Posts tagged ‘christianity’

What is Holding You Back?

It has come to my attention (thank You, God) that it is time to share my testimony with you.  But not necessarily my salvation testimony.  I don’t have a dramatic salvation story…I was only 4 when I invited Christ into my life, after all.

Like all Christians, I had my ups and downs trying to figure out what this Christian life was all about.  One thing I always had, though, was someone who was a true faith warrior.  It wasn’t always the same person.  Sometimes there were more than one.  But these were the people who always gave God the glory.  Always held strong to their faith.  Were deep in the Word, and anchored by prayer.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Christian like them.  I wanted that relationship with Jesus that filled every part of my life.  I wanted to be in love with Jesus…but for some reason I just could never seem to get there.  I prayed.  I read my Bible.  I went to church.  I always served God in some capacity through my church.  Nothing seemed to work.  So what was holding me back?

Two things.  The first was the belief that God could not use me.  I’ve heard people use this argument when they have led a rather sordid life.  They have skeletons in their closet that would scare ghosts.  Not me.  For the most part, I was a pretty good kid growing up.  The kind of trouble I got into was fighting with my brother, and talking back to my mom.  No drugs.  No alcohol.  No illicit sex.  Even as an adult, I was tame.  I married, had children, and settled down to make the good Christian home.  We took the boys to church on Sunday.  Went to Sunday School and made sure they did, too.  I taught in Vacation Bible School every year.  Still, I didn’t believe God could use me.  Why?  Because I knew my heart.  I knew the thoughts that ran through my mind.  The judgments I made of others.  I knew how frustrated and angry I got with my boys when they misbehaved.  I knew the bitterness I held in my heart for some.  All the little secrets held inside me that no one else could see…but God.  God could see them.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not holy.  I’m pathetic.  There is no way God can use me.  I’m a living, breathing example of a hypocrite.

The second thing holding me back from that love relationship with Jesus was fear.  Oh yes!  Fear.  I was scared to death of what He would do in my life.  And maybe not even that as much as how He would do whatever He wanted to do.  What trial would He ask me to bear?  What pain would I suffer?  What, or even who, would He ask me to give up?  I guess I was afraid of the process of learning to love Jesus, more than the end result.

Still, I watched the faith warriors in my life, and longed for that same relationship.  That longing just became greater and greater over the years.  It never waned.  Always at the back of my heart was the call to draw closer to Jesus.  I know now, of course, that He was calling me.  Never giving up.  Because even though I couldn’t love Him completely, He loved me more completely than anyone else ever could.  A few short years ago God’s pull finally overcame my push.  And I realized that the only way I was going to have that relationship with Jesus was to completely surrender to him.  I had to believe that Almighty God could actually do something with my life that would bring glory to Him.  And I had to give over to Him all of me, and all those people and things that meant so much to me, and trust Him to do whatever He knew to be the best.  I had to lay it all on the line.  And I did that.  One day as I sat in a room alone, with the door locked shut, I cried out to God.  “I want that relationship with you, God.  The one that so-and-so has.  Please, take me and make me Yours.  Do with me as You please.  Just use me, please.”

Then came the change.  It wasn’t instantaneous.  But it has been steady.  I have found a deep desire to learn more and more about the God I serve.  I am drawn to read His Word like I am to eating sweets.  I crave the Bible, and find myself looking for opportunities to read it, even outside of my devotion time.  I have the same craving for my prayer time.  You might say I have a sweet tooth for Jesus.  And I finally have that I’m-in-love-with-Jesus kind of relationship with Him that I have longed for since I was four!  It has been a long time coming!

What about my fear and belief that God can use me?  The fear God has taken care of with His peace that passes all understanding.  Now and then I will hesitate, or even find myself gripped by fear, but I have learned to recognize that as Satan trying to pull me away from God.  The Bible tells us that God does not give us a spirit of fear.  So praying and praising will quickly dispel that trouble.

As for God not being able to use me, well, that is another story.  And it is one that you are reading right now.  Since my cry out to God, I have learned that He has given me the gift of prophecy.  And I am learning how He wants me to use it to lift up, encourage, and edify His people.  This blog is a direct result of His calling to me, and a demonstration of how God is using me.  Am I any more perfect or holy than I was before?  No.  Just ask my boys:-)  I still lose my temper.  I still wrestle to keep my thoughts controlled.  I still say and do things I shouldn’t.  And I’m sure there are still people who could look at my life and call me a hypocrite.  But I’m trying.  And I continually give myself over to God, asking Him to change me and make me the person He wants me to be.  God is using me in spite of myself.  I guess that is what makes this relationship so humbling.  God knows me better than I know myself, and yet He still loves me, wants a relationship with me, and wants to use me for His honor and glory.

The thing I want most in this world is what I hope to hear in the next.  I want desperately to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Someone out there is reading this blog post and longs for a deeper relationship with Jesus.  Someone is wrestling with the same fear that I did, and believing the lies that Satan is telling them.  I want you to believe that God can use you!  Heed His call in your life.  Cry out to Him!  He is waiting, longing to ease your fear, give you peace, and shower you with Himself.  And He will use you.  I don’t care who you are, what you have done, or what sins you still wrestle with.  God is God, for Pete’s sake!  Of course He can use you!  Nothing is impossible for Him, including you.

My prayer for you today is the courage and faith to surrender to God, and then all the blessings that come with being in love with your Lord and Savior.

Prove Your Faith

James 1:12 (NCV) – When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever. God promised this to all those who love Him.

Proving your faith does not mean never sinning. And sinning does not mean losing salvation. Proving your faith means always returning to Christ…to seek His forgiveness, to seek restoration to Him, to repent and turn away from your failure. Your faith is proved when you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on determined to obey and glorify God better from that point on.

May God lift you today as you seek to prove your faith, while waiting for His glorious promise of life forever with Him!

Baby Ruth in the Swimming Pool!

Baby Ruth Purchased Feb. 2005 in USA

Baby Ruth Purchased Feb. 2005 in USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago there was a movie in which someone floated a Baby Ruth candy bar in a swimming pool.  I don’t think I ever saw the movie.  I can’t remember what it was called, who was in it, or what it was about.  But I remember the trailer that showed the floating candy bar, and all the people clearing out of the pool thinking it was something a lot more disgusting!  Yep, you are thinking what I am thinking.  Just like quickly moving away from someone you are swimming next to when the water suddenly gets warm in that spot.  Gross!!!  And you are wondering what in the world this has to do with Christianity.  Fear   not, I am going to fill you in.

The Christian church at Corinth was having some trouble.  For the sake of the faint of heart and those who aren’t raising boys, I will refer to the gross as a Baby Ruth.  The church had a Baby Ruth, or two, or three floating in the pool. Of course, it wasn’t anything fake.  It was the real deal.  Some nasty, ugly sins in the midst of God’s holy church, floating in and among His people.  You know the really yucky part?  They didn’t move away from the Baby Ruth.  They didn’t remove it from the pool.  In fact, they were proud of it!!!  Just like boys!

1 Corinthians 5: 1-2 (NCV) – “It is actually being said that there is sexual sin among you.  And it is a kind that does not happen even among people who do not know God.  A man there has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  You should have been filled with sadness so that the man who did this should be put out of your group.”

I admit, my first thought was, “Eeew!  Nasty!”  A man having his father’s wife is a definite Baby Ruth in the pool!!  If you read further into chapter 5 and on into chapter 6, you will find more Baby Ruth’s   The pool was full of them!  Those who were sinning sexually, including, but not limited to prostitution, adultery, and homosexuality.  The greedy.  Robbers.  Idol worshipers.  The verbally abusive.  Drunks.  Cheaters.  Liars.  Thieves.

That is not a pool I would want to swim in!!!  It was so full of the filthy Baby Ruth’s it would be next to impossible to not bump into one.  Then you would have it on you!  What’s worse is that after a time, you would become so used to having it all around you, you might begin to forget how disgusting it all is, and be tempted to add a Baby Ruth of your own!!!

Paul told the Corinthians they should have been sad and put the Baby Ruth out of the swimming pool.  The hope was that by doing so the Baby Ruth might be cleaned up and the owner would then be able to return to the pool clean and pure.

Unfortunately the church of today is no different from the church of Corinth.  There are so many Baby Ruth’s floating in the pool with us that we really don’t look any different from the ocean in which the rest of the world swims in.  Our pool (the church) has been cleaned by chlorine (sanctified by Christ).  All of the muck has been filtered out.  When the world looks at us, they should see pristine water glittering in the Son.  But that is not what they see.  We are full of all the same Baby Ruth’s that were in Corinth.  Idolatry, greed, steeling, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, lies, gossip, cheating, bickering, unkind words, and the list goes on and on.  The sad thing is that we let it float.  We allowed our pristine swimming pool, the church, the Body of Christ, to become so contaminated with Baby Ruth’s, filth, dung, that we have begun to accept it as normal, and even rightgoing directly against the clear teachings of the Word of God!  God is not pleased with this, my brothers and sisters!!!  He is heartbroken, but He is righteously angry as well!!  We have defiled His church.  And even if we haven’t done some of these things ourselves, we have allowed others to do them and not said a thing.  We are equally to blame!

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5: 11-13 that we are not to associate with the people who are living these lives of sin.  We are all sinners.  But there is a big difference between someone who gossips, or even commits adultery, and repents and never does it again, and someone who habitually gossips, lies, stirs up trouble in the church, lives with someone without being married to them, practices homosexuality (yes, I include this explosive topic!) as a way of life.  Verses 11-13 – “I am writing to tell you that you must not associate with those who call themselves believers in Christ but who sin sexually, or are greedy, or worship idols, or abuse others with words, or get drunk, or cheat people.  Do not even eat with people like that.  It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church.  God will judge them.  But you must judge the people who are part of the church.  The Scripture says, ‘You must get rid of the evil person among you.'”

Go back to verse 2.  The man with his father’s wife should have been put out of the church.  I recall attending a small church in my early teen years.  A man and his wife were one of the biggest financial backers of the church.  But they used that money to control what was happening.  They were greedy for power.  They should have been asked to leave the church, but they weren’t.  As a result, the church ended up collapsing, and the pastor (who was a wonderful man of God) was never a pastor of another church.

It is time for the Church to step up to the plate.  It is time to clean the pool!!!!  We are a disgrace!!!  We dishonor God by allowing all of this filthy dung to co-exist with us in His house!!  It is time for our pastors and church leaders to stand firm on the teachings of the Bible, not twist them, and mutilate them, and distort them into something that belongs in the dirty ocean that world swims in.  We do not belong in the ocean!  Christ lifted us out of it with His death on the cross, and resurrection from the grave.  Do not forget that!!!!  We have been cleaned up and set in the purified, chlorinated water that is the Church.  And it is time for the Church body to stand behind the pastors and leaders.  Keep them accountable to start.  Support them when they  are standing strong and doing what truly honors God, His house, and the Body and bride of Christ!!

A Fly Landed on My Coffee Cup!

I shushed it away!  The fly.  But it came back, and it kept landing right on the spot I was drinking from.  Yuck!!  Flies are so filthy.  I rubbed the spot off with a napkin, probably in vain.  I should have just squashed it, but I honestly didn’t want to take the time to do it.  The fly was nothing more to me than a pesky annoyance, and I wanted nothing more to do with it other than to move it away from me.    I didn’t care if it had needs, thoughts, or feelings.  I had no interest what-so-ever in studying it to learn   more about it.  It did not matter one iota if it had 2 wings and 6 legs, or only one of each.  It was a disgusting, germ-laden, disease-carrying thing and I wanted it gone.

Do you know that God could view us much the same way?  He has the power to squash us, like I could have done to that fly.  He finds our sin as filthy and disgusting as I find the germs on that fly.  He could see us as nothing more than a pesky annoyance, and care not an iota about us.  But thankfully, gratefully, that is not who God is!

God is not going to destroy us because of our sin.  In fact, He already provided a way for us to be near Him without the filth of our sin getting in the way.  That way is through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NCV)  Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord did not care for you and choose you because there were many of you–you are the smallest nation of all.  But The Lord chose you because He loved you.”  Give that a personal twist.  God has not chosen any of us because of what we can offer Him.  We are puny.  We are sinful.  We are flies.  God chose us, chose to sacrifice His Son for us, because He loves us!!!

Luke 12:7 – “But God even knows how many hairs you have on your head.  Don’t be afraid.  You are worth much more than many sparrows.”  God loves us so much, He takes the time to know all about us, down to the very number of hairs on our head!!  I don’t even know that, and it’s my head!  Although, I’ll admit to counting grey hairs on occasion:-)

This week I discovered a lump on my breast.  I typically try to spend a lot of time in prayer.  I include in that time prayers for family, friends, people I know have specific requests.  I pray for my spiritual growth.  I don’t pray for specifics for me…a new house, a new job, whatever.  I generally just leave it to God to provide as He sees fit.  When something like this happens, I don’t know what to pray.  I don’t know what to think or feel, so I stop praying.  That is what I did.  But I didn’t just not pray about my health situation, I stopped praying entirely.  I found it a real chore to voice the smallest prayer.  Not that I was angry, scared, or anything like that.  It really just is what it is.  But I don’t know how to pray for myself when it comes to something so personal.

I was so relieved when God pointed out to me that His knowing how many hairs are on my head is not just a superficial  passing curiosity about who I am.  He knows everything about me, including the thoughts and feelings that I don’t even have a handle on.  I don’t know what I am thinking and feeling, but my God loves me so much that He knows.  And even more than that, when I don’t know what to pray, His own Spirit prays in my stead.  Romans 8:26-27 – “Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.  God can see what is in people’s hearts.  And He knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for His people in the way God wants.”

What is on your heart that God cares about, and the Spirit is praying for?  Take comfort in knowing how very deep His love is for you at this very moment!!!  God bless you all!!!

Christianity: Is It Down-to-Business, Or Child’s Play?

Do you take your faith seriously?  I don’t mean, “Yeah, sure I do.”  I mean, “YES LORD!!  AMEN & AMEN!!!”  Do you attend church on as many Sunday’s as you are able?  Or do you skip because the pastor is at a conference (the shepherd is away, so the sheep will play)?  Do you read your Bible every day, or at least most?  Or is it that you skip most days, and read it occasionally?  Do you take time to pray every day? Or do you pray at mealtimes…when you remember?  What does Christianity mean to you?

I was in church this morning, half full.  Perhaps because our pastor was gone, or perhaps because it is summer and it is much more enticing to be at the lake with a fishing pole or water skis.  During the service, I noticed that at least 3 cell phones went off.  And one adult person was using their smart phone for something other than reading an online version of the Bible.  The service is only an hour long.  Can God ask that much time of us?  Shouldn’t it be possible to sit through a one-hour church service without having to answer a cell phone or surf the web?  If church is not important enough to give your undivided attention to, then why attend?  I’m not perfect.  I have skipped church because it is inconvenient, or I am tired.  I have had Sunday mornings when my mind wandered to so many places during that one hour that I would have needed a map to find my way back home.  But I wonder, what does this kind of behavior say about the value I put on my faith, and on what Jesus did for me?  Shouldn’t we all be more than willing, eager to go to church to worship and praise the one, true, living God?  Shouldn’t we yearn to delve into the Scriptures and devour whatever message the Holy Spirit delivers through the pastor?

Speaking of the Scriptures, I see a lot of people being spoon-fed at church.  There are so few people who bring their Bibles to church anymore.  Why?  Too lazy to carry it?  Is it forgotten because it is so seldom opened during the week?  Is it because the pastor always puts the words up on the screen anyway?  Let me ask you something…what if he is putting up the wrong words?  What if he is taking the verses out of context?  Just a thought.

There are a lot of reasons to bring your own Bible to church.  One is to test the words of the pastor. Recently I was listening to a nationally known pastor speak.  He is a true man of God, and I have a great deal of respect for him.  But, as I was following along with his message in my own Bible, I realized that he had taken the verse out of context.  He was preaching a true message, but the verse he was using had nothing to do with what he was saying.  This is bound to happen.  The scary thing is that sometimes it is done intentionally, and a congregation is led astray by meanings twisted and warped to stress a particular agenda.  If we believers do not have our Bibles in front of us, how will we know?  We must be on guard at all times.  Peter warns us of this in 2 Peter 2:1 – There used to be false prophets among God’s people, just as you will have some false teachers in your group.  They will secretly teach things that are wrong–teachings that will cause people to be lost.  They will even refuse to accept the Master, Jesus, who bought their freedom.  So they will bring quick ruin on themselves.”

False teaching aside, how can we learn from the Bible if we do not study it?  I don’t know about you, but when I was in school and had a test coming up, I hit the books.  If I needed to rely just on my memory of the lectures, I would have been a straight F student!!  I sat down with my notes, and my text books and read.  I poured over the words.  I jotted notes.  And re-read what I had read before.  The same is true of studying the Bible.  Even in church, you can be studying.  Look at it as school.  A college class that had a fee to attend.  You didn’t pay it, but Jesus did, and it was a high price.  Don’t waist the opportunity to learn!  Pour over the Bible passage that the pastor is preaching from.  Read the verses before and after.  Write notes in the margins.  Underline.  Highlight.  Re-read.  Make that time worth the effort it took to get out of bed that morning.  Get down to business in church.  Come to worship.  Come to praise.  Come to learn!!

Take your faith seriously, Jesus did.  He died for your faith.  Dig in.  Get down to business.  Stop the child’s play.  It is time to grow up, and stand firmly on the promises of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is coming again soon.  Would you rather be caught studying His Word or reading a text?

Come Lord Jesus, come!!!

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Romans 8: 28-29 (NCV) – We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.  They are the people he called, because that was his plan. God knew them before he made the world, and he decided that they would be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers.

We have heard it hundreds of times.  We, as Christians, are to be like Jesus.  The world should be able to see Jesus in us.  We are children of God.  Perhaps for you, as it has been for me, these words have become cliche.  The punch is gone.  But these truths from God’s Word are there for a reason.  They have meaning beyond passing thoughts.

As I considered verse 29 this morning, the first image in my mind was a bunch of Jesus-like clones.  We are made to be like Him in every way, so that the world is filled with thousands of Jesus’.  Everywhere people look, they see Jesus.  They hear Jesus.  They feel the presence of Jesus.  But somehow the cloning process went wrong.  It is as though each cloning lost some of the essential DNA that would make us identical to Jesus.  Jesus is perfectly sinless.  We are not.  Boom.  Messed up cloning.

Then I realized it isn’t like that at all.  It is more like being from the same stock.  When you see members of the same family, you can see characteristics that are the same.  While they are each individuals, different from the other, there are some things that identify them as being from the same stock…the same family.  They belong to that group.

Being a member of the family of God is like coming from the same stock.  We are all different.  We have individual personalities.  God has given us each gifts and abilities that work together with the others, towards one goal…the return of Christ and His coming kingdom.  But there are certain ways that we talk, behave, think, “walk” that identify us as part of this one group.  We come from the same stock…the family of God.  Our big brother is Jesus, and like all younger siblings, we try to emulate Him. We want to follow in His footsteps.  Thankfully, we can know that they will never go astray.  As long as we follow Him, the world will know that we come from the same stock as Jesus.  

THANK YOU, DEAR FATHER!!!!

walking on the narrow path.

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