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Category: Religion (page 1 of 3)

Re-Igniting the Fire of Passionate Worship

What would you do if you caught a glimpse of the throne room of God? Dance for joy? Gawk in awe? Fall flat on your face out of respect and fear? Sadly, these aren’t the responses of many Christians who participate in worship. Whether it’s singing in church on Sunday morning or gathered with a group of believers on a week night, worship is supposed to bring you into the presence of the Most High God. Yet most times our “worship” can seem like just another song that happens to be on the agenda. If our focus and our heart aren’t in the right place, what was meant to be a special time in the throne room of our Heavenly Father can easily turn into a less-than-meaningful experience.

Worship requires a certain level of intentionality, passion and focus. So, how do you achieve this? Spend time in His Word! No, I don’t mean just anywhere in the Scriptures. Seek out passages that talk directly about His glory. For example, this past week, my small group read through Ezekiel 1, where he describes the vision he had of the glory of God:

“… a whirlwind… a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself;
and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber.”
(1:4)

“… within it came the likeness of four creatures…
Each one had four faces and each one had four wings…

each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side,
each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had a face of an eagle.”
(1:5-6, 10)

“The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures
was the color of an awesome crystal,

stretched out over their heads… and above the firmament over their heads
was the likeness of a throne,

in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness
with the appearance of a man high above it.”
(1:22, 26)

“…and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were,
the appearance of fire with brightness all around.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day,
so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God.”
(1:27-28)

Just take a moment to picture all of that. Read through those portions again if you have to. It’s pretty amazing, right?

DSCN1310-2Once you obtain a revelation of how awesome our God is, the intentionality, passion and focus of worship should happen naturally. I find that reading and picturing passages like the one in Ezekiel help me to focus on God’s glory during a time of worship. I mean, it’s super difficult to be nonchalant in worship while picturing something as wonderful as the throne room and majesty of God.

Worship was meant to be a tangible experience for every believer. It shouldn’t become a routine. It shouldn’t be obligatory. Worship should be a time of expressing your love and awe of who God is. It’s an intimate time with your Creator who loved you enough to give up His own Son in order to secure your redemption. Don’t waste a moment of it.

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father,
to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
(Rev. 1:6)

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But first… praise!

God has a knack for blowing me away with how awesome He is!

Ok, so a couple weeks ago, I was reading the story of Jehoshaphat, which can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

Jerusalem was surrounded by a mass of enemies – the Moabites, Ammonites and others – and the situation was looking pretty grim. It seemed like there was no way the Israelite army could win this battle. So their king, Jehoshaphat, did the most logical thing… he stood in the house of the Lord before the entire assembly of Jerusalem and declared:

“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations,
and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?
… If disaster comes upon us – sword, judgement, pestilence or famine – we will stand before this temple
and in Your presence… and cry out to You in our affliction and You will hear and save.” (vs. 6, 9)

Uhh, what? Even if they starve, are tortured or killed, they would still stand before their God, assured that He would save them? Why did the king say this?

“For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do,
but our eyes are upon You.” (vs. 12)

Ah, there it is.

King Jehoshaphat realized there was no way they could defeat the enemy on their own power. The only thing that could possibly save them in some way was their God – our God of today – who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and never forsakes His people or His promises (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So how did they prepare for this impossible battle?

The king’s pep talk can be found in verse 17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them for the Lord is with you.”

Wait a minute. They won’t need to fight? How can the king be certain of this?

Ohh, just you wait. It gets better 🙂

Ok, so far we know where Jehoshaphat stood and that he was completely depending on God for this victory, but how in the world was He going to carry out this amazing rescue without losing a single Israelite?

Well, the king’s next move was to bow before the Lord and worship Him, with the Levites and others standing “to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high” (vs. 19). Then he encouraged them to “believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (vs. 20b)…

… and then appointed more singers to praise the Lord.

Hold on. More singing? Uhh, didn’t they have at least three massive armies outside their gates waiting to completely destroy them?

“Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon,
Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated…
so when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude;
and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped” (vs. 22, 24).

DSCN1805Salvation happened immediately! See? Right when they BEGAN to sing – not during, not an hour or two after, but when they first started! – God swept in and ambushed the enemy.

Yikes! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must’ve been like for the armies outside the walls. Maybe they could hear the praises and singing coming from the city and were scoffing at the people inside. Maybe they were partying and drinking, celebrating their coming victory a little early. Who knows?

All we do know is that when Judah came out of the city the next day, they saw fields filled with dead bodies, possibly the embers of multiple fires still burning and ragged tents and flags blowing in the gentle breeze.

And get this: it took them 3 days to cart away the loot from all the camps.

Three days!! Talk about abundant blessings from God 🙂

“Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front  of them,
to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies…
Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (vs. 27, 30).

Why do we fear? Seriously, if our God can take care of multitudes of soldiers whose end goal was to take out Judah completely, then why do we fear in today’s society? We already know where we’re going when we leave this earth and we have the assurance of God’s promises and faithfulness during our life here.

And did you catch that last part?

“God gave him rest all around”

That is the epitome of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Don’t stress about what’s coming up in life. Praise Him first. In all things, praise! And He will give you rest 🙂

(didn’t I tell you my God is pretty awesome?)

 

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We have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Whether you’re new to Christianity or believed in Christ at a young age, you’re bound to hear that fact more than once.

But what does it mean?

Granted, it will be different for everyone. I’ve struggled with this verse off and on throughout my walk with Christ and still have yet to come to a full conclusion of what it means for me.

How can we, as humans, have the mind capacity of the Creator? There’s so much about God that we don’t completely understand yet, so how can we understand or comprehend the mysteries and knowledge of Him?

In 2 Peter 1:2-4, it says “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

The first part of that verse is easy to grasp. Peter is blessing the people receiving the letter in the knowledge of God and of Jesus (which is kind of like blessing them in the name of God). But then it goes on to say that through the knowledge of Him, we may be partakers of the divine nature.

What all does that encompass? When you think about your “nature,” what comes to mind?

Your soul, thoughts, feelings, personality, creativity… the very essence that makes you you, right?

Take a moment and realize what that means for us as believers.

Mind blowing, I know… and it gets better:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1)

It is by faith, and faith alone, that we have a part in God’s nature. There’s nothing that we can do to earn it. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), so He pretty much imprinted Himself on our souls and being “partakers of the divine nature” and “having the mind of Christ” is a part of following Jesus.

DSCN2500

Getting access to all that knowledge doesn’t happen automatically when we believe, but we’re given a key. Once we realize that we have the key to the mind and knowledge of God and claim it for ourselves (fully believe it), that’s when things start happening:

Colossians 2:2-3 gives us a glimpse of what we could experience once we start seeking to know to mind of God and take ownership of our right to the divine nature: “… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Wow…

I mean, as believers, this passage says that we have the right to seek after the mysteries and knowledge of God! Too many of us don’t take advantage of it and miss an entire aspect of our faith. God wants to reveal more of Himself to us, His beloved creation, and He’s waiting for His followers to actively start seeking after the divine nature that is rightfully ours.

Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this and figure out what it means for me. But I’m working on talking with God more frequently and asking Him direct questions instead of wondering quietly to myself. Diving into His Word and discovering new meanings behind well-known passages has been one of the immediate benefits.

The Holy Spirit will be faithful and will open your mind to more of who God is. Strive toward Him. Claim your divine inheritance. Don’t get stuck in the lie that God won’t reveal things to us because we’re mere human beings.

Remember:

We have the mind of Christ!

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The Most Beautiful Poem in the Bible

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to take some time to read through Song of Solomon, to get a feel for the passionate love within marriage that depicts God’s love for the church.

OK, that sounds easy enough: read through the passionate love poem written by Solomon for his new bride and see how it parallels the love that our Creator has for those who seek and follow Him.

So I started reading it out loud during my morning devotions… and I was completely caught off guard.

It took a couple minutes to get the feel of the New King James way of talking, but soon I was able to read at an easy, comfortable pace.

Tasting each word as it rolled off my tongue and speculating on the various phrases and stanzas, a wonderful, crazy thing happened: I found myself lost in the beauty of the Word of God.

Song of Solomon is one of the most beautifully written poems in the Bible. Seriously, have you ever read the entirety of the book or heard it read out loud? I’m not talking the PG-rated portions, but the entire thing, beginning to end. Have you ever experienced what it’s like to hear those words of love and passion so boldly proclaimed, without shame?

As a teenager and a young adult, before marriage, whenever I skimmed through this book, it almost always set me daydreaming about the man I would marry. Would he look at me the way this man looks at his bride? Will he tell me over and over again how beautiful I am?

Now, as a married woman, there’s a completely different perspective and a whole new appreciation for the words of love written out in this book. What seemed like overkill or complete nonsense back then now make a little more sense.

Love – true love – can be that passionate.

It can get to a point where you just have to keep repeating the same phrases over and over again because you’re too giddy to think of anything new to say that describes your love for the other person, the longing for your husband the minute he leaves the house is a real thing (yes, I enjoy having the house to myself at times, but it’s always nice to have him near by) and the way his eyes light up when I walk into the room makes me feel like a princess.

And then I came across these verses:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
 
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
 
(8:6-7a)

Wow…

Just take a moment and read that again.

“Set me as a seal…”

When I think of a seal, I think of something permanent, of claiming ownership and saying, “This is mine, no one else can have it.” While that may sound very possessive, I like knowing that my husband has chosen me to be his and his alone. He wouldn’t like it if I started checking out other guys or if other guys started hitting on me whenever we’re out somewhere… and the same goes for me. He’s my man and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a committed relationship 🙂

“For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave…
 
Many waters cannot quench love…”

It’s very hard to break up true love. Especially when it’s a cord of three strands (with God as the third strand).. then nothing will be able to touch it!

This all reminds me of the song “Oh, How He Loves Us” by the David Crowder Band, where it says:

“He is jealous for me, 
Love like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,
When all of a sudden, 
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great Your affections are for me.
 
Oh, how He loves us!”
If you asked me what I got from all this, I would tell you that God is love. He is the definition of love and the passion He has for His creation to draw near to him and to have a lasting, eternal relationship with us is more than our mere words can express.

It makes me want to soar through the air, bask in the sun, dance in the fields, sing at the top of my lungs, feel the rain on my face and just celebrate being alive and loved by my amazing, wonderful Savior.

So, my question for you is… what are you waiting for?

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Angels watching over me

After spending a lovely evening of cooking dinner, writing thank-you notes, going for a walk and watching a movie with my fiance, something completely unexpected happened.”

I had been driving on I-78 for about 10 minutes, singing along to Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” when I rounded a corner and an unusual movement caught my eye. Next thing I know, my little Suzuki is right on top of the big momma deer that happened to be in my lane..

THUD

… my hood crumples and she goes flying straight up into the air, right over my car and the car behind me, smacking onto the pavement on the side of the road. I manage to steer off to the side of the highway, smoke swirling out of my now-exposed engine and windshield wipers going like crazy (in my shock, I smacked everything around the steering wheel trying to find the turn signal so I could safely exit my lane, thus turning on the wipers full blast).

20141111_081131The girl who was driving behind me didn’t have a scratch on her car and she stopped to make sure I was ok. She left and the realization of what had just happened began to set in, triggering a mini freakout. I called my fiance and he dropped what he was doing to meet me (did I mention how awesome he is?). The necessary calls were then made to the police, AAA and my Dad and we had my car towed away while my wonderful fiance gave me a ride home.

In hindsight, I believe that my car was surrounded by angels that night.

I mean, what else could’ve kept that deer from coming through the windshield (causing even more damage or even critically injuring me)? It had started to roll up my car’s hood and then suddenly shot high in the air; high enough to get over 2 cars and land way off on the side of the road (out of the way of oncoming traffic).

The only explanation I have is God’s angels! The Bible states:

“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” 
Heb. 1:14
 
” For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  
In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” 
Psalm 91:11-12
 
“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” 
Psalm 34:7

While I haven’t personally seen a healing happen before my eyes or had one of those incredible visions from God, I have had angelic experiences throughout my entire life (angels kept me quiet and occupied while Mom dealt with a fish tank disaster – I was just under a year old; there have been car crashes that could’ve ended really badly; hiding my keys on me so I would be a couple minutes late, missing the multi-vehicle accident; and more).

All I can say is that God must have something big planned for my life, someone He wants me to impact personally, something He wants me to do to further His kingdom. It’s the same for all of us! He is faithful in His promises and will never leave us nor forsake us. When he says that He will send His angels to guard us, it’s not a lie. We are surrounded by His protection day in and day out.

Trust Him. He won’t let you down.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28: 20
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To love like Christ

Your hatred is for individuals, whereas mine is for certain actions and ideas.”
Matt Walsh.

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Walsh, wrote a response to all of the hate mail that he has been receiving for voicing his opinions on some of society’s issues.
Whenever a breaking news story comes out or an issue gets heavily debated on social media sites, you can almost guarantee that Walsh will have something to say on the matter… and it’s refreshing to read a Christian viewpoint on what’s happening in the world.
He doesn’t blatantly shove the Bible in his readers’ faces or act as if he’s superior to them. He states the facts and explains why he thinks the way he does (with plenty resources to back up his viewpoint).
So, my question is, why do we, as Christians, get so much hate for voicing our opinions or not agreeing with the way society thinks?
 Some people claim that Christians are just out to condemn others for their sinful ways and to bring down judgement upon them. Still others seem to see us as cold-hearted Pharisees that follow a strict set of rules and look down upon those who don’t believe the way we do.

“They laugh hysterically when a Christian suggests that it’s possible to condemn the homosexual act without hating the homosexual person. I’ve attempted to make this
clarification so many times, and, on every occasion, I’m told that such a distinction is impossible. Hate what a person does, hate the person. It’s that simple.”
Walsh

But that’s not it at all!
As Walsh says in his post: “I hate attacks on marriage, on the family, on my faith, on liberty, on truth, on reason, on the constitution, but I don’t hate the attackers. I hate what they stand for, I hate their agenda, I hate their lies, but I do not hate the individuals.”
Why?
Because, as children of the Most High God, we are called to love one another; as God has loved us, that we also love one another. By this all will know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
That’s all there is to it. Since God is love and, as the sons and daughters of God, we have the likeness of Christ, we are called to spread that love to those around us, not hate.
Yes, it is not our place to pass judgement on anyone for God “has committed all judgment to the Son… [whose] judgment is righteous, because [He] does not seek [His] own will but the will of the Father who sent [Him]” (John 5:22, 30) and sometimes it might seem as if Christians are judging others for their actions left and right (and maybe sometimes we are unintentionally).
But we’re not perfect either. As Christians, we should all be striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and that’s what grace is all about), and in reality, we are condemning the sin and hoping to reveal the truth to those around us.
 So, in short, yes, I believe it is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.
I mean, there is a spiritual battle going on all around us all the time. Satan is fighting to claim as many souls as he can and will do all he can to confuse and mislead those who are still stuck in their sin. He will keep leading them in endless circles, away from the Light of the One who is calling out to them in Christ’s name, offering hope and salvation.
As Walsh put it in his blog, if we were really out to get people, we wouldn’t be approaching them about the issues we see in their lives. If we “hated” them, we would just ignore it and let them sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair until they were overcome and consumed.

But the thing is… we care. The love of Christ drives us to do all we can to save those who haven’t realized the truth.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

“So, if you get upset at any of us, get upset at those of us who think we know the truth yet are too lazy and selfish to speak up and share it. Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.”
Walsh

To read the full post that I based this off of, visit http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/05/this-person-is-planning-to-kill-me-in-order-to-teach-me-that-shouldnt-be-mean-and-hateful/2/#HvUev1Y8obubj19i.99

 

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An Approachable God

What is normally the first thought that comes to mind when something unexpected or exciting happens in your life?

“I’ve gotta tell somebody about this!!”

And who would that be?

Probably your best friend, spouse, parents or someone who just happens to be sitting next to you at the time, right?

But have you ever thought about telling God – the One who had orchestrated that exact moment or circumstance because He knew it would either bring you joy or draw you closer to Him? He may already know about every single detail, but in reality, He loves to hear about it directly from us.

Sadly many people, when they think of God, get this picture of a vengeful, supernatural being who is watching their every move, getting ready to blast them the minute they mess up. There’s no way we, as mere humans, can just talk with a God like that, right? Yes, it’s true that He is a wrathful, jealous God who cannot look upon sin:

“Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made
with you and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the
Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Deut. 4:23-24 NKJV

… but that’s only a small part of who He is.

When I think of God, I think of the God who “so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Also,

“… love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God…
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…
God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:7-12 NKJV

What’s the one word repeated over and over again in those two passages?

LOVE

He is the God of love who gave up the only thing (Jesus Christ, His Son) who could make it possible for us to spend eternity with Him. He is the God of love who seeks out new and different ways to connect with us, on our level, in order to reveal more of who He is.

Honestly, He’s not as big and scary as some people make Him out to be. He certainly can be terrifying and wrathful when He wants to – like when the devil just won’t let up on us or when thousands of people are pretty much spitting in His face by refusing to change their ways (see Genesis 19 for the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. You’ll see what I mean).

But the side of God I’m talking about is the God who wants to hear all about our hopes and dreams for the future. He delights in spending time with us, listening as we talk about the latest thing that has happened in our lives. He’s also very good with giving a comforting hug and a compassionate ear when we need someone to lean on during the hard times.

You see…

… this is the God who wakes me up with either a bright ray of sunshine or gently falling rain in the mornings.

… this is the God who I rely on for strength to get me through each day.

… this is the God who I talk to late at night as I’m falling asleep, telling Him all that I experienced throughout the day.

So, take the time to get to know this caring, compassionate God that we serve. It’s just like having an ongoing conversation with your best friend throughout the day. He loves to hear from you anytime, anywhere.. whether at work, home, out shopping, etc.

“I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
C.S. Lewis

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Live Out Loud!

Walking along a city street, strolling through the mall with your friends or shopping in a farmers’ market, you’re bound to bump shoulders and be jostled by at least a dozen or more people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. Guaranteed.DSCN1978

Some of us relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in a crowd, experiencing the excitement of navigating our way through a throng of people, diving for that open space when the moment is just right. Others dread having to deal with crowds and will attempt to plan their outings when the volume of shoppers, walkers and employees is significantly lower.

But we all interact with people at some point of our day, extroverts or introverts alike. Now, take a moment and think about the number of people you come in contact with throughout the day. How about in two days? Three? A week? A month? A year?

The numbers have increased, right?

You’re probably thinking, ok, so what? Yes, we know that dealing with crowds is just a part of life, so what’s the big deal? You just shove your way through or impatiently wait in line to check out, surfing Facebook on your smartphone as the customer in front of you pays for their items…

… but wait a minute!

How many of those people know Jesus? How many of those people have heard about the free gift of salvation that He’s holding out to them? How many of those people are headed to eternal punishment because no one reached out to them with God’s love?

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

A couple Sundays ago, Kevin King, one of the missionaries my church supports who is based in New York City with his family, shared about what God has been doing in his life and what He has laid on his heart.

Their mission in NYC is to share the gospel with students from other countries (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) while they’re studying here in America. As they come to know Christ as their personal Savior, King disciples and teaches them more about the Bible and how to lead their own studies.

That way, when they head back home, which is more likely than not to be located in the “10/40 window” (a section of unreached countries, tribes and people located in Japan through China, India, the Middle East and Northwestern Africa), these students can share what they’ve learned about the gospel in places where our missionaries are unable to go.

This seems to be one of the most effective ways to reach countries where Christian missionaries are not welcome. These students grew up in the villages and can easily get back into these countries, where they’ll have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned during their time in NYC and start Bible studies and churches with the people they know.

The goal of the Kings’ mission is to create relationships with the people they come into contact with on the streets, in schools, at stores, etc., spreading the love of Christ and sharing the Good News. They don’t wait for opportunities to come to them.. they intentionally seek out anyone who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Some of us get stuck in the thinking that we’re not qualified or don’t know enough to be a good witness for Christ. What if they ask us questions we don’t know the answer to? What if what I say ends up sounding stupid or doesn’t make sense?

Yet, God still chooses to work through us to spread His Word. God can use common and ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

While talking with our congregation, King used the example of Peter and John in Acts 4:1-13. The men were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. When questioned by what power and in whose name they acted in, Peter started to testify:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: if we this day are judged for the good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 8-12)

Now, you’d think the whole place would go ballistic after a claim like that, but they don’t. These leaders heard what Peter said and “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (vs. 13)

Peter and John didn’t go through seminary. They didn’t spend years studying up on the Scriptures. No. They were just stating a fact and giving an eye-witness account of what they did. And it was evident through their actions and straightforward answers that they had been with Jesus.

Another example King used included the woman at the well (John 4) and how “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did!'” (vs. 39). She just shared her story and told about what Jesus had done in her life. There wasn’t any exams she had to take or memorization of Scriptures. It was just her story and the love of Christ that was evident within her.

Also the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. After Jesus cast out his demons and the man begged to go with Him, Jesus wouldn’t let him. He said “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and begain to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him and all marveled.” (vs. 19-20) Again, this man was just sharing his story. No training. No studying. Just talking with his friends and family.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. It can be really scary to go up to someone in a public place, introduce yourself, build that 5-minute relationship and steer the conversation toward religion and what they believe. Some may turn you down directly, others may be really interested and ask a lot of questions that you may not know the full answer to.

But that’s ok. No need to freak out or worry that you don’t know the answer. This is an opportunity for you to continue the relationship after this conversation by promising them that you’ll get the answer for them at a later time. Admitting that you don’t know everything reveals that you’re still human, not some super godly person who is superior to them.

When Jesus says to go and make disciples of all the nations, He mostly meant to build relationships. Strike up those conversations. Sit with someone in the food court if they look like they could use a friend. Put your phone away and talk with people in line while you wait to check out.

We’re created to be relational and we should use that to our advantage!

Let’s work on living out loud for Jesus by building relationships and sharing what He has done for us each day, no matter how big or small 🙂

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Love Never Fails

Many girls have dreamed of having their own fairy tale endings. You know the ones I’m talking about: meeting the right guy and hitting it off right then and there, a whirlwind romance and then riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming on the back of a white horse.

Or growing up with a best friend that, as you got older, you discover you just can’t live without, so your friendship blossoms into this beautiful romance that leads to marriage and a happily ever after.

In some cases, that last scenario can actually happen. Rarely, but it does.

Yet, these days, love can be seen as a convenience and something that doesn’t include commitment to the other person. Couples can stay together for as long as they want and, when they get bored or tired of each other, they can just move on. Yes, it will hurt for a little while, but they’ll get over it the minute they find someone else to latch onto for fulfillment.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking what real love is supposed to look like. I know it’s so much more than just a feeling and it can be hard to distinguish true love from the twisted view of love that the world keeps feeding us.

We’re constantly being bombarded by mixed messages from the media, peers and society in general when it comes to what love should look like. Messages such as:

– having sex before marriage is okay as long as you use the correct protection
– love should be completely physical and based on your feelings of passion and lust
– if you’re bored, you can get out of it by just leaving or through divorce.

Just go with the flow. You’ll get the hang of it and pretty soon you’ll be a “love expert” who can pick up and drop relationships just like that.

That doesn’t sound like it could emotionally scar people for life, right? Wrong!

Created by a relational God, we naturally look for relationships, romantic or otherwise. But, as Christians, we shouldn’t look for love as the world does. We should…

“… love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Ok, I got that, but what does that look like?

Paul describes it a little better in the “love chapter” of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13, where verses 4-8 say something like this:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now that’s something I can work with!

Love is patient, love is kind – That’s pretty self-explanatory. Maybe a little hard to put into practice at times when the patience is running a little thin, but something to strive for.

It does not envy – Envy is when you want or desire something that another person has. That’s not what love is based off of. If we’re talking true love here, we should be happy for the other person instead of plotting how to get what they’ve got.

It does not boast, it is not proud – There are certain stages of pride. You should be proud of your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend for what they accomplish, yet you have to be careful to not let that pride get to the point where it’s not uplifting others and its only aim is to make you feel better about yourself.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking – Love should drive us want the best for the other person and not twist situations around so that they benefit us and us alone. Going out of our way to do something for someone else is one of the best ways to demonstrate how you feel towards the other person.

It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs – There will be times when your “fairy tale romance” won’t go as planned and this is why our fulfillment shouldn’t be based completely on another person, but totally on God. That way, when relationships hit a bump in the road or encounter an obstacle, the grace of God can shine through and begin the healing process in order to make the relationship stronger.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth – Again, self-explanatory. We should not hope for bad things to happen to others and be happy when things do go right for someone.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres – What’s the one word that is repeated over and over in this line? Always, always, always! People should never give up on other people. Yeah, there may be times when they need to step back and let them figure things out for themselves, but in the end, we all need each other. No matter what happens.

So, the bottom line is, forget what the world is telling us.

Yes, the romance part of relationships is awesome, but that’s not the whole point. Basing a relationship off of friendship, being open with each other and striving to honor God in all things is really the only way to go.

I’m no love expert.. far from it. But from what I can tell, true love based on the design God has given us in His Word is definitely a love worth waiting for and working toward once you find it.

Why?

Because that kind of love never fails 🙂

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The heavens declare the glory of God

Waking up on a Thursday morning can go two ways…

You crack open an eye at the sound of the alarm, groan, smack the “snooze” button and drift back to sleep because you know you still have two whole days to get through before the weekend officially begins. Getting out from your cocoon of blankets is the last thing you want to do.

Or

You open your eyes, taking in the soft sunshine pouring through the window. You stretch luxuriously and yawn, thinking, “The weekend is within reach! Only two more days to go!!” The smell of the coffee brewing downstairs wafts up your nose.. you let out a happy sigh; nothing can get you down today!

Normally, I’m the first option on a Thursday morning. I am not a morning person and some days it just seems extra hard to get out of bed, especially when the weekend is just out of reach.

But this past week, God gave me a pleasant surprise.

As the alarm went off, I stretched and started to hit the “snooze” button, when something caught my eye. The movement of the blankets had sent a small puff of air toward the blind, making it swing back and forth ever so slightly.

I sat up, grabbed hold of the blind, gave it a tug and, as it rolled itself up and revealed the entire window, my jaw dropped:

I stared at it for a while, in awe of the many intricate designs that were all over the bottom window pane, and then I kicked off the blankets and dove for my camera, snapping a few quick pictures while the lighting was just right.

It’s moments like these that reaffirm the fact that there is a Creator and that He delights in making beautiful things, which is evidenced in the words repeated over and over again in Genesis (1:4, 10, 14, 18, 21, 25 and 31):

“And God saw that it was good”

Everything God created, down to the last miniscule detail, was and is considered good by His standards (which is pretty awesome if you think about it. I mean, this is God we’re talking about, and if He says it’s good… well, it must be really good!).

As Creator, God enjoys making new things, perfecting each detail, and making it beautiful.
This is also seen in Matthew 6:28-30:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. 
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon 
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
will He not much more clothe you?”

If it pleases God to spend so much time on the designs on the petals of the flowers in the fields or the frost on the window that is here one moment and gone the next, how much more time will He spend on you… shaping, molding, breaking and strengthening you to become all that He wants you to be?

Let that sink in for a moment.

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; 
You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; 
You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord… My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. 
All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” 
(Psalm 139:1-4, 15-16)
The next time you start feeling overwhelmed by life or that things are careening out of control, just take a look around you.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” 
(Psalm 19:1)
Look at all of creation and remember that there is a Creator who is orchestrating your life down to the last detail. He’s got everything under control and He won’t let you down. Take the time to get to know Him more and He will reveal Himself to you in ways you never expected or experienced before.
Spend time in His Word.
Spend time enjoying His creation…
… and give Him the glory!
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