Adopting God’s Vision

Adopting God’s Vision

Several years ago, I had a friend in my life who couldn’t understand why I believed in God. It was the first time I’d been around someone who constantly questioned my faith. When something bad would happen, she would always ask me, “Where’s your God? Couldn’t He have stopped that?” When I would read my Bible, she would begin listing the reasons the scriptures couldn’t be true. When I would pray in front of her, she would ask me if that was really helping the people living in poverty every day. Usually I was able to respond to her, but sometimes I would get frustrated, or even angry. One time, when I was at my breaking point, I turned to give her a harsh response, and God stopped me. “Look at her passion and tenacity. When I change her heart, imagine what she’s going to do for my Kingdom.”

The words reminded me of Paul. When people looked at Paul, they saw a persecutor, but God saw an apostle. God does not see the way that man sees. We focus on the natural instead of the supernatural. We focus on what we can see instead of what we believe about God. We focus on the lack instead of the supply.

Take the five loaves. We look at the bread in front of us and we know it’s not enough to feed the multitude. We look at our circumstance and lose sight of God’s vision.

In 2018, I challenge you to seek God’s vision. In Psalm 1:3, it says this about those that delight in the Lord:

They are like trees, planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. Whatever they do, they prosper.

Let’s break down this verse:

We are like trees. Note that the verse says that we are planted, not grown. We are chosen, prepared, nourished, and secured. We are here intentionally, and we have purpose.

We are planted by streams of water. Not a stream, but multiple streams, which means we are always surrounded by a super-abundant supply: of grace, and promise, and cleansing, and eternal life.

We bring forth fruit in our season. We bring patience in a season of frustration, faith in a season of doubt, hope in a season of disappointment, and joy in a season of sorrow.

And our leaves do not wither. We don’t grow weary. We are strong and refreshed through all of our seasons. We serve through an overflow of the grace God pours into us.

Whatever we do, we shall prosper. How amazing is that promise to us, as those who delight in the Lord? This is the time of year when we are making resolutions, and it’s so important to remember that whether we hit our goal or miss the mark, WHATEVER we do shall prosper when we delight in Him.

This year, let’s return to God’s view: when it seems like everything is against us; when it seems like we just can’t hit our goals; when it seems like we are hitting walls at every turn, remember that our works are prospered. Just because we don’t see our purpose doesn’t mean we don’t have one. Just because we don’t see our fruit doesn’t mean we aren’t producing any. Just because we don’t see the supply doesn’t mean it’s not abundant. We have to adopt God’s vision instead of our own.

The Power of Life and Death

The Power of Life and Death

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”

So often, we choose to put our value and worth into what other people say about us. We also tend to let the negative overpower the positive. We remember and hold on to something negative someone has said and we let it defeat us. We let men condemn us when Jesus has not condemned us. In fact, if we look at scripture, it tells us we are kings and priests (Revelations 5:10), we are a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), and we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We have the authority to speak life or death.

In Mark 11:23, look at the importance of our words: “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

God spoke the earth into creation. He said, “Let there be light.” He said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place.”

Christians have been given that same authority and if we aren’t using God’s words, whose are we using? Our pastor once said, “When you speak something negative over someone, you are only putting them further from the cross.” This challenged me and made me think about the words I was speaking over my friends, my co-workers, my husband, my daughter, and even myself.

What words are you speaking over people in your life? What are you choosing to speak over yourself?

James 3:5 says, “The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things.” As Christians, we have power that is not given to the devil. If we speak words of defeat, we are doing the devil’s work for him. Luke 10:19 says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.”

We can choose to live victoriously every day. We do that by not speaking what we see or feel (for the devil is a deceiver), but by speaking what we know is true. We speak what scripture tells us, which is that by His stripes we are healed, by His sacrifice we are made whole, by His grace we are saved, and by His love we are set free.

When You Bury Lazarus Too Soon

When You Bury Lazarus Too Soon

Sometimes our burdens are heavy. Scripture doesn’t dispute that—in fact, it says that we are going to be loaded down by them. Whether it’s a broken relationship, or a shattered dream, or a difficult loss, our instinct is to shut down. We go numb. We throw in the towel. We give up. We bury Lazarus too soon.

When Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.” Jesus knew the end from the beginning. He knew that Lazarus would die, but he also knew that his death would only be the middle of the story. He spoke to the end, not to the middle.

Jesus is the author and the finisher, the beginning and the end. Has He not said He will strengthen and protect you? Has He not said He will never leave you nor forsake you? Yet in the midst of our storms, we have a tendency to look at what’s right in front of us and forget about the words spoken over us. The same way Martha and Mary buried Lazarus four days before Jesus arrived, we give up the fight before Jesus makes it to the scene. All we can see is the dead body when we stop focusing on the resurrected one. We get lost in the middle and forget to look to the end.

After saying the sickness would not be unto death, Jesus continued, “No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” He later tells the disciples. “For your sake, I am glad I was not there [when Lazarus was dying], so that you may believe.”

Sometimes the storms aren’t about us. People can’t see your faith, but they can see your suffering. They can see what you’re going through, and when they watch you withstand it, they can see His glory.

We are going to go through storms, but remember that Jesus sees the end of the storm. Praise Him in the middle—not because you feel like it, but because He is worthy. Take His hand and lead Him to where you gave up, where you laid it down. Let Him restore you. Let Him raise you up, for His glory.

When Time Becomes an Idol

When Time Becomes an Idol

I’ve never been a super spontaneous person. I’m more of a “make a list and check it twice” type person. Before I got married, I had almost every day planned out, and considered it a wild night when I went out after 8 pm. After getting married, it felt like a personal challenge to merge two individual schedules into one, smooth timeline. And then we had a baby. I thought I was a planner before, but suddenly every moment of my day had to be perfectly mapped out between nursing, pumping, working, cleaning, eating, diaper changing, and—when the stars aligned—sleeping.

I’ve been in that survival planning mode for almost two years, and even though our lives have slowed down, I still sometimes feel like I’m forgetting something. On car rides home from work, I have to verbally go through the to-do list with my husband: We will get home (check), you fill up the diaper bag with juice and snacks (check), I will do her diaper and change her clothes (check), then we can run to the store (check), and stop by and say hi to your mom on the way back (check).

I spend so much time planning my day, that when my plans are interrupted, it usually leads to anger and frustration. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun, spontaneous play dates. It also doesn’t leave a lot of room for me to have one on one time with Jesus. I was convicted about that lack of time when our daughter was about a year old. I realized that I had to fight for that time, so I scheduled it into our daily routine.

After a few months of being refilled and restored, my coveted alone time took a hit. My daughter would seek me out, screaming for me, or my husband would need to run an unexpected errand leaving her with me, and I would get so frustrated. I found myself throwing up my hands and calling out in exasperation, “I’m trying to spend time with you! I’ve tried to protect this time, but clearly this child that I’ve birthed has other plans.” And gently, so gently, the response: Why are you keeping her from me?

I want to be very clear that there is nothing wrong with expectantly awaiting that alone time with our Father. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in the presence of God, but there needs to be flexibility in what that time might look like.

My alone time with God had become an idol to me. I turned to anger when it was interrupted. The Spirit impressed on my heart that I couldn’t show my daughter what a relationship with the Lord looked like if I only had real relationship with Him when I was alone.

So what does it look like to protect your time with God while still being flexible?

  • Remember that your location is not as important as His presence. God is not confined to one specific room or one specific time. If something unexpected comes up, instead of letting that anger you, remind yourself that He is always waiting and willing to speak with you.
  • Remember that your solitude is not as important as His grace. There are absolutely reasons to be alone with God and to seek that private time with Him, but it becomes a problem when you react in anger if someone interrupts you. If someone unexpectedly walks in, address them with the grace you are also seeking. And if it’s your child, invite them in. Show them what it looks like to spend time with the one person who will always comfort them, love them, and cherish them.

As parents, we aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect to be. No amount of planning, organizing, or scheduling is going to allow us to be there every single time our child needs us, so what could be more important than introducing them to someone who can be? I love my one-on-one time with Jesus, but I am also learning to treasure my two-on-one time when I can watch my daughter fall in love with Him, too.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Empty Faith

Empty Faith

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

When we think of empty faith, we typically think of this verse in James. Faith without works is dead, but faith that is misplaced is also dead. If we put our faith in our works, instead of our Christ, we can’t become who He made us to be. A picture of this is when Christians stay in their comfort zone, not believing that He can do greater things.

We can be great singers or great musicians or great speakers, but without Christ, we are impressive, but not powerful. We can’t be powerful, or see the fruit of our faith, until we understand that Jesus alone has justified us and given us right-standing. None of our works make us more or less righteous. When we spend our time trying to earn something we have already been given, all of our works are self-serving. We shouldn’t work for our righteousness, we should work from it.

Jesus told us in the New Testament, “whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. How can we do “even greater works” than Jesus if we don’t see ourselves as clean, redeemed, and worthy? We have to have the faith to believe that we are who Jesus says we are first. Only then can we do what Jesus called us to do.

We can’t pick and choose. We can’t say I believe you died for my sins, but I’m also still guilty. We can’t say I believe you took my punishment, but I think I still deserve it. We can’t say I believe you are who you say you are, but I’m not sure I am who you say I am.

Jesus says we have His righteousness and His right standing. To believe you have or deserve anything less than that is to have empty faith.

When the Enemy Attacks

When the Enemy Attacks

As Christians, we know the war has been won, but there are still battles to fight. We can be victims or victors in these battles, depending on our knowledge and understanding of what we are fighting. God knows the strategies the enemy uses, and He shows them to us in His Word, so that “we are not ignorant of his devices, lest satan should get an advantage” (2 Corinthians 2:11). In this passage, Paul says to forgive those who have grieved us, and comfort them, so that they won’t be swallowed up by sorrow. This implies that the enemy attacks us by reminding us of our sin and our unworthiness. If he has a strategy against us, we need a strategy against him. So what do we do when we are attacked?

STEP 1: Recognize him
The devil doesn’t know new tricks. His attacks are always the same. If you can begin to recognize them, you can stop them before they hit you. A favorite attack of his is to accuse us. Revelation 12:10 calls satan “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before our God”. His tool is deception. In the Old Testament, he accused Job of not loving God, and only loving what had been provided for him. He came before God’s throne and said, “He doesn’t really love you.

But he can no longer come before God and accuse you. If you continue reading Revelation 12:10, it says that he was hurled down when Christ’s mission was accomplished. Luke 10 says, “I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  He no longer has access to the throne.

So instead, he comes to us. He speaks to our conscience and makes us believe that our sin has separated us from God – “He doesn’t really love you.” It’s the same trick, but to a different audience.  He tells you that God is against you, angry with you, or punishing you. He picks at your old scabs. He tells you that nobody could love you, much less a perfect God. When you begin to believe that God is against you, recognize that as an attack.

STEP 2: Resist him
James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). How do we resist him? Again, God provides the answer for us. In the wilderness, Jesus resisted him by using scripture. Jesus responded to temptation with the words, “It is written.” God’s word is our sword, which cuts through the doubts and deceit from the enemy. Ephesians 6 tells us to “Stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We resist the enemy by keeping our eyes on Jesus. By reminding ourselves of the truth—that we are righteous through Christ. By believing He is who He says He is, and we are who He says we are. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb.” What power can his accusations have when the Lamb of God has taken away our sin? (John 1:29).

STEP 3: Remind him
Remind him that the grave is empty. Remind him that he already lost. Remind him that Christ has justified you, and His blood has given you perfect standing. When the enemy comes against you, remind him that Jesus’ blood has paid those accusations! Remind him that Jesus himself defends and represents you, as your advocate in Heaven. Remind him that you are healed, whole, and perfected through the blood of the Lamb. Say it out loud – there is power in the words you give voice to. Rebuke him in the name of Jesus and, as you remind him of these things, let it also remind you of the depth of God’s love for you.

When he tries to come through your front door, stand in his way. Recognize him by his lies, resist him with God’s truth, and remind him that he has no place in your life.

When You Doubt Your Salvation

When You Doubt Your Salvation

“I believe in God, and I asked Jesus into my life – but how do I know if it worked? How do I know for sure that I am saved?”

In the past several weeks, I’ve had three different people ask me this. And each time, it’s like having a conversation with myself five years ago. Why do we not talk about this more? I think this is one of the enemy’s favorite places to attack believers, especially new believers. The faith is new and fresh, and if he can get even a kernel of doubt in our hearts, we will never be able to live the life God wants for us. If we are not equipped with a way to fight this, we can spend years – or decades – living a life of uncertainty.

In terms of crippling our faith, this is the perfect place for the enemy to attack us, because it hinders our relationship with God. Imagine that you owe someone money, but you don’t have anything to pay them with. When you see them out in public, are you going to go out of your way to talk to them? Are you going to seek them out, knowing that you owe a debt you can’t pay? If we aren’t sure that Jesus paid our debt and that we have right-standing with God, we will avoid seeking Him out. We will cover that relationship in guilt, and then we will drown in it.

I was baptized and gave my life to Christ and then spent years wondering if it was enough, or if it had worked. I remember crying one night, telling my dad I was worried that he and my mom would go to Heaven, but I wouldn’t, and then they would forget me. As I got older, the fears and doubts stayed, but it felt like it was too late to say, “Hey, I’m not sure that this actually worked for me.”

Any time I messed up, I felt like I had to start all over again. I repeated the sinner’s prayer every single time I heard it, because I wasn’t sure if it stuck the last time. But I always repeated it internally and silently, because I didn’t want anyone around me to know that I might not be saved. In church, or in ministry, it doesn’t always feel safe to admit those doubts. You fear judgement, you fear condemnation, or you might even fear losing your job.

My life was changed when someone finally told me, “Wake up every morning and say out loud that you are the righteousness of Christ.” For the next two weeks, I woke up and said that every single morning, regardless of whether or not it felt true. It was during that time, I really began to seek out God, and to ask Him questions, believing that Jesus was advocating for me (1 John 2:1). My faith grew as our relationship grew—as God spoke to me and revealed things to me, giving me the assurance I had been needing.

Now, five years later, I am finally realizing how many people in my life went through (or are going through) the exact same fears and doubts. There might be people in your own life who need to be equipped with weapons to fight against these questions.

In scripture, God spoke to Abram in Genesis 15:7-8 and Abram responds to God’s promise by asking, “But how will I know?” God promised us that if we declare with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. (Romans 10:9). How many times have we responded, “But how will I know?”

God revealed two things to me as I read over this verse in Genesis:

  • Abram wasn’t just rhetorically asking, “How will I know?” He was asking God directly. If we are struggling with any doubts over our salvation, we can simply ask God. Pray for Him to help give you guidance and affirmation. Ask Him to give you peace.
  • When you ask God a question directly, expect an answer. Come with an expectant heart, ready to receive what you are asking for. Abram expected an answer from God, and how did God respond? Scripture says that God – the creator of our universe – responded by meeting Abram at his faith level and making a covenant, an unbreakable promise, for Abram’s sake.

God doesn’t change. The same God who met Abram as his faith level is the God we know today. If you have doubts about your salvation, take them to God. Let Him be the one to whisper assurances to your heart.

In Exodus, God told the people to smear the blood of a lamb over the entrances to their homes, so that the angel of death would pass by. I imagine that after smearing the blood over their door, several people stayed up all night in anxiety and fear, waiting to make sure that the blood worked, while others slept soundly after applying the blood.

But the blood covered them either way.

Even if we spend our lives in uncertainty, the blood of the lamb will still protect us and atone for us against God’s death penalty. But how much deeper our relationship with God will be when we believe we have right-standing with Him through Jesus.