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Tag: Jesus

Bask in the Presence

“He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weigh of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of this afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful
You are and how great Your affections are for me.” 

“How He Loves Us” is one of my absolute favorite worship songs and it’s recently become my life goal… to realize just how much God loves me! Have you ever taken a moment to just meditate on how vast and how deep that love must be?

Let me tell you, it’s something worth contemplating 🙂

Ever since marriage, God has been opening my eyes and heart to the meaning of pursuing a love that never fails and what is actually possible when we live our lives in complete dependence on Him.

 

DSCN7908I recently joined the worship team at my church as a second female vocalist. Over the last few months, we have done two outreach events at different parks (one in Easton, PA, and the other in Quakertown, PA) and He has shown up every time. We just did the outreach in Quakertown this evening and I was told before we started that God was going to speak to me during our worship time. Of course that got me all excited and, sure enough, about halfway through singing I hear this voice in my head that said, “I love you, My child.”

Woah.

I grinned and kept right on singing, just losing myself in the worship and not worrying about the people who might be watching (which is a new thing for me, because a few months back, I would be super nervous about singing in front of people).

Then I heard this: “Just bask in My presence. Pursue me and I will do things that are beyond your wildest dreams.”

Imagine the tears of joy that welled up when the next song was “How He Loves Us:”

“And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
if His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.”

When God speaks, it’s not always a clear voice. He’s spoken to me in so many different ways – creation, His Word, a thought, books, photos, people – and this was just a crystal clear thought that came outta nowhere and stuck in my mind. I’ve been asking God to reveal Himself to me in new ways each day and He has! In Matthew 7:7-8 it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives and him who seeks finds and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

It’s that simple. All we have to do is ask.

God loves us. We are His special, chosen people who He wants to bless (1 Peter 2:9). During the short time that I’ve been on the worship team, He has opened my eyes to the true meaning of worship and how freeing it can be. It doesn’t have to be a routine, gotta-get-it right-every-time type of thing. Yes, you have to be good stewards of your talents and practice, but don’t get so caught up on the technicalities that you lose sight of the reason you’re up there.

As the author of Hebrews said in chapter 13:

“Therefore, by Him, let us continuously offer the sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of your lips, giving thanks to His name.” (vs. 15)

Make it a daily practice to bask in His presence and in His Word. Pursue your Heavenly Father and He will come running to meet you! Once you realize or remember the joy and wonder of being in constant praise and adoration of our Savior, you’ll never want to stop 🙂

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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.

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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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Give thanks in all circumstances

Take a moment and count your blessings.

Seriously.

Get out a piece of paper, a journal, anything to write on and start making a list of the blessings you can think of.

What’s beginning to happen? You start writing down the obvious ones (I’m thankful for family, friends, that I woke up today, that I have food to enjoy, a warm house, etc.), and each of those brings to mind something else, which leads to more ideas and realizations of other blessings you had overlooked… the list gets longer and longer.
You see what I’m getting at?
There are so many different kinds of blessings that happen throughout each day. Small ones that you barely notice or take for granted and big ones that actually make you sit back and say, “Wow! That’s awesome!”
This past week, I’ve been thinking more and more about my life and what has happened up to this point.. and am still blown away by all that God has done.

1. That Christ willingly humbled Himself to live and minister among us, went to the cross, took all of our sins – past, present and future – upon Himself, paid the price we could never afford and conquered death so that we may have the free gift of eternal life!

2. That He has allowed me to grow up in a strong, Christian family with parents who love each other and are committed to our family and leading us to Christ.

3. That He granted me the money I needed in order to go to two good colleges (Northampton Community College and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) and get a bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism.

4. That He’s blessed me with an amazing group of friends at Bible study, swing dancing, game night and other places.

5. That He has always provided for my every need, no matter how big or small.

And the list goes on!

Being thankful is a huge theme in the Old and New Testaments. Some of the well-known men of God in the Bible – Moses, David and Paul – made a point to encourage others to give thanks to God for everything. Not just the big things (such as bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, giving David success over Goliath or even granting Paul the opportunity to minister to the Gentiles), but in everything.
Here’s what they have to say on the subject:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” – 1 Chronicles 16:8

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” – Psalm 100:4

“But thanks be to God! He give us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

See what I mean? As children of the Most High God, we’re supposed to give thanks for everything each and every day.

It should be a natural reaction for us. It brings to mind the chorus from “Jury Duty,” a song by the O.C. Supertones:

“You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway…
Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake is Your creation,
and what You made is good. I don’t always thank You
for the rough days and hard times in my life,
even though I should.”

Now, I’m not saying that I still don’t struggle to find something to be thankful for on the really rough days.. I’m not perfect yet.

But the more I read and study the Bible, it’s encouraging to see that these great men of God (Moses, David and Paul) had to go through their own times of struggle and doubt before they came to the point of constant thanksgiving.
So, take it day by day. Try to make a point of thanking God for one or two things right after you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night. I can guarantee it will soon become second nature and you’ll be able to live each day with a spirit of thankfulness (which is one of the fruits of the Spirit!)

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Love covers a multitude of sins!

There may be time where it feels like you’ve done something so terrible that there’s no way you can make it up to God. You’ve fallen into the trap of sin over and over again, it seems impossible to approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness one more time. You’re left with this feeling of being unclean and unworthy of the love that God is holding out for you.

I know that there have been many times in my life where I kept putting off asking God for forgiveness because I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of coming face to face with my sin, afraid of seeing the hurt in my Father’s eyes.

But the minute I slink into the throne room (figuratively of course), stumbling under the heavy burden of guilt, I immediately feel the power and glory of His presence. I fall to my knees in awe and shame, afraid to look up, afraid of what I might see.

Then I hear Him say “My child, I love you and nothing can ever change that. Give me your burden and let me fill you with My grace and love, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. I’ll cast your sins as far as the east is from the west, washing you white as snow. For you are Mine and no sin can ever snatch you out of My hand.”

A feeling of peace and love overwhelms me. Tears streaming down my face, I feel the weight lift off my shoulders and am wrapped up in a huge hug by the Father who would never disown me.

Each time I enter God’s presence, I come away wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. He’s so full of love and compassion and He understands us completely!

That’s the wonder of grace. We don’t have to earn it, per say. It’s a gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

As it says in 1 Peter 4:8 –

“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

This unconditional love was ultimately demonstrated at the cross.

One of my Facebook friends had posted an excerpt from the book “When God Weeps” by
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. It gives such a graphic visual of what happened at the cross that fateful day and what exactly our Savior had to go through in order to offer us the free gift of salvation:

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20).
The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…
“On your back with you!” One raises a mallet to sink in the spike.
But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist.
Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own.
Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together?
Only by the Son do “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
The victim wills that the solider live on—he grants the warriors continued existence.
The man swings.
As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of.
The design proves flawless—the nerves perform exquisitely. “Up you go!”
They lift the cross.
God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this! From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”
Of course, the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this.
But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place.
Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself,
sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century
explodes in a single direction.
“Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!”
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot,
who will not,
reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him.
The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished.
The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes, “When God Weeps.”

The bottom line is this. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, Jesus paid it all. He went to the cross for your sins. Not just the small ones or the big, life-changing ones, but ALL sins. He took them upon Himself and paid the price so that we could be washed clean and live eternally.

Satan wants us to believe that we’re unworthy, that we’re too dirty for God to even bother with.

That’s not true at all!

Remember…

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10.

Praise Him!

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For God so loved

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.”

I’m pretty sure a majority of Christians (and even some none Christians) today could rattle that off no problem because it’s one of the more well-known Bible verses.

But what does it really mean?

The main idea is obvious – that we have an opportunity for eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection – but there’s more.

Read that first sentence again. Now break it up and read to the first comma. What do you notice?

“For God so LOVED the world that He gave His ONE and ONLY Son,”

Did you catch it that time?

The God of the universe chose to send His only Son down to earth to save us.

Jesus willingly came down to be that perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Not because they had to, but because of the unconditional, everlasting love that they have for us, a broken creation.

This is one of the reasons why the gospel of John is my favorite out of the four. He focuses on the fact that it was love that drove Christ to become human, to dwell among us for 30-odd years, to perform miraculous signs, to demonstrate what it means to “live like Christ” and then to allow Himself to be hung on a cross for crimes He never committed.

Our crimes.

What it must’ve been like to have witnessed all of that?

In his gospel, John gives us a chance to experience what he saw, felt and thought during his time with the Lord and it seems like the thing that impacted him the most was the love that was continually pouring out of Christ.

There was never any hint of hate or selfishness, only love and selflessness.

John had the privilege to develop a close relationship with the Lord by being a part of The Twelve Disciples. He also was a part of the “inner three” with Peter and James (as seen in Mark 5:37, 9:2-13, 13:3 and 14:33), which means that he was able to spend time with Him in a more intimate setting.

Have you ever noticed that throughout the entire book of John, the author never refers to himself by name? There’s a certain phrase he uses whenever he talks about himself:

“The disciple whom Jesus loved”

The love Christ demonstrated during His ministry here on earth had become a personalized love for John and this phrase illustrates how much it had impacted him.

One of my favorite examples of the relationship between Jesus and John is found in John 13:21-25

“After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. 

Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said ‘Ask Him which one He means.’
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?'”

John was comfortable enough to lean back against our Lord and Savior (he heard God’s heartbeat!) and that just blows me away.

Yet, that’s exactly the kind of relationship that God longs to have with His children. A close, loving relationship where we feel comfortable enough to talk with Him about the difficult things as well as rejoice in the happy things in life.

I love how Jesus sums up the kind of relationship He wants to have with us in John 17:20-26 (one of my favorite passages)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message,
that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.

May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
I have given them the glory that You gave me,
that they may be one as We are one: 
I in them and You in Me.
May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me
and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
Father I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory,
the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.
Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me.
I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known

in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I, Myself, may be in them.”

Need I say more? 🙂

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Follow Me

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: what it really means to “take up your cross daily” or to “deny yourself.”

These are some powerful phrases that we, as Christians, don’t seem to take as seriously as we should. We bring them out for the big decisions that we face in our lives, but we don’t use them on a daily, moment-to-moment basis… you know what I mean?

The Sunday School class I’m in right now is doing a video series called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman, (highly recommend for small groups!!) and this past week, he brought up this point:

“Carrying a cross isn’t comfortable”

Think about it. Back then, the cross was a symbol of absolute torture and humiliation. It was used as the ultimate punishment for crimes. Those that hung on the crosses weren’t exactly popular with the majority of the crowd.

Now, these days, people can be seen wearing crosses on a necklace, rings, earrings, tattoos, clothing and more.. but do they recognize the full meaning behind it and what it really represents? I kinda doubt it.

Becoming a Christian is so much more than obtaining a free pass to the golden gates of heaven and escaping eternal punishment in hell… it’s all about completely stripping you of your old identity and filling it with that of Christ…

… and being willing to follow Him wherever He may lead us.

I’ve struggled with this because I enjoy my comfort zone. I like where I live, the friends that I have and my routine that I follow week to week (with little bursts of spontaneity here and there).

We can get so comfortable with the idea of Christ being our Savior that we lose the mind-blowing realization of what He’s actually done for us on that cross… that He took all of our sin upon Himself and paid the price that was meant for us!

So, what does it mean to “deny yourself” and “take up your cross daily”?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

That’s it. We are called to be different and separate from the rest of the world; to not care about what the world thinks of us and to live our daily lives for Christ, spilling His love for others into everything we do, say or even think.

We are called to die to ourselves (sinful nature), take up our crosses and follow His lead.

It could be as simple as lending a helping hand when no one else will. Or choosing to step out of the gossip circle even though that’s where all your friends are. Or maybe even as big as going on a missions trip to a different country to present the gospel to those who haven’t heard it yet.

Yes, carrying a cross will not be comfortable; Jesus never promised it would be. But, when the burden gets too much for us to handle… He does promise this:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
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