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!

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.

 

What Is The Norm?

As Texas and Louisiana is healing and rebuilding their cities from Hurricane Harvey, it reminds me of how things have changed in just a matter of a few weeks.  Before Harvey, we went about our daily lives caring about our own needs and protesting about what offends us.  Individuals did not care about hurting others with his/her words or actions.  That was the norm.  It was normal to see hate in this world, and, for some, they became numb to it.  We just turned off social media or the TV shaking our heads in disgrace.  We never thought to make a difference by putting more love into this world by showing who Jesus is.  We stayed silent and let hate crimes happen all over this nation.  Sadly, I was one of those people who stayed silent.

After Hurricane Harvey hit my little town in Southeast Texas, everything changed.  The hate crimes were not getting the attention on social media and the news.  We were seeing devastation and heartache.  People leaving their homes for safety.  Animals, of all kinds, being rescued out of flood waters.  Ordinary people using their own boats to save those around them.  We saw a nation come together in prayer for those affected by the hurricane.  No more hate crime seen on social media; instead, we saw the hands and feet of Jesus doing their part.  Now, this should be the norm: seeing people help people.  People put down their electronics and started paying attention to the hurt around them.  They did not silence the cries of the help; they put on their rubber boots and got messy.  They stepped into the flood waters and risked their lives for others.  This is what it means to serve others.

If you want to serve, expect to get a little messy, because once you put your heart out there, you will be a part of their messy world.  The world that does not look so neat and tidy.  The world that is shedding tears for their loss.  The stories that can be told about Hurricane Harvey are heart-wrenching and filled with hopelessness.  But, as we have seen, we can build others up by being their for them in time of need.  We can show them their is hope again by extending our hands to those who are hurting.

The norm should always look like the picture of people coming together to rebuild hearts and cities one day at a time.   Let’s put down our phones, tablets, and the TV remote and start being the hands and feet of Jesus.  Let us not forget those who have lost everything and help them rebuild their lives again.  Let’s not be afraid to get a little messy to help someone who needs it the most.

And, I will leave you this….  Natalie Grant, an amazing Christian artist, sings a song called, “Be One”.  Here are some lyrics to encourage all of you to be a part of something bigger than yourself:

It’s time to get our hands dirty
Be love there’s a whole lot of hurting
Calling all hearts
Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one
When we can be one

When we can be one
A little somethin’
Might feel like nothin’
But in His hands it’s all we’ll ever need
To speak life to the broken
Watch the blind eyes open
It’s who He’s calling you and me
To be

We can be the change, be the hope
We can be the arms that don’t let go
We can be a light in the dark
We are, we are where it starts

 Let us be the “new norm” by showing our love for others each passing day!

Fruit of the Spirit – Self-Control

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Self-Control

Self-control is described as having control over your feelings or actions or restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires. Self-control can be described in a simpler way as not letting our emotions to get the best of us. There are many emotions that can override our faith such as fear, anger, and disappointment. Second Timothy 1:7 says “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” To manage our emotions and desires, we must have a strong prayer life. If we do not spend time with God every day, there will be no peace in our lives. Our emotions would be out of control, and we would remain in a state of confusion. Our thought process and emotions will become irrational and our actions will not dictate who Jesus is. Our flesh will take over on what we say and how we act. First Thessalonians 4:4 says “that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” God expects us to have self-control over our lives and be Christ-like in everything we do.

Application

Do you let your emotions to get the best of you?  Do you get angry or frustrated quickly?  Can you control your emotions?  I can honestly say, I sometimes cannot control my emotions, and I have to take a step back, after reacting in the wrong way, to correct my actions.  I am a very passionate person, and if someone criticizes or judges me for what I love to do, I defend it with harsh negative words.  You might can relate with a similar situation.

We all have areas in our lives that if pushed too far, we will say or do things that is not of God.  We are all human, and that’s why God gives us grace.  He gives us second chances to make it right.

When our emotions override our faith, we are not being Christ-like.  When we have self-control and allow God to work through our emotions, we are showing the world that we can stay calm through difficult situations.  Where are your emotions today?  Are they under control?  Is this an area that you need to work on and pray about?  Ask God to help you.

Fruit of the Spirit – Faithfulness

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Faithfulness

Faithfulness is having or showing true and constant support or loyalty. It can also be described as deserving trust and keeping your promises or doing what you are supposed to do. God mentions faithfulness throughout the Bible. The faithfulness that God is referring to in Galatians 5:22-23 is to keep our promises with Him and with others. We need to stay loyal to our word and not disappoint those who are counting on us to come through for them. Luke 16:10-12 states that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” When we live by our word, we are becoming more like God. Deuteronomy 7:9 says “that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.” The world is filled with false promises and hopes, and we, as Christians, need to stay true to our word to show them who Christ is through our actions.

Application

Do you have a hard time keeping your promises?  Are you faithful to those around you and honor your word?  God’s word is always faithful and true.  To show who God is to the world, we must be loyal to what we say and do.  We need to encourage those around us by staying faithful to our commitments.

Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness, Goodness, and Gentleness

Today, we will be breaking down the fruits of the Spirit: KINDNESS, GOODNESS, and GENTLENESS. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Kindness, Goodness, and Gentleness

Kindness, goodness, and gentleness are all characteristics that work closely together. The definition of kindness is the quality or state of being kind or a kind act. The word goodness means the quality or state of being good. Gentleness means the quality or state of being gentle as well as mildness of manners or disposition. There is more to being a Christian than accomplishing good deeds. Our motives behind our good deeds matter to God. We need to have a kind and gentle heart while we complete God’s work. It is easy to be kind to others when they are kind to us, but what about those who are unfriendly and mistreat us. Are we holding a grudge against those people or are we showing them kindness. God says we are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He also says to “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). Titus 3:2 tells us to “speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward[s] all people.” When we are showing kindness and gentleness, while doing good, God is working through us for others to see His ways and not the world’s. It is vital that we look like Jesus through our words and actions.

Application

Is there someone in your life that makes life difficult?  Do you struggle showing kindness towards him or her?  God has asked everyone, not just you, to be Jesus to the world.  That means we must show kindness to everyone, not be selective to who deserves it.

In everything we do, we must have good motive.  God looks at goodness as our heart.  When we do something for God, we must do it in the goodness of our heart, not expecting anything in return.  This is not always easy.  God may ask of something that stretches our faith or boundaries that we have set for ourselves.  God wants a cheerful heart in everything we do for Him!

Our words and actions can hurt people without even realizing what we are saying or doing.  Our words must be gentle so we do not let others feel worthless or judged.  Our actions must be synchronized with God so we know that they reflect Him and not the world.

All these things above: Kindness, Goodness, and Gentleness are all from God.  Jesus functioned in all of these so that He could bring light into a dark and weary world.  We are called to do the same.  If you feel like you lack in one or more areas, take the time to pray and read the Bible.  I encourage you to read about how Jesus lived here on earth.  It is the greatest example of walking out the fruits of the Spirit.

Fruit of the Spirit – Patience

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: PATIENCE. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Patience

Patience is not a virtue that most people are born with but perfected through maturity. We live in a world that demands immediate results. This kind of thinking is called the “microwave mentality.” If we want something now, we purchase it and think about the consequences later. The word patient is defined as able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people. Another definition of patience is waiting over a long period of time without hurrying. Romans 8:25 says, “if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Psalm 37:7-9 comforts us by saying, “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in His way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” God rewards us as we patiently wait for Him to work in our lives.

Application

Do you get impatient easily when something is not going your way or just having to wait too long for answers.  In life, we all expected to wait on something — in line at a store, stopped traffic on the road, delayed answered prayers from God, and so forth.  How do you spend that time while waiting?  Do you grumble and get irritated the longer you wait?  Or do you try to find something positive in that situation?  I am guilty of being impatient and then regretting my negative thoughts afterwards.  If you wait with a good attitude, God honors you.  The next time you may feel anxious and impatient, remember what God said: “Be sill before the Lord and wait patiently for Him”

Fruit of the Spirit – Peace

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: PEACE. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Peace

As we grow in our Christian walk, we will experience God’s peace. When we believe God will help us through difficult times, we exchange our worry for His peace. We do not allow our emotions to overwhelm us, but, instead, we put our trust in God. Peace is a state in which there is no war or fighting. John 16:33 God says “that in [Him] you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; [He has] overcome the world.” Colossians 3:15 says, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” According to this Scripture, God is peace. It originates from Him.

In the Book of Colossians, chapter 3, verse 14, it states that love “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” We see in this Scripture that love and peace collide together with perfection. The perfect love that God has for us brings peace into our lives. May “the Lord lift up His countenance upon [us] and give [us] peace” (Numbers 6:26).

Application

Do you have peace in your life?  Do you feel anxious about something or someone?  When you completely trust God with your life, He overwhelms you with His peace.  The world may be full of chaos and confusion, but, with God, He is peace.  He is your peace maker in the midst of life’s storms.

Fruit of the Spirit – Introduction

The more we grow in Christ, the more we get to know who He is and who we are through Him. One way to grow in our Christian walk is to allow the Bible to transform our lives. It is a Book full of redemption, love, grace, hope, and forgiveness. The Bible shows us how to live a Godly life. Galatians 5:22-23 is a life-changing Scripture that not only speaks truth over our lives but challenges us to live a righteous life.

First, God warns us what is not Christ-like. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Then, God explains what is expected of us as Christians. He tells us how we need to live by the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).

The words, “fruit of the Spirit” has great significance in the Scripture above. The word “Spirit” is referring to God Himself. The descriptive words, “love, joy, peace” etc. that follow are describing who God is: God is love, He is joy, and so forth. God is asking us to be just like Him. When we act more like Him, we are being fruitful. Metaphorically, we are much like a tree. God is the roots and the trunk. He is the Spirit that lives in us and helps us grow strong in our faith. We are the branches and the fruit. We determine how many branches we have on the tree, and how much fruit it produces by the way we live.

According to Galatians 5, there are nine fruits of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a great way to evaluate our lives to see whether or not our actions and words reflect the way Jesus lived on earth. As Christians, the world needs to see us acting Christ-like and know that we are not hypocrites. Sometimes our actions do not reflect who Jesus is, and it distorts how the world sees Christians. That is why it is important to live our lives as it states in Galatians 5:22-23.

As we breakdown the fruits of the Spirit, I encourage you to not just to read the text but ask God for a deeper understanding of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Application:

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GOODNESS

FAITHFULNESS

GENTLENESS

SELF-CONTROL

Before we break down the fruits of the Spirit, write down your weaknesses and strengths. I encourage you to be honest with yourself. This exercise is to guide you in prayer and to help you figure out which areas to focus on as you continue to grow in Christ.