Not Guilty: Why you Should Change your Mind about Jesus

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Our society is set up in a way that people cannot do whatever they would like and they are willing to accept these parameters. If you don’t pay your taxes, you commit burglary, or assault someone and get caught you will be held accountable for it. Most people would agree consequences should be faced in these kinds of situations. Somehow we are willing to accept this, yet unwilling to accept the parameters placed on us by our own creator. Why is this? Many believe that a good God would never send someone to hell, and because of this reject Him altogether. This is by far one of the most difficult arguments for a Christian to face when talking with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus Christ. Let’s consider this argument in the form of an illustration.

Consider you and a friend have committed murder and are on trial with a likely outcome of a death sentence. One day the judge tells you that another man has come forward and has offered to take on your death sentence. All you have to do to go free is admit your fault, accept his sacrifice, and choose to follow a new way after you get released. The judge tells you that regardless of your decision this man is going to take that death sentence on your behalf. You ask why would he do such a thing for us? Doesn’t he know what We’ve done? The thought of admitting your guilt and accepting this man’s sacrifice, and not only that, but surrendering to a new way of living, is too much for your pride to allow. You reject the offer. Your friend on the other hand, astounded by such a loving and undeserved sacrifice, is willing to do whatever she has to do to accept this gift. Including admitting her guilt and making the decision to live a different way from that point on. She knows it will be tough, but that accepting this man’s sacrifice will change her forever. The Judge declares her not guilty and she walks undeservedly free, while you receive your earned death sentence.

This is what God offers everyone through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. A not guilty verdict. Freedom from our earned sentence. If a person ends up in hell its not because God sent him there. It is because he rejected the free gift of justification and salvation. Christ suffered death so we don’t have to suffer eternal punishment in hell for our wrongs. He took all of our sins on himself. 1 John 2:2 tells us “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” He wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us and nailed it to the cross! (Colossians 2:14) Do you understand how amazing this is? Maybe you would say, well I’m not a murderer, I’m a pretty good person. The truth is, nobody is good (Mark 10:18), we are all evil inside and need to be transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2). Deep down you know you are guilty and you’ve been living with guilt for a long time. But you don’t have to! Accept the gift Jesus offers you and walk free from your sentence.

Another of Satan’s greatest deceptions is that following Jesus is bondage and not following Jesus is freedom. The opposite is actually true. Because I follow Jesus I am no longer a slave to the sin and darkness in this world and the Holy Spirit of God himself lives in me, providing all that I need (Galatians 4:6-7). I get to experience peace during turmoil (Isaiah 26:3), comfort in pain (2 Corinthians 1:4), strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), wisdom in decision making (James 1:5), forgiveness from my wrongs (1 John 1:9), calmness in fear (Romans 8:15), and the list goes on. I don’t just say this because it’s what the Bible says. I literally experience these things daily in my life. Do you experience the same through rejecting him? When you reject Jesus you are accepting the fact that you are a slave to someone or something else. You can call it what you want but deep down you know you are not free.

Jesus offers the same freedom to every single person. All you have to do is believe and receive Him (John 1:12). You will no longer suffer the punishment you deserve for your sin because he already paid that price for you when he surrendered to death and punishment on the cross. He loves you that much! Reject the lies of Satan and choose to believe and receive Christ so you can walk free in all that God created you for. My prayer is that this post changes even just one person’s mind about Jesus, because when even one turns from sin the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10). That’s how much you matter to God, your creator. I hope and pray that those angels are rejoicing even now because of your changed heart.

 

 

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Will you Give it up for God?

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I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the rich young ruler? (Matthew 16: 19-23). He comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to be complete. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give to the poor so he may have treasure in heaven. We all flinch when we read this, fearful of the chance that we may be asked to do the same. How about when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac? (Genesis 22: 1-19). The son he waited years and years to have, the son his wife doubted was even a real possibility. Can you imagine? Thankfully God provided another way in this specific situation.

In the last five years life has been quite challenging for me and my husband as God has asked us to give up a lot to follow His plan for our lives. Things we thought we really needed and wanted and placed way too much trust in. Despite the struggle, these have been the best years of our lives and will only get better from here! God has stretched us, challenged us, walked us through many trials, and has been transforming us into the people He created us to be. It’s been incredible!! Although we have had to suffer in a lot of ways, (and have failed in a lot of ways) we have experienced more peace and joy and have seen more spiritual fruit than we ever could have imagined.

To be honest I expected things to go a lot differently and a lot more smoothly than they have. But guess what? I would do it all over again despite the struggles. With each small step of faith I’ve been shown that God is faithful, He always comes through. One of my favorite lines from a Sunday morning service that I heard years ago from my pastor is this: “God doesn’t know you believe Him until you give up your Issac.” God didn’t know Abraham trusted Him because he said he did. It was because Abraham did exactly what God asked him to do, even though it was the hardest thing he could have ever been asked to do. Are you willing to do this? Am I? Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give up his wealth because that was his “Isaac”. The thing he held onto so tightly and placed his trust in. Abraham went from believing God would make him father of the nations to believing this responsibility fell on Issac. His trust was misplaced. He depended on Issac for this promise to be fulfilled instead of on God. Maybe you believe that what you can’t give up is truly what you need, rather than God’s best for you.

What are you holding onto so tightly that it’s hindering your relationship with God? Maybe you really struggle to believe that His way is better than your way. Maybe it’s legalism, materialism, alcoholism, pornography, an affair, control, fear, pain, harmful relationships, a career. Whatever it might be that you’re holding onto I promise you it doesn’t hold a candle to the possibilities you have with a deep and intimate relationship with God. No matter how good or promising it might feel, those things will always end up betraying you. He has outrageously incredible things planned for your life if you will take Him up on the offer. The freedom you experience when you surrender these things to God and make the choice to do things His way is remarkable.

God didn’t ask the young ruler to give up his wealth and Abraham to give up Issac for fun or to play games with them, there was a purpose behind this. He knew these things were getting in the way of Gods ultimate plan. What’s getting in the way of His plan for you?

I challenge you to sit down with God today and ask Him to show you what your holding onto too tightly and putting your faith in. I pray that as you do this God will reveal Himself to you and transform your heart so that you can live out the life He has for you. A life that reflects Jesus Christ and impacts the world.

Suffering From Spiritual Memory Loss

IMG_0761.JPGIt seems that lately little things here and there keep going sideways. My husband and I have been waiting for a breakthrough for so long but it just hasn’t seemed to come yet. It can be so easy to allow ourselves to get discouraged and become afraid. Has this ever happened to you? It can be so hard to focus on the good when I’m focused on the not so good. Alone each struggle seems manageable and small, but combine them and it can seem like I’m going to drown. This is exactly where my problem begins. Rather than shift my eyes to the Lord and all The awesome things He is doing and has done I focus on all the little annoyances and struggles I seem to be facing, suddenly it feels like I’m being drowned by crashing waves and the boat is going to sink. Does this ever happen to you?

I was reading in Matthew the other day and came across a verse that convicted me while at the same time gave me a renewed sense of victory.

“Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” So the men marveled, saying, “who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:23-27

Right before this incident happened the disciples had watched Jesus perform amazing miracles, but as soon as the storm came they suffered from spiritual memory loss. Suddenly they had forgotten what Jesus was capable of and were certain they were going to die along with Jesus.. seriously?? Sounds crazy right? I read this and realized I was doing the same thing. I’ve seen Jesus perform amazing miracles in my life and in the lives of others around me yet when waves start to roll in I become afraid and lose faith that Jesus has it covered. The disciples had forgotten who Jesus really was. Do I forget this sometimes? I hate to admit it but my fear and lack of faith proves that I do. This spiritual memory loss can really get me discouraged and cause me to wonder if God really will come through for me. Will He allow me to sink? When I remind myself of who He is and His faithfulness to me my faith is restored.

I’m thankful that I can open my Bible and be reminded that I don’t have to be afraid of the waves because Jesus is on the boat with me and will bring the calm. If you have chosen to follow Jesus then this is true for you too! And if you haven’t, know that you can make that choice today. His love and strength will fill you up and you will never face a storm alone again.

My Weakness, His Endless Grace

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I’ve begun to wonder if fear is my “thorn in the flesh”, similar to whatever Paul was dealing with. For some reason I am so weak when it comes to fear. I seriously cannot even watch a slightly scary movie without being unable to sleep for at least a week. And please, whatever you do, do not even tell me a story about something bad happening to a child! I won’t leave the house for a month.. I hate having to be home alone over night when my husband travels! I am a grown woman! I know it sounds silly, but it is truly a serious struggle for me. It comes out in other ways too but I’m not going to share all of my embarrassing examples with you! I have to be on constant guard. Whenever I think I’ve beaten it, back it comes as scary and overpowering as ever. I’m left feeling discouraged and beaten down, wondering if I will ever truly conquer it. Well if this is indeed my thorn in the flesh I probably won’t. Even though I know that Gods grace is sufficient sometimes I just wish it would be gone for good.

When Paul asked God to remove his weakness God response was not what Paul was looking for. Here is what God said, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I can’t say that I have quite reached the place that Paul did, boasting in my weaknesses, but I would like to!

So how can I embrace God’s grace like Paul did and rejoice and boast in my weakness instead of desperately try, in my own strength, to eradicate it. Below are some things I’ve learned I have to do for this to be possible!

1. I have to accept it as something I will likely struggle with forever- Recognizing and accepting that I will always need to rely on Gods sufficient grace to overcome the fears and anxieties that grip me has been a freeing experience. Paul asked three times that God remove his “thorn” but God said no. Does this mean I have to live bound by my thorn? No. What it means is that I will forever need to tap into Gods grace, as Paul did, to battle it. Honestly I can go long periods of time where it seems as though I’ve won, and then out of nowhere, I begin to lose the battle. Thoughts start to creep in, feelings emerge, and discouragement starts to take hold. Maybe you can relate? Achieving acceptance helps me go straight to the throne of grace, rather than give into the thorn and allow it to gain control.
2. I have to offer grace to others- Listen, you probably think the fears I deal with are totally crazy! And you are right. I would probably think yours are crazy too. Don’t judge others because it doesn’t make sense to you, try to be understanding and offer encouragement. Allow God’s grace to flow through you to others, this may be exactly what they need in order to overcome! We want others to be sensitive regarding our fears and weaknesses but sometimes we don’t offer the same in return. I’m still working on this..
3. I have to face it, not hide from it- I used to just avoid fear at all costs. While sometimes this is okay and possible, other times it is straight up unhealthy. Rather than flee from it I had to learn how to face it with the strength of God and His grace. This is my only hope of experiencing His strength in my weakness. If you run from your weakness you will totally miss out on this blessing. Totally still working on this one too… but getting better!
4. I have to God FIRST, not last- Now that have I accepted that I will never truly eliminate my weakness of fear I am more prone to go straight to God whenever it starts to creep in. Where in the past I would try other things first, thinking I actually had a chance, now I know I need God immediately to stand a chance at all. This has brought me closer to the Lord and has enabled me to feel his love and care more deeply. I have found that His grace truly is sufficient for my weakness. If we don’t do this we will just go through life crippled by our weaknesses, unable to reach our full potential in Christ. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will work hard to use them against us. We have to rely on the only one who has already defeated him. Through Him we have true victory.

What is a weakness you just can’t seem to defeat? Ask God for His grace and strength to help you and you will not be disappointed!

The Importance of Processing Pain

1I wont lie to you, facing and dealing with pain isn’t a fun process. It can be pretty painful. This is why a lot of people choose to ignore and “stuff” their pain and feelings in order to avoid it and move on. The problem is, avoiding pain doesn’t remove it, in fact it does just the opposite. The pain that you stuff and burry deep inside wont stay hidden for long. It will resurface as soon as you are faced with a “trigger.” A trigger is an activating event, often random, that causes a person to relive a painful experience. This can be confusing for people because they typically are not even aware of where the pain and emotions are coming from. Don’t believe the lie “time heals all wounds.” This is a fallacy. Time heals nothing, processing pain heals pain.

Why is processing pain so important? Living a healthy life and having stable and healthy relationships is one of the benefits of processing pain, rather than avoiding it. remember how I mentioned before that pain is often triggered by random events? This can leave a person who has not processed his pain feeling just as hurt and broken as he did when the actual event occurred. Imagine how this can negatively impact a person’s life and relationships? Below I will talk about what can happen when you don’t process pain and what can happen when you do.

What happens when you don’t process pain? When you avoid your pain you often end up avoiding people and situations as well, potentially leading to isolation and loneliness. When something starts to trigger your pain you might make efforts to flee. For example, say a woman who was cheated on and abandoned by her husband chose to avoid her pain rather than face it and heal from it. She might discover that the pain is triggered when being pursued by another man, or when around a married friend. Her hidden pain might cause her to miss out on friendships and a future relationship, keeping her from living life to the fullest and enjoying God’s blessings of marriage and friendship.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, triggered pain can be intense and debilitating. When pain is triggered all of the feelings hiding behind your buried pain will be exposed, poured out on those closest to you. Think of pain as a cap on a bottle that is holding multiple feelings inside of it. Feelings like rejection, abandonment, betrayal, neglect, and loneliness. All of these feelings spill out and effect every area of life until you can manage to stuff them back into the bottle, only to have them emerge again when triggered.

What happens when you do process pain? Triggers become reminders for individuals who have successfully processed pain. Rather than debilitating you, they remind you of pain that you have successfully worked through and healed from. It will likely still hurt, but rather than feeling as though you are re-experiencing it all over again, you might feel a sadness for what you had to go through. The pain is no longer a part of you, sneaking up on you when you least expect it. You are no longer controlled by fear and forced to avoid people and situations. I know this because I have processed some painful things in my life. I have experienced the freedom that comes from working through pain and then allowing God to comfort and heal.

Once you have successfully dealt with your pain you are capable of helping others do the same. Think of the woman I mentioned before. If she were to continue to ignore the pain associated with her husband’s unfaithfulness she would likely avoid other women going through the same thing for fear of her own pain being triggered. It is the woman who goes through something like this and chooses to face it rather than ignore it, healing from it, who is able to walk alongside another hurting woman and offer hope. The joy that comes from using your painful experience to help and support someone else is incredible. This is only possible once you have processed it and have healed from it.

Thankfully it is never too late to process pain and experience healing. In my next blog I will talk about some steps you can take to do this, gaining freedom and the ability to live the life God intends for you.