You Can’t Leap Your Way Through A Marathon

You Can’t Leap Your Way Through A Marathon

Picture this: You’re watching someone prepare for a marathon. They are warming up, stretching, and maybe hopping from one foot to the other in anticipation. The atmosphere is electric. As they take one final deep breath, the gun goes off. Suddenly they bend their knees and leap as far as they can. After landing, they just squat down and jump again as other people run by them.

We would look ridiculous trying to leap our way through an entire marathon, so why do we assume that our faith journey should look that way? We want to experience these huge, defining leaps of faith without realizing that the small steps are just as important.

All of us want to run the faith race triumphantly, crossing the finish line straight into the arms of Jesus. We have a course to complete and a goal to meet. However, we also want to run “with perseverance”—steadfastly, purposefully, and tirelessly—which means our race should look more like a marathon than a sprint or series of leaps.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

4 Tips for Running a Marathon

  1. Stay Hydrated

The only way to keep from getting thirsty during a marathon is to tap into our well of living water, or the gospel of Jesus. That alone is what will eternally quench our yearning for direction, meaning, and happiness. When we are running through a drought of truth and grace, we stay hydrated by staying in the Word, soaking up the scriptures and receiving refreshment directly from the source.

But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  – John 4:14

  1. Stay In Your Own Lane

Don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. There might be people running faster than you, slower than you, or right next to you. Don’t let yourself get prideful when you look at the person behind you. Don’t let yourself feel defeated when you look at the person ahead of you. And don’t depend on the person next to you to set your pace. We are each running our own race and we each have a unique calling.

Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of.  – Galatians 6:4

  1. Cheer For Other Runners

Don’t just be a passive spectator; be a witness. Bear witness to God and His faithfulness as you run your race by cheering for the other runners around you. Encourage them, lift them up, and offer motivation as they attempt to stay their course.

So cheer each other up with the hope you have. Build each other up.
– Thessalonians 5:11

  1. Celebrate Your Victories

Always celebrate your victories. Don’t pass over the small ones too quickly trying to get to the next big one. The first time you overcame a hurdle. The first time you thought you couldn’t possibly take another step, but then you did. Let those moments motivate you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Sometimes those small, uncertain steps of faith are the ones that prepare you for the giant leaps. Don’t take them for granted.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way.”
– Deuteronomy 20:4

I Love You & Who You Taught Me to Be (A Eulogy)

I Love You & Who You Taught Me to Be (A Eulogy)
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:50-57

My family has been grieving the unexpected passing of my sweet Meme last Sunday. Since this blog is a place where I strive to be transparent and vulnerable, I want to share the eulogy I wrote for her:

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Norma Faye Barker Rollins had a lot of nicknames, but to us grandkids she was Meme. My mama may have given us life, but it was Meme who gave us candy. It was Meme who taught us that you could eat ice cream right out of the carton, that bedtimes were negotiable, and that your earrings should always match your shoes. It was Meme who entertained us for hours with her golden sunshine necklace, her never-ending gum supply, and her killer dance moves. For anyone who hasn’t seen the video of her breaking it down to Aaron Carter, come and see me after the service.

Meme was strong and stubborn and yet still unpredictable. She once took me to the drive-in theater, and as a special treat, she brought us a shrimp platter to snack on. She told me I could throw the shrimp tails out the window, but I missed the part about the tails, assumed she was telling me the shrimp was no good, and ended up throwing the whole tray of shrimp out the window. As we both silently stared at the 30+ shrimp laying in the cold, wet grass I just knew that she was going to be mad, but instead, she dissolved into hysterical laughter and kept laughing about it for twenty years.

The love of a grandmother is a special kind of love because it gives so much of itself without asking for anything in return. It doesn’t demand or expect anything from you, and it rejoices over every simple phone call, kiss on the cheek, and smile.

These are some of my favorite memories, but they are only a small snapshot of the woman she was. She told me multiple times how having grandchildren changed her life, and I hope she knew just how much she impacted ours in return. I may not remember the way she looked at me when I was born, but I did get to see the way she looked at my daughter, and—while no love can match the love shown on the cross—I’m convinced that a grandmother’s love is a close second.

I’m sure everyone here has their own special memories of her. She was the type of person who believed in going above and beyond for anyone: family, friend, or stranger. She lived out her faith by radiating Christ’s selfless love, and I learned a lot about Jesus sitting underneath the piano during church services while she played.

I can’t think of Meme without thinking of her lullabies and how she would sing to us for hours when we couldn’t sleep. Between the church choir and her grandkids, she probably spent 85% of her life singing and I know that now she’s exactly where she would want to be—with my Papaw, singing before the throne.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

 

How Expectations Can Sink a Relationship

How Expectations Can Sink a Relationship

 

Too often, our relationships sink under the weight of our expectations. We could spend hours talking about why this is the case, but really there’s a simple explanation: There is only one who can love us the way we are created to be loved.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” – Jeremiah 31:3

No other love can reach the standard of God’s love. When we tie up our worth in the measure of anyone else’s love, we are selling ourselves short. Not only that, but we are putting a lot of pressure on someone who has no way of living up to who we need them to be.

Let’s talk about the things scripture does not say:

  • “Your spouse will rescue you.”
  • “Your parents will always protect you.”
  • “Your best friend will never leave nor forsake you.”
  • “Your children will carry your burdens.”

The majority of fights in my marriage have stemmed from the unrealistic expectations my husband and I have put on each other. Neither of us entered our relationship believing it would be perfect or that we wouldn’t fight, but there were so many times we couldn’t figure out why we were fighting. After our daughter was born, we went through a period of time where we just didn’t like each other.

One night as we were sitting on our couch, we both agreed to be completely honest about the root of the problem. As it turns out, we said the exact same thing to each other: I just thought you were going to be there for me.

While I had been going through postpartum depression and struggling to balance my new role as a full-time working mom, wife, and friend, I had expected him to understand the emotions and stress I was feeling. While he had been picking up extra jobs on the side and trying to provide for our growing family, he had expected me to see his motives and appreciate the effort he was putting in.

There are many things we could have done differently during that time (and plan to do differently when our baby boy arrives in a few weeks), but the truth is that we are going to let each other down sometimes. My husband is one of the strongest people I know, but it’s not fair for me to ask him to carry all of my burdens.

That night, it’s like we wrote a love letter to God. We took all of the things we had been saying to each other and, together, we started saying them to Him:

“God, I know that You will never let me down or leave me. You are my refuge and Your faithfulness is my shield. You will be with me in my trouble and You will deliver and honor me. You will take my burdens and give me rest. You, God, will heal my broken heart.”

Don’t sink your relationships by hoping that someone else’s love is going to save, cleanse, deliver, redeem, justify, and fight for you, but don’t sell yourself short by thinking you don’t deserve a love that will. Just take those expectations and place them on the One who was meant to carry them.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

He Did Not Spare His Own Son

He Did Not Spare His Own Son

Imagine a room filled with hundreds of people worshiping at God’s feet, with hands and voices raised in unison. As you watch, people begin vanishing one by one as though they were never there at all.

Several years ago, this was the vision God gave me to show what would happen if I wasn’t obedient to walk in the calling He had placed on my life. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept of ministry and I certainly didn’t see how I could be used to help bring people to Jesus. My life was messy and, even though I had been saved, I had no personal relationship with God besides waving hello on Sunday mornings.

Although it took a few more years until I fully understood the meaning behind that vision, I did begin to realize the importance of obedience. I had always assumed that obedience was for my own benefit so that God could put the right people in my life and I could receive all He had planned for me, but He clearly showed me that I would not be the only one impacted if I chose to ignore my calling.

Obedience is hard when we feel like what we’re being asked to do is too extreme, especially if the outcome isn’t something we would have predicted or wanted.

One of the best examples in scripture is Abraham and Isaac. In Genesis 22:2, God tells Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

No matter how challenging the calling on our lives may seem, most of us can look at this example and be thankful that we weren’t asked to sacrifice the life of our only child on a mountaintop. Yet in the very next verse, we see Abraham’s obedience: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and went to the place which God had told him.”

It took Abraham and Isaac three days to arrive at their destination; this wasn’t just a quick hike up the mountain. Can you imagine that trip? Isaac was his promised son, and Abraham knew that the path they were on would lead to his death, yet he kept walking for three days.

We all know how this story ends. In Genesis 22:12, at the last second, God calls to Abraham and says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.” After Abraham provided the obedience, God provided the ram. He spared Abraham’s son, and He spared Abraham’s heart.

Abraham did not know or have control over the outcome, but he was obedient because he trusted God and God’s love for him. Even when Isaac asked, “Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham responded, “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.
– Romans 8:32

God did not spare His own Son, nor did He spare His own heart when He provided our lamb. Jesus went up to Mount Calvary with the cross on His back the same way that Isaac walked up the mountain with wood on his back, but this time, there was no replacement sacrifice.

Scripture includes the story of Isaac and Abraham not only to show us Abraham’s obedience, but also to show us the depth of God’s love for us. Sometimes it seems like God is asking too much. We don’t want to give up our Isaac, and the only thing that keeps us moving forward in obedience is the overwhelming truth of God’s steadfast love. We are only able to manifest the power of God’s love when we yield to it.

God told Abraham, “I know that you love Me because you did not withhold your son from Me.” When we look at the cross, we can confidently say, “Lord, I know that you love me because You did not withhold Your Son from me.”

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and
sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
– 1 John 4:10

Immigration: What Does the Bible Say?

Immigration: What Does the Bible Say?

All it takes is one glance at any of the news sites to know that our system doesn’t work and our policies need to change in regard to immigration.

My heart aches at the images of children being separated from their parents. I look at them and see my own little girl, who still clings to me when I drop her off at daycare. I can only imagine the fear and panic she would experience if she was forcibly taken away from us.

My heart breaks, but the rest of me is furious.

There is no excuse for officials using scripture to justify the “zero tolerance” policies; in fact, it’s a violation of the very spirit of the Gospel. This policy is cruel and inhumane, stripping children and their parents of their worth, dignity, and inherent value. When I say inherent, I mean ingrained or inborn. Every parent and child and human was made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), which means that they are children of God and inherently valued by Him. When we fail to protect the vulnerable, we fail to uphold the Gospel.

Paul reminds us that, “There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).

As a Christian, you may or may not feel called to speak out about political issues, but we are absolutely called to speak out about the Gospel, especially when it is being misrepresented.

Romans 13 is often invoked in discussions about submitting to governing authorities, but it continues on to say that that authority is meant to be exercised for the good of all people (Romans 13:2) and that whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

Even in Isaiah we are told, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” – Isaiah 10:1-2

Here are seven verses that further clarify the ministry that the church is called to:

  • When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34
  • This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ – Zechariah 7:9-10
  • Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 82:3-4
  • He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:18-19
  • This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. – Jeremiah 22:3
  • Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. – Hebrews 13:3
  • Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9

Immigration policy is complicated, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done now. I realize that slinging opinions around isn’t an effective way to initiate action, so here are four easy steps you can take to engage and join the conversation:

Pray

We are called to be persistent in prayer in every situation. Lift up those in authority and pray that they will humble themselves before the Lord. Pray for those who are suffering, as though you were in their position.

Advocate

Publicly support legislation that will maintain the rights of all migrants in the United States and provide opportunities for them to attain legal status. Go to your local churches and ask them to take a stand. Initiate conversations with your peers and encourage them to be vocal as well.

Denounce

Condemn the current policy, as well as the xenophobic reactions currently directed at migrants. Condemn the separation of families. Don’t remain silent or passive just because you aren’t directly affected.

Petition

Speak up. This is one of the best articles I’ve read with a step-by-step guide (including scripts and resources) on how to implore leaders in Washington to take action with legislation that will protect these families.

Embracing the Season You’re In

Embracing the Season You’re In

After my daughter was born, I worked hard for almost a year to get back in shape. I’m now seven months along in my second pregnancy and those abs are nowhere to be seen, touching my toes is a distant memory, shaving my legs is a terrifying mix between Helen Keller and Edward Scissorhands, and waddling is my main mode of transportation.

While it’s difficult to work hard at something only to watch it fade away, I have to remind myself what this season is going to produce: a sweet baby boy who will turn our family of three into a family of four.

When we were first trying to get pregnant, the doctors told me the odds were stacked against us because of my struggles with endometriosis. I had surgery, and we were so blessed by our baby girl. I had been told I would need surgery again if we wanted to try for another baby, and yet our little boy surprised all of us. I’m so incredibly thankful to be able to feel those little baby kicks and hear that strong heartbeat.

Our Christian walk is the same way. We have to learn to embrace the season we are in—whether it’s a season of difficulty, a season of dryness, or a season of celebration—knowing that God will use each one to produce something. When we are struggling, God is always there pruning, plucking, watering, and sometimes uprooting so that we can enter a new season of producing fruit.

Embracing a hard season is almost always easier said than done, but for anyone currently in a period of mourning or heartbreak, I encourage you to reflect on Isaiah 53:10—Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him.

We know that the only reason God was pleased to bruise Jesus was because He knew the bigger picture. God didn’t take delight in the suffering of His Son, but in what was accomplished through it.

We don’t take pleasure in our pain, but in the knowledge that God will use it to accomplish His purpose for His glory. The same way that I know my sweet season of pregnancy will produce a baby boy, scripture promises that our seasons will always produce fruit when we choose to delight in the Lord:

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”  – Psalm 1:3

Are you in a season of pregnancy, missing the days where you could see your toes? Embrace that rounded belly and praise God for your sweet miracle. Are you in a season of motherhood, wondering if you’ll ever have another moment of rest or privacy? Embrace the exhaustion that comes from a long day of loving hard, knowing these moments won’t last long and soon you will be wondering where the time has gone.

How Big is Your Faith?

How Big is Your Faith?

One of my favorite ways to make scripture come alive is to put myself in someone’s place so I can try to imagine what they were feeling and experiencing.

In Exodus 3, the Lord says He has seen the suffering of His people and that He is sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. All that Moses say in return is, “Who am I that I should go?” followed by, “But what if they ask who sent me?”

Scripture doesn’t go into a lot of detail about what Moses was thinking; we only know that he doubted his ability to do what has been asked of him. However, when I put myself in his place, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • I am 80 years old, living a peaceful life.
  • I’m not eloquent, yet I’m being asked to speak on behalf of God.
  • I am being sent to the place I grew up, to liberate the people I saw as slaves.
  • I am coming as an enemy against the people who raised and educated me.

But there’s so much more here because God didn’t share every single detail with Moses when He called him to go.

Can you imagine the faith Moses would have needed to continue trusting in God’s plan, even as it changed from how Moses might have seen it going? When God told him He was going to perform wonders among the Egyptians, do you think Moses’ first thought was blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the killing of their firstborns? Scripture tells us that Moses was highly regarded in Egypt, but it doesn’t tell us how he felt about calling down plagues on people he might have known. It doesn’t tell us how he felt about the wailing that echoed through Egypt as children were struck down.

In the animated movie Prince of Egypt, Moses says to Pharaoh, “This was my home – all this pain and devastation, how it tortures me inside…”

Moses didn’t know the end of the story. The only thing he could see in front of him was the pain of the Egyptians and the doubt of the Israelites. In fact, he never even got to enter the Promised Land.

How much faith would it take for you to go through heartbreak, without ever seeing how the story ends, and still trust that God is going to use it for His glory?

God’s plans rarely unfold the way we think they are going to, but we have to trust Him in the valleys if we want to join Him on the mountains. Sometimes it’s for our own benefit that God gives us pieces at a time rather than the whole picture at once. Would Moses have taken the first step if he could have seen the end? Would he have even returned to Egypt if he had known what was coming: the plagues, the disobedience, the unbelief, the rebellions? God had promised victory, but I imagine that it did not come the way Moses had envisioned.

Moses couldn’t see the end from the beginning, but He trusted God from the beginning to the end. Hebrews 11 (often called the “Hall of Faith” or “Heroes of Faith”) remembers Moses this way:

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.” – Hebrews 11:24-29

When we choose to step out in faith, we have to trust that He knows the final outcome before we take that first step, remember that our faith is never bigger than our God, and keep moving forward, even if things don’t look the way we thought they would.

How to Restore Your Relationships: Don’t Be a Judas

How to Restore Your Relationships: Don’t Be a Judas

And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”

– Matthew 26:19-22

This passage of scripture is so interesting to me. When Jesus shares with the disciples that one of them would betray Him, their responses weren’t to defend themselves, deny the betrayal, or protect Him from betrayal. These men had been following Jesus for a few years now, and yet nobody said, “Well, it’s definitely not me, Lord!” or, “None of us would ever betray you!”

Instead, they all asked: “Is it me?”

Each disciple was focused on himself and full of self-doubt. The only difference between Judas and the others was that Judas continued to pursue his own heart instead of Jesus. He followed his selfish desires to the end. As Jon Bloom once said, “If you are true to yourself, and your self is not anchored in Christ, your self will destroy you.”

I always associated the concept of denying yourself with marriage. In fact, I had heard so many sermons preached on submission and sacrifice that early on in our marriage when my husband and I both wanted to watch different TV shows, I lovingly reminded him that he was supposed to die to himself.

The truth is, scripture doesn’t say to die to yourself when you get married. It says “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

As Christians, we were already supposed to have denied ourselves when we first chose Jesus—marriage just highlights the areas where we failed to do that. The only way to get to the sacrificial, purifying, unbreakable love described in Ephesians 5 is to first recognize the love that Jesus has for us.

When we become sin-focused instead of grace-focused, we respond in the same way the disciples did. We look at the work Christ did on the cross to cover all of our sins and then we look down at ourselves and say, “But what about this one? Is it covered?” We take our eyes off of Him and suddenly we are covered in self-doubt. When our lives are ruled by self-doubt, we can’t be there for the people we love and we certainly can’t love them the way we were called to.

Jesus doesn’t use guilt to draw you closer. Even knowing what was coming, He didn’t lean over to Judas and whisper, “Die to yourself”, the way that I did to my husband. He also didn’t leave a Bible open on Judas’ pillow with Luke 9:23 highlighted. He invested in Judas. He loved Judas. And when Judas betrayed Him and Peter denied Him, Jesus still took up His cross for them.

Denying yourself or putting someone else first in a relationship shouldn’t come from a place of guilt, duty, or self-righteous sacrifice; it should come from the overflow of love that Jesus is pouring into you. If you want to restore your relationships, pursue Jesus first.

Replacing Shame With Glory

Replacing Shame With Glory

“Someone’s breakthrough is attached to the testimony you’re too ashamed to share.”

These words hit me like a bucket of ice water. I’m about to be very honest about something I have only told my husband. I love sharing parts of my testimony. I love talking about how God moved in my life when we were told we might not be able to have kids. I love opening up about how God built my faith by leading me through a struggle with postpartum depression, a fear of tithing, and several years of doubting my salvation.

But there’s one part of my testimony that I have always been ashamed of: my addiction to pornography.

I was only eight years old the first time I saw porn. I stumbled on an old VHS tape with no title and suddenly on the screen before me, I saw things I had no idea how to describe or process. I quickly removed the tape and tried to wipe it from my memory, but it wasn’t long until I sought it out again so I could finish watching it.

That began my journey into years of cycling in and out of addiction. It’s one of the biggest reasons I doubted my salvation; I would go months without “messing up”, and then it would take one moment of weakness to screw everything up and I would beg God to make me clean again.

My first turning point was when God spoke to me in a dream and showed me how much this addiction could hurt the people I love. It had always seemed like a sin that only affected me, but God showed me the impact on my future husband, my future children, my friends, my family, and my Christian witness. He showed me the ministry He had planned for me and He showed me how this addiction was going to ruin it.

I woke up crying. I could still see the pain and devastation written on the faces I loved. I asked, “Lord, what do I do with all of this?” And He said, “Give it to Me.”

My second turning point was the revelation I received about grace. I spent most of my life mixing up law and grace, to the point where I thought every negative thing that happened was a punishment for my sin: high school heartbreaks, my parent’s divorce, the loss of someone I loved. I knew that God was good and just, but I never desired a relationship with Him because I was too ashamed that I couldn’t pull myself together.

Meeting my husband changed my life. He pointed out that when the woman was caught in adultery, grace came first. Jesus didn’t say, “Go live your life perfectly, and then you will be forgiven.” He released her from her past and then told her to go and sin no more.

The truth is I couldn’t pull myself together, because grace had to come first. A relationship with Christ is the only thing strong enough to truly break an addiction that has your heart, and it’s because of the work that He has already completed on the cross.

If you are struggling with a hidden sin, there are three things I want to share with you:

1) Sin has a ripple effect.

It might seem like it’s only affecting you, but there are always others caught in the crosshairs. Just ask the mother who has watched her baby girl overdose one too many times. Ask the husband who knows the new dress his wife bought was meant for another man. Ask the little boy who never learned how to throw a football because his daddy drowned himself in a bottle. Ask the ones who are left behind, always wondering if there was something else they could have done.

Scripture tells us that temptation leads to sin and that sin leads to death, but it’s not just our death. How many children have grown up hating God because they’ve had an adult in their life quote His words right before breaking their heart? How many Christians have left the church because they’ve been beaten up by modern-day Pharisees or couldn’t stand the hypocrisy?

Sin is a disease that will eat at you, as well as the people around you.

2) Addictions can rarely be broken by you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Note that the verse doesn’t say that you will provide a way out, nor does it say that you have to overcome temptation. It says that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear and He will provide a way out.

Addictions don’t go away overnight, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your job is to change your environment and trust God to change your heart. When you feel overwhelmed by temptation, tell Him: “God, You promised that You would not let me be tempted more than I can bear, and You promised that You would provide a way out. Lord, You are bigger than this addiction. I cannot, but You can.”

3) Messing up doesn’t send you back to the starting line.

One of the best pictures of grace that the Lord has given me came while I was training for a 5K. I had never been a runner, and when I first started running, I had to take a lot of breaks. But the beauty was that no matter where I stopped, I didn’t have to start at zero when I picked back up. If I left off at 1.5 miles, I started back at 1.5 miles. Growing up, I viewed sin as something that sent me back to the starting line, but while running, I realized that if I had to start back at the beginning every time I took a break, I would be too exhausted to ever finish my race. We don’t have to start over when we sin; we just have to turn around and start running again.

Isaiah 58:8 says, “The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” The enemy is going to try to cover your testimony in shame. He’s going to whisper in your ear, “Imagine what they’ll think of you.” But God is standing in front of you, saying, “Give it to Me.” He has already promised that His glory will cover your past, so don’t let your shame keep you from running your race.

Face to Face

Face to Face

The concept of “face to face” plays a large role in our culture’s definition of intimacy. Text messages or emails are great, but we still crave that personal interaction; we want to be able to discern the feelings revealed by the face. When we are face to face with someone, we can see love, tenderness, shame, or pain in their expressions—emotions that don’t always come through in other forms of communication.

So how can we have an intimate relationship with our Father when we can never see Him face to face? In the Old Testament, we see over and over again that nobody was able to look upon God’s holy face. In Exodus 33, Moses could see God’s back, but not the full glory of His face.

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The Lord.’ …. But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock, and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.’” – Exodus 33:18-23

Our answer is found in Jesus. When Christ was on the earth, scripture says He revealed the glory of God. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In John 14:8-10, when Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus responded, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’

If we seek to know the God we can’t see face to face, we have to look at Jesus, whose purpose was to reveal the Father. We look at how He brought light to those in darkness, healed the sick, canceled debts, freed the slaves, and proclaimed God’s favor and grace while face to face with the same people He would be betrayed and crucified by.

We look at Jesus and remember that as our perfect Savior walked to the cross on our behalf, we looked upon the holy face of God, and spit on it.

“Then they spit in His face and struck him. And some slapped Him”
– Matthew 26:67

The act of spitting shows disdain or contempt. When we sin against God, or show contempt for His Word, we are essentially spitting in the face of His sacrifice. But if you want to know how your Heavenly Father feels about you, despite your darkest sins, remember that Jesus kept walking. He still went to the cross. He still cried out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?” so that we would never have to.

When He gave up His spirit, scripture says that, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). In Jerusalem, the holy temple had a veil that separated man from God’s presence, signifying that we were separated by our sin. But through Jesus, we now have full access to God’s presence in the Most Holy Place.

Intimacy is to know and be known. Scripture says that God knows every hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30)—He knows every hurt and every hope we have ever had—and Jesus came so that we could know Him in return. We are able to see God’s glory and grace through Christ’s ministry and spend time in His presence because of Christ’s sacrifice. Relationship with the Father comes through the Son.

“The glory that you have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me.” – John 17:22-23

“Hell is Real—And You Might Be Going”

“Hell is Real—And You Might Be Going”

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by this message. I can’t count the number of sermons I’ve heard warning against the dangers of being a “bad” Christian and how it could land you in Hell. I would go so far as to say that this type of sermon was one of the main reasons I grew up doubting my salvation (something I talk about in depth here).

Most of these sermons talk about what separates a good Christian from a bad Christian, and almost all of them come with a checklist. Have you fed or clothed your neighbor recently? Have you led a double life? Are you spending every day in God’s Word? The problem with these checklists is that they are focused on things we have or haven’t done, which can only lead us to one of two places: pride or guilt. We either say, “Yes, I actually donated all of my clothes to someone in need last week!” *pats self on back*, or we say, “I’ve been so focused on the things going on in my life that I haven’t helped out any of my brothers or sisters recently. I wonder if I’ve done enough to get into Heaven?” Then, we walk around for the next few weeks wondering whether we are a sheep or a goat.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”   – Matthew 25:31-33

Here’s the thing: I don’t disagree that a Christian’s life should be transformed by Christ. I truly believe that once we recognize Christ for who He is and what He has done for us, we can’t help but love who He loves. However, I don’t think that what’s happening on the outside is nearly as important as what’s happening on the inside.

Salvation comes through faith, but transformation comes through relationship. I was saved by faith when I was fairly young, but I didn’t start having true relationship with God until six years ago. My life did not produce much fruit for the kingdom in those first few years, but that didn’t make me any more or less saved. I also don’t think it made me a “bad” Christian; it just made me an immature one. I had to learn about and truly understand God’s love and grace before I could reflect it. God had to walk with me through those challenges and doubts so that I could grow into the calling He had placed on my life.

I’ve grown to dislike sermons that focus on whether or not I’m a “good enough” Christian, because they put the focus on the sinner rather than the Savior. Shepherds’ rods should be used to beat the wolf, not the sheep. “Good Christian checklists” are the reason I doubted my salvation in the first place. The works that I do or don’t do can never negate the finished work that Christ did on the cross.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

The same Jesus died for all of us, and His sacrifice alone is the reason I have confidence in my eternal resting place. Serving our brothers and sisters should not be done out of a misplaced sense of Christian duty, but out of an overflow of the love He pours into us when we grow in our relationship with Him. That kind of intimacy doesn’t always happen with the flip of a switch the moment we are saved; sometimes it can take years to build up to.

If it’s been a while since you have served your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, if you’re struggling to spend time in the Word, or if you are fighting a secret addiction, don’t let that send you into a tailspin of despair, wondering if you’re going to Hell. Instead, let it serve as a gentle reminder to come boldly before the throne of God, receiving the grace and mercy He is pouring out over you. As you grow in your relationship with God through His Word and His Spirit, you’ll begin submitting more and more of yourself to Him, which is what will equip you to shine more and more of Him into the world.

Becoming a Cheerful Giver

Becoming a Cheerful Giver

A tithe is typically regarded as the first 10% of your income. The first tithe occurred in Genesis 14 when Abram responded to God’s blessing by giving Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a tenth of his possessions.

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”
– Genesis 14:18-20

I did not grow up fully embracing, or understanding, the concept of tithing. I would occasionally put a few dollars in the collection plate if I had it on me, and I always felt good about myself afterward for being “so generous” with my money. I did feel joy in giving, but it was a self-righteous joy.

When my husband and I got married, my idea of tithing didn’t quite match up to his. He was a firm believer in tithing 10% and it knocked me for a loop. 10% felt massive compared to the few dollars a week I had previously given. All I could think about was the fact that we were giving more in tithing than I had previously paid in rent.

I became an anxious giver, a frustrated giver, and a reluctant giver. I searched for loopholes and it was hard not to think of that tithe as “money down the drain”.

For the first few years, I saw it as an inconvenience. But then, when our daughter was born, we found ourselves knee-deep in bills and overdraft statements. I had started a savings account when I was 15 and had always relied on that safety net, so I found it incredibly distressing to start pulling out of it for tithe. On top of the general stress of having a newborn, I could hardly stand to watch as our savings dropped to nothing. I was frustrated with my husband and scared for our daughter. I vividly remember the day that I looked into our bank account and saw that we had $2 left. No savings account. No cushion. $2 and a week until payday.

Every day I am thankful for a God that meets us at our faith level. I cried that night over those $2, thinking about how we should have skipped the tithe. There hadn’t been enough money in our account. But God reminded me that faith is about trusting in something you can’t see with your eyes. The very next day, we received a check in the mail—a refund for a bill we hadn’t finished paying.

Isn’t that the perfect picture of salvation? Not only did Jesus take the debt we hadn’t finished paying, but He also gave us His refund. We ended up with so much more than we started with. God gave me this revelation and then gently asked me, “Why do you trust Me with your salvation, but not your paycheck?”

How can we go from a self-righteous giver, or a reluctant giver, to the cheerful giver we are called to be in 2 Corinthians 9:7? We have to take our eyes off of the natural—off of the bank account and off of the bills—and see our tithe through the same faith by which we received our salvation. When Abram tithed to Melchizedek, he didn’t do it to petition for God’s blessing, but in response to God’s blessing. Tithing isn’t for God’s benefit, but for ours. Every time we give, we honor what God has already given us and, in return, God honors our faith.

Look at His promise in Malachi 3:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10

Who Are You Putting on the Throne?

Who Are You Putting on the Throne?

I was recently challenged by something Pastor John Gray said in one of his sermons. It was only one sentence, but it was powerful:

“Everything in your life has a throne on it.”

Who are you putting on the throne in your life? It’s easy to say that God is on the throne, but what happens when you really break it down?

Who are you putting on the throne over your emotions? Is it the enemy, telling you that you are guilty or unworthy? Is it a friend or spouse, encouraging or discouraging you? Is it yourself, trusting in what you feel? Or is it God, reminding your emotions to respond to His truth?

Who are you putting on the throne over your worship? Who are you putting on the throne over your fears? Who are you putting on the throne over your relationships?

You might have God on the throne over your Sunday mornings, but is He also on the throne over your Friday nights?

Maybe there’s an area of your life that you are holding back from God. “Lord, I want you to take care of my fears and my addictions, but don’t worry, I can handle my marriage.” When we put anyone or anything other than God on the throne—over any part of our life—we run the risk of becoming the things Paul warned us about in 2 Timothy.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control, brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness, although they have denied its power. – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Take inventory of your thrones. Who have you placed in a position of leadership over the various pieces of your life? Are there any areas that you still need to relinquish to God?

There is only One who is all powerful, all glorious, and all loving. There is only One who is unchanging, unfailing, and unshakable. There is only One who is worthy of sitting on the throne.

“I, [only] I, am the Lord, And there is no Savior besides Me.” – Isaiah 43:11

And Be Blameless

And Be Blameless

“So what you’re saying is…”

Early in our marriage, this quickly became my husband’s least favorite phrase. In the middle of an argument, he would tell me that I was misunderstanding what he was trying to say and I would respond with, “So what you’re saying is I’m stupid?”

We have all put words into someone else’s mouth at some point. Usually, what we are actually voicing is our own fear or insecurity. If we have an area that we feel vulnerable in, we assume someone is attacking us even when they’re not. Since I was several years younger than my husband, I worried that he saw me as lacking in some sort of sage wisdom or intellect, so I would get defensive when he talked about my lack of understanding.

Maybe in your past, someone has made you feel ugly or unworthy, and now it’s easy for you to jump to, “So what you’re saying is I’m not good enough for you?” Or maybe you’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and your heart still hears words that aren’t actually being spoken. “So what you’re saying is I’m crazy?” Jumping to the worst case scenario is an easy trap for us to fall into, and in doing so, we project our fears onto someone else’s words.

How many times do we unknowingly do that with God’s words?

I once expressed to God that there were places in scripture that made me feel condemned or unfit for His promises. I confessed that certain words would send me spiraling back into the guilt I had struggled with before He had convicted me of His truth and grace. He revealed that I was interpreting scripture through the context of my own fears, so I asked Him to give me discernment.

This past Sunday, our pastor was preaching on Genesis 17—God Almighty. I kept getting caught up in verse 1: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”

My mind clung to the very last part of that verse. Be blameless.

“So what you’re saying is I have to be perfect.”

In the middle of the sermon, God reminded me that I had asked Him to reveal His truth and grace in the scriptures, and He gave me the following revelation:

Blameless does not mean perfect. It means without blame. What I am saying is, “Walk before Me, believing that you are free from the reign of sin and the weight of shame. Whose worthiness are you walking in? Not yours, but Mine. You walk without blame because My Son took yours to the cross with Him.”

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:24

When we dive into God’s Word, we can’t bring our past with us. If we do, whether we are clinging to false teaching or wrong understanding, we place our own truths over His.

I encourage you to ask God to cleanse your heart of any lies you are holding onto so that when you open your Bible, you can avoid putting words into His mouth. Replace, “So what you’re saying is…” with, “Lord, what are you saying?” and allow Him to share the fullness of His glory and truth with you.

Do Not Fear

Do Not Fear

Scripture is very clear that we should not fear, with over 350 verses urging us to be fearless. But how does God respond to fear when it springs up?

In Genesis 6, after the flood, Noah probably had some fear in his heart. He had just seen the entire world drowned, with only his family surviving. There’s nothing like a worldwide flood to let you know that you’re not in control. God responds by putting His rainbow in the clouds, as a promise of his everlasting covenant to never again let a flood destroy all life. He saw Noah’s fear and wrote His promise in the sky.

In Genesis 15, we see Abraham’s fears play out. He had been promised a child, but he was advancing in years and fighting in wars. It’s very likely he was afraid that he would die and his legacy would end. He couldn’t control the fact that he was childless and that his wife was barren. God responded to his fear in Genesis 15:5 by telling him to look at the stars. So shall your descendants be. He saw Abraham’s fear and wrote His promise in the stars.

Keep in mind that both Noah and Abraham lived before the scriptures, so they had no scripture to look at. Today, we have access to His Word, which includes every promise He has made to us, written out in black and white.

When my daughter was born, I couldn’t sleep for months because I was terrified she would stop breathing the second I closed my eyes. I vividly remember the night God whispered to me, “You can’t breathe for her, but you can trust Me.”

It is so easy to fear things that are out of our hands. So often, we have no way to control the situation, but we can control our response to the situation. For me personally, God showed me that I needed to respond to my fear with a declaration of faith in His Word. I wrote down Psalm 4:8 on a note card next to my bed: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”

I repeated those words every night until I was able to respond to that fear rising up in me with faith-based authority, knowing that the Lord was watching over us.

“I sought the Lord [on the authority of His word], and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

So how does God respond to fear? He reminds us of His promises so that we can replace our fear with faith. Scripture tells us that He made a promise to Noah in the sky, He made a promise to Abraham in the stars, and then He came to earth in human form to make a promise to us on the cross.

How amazing to serve a God who has never broken a promise.

A Slave to Righteousness

A Slave to Righteousness

What does it mean to be a servant of God and a slave to righteousness? The idea sounds conflicting in nature to our understanding of freedom. Scripture tells us that we have been set free in Christ (Galatians 5:1) and that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). Yet Romans continues on in verse 18-22 to say that we are slaves to righteousness and willing slaves or servants to God.

So what does it mean? Have we been set free or are we servants?

Let’s look at Jesus – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – who took on the title of servant.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

In Exodus 21, the ordinances for servants are laid out:

Now, these are the ordinances (laws) which you shall set before the Israelites: “If you purchase a Hebrew servant [because of his debt or poverty], he shall serve six years, and in the seventh [year] he shall leave as a free man, paying nothing. If he came [to you] alone, he shall leave alone; if he came married, then his wife shall leave with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she gives birth to sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall leave [your service] alone. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not leave as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God [that is, to the judges who act in God’s name], then he shall bring him to the door or doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him for life. Exodus 21:2-6

After a servant had served six years, he was free to leave on the seventh (the number of completion). However, if the master had given him a wife, the servant could plainly say, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not leave as a free man.” If that happened, the servant was pierced on a doorpost and would serve his master forever.

Note that the master is listed first: “I love my master, my wife, and my children.” This might seem like an odd order—What slave would love his master more than his wife?—until we look at it as a picture of Jesus and the Father. When Jesus chose to say that He loved His Master (God) and the bride He had been given (the Church) more than his freedom, he was pierced on the doorpost (the cross) as a sign that he would serve His Master forever.  Jesus relinquished his freedom. In order to redeem us, he descended in a human form and suffered a sinner’s death on the cross. He emptied Himself to serve the Father’s purpose.

Romans 6:16 says that we are the slaves of the one whom we obey. Paul is telling us that we all serve something, whether it’s sin or Savior. To serve sin is to be bound in death and condemnation. To serve God is to be bound in Christ so that we can bear fruit (Romans 7:4). Christ set us free from sin so that we could serve in love.

So, to be a slave to righteousness means to choose God’s purpose over your own. One thing I know to be true is that God’s plans for us are far greater than the world’s plans for us, and only one master has promised everlasting life.

For you were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another. – Galatians 5:13

The Words That Broke My Heart

The Words That Broke My Heart

It only took one sentence to break my heart. I don’t mean that it just made me incredibly sad, or that it hurt for a few minutes—I mean that it literally shattered my heart. It made me stop and re-evaluate all of the things I was taking for granted in my own life.

I work for a Christian international relief organization, and some of the work we do is in countries that are closed to the Gospel. In several of these countries, Christians aren’t allowed to gather, they’re not allowed to own Bibles, and they’re not allowed to speak the name of Jesus. We had a guest visiting from one of these countries, and for the first time he was invited to church. After the service, he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “This must be what Heaven is like.”

The impact of that statement hit me hard. This man, who hid his Bible under the floorboard, had never stood side by side with other believers. He had never heard multiple voices singing, as one, praises to the King. He had never seen the body of Christ coming together in one place, for one purpose.

To him, coming before the throne with his brothers and sisters surrounding him, lifting up their voices to Jesus, was literally Heaven on earth.

To him, Heaven was doing the same thing that we get to do every single Sunday. To him, Heaven was going to the same place that we sometimes have to drag ourselves to in the mornings. To him, Heaven was hearing multiple voices singing the same songs that we complain about when they don’t fit our preferences.

There is so much that we take for granted when it comes to being able to surround ourselves with other believers. Despite personal differences or broken relationships, we can still stand next to each other and lift our voices in unison to our Father. We can pray with each other, sing with each other, and encourage each other.

His words broke me, but they also challenged me. When did church become an obligation? When did personal comfort become my spiritual goal? When did I start taking my brothers and sisters in Christ for granted? Scripture tells us to receive the kingdom of God like a child, and what a beautiful picture of childlike wonder: standing and singing together in awe of the glory of God.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

– Revelation 7:9-10

The Living Gospel

The Living Gospel

In Greek, the word “Gospel” translates to “good news” or “a message of victory”. That is the definition I’ve heard most often: The Gospel is the good news that Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become children and heirs of God.

Even during His time on earth, Jesus was the living Good News. He took what others deserved and, in return, gave them healing, freedom, and right-standing with the Father.

In Mark 1, scripture tells us of a leper, who was an outcast because Levitical law said that the unclean had to remain separate, or apart. Jesus touched the man and He healed him. He told the man, “Don’t tell anyone”, but the man went out and told them anyway. Verse 45 says that because of this, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly, but stayed outside in the lonely places.

In Mark 5, a man with an impure spirit came across Jesus. Verse 4 says that no one was strong enough to subdue him. People feared him and stayed away. Then, Jesus came and He cast the demons out of the man and into the pigs. Verse 15 says the people saw the man who had been possessed sitting there, dressed and in his right mind, and they were afraid, begging Jesus to leave their region.

In Luke 7, there was a woman who lived a sinful life. She was judged by the Pharisees. Yet when she saw Jesus, she wet His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and poured perfume on them. Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven and verse 49 says that the other guests began to judge Jesus, asking, “Who is this who forgives sins?”

That is the living Gospel. At the beginning of the story, the leper was in the lonely place. The possessed man was feared. The woman was judged. But by the end of the story, Jesus was in the lonely place. Jesus was feared. Jesus was judged.

He didn’t just save them—He took their place.

In Hebrew, the word for “Gospel” is Basorah. When you look at the meaning of each letter, the word translates to “a completely consuming dwelling place which reveals the head or authority of Grace”.

hebrew

Jesus took our place so that we could take His, and come face to face with the Father of grace.

That is the message of victory. That is the good news.

That is the Gospel.

Remember Your Position

Remember Your Position

“Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…”

– Hebrews 10:19 -22

Scripture tells us that we should have the confidence to enter into the presence of God because Jesus acts as our high priest. The purpose of the high priest in the Old Testament was to enter the Most Holy Place, stand before God, and make atonement for his people so that they could have right-standing. Christ secured our eternal redemption through His sacrifice, so we are forever in a position of complete right-standing with God. We are His heirs, and we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Our position of right-standing is tied to our identity, our purpose, and our authority. When we forget that position, we open ourselves up to an attack from the enemy.

Satan loves to take advantage of us when we don’t know the power we have. He attacks us with fear, or doubt, or anxiety, or insecurity. He tells us that God has turned His back on us, because we aren’t good enough.

We cry out to God and ask Him to remove those thoughts from our lives, but we so often forget that He has given us the authority to bind the enemy, in His name and in His power. Matthew 16:19 says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

When we forget our position, we surrender our authority. I heard a sermon once where the pastor compared this to getting robbed while you’re home. I’ve thought a lot about that comparison, because it’s so true. We sit there, watching the enemy enter our homes, our marriages, and our relationships. We watch while he steals our peace of mind, our joy, and our confidence, and all we do is point and say, “God, look! Look at what he’s doing!” And God responds by asking, “Why are you letting him?” It’s like the police coming to your house after the robbery and asking, “Where were you when this happened?” and you answering, “Oh, well I was there.” Why did you not stop him?

Don’t lose sight of your position! Satan is powerless before the blood of Jesus, which is covering you. You are an heir of God and the power of life and death is in your tongue.

Because of who my Father is, I can defeat my enemy by waking up in the morning and saying, “I bind the spirit of fear, insecurity, and doubt in my life. Jesus died to give me His righteousness, and that’s what I choose to walk in today.”

When the enemy comes against me, I just remind him that the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who delivered Daniel from the mouth of the lions, the God who walked on water, the God who died my death on the cross, and the God that rolled the stone away—that God is my God, and I am His child.

The Nails Are Gone

The Nails Are Gone

We all have scars.

We live in a world that leaves scars. We fight an enemy that leaves scars.

Sometimes our scars hold us back from the things we want to do and the people we want to be. It’s like we aren’t sure we are really whole.

Wholeness isn’t something we can see, and maybe we’re a little like Thomas. He said, “I want to see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands.” Maybe we’re holding our scars up to Jesus, saying, “I don’t see the healing! I want to be who you need me to be and do what you’ve called me to do—but what about these?”

Jesus answered Thomas the same way He answers us. With His scars.

He told Thomas, “Put your finger here.” Touch where the sin was. Touch where the shame was. Touch where the guilt was. Touch where the condemnation was.

Touch where the nail was. 

It’s not about what was there; it’s about what’s not there anymore. The nail is gone!

The things that held Me on that cross don’t hold Me anymore—and they don’t hold you either. Because I am your God and I have set you free.