Simplifying Christianity

We humans tend to complicate every aspect of our lives, especially God.  We want the best worship experience and an emotional message on Sundays.  We overthink God by our works.  All our lives most of us are told that you must be in church and studies to have God in our lives, which in fact, is not true.  Hear me out, I am not saying that church is not important.  I am saying God is more than a church service and group studies.  He is simply about relationship.  He does not want us so busy trying to figure out who He is that we have no time to personally have a relationship with Him.

For the last year, I have been going to one church to another trying to find the perfect setting — is the worship spiritual enough or is the message convicting to bring me to the altar.  I was looking for emotion rather than God Himself.  I was so insecure that I needed to be convicted to speak to God for forgiveness.  And when restlessness and discontentment came over me, I moved on to another church.  Through all the confusion, I caused more chaos in my life.  I caused more disappointment of what the church should be — to my preference.

A few months ago, I decided to temporarily stop attending church and have church at home.  Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night I would listen to a podcast from my iPad and worship God in my own living room. I spent daily in prayer.  In just a month, God showed Himself to me with simplicity and love.  It is not required to do works to find God’s love; He is love, and He only desires relationship with me.  When I complicated God, I was miserable.  The standards I put on myself only made me feel more inadequate.  It was only when I simplified the way I approached God is when I found the true God.  A God who is not demanding but unconditionally loving.  A God who is all comfort not judgmental.  A God who makes me whole when I feel incomplete.  God is complex in so many ways, but when it comes to a relationship with Him, it’s simple: Love God with all her heart and live a life abundantly in His love.  Love God and be a Disciple.  Simple as that.

We need to stop representing a demanding God who is false and scary.  We need to start showing others that God is all about the heart.  He is all about love.  We do not need an emotional message on Sunday to convict us of our sin, but a message of truth.  We do not need to a worship service to sound like a professional concert, but to worship God in purity.  We don’t need an in-depth message every week to tell us who God is; we need to experience God ourselves through group Bible Studies and an individual prayer life.  If we want a relationship with God, we need to pursue Him at church, at home, in our workplace, and with our family and friends.  God is everywhere!

When you seek God in simplicity, you will find His joy and His peace.  When you pursue Him with all your heart, you will find the true God that you have been looking for.  It starts with you — not the church or others — YOU!

After The Rain…

Rain….

It’s necessary for growth.

It allows the old to pass away, and the new to come.

There is beauty where it once was dead.

Life is all about going through a storm so we can see the rainbow on the other side.  Imagine yourself in a garden with plants wilted and weeds grown up in the beds.  The caretaker failed to remove the weeds and water the garden.  It is overgrown and little by little the plants die away.  What once was a beautiful garden turned into shriveled brown leaves falling lifeless to the ground with no hope for renewal.

The only way to grow is to work through the weeds in our lives and to remove what hinders us from God.  As we toil through the soil to determine what to remove and what to keep, we dig up the truths of our lives.  When we reach the root and see it had potential for growth, we just sit there quietly in defeat and wonder why we did not see the potential sooner.  Why didn’t we just go through the painful process of pulling the weeds so we could see our potential?  Why didn’t we water the plants to see them grow and bloom into something beautiful?  Instead of facing the storm and waiting for growth, we ran in fear because of the unknown.  We missed seeing the rainbow, because we never walked through the rain.

Ten years ago I ran from a difficult situation.  I never properly allowed God to heal my heart, and I still struggle today with those insecurities and emotions from my past.  The weeds in my life became overgrown and never tended to in a decade.  New life was never planted.  I tried to bury my past by laying more soil on top of the hurt–the root of the problem.  Recently, I have had to remove the soil to get to the root.  I had to expose the most shameful part of my life to eventually find healing through God.  I am currently vulnerable and transparent for all to see.

As the plant grows bigger and stronger, the root spans in all directions as it goes deeper into the soil.  Imagine the root being every situation you have not dealt with in your life.  It has twists and turns.  The root intertwines with each other. It becomes so powerful that you cannot uproot the plant without force.  It is embedded so deep that it is a struggle to rip it out of the ground.  Life is painful when we grab something by it’s roots and force it to the surface.  But there is good news — when we finally deal with the root of our problems and let the root of destruction die, we will see new growth happening in our lives.  We blossom into something beautiful.

We allow God to mend our hearts as he continues to water the new seeds in our lives.  As the seeds grow in the soil, God enriches it with nutrients.  He sprinkles miracle grow over the plant for a better chance at life.  He brings the rain so we can stand strong and tall.  We have to endure heartache through the rain so we can become a beautiful flower for all to see.  Our roots have to be strong and healthy so we can withstand the winds.  And, after the rain, there is a rainbow full of promises.  The promises of another day.  The promises for what’s to come.

A rainbow represents new life.
It represents a hopeful future.
It represents a testimony of what was.
It represents the new you!

If you want a renewal in your life, uproot what you have not dealt with and find your rainbow.  If you want a life full of promises, remove the weeds.  If you want to see growth in your life, be consumed in God’s enrichment.

What Is A Blessing?

Many people think a blessed person is someone who has it all — lives in a big house, drives an expensive car, has the best job, and so forth.  This way of thinking is distorted.  If we see a blessing just as material things then we miss a blessing in our lives, because we compare our lives to others.

The word “blessing” means “a favor or gift bestowed by God or the invoking of God’s favor upon a person.”  It also is defined as “approval” and “good wishes” (www.dictionary.com/browse/blessing).  A blessing comes in many forms.  It can come directly from God.  Or a blessing can come from family members, friends, or complete strangers through God working in them.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the world was full of chaos and hate.  After the hurricane, we saw people working together.  Complete strangers risking their lives to save others.  As Christians, we need to be watchful on how we say we are blessed.  I am guilty of this as well.  I said, “I was blessed to have minor damage in my home.  A home I can still live in after the storm.”  But, we all have to understand those who have lost everything due to the storm, they are still blessed.  God protected their family, and, in the past three weeks, people have seen complete strangers help them rebuild their home.  In Philippians 4:19 declares that “MY God will supply every need to yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  In Isaiah 41:10, God says “fear no, for I am with you; be no dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  I encourage everyone who is going through hardship to declare these Scriptures over your life.

Many who have lost their homes have asked, “What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:30-33).  They have lost all their belongs.  They have lost all their food.  They only have the clothes on their back.  But, be encouraged today.  God clothes you every day with His blessings and righteousness.  Churches and business have opened their doors to give food, clothes, furniture, and toiletries to those in need.  God put it on their hearts to bless you with items that you have lost.  It may be heartbreaking and difficult to ask for help, but never turn down a blessing.

There may be some who are too broken to see God’s blessing in their lives.  And, that is okay.  Having any kind of loss is devastating and finding hope again may take time.  Sometimes all we can do is get on our knees and cry out to God for help.  Through prayer we all will find “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  Psalm 144:2 is a prayer of declaration in time of need: “He is My steadfast love and My fortress, My stronghold and My deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge.”  This Scripture not only gives you hope again, but it also gives you renewed strength through Christ.  Matthew 5:4 states the “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Let these words wash over you and remind you that you are not alone.  God is ALWAYS with you.

And, always remember that a blessing is not all about material things.  A blessing is simply God loving on us through a prayer being answered.  His continuous protection over your life and family.  A blessing is helping people in need.  We are blessed every day through Christ.

 

The Bride of Christ

Today, I will be talking to the single women who are longing for their soul mate.

Imagine setting the date for your wedding.  You are in anticipation as you make arrangements and plan for the perfect day.  The cake and food has to be prepared, several dress fittings, guest lists, and all the other details required to make your wedding day special.  This is the moment you have been waiting for all your life.  It has finally come!

Now, imagine it looking a little different.  Instead of man standing there, God is standing as your groom.  In Isaiah 54:5 it states God is your husband: “for your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!  He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.”  Close your eyes and visualize you walking down the aisle with your hair down and full of curls, make up is perfect, and wearing a beautiful white gown.  Your emotions are everywhere, because you are walking into the unknown, but, at the same time, you are filled with excitement.  You can barely hold back the tears with every step you take towards your Heavenly Father.  It is a magical moment as you walk closer to God and take His hand in marriage.  You give Him your all, and you allow Him to have control of every aspect of your life.

Just like any marriage, there are things that will be asked of you.  God is asking you today if He has made you single the rest of your life and just be with Him, can you accept His offer?  Do you trust Him enough to be His bride?  Is He enough in your life to feel complete?  Can you give up your own desires to be with Him, and Him alone?  Do you feel worthy enough to be His bride?

Since I am currently single, God has been asking me the same tough questions.  Is He enough in my life that I will give Him my all?  My desires, my heart, my love, and my worship!  Will I accept His offer no matter what my future holds?  Am I ready to walk down the aisle and take God’s hand in matrimony with these terms?  I am praying God’s will be done in my life no matter the outcome.  I am praying that He will always be my husband, my first love!

I am reminded of a song by King and Country called, “Priceless.”  The chorus is powerful.  God is saying to you today:

I see you dressed in white
Every wrong made right
I see a rose in bloom
At the sight of you
Oh, so priceless
Irreplaceable
Unmistakable,
Incomparible
Darling, it’s beautiful
I see it all in you!

God sees you whole!  He sees you dressed in purity and righteousness!   He sees you as PRICELESS!  He sees you “more than all the money or the diamonds and pearls [because] this is who you are” (“Priceless” lyrics).

As you walk down the aisle to become the Bride of Christ, remind yourself you have worth in Him, not in man.  Being single is not a curse but a blessing.  You are never alone when God is in your life.  He sees you, and He says you are beautiful in His sight!

Worshipping Through Scripture Series – “Be Changed By The Water”

As Christians, we all are knowledge of or experienced baptism.  A baptism is a “Christian sacrament of admission and adoption, with the use of water, into the Christian Church” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism).  It can also be described as “the religious rite of sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification” (www.google.com).  In layman’s terms, it is a sacrificial proclamation to God that is celebrated and witnessed by other believers.

Many song artist have written powerful songs about baptism.  Jordan Feliz wrote a song in 2016 called “Be Change By The Water”.  The song is based off the Scripture John 7:38: “Whoever believes in Me [,Jesus,] as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  The lyrics describe baptism as a tide: “It is rising up deep inside a current that moves and makes you come alive.  Living water that brings the dead to life.”  The chorus declares for us to “go down to the river” to be changed forever.  Baptism is a symbolic ceremony to proclaim to your church and the ones you love that you are changed by God.  You will never be the same again once you come up from the living water.  You will be “washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace” (Scripture reference: John 3:16).

Carrie Underwood, known as a country artist also sings Christian music.  She wrote a Christian song called, “Something in the Water”.  The song was nominated for many awards and received the top Christian song award in 2015.  The song tells a story about a man or a woman who lost his or her faith.  A pastor comes along to renew this person’s hope by saying have “a little faith” (Scripture reference: Matthew 8:26).  The man or woman follows the pastor to the river and gets baptized.  A few days later, the person realizes he or she has lost all hope and crumbles to the floor in tears asking God for help.  In prayer, he or she begins to sing “Amazing Grace” and thanks God for His mercies every day.  The person declares, “I am changed [and] stronger” in Christ because, “there must be something in the water”.  In this song, we can relate to the story being told.  In circumstances, we tend to forget the meaning of baptism until we are reminded through Scripture, prayer, music lyrics, and/or a pastor/friend that we are renewed in Christ.  We have been transformed by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The final song called, “Come To The Water” sung by Matt Maher, gives us the invitation to seek God through Baptism.  For those “who seek, let them come to the water”.  For those “who thirst, let them come to the water” (Scripture references: John 4:14, 6:35, 7:38-39; Matthew 5:6-16; Psalm 63:1, 143:6; Revelation 7:16-17).  And, for those “who are weary, let them come to the water” (Scripture reference: Matthew 11:28).  No matter the circumstances, come to water!  This is a declaration of a transformed life.  Run to the river to be washed clean.  Run to the water to have a personal relationship with Jesus (Scripture reference: Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus’ Baptism).

APPLICATION

This week is a simple message: If you want a transformed life, meet Jesus in the water!

OTHER REFERENCES TO LOOK UP

  • “Welcome Without End” by True Vine Music
  • Scriptures: Mark 1:4-5; Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:3-6; Acts 2:38-41, 16:31-33)

God is Good, No Matter What…

God is good, no matter what is going on in our lives!  The past few weeks I have struggled with foot injuries, house repairs, and financial issues.  It has been very stressful and, at one point, I wanted to stop and cry.  For a moment, I lost hope that God was still good even in the midst of all my chaos.  I forgot God can be trusted with my problems if I only asked for His help.  God is always good to me, no matter what is going on in my life.  I truly believe that today!

The Bible says over and over again about how God is always good, and how we must trust Him with everything that goes on in our lives.  The Book of Psalm is a great book to read for encouragement.

“For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.”  – Psalm 100:5

“The Lord is good to everyone.  He showers compassion on all His creation.” – Psalm 145:9

Give thanks to the Lord, for His is good!  His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” – Psalm 34:8

God is good!  God allows things to happen to us so we can grow in our faith and learn how to trust Him more.  If life was perfect, then why would we need God?!  The only way to see God’s power in our lives is to go through hardships.  God will see us through the valleys and, through Him, we will be conquerors.

If you are going through a hard time, declare the Scripture, Philippians 4:13, over you: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  God will give you the strength to conquer anything.  All you have to do is trust Him.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says to “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

 

 

 

God is Our Gardener

In Jesus’ words, he says in John 15:1 that “[He is] the true grapevine, and [His] Father is the gardener.”  God, our Father, is the gardener of our lives.  He is the one who removes the impurities and teaches us how to be pure through Him.  Philippians 4:8-9 instructs us to “fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all [that we have] learned and received from [Jesus]—everything [we have] heard from [Jesus] and saw [Him] doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”  The word TRUE is in both Scriptures.  The word true is referring to God.  God is True!  He is the one who brings honor, righteousness, purity, and good into our lives. 

God is the one who plucks all the weeds out of our lives so we can produce a fruitful life.  John 15:2-4 states that God “cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

Gardner 3

God is part of the pruning process  of our lives.  Imagine a gardener pulling the weeds one by one from a garden.  He tugs as hard as he can to pull the root out with the weed.  He wants to make sure it cannot grow back.  God does the same thing with us.  He pulls the entire weed out of our lives so we do not return back to that sin and destruction from our past.

The gardener then proceeds to water the garden to help make it grow.  God waters our life with the Scripture Philippians 4:8.  He puts all the things of Him in us.  The pruning process may cause loss, heartache, and change, but the end result is worth every moment.  Once we start growing in Christ and becoming more like Him, we begin to bloom.  Just like flowers, we bloom into something beautiful.

This process is not just for us.  Others will see our growth and will crave the same kind of growth in them.  As flowers grow and bloom, they spread and take over other areas in the garden.  Our Spiritual growth is contagious.  People watch what we do, and how we live our lives.

We can make a difference in this world by our lifestyle.  We can live a life full of weeds and let sin take over our lives, or we can live a Godly life and look like Christ.  This week re-evaluate your life to see if your life is overgrown with weeds.  Are you making an impact in the world around you?  Do people see Christ in you?  Is your life so contagious that you are bringing others to Christ?

Emotions

We all have emotions.  Some are good and some are bad.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word emotion means “a strong feeling such as love, anger, joy, hate, or fear.  It also means “a state of feeling, and a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

Emotions occur when something changes in our lives, and we are either excited or disgruntled.  Emotions are only positive when we have self-control.  Self-control helps us keep our emotions in check, and allows us to walk in the spirit rather than our flesh.  Self-control is defined as “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.”  Some of the words that describe self-control are self-discipline, restraint, willpower, composure, coolness, and temperance.  Self-control is one of the hardest fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to live by, because it takes us getting out of our flesh and living for God.  It is a lifestyle that we must all live by as Christians.

In the verses before Galatians 5:22-23, the Bible states that our emotions can lead to sin.  In verses 16 – 21, it warns us about living in the flesh and not by the Spirit.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Unhealthy emotions lead us to anger, jealousy, envy, and so forth.  These kind of emotions cause us to hold grudges, to be selfish, and to act in sinful ways.  Proverbs 25:28 describes “a person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.”  If we do not have self-control over our emotions, we are like a broken city with destruction all around us.

This week evaluate your emotional state and see if it lines up with God’s Word.  Are your emotions in check or are they out of control?  Our emotions can be described as a volcano about to erupt.  When our emotions are running rampant, we do not think logically.  We live by our emotions and not realize the destruction we may cause if they erupt all at one time.  Recently, I was reminded to think before you react.  The next time you feel emotional, step back and wait until you can think logically. Do not act on your emotions.  I encourage you to pray before you speak or act and allow God to guide your steps.

Are You a Princess/Prince in God’s Kingdom?

Earlier this week, I wrote about our identity in Christ and how God made us a princess or a prince in His Kingdom.  We must have certain qualities to look like a princess/prince.  Our actions and words must reflect who Jesus is in our lives.  Today, I will be writing about the qualities needed to become a princess or prince for God.  God expects us to act a certain way for others to see Christ in us.  The list below are just a few things that we can do to look like a princess or prince for God’s Kingdom:
(The information below comes from http://www.urbandictionary.com)

  • Be noble
    • Dignity
    • Chooses words wisely
    • Makes good decisions
  • Selfless
    • Thinks of others before him or herself
  • Trusting
  • Kindness
    • Gentle
    • Generous
    • Compassionate
    • Good-natured
    • Forgiving
  • Humble
    • Humility
    • Does not expect special treatment from others
    • Does not boast or brag
  • Respectable and Admirable
    • Respect others
    • Does not compete with others
  • Galatians 5:22-23
    • Love
    • Joy
    • Peace
    • Patient
    • Kindness
    • Goodness
    • Faithfulness
    • Gentleness
    • Self-Control

“A princess [/prince] is a princess [/prince] regardless of her [/his] attire or her [/his] circumstances” (www.urbandictionary.com).  Being in God’s royalty is more than the fancy clothes, ballroom dances, and the crown.  Our attitude must represent what a princess or prince is, and always stay humble in our position.  We must always have compassion for those around us and forgive easily.  We are respected by all and not feared.  God expects us to be kind to everyone we meet and treat others as we want to be treated.  Instead of being served, serve others!  Be the princess or prince God called you to be!

Are you acting like a princess or prince should? If not, re-evaluate your life to see what needs to change.  Ask yourself these questions: How can you treat others better?,  How can you change your perspective on a situation or person?, and so forth.  A princess or prince looks different from the world.  Let Jesus shine through you for the world to see!

What Makes A Leader?

Recently I was challenged on what makes me a leader.  What qualities do I have that makes me a leader in Christ?  Am I showing others by example on how to be a good and humble leader?

Leadership is defined by leading a group of people or an organization.  A leader is someone who guides, directs, and influences those around him or her.  Christian leadership is defined as a “dynamic relational process in which people, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, partner to achieve a common goal — it is serving others by leading and leading others by serving” (www.andrews.edu).  Re-read the Christian version of leadership.  Wow!  “It is serving others by leading and leading others by serving.”  Everyone serves others, no matter if you are a leader or a follower.  We all have different roles to make the group / organization successful.  It’s team effort!  It’s all about serving and being an example for others to see.

The qualities of a leader are:
Integrity – Honesty
Appreciation – Compliment those who are following you
Strategy – Planning / Success
Humility – Humble
Passionate – Love what you do with all your heart / Believe in it
Inspiration – Inspire others by example
Commitment – Remain loyal to your words and actions
Responsibility – Don’t make excuses
Listening – Be a listening ear to those who are hurting
Principles – Structure for the group
Communication – Know your followers
Values / Morals
Stay true to yourself
Purpose / Vision Focus and Success
DeterminationNever give up
MotivationMotivate and rally those around you

“Great leaders inspire greatness in others.”

Anyone can be a leader!  You do not have to be bold and in front to be a leader.  God wants us to be a light to those around us.  Mentoring someone one-on-one is a leader.  Helping others is being a leader.

In the Bible, God describes what a good humble leader looks like.  John 10:11 says we need to take care of the people around us — to be good shepherds in Christ.  Corinthians 11:1 says we lead by example.  What we do matters!  What we say matters!  Galatians 6:2 talks about the Fruit of the Spirit.  We must have good character and morals to lead successfully.  We must live pure and holy lives to be a good Christian leader.

The next time someone says you do not have what it takes to be a leader, remember that God called all of us to be leaders.  Our calling is to make a difference in someone’s life.  Leadership is a rewarding position to be in and be honored that God entrust you with such a task!  Lead like a good shepherd and stay humble in whatever God ask you to do!