Obedience, not results, is what matters to God


My husband went to a Christian college. For one of his business class projects he created a coffee mug designed to show words when heated. When hot coffee filled the mug quotes from school professors and special speakers from chapel meetings appeared. As I started reading the quotes I was very disturbed by one I came across. It said “the question isn’t is it true, but does it work?” Why was I so disturbed by this quote? Well, it is completely backwards and the opposite of truth. Frankly all we should be concerned with is whether or not something is obedient to the truth. If something produces results, but only through disobedient means, in my opinion, and I know God agrees, it’s worthless. In fact, deception comes from Satan, not God. ALL we need to focus on is whether what we are doing is obedient or not. The results are up to God and God alone. Not only that, sometimes we don’t see the results of our obedience. Often the results are not easily recognized by us, and are simply within our own or another’s heart. Sometimes we are planting for another to water, and another to reap.  Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We don’t show Jesus we love him by doing things that we think work. We show him we love him through our obedience. Later in that same chapter He said “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Vs 21) Jesus told us in His Word that if we keep His commands He will show himself to us. What an amazing truth. Is disobedience worth missing out on this? I have so much work to do in this area. I am incapable of living in perfect obedience to God, which is why Jesus paid the price for my disobedience. All I, or any of us, can do is strive to obey and please God.

We cannot focus on results while ignoring the means in which we accomplished them. The only question to answer? Did I obey God? God can bring forth results from our disobedience. Does this negate our choice to disobey? Absolutely not. We will suffer for it. Let’s look at what happened when Moses disobeyed God.

“Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” Numbers 20:6-8

Moses was off to a great start! He got on his face before God, desperate for his help and leading. Step number one: Always ask God his opinion before action. He has one, and it’s really all that counts. Do you do this about everything? God’s Word tells us to pray about all things. God responded so faithfully to Moses and He will respond faithfully to you. God told Moses exactly what He wanted him to do. So what happened next that resulted in Moses no longer being allowed to lead the people to the promised land?

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy. Numbers 20: 10-13

God told Moses what to do. Moses disobeyed.
Step number two: When God responds and tells you what He wants you to do, you do it. There were still results, water came out abundantly. So wait, Moses disobeyed God but still saw abundant results? Why then was God so displeased with Moses? God was going to give the people water whether or not Moses chose to obey Him. God wanted to use Moses as His vessel to deliver the blessing. Moses failed. He did not do what God told him to do. Simple as that. It does not matter what resulted after his disobedience.

Important truths:

-God doesn’t need us to accomplish His will. If we choose to disobey He will still get He job done. I heard someone describe God as the master chef and us as His little children He allows to help out in the kitchen. I could bake cookies on my own a lot more quickly than when I let my 3 and 6 year old help. I certainly don’t need them to do it with me, I want them to. This is the same with God and His children.

-“Results” (or what we believe results are) do not automatically mean we have been obedient, and a lack of “results” doesn’t mean me haven’t been.

-“Results” do not negate disobedience. Moses disobeyed, the water flowed. Moses suffered consequences.

-Obedience is all that matters. Literally this is all that matters. If we are obeying Scripture and the voice of the Holy Spirit, God is pleased. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22. Scripture makes it very clear that what God wants most from us is our obedience. As soon as we realize this we will stop focusing on results and will start focusing on loving Jesus through our obedience. We need to stop obsessing about “what works” in our own minds, and trust and obey God. God is looking for His followers to be radically obedient. You will face rejection for this, by non-Christians and Christians. We all have to choose who we want to please, people or God? “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. Paul made it clear that if we are living to please people we are not servants of Christ.

-God will speak to those who ask him to. He will continue to speak to those who obey when he does. In my opinion, if you hear God clearly and choose to disobey He will pick someone else who will obey. Aka Joshua. God still loved Moses but He no longer used Moses to lead the people into the promised land. Moses was forced to pass the torch to Joshua because of his disobedience. God is a God of grace and if we repent of our disobedience and ask His forgiveness He gives it. In this case things could go differently than they did with Moses, but maybe not. That’s all up to God. Either way we need to repent when we disobey and seek restoration with God.

-The Holy Spirit will never contradict or add to Sctipture. You will only recognize His voice if you know sctipture. You cannot obey Him if you do not know Him. I personally believe from studying scripture that God still speaks to us today as He always has. For example, there are things God has spoken to my heart and told me to do. I know it was God speaking because I am in fellowship with Him through His Holy Spirit in me. I do not only hear Him when I read scripture, but what He says to me always lines up with the truth of scripture. How are we supposed to recognize His voice if we do not know Him? When Samuel first heard God speak to him he did not recognize His voice. Eli did, and he told Samuel it was God speaking to him. Eli recognized God’s voice because he knew scripture and He walked with God. If you aren’t doing this and you don’t know scripture it’s likely you won’t hear God or recognize His voice.

-God wants to speak to us, and wants us to listen and obey when He does. I believe that if you are in a place of ministry (actively teaching, discipling, or ministering Christ to others, something we should all be doing) you are obligated to be connected with God, seeking His will, meditating on His Word, hearing Him when He speaks, and obeying what He says. Jesus said He only did the will of the Father. If we are ministering Christ and our goal is not to only do the will of The Father in our ministry, we are way off track.

-If you had to disobey God to produce “positive” results you are dishonoring God. He is not pleased with this, he hates this. “lying lips are an abomination to The Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight.” Proverbs 12:22. I once heard a story of a youth pastor telling students to lie to their friends from school to get them to come to youth group. He told them to tell them it was a hangout instead of church so they would show up. This pastor believed that lying was okay in this situation because it would result in kids hearing the gospel. What he asked those kids to do was literally an abomination to God, and the opposite of what Jesus Christ did and would have ever done. In fact, many times the things Jesus said drove people away. Why? Because He came to tell the truth. The truth will set people free, but it will also push away a lot of people. If we have to lie to draw a crowd, whether personally or in our churches, we are disobeying and dishonoring God. Guess what? If a kid showed up to youth group based on a lie and received salvation through Christ that’s all because of God, and does not justify this pastor’s disobedient and sinful shepherding. That youth pastor is very accountable. Just like Moses was. Satan’s lie that we have to produce results, no matter the cost, to be good enough and to please God, has brought such destruction. 

A few years ago I was driving to physical therapy and was crying out to God to hear Him speak to me. I felt an intense desperation for his guiding that particular day. I wanted to have a supernatural experience with God and I begged him for it through tears. When I got to my apt. I got myself together and went inside, expecting some divine encounter. Nothing happened. I left and headed for Walgreens to pick up a prescription. While I was there I suddenly felt an indescribable supernatural urge to go outside to the bench where a homeless man was sitting and talk to him. I had actually seen this man sitting on that bench every day for a year and had never spoken to him. This feeling was so overwhelming and out of the ordinary for me. I knew the Holy Spirit was literally leading me to this man. I was terrified! I got in my car and drove over to the spot next to the bench on the very busy road. I prayed for peace and the words to say, got out of my car and approached the bench. I asked if I could sit down, introduced myself and asked for his name. Let me stop for a minute, I was expecting I would be sharing Jesus with this man and he would receive Christ and I would have an awesome divine encounter story to share! What I saw when I sat down alarmed me. This man, Bobby, was reading a bible. He then proceeded to witness to me! I was shocked. I sat talking with him for a while about Jesus, letting him know I did indeed believe. He told me God had him there for now and he wasn’t sure for how much longer. I then offered him money and guess what he said? “Oh no, I have everything I need”, as he patted his Bible. I was again in shock. This homeless man witnessed to me and turned down my money. What in the world? I practically forced him to take the money, I suppose that made me feel good. He smiled and finally agreed. 

After we talked for a while I got in my car in absolute shock. Do you know what I thought? Let me confess this to you. I was somewhat disappointed. I thought the Spirit was leading me to witness to a homeless man and give him money. I was expecting results. It wasn’t until years later (just recently actually) that I realized this was a divine encounter. With the Holy Spirit and me. the miracle of this story is that I heard the Holy Spirit telling me to do something that terrified me, and I obeyed Him. God was working on my heart. This is what matters! Not whether or not I had some cool story to tell about the results. sometimes God tells us to do something just to see if we will obey Him, no matter what. In my experience, the more we obey the more God will speak to us. When we obey we start to realize He is with us and His spirit enables us to do things that terrify us. The next time He speaks it doesn’t seem quite so impossible to obey.

My goal should be to hear and obey. Simple as that. The fruit God allows me to see from my obedience is irrelevant. After all, He is the one who brings forth the increase. God can bring forth fruit even from my disobedience. This is how much he doesn’t need me. He simply wants me, and He wants you, to join Him in the amazing work of His kingdom.

Jesus had one goal. To do only what the Father told him to do. He was a display of perfect obedience and our goal must be to be like him. 

Empty Vessels

B61F405A-375C-46AA-B842-93E756F91089The only thing we have to offer God is an empty vessel. An empty vessel that desires to be filled with the spirit of the living God in order to make the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ known to others. A surrendered vessel that allows the Spirit to do whatever He chooses. It has nothing to do with how capable or talented we are. Until we can become the empty vessel, fully surrendered, we will never experience the fullness of what It is to please God while in these earthly bodies. I have to ask myself. Who do I want to please? Will I allow the judgments and condemnations of others to keep me full? Will I allow my own strengths and accomplishments to keep me full? Will I allow my fears and doubts to keep me full? Will I allow the approval and acceptance of others to keep me full? Will I allow fleeting sin to keep me full? As long as I am focused on pleasing people I will never be the empty vessel. As long as I love my sin more than I love my God I will never be the empty vessel. A vessel that is used for honor. A vessel that is used for love. A vessel that is full of the spirit of God, being wielded by Him to do the supernatural to make the gospel known.

No part of me can do what He wants to do apart from the Holy Spirit. Not one part. Not any part of you either. I am overwhelmed with emotion thinking about how badly I want to be that empty vessel. What do I need to get rid of so that God’s Spirit has total control of this vessel? What do you need to get rid of?

“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭2:20-26‬ ‭ESV‬

In order to become a vessel of honor to be used by God through His Spirit in me I have to cleanse myself from what is dishonorable. Empty myself of all the garbage and let the Spirit of God fill me with what is good. Righteousness, faith, love, peace, kindness, joy, self-control, patience, gentleness. This is the only way for me to bring the knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ to those around me. When I get rid of the garbage my heart will begin to desire the things of God on a deeper level. Galatians‬ ‭5:16-17‬ tells us “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” If you truly want to be in the flesh and you don’t desire to walk in the spirit, or you don’t feel any remorse over doing what is opposed to the spirit, you probably don’t have the spirit of God in you. How can I say that? This passage tells us that our flesh keeps us doing the things we don’t want to do. Why don’t we want to do those things? Because Gods Spirit in us has transformed us so that we no longer live to please people, but to please God. When the Holy Spirit is in you, you do not want to be in the flesh. When you do fail, (which is probably daily, at least it is for me) you aren’t okay with it.

Romans 7:7-21 explains this perfectly. Paul tells us that although he desires to do what is right (in his spirit) his flesh is incapable of doing it. He continues to do the things he hates (his sin). The answer to this problem? To seek every day as best we can to live in the Spirit. How do we do that? To cleanse ourselves from unrighteousness and surrender to the will of the Holy Spirit in us. It is a battle that requires a daily surrender of our flesh and our own desires, and can only be accomplished supernaturally through the Spirit of God in us through salvation in Jesus Christ. We have to be aware of the Holy Spirit and surrender to his leading.
‭‭When I am aware of the Holy Spirit and surrender to Him I can hear and understand more clearly where he is leading me. This is when my faith is assured. Jesus said “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13) This isn’t just a nice thought. It is the truth. The Holy Spirit literally speaks things to my heart and directs my life. It is supernatural and powerful. There is nothing normal about it, and nothing compares to it.

Years ago I was at work and I was headed to teach my bible study. This particular day I felt completely incapable and unqualified (to be honest, I often feel this way when doing things with God). I stopped on the way to say hi to my friend Eric, he was much wiser than me. He often sang gospel music at his church and other events. I looked nervous and he asked me what was up. I’ll never forget the wisdom he shared to encourage me. He told me that whenever he was about to sing he would pray the following prayer. “Holy Spirit, let me be invisible, that you would be seen.” I prayed this way that day and I was able to teach God’s Word confidently. That had such a lasting impact on me. I pray that prayer as often as I can and I always feel peace and confidence afterward. Holy Spirit, let me be invisible, that you would be seen. Such a beautiful prayer of surrender. I wonder if Eric even realized the wisdom he was sharing in that moment and the impact that would have on me. I believe that when we choose to become empty vessels for the Holy Spirit to fill, giving Him control, we begin to experience exponential divine encounters. When you are a vessel of honor the Holy Spirit is free to work His gifts in you at His will. The Holy Spirit spoke a word of wisdom to me through Eric, His vessel. If the thought of being that vessel for the Lord doesn’t sound like the most amazing thing to me it’s because I am full of things that are contrary to the Spirit of God. There is no room for the Spirit because my flesh is in control. I have to empty myself of everything dishonorable so that I can be used by God for His work. Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Every single day I have to empty myself of me and surrender to the Spirit of Christ in me. I have to give up what my flesh desires and let the Spirit take over, otherwise I can do nothing. At least nothing of true value.

A life as a vessel of the Holy Spirit, fully surrendered to the will of God, is truly the most fulfilling and incredible life. There is nothing boring about it. As Christians we have to empty ourselves of everything that is against Christ and become the vessel of honor to be used by God for every good work. This is the only way the World will truly see the truth of Jesus Christ and experience the supernatural power of Gods love. If the love you see seems ordinary, then you’ve never seen the love of God. 

Satan is scheming right now. How are you holding up?

The other day my husband read some scripture to me that blew my mind. Read below:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. Matthew 28: 1-4

The guards at Jesus’ tomb saw the angel of the Lord come from heaven and roll back the stone. These dudes were terrified! Literally scared them to death. Okay jump forward and keep reading here:

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

don’t deceive yourselves to believe that rich powerful men and women as we speak are not using their wealth to spread lies and deceit in an attempt to squelch the truth of the gospel. It happened then and it is happening now. Satan will specifically target wealthy individuals who value power over truth, and greedy individuals who value money over truth. This was his scheme before, and it is his scheme now. This happens everywhere, including in the institutional church. We have to understand that the wars we see going on around us are not physical, they are spiritual. Satan is fighting hard but he has no chance at victory. Jesus Christ already has the victory. We need to endure and fight Satan with the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ. Ask God to remove any and all hate and offense from your heart as you love him and his word, for God’s Word said “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14. Are you loving the law of God? Are you loving your neighbor right now or are you filled with hate? As long as you are not loving your neighbor as yourself you are not fulfilling the law. You will NOT have the peace of God. Do not allow Satan and his schemes to destroy the love of Christ in you. 

As for me, I pray daily for truth to be revealed to me. For any lies I might be believing to be snuffed out. That with love and empathy I will fulfill the law and rest in the peace of God, with NOTHING causing me to stumble. I hope you will do the same.

This post started going in one direction and then shifted in a new direction. I just wrote what I felt God was saying to me. Thanks for reading.

Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian. Why are “Christians” leaving their faith?

4E83266E-D93A-4DD0-9C1C-A579F9D5E5E4You don’t become a Christian because you start going to church and doing Christian activities. Let me warn you. Doing these things has benefits that can be dangerously confused with life transformation through salvation. What are those possible benefits? Community and relationships, positive emotional experiences, a good set of moral standards to follow, volunteer opportunities that lead to a sense of accomplishment, sometimes financial benefits. These things aren’t bad, unless you believe this is what it means to be a Christian. In this case, these things are detrimental. There is actually such thing as religious addiction. Why? Because religion can provide positive experiences and can be A good coping mechanism.

So what is a Christian really? The answer has nothing to do with a list of religious activities. John 1:12 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Ephesians 1:13 tells us “ In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” A Christian is a child of God, who received and believed in Jesus, who is sealed with the Holy Spirit. So what does it really look like to be a Christian and to have the Holy Spirit with you and in you? For starters it is a constant. Sometimes we choose to ignore him, but he is always there. If you forget about God when you leave your church,  or you have no desire to pray and just be with God in his presence, or you don’t feel any different than you did before unless you are in a church building, or you have no intrest in being more like Jesus and understanding scripture on a deeper level, or you have never known the Holy Spirit, or you have no desire to please God and give him control, could it be that you go to church but you aren’t actually a part of God’s church?

What happens to a kid who grows up going to church and knows how to do all of the churchy things but never actually became a Christian through acceptance and belief in Christ, never receiving the Holy Spirit? Could that child grow up doing Christian things and eventually, because there is no true root and doubts about the Bible set in, walk away? This person is walking away from religion, not true Christianity. What about the boyfriend who got invited to church by his girlfriend (who said she wouldn’t marry him unless he was a Christian) and chose to adopt Christian practices because of the benefits, but never actually became a Christian? What if this man decided to go to seminary and became a pastor because he knew how to act like a Christian and enjoyed studying (not to mention, nowadays becoming a pastor can be a good career choice). You can learn biblical things and have knowledge without salvation in Christ and the Holy Spirit of God living in you. However, knowledge without the Holy Spirit does not lead to wisdom or understanding of spiritual things. (The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14) There are atheists who teach Bible courses at universities. How can that be? It’s very easy for this to happen. It is very easy to go to a church building every week, to listen to sermons, to volunteer, to get a seminary degree, and not be a Christian. The bottom line is, a Christian is a member of the body of Christ every single day. When you have the Holy Spirit in you there is no way not to desire the things of God. If you do not desire to please God you do not have his spirit living in you. Does this mean we always please him? Of course not. Sometimes we choose to operate in our flesh instead of the Spirit. Christians absolutely cannot be in the flesh at all times because the Spirit is living in them. When you are at your worst, you will still know the Spirit is in you, even if for a time it is simply the conviction of sin or the urging to walk in the spirit instead of your flesh.

“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve recently heard stories of Christians who were in popular bands or writing music for Christian bands walking away from God. This is sad but were they ever truly with God? You can think you are and not be. Judas was with Jesus all the time and was involved in ministry, but he never actually believed. He acted like a disciple, but he never was one. (“But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” John 6:64

Have you ever met someone who was such a “faithful Christian” never missed a church service , there every time the doors were opened, volunteering every weekend, and then Just like that, walks away from God? Why does this happen? Perhaps we have a misunderstanding of what it means to be with God? Perhaps many Christians have a very flawed idea of what a Christian even is? Of what the church is? Could it be that some of those people who walk away from Christianity are not actually walking away from God, but are actually walking away from a belief system centered on a set of religious practices? These things are empty and do not take the place of a real life with God. 

Jon Steaingard of Hawk Nelson, in his post about walking away from his faith, talked about how he and his wife did not enjoy going to church or worship. He said “Now I don’t believe anything was wrong with us. We simply didn’t believe – and we were too afraid to admit that to ourselves.” Listen, you do not become a Christian and receive the Holy Spirit of God if you do not believe. Belief does not equal attending church services religiously, singing in worship bands, going on missions trips, giving money, attending church events or workshops, going to seminary, or engaging in other religious activities. When you believe, truly believe, you will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. He will be with you and in you. According to scripture, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, and you would know if you do, you are not a Christian. How can I say this? Because it is Gods spirit entering you through belief, acceptance, and repentance through Jesus Christ and his resurrection that you are sealed by the Holy Spirit. This is what happens when you become a Christian. There is no mistaking the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and with you. Based on what this man said, he did not walk away from his faith in God, he walked away from religion. In order to even be with God you must have his spirit dwelling in you. Doubts about the Bible will not cause you to leave your faith when you literally have Gods spirit in you. Doubts about the Bible when you do not have Gods spirit in you will. My hope for this man is that now that he has removed himself from the bondage of religion, he can truly seek God and find true belief in Christ. 

John 14:15-17 says “ If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Here Jesus tells us that we know the Spirit because he dwells with us and is in us. He doesn’t say we can know him, he says we do know him. If you don’t know the Holy Spirit through personal experience, he isn’t with you. You are not a Christian. Only you can know that, I will never look at someone and decide whether or not they truly are a Christian. That is between that person and God. I’m just relaying the truth of scripture. Truth that has often been lost in the chaos of activities, programs, and false beliefs about Christianity.

Acts 2:36-38: Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This verse shows us that when we repent and receive Christ we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is not something we have to work extra hard for. We have to be careful not to ignore the Holy Spirit or quench him through despising his power, as we are warned in Thessalonians. But, even when we do this, we will still know the Holy Spirit. We just won’t experience him as we would when we engage and fellowship with him. The way we were always meant to.

If you are going to church and practicing religion without salvation, without being sealed by the Holy Spirit through your belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ, I urge you to stop. Acting like a Christian without belief will not transform you. It will potentially harden you toward God. Why? Because you will not understand spiritual things and you will likely be deceived. You will also deceive others. It is 100% possible to go to church multiple times a week, to passionately sing worship songs, to listen to sermons and take notes, to give, to volunteer and serve, yet not be a Christian. If you lost all of the extra benefits of going to church that I mentioned before (community, emotional experiences, financial gain, a moral standard to live up to, activities that lead to a sense of accomplishment, etc.) and all that was left was God, would you still be a Christian? If you have the Holy Spirit living in you through salvation then the answer should be yes. Just really stop and imagine that for a minute. Abraham and the early prophets didn’t have church services. They didn’t have exciting worship services with bands and lights. They didn’t have talented preachers with a mix of humor and depth. They didn’t have Sunday school. They didn’t even have the New Testament. They had Communion with God Almighty, and that was enough. The early believers didn’t have grand church buildings and Hillsong worship, or entertaining programs, or coffee shops to hit up before Sunday service. They had the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling with them and living in them. And that was enough. We have to get back to the heart of what it truly is to be a Christian. What it truly is to be the church. We have to strip it all back and ask ourselves if God is truly enough. We have to start there. If that is not the foundation everything else is worthless. We have to truly understand what is necessary and required in our Christian life and realize that if that is missing, “Christian activities” are pointless. 

This post isn’t about what we do as Christians (which is highly important), it’s about who we are as Christians. You can do Christian things and not be one. You cannot be a true Christian without action. You must become a Christian before you try to act like one. Fake it til you make it doesn’t work here. Not only that, a lot of things focused on in American churches are either extrabiblical, or mentioned hardly at all in scripture, yet are the focus of “Christianity”. If you start there, rather than with God, there is a danger of getting a very flawed Christian belief system that is not based on truth. According to scripture, a believer, someone who accepts and receives Jesus and becomes a child of God, receives the Holy Spirit of God and is radically transformed. This person then needs to be discipled by another person. This is not the same thing as listening to sermons or attending church services. The Holy Spirit is now with you and will guide you as you study scripture, gather with other Christians, and get discipled. This then leads to a life in God’s presence, loving him deeply, and a life poured out in love and service to others (here is where the action comes into play). This is what Jesus taught and this is what the early church was all about, and what the church today needs to be about.

Here is a recent experience I had with the Holy Spirit. I could share so many, but that would be a really long post.. I tried to choose one that will not only focus on what it’s like to have the Holy Spirit in me, but also what it’s like to navigate doubts about the Bible, and how the Spirit of truth helps me with this kind of thing.

Recently a friend of mine lost her brother to cancer. He was 39 and had 5 beautiful children. I was devastated by this and to be honest, mad at God. One day I opened my bible to Mark 16:18 and read this; “they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Reading this made me extremely angry and confused. They laid hands on this incredible man and anointed him with oil. God chose not to heal him in this life. I prayed with such raw emotion and tears, asking The Holy Spirit to explain to me why this verse was here? It didn’t make any sense and it obviously wasn’t true based on what I knew of God. Honestly in that moment I felt I had no faith and I wasn’t sure what to even believe about the Bible. (Too bad we can’t all admit that this happens to all of us without fear of being labeled faithless. Not true at all!) I really needed truth and asked God to reveal it to me. A few days later a guy I know did a talk on the accuracy of the Bible (this was totally random by the way). He spoke about how some verses were added in over time and were not actually included in the earliest versions of the text. After his talk I went over to him and asked him what some of the other verses were that were added in? He said to me “well there’s one in Mark.” I knew immediately which verse he was about to say. Mark 16:18. That is exactly what he told me. Of course I was able to confirm this information. This verse wasn’t included in his talk. He only told me because I felt an urge to go and talk to him more about this issue. The Holy Spirit showed me truth. Why? Because he is with me and in me always. The Holy Spirit teaches me all that I need to know. Not only that, but I felt his love in a deep way. This experience with the Holy Spirit not only gave me peace in my doubts, but it confirmed my beliefs. This has happened in my life countless, I mean countless!, times. What if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit and this happened? What if I saw that verse and looked it up for myself and found that it was added in by someone and wasn’t found in earlier versions of the text? Do you think I might have started questioning my so called belief in the Bible? I certainly do. Because I have the Holy Spirit of God, He revealed truth to me, assuring my faith. This also taught me that there are some issues with biblical translations and that I need to be cautious with that. I also need to understand that questions about the Bible, When Gods Spirit is in you , don’t destroy faith, they force you to rely more deeply on the Holy Spirit for truth and push you deeper into Gods presence, causing you to fall before the throne of grace. This is where we find help in our time of need.

I could share many stories of my life with the Holy Spirit and how this has strengthened my faith in God and helped me through doubts. Is the Holy Spirit with you and in you? If you call yourself a Christian but you can’t answer yes to this question that’s a problem. Maybe you are ignoring him because you don’t really know that he is always with you and living in you. Or maybe you simply do Christian things but you aren’t one. Get alone with God in prayer, ask him to change your heart and to teach you through the power of the Holy Spirit and scripture what it really is to be a Christian.

The Holy Spirit confirms the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Well because when you believe in and receive Jesus, God puts his Spirit in you and you change. This wouldn’t happen if the gospel weren’t true. You might always struggle with doubt over the Bible, but through the Holy Spirit you can have total assurance and confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saved a powerful quote for last. Taken from an interview with Jon Steingard and Sean McDowell.

“The only good reason someone should be a Christian is if it is true. And we can know it’s true by direct testimony of the Holy Spirit and by examining the historical evidence for the resurrection.” Sean McDowell 

 

 

 

Why we need to PRAY!


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I have really been seeking God on what He expects from me and my life with Him. What does God ask of me? How can I live in a way that really pleases Him? One thing I’ve realized is I need to spend a whole lot more time in prayer. Prayer alone with God, prayer with my husband and children, and prayer with other Christians. Prayer for me should be like drinking water. I can’t survive without it and there are noticeable side effects when it’s lacking. When I don’t drink enough water my skin gets dry, my joints get stiff, and I feel more lethargic. And of course the biggest problem… I would die after three days without it. Are many of us Christians spiritually dry, stiff, and lethargic? And even worse, headed towards spiritual death?

I’m afraid Satan gains a huge advantage when Christians don’t pray. So what’s going on here? How did we get to this point? You can hardly read a passage in the Bible without reading about prayer. Whether that’s instruction on praying or a story of someone actually praying and talking to God. I’m not saying this is a problem with everyone, but based on what I’ve seen, prayer is seriously lacking and Satan is gaining some footholds he shouldn’t have. My guess? Satan’s best bet is to keep us from praying. Why? Because we can study all day long and still have no relationship with God almighty. Sadly that’s what many Christians do. Attend bible study, do devotions, read Christian self help books, and listen to sermons, but fail to pray as they should. I’ve been guilty of this at times, have you? These things are good, but done without the same devotion to prayer they are seriously lacking.

After studying and reading what the Bible says it is so clear to me that prayer is absolutely crucial in the life of a Christian. Not just prayer before meals or a quick prayer to start your day. Continual prayer in all circumstances of life. Also, it should be expected that when you are with other Christians prayer happens. And I’m not talking about one person saying a quick prayer for the group. I’m talking about Christians gathering together to pray. Why do I say this? Because it’s what the Bible teaches and we need it to survive spiritually.

ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray at all times.                                                                  “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”

Romans 12:12 tells us to be constant in prayer.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.“

1 Thessalonians 5:17: tells us to pray without ceasing.

Colossians 4:2 tells us to Continue steadfastly in prayer.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Jesus told us in Luke 18:1 that we ought always to pray and not lose heart.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

Philippians 4:6 tells us in everything let our requests be known to God.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages of scripture make it very clear that Christians are commanded and expected to pray at all times, constantly, without ceasing, steadfastly, always, and about everything. From what I’ve seen, God doesn’t ask us to do something without telling us why. So why is it imperative that we pray at all times, constantly, without ceasing, steadfastly, always, and about everything? The following verses provide insight into the point of prayer.

Psalm 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” This is so encouraging to me! The Lord is near to me when I call on him in truth. Being near God enables me to walk with Him. If this doesn’t make me want to pray and call out to God as often as I possibly can then I don’t know what will. Prayer allows me to be in the presence of Almighty God. What happens when I don’t call out to God? Is it possible to be near to Him if I’m not calling out to him in truth? Based on this verse I would guess that it’s not. Can I have a close relationship with God if He isn’t near to me? In my experience, when I’m praying like I should my relationship with God is thriving. The opposite is true when I’m neglecting prayer. 

Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Through prayer we receive Gods help and mercy. I can honestly say that this is something I need every single day. Why would I choose to neglect the very thing that enables me to receive the grace and mercy of God? Can you even believe that we can confidently approach Gods throne of grace? Do we really understand the magnitude of this truth? If we did, I think we would be at His throne more often than anything else.

Proverbs 15:8 says “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lordbut the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” Our prayers please God. How amazing that the God of the universe accepts my prayers? Dwell on this truth for a minute and let it sink in.

James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We are called to share our struggles with, and pray for, each other! Why? Because we find healing through the power of prayer! We also experience freedom from sin in our lives when we confess it and have other Christians pray for us. The temptation is to keep our sin secret because of shame and guilt. This is exactly what satan wants because he knows the power of confession and prayer. He knows if we don’t confess our sin and pray we will remain in darkness. The second half of this verse is amazing. A righteous person’s prayer has great power and it works! We cannot afford to neglect this. My prayers, your prayers, they are powerful! Why? Because when we pray God draws near to us, and when God draws near amazing things happen! 

Psalm 139:23-34 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” The purpose of David’s prayer in these moments was for his sin to be revealed and to be lead by God. Prayer helps us get free of sin and allows us to hear God and understand His way. We aren’t always able, or willing, to see our sin. I believe our sin becomes clear the closer we draw near to God in prayer.

Matthew 18:18-30 “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Again, when we gather together in prayer Jesus is with us! Think about how amazing this truly is. Not only that, but this verse points to the fact that our prayer is powerful and does not go unheard or unanswered. God may not always answer in the way we expect, but He always hears and responds. This verse also points to the necessity of Christians gathering together to pray. We have to be doing this! And I’m not talking about more programs and entertainment. I’m talking about getting together to pray. To experience the presence of Jesus and his power through prayer. Is this still enough for us? 

If you know the story of Daniel in the lions den then you know that he prayed three times a day. Have you ever wondered why he did this? The following verse Provides a perfect explanation for his daily prayers and it was most certainly not routine or tradition that drove his prayerful actions. Daniel 10:12 says “Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.” Think about this for a minute. I have come because of your words. (For the context of this passage please go read the entire chapter. It’s amazing!). What was going on here was incredible. God sent his angel to go to battle for Daniel in times of spiritual attack. Why? Because Daniel, with humility, spoke to God. Believe it or not (please believe it) there is a spiritual war going on around us and drawing near to God through prayer is crucial in battling our enemy. Satan is very real and he wants to destroy you. Gods Word and prayer are your weapons against him. In Ephesians 6:10-18 we learn about the armor of God. It’s no surprise that one of the final verses of the passage says this; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” We are to be alert and praying on ALL occasions, not just for ourselves, but for all of the Lord’s people.

Daniel did not pray out of habit or routine. He prayed because his heart was set on understanding and humbling himself before his God! Think about this? Daniel’s understanding and humility before his God was even more valuable than his life. He was willing to be throw into a den of lions for it. Am I?

Acts 2:42 says “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The believers in Acts were devoted not only to teaching and fellowship, but also to prayer. This is repeated in Acts 6:4 when the apostles say “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The apostles knew that their ministry would not be effective without devotion to prayer. And what was their main goal? To please God and have an effective ministry. Do I want to be effective in my service and worship to Jesus Christ? Do you? If I really want this then I have to devote myself to prayer, just like they did. Not only were they devoted to prayer, they also asked other believers to pray for them as well. They needed to both pray and be prayed for.

Jesus was our greatest example of prayer. Hebrews 5:7 tells us “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” When I read this I can picture Jesus Christ crying out in prayer. Wow. If we don’t think we need to pray constantly we are deceived. Do we have the same reverence to God, the one who is able to save us from death, that Jesus our savior had?  He also, on many recorded occasions, prayed all night, for his disciples, and also for all believers. (Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12, Matthew 26: 36-46, Luke 22: 31-32, John 17) I Can’t even begin to imagine how often Jesus actually spent time in prayer. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was devoted to prayer, how in the world can I expect to live for him if I don’t do the same? To be a Christian is to follow Christ and walk as he walked.

There is honestly so much I could write regarding why we need to pray. I have to shorten it, otherwise this blog would be way too long and nobody would finish reading it. Take some time to search scripture for more on why it is imperative to pray as if you can’t live without it. Also seek God’s wisdom on how to pray. Personally I don’t think there is too much in the Bible on how to pray, you can find guidance here. Prayer is talking to God with pure motives. We over complicate it (as I fear we tend to over complicate everything). My advice, just starting crying out to God in truth. God’s Word and the Holy Spirit will guide you on how you should pray.

How can we expect to live out our Christian life to the fullest if we aren’t praying at all times, constantly, without ceasing, steadfastly, always, and about everything? We can’t. Have you ever been afraid to pray? Have you ever thought, “I’m going to sound stupid?” or What if I don’t say the right thing?” These lies come directly from Satan because he does not want us praying. We have to throw these lies out and start praying. The truth is, as long you are calling out to God in truth with a right heart, your prayer could never sound stupid and is completely adequate before God.

How do we act on what scripture teaches us about prayer?

Start praying about everything. When you start praying to God about everything in your life amazing things happen. It truly solidifies God as Lord and you as servant. I believe God wants us to submit every single request to Him, even small ones, in prayer just like Philippians 4 tells us. Do we paint the people who pray about everything as extremists or weirdos? Claiming that a lot of things we can figure out on our own without bothering God? I’ve often done that myself. Am I saying that Philippians 4:6 is wrong? That I don’t need to in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let my requests be made known to God? God tells us to bring everything to him. Satan wants us to think we are a nuisance to God. That God doesn’t want us bothering him so much, especially about the small stuff. Guess what? Most of our days are made up of lots of small stuff. Small stuff that God truly cares about. Satan also wants us believing we are in control and don’t really need to bring things to God. Also not true. What would happen if you decided to start praying about everything? Do you think your attitudes and decisions would start to mirror those of God? Do you believe God would be near to you? I mean, have you ever stopped and thought, what does God want me to do today? What is devotion to Jesus? When you choose a life devoted to Jesus Christ it means your life is not your own. We don’t get to just do what we want when we want to. If the thought of bringing everything to God and doing what He wants sounds like a bad plan to us then we probably aren’t devoted to Jesus. Simply put, we don’t do a thing without first bringing it to God, followed by a choice to obey whatever the cost. This is true devotion. I fail so much, but my desire and goal better be to live truly devoted to Jesus or else I’m afraid I’m missing the whole point of being a Christian. I can tell you that when I have gotten this right, and I have prayed about everything, my life has never been more full and beautiful. 

Pray with your spouse if you have one. In recent months my husband has been leading us to do this a lot and it has been amazing. Sometimes we both pray multiple times, other times we both pray once. Sometimes we get on our knees, and sometimes we don’t. There is really no right way to do it apart from calling out to God together in truth. Let me warn you. It feels a little weird at first but it is a beautiful thing and it gets better and better the more you do it. Not only does it draw you closer to God and bring you into His presence, it encourages spiritual intimacy between you and your spouse. This truly requires vulnerability and humility, two things that I believe greatly strengthen your relationship with God and others.

Teach your children how to pray. I seriously cannot say this enough. Teach them how to really pray. How do we do this? First of all we have to pray for them about everything. This teaches them the valuable lesson of bringing everything to God. They will see his power at work when you do this. Instruct them on how to pray. When my little girl gets scared at night first I pray for her, then I tell her what to pray. I want my children to be comfortable talking to God without always having me do it for them. I’m constantly reminding them they can talk to God whenever they want about anything. They also know how to tell Satan to get away. I love when I hear them doing this! The other day my husband told me that my five year old randomly started punching the air and said “Satan’s mean and I’m gonna fight him! I have the power of God and I have Jesus in me. Satan can’t touch me!” One of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard! How does she know this? Cause this is what I’ve taught her to do when she feels spiritually attacked. (Which does happen to children by the way).

When my kids aren’t in the mood to pray I don’t push it. I want their faith to be their own, not something I forced on them. When they don’t want to pray I tell them that’s okay and I pray for them. Let me just tell you this, when they do want to pray, they pray some of the most amazing and convicting prayers. It often blows me away! On her first day of pre-k my daughter was super nervous. I prayed for her and helped her pray and ask God for help. Her day went great! Months later out of nowhere she randomly said to me “mommy, remember when I was nervous about school and I prayed and God helped me?” She was 4 years old and already seeing God work through prayer. Even better, she wasn’t prompted by me to remember this or bring it up, it was in her own heart and mind and came up all on its own. This will nurture her own personal relationship with her God. Children are never too young for this.

Start praying with and for other Christians. This is where God has been convicting me the most. I spend a lot of time each day praying about what’s going on in my life, for my kids, and for my husband, but I’m afraid I have often failed when it comes to praying with and for other Christians. Why? Probably because of selfishness, busyness, fear, a lack of belief in the power of prayer? What is your reason? If you have ever had the privilege to pray with your spouse or a friend over a dark spot in their hearts, that took some serious strength to even share, wow! There is serious power and healing in that prayer. You think Satan wants us Christians getting together to pray? Not just for God to do great things in our church and nation and whatnot, but for God to bring light to our darkness, to heal brokenness, to provide strength in challenges, to bring freedom. A group of Christians praying together telling God how amazing He is and thanking Him for all He Has done and will do. “The prayer of the upright person has great power as it is working”. It’s no wonder to me that praying out loud with others is the biggest challenge I face when it comes to prayer. I have a great friend who I seriously love so much. She has always encouraged prayer together. We would get together for a playdate with our kids and she would end with “hey let’s pray together.” She has always inspired me! I remember I was talking to a friend recently who means so much to me. This friend was sharing some deep deep pain and heartache with me. At the end of the call I said 5 words all of us Christians should stop saying, unless they are followed by actual prayer. “I will pray for you.” In that moment I thought of my friend, the one who inspires me with her prayer, and what she would say. I stopped myself and said “actually, can I pray right now?” What do you think she said? Yes! I was nervous and felt weird to pray on the phone, but it’s not about how I feel. Or how you feel. It’s about obeying Gods Word when it comes to prayer. I prayed over her and it was powerful for both of us. We absolutely need to pray for others in our personal prayer time, but God’s Word is clear that we need to pray with other Christians. I’m ashamed at how many times I’ve said those 5 words when I could have stopped and prayed right then. Jesus would have been with us in those moments ministering to us through prayer.

Another thought, pray and ask God for discernment to recognize when you are under spiritual attack. Once you are able to recognize this happening you can pray against it specifically. Use the authority you’ve been given as a child of God and command satan to leave! I’m telling you, he has to listen. It doesn’t always happen immediately, but if you keep battling he will eventually have to retreat. 

Some people encourage prayer journals and lists and whatnot and that works great for some. I’m not knocking that at all. But for someone like me, lists and journals discourage me a little from stuff because it starts to feel like an assignment. That just doesn’t work well for me and the way my brain functions. What I’m proposing for myself and others who maybe aren’t keen on the journals and lists is to just do it. Just make a decision that you will pray, and pray. Pray alone, pray with your spouse if you have one, pray with your children, and pray with other Christians. Don’t over complicate it or turn it into an assignment. Just start talking to God all the time, about everything.

I’m not interested in convincing anybody to do anything. To be honest, I believe this is a big problem today. So much time is spent trying to convince people to start living for Jesus rather than discipling and building up the people who already want to. So, if you want to live in the beauty of Gods presence and His plan start making prayer a priority. Otherwise, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t expect anything to change. The most important question to ask is do I believe everything the Bible says about prayer? If I do and I choose not to make prayer an essential part of every single day I am choosing to forfeit the fullness of Gods presence, his strength, His help, His grace and mercy, spiritual intimacy in my relationships, and His power working in amazing ways.

Writing this blog has truly convicted me and inspired me to make some changes when it comes to prayer. As I have done this I have seen so much impact in my life. I am closer to God, more passionate about reading the Bible, I have a more positive attitude (not dependent on circumstances), I have more patience and love toward my husband and children, and I have a deeper desire for the things of God in general. I truly believe that if I, and all God fearing surrendered Christians, devote ourselves to prayer, we will experience God and His power like we never could have imagined. We will also, as the body of Christ, bring God more glory and honor than ever before as we humbly surrender in prayer. I truly believe prayer is the catalyst for acting on what God teaches us in His word.

One last thought..

What if your boss gave you two big projects to complete. You gave one of the projects everything you had and did an incredible job executing every little detail. Your boss was beyond thrilled with your work. But when he asked about the second project you presented something sloppy, half done. You told him that you put so much time into the first project you just didn’t have time for the second. Not to mention, you didn’t really think the second project was totally necessary. Would he be pleased? Would you be successful in your job? This is the same when we dedicate boatloads of time attending bible studies, reading spiritual books, listening to sermon after sermon, and studying our bibles, but neglect praying with the same focus and magnitude. This just can’t happen if we expect to live in a way that pleases God and have an effective ministry. We have to start studying Gods Word and discovering what God actually tells us to do as Christians and start doing it. Don’t just do what others tell you to do, including me. Go to God in prayer and read the Bible. The Holy Spirit will direct you and teach you how to be truly devoted to Jesus.

 

How to Beat Worry God’s Way

 

AF2ABBCE-6840-4DE6-AD64-B696A2797459If you are anything like me you’ve found yourself anxious and worried about your life circumstances at times. Maybe you ask some of these questions I find myself asking. Am I making the right decision? Will things work out? Is God going to get me through these difficult times? How can I face this individual or uncomfortable situation? These kinds of questions can plague you and bring on some intense anxiety if you allow them to. As Christians we don’t have to be controlled by worry and anxiety. In fact, God’s Word commands us not to be! Philippians 4:6 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” So why is it so hard at times to trust and not allow worry a place of control? It’s easy to read a verse, putting it into action is a different story.

First of all you have to Accept worry for what it is: A lack of trust in God. Coming to this realization years ago helped me tremendously! I didn’t like to admit it, but recognizing that my anxious worrying was proof that I wasn’t trusting God made a world of difference for me. Bottom line I wanted to be a ruled by my faith and trust in God, but when I allowed worry to have a hold on me I wasn’t doing that. This convicted me and changed the way I looked at my anxiety. When I saw it for what it really was I was much more capable of dealing with it the way God tells me to. In my heart I trust God fully, my thoughts and actions need to back that up.

A good place to start when anxiety sets in is to write down or simply verbalize the specifics on what is worrying you. Sometimes I can feel anxious and not really know why. maybe I pray  “God help me not feel anxious anymore” but this never really works. I am basically asking God to do all the work rather than doing my part as well. He tells me to submit my requests to him, only then can I expect His beautiful peace to take the place of my anxiety. So how does this look in action? When I realize I’m anxious I stop and think about what is worrying me. I verbalize it and then I tell God I’m sorry for not trusting Him. Once I’ve done that I can ask Him to help me with whatever it is I’m dealing with specifically. If it’s something I have no control over I make the choice to let go and trust God. If I can do something about it I make a plan and ask God for the courage to act on that plan. It’s incredible how God’s peace truly does come over me when I respond to anxiety the way He wants me to. As I courageously face my worries one at a time my anxiety eventually disappears.

You have to start speaking God’s truth to your worry. There is a battle going on for your mind. When we give into worry our faith and peace crumble. What does God’s Word say about your situation? The Bible tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We can only do this by meditating on Gods Word, obeying it, and spending time in His presence. When Gods Word is in your heart it will start impacting your life in an incredible and active way. My go to verse these days when worry starts to come in is Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” God has my back, and He wants to have yours too. 

I can tend to have a lot of worry when it comes to dealing with people. It could be something simple like asking a boss for a day off or sharing a concern with a close friend or family member. This anxiety can have a huge hold on me.  I am able to overcome this with God’s truth found in Proverbs 29:25 that says “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in The Lord shall be safe.” I speak this truth when worry sets in time and time again. Depending on how tightly I am holding onto my worry it might take a lot of effort and time for my anxiety to subside, but I have found when I am continually speaking God’s truth it always does.

Figure out what you’re most afraid of: In my experience, and in helping others with anxiety, I have found that a deeper fear is always involved. People tend to avoid thinking about their greatest fears which makes it difficult to address them. Ask yourself this question. What is my biggest fear related to this current worry? As I mentioned, I worry whenever I have to confront someone regarding an issue or uncomfortable topic. What is my biggest fear? Not the confrontation itself, rather the potential rejection of those I’m confronting. Because I am aware of this I have been able to address it. I’ve recognized that my value doesn’t depend on being accepted by everyone or on whether or not people reject me. I have learned that I can find true acceptance from God and trust Him to take care of me when I need to confront someone on an uncomfortable issue. Dealing with this fear has enabled me to successfully overcome this worry on many occasions.. although still a work in progress!

Figure out what you are most afraid of and make a list of what you would do if it came true. What if that person does reject you? What if you do lose your job? What if? whenever I do this with my fears I realize that with God’s help I can deal with whatever may come. Suddenly the fear doesn’t seem so unbearable.

Hormones and biology don’t excuse you from obeying Philippians 4:6. I understand this all to well. For one week every month my hormones are all out of whack causing me all kinds of issues, including physiological symptoms of anxiety. I’m on edge, irritable, quick tempered, easily upset. It is very easy during this time for me to fall victim to worry and fear. I used to think this gave me a pass but I’ve come to realize over the years that God’s Word still applies with forces that seem to be out of my control. Now that I’ve accepted that truth I simply prepare for these times. I realize that with the Holy Spirit I can work toward regaining control when it seems a lot harder to do. In the past I would slip and it would spiral. Now I slip, and because I’m ready for it, I catch myself and apply the Biblical principles I’ve learned.

God tells us His strength is made perfect in weakness, and as a believer I know this pertains to all circumstances. This doesn’t exclude people with physical or psychological struggles. His truth is blanket truth. What Satan wants you to believe is that your problem is unique and God’s truth doesn’t apply to you. If he can get you to believe this you won’t start using the resources God has given you to fight back and overcome this monster called worry (and others like it). You see, God’s tools are dependent on Him, not on the capability of the individual using them. All that is required to use them is a choice to receive and follow Jesus Christ. Once you’ve done that the Holy Spirit and His power is available to you. This includes the supernatural ability to overcome worry and the grip it has on your life. 

Sometimes anxiety can be so debilitating that it’s hard to overcome on your own. If that’s you I urge you to seek out a professional counselor who can help support you through the battle. 

 

Following God’s Calling is Risky, but it’s Worth it!

bibleRecently I found myself struggling with some fears relating to something God has called me to do. After days of playing out what if scenarios in my head and feeling anxious I finally decided to go to God in prayer and ask Him for peace. God reminded me through the story of Gideon that I don’t have to be afraid. I can trust Him to keep me safe even when He calls me to do something that seems unsafe. You see, sometimes the possible result of what we are called to do is scary, but if we hold on to what God has said and know that we are doing His will we can overcome our fears.

Let’s look at the first thing The Lord asked from Gideon below:

Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night. (Judges 6: 25-27: NKJV)

God asked Gideon to tear down the alter and build a new one. There was a lot of risk in doing this and Gideon was afraid. He knew the people would be angry and they were, in fact They tried to kill him for it. The things God calls us to do as His followers pose a lot of risk. We are called to stand against what this world stands by and that’s no easy or safe task. Even Peter feared the Jews and acted like a hypocrite when around them, rather than fully speak the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:11). There was risk involved and he gave into fear. We are all in danger of giving into our fears when following God’s calling because there is always risk.

What the story of Gideon reminds me of is that with God on my side I can face the risk fearless, with Gods strength and power, and overcome. I don’t have to fear because I am His child and he has already given me victory. Even if the what if’s I’ve played out in my mind happen I can still face them with God on my side, believing He will get me through. Gideon feared the people, he probably played out his own what if scenario that involved a mob of angry people coming after him after he tore down the alter of Baal. This scenario is exactly what took place, but God had his back just as He has mine and yours when we choose to faithfully follow his call. This set the stage for the bigger, more risky, things God had in store for Gideon. Gideon had already seen Gods faithfulness in action because he was willing to respond to God and take on the risk of tearing down that alter. This further enabled him to head into battle with 300 men and the living God on his side, knowing he could full well defeat an army of hundreds of thousands. This reminds me that I can take on God’s calling, full of risks, and have victory.

It’s probably easy for us, seeing the end of this faith encounter, to focus on the fact that Gideon survived the angry mob. God could have easily prevented this from even happening. Why didn’t He? In my opinion, God allows us to face trials to grow our character and show us His faithfulness (1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 5:3-5). Years ago my husband and I felt God calling us to walk away from his corporate job so he could pursue other things. This meant we would have to live on my salary which wouldn’t even cover the bills. That step was the best thing we ever could have done for our faith! God grew us and changed our hearts in so many ways, teaching us to depend more fully on Him. Although our finances suffered greatly during this time, God provided exactly what we needed when we needed it! He took care of our every need. Although this was a difficult time of trials and faith testing, we would do it all over again. God could have poured out financial blessings on us immediately, as He could have prevented the angry mob, but we would not have grown and learned the beautiful lessons he taught us. 

What has God called you to? Is fear holding you back from stepping out in faith and taking the risk to obey? Just as God was patient with Gideon when he was overcome with fear he will be patient with you too. Without God, Gideon was the least of the least. With God, he was a mighty man of valor! (Judges 6:15; judges 6:12) This is what we become when we choose to, in-spite of the risk, answer and obey God’s calling. 

What is the risk of not obeying God’s calling on your life? It’s simple. John 10:10 says “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The risk is exactly that. You can allow Satan to steal, kill, and destroy your life, or you can obey God and face trials that produce Christ’s character in you and please Him. Which risk will you choose to take? 

Submission to God must come first

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Submit is a scary word, especially if you prefer to be in control. To submit is to let go of control and surrender all. Webster defines submit as yielding oneself to the authority or will of another. I think as Christians we can sometimes latch onto parts of verses that encourage us or offer us something of value in the moment, while ignoring other parts. One verse that offers me comfort that I hear spoken of often is James 4:7 which says “therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The funny thing about this verse is that the part I hear most often is the “resist the devil and he will flee from you part”. It’s important to remember that the Bible cannot be broken down and picked apart, it needs to be accepted as a whole.

There have been times when I have felt attacked and have prayed and feel as though I am resisting the devil, but for some reason he isn’t fleeing. Does this ever happen to you? What I’ve realized is at these times I am not fully submitting to God as I should be. The thing is, apart from submission to God, we aren’t strong enough to resist the devil and his attacks. We need to be fully submitted if we are to successfully resist Satan. In fact, verse 6 in the same chapter says “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Wow, God resists the proud! If in pride you are trying to resist the devil, the truth is God is resisting you. If this is the case do you stand a chance against the attack? What is pride but the need for control, possession, accomplishment, etc.? Can you submit to God while holding onto pride? You cannot. 

What does it really look like to submit to God? Honestly this is a difficult yet rewarding task. I find myself revisiting it and realigning myself often. It is easy to neglect submitting to God and, for me, this is when I find it more difficult to resist Satan. When I get back to a place of submission I feel a renewed strength  and freedom. Submitting to God means accepting His plan over your own. It means not taking credit or seeking to find a sense of worth in your own accomplishments or possessions. It means giving God free reign to do whatever He wants to do in your life. It offers the ability to have peace and calmness when things don’t go as you expected. It means not making a decision in life without first consulting God, and when you don’t like His answer, it means doing what He wants regardless.

Submission is a choice and it is what separates you from being a humble follower of God to an interested yet uncommitted “Christian”. Honestly, I know for a fact I cannot expect myself to be in perfect submission to God at all times, but the goal is to recognize when I make this error and get back on my knees humbled before God. If I don’t make this a regular habit I know I will not be able to resist the devil when he comes after me. Maybe you are at a place right now where you feel incapable of resisting. Check yourself to see if you are fully submitted. If you find that you aren’t, choose to submit and give God control. As His Word tells us in James 4, He will lovingly offer grace, and the devil will indeed flee from you.

You’ve come to Jesus, so why haven’t you found rest?

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If you received Jesus as savior and aren’t sure why all your pain, weaknesses, and burdens haven’t disappeared overnight it could be that you’ve been misled. Maybe you’re wondering why your life isn’t automatically easier, why you don’t have all the answers to life’s toughest questions. Maybe someone told you that all you had to do was get saved and your life would change. This is true, but it doesn’t happen in the way we might think. During His ministry Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). I don’t know about you, but this verse offers me so much encouragement and hope. Jesus offered to take our painful, often unbearable, burdens and give us rest. Maybe rest is something you have been desperate for for so long and you’re wondering why it hasn’t come.

If Jesus offers this why hasn’t it happened yet? Re-read the verse again and you will notice that Jesus is offering something but He is also asking us to do something as well. He asks us to come and says take my yoke and learn from me. Maybe you’ve come but you have yet to learn from Jesus. Could this be why you are still suffering as you were before? Learning from Jesus is an incredible process that will completely transform you from the inside out, but it takes time. Yes, when you responded to John 1:12 and became a child of God your life forever changed. You went from being an orphan to being adopted into the kingdom of God and God’s spirit is living in you (Romans 8:11). You probably instantly felt a lesser desire to continue in sin, a desire for repentance and forgiveness, a longing to be closer to God, but this is where the journey starts, not where it ends. This journey begins with making a choice to accept Jesus as savior and is followed by acting on Jesus’ command to learn from Him. Jesus is telling us that we have to learn a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. He is asking you, and me, with the power of His spirit living in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (how incredible!), to learn a new way.

Consider the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10. I just love this story because it speaks to me on so many personal levels. Go read it before continuing on. Jesus came one day to visit and Martha was busy and distracted serving, stressed to no end. she was angry! Where was her sister Mary? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus learning from Him. Mary knew that this was the most important thing she could ever do. When Martha complained to Jesus his response was simply amazing. He said to her “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Have you chosen as Mary did? To lay your troubles and worries down and sit at Jesus’ feet to hear and learn His Word? Martha clung to her troubles and often times this is just what we do. This is why people sometimes wonder why Jesus isn’t “working”. Mary knew hearing and learning from Jesus was the only hope she had. Jesus basically told Martha that she chose her troubles over the better option. Do I do this? Do you? When we choose not to learn a new way from Jesus we are choosing to remain in bondage. In 2 Corinthians 12 we learn that rather than eliminating our weaknesses, God offers us grace and strength to overcome them. 

So how do you learn from Jesus? You have to start reading His Word, the Bible, and living by what it says. You have to throw out anything that doesn’t line up. You will never learn a new way if you don’t, and nothing will ever change. To be honest, I don’t know how I would get through a day without the Bible. I don’t even want to think about what my life would be without it! The Bible is the Jesus followers guidebook to abundant life, not just another religious chore. Make a list of all those things that are troubling you, then learn a scripture that can help you with it. I promise as you learn from Jesus rest will come. It sounds simple because it is!

I’ve mentioned it before in another blog, but I have always struggled with fear, especially at night. This burden has weighed on me heavy so many times. When I finally chose to search Gods Word and learn and memorize every verse on fear, rest and peace finally came! Looking back I can’t believe how much of a struggle it had been for me. I’m still extremely susceptible and prone to letting fear take hold but I have learned a new way to face it. I turn immediately to Jesus and his truth to overcome and it works every time. I write those verses down, say them aloud, and pray them over and over until the fear is gone. If I hadn’t learned how would I have known? This is just one single example, there are countless others, of how learning from Jesus has lightened my load and given me rest. Not to mention, when you choose to follow someone how in the world could you do it without learning their way? If studying the Bible isn’t part of your life as a Christian it’s imperative that you change that.

what burdens are weighing you down and how can learning from Jesus change that?

Maybe…

Your burden says I’m afraid.. Jesus says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Your burden says I’m anxious.. Jesus says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8

your burden says I’ll never be enough.. Jesus says “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10

your burden says my pain will never go away.. Jesus says “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

your burden says I need more stuff to be happy.. Jesus says “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

your burden says I can’t do what God is asking me to do.. Jesus says, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

your burden says I can’t overcome my temptations.. Jesus says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

your burden says I am unlovable.. Jesus says “neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

your burden says I have no purpose.. Jesus says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

God’s strength is waiting to be made perfect in your weakness. He is waiting for you to come to Him, learn from Him, and trade your heavy burden for his light and easy load. This is a daily journey filled with ups and downs, but it is also filled with hope. Something you didn’t have before you accepted Jesus. Don’t forget, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you and will teach you all things. Start going to church to add to your learning and develop friendships with other Jesus followers. Messages my pastor has preached have helped me learn and grow so much and God has used godly mentors in my life to teach me as well. This is so important! Just be sure to never allow church to take the place of the Bible in your life. Studying and learning on your own is critical. Read as often as you can, write down verses in a journal and keep it close to read through whenever you can. This is something I have always done and it has helped me learn and remember so much. You will begin to notice your mindset changing as you hide scripture in your heart. You will start responding to life’s troubles differently when you allow scripture and your deepened love for Jesus to guide you, rather than your old worldview. The load will begin to lighten and you will find the rest you’ve been seeking.

Am I in the Fight?

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I read this CS Lewis quote recently and it both excited and challenged me. It made me wonder, is Satan threatened by my faith? As a follower of Jesus I am not only a child of God, I am a solider fighting in a spiritual battle against darkness. The battle has already been won, but the fight isn’t over, and it won’t be until Jesus returns. In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul is talking to Timothy and says “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” ‭‭(2 Timothy‬ ‭2:3-4‬).

A good Christian soldier focuses on pleasing God. In Colossians 1:10 we learn that through knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, and spiritual understanding, we can walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Pleasing God requires faith that leads to good works. In fact, Ephesians tells us God created us in Christ Jesus for good works!

If my goal isn’t to please God it means I am caught up with the affairs of this life. This is one of Satan’s battle plans. Distract God’s people in whatever way he can to keep us from the fight. If he can keep us distracted and focused on ourselves and our worries he can keep us from fulfilling God’s plan for us. And what is His plan? Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has good works planned for us, good works that we won’t walk in if we are distracted by things that don’t matter. The Bible tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter‬ ‭5:8). Does Satan see me and my family as a threat to his plan to destroy and devour? To answer this I have to ask myself a few questions.

What is it that distracts me from the fight? The answer to this question could be anything. It could be career advancement, relationships, possessions, selfish ambitions, fear and insecurity, the need to please people, an incorrect view of God, fill in the blank. Ask God to search your heart and show you what it is that’s distracting you from your faith and the good works He has planned for you. This is something I have to do regularly to stay focused. Satan won’t let up, in fact, once you become a threat he will target your faith all the more. Don’t be afraid of him, as you resist him he will flee from you (James 4:7), rather be on guard, submit to God, and keep focused on truth.

What are the good works that God has planned for me? The answer to this question is vast. I think we can get wrapped up in the idea that until we receive some special revelation from God on what He wants us to do we shouldn’t do anything. The truth is, God’s Word provides countless examples of the good works we are to walk in as followers of Jesus. God definitely gives specific callings to believers but waiting for this is no excuse. James 1:27 tells us to visit widows and orphans and to be separate from the world. Hebrews 13:16 tells us not to neglect doing good and to share what we have, as this pleases God. 1 John 3:17 tells us that if we see someone in need and neglect them how can God’s love be in us? Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear each other’s burdens. Acts 20:35 tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive. In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Paul echoes this in 2 Timothy 4:5 when he tells us to do the work of an evangelist. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to warn, comfort, and uphold one another in patience. There are so many more works Jesus Christ calls us to I could never list them all here. As Christians our goal cannot be to simply refrain from sin. In fact James 4:17 says “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James‬ ‭4:17‬). The Bible tells us we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, if we choose to ignore this we are sinning.

The final question to ask is am I walking in the good works Jesus has for me? This is a simple question to answer. Take the verses mentioned previously, and any others you can find regarding the good that Jesus asks us to do, and ask yourself if you are obeying. Am I sharing what I have? Am I reaching out to the unfortunate? Am I comforting and upholding others? Am I doing the work of an evangelist? Am I giving to those in need? Am I bearing the burdens of others? I sometimes have the tendency to focus on the things I am most comfortable with, neglecting the things that are more of a challenge for me. This isn’t a pick and choose situation. Jesus said if you love me you will obey me (John 14:23). One way I show Jesus my love for him is through obeying his commands, even the ones that are difficult for me. Thankfully his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), so we don’t have to rely on our own strength to obey.

Which of Jesus commands are the most difficult for you to obey? This might bring light to sin or insecurity in your heart, as this has been the case for me many times before. Take action and start walking in the good works He has planned for you and your faith will quickly become a major threat to the enemy’s plans. Not only that, but you will truly discover that life is about pleasing God.

A good soldier not only engages in warfare, as Paul mentioned, but also carefully watches out for danger. If our focus is in the right place, on pleasing God, we will be successful in our fight against Satan. He will certainly feel threatened by our faith and we will walk in the good works God has planned for us. My pastor recently said “a life spent doing nothing for Jesus is a life wasted.” Let’s not waste our lives, let’s make it our goal to walk in good works for Jesus.

Some Christians think that focusing on good works means we are trying to earn our salvation. This isn’t true at all! Our only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. Our good works are meant for pleasing God, not for saving us. This is a direct command from Jesus Christ himself and cannot be ignored. Do we really believe we can live in victory apart from obeying our God and savior? True freedom and victory comes when we start living as God created us to. We need to be on the offense and walk in the good works God created in advance for us. In my next blog I’ll focus on how to defend against Satan’s attacks, as they are sure to come once you start walking in good works.