Worshipping Through Scripture Series – God of Second Chances

In Luke 15:11-32, a son decided to selfishly take His father’s inheritance for the desire to live a better life.  In this parable, we learn that the son had to shamefully come back home, because he realized his life with his father was better than living on his own.  It was better than living in a pig sty for food and clothes.  He left his father’s house with money and returned home with only the shirt on his back.  He had nothing to give but himself.  This story is filled with bad decisions, regret, prayer, and a father’s love.

Many Christian artists have written songs about the prodigal son, and the love that the father showed upon his return.  Laura Story, a young Christian artist, wrote a song called, “Prodigal”, and in her song she tells a story of a father who is desperately awaiting for his son’s return.  The father used to go to the ballpark every day, but, since his son’s disappearance, he prays on his front porch, rocking in his chair, wondering where is son is.  “He is watching, and he is hoping” and “though his eyes are weary, his arms are still open” as “his prayer so softly spoken” begging his son to “come home”.  The father “longs to see his face in younger skin running down the driveway again”.  The father is crying out to God saying, “It was just a disagreement.  Why did my son leave?”

An American Christian rock band, 7eventh Time Down, wrote a song referencing the prodigal story called, “The One I’m Running To”.  It tells about a married couple with three children struggling to pay the bills, and they are both working multiple jobs to make ends meet.  The financial situation is putting a strain on the marriage and their family.  Their faith is running low, and they need of a miracle.  During the middle of night, exhausted from crying, they get on their knees declaring that they will never run from God, but run towards Him.  They know He is their “only Hope who satisifies [their] heart[s]”.  They know deep down that God is “everything that’s good and right and true.”  Their faith keeps them strong in their circumstances.

Another popular rock Christian band named Kutless wrote a song called, “Come Back Home”.  In this song, it is encouraging the prodigal to come home.  It challenges the person who is lost and reckless, to find freedom in his or her situation.  Just like in Luke 15:20-21, it tells the prodigal to “come back home” because “I’ll be running out to meet you”.  In this parable, the father forgives his son and runs toward him with open arms.

APPLICATION

We all relate to one of these songs that tells a story of broken people who simply Jesus.  Maybe you are the one waiting for the prodigal son or daughter to come home.  Or the one struggling to keep your faith in a difficult situation.  Or the one who is the prodigal child struggling to return home.  No matter which story relates to you the most, it is never too late to pray for God in a hopeless situation.  It is never too late to come home to a Father who loves you unconditionally.  The Father’s arms are opened wide desperately waiting for your return.

The Father is answering your prayers in His perfect timing.  If you are the father on the porch praying for your son or daughter to return home, keep on rocking.  If you are the child who needs to make the journey home, take the first step in the right direction.

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)

Worshipping Through Scripture Series -Being An Overcomer Through Christ

As Christians, we live in a world filled with chaos.  Every day we put on our Armor of God and fight the battles of this world.  With God on our side, we face “giants” with confidence and come out as winners through Christ.

There are several characters in the Bible who have fought and defeated giants.  One of the characters is named David.  In 1 Samuel, chapter 17, David fought and defeated a giant named, Goliath, with just a sling shot and a stone.  His story encourages us to stand strong on the battlefield, no matter what we are facing.

Two Christian artists, Francesca Battistelli and Blanca, wrote songs based off this Scripture to encourage Christians to not give up in the fight.  These songs remind us to stay on the battlefield and to trust that God will come through for us.  Francesca Battistelli wrote a song in 2014 called, “Giants Fall”.  The song is written in honor of a young girl, at the age of 11, who wanted to start an organization called, “Project Yesu”.  The purpose of the organization is to minister to girls and women in Uganda.  When the artist read her story about being mocked by others and being told she was crazy to start an organization, Battistelli was inspired to write a song to encourage all of us to be bold and courageous for what we believe in.  It’s never “too late” or “too far” to turn away from sin and walk with God (prodigal son, Luke 15:11:32).  We are never “too small” and it’s never “too hard” to go after our dreams (David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).

In the chorus, it states “don’t you be afraid of the giants in your way [because], with God you know that anything’s possible” (Referenced: Matthew 19:26; 1 John 4:18).  The chorus continues to encourage us to stay in the fight with boldness and bravery and watch the giants fall.  “With childlike faith” (Matthew 18:2-4), mountains will move and miracles will happen (Hebrews 11:1; Matthew 17:20).

Blanca, also wrote a powerful song in 2015 called, “Greater is He”.  She wrote the song in honor of her mother being diagnosed with cancer.  The artist was inspired by her mother’s courageous fight to live.  The song lyrics expresses the struggles we deal with on a daily basis.  It starts out saying, “I face a giant in over my head.  Help me to look up [and remember to] take a deep breath” (Referenced: David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).  These lyrics are a prayer to God desperately crying out to Him to be present in our circumstances.  I imagine this artist face down on the floor crying out to God for a miracle for her mother.

In the chorus, Blanca declares who God is through Jesus’ miracles.  She states that her family have faced “an ocean [with] waves raging (Psalm 89:9, 93:4; Mark 4:35-41) and, with faith, they have “step[ped] out on the sea” to meet Jesus (Matthew 14:2-23).  The song continues on to proclaim God’s name.  We can face anything “in His name”.

APPLICATION

We were all made to be warriors through Christ.  The songs mentioned above are powerful and will lift our spirits when we are discouraged and feel defeated.  The lyrics and the meaning behind these songs come from the heart of these artists.  Battistelli and Blanca both wrote songs through inspiration of others.  They were inspired by someone else’s strength while going through hardship.

These two songs declare who God is through Scripture.  Just like David in 1 Samuel 17, we have our own battles to fight and win.  The lyrics remind us to stay strong in the fight and always have God by our side.  Philippians 4:13 states that we “can do all things through Him who gives [us] strength.”  I encourage you to put on your Armor of God and run onto the battlefield to face your giants.

OTHER REFERENCES TO LOOK UP

  • Joshua 24:14-18 (Joshua’s Story) – “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective, The Promise land.

Women’s Insecurities – Week Five

As I bring this series to a close, I felt like it was appropriate to post a declaration instead of a lengthy blog.  It only seems appropriate after we talked about the causes of rejection and how to overcome it though Christ that we declare God’s power over our lives.  Remember that “rejection never has the final say.  Rejection may be a delay or distraction or even a devastation for a season.  But it’s never a final destination.  [We are] destined for a love that can’t ever be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken.  With You, Jesus, [we are] forever safe. [We are] forever accepted. [We are] forever held.  Completely loved and always invited in” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).

DECLARATION:  (Written by Lysa TerKeurst in her book, Uninvited)

Whatever rejection has stolen from you, I declare that the deepest desperation you’ve experienced will lead to God’s greatest revelation in your life.

I declare that the Lord will give you relief from your unbelief.

He will restore you, redeem you, and write His story–His glorious story onto the pages of your life.

It will happen.

Doubt and defeat have no place in the sacred sanctuary of your heart.

Bitterness, resentment, and anger have no place in a life as beautiful as yours.

PRAYER:  (Written by Lysa TerKeurst in her book, Uninvited)

From now on when misguided voices or the enemy himself tries to put you down with lies or pull you away from the truth or push you into anything that could derail your destiny, I pray that you will sense the mighty hands and heart of God…

  • Lift you up with truth.
  • Draw you close with His loving tenderness.
  • And shame Satan back to hell with His resurrecting power.

Women’s Insecurities – Week Four

In the last three weeks, we have talked about being honest with ourselves and explaining the common areas that women struggle with on a day-to-day basis.  We have also talked about self-rejection from our past as well as rejection from others.  This week we are focusing on how to deal with rejection and use it to better ourselves rather than allow it to bring us down.

Studies show that rejection affects the physical pathways in our brain (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  Rejection is a deep rooted issue that people face every day, and it stirs up our emotions to make us think negative about ourselves or to something.  It can be defined as not “just an emotional feeling, [but] a message that alters what you believe about yourself” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  Rejection has the power to change who we are as an individual.  It can change the way think about a situation.  It is a physical pain that reminds us of loss and feeling unwanted.  “Rejection can make [us] question [God’s] goodness” in our lives (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).

If we don’t want rejection to ruin our lives, we need to have a new perspective on how we handle rejection.  In the Spiritual realm, we can think of it as a blessing.  Lysa TerKeurst stated that “today’s disappointment is making room for tomorrow’s appointment” (Uninvited).  We do not always understand why God says no to our prayers or requests when we want it so badly, but we do not want to miss God’s opportunities by always remembering the disappointments of our past.  We never move past the disappointment if we always ask “why” questions rather than “what” questions.  “‘What’ questions increase our ability to become more self-aware, while ‘why’ questions only focus on things out of control (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  When we ask “why” we see what we lack rather than what is ahead of us.

So…”What’s a brokenhearted person to do?” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  How do we overcome rejection?  We “praise, seek, and look to God” for comfort.  We “experience, learn from, and draw near to God” in every situation (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  Rejection does not label us, and it is not a permanent condition.  It does not keep us from succeeding in our future; It just means we had a setback.  “If we give [rejection] the power to define us, it will haunt us long-term.  But if we only allow it enough power to refine us, the hurt will give way to healing” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  TerKeurst also states to “not let [rejection] destroy [us but to] use it in good ways to make [us] stronger” (Uninvited).  We need to use it to empower us to become better.  “Don’t let today’s reaction become tomorrow’s regret” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  What this statement is saying is do not allow your emotions to get in the way of wisdom.

Our past rejections do not have to define our future.  It is our choice to change rejection for the good.  Maybe God wanted you to take another path than the one you prayed about.  Maybe God allowed you to experience a hurtful situation so you could understand compassion towards others.  “The enemy loves to take our rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God really doesn’t have a good plan for us” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  Do not believe that lie, because “God is always at work” in our lives.  “He is a present, loving Father, aware of our deepest hurts and even our deeper needs” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).

Even if you don’t hear His voice, He is there!
Even though you don’t feel His touch, He is there!
Even if you lost your faith, He is there!

APPLICATION

Yes, rejection hurts, but we can overcome it through Jesus Christ.  We are all overcomers through Him.  We do not have to live in defeat by our own insecurities.  Rejection is only a temporary setback to make us stronger.  Our past hurts and failures do not have to hinder our future.  We get up, dust ourselves off, and walk towards Jesus.  Jesus is our Healer and our Comforter.  He is the One who guides us towards our future with confidence and self-worth.

I encourage all of us to remove the labels in our lives and let God redefine who we are through His promises and love.  We live in victory when we live for Christ!  Our success comes from Him.  It does not come from our past.  It does not come from the devil.  It only comes from God.

Women’s Insecurities – Week Two

Last week we talked about being honest with ourselves, and how we are created in God’s image.  We broke down four common women’s insecurities, and I showed you all a few steps on how to be honest with yourself and with God.  This week I will dive deeper into self-rejection, and how it can destroy your life.

Rejection is defined as “the act of not accepting, believing, or considering something” or “the state of being rejected” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rejection).  Rejection can be described as an abandonment, a dismissal, or a brush off.  Rejection comes in many forms.  We can have such a low self-esteem that we put ourselves down due to our insecurities.  Self-rejection will destroy us.  It “paves the landing strip for the rejection of others to arrive and pull on up to the gates of our hearts” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  Our low self-esteem may prompt others to convey what we believe about ourselves.  We are opening the flood gates for rejection by our own insecurities.

Another way we can allow rejection into our lives is to let the harsh words and actions of others dictate how we feel about ourselves.  The lie becomes truth when we are already vulnerable to the negativity.  The truth is, “rejection steals the best of who [we are] by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said about [us]” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  We are all guilty of being rejected as well as rejecting others.  We have been a victim to rejection as well as giving out rejection.  We are not innocent here, by no means.  Jealousy and comparing ourselves to others allows room to judge people harshly.  Insecurities bring out the worst in us when we try to better ourselves by putting others down.  As women, we have to stop being so critical of each other and start lifting each other up with encouraging words.

The key problem is that we have a broken identity.  We allow the world, others, and ourselves to tell us who we are rather than allow God to dictate who we are.  “You can’t expect stability from a broken identity” (Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst).  We have to get to the root of the problem to find stability in our lives.  The core fears of rejection are abandonment and loss of identity.  We must write down all our insecurities and work them out one-by-one with God.  And, then and only then, we will see our identity as God sees us.  We are all yearning for something that will keep us stable and anchored.  The world’s view and what other’s say about us does not keep us anchored.  Only God can keep us anchored because He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Here are five simple steps to push past your insecurities and rejections to start living a life with less negativity and with more Godly thinking:

  1. Acknowledge the problem areas and weaknesses and write them down
  2. Pray over one problem area at a time
  3. Begin to write and say prayers daily that are the opposite of how you feel (positive prayers)
  4. Continue the prayers until you believe God’s truth about yourself
  5. Repeat the process for the next problem area

When we stop rejecting ourselves by our insecurities and what people say about us, we give the control back to God.  We allow Him to work in our lives to change our mindsets from negative thoughts to positive thinking.  When we say we are not smart enough or talented enough, we are putting down God’s creation.  God created us in His perfection so let’s start living a life with confidence of who we are.

APPLICATION

Is God good?  YES!
Is God good to me?  YES!
Do I trust God to be God?  YES!
(Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst)

If you can answer these questions with a bold “YES“, then give God control over your emotions and your thoughts.  I encourage you to allow Him to transform your life so you can be whole in Christ.  I will say this again, “rejection will destroy your life.”  Rejection will keep you in the past.  Rejection will never let you move past the hurt and disappointments.  A life filled with rejection promises no hope but only a mentality of “I will never be good enough to _________________________.”  You fill in the blank of what area of your life you feel rejected.  This is no way to live.  A life without hope is not worth living.  It is a life that will always bring you down and tell you you have no worth. Let God tell you who you are and stop listening to the negativity around you.

New Beginnings

In the last few months, I have talked about change, and how important it is not to resist it.  When we allow God to make changes in our lives, we begin to see things in a new perspective.  God is giving us a fresh start in life.  Change leads to new beginnings.  New beginnings give us hope for the future.  It allows us to move forward from our past to live in the present.

In the Bible, God transformed many lives and orchestrated many events that led to new beginnings.  In the book of Genesis, God allowed a flood to cover the whole earth to remove sin and give humanity a second chance to live righteous.  In the book of Job, God allowed satan to remove blessings out of Job’s life to test his faith in God.  After Job proved his loyalty to God and crushed the devil’s schemes, God blessed him abundantly for his faithfulness.  In the New Testament, God gave Saul a second chance by transforming his life.  Saul turned from being a murderer to a devoted Christian who evangelized  wherever he went.  God gave Him a new name, Paul, to give him a new start in life.

The Bible is filled with God’s promises for new beginnings.  When we become a Christ follower, we are a new creation.  Second Corinthians 5: 17 declares “ that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  God promises to give us new life through Him.  Isaiah 43:18-19, He promises to do something new for you and me: “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.   For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!   Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” 

The Bible also promises us a fresh start every morning.  Yesterday is gone, and today is a new day.  Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “the faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.”  We may struggle letting go of our yesterday to live for today, but God tells us we are new every morning through His mercy.

Revelation 21:4 gives us comfort to know that God wipes away our every tear.  He sits on the throne and declares, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5).  Let me repeat that: God is making everything new!  In the same verse, He tells us His word is “trustworthy and true.”  How incredible!  God does not only tell us His promises for our lives, but He can be trusted to follow through with His promises.

REFLECTION:
Do you need a fresh start in life?  Do you need to let go of the past to live for today?  Do you need to make changes in your life to have a new beginning?  I encourage you to pray to be renewed in Christ every morning!  God’s promises stay true each and every day!

 

Hidden Flaws Exposed

Today, I am going to be transparent.  It is difficult being honest with ourselves and others, because it brings out our imperfections.  Our insecurities and fears are exposed to those around us and then shame sets in because people see us as imperfect beings.  What we hid for so long is now reminding us we are not good enough.  We are not perfect anymore.

We are sometimes mocked for being ourselves, because it is not what people expected.  That is one reason why I continue being someone who everybody will accept.  I do not allow people to see my flaws, because I used to believe the imperfections made me ugly.  I’m realizing I need to be myself and stop being what everyone else wants me to be.

Yes, I am person who deals with envy, hurt, relationship issues, fear, etc.  I am not perfect.  I am an imperfect being who needs Jesus every day to work on my flaws and to give me hope.

Life can be unfair and cruel, and our emotions can get the best of us.  It is so easy to become depressed and blame everyone else for our faults.  We can shut down and not allow anyone into our lives.  It is a choice!

This week I have wanted to walk away from everything and find a place of solitude.  I wanted to stop talking to everyone and shut off the world.  One of my fears is to always be alone, and I realize that I could make this happen without even trying.  God reminded me through the tears and heartache, I was not made to be alone.  He created me to make a difference to those around me.  He gave me the gift to encourage through my words and actions.  God does not want me invisible anymore.  He wants me to get out of the boat and trust Him to walk on water toward Him.  The real question is, can I fully trust God with my life right now?!

Is God exposing your hidden flaws?  Are you allowing Him to get you through this difficult time of finding yourself in the midst of all the rubble and confusion?  The only way to get through anything is with God!

The Marathon Runner

A life with Christ is a journey full of twists and turns that is exhilarating and full of surprises. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a journey is “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another.” Our walk with Christ is much like a marathon runner.  A runner has to train vigorously to build endurance for the race.  We prepare our journey with God as we make strides towards knowing Him on a deeper level.

Along the journey, we may encounter setbacks. In those moments, we have to step back and assess the situation.  We have to learn how to work through it before moving forward.  This is what I call a bump in the road.  The “bump in the road” is our struggles and challenges we face during our journey.  God never promised it would be easy, but He did promise He would be with us through the difficult times.  The Bible states for us to “be strong and courageous” and that God “never leave[s] [us] nor forsake [us]” (Deuteronomy 31:6). This Scripture brings comfort in knowing that God is always with us.

Picture yourself at the starting line of a race pumped with excitement and anticipation. You are stretching and bouncing side-to-side, impatiently waiting for the race to begin.  The months of training prepared you mentally and physically.  You make goals to finish the race in a certain amount of time, and you strive to achieve them.  A runner may not foresee obstacles during his journey.  The weather conditions may not be what he or she expected.  Rain or other harsh conditions may slow him or her down, and it takes longer to reach the finish line.

We face many obstacles. No matter how long God prepared us for the journey, we still have conflict.  Satan is real, and He will, with his best efforts, try to make you feel defeated.  He does not want you to succeed, but God does.  It is in the journey that you find strength in Christ to move forward.  It is in journey that you find out who you are through Christ.

Joyce Meyer says “we need to enjoy the journey and not be so focused on our destination that we miss everything else.” Sometimes the journey takes longer than we expect due to complications or waiting for answers.  Just like life goals, getting to know God on a higher level will take preparation, patience, and dedication to reach new levels with Him.  As Christians, God has expectations for us to meet, and, by conquering them, we learn to trust and know Him on a deeper level.

Living Boldly For Christ

Today, God is saying to everyone who follows Him, “Live boldly in His Name!  Do not be ashamed of Me!  I have given you gifts and talents to use for My glory.  I am asking you to be transparent and live fully for Me!”

The past few months, God has allowed change in my life.  He removed people from my life to remind me to look at Him more rather than man for answers.  He has shown me I have been hiding in my faith rather than live boldly for Him.  God has told me to be transparent and use my talents for His glory.  I have a fresh start with God in a new church and have many great opportunities to serve Him through the church.  I may not have seen it in the beginning, but God has blessed me with change.  It has not been easy, but it is worth it.

Starting today, I stand strong in my faith and trust God through this journey. I am believing for God to lead me into the unknown with overwhelming peace!

What is your declaration today for the Lord?  What is God asking you to do to be bolder in Him?