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!

Life…Disappointment…Hope

Life…
It’s exhausting at times
It’s hard at times
It’s lonely at times

Disappointment…
Tells you it’s not worth getting back up
All hope is lost
Convinces you to not even try again

Hope…
Renews your mind
Gives you the courage to stand strong even when you are tired
Reminds you that you are stronger than you appear

My life has been a roller coaster in the last ten years.  There has been much heartache and hurt.  I have been hopping to one church to another to only find more hurt and rejection.  Since December I have been in three different churches to only have the same results.   I started to question my faith, and what I believed.  Last Sunday I was singing a song about God’s goodness, and I wondered if I believed the words that I was singing.  I was so discouraged and tired that I wanted to quit church completely.  I left in tears wondering if church was even for me.  I told myself that, “I was a Christian, and I am supposed to be in church.”

In that moment, I realized I was going to church because that is what you do as a Christian.  I was going out of duty  and not out of passion for God.  I decided to re-evaluate my heart and to see whether or not my faith was wavering.  I found that yes I was tired to church, but my faith was strong in the Lord.  I have just attend churches that was not allowing God to lead.  I was seeking the wrong kind of churches.  And, deep inside, I did not want to quit church, because I was defeated.  I felt more alone than ever and church is about fellowship and God’s love.

Life was never meant to do alone.  So…I looked searched online for churches in my area.  I came across one that really drew me in, and I attended this Sunday.  Not only do I have a Women’s Bible Study to attend on Wednesday, I have two coffee meetings in the next few weeks with some women I met at the church.  I felt like I belonged and that I was welcome.  No one pushed me to do anything I did not want to do.  I felt home for the first time in a decade.  My disappointment turned into hope.  My loneliness turned into meeting other Christian women who understood my hurt.  Yes, I am tired, but I am strong.   The devil wants to keep kicking me to the ground in defeat, but the Lord wants me to stay strong in Him.  As long as I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, I will have the strength to find hope again in church.  Not because I am supposed to attend church every week, but because I want to attend church and worship God with other Christians.  I want to attend church, because my heart longs for fellowship with other believers.  My flesh may be weak, but Spiritually I am strong.

Life happens, but it does not mean you have to live in defeat.  Get up, Dust yourself off, and Stand strong.  Hope for what’s to come!

 

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!

“Beautifully Broken”

Recently, I started reading a book called, “The End of Me” written by Kyle Idleman.  So far, it has been an incredible book about the beauty of being broken in the presence of God.  Jesus becomes real in our lives when we are broken for Him.  It is when we come to the end of ourselves that God shows up to pick up the pieces of our lives to put them back together one-by-one.  In Luke 9:24, it states that “whoever loses life will find it.”

In this book, the author portrays a beautiful picture of what brokenness really looks like.  In Luke 7, Jesus is having dinner with a religious leader, Simon.  Simon has disregarded all tradition by not greeting Jesus with a kiss on the hand, washing his feet, and anointing his head with oil.  Simon is rich and the people feared him so he intentionally did not honor Jesus as his guest in his home.  Simon wanted to be the master of his home, not Jesus.  At one point in the middle of dinner, a sinful woman enters Simon’s home uninvited.  She heard through the crowds Jesus was in town and was having dinner with Simon and other religious leaders.  While everyone else looked at her with judgment, Jesus looked at her with unconditional love.  She did not focus on the disgruntled faces around her and allowed Jesus’ love to overwhelm her.  You see, Jesus saw “her as beautifully broken” while the others saw her as tainted and untouchable (“The End of Me”).

The woman kept her eyes focused on Jesus and knelt at Jesus’ feet.   She began to weep uncontrollably and, with her tears, she cleaned His feet.  She let down her hair and dried His feet.  She then took an entire bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet.  In this moment, “she offers all that she has, because He has changed all that she is” (“The End of Me”).  A prostitute, known for our profession, “has become a living embodiment of cleansing” (“The End of Me”).  Jesus tells her that her sins are forgiven (Luke 7:48).  Her brokenness is recognized, and she is made whole again.  What an incredible imagery of being made whole in Christ in just one moment.

“Brokenness often overflows with hidden beauty.  It is redemptive by design” (author unknown).  The moment Jesus forgave the woman from all her sins, it was redemption.  She was not ashamed of her past; she boldly walked into a religious leader’s home to have a moment with Jesus.  This Biblical story reminds us to never be ashamed to bear our scars in the church or around our family and friends.  Our past tells a story of redemption–of who we were and who we are today.

If you look closer in the story of Luke 7, we see that Simon is carrying around brokenness as well.  He is so arrogant about his status that he refused to greet his guests with traditions.  He does not respect who Jesus is and only invited Jesus to dinner out of obligation.  Instead of receiving a blessing from Jesus, he received a rebuke from Him.  The sinful woman knew that she was broken and needed Jesus’ forgiveness, but Simon, on the other hand, did not recognize his brokenness.

Romans 3:23 states that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The truth is, we are all broken people who need Jesus.  We can complete this sentence: “We are the people who _________________________________________” (“The End of Me”).  Who have debt, ignored the hurting, looked down on others, etc.  We are the kind of people who wants to avoid being honest with ourselves.  “Most of us have some conception, in our heart to hearts, that a lot of the pieces never seem to be mended.  But we will go to great lengths to avoid the full, honest embrace of our condition” (“The End of Me”).  “The only solution for being broken is brokenness.  Brokenness is the way to wholeness.” (“The End of Me”).

APPLICATION

When was the last time you recognized your brokenness and knelt at Jesus’ feet overwhelmed by His love for you?  Are you avoiding the brokenness that keeps on pulling you down and telling you lies about yourself?  It’s time to bear your scars and be real with God and others about your past or present life.  It’s time for you to be whole again through Christ.

PRAYER

“God, take my broken pieces and remold them into what seems best for you” (“The End of Me”).  Lord, help me to be vulnerable and bear my scars so I can be mended and whole again.  In Your Name, Amen!

Singleness Is Not A Curse

ENCOURAGEMENT

This week God has put on my heart to encourages those in their mid-20’s and 30’s, who are single, to not give up or be discouraged.  While you are single, it is important to remember that it does not make you incomplete as a person.  It is not a label placed on you by others. It is not something to be ashamed of.  Singleness means you are strong enough to stand on your own and be confident in who you are.

Singleness does NOT mean you are not pretty enough, smart enough, or skinny enough to date, be engaged, or married.  Your worth comes from God. He gives you the courage to patiently wait for your godly man. I encourage you to marry someone who loves God more than he loves you. The wait will be worth it, no matter your age.

PERSONAL STORY

I am about 35 years of age and never been married.  Most relationships I have left me heartbroken and worthless.  I have been engaged twice and, before the wedding day, the relationship fell apart.  I have been told by many that being a Christian does not mean you have to marry a Christian.  Out of desperation, I have tried to date non-Christians and ended up not working out because of different beliefs.  I struggle with commitment in relationships.  I struggle with finding an authentic Christian guy who loves God more than me.  I have dated Christian men who just follow what I do, and he never becomes the Christian leader that he needs to be.

I have always had an insecurity that I was not good enough or pretty enough to find a guy who will love me for who I am.  I have been told while in engagement, “Why am I even marrying you?!”  I have had guys tell me, “Why can’t you be who I want you to be” or “I’m not worth the wait”.  Those words that were spoken over me hurt me deeply and have cursed any relationship that was good in my life.

There came a time when I realized those words have no meaning in my life.  The only words I need to hear are from my heavenly Father.  He knows my true identity.  He knows who I will marry.  And, one day, broken and alone, I put my trust in God and never looked back.  My life is whole in Christ.  I do not need a man to tell me how beautiful I am, or how smart I am to feel complete.  God speaks those words over me every day.  I am content being single until the right Christian guy comes my way!

POEM

While I was organizing my desk at home a few weeks ago, I found a poem that encouraged me, and would like to share it with you.  It is called, “On His Plan For Your Mate”.  If you need to find contentment today, find contentment with God.  He knows the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).  I encourage you to walk in His promises and trust in God’s timing.

ON HIS PLAN FOR YOUR MATE

Everyone longs to give himself or herself completely to someone.
To have a deep and soul relationship with another, to be loved
thoroughly and exclusively.  But God says to the Christian – no,
not until you are satisfied, fulfilled, and content with being loved
by Me alone.  I love you, My Child, and until you discover that
only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, you will not be
capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for
you.  You can never be united with another until you are united
with me – exclusive of anyone or anything else, exclusive of any
other desires and longings.  I want you to stop planning, stop
wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan
existing – one that you cannot even imagine.  I want you to have
the best.  Please allow Me to bring it to you – just keep watching
Me, expecting the greatest thing – keep experiencing that
satisfaction of knowing of knowing that I am.  Keep learning
and listening to the things I tell you…you must wait.

Don’t be anxious.  Don’t worry.  Don’t look around at the things
others have, or things that I have given them.  Don’t look at the
things you think you want, just keep looking at Me, or you will
miss what I want to show you.  And, then when you are ready,
I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than anyone
could ever dream.  I am working, even this very minute, to have
both you and the one I have for you, ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me, and the life
I have prepared for you will not be able to experience the love
that exemplifies your relationship with Me…
and this is perfect love.

And, dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love;
I want you to see in Me, in the flesh, a picture of your relationship
with Me.  To enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting
union of beauty, perfection, and love that I offer you with
Myself.  Know that I love you utterly.
Believe and be satisfied.
I am God Almighty.

Below is a link to the poem, if you would like a printable version:
Poem for Single Christians

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 – “Thy Will Be Done”

The story of the cross (Luke 23:32-38) is the most powerful and heart-wrenching story you will ever read in the Bible.  It symbolizes sacrifice, love, mercy, and forgiveness.  The cross is a simple message of God’s unconditional love for us, but, yet, so complex in the ultimate sacrifice God made for us.  Jesus died so that we could have a relationship with His Father.  He was beaten beyond recognition, mocked, spit on, whipped, and nailed to the cross for our transgressions.  This story should never go unnoticed, because it proves God’s love will always overshadow death.  Jesus did not die in vain but with honor.

Hillary Scott, a Christian artist, wrote a song called, “Thy Will Be Done”.  The artist wrote the song out of desperation.  Scott’s husband and her was expecting their second child and suffered a miscarriage.  Through their loss and pain she wrote this song as a reminder of who God is even in the most heartbreaking moments in her family’s life.  This song references at Scripture in the Bible when Jesus asked His Father to take this cup from Him, but Jesus went further to say, “yet not as I will, but as You will”. (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42).  Jesus prayed “in anguish” in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to remove His heavy burden, which was dying on the cross.  “He prayed more earnestly [that] His sweat was like drops of blood falling on to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Jesus surrendered to His Father and declared, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).  In the song referenced above, the chorus is written as a prayer, just like Jesus, Scott was desperate for God to take this cup from her.  She was “like a child on [her] knees” crying out “thy will be done” (Matthew 18:3; Psalm 143:10; John 1:13, 5:30, 6:38).  In this moment, the artist was out of words to say.  She exhausted her energy from the agony she was feeling and says, “‘all that comes to me’ Lord, I need you!”

Through tears and hurt, Scott realized that God’s ways are higher than her’s (Isaiah 55:8), and she surrenders to Him even when she cannot “count it all joy” (James 1:2).  She no longer wanted to seek understanding, but to find peace in the midst of life’s storms.  She found the strength to get on her knees and pray “thy will be done”.  Scott begins to declare that God sees her (Jeremiah 12:3; Psalm 139:1) where she is at and hears her prayers (Psalm 17:6, 30:10, 86:1).  She sees that God has a plan for her (Jeremiah 29:11) and goodness will come from this tragedy (Psalm 31:19).

APPLICATION

Sometimes all we have left is a broken heart with no answers to “why” it happened, but this song encourages us to stay strong in our faith.  This song tells us to get on our knees and pray to God with desperation.  Just like this song says, God has a plan for all of us and it is a good plan.  We have to trust God to get us through the rough times to see what is in store for our future.  So the next time you find yourself in a hopeless situation, I encourage you to get on your knees and surrender to God’s will.

PRAYER

God, I know You see me, and I know You hear my prayers.  I come to you today crying out Your Name.  If it is Your will then help me stay strong in the midst life’s storms.  God, help me find peace in my circumstances.  I know that You are good and only have the best for my life.

OTHER REFERENCES TO LOOK UP

  • “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave
  • “Love Has Won” by Natalie Grant
  • “Nothing But The Blood” by Casting Crowns
  • “Crimson” by Nichole Nordeman
  • “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” by Chris Tomlin
  • “Carry Me To The Cross” by Kutless
  • “This Is Love” by Kutless

 

The Prodigal Son

The story of the prodigal son, in the book of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11 through 32, is full of redemption and grace. In this story, the son spent all of his father’s inheritance and was living in a pig sty for survival. It took courage for the prodigal son to return to his father’s house. He felt shame and regret for his actions. This is not your typical story of a father disappointed in his son; this is a story of unconditional love.

Jesus is telling a parable to a crowd of people about a prodigal son who left his home for what he thought would be a better life. The story begins in Luke 15, verses 11 through 16, where the son asks for his inheritance. In verse 12, it states that “the father divided the property between them.” The son left his father’s home and went to the country. In verse 14, it says that he spent all his father’s money and lacked food and water with no shelter. He spent all his inheritance and had no other options but to return home. In verse 17, it sums up how we all feel when we make a mistake and do not know how to make it right. It says “when he [the prodigal son] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Imagine what this prodigal son was going through as he dreadfully walks back home. His head toward to the ground, kicking the dirt underneath his feet, feeling defeated and angry with himself. He must have felt fear of being shunned by his family. He was struggling on how to forgive himself for his selfish actions and did not know if his family would forgive him as well. As he continues walking home, he is preparing a speech for his father to accept him back into the family. Let us pause for a moment and think about how we handle situations in our lives. We are much like the prodigal son. We worry and fret over our mistakes and how our actions have hurt others. We even memorize long speeches about how sorry we are for hurting them and pray that we are forgiven. We make ourselves miserable, just like the prodigal son, and worry before we even know how the other person feels about us.

The next part of the story is not something you can predict. As we continue reading, we are expecting the father to have a grudge and be hurt by his son’s actions and betrayal. This part of the story cannot be explained by words but by emotion. Instead of being rejected by his father, the prodigal son received love and acceptance. In verses 20 through 21, the prodigal son was approaching his father’s home and “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The son filled with shame and regret, is now ready to convince his father that he is not worthy to be in his father’s home.

The prodigal son did not need a speech to be accepted. The father was overjoyed to see him alive and well. The father was not concerned about his son’s actions.  Instead of expressing his hurt towards his son, he showed him grace and unconditional love. In fact, the father celebrated his return. In verses 22 through 24, “the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.   For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

How many times have we hung our head in shame asking God to forgive us for our sins and betrayal? I know, personally, I have been in a place where I did not think God loved me anymore because of my actions and I was afraid to approach Him fearing I would be rejected. This parable is a perfect example of our heavenly Father. He embraces us and accepts us back into His arms. He did not only forgive us for what we have done, but, in addition, He celebrates our return. The All-Knowing God loves us unconditionally. He gives us grace and mercy when we do not deserve it!

In the book of Luke, it says that the father treated his son like royalty with the best robe and a ring. A ring signifies a covenant which means it is sacred. The love that God has for us is deeper, wider, and farther than we could ever imagine. When God places the ring on our finger, it is a covenant with Him. It symbolizes a relationship with God. The robe stands for worthiness and righteousness. We are all worthy of God’s love. As stated in Scripture, we are given the best robe which means God gives us His best for our lives.

Have you walked away from God?
Are you frustrated or angry with Him?
Have you ever had a relationship with God?
Are you seeking something more than you have ever experienced before?

If you have walked away from God or just have doubts of who He is in your life, I encourage you to seek Him and take the journey of faith. Just like the prodigal son, he walked the journey back home to find that his father embraced him rather than condemned him. The heavenly Father will do the same for you. He is just waiting for you to come home to where you belong.

If you have never had a relationship with God, I encourage you, as you continue this journey to know Him, that you will find His hope and love for your life.

Application:

I encourage you to find a quiet place alone to pray and write down your thoughts on being a Christian. What does Christianity mean to you? What are some ways you plan to build your faith and have a closer relationship with Christ?

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.