomination over Christian? Are we all brothers and sisters in Christ first? Or does your particular denomination shame or discredit others for being different? What was Jesus? His nationality was Jewish, but it’s because of Him that we can even claim Christianity at all. Did He belong to a certain church? He preached in synagogues, on sea shores and mounts, but He also seemed to get on to the church folks more than any others.

He’s why we worship or should be. Denominations are formed by different interpretations of the Bible. Personally, I am a Christian who, at this point in my life, attends and serves at a Seventh-day Adventist church. I love my church and the people in it. I may not be happy with everything going on in it, but maybe that’s exactly why I’m there.

Since there are no perfect people, I can assume there must be no perfect church on earth either since they are made up of just that, people. Their ideologies, theologies, policies, doctrines, interpretations of scripture. I also think there are wonderful churches everywhere because I think there are wonderful Jesus following people in them. May we each be one where we are.

May we all serve Him where we are called and shine His light in all denominational congregations. May we love like Jesus to the best of our ability right where we are and especially in church. Sometimes they need it the most. May we go where He asks us to go. Because, one day, one sweet day, we’ll all be together. Regardless of the biases and prejudices associated.

There are enough prejudices in this world already, may we be increasingly aware that denominations do this too and may we try to be different and gracious about it.

I believe each one of us who claim Jesus will worship together in heaven. There won’t be six different churches to choose from on the streets of gold. We will be Christians who proclaimed His name above all others and clung to Him here like He clung to that cross for us.

So…what are you??

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Two Points..

Last week I had the privilege of sharing a worship thought with my daughter’s middle school basketball team. I’d love to also share here…

Fouls are part of the game in basketball. More than likely, you won’t play the season or even a game without getting fouled or fouling someone else. Sometimes they are intentional, you know that player. But most of the time they are accidental. Nonetheless, fouls will get called and a free throw will be given because of it. Two free points available…

In life, we also foul each other and get fouled. To forgive these fouls keeps us moving forward in peace and love. Don’t be that person who fouls on purpose, you just gave your opponent two possible free points. But, know that when you’re fouled, you’ll get those two free points too. We can’t out foul God’s grace. Scripture says it is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Sometimes the free points are received and sometimes they are not, but they are always offered. Isn’t this also so much like the grace of God? We are allowed a swish of grace each and every time we foul. But, this grace isn’t cheap. It was bought by His death. His grace was given when He walked this earth and died for us. I am SO thankful for this gift! Because as long as I’m on this earth, I know I’ll foul others. May they receive His grace. May I. May we know that even if the two points are not scored, it was still offered.

What about those fouls that happen and don’t get called? No free throw doesn’t equal no grace. God still sees. And, His grace is still there. Trust Him in that and offer forgiveness anyway. He sees that too. Even if the referee doesn’t. Offer him grace too. Us humans miss things. We just do.

No harm, no foul takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to life. But, just like in the game of basketball, fouls are a part of life. May we give and receive grace as often as those fouls are given and received. This is God’s will for us.

Jesus said: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

When we see a free throw taken in the game of basketball, may we always think of the grace God offers after a foul. And may we offer it to others as freely as He offers it to us. So that ours will also be forgiven.

The ball may miss the basket, but His grace never does and we all need it.

 

FREEDOM!

When we hear the word “slave”, the opposite of freedom comes to mind…

Nonetheless, we are FREE to choose (God doesn’t force). We are FREE to love (God made us to). We are FREE to worship (God delights in it). We are FREE to live (Make choices). Thank GOD we live in a country with so many freedoms.

Paul calls himself a slave to Christ many places in the scripture. This is because He was sold out to the gospel. He came from a place of strict Jewish upbringing. He knew the law and followed the rules, better than anyone else in his expert opinion. He condemned and even killed those who didn’t.

Until Jesus Christ Himself shut Saul down (put scales over his eyes) and opened his heart (reopened his eyes) to the truth of who He was and why He died, he persecuted others for believing it. It was then, that Jesus revealed that He died for Saul (the one who thought he lived perfectly), for all of us. No one else could have convinced him, he would have spit on anyone who even tried.

What a stark difference to what he writes here…

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. — Paul (1 Timothy 1:15)

On the road to Damascus, Paul’s name and life was forever changed. He was set free and became a slave (servant) at the same time.

As Jesus followers today, we are freed from the bondage of all kinds of things as we learn what it means to be in personal relationship with Him. He reveals more and more each step of the journey with Him. To live as a slave to Christ is freedom from other people’s opinions, agendas….desires for you. Whatever He speaks to your heart and through His Word is the direction you find yourself starting to move.

To follow Jesus may look differently to people. He calls us to different ministries and mission fields as distinctly as He entrusts us with different gifts. Going His direction is the freedom He calls us to. He breaks the chains of the direction our ultimate enemy wants us to go.

Satan plants circumstances and earthly enemies in our paths to deter us. But, Jesus tells us how to deal with both of these. (Give thanks in all circumstances and forgive and pray for our enemies). They are only pawns in our ultimate enemy’s plan for us.

Personal relationship with Jesus breaks those chains and we start to follow Him…We want to when our eyes and hearts are opened to His love for us.

Paul went from persecuting those who followed Jesus to preaching why we all should. Because He is the answer. His grace saves us. This is what it means to be a slave to Christ instead of the world or to people. To think there is anything other than the blood of Jesus that can save us or anything that could keep Him from loving us is to live in bondage rather than the freedom of Christ. He never stops loving us. He’s already chosen us, but He also allows us to choose. A forced love is not true loyalty or love in return.

I am both humbled and honored to use my gift to proclaim His name and my 100% dependency on Him. I know there is no other way to do it. I pray my kids do the same, but even if they do not, may my heart’s cry never change. That He loves us better than anyone ever has or will. That what the enemy throws at us can and will be used for the good of those who love Him. And that God is good no matter what Satan wants us to think.

We take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GNT)

His love is the freedom we’ve been looking for. He loves you. Learn it. Live it. Become a slave to it…Ironically, as a slave to Christ, more freedom than you’ve ever experienced will come from it.

If we are free to choose, so are others. Respect yourself and respect other people’s choices. We are called to share His love with others, but there is also a whole lot only the Holy Spirit can do. Release yourself from the Holy Spirit’s roll in people’s lives. Share His love and release.

This is another way the Kingdom of God is polar opposite from the world’s…In slavery, there is freedom. Who/what are you a slave to?

 

Amazing Grace

I think, more often than not, the grace that people are afraid of, is the grace that sets them free. Being scared to be honest, taking off the mask, openly admitting struggles, voicing the bitterness, expressing the misunderstanding. These are all hard and they all take grace.

We tend to think “GRACE” means happy go lucky, peaceful, even “easy”…I know I did. But, now I view “GRACE” as strength, courage, the ability  (only way) to do the “hard thing”. Cheap grace is easy. God’s grace is power.

If we are called to a life of grace, God will allow a lot of pain. How else would it show? Showering those who have hurt us with grace is straight from God and goes against our flesh. When we allow ourselves to admit hurt from others and recognize the need for grace in ourselves, the power of grace is revealed. Showing grace to those who have hurt us, frees us and surprises others in today’s world. Just as I know that I don’t deserve God’s grace, they know they don’t deserve ours. It’s a gift we decide to give. Like God’s grace to us.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV)

I’m thoroughly convinced that the ONLY way to do this is by grace. Now, that’s power! When you think you’ve been hurt one to many times, when you think you can’t take one more lashing or bloody heart. When the person you never thought would or even could hurt you, does. Because we all fail each other. Remember, the grace of God, is not cheap. It’s the only thing that will heal your heart. Receiving it and sharing it.

Do you need grace? Give it.

I can think back on those I have hurt and I praise God for the grace they’ve shown me after the fact, I knew I needed it and that they didn’t have to give it. But, oh the sweet picture of Jesus we get to see when they do. It’s truly a gift.

Jesus bled and died for us because of His grace towards us. When we run out, He is our never ending source.

That person that comes to mind, that situation that won’t go away, that conversation that scares you, that hidden struggle….May God grant us the GRACE to forgive, release, lean in, and admit. That all takes a supernatural courage and that comes from His power. The power of grace. It truly is amazing.

But I Thought…

This weekend, Jesus took me to therapy. You know, we can be told something our whole lives and when God brings it front and center, is when it actually sticks.

I’ve been assuming the worst in people…That they don’t care, that they don’t want to help, that they don’t like me, that they don’t approve of me, that they blame me, that they just wish I weren’t there, including the people I love.

Isn’t that a sad state of mind? To assume people are mad or upset before you even know if they are? Why not assume people are fine with you. People are busy with their own lives. That people don’t/can’t know your issue if you haven’t shared it, that they want what’s best for you, that they have their own issues going on, that they are happy when you are, and sad when you are. That their hearts beat in sincerity and compassion. This not only lightens your load, but takes the unnecessary pressure off of them too.

I was also reminded that “how we view people (for the better or for the worse) also shows how we view ourselves.” So, that must mean I’m assuming the worst about myself. How sad! Assuming the worst in people and ourselves is not loving others or ourselves. It’s exactly what the devil wants to cause division before a conflict has even taken place. What an evil trick on his part!

How about we lean on the Lord for strength, wisdom, understanding and start trusting that in ourselves? How about we make decisions based on our worth in Him and lean into the joy and confidence that goes a long with that? He is ever present in our lives and He bestows wisdom when asked.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 (NIV)

You know what they say happens when we assume?

Image result for what happens when you assume?

How about we assume the best, then when someone has a problem, it can be dealt with appropriately when it arises. This seems simple, but it prevents me from assuming there are a lot more problems than necessary to address and tend to. Let’s take them as they come, not as we assume they are.

Let’s love others by assuming the best about them and love ourselves by thinking the best of ourselves. It’s in people’s weaknesses and frustrations that they need love the most, it’s the same with ourselves. We need to love ourselves through a hard day, the hard stuff. Consider God’s open arms of grace when we blow it. Because we need love too. We all do.

He is BIGGER…

Jesus is bigger. He’s bigger than the church pew you just sat in. He’s bigger than the separation with our kids. He’s bigger than the guilt we carry.

He’s bigger than your divorce. He’s bigger than the sermon you just listened to. He’s bigger than the quote you just shared. He’s bigger than the diagnosis you just received. He’s bigger than differences in theology. He’s bigger than the school you attend. He’s bigger than our mistakes.

He’s bigger than the foods we eat. He’s bigger than the feelings we have. He’s bigger than the words that we write or say. He’s bigger than our intentions. He’s bigger than our fears. He’s bigger than the devil.

Claiming the Name of Jesus is the biggest thing we can do and best choice we can make. When we are overcome with joy, in the depths of despair, when sadness washes over us, when misunderstandings run rampant. Claim His Name.

If there’s TWO things I pray my girls see and remember in me, it’s the grace and love of Jesus. What more can I give?

More of You, Jesus. Less of me.

For YOU know better than I….

 

Why??

Even Jesus asked “Why.” He already knew the answer. He knew what He was doing. He knew what His Father was doing. He knew the job He came to accomplish. But, in His humanness and despair, He cried out..”Why?” Can you relate? Obviously, so can He.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, WHY have you forsaken me?”). Matthew 27:46 (NIV)

Jesus knew His purpose. By the time he was twelve, He was “about His father’s business.” (Luke 2:49) He pleaded for the cup to pass the night before, if it all possible, but went forward all knowing, all merciful, and all powerful for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). Joy? He wasn’t looking forward to it. He dreaded it, but the outcome was His joy and His why.

He knew that He would be the ultimate sacrifice. Our ultimate sacrifice. He endured and allowed the emotional pain and physical agony of the cross, for us. “Us” being His joy. We are why He did what He did. Being with us forever was worth it to Him to take on every sin, abandonment from His Father, be beaten, spat on, made fun of, and killed a tortuous death. He was forsaken so that we never would be. He took the hit. The pain of the forsaking (separation) ultimately pushed out the question. He could no longer contain it, even though He knew it. Even Jesus with a “Why, Lord?!”

If He did this for us, He should be our joy. Then and now, we are still His. We should relish in His love for us. Accept His forgiveness. Lean on Him in our trials and praise Him for His presence. Share His life and sacrifice with others. Point others to Him when hurt by church people, work people, family people, people. People proclaiming His name sometimes cause the most hurt. That’s not Him, that’s them.

So, when we ask “Why”, let us remember that even our Savior did. He cried out “Why” to a question He already knew. In His pain and literal darkness, He cried out “Why?”

He was sinless, so we are not wrong to ask this question. We are humans with many questions. May our “whys” be followed with a remembrance that it is also finished. After His why, He also cried this out. “It is finished” and died. All of our questions will one day be wrapped up in Him. He is the answer.

He did not come to hurt, condemn, or look down on people. He came to speak and live truth, teach, heal, be an example of God’s love, die, be raised again, and claim the victory….for us.

May our “whys” point to Him. May we point others with “whys” to Him. May, our “I just don’t know, but one day we wills” be a source of hope and point to the One who cried out the same exact question knowing full well the answer. The answer to His “why” was why He did it. We are His why.

May we always remember that Jesus comes to us in our hurts and empathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He also knows suffering personally. His “why” was proof of that. It was in His worse suffering that even He asked the question we so often do and our ultimate sacrifice made complete because of it.

You are not alone.