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 

 

 

 

Maybe Having Faith in God Isn’t What you Think it is…

IMG_0209I’ve been surprised many times by people thinking that faith means not knowing but believing anyway. They seem to think that my belief in Jesus goes something like this:

I believe in Jesus but I’m not totally sure it’s true, I have to just have faith. but I sure hope I’m right and get to go to heaven.

Maybe I’m to blame for this impression people have of faith and following Jesus. Do we make the mistake of not sharing all that God has done in our lives? Leading people to believe it’s a life of hoping rather than fully knowing with confidence? The definition of faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. My faith is much much more than simply hoping I’m right. You see when I made the choice to follow and accept Jesus Christ I became a child of God. In a literal sense. God has revealed himself and moved in my life in such incredible and amazing ways I could write all day long telling you about it. It would blow your mind. It starts with choosing to believe but this isn’t the end of the journey. This is where the journey starts. After this point God makes you his own. After this point you know God on a deeper level, as your father. There is no more questioning whether or not He is real and whether or not the Bible is truth. (By the way, the Bible is a historical document, not just stories. Don’t believe me? Look it up!) A person who has never made this choice will never be able to comprehend this fact. But maybe, just maybe if I were more vocal about all that God has done and is doing in my life I would clear up some of the misconceptions people have regarding my faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m not a Christian because I don’t want to go to hell. I choose to be a Christian because I am so beautifully loved by God. Not just because the Bible tells me I am but because He shows me daily and I feel it. Every single time I pray, read my bible, worship God, I walk away full. Full of strength, joy, peace, courage, love, excitement. Does what you believe offer you that? If you aren’t fully confident in what you believe I would question it. God has done beyond more for me than I could ever say. He has loved me, protected me, guided me, rescued me, and healed me. He wants to do the same for you. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Him. It wouldn’t be worth living, not even for a moment. You can say I’m extreme but it’s true. This is what I want you to know about my faith in Jesus. It’s not a religion that simply guarantees me eternal life, it is my life. Every. Single. Day. And it is a beautiful and full life to say the least.

You see the amazing thing about choosing to follow God is that He is constant. Things in life are always changing. God never changes. My happiness and Joy isn’t dependent on things in my life always going right, it’s dependent on my choice to seek God and spend time close to Him in His presence. If you haven’t made this choice then this is foolishness to you and I can’t expect you to think otherwise. All I’m saying is don’t think I’m just like you apart from having a contingency plan. My life with God is beyond more than that. you could have the same thing if you would take a chance and choose to believe. This will transform your life forever and fill you like you never could have dreamed. Don’t waste your life on the temporal or choose to live with less than God planned for you. Don’t think you know what it means to follow Jesus based on what the media tells you or based on the hypocrites who claim it to get into heaven and nothing more.

Don’t think I’m a stupid person who simply wants something to believe so I can feel better about life. This honestly makes me want to laugh. I believe what I do because God has filled my life beyond comprehension and has transformed every single aspect of it. What gives you fulfillment in life? Is it constant and unchanging? It surely is for me and I wish more than anything that everyone could experience what I do on a daily basis. The ability to trust in a God who is present and faithful, who can always be trusted in.

I have total confidence and belief in God and the fact that Jesus died for me and rescued me from sin. I also have total confidence and belief in the Bible to be accurate and truth (which can be backed up as reliable and valid in the same way that other historical documents are, if you would take the time to look into it). If you can say that you feel this way about what you believe great! If not, then I ask you to take a chance on God. Take a chance to find out for yourself rather than listen to what others tell you about Jesus. When CS Lewis was an atheist and struggling with his beliefs he did this very thing. It changed his life forever. This is the case for countless other people who struggled to place confidence in their beliefs and decided to find out the truth about God. As I said before, if you choose to go on this journey you will not be disappointed. I pray that you make that choice.

Thanks for reading!

Jesus Died for YOU!

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Did you know that Jesus came down to the earth, willing to give his life, to rescue you? He loves you that much! It’s easy, especially around Easter, to think about Christ’s death as a “religious story” but the truth is Jesus died for you whether you call yourself a Christian or not. You have a choice to either accept or reject him. I once heard Loui Giglio say that “we all have a common end at the end, the face of the son of God.” Whether you have accepted that Christ Jesus died for you to rescue you from a life of sin or not, you will face Him in the end.

When you see Jesus what do you want that to be like? Do you want to suffer the regret of rejecting Him or experience the joy of accepting Him as your savior? Easter isn’t a Christian holiday. It’s a story of how Jesus Christ laid down His life and rose again to save you from the power of death. What choice will you make? Maybe you never knew you had one. The bottom line is we all make that choice. You will meet Jesus, either now or at the end. Choose now. What’s in it for you? A life of freedom. Freedom from pain, regret, sin. A life full of healing grace, redemption, and love. Jesus already died for you, it’s up to you to accept Him.

You will believe in Jesus at some point. It will either be now or when you stand before him at the end. I urge you to make it now so that you can experience, not just eternal life, but a life on earth that is full of the promises God has for you. I beg you not to wait until it’s too late.

If you have any questions about Jesus and what he’s done for you please don’t hesitate to ask me! When you seek God I promise you will surely find Him as He is always waiting to receive you as His child.

Serious Threats to my Faith

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I found myself struggling yesterday to keep my faith that God will come through for me. Does this ever happen to you? It left me feeling defeated and discouraged rather than victorious. I’m not sure why but I frequently forget about God’s faithfulness to me and focus on what doesn’t seem to be going right. Thankfully I recognized the error in my way and asked God to forgive me for allowing my faith in Him to slip. Sadly I’m sure this will happen again soon enough as it always does. Having faith in tough times is a continual process of ups and downs, and something I need to be mindful of.

Below are some things that can kill my faith so fast I don’t even realize its happening. (When I say faith, I’m not talking about my faith in Jesus Christ as my savior, I’m talking about my faith that God will get me through difficulty). Avoiding these things is critical to keeping my faith in God strong.

Focusing on the Negatives: When Peter walked on the water he looked at the crashing waves around him and started to sink. I can feel like I’m sinking sometimes despite the great things going on around me. Peter was walking on water and yet he was focused on the chaos around him instead of the miracle that was unfolding. I don’t know for sure if this was the case, but I wonder if Peter expected Jesus to calm the waters for him once he stepped out in faith. Maybe this is something I believe sometimes? I think that God will fix all the chaos around me in response to my faith. Just as this wasn’t the case for Peter its not the case for me or for you. In fact, we are told we will face various trials in order to test the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), not that our step of faith will eliminate trials. When we focus on the negatives we are doubting and displaying a lack of faith. Recently I started a thankfulness journal. Every day, or at least it should be every day, I write down things that I am thankful for that day. This helps keep my mind in the right place. Just today God faithfully provided something I was in need of but all I focused on was what He didn’t seem to provide. I know He was saying the same thing to me that He said to Peter. O Ye of little faith, why did you doubt? My prayer is that I will learn to focus on Jesus and his faithfulness to me, rather than on what isn’t going right.

Thinking it’s all about me: When it’s all about me and my selfish desires I forget that the reward I should be seeking is heavenly. Hebrews talks about how the men of faith in the Bible looked to a greater heavenly reward. In fact, many of them never even saw the promises God had made fulfilled until they entered into heaven and stood before their savior. It can’t be all about me and all about Jesus at the same time. Last night I was struggling to have faith because things seemed to be going all wrong. I realized that my joy was tied to things going my way, rather than trusting that if my life’s goal is to bring God glory and further His kingdom instead of my own I can believe that everything is going exactly as it should be.

Expecting the worst: Does my faith run out when I don’t see the evidence? What’s it going to take to get it through my head that God created me and that He has good things planned for me. Again this only strengthens my faith if I believe those good things He has planned revolve around Him getting glory and others lives being impacted for Christ. If I’m stuck thinking that it’s all about me then I’ll probably miss it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God has good planned for me according to HIS purpose, not Jamie’s purpose. If my focus is on Jesus Christ and its not all about me then I will only expect good things and so will you!

The Secret to Perfect Peace

peaceIsaiah 26: 3-4

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lordis everlasting strength

I don’t know about you but when I hear the phrase “perfect peace” I get a tad skeptical. Is it really possible to have perfect peace? According to God’s Word it is. My other question is this, Can I really keep my mind fixed on the Lord? One definition of peace describes it as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. This was my favorite, as oppressive thoughts and emotions are almost always the culprits behind my lack of peace. Can you relate?

So what is the secret to possessing this perfect peace that God promises us? First of all I think we need to take a step back and gain some perspective on just how incredible this promise really is. Here is a personal story of a time when I found perfect and unexplainable peace despite the difficulty I faced.

My daughter was only 4 weeks old when we were told that she had a large hole in her heart that would likely require surgery. I was shocked and had no idea how in the world I would be able to handle the situation. six months of daily medications, weekly dr. apts., constant vomiting, and stress over the possibility of dehydration, the time had come for her open heart surgery. I can honestly tell you that during those six months and the next four days to come my husband and I had a peace that was so real and unexplainable. We didn’t doubt that God would keep her safe, regardless of the outcome of surgery.

Something I thought about while planning to write this blog really opened my eyes to the gravity of this verse. Living in America and being told that my child has a large hole in her heart is a lot different than living in a third world country and being told the same thing. Children are dying from this very same condition simply because they lack the medical care necessary for repairing it. This verse is just as true for these mothers as it is for me. Its not the potential outcome of a situation that determines the level of peace we can have, it is God’s mercy and goodness.

This verse is true for us when it comes to horribly tragic scenarios like the death of a loved one, and seemingly simple scenarios like a conflict with a friend. The secret to receiving this promise of peace comes through keeping our minds on Him. Below are three things that have helped me to keep my mind on God even when it seems impossible, resulting in experiencing His perfect peace.

Trusting God: Isaiah 26:3-4 points out that those who keep their minds on God do so because they trust in Him. If we don’t trust in God then we wont be able to keep our minds on Him, its as simple as that. The reason I was able to have peace while my daughter was in surgery, and even during the months leading up to it, was because I trusted in God’s love and goodness. I knew that no matter what might happen God would take care of me and would remain faithful. Honestly, there is no secret to trusting in God. In my opinion you either do or you don’t. Its all about your heart and whether or not you have made the choice to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, the choice to live for Him.

Loving God’s Law: Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have those who love your law and nothing causes them to stumble.” We have to have a love for God’s law if we expect to be able to keep our minds on Him. Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. I don’t know about you, but the people I can focus positively on are those that I love deeply and affectionately. If you aren’t deeply in love with God and longing to please Him it will be hard to keep your mind on Him. Jesus pointed to this very thing when He said in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” To love God’s law is to obey Him. To obey Him is to trust Him.

Praying Diligently: As I mentioned earlier disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions are steelers of peace. We can keep our mind on God by submitting our requests regarding our worries, hurts, and pain to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Believe me, I mess this one up a lot. I often find myself ruminating on negative thoughts before I decide to go to God in prayer, resulting in a lack of peace. When I choose to go to God with my fears and worries and surrender it to Him I am able to experience His peace. Prayer helps you to shift your focus from the worries that are stealing your peace to God.

The interesting thing is, if we don’t trust in God we wont love his law and we wont seek Him through prayer. We have to remember that we can only walk in the promises of God once we have made the choice to follow Him. For me personally, I have to start with trusting in God and believing in His goodness in order to love Him and His Word enough to keep my mind on Him and experience peace. Have you ever tried this? Are you struggling to find peace in tough times? I promise you that He is there and is waiting for you to place your trust in Him. Once you do there are endless promises of peace and goodness waiting for you.

What are some other things that have helped you focus on God and experience His perfect peace? I would love to hear your insights!

 

If Sin Doesn’t Bother us there’s a Problem

biblePsalm 119:136
Rivers of water run down my eyes because men do not keep your law.

I love David’s passion for God. His clear and, as he puts it, freewill offerings of his mouth to the Lord are awe inspiring. This verse really spoke to me. I should be devastated when I see others willfully sinning against God, choosing not to obey Him. Even more so other brothers and sisters in Christ. Earlier in this same chapter in verse 11 David says “your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” . This is the difference maker right here. If Gods Word isn’t hidden in our hearts and we aren’t passionately in love with Him and seeking to obey Him seeing others willfully sin probably won’t bother us.

Are you desperate to obey God? Does it break your heart to see people living against His Word? Other Christians even? Funny story, recently I was told that after my husband and I left a get together the rest of the group started acting differently than they had when we were there. First of all, I was devastated and sad by what I was told. Secondly I was okay with the fact that they felt they had to hide this behavior from us, knowing that would be bothered by it. We have to wake up and take an honest look at our lives and determine who we really want to please. David wanted to please God and he knew that in order to do so he had to make a serious commitment to living each day with Gods Word in his heart. He couldn’t afford to flip flop and neither can we.

What this means is that we can’t be okay with our own sin or the sin of those around us. We can’t hide from God. If people living against God’s Word doesn’t break our hearts it might be because it really doesn’t bother us. What choice will we make each day? Will we hide Gods Word in our hearts and strive with all our effort to not sin against Him? We won’t get it perfect, but if we make this our daily goal we will certainly be on the right track to living a life with a heart after God, according to His will with an abundance of joy.

Will I Obey Even When I Don’t like God’s Answer?

bibleHave you ever begged God to show you what to do or where to go, desperate for a direct answer? I was so irritated the other day while reading Jeremiah 42. Check it out really quickly before continuing. There was a remnant of Israel that went to Jeremiah asking him to seek God for direction, promising that they would do whatever God wanted them to do. God responded telling the people not to go to Egypt, but instead to stay where they were and that He would bless them and protect them. Guess what happened next? They disobeyed God and decided to follow their own desire to go to Egypt! This made me really mad because I would give anything for such a direct response from God.

How could this remnant possibly hear from God so clearly and yet choose to disobey and do the opposite of what He told them to do? First of all, it seems to me that they weren’t really close to and connected to God. When they initially went to Jeremiah they referred to God as Jeremiah’s God, rather than their God (vs 2). If you aren’t close to God then what He wants you to do isn’t going to matter a whole lot.

Think of the people in your life who have the most influence over you. You care about what they think and say and long to please them. I would be fairly certain that these are people you feel most close to. In the same way, it is when I am close to God that I truly value His plans over my own and long to obey Him. The remnant was missing this connection with God. this is evident in later chapters when God calls them out for worshiping other gods aside from Him (Jeremiah 44:8).

The second thing to notice is that their hearts didn’t match their requests. Initially their request appeared genuine, at least it did to me. They ask God “show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” They weren’t making this request because they longed to do God’s will. They were looking for relief and an easy way out. When this is the reason behind your request there is a good chance you wont obey if God’s response doesn’t line up with your desires. They wanted instant comfort and pleasure. It seemed more realistic to them that they would get this in Egypt, where everything looked nice and pleasant, rather than staying put with the imminent threat of Babylon close by.

Our goal should never be to find relief from difficulty or to feel safe and secure. Our goal should be to please God and to be as close to Him as we possibly can be. Our level of true safety and security comes from our closeness to and connection with God through His son Jesus Christ, and should be totally unrelated to outside circumstances. This is what Paul meant when he said he learned to be content whatever circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). A poor man without Christ is no less secure than a rich man without Christ.

Reading this caused me to look very closely at my own requests to ensure that my goal is to please God and to do His will, rather than to find relief and comfort. What I found is that I have to set aside any hoped for outcomes and be open to whatever God might have and desire for me and my family. Just recently my husband and I were led to make a decision that went against everything we had hoped for and desired. To be honest it wasn’t fun and it was certainly scary. Knowing that God is in control and close to us enabled us to face it and move forward toward something different, something unplanned for. The remnant was blinded by their hoped for answer from God, which was to tell them to flee to Egypt and find comfort and safety.

How can I avoid making the same mistakes that the remnant made? What I concluded is that I can hopefully avoid this by following three principals I learned from reading this chapter.

Principal 1: Make sure my goal is to be close to and to please God, not to find relief. Isaiah 55:7 tells us “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LordAnd He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” I need to focus on drawing near to God and living a life that is pleasing to Him. 

Principal 2: Release any desired responses I feel I need to receive from God. I need to be open and willing to obey whatever God calls me to do, even if it is 100% different from what I wanted. Proverbs 20:24 tells me “A man’s steps are of the LordHow then can a man understand his own way?” If God’s Word tells me that I wont be able to understand my own way then why am I always expecting to have it all figured out? I need to be willing to give this up and allow God to truly guide me according to His will.  

Principal 3: Trust that He will deliver on His promises. God’s Word is full of promises for me and for you. The remnant gave into fear rather than believing God. Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we know this and believe this then we can trust that no matter how scary or uncertain things look, if God has called us it will all work out. This doesn’t mean that we will be comfortable and will have endless worldly pleasure, what it means is that our lives will bring glory to God and will impact this world for Christ.

 

 

Surrender: The Cure to Inadequacy

Whenever I am feeling inadequate and incapable of accomplishing the tasks that God has laid before me I listen to this song. For some reason I always feel a sense of peace and adequacy afterwards. God showed me today that simply giving myself to Him, fully surrendering to His will, is all I need to do to regain my sense of confidence in the work He has called me to do.

Do you ever struggle with feeling inadequate when it comes to doing God’s work like I do? Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” It is His power working in us that enables us to accomplish great things for the kingdom God. All He requires from us is total surrender, giving ourselves to Him.

This is easy to say, as is anything, but isn’t always easy to do. Sometimes it is really hard. Surrendering to God requires faith, trust, and obedience. If we want Him to do great things through us we have to be willing to give ourselves over to Him, including our desires, our dreams, and our talents, and allow his spirit working through us to accomplish His will. Typically what God asks of us isn’t something we can do on our own, which is why feelings of inadequacy often follow, as they should. This is why we need to constantly surrender ourselves to God and allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

I Corinthians 1:26-27: For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 

This verse tells me that If God has called me, which I believe He has, just as He has called you, then I shouldn’t be capable of doing it without Him. My only hope at being adequate to do what He wants me to do each day is by giving myself to Him in full surrender.

Regaining your True Identity and Defeating your Goliath

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When I read the story of David and Goliath this morning I asked God to give me a new perspective on it. God always seems to deliver and always in a way that makes sense for what I am currently facing. Lately I have struggled with some doubt regarding certain situations in my life and am in desperate need of some good old fashion faith! You know, like David had. So what have I been missing lately? Lets first look at how the Israelites fell short and gave into fear.

The story of David and Goliath can be found in 1 Samuel: 17. If you don’t already know the story I would suggest giving it a read before continuing. In verse 8 Goliath comes out to challenge the Israelites, saying ““Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul?” This is part of the Israelites first problem. Notice how he refers to them as the servants of Saul, rather than the servants of God? Back in Ch. 8 God tells Samuel that the people of Israel rejected Him, and no longer want Him to reign over them (I Samuel 8:7). Enter problem number one. The Israelites had turned their hearts away from God. Additionally, they lost sight of their true identity. No longer are the Israelites God’s servants, they have chosen instead to serve Saul. Because they turned their hearts away from serving God they no longer have their identity secured. In Ch. 12 Samuel urges the Israelites saying “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” They clearly did not listen to Samuel, but chose instead to forget the Lord and serve another. This is why they were “dismayed and greatly afraid” when Goliath threatened them.

So why was David so courageous and able to defeat Goliath? Lets take a closer to look and find out.

He had a heart after God: The first time we meet David is when Samuel anoints him to be king. In this meeting God tells Samuel that He will choose David to be king, not because of his outward appearance, but because of his heart (1 Samuel 16:7). David’s heart was for the Lord and this enabled him to defeat Goliath. So what does it really mean to have a heart for God? Acts 13:22 says “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” Are you willing to do all of God’s will? Am I? If we aren’t willing to be obedient to God and follow His commands then the simple truth is our hearts are not for Him. This doesn’t mean we wont fail, after all, we all know about David and his major screw-ups. What it means is that we desire God with sincerity and want to follow Him and obey Him. This is where we must start if we want to be able to defeat the giants in our lives. If we fail here then we are truly without hope. So ask yourself this question and I will to: Do I desire God with all my heart and strive to do all His will?

His identity was secure: When David shows up to the battle and hears Goliath and all his ranting his boldness is fueled. He can hardly believe what he is hearing and decides to act immediately. What is his initial response exactly? David says “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26) David’s identity was secure in God. He knew that this army did not belong to the enemy, but to the living God. His confidence was grounded in who he was as a servant of the living God, not as a servant of Saul. When I’m struggling with fear and doubt I have to question whether or not I’ve lost sight of my true identity in Christ. Romans 8:15 tells me that I have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but I have received the spirit of adoption by whom I cry out, Abba Father.”. When I allow fear to control me, the way the Israelites did, Its because I am forgetting exactly whose daughter I am. In order to face my giants and overcome, the way that David did, I have to regain my sense of identity as a child of the living God. David had confidence in his identity and this is why he was able to do what he did. Where does your identity come from? The enemy will try to convince you that are not who God says you are, he sure tries to do this to me. This is when we must stand boldly and proclaim our place as children of God and courageously stand against him.

He remembered what God had already done for him: When David first approaches Saul about going out to fight against Goliath Saul isn’t exactly thrilled about it. David is young and inexperienced, while Goliath has been a warrior since his youth. So what is David’s response? He remembers how God had previously delivered him and believes God will deliver him again. Verses 36-37 say, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” We really need to stop giving ourselves credit for what God has done and recognize his deliverance the way that David did. What can you do to remember the ways that God has delivered you in the past so that you will have confidence in His future deliverance? I recently started a thankfulness journal and read through it every so often. This reminds me of things that God has done for me and enables me to continue trusting Him with new battles.

As we all know, David did indeed defeat Goliath. This was because of his heart for God, his secure identity, and his focus on all God had already done for him.

If you’re struggling to defeat the giants in your life you might be lacking in 1, 2, or all 3 of these areas. Thankfully there is always hope for change! What Giants are you facing right now? Maybe you or a loved one has a serious addiction. Or maybe your wondering how you can be a light to lost and hurting family members. Maybe your facing a serious illness or a financial dilemma you don’t think you can handle. Maybe your facing a divorce or a cheating spouse. Or unemployment and the threat of losing your house. Whatever your giant is I promise that God will enable you to face it and overcome it. Get your heart right with God, claim your identity in Jesus Christ, and walk in it confidently, remembering all He has done for you, capable of defeating the giants in your life.

4 Signs that Indicate I’m not Actively Believing God

bibleAm I living as though I believe God? This is a question I recently asked myself after talking to some friends about why we often fail to pray about things and instead try to figure them out on our own. Does this ever happen to you? I came to the conclusion that sometimes the reason I don’t pray or seek God on things is because I’m not really believing Him. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m certainly not saying i’m not believing IN God or that He is with me, what I’m saying is I’m not actively believing what He tells me in His Word. I hate that I do this and would love more than anything to stop forever!

So how can I know when I’m not believing God? First of all I have to take a critical look at myself to figure this out. Self-awareness is the key to being capable of noticing these kinds of things in yourself and making changes. For more on that check out my blog 7 Tips for Increasing Self-awareness here.

Here is a list of things that might indicate that I’m not believing God:

When I’m worrying about tomorrow: I despise when I do this. It does nothing but bring me down and discourage me. The Bible tells me not to worry about tomorrow, but rather to focus on today, trusting that God knows what I need and will faithfully provide it (Matthew 6:31-34). This honestly applies to worrying about all sorts of things. Thankfully this is something I have improved on substantially over the years thanks to God proving himself over and over again.. I wish I would have caught on a little bit sooner though. Whenever I start getting anxious about things like internship hours, care for my daughter, a conflict with a friend, unforeseen financial burdens, etc., and am wondering how I’m going to manage, I remind myself of what God’s Word says and that I need to actively believe it. Not worrying about this kind of stuff proves that I really do believe that God knows about it and will faithfully work it out for my good as He says He will for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). True freedom from anxiety comes from believing this truth and living it out. God will take care of it. Not always in the way we want, but even then we can know that it will all work out. All I have to worry about is doing my part today, while trusting Him for tomorrow.

When I pray without faith: Recognizing this one requires that I honestly think about my attitude and mindset while praying. Am I praying just to pray? Because I should? Or am I praying because I believe that I can enter into God’s presence, worship Him, and experience His power, knowing that He hears me and will answer my prayers in whatever way seems best to Him. This can be so hard for me. Sometimes I feel like God isn’t really listening to me and even if He is I’m not believing He will actually answer my prayers. Maybe I’m thinking that what I’m praying for is just too difficult for God. You know, like redeeming someone I love from a dark and empty life, changing their heart, or maybe giving me His wisdom and guidance to make the best decisions in life. What it all comes down to is whether or not I believe God’s Word.

Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.

Mark 11:24: Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Jamies 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Do I really believe what these verses tell me? When I’m praying without faith I’m indicating to God that I don’t. Don’t think I’m saying that this means that God will give me whatever I want and will do whatever I say. It doesn’t work this way. Praying with faith means believing that He hears and that He can answer, staying faithful to Him even if he chooses not to in the way that I hope.

When I’m hoping for, “revenge”: I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been deeply wounded by another individual. I have caught myself in the past thinking negatively and hoping for something to happen that might make me feel better, hoping they will have to “pay” for what they’ve done. When this happens I know that I’m not believing God’s word. Romans 12:19 tells me “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” I need to remember that God has my back and will take care of me. Additionally, 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” This can be really hard to do, especially when you have been mistreated, but if we believe God’s Word then we can know that He will give us strength to let it go and feel love and forgiveness towards that person who hurt us.

When I’m not sharing the gospel: This is a tough one for me to admit. There have been many times where I feel so ashamed of how frequently, or infrequently for that matter, I’ve shared the truth of Jesus Christ with people. I have to ask myself why this is the case and be honest with myself in my response. First of all, do I really believe that people around me are broken and lost, in need of a savior, and secondly do I believe that through sharing the truth of Christ a person’s life can be truly changed? There have been times when I’ve struggled, convincing myself that nobody wants to hear it, or nobody will care. I’m so ashamed to admit this. If I really believe in God’s power then all I have to worry about is planting the seed of the gospel of Christ, God will do the work in the heart of the hearer.

When I’m living as though I truly believe God I’m free of worry and anxiety, praying with a bold and courageous faith, loving and forgiving those who have hurt me, and sharing Jesus Christ with the people around me. These are some signs that indicate that I’m on the right track.