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.

 

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!

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!

I Declare…

A good friend of mine bought me a bracelet a few weeks ago that had the words, I DECLARE, in big bold letters.  In smaller letters the words around the bracelet says:

PEACE
OVERFLOW
HEALING
STRENGTH
JOY
WISDOM
FAVOR
VICTORY
NEW BEGINNINGS
FREEDOM
CONFIDENCE
BLESSING
LEGACY

My friend gave me this bracelet when I needed it the most.  I felt defeated, frustrated, and confused.  I could not see God in my situation.  This bracelet reminded me that God is not in the confusion but in the promises.  He wants us to stand strong against opposition.  He wants us to crush the enemy and stay strong in our faith.

What do you need to declare today?
Do you need to declare peace over your life?
Do you need to believe in God’s healing emotionally and physically?
Do you need confidence to take another step forward with Christ?
Do you need to seek freedom in areas that imprison you?
Do you need to declare God’s victory over your life?
I repeat: What do you need to declare today?

In that moment, I needed to declare that I am not defeated, and I am not alone in my journey.  I declared who Jesus was in my life.  I declared that God is my healer.  I declared that God is the only one that can take me out of bondage and give me favor, blessings, and freedom through Him.

You see, words have power!  Words can conquer anything as long as you believe that they are true!  Do you believe what you say?  Do you have faith that God can do the impossible?  Do you believe…

We are not defeated.
We are not broken.
We are victors in Christ!
We are made whole in Christ!
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT TODAY!!!

Unleash Your Full Potential – Part Three

HURRICANE WINDS

There is a song written by John Mark McMillan called, “How He Loves.” In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful songs ever written. My favorite verse in this song is:

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

McMillan referenced John 15 in this song and beautifully wrote about God’s love for us. His love is so powerful it feels like a hurricane. His mercy is greater than we could ever imagine. He will cut the dead branches from our lives and prune us to help us grow stronger and be more fruitful. We may feel the winds bending us and stretching us to continue our growth in Christ.

We need to be able to handle the weight of this world as we follow after Christ whole-heartedly. We need to bear fruit and show others who Christ is through us. Matthew 5:16 says, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Do you have a strong foundation to stand on when life’s storms come your way?
Is your life glorifying God?
Are you producing fruit that others see?

God wants to unleash the potential in you to do great things for His Kingdom. He wants to bless you abundantly and lavish His love on you every moment of every day. He wants to spend time with you and hear your voice calling out His name.

Unleash Your Full Potential – Part Two

THE TWO APPLE TREES

Here is another way to understand the Scripture, John 15, verses one through eight. Imagine yourself standing in front of two apple trees. One tree is prospering, strong and full of growth. The other tree has no growth and lifeless.

Let us start at the beginning. A fruit tree starts out as a seed and is planted in the ground. It grows roots to withstand weight of the fruit and nature’s extreme weather. In time, the tree will bear fruit. As the tree matures and strengthens, it will multiply its harvest.

A fruit tree will grow strong and bear fruit if the caretaker waters it daily and cuts off the bad fruit so it continues to prosper. The tree must be well taken care of throughout its lifetime to see its full potential. If the tree is not well taken care of, it will be weak and not prosper.

Our lives are much like the fruit trees described above. We need the love and care from our heavenly Father to prosper us and to reach our full potential. We must have a strong foundation in our faith to remain standing when life is unbearable.

Unleash Your Full Potential – Part One

JOHN 15

In the Book of John, chapter 15, Jesus metaphorically compares a vine and its branches to spiritual growth. The picture describes how Jesus explained this parable to the disciples.

In verses 1 through 4, Jesus says, “’I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.’”

In the Scripture above, we see the imagery of Jesus as the vine and God as the gardener. The vine “is the source and sustenance of life for the branches, and the branches must abide in the vine to live and bear fruit” (John MacArthur, “The Vine and the Branches”). Jesus sustains us and gives us life. God helps us grow to our full potential by nurturing and pruning us. Each one has a different role in our lives.

As we continue to read in John 15, Jesus says, “’I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples’” (verses 5-8).

The picture above is a great visual of what Jesus is talking about and gives us a better understanding of this parable. According to verse 5, we are the branches, and Jesus is the vine. We already know that He is our life source. We depend on Jesus to support us as we grow and mature spiritually with Him.

Jesus explains that as long as we remain in Him we will bear fruit in our lives. We will mature in Christ and not be separated from His presence. If we are apart from Jesus, God will cut and remove the bad fruit from our lives. In Matthew 3:8 says to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” We must repent from our sinful ways to reproduce good fruit and prosper. Colossians 3:23 says, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (Psalm 128:2).