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Concurrence Not Needed

I am not sure how familiar you are with the Matrix movie series, but the basic synopsis is the main city, Zion, is set to be destroyed unless a savior (Neo) rescues them. Not all believe that this savior exists or that the guy everyone thinks is the savior truly is.  However, there are those who are fully persuaded that he does exist in the embodiment of Neo and will save Zion. Below is an exchange between Commander Lock and Morpheus, two of the main characters in the series.

Lock: Morpheus! Not everyone believes as you believe!

Morpheus: My beliefs do not require them to.

 

So, I have some questions. Does your belief in God require someone else to believe?  Does your belief require someone else’s approval before it can be valid?

Don’t get me wrong, we should ALL share the gospel and message of Jesus and make sure people understand and get the opportunity to get to know Him.  If said person questions you or your belief, or chooses not to believe, that is not on you, but on them.  People will doubt or question you, but that shouldn’t diminish your belief in the One Who Saves. Sometimes we inadvertently let the opinions of those closest to us, who may not have a relationship with God to influence how strong our belief is.  It may be due to us trying to make the other person feel comfortable.  We want to try to fit in with the vibe of our little groups. We don’t want to seem pushy (and you don’t have to be). We don’t want to come across as “bible thumpers”.  If there was anything you were EVER going to peddle, why not let it be the Word of God? You don’t have to “sell” the Word or force it, IT speaks for itself because IT IS ALIVE. 

Let me let you in on something: God is still God whether you or anyone else believes.  You are the very evidence He exists.  You were created in His image, to do His will in the earth and to glorify Him.  His mercies are new each day with the rising of the sun.  He blesses me when I am frustrated and don’t understand how He is working. He blesses me even when I doubt.  He gave His life to save me knowing full well that there may be a possibility that I might not love Him back.  That’s commitment and true love.  If you pay attention even to the smallest of things that occur during your day, you will see Him there. We need only look.

Not everyone believes as I do, but my belief doesn’t require them to.

My faith doesn’t need anyone’s approval, concurrence or validation besides that of the One who set His love on me when He gave His life on The Cross.

Everything and Nothing Less 

My best. My all. If you want to go to a new level, you’re going to have to give your all. You’re going to have to give your best. If you want to grow in God, you’re going to have to give up everything to get something greater. You’re going to have to give yourself up and fill yourself with Him. You can’t just give up SOME things, but EVERY thing. Everything and Nothing Less. 

Why?

Because someone gave everything for you. 

His best. His all.

To bring in many sons and daughters He gave His life. He couldn’t just take over an earthly kingdom or government. He came to change our way of life and save souls. He had to pay the ultimate price.

He gave everything, anything less wouldn’t work.

Keep Your Lamps Burning

We have heard the story of the ten virgins.  Five were wise and brought extra oil with them just in case the groom took a while to arrive.  The five foolish ones didn’t bring any extra oil and in time their lamps burned out. No one knew the hour in which the groom would arrive but everyone was expected to be prepared, no matter how long it took.

This story is often used as an example of how we should always be prepared for Christ’s return, but I want to put a different spin on it.

The same thing happens with us. We as human beings are constantly battling something, whether it be in the earthly realm or the spiritual one.  There is usually always something going on and there are times we feel like we are going from one battle to the next. If the oil in your lamp, or your bodily/spiritual strength, only consists of you, you will burn out.  However, if the oil in your lamp consists of the Holy Spirit, the oil is continual.  It never runs out.  The battle isn’t yours to fight anyway, not by yourself.  You aren’t built to take it on by yourself, but God is.   The problem is we often feel like we have to prove something to God, we have to prove that we can handle it on our own to show ourselves worthy.  He already thinks we are worthy.  That is why He died for us. If we could just see ourselves the way that He sees us, our faith would increase.  If our faith increases, then our confidence increases.  With increased confidence, we are more able to step out on faith and let Him handle it.  When we step out, He meets us right where we are. 

It’s good to want to keep going, to keep burning.  Just make sure your lamp is filled with the right thing.

Good vs. Better: Martha and Mary

Jesus had come into town and paid visit to Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. We all know the story. As Jesus sat and taught to those in the house, Martha was in the kitchen keeping busy with cleaning and making sure everyone had what they needed.  Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.  Martha got upset and asked Jesus to tell her sister Mary to help her. Jesus’s response to her was that while she was worried about so many other things, only one thing was necessary and that was His teaching.  Mary had made the right choice and she didn’t need to change.  Although Martha wasn’t necessarily wrong, Mary’s choice was better.

When you take a closer look:

  1. Martha opened her home, but Mary opened her heart. Although Lazarus was the head of the house and Mary was the depth of the house, Martha was the one who opened her home to Jesus. The “hands” of the house invited Him in. Her hospitality drew Him there. Yet He wanted her heart more than her home.
  2. Distraction is the noble person’s biggest hindrance to listening. Martha wasn’t ignoring Jesus, but she was distracted by all the other things that she felt like she needed to do.
  3. Martha forgot to keep the “pre” in preparation. The preparations Martha was making were important.  She made sure that Christ was served appropriately and probably served a sizable meal.  I am sure that made all the arrangements for His comfort.  However, she continued her duties even when the time came to sit at Christ’s feet and listen.
  4. Those distracted by service are often those who miss how much Jesus cares. If Martha had been asked directly, she would have answered in the affirmative that Jesus cared for her. However, she questioned Him because she was working all alone in the kitchen while her sister sat and did nothing (at least in her eyes). His love for us never changes, but our perception of His love can often change based on our circumstances and how we feel moment to moment. Luckily, He is that way with us. The determining factor in whether we sense His love, is our willingness to abide in Him, rather than our circumstances.
  5. Many things are important but only one thing is necessary. We are always trying to prioritize things in the correct order. However, there is only one thing that is absolutely necessary to our survival, and that is our relationship with Jesus.  No, we shouldn’t neglect our responsibility to family and friends and only focus on prayer and the Bible.  Many things are important, but only one thing is essential: Him.

You Shall Live

There are points in our lives where we question why we are even here.  Don’t act like it is only me.  I like to call to them, “midnight hours”.  I call them that, because it is always darkest before the dawn.  If you haven’t experienced one yet, you haven’t lived long enough. Give it time, one will come. These are the times “when all hell breaks loose”. When it does happen, it seems like we keep digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a hole that we can’t seem to find our way out of. We question why we keep trying when the circumstances seem so insurmountable.  We keep going through life, but it is just habit at this point.  We get up, go to work, try to make the best of it, and come back home. Yet there is no life in us.  Everything on the inside of us feels like it’s just dwindling away. We wake up every day wanting to quit, but there is something or someone that just won’t let us.

You can sit there and die if you want to or you can do whatever it takes to change your circumstances, even if that just means believing they can change. You were not created to live a life of just getting by.  You were not created to live depressed, condemned, ashamed, guilty, and certainly not defeated. There are a lot of hurting people walking around on the planet.  Whether they have been hurt by others or by their own choices is of no consequence, we are all fighting something. We have mastered putting on masks and showing other people what we want them to see. We smile on the outside even though there is turmoil brewing on the inside. There are plenty of days that I have wondered, what is the point?  What can I do to have more of an impact?  Do the things I do matter? What good are the words I write doing?  I often don’t see the impact and I usually don’t hear about it until much later.  Those moments when I feel low, I have to try to focus on what God’s purpose is for me.  I may not have it all narrowed down, but I know He doesn’t want me to live defeated, but victorious.  The question is always, “How do I get there”?

Live.

You shall live and not die.  No matter what you have been through, what you are currently going through, how much the odds are stacked against you, God commands you to live. He died so that you could live. You may feel hopeless, or confused by the things tearing you apart in your life.  Yet by faith, you shall live.

I have to remind myself of this a lot.  No matter the circumstance, we are going through our trials and tribulations for a purpose, although the purpose is not clearly evident (sometimes, it feels like just torture for sport).  God never puts anything on us that we can’t bear.  He created us and knows our limits, but He also knows that in order to gain any strength, we have to be stretched.  It’s just like working out in the gym: no pain, no gain.  You can’t make any new gains, until you stretch beyond your previous limit or comfort zone. He knows how much we can take, and when we can take it. You were given these trials because you were built to go through them.  It won’t always be comfortable and it may require you to come to the end of yourself, so you can be filled with more of Him, but you will be better for it. Don’t throw in the towel.  No matter how difficult things seem, you have to walk whatever path you are on for a reason. The knowledge you gain on this journey will be needed on future battles.  Your trials aren’t always about getting to the end of them or past them, sometimes it is just about going through them.  The children of Israel couldn’t go around the wilderness, they had to go through it. David couldn’t get around exile and isolation, he had to go through it. Job couldn’t get around, or be exempt from being tested, he had to go through it. Faith can’t be perfected without trials.  What would these people have become without their trials?

He has never forsaken you, and He won’t start today.

You shall live.

A Woman With Issues of Blood & Faith

There is an anonymous woman in the Bible who is often referred to as “The woman with the issue of blood”.  She had been hemorrhaging for twelve years with no relief in sight.  She had seen the best doctors and experts of her time and no one could help her.  Could you imagine how desperate she must have felt?  How worn out and anemic her body must have felt. Her condition made her unclean, unfit to come into the temple and worship.  Therefore, she couldn’t just throw herself at Jesus’ feet and make her complaint.  With the size of the crowd around Jesus, she knew that she could not find a way directly to Him.  Eager, yet humble; full of faith and yet meek, she had to find a way to get to Him.  She didn’t want to make a scene but she knew He could heal her.  If she could just touch Him in some small unnoticeable way, so she didn’t cause a fuss, she would be satisfied.  Yet her touch was anything but unnoticeable to Him.  Her touch to the hem of His garment, along with her intense faith required something of Him.  Her faith called unto Him and required Him to pour a piece of Himself out for her.  Deep called to deep:  Her deep faith and desperation called out to the deep and vast power within Him.  A touch of faith can’t be hidden from Him.

Here am I, also a woman with an issue of blood.  Those that know me well, know that I have dealt with uterine fibroids off and on for almost 10 years.  Well this year it came to a head. It was to the point where I would hemorrhage, although lightly, for up to 20 days.  Well that forced me into surgery to have the fibroid removed, only for the doctor to not be able to find it.   I have six and the one she was looking for, was no longer there.  So, the doctor figured I probably passed it, and I took it as me being made whole.  Well here I am almost two months out from surgery and the other fibroids that are left behind are flaring up again.  That means I am back to lightly hemorrhaging and since the previous episode I have become slightly anemic. I have to take iron on top of my other vitamins to keep it in check. My situation isn’t as extreme as this woman, yet I can painfully relate to her. It is something that makes me feel inferior and unclean. I also know that more than likely, I will never get to experience a little version of myself running around on the planet. It’s hard to give up that desire, but it’s something that I am faced with.  In a way that is the least of my worries. I just want to get back to functioning normally.

As I  head into the second half of this battle, l’m also willing to admit that I am a woman with an issue of faith. I believe that God can do all things and that He can do them well. However, I question if He will do those things for me. You see, it’s easier to believe that He will do it for someone else. I believe Him, but at times He has to help me with my unbelief. Do I have what it takes to completely let go and let Him handle it?  Well, I found out this weekend, that I am at the end of me.  He has to take over, there is no other choice.  He is the only one who can work it out and I have to have faith to trust Him with it.  That sounds crazy doesn’t it?  How do you not trust the creator of the universe with an issue that is relatively small in His eyes?  Yet, we are all guilty of it everyday.  We don’t feel like He is moving fast enough or in the direction that we would like, so we try to help Him out.  Somehow we feel like that if we keep worrying about it, if we keep our hands on it, we can help steer.  Here’s the thing, He was all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, and all feeling before we ever came to be.  He doesn’t need us, but we need Him.

God, so here I am, at the end of me. Work it out in whatever way You see fit.  Whether it involves a more permanent solution, or healing.  I’ve taken my hands off.  Guide me, give me peace, and help my unbelief.

Where Is Your Identity?

In a world of broken promises, delight yourself in the One that has never broken a promise. There are times when things don’t go as planned or we don’t get the desired result that we question whether what God has promised is really going to come to pass. Is He going to keep His word?
1. God cannot lie.

2. If you think He did, refer to rule number 1.
In order to receive you have to believe. So then the question becomes do you think God is not able and willing to hold up to His end of the promise or is it that you doubt God will do it for you personally? We’ll say, “He can do it for Tom or Sally but not for me.” Why not? How are they any better than you are? If you don’t think that God would do it for you then there must be an identity problem, not who He is, but who you are in Him.

In The Book of Mark there is a story about a leper who came to see Jesus to be healed. Speaking to Jesus he said IF you will, you can make me clean. Jesus being moved with compassion put forth his hand and touched him and said “I will; be clean.”

The leper knew that Jesus could heal him but the question was WOULD he heal him. He had his doubts just like we do right now. He was testing the waters, wanting to be healed. However wanting to be healed is not enough. The leper had an identity problem. He knew who Jesus was but he didn’t know he was in Jesus. However Jesus was moved with compassion because the leper meant something to him. Jesus saw him as precious and couldn’t wait to show him His mercy. First, Jesus had to remove the leper’s doubt, just like he has to remove our doubt. When Jesus said I WILL, be thou clean, he cancelled the leper’s “IF”. What’s it going to take to cancel your “IF”?

More Than Enough

Sometimes when we are going through things we want to pray to Jesus about it or try to, but too often we think, “This problem isn’t big enough for Jesus”, or “He’s got more pressing things to handle”. We so often miss our opportunity to have our desires granted because we don’t think our issue is worth the time.  Jesus is so intimately knowledgeable about you that He knows the number of hairs on your head. Why would He not care what your problems or desires are, whether big or small? Just because He is working on other issues, doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have time or the power to work on yours.

Look at the woman with the issue of blood. She had been bleeding for twelve years and nothing that she had done worked to alleviate it or the pain that she must have been in. Jesus came by where she was, but He was on another assignment. He was on his way to the house of Jairus, the leader of a local synagogue. Jairus’s daughter lay dying and there was no one else that he could think of to help his daughter. He was desperate for help, but what parent wouldn’t? Any parent with a sick child, or a child that is in danger, can’t focus on anything other than their child. Jesus is attracted to weakness. His work is perfected in weakness.

However, right in the middle of this story, a woman with the issue of blood shows up. There was a huge crowd when Jesus passed her way. She could see He was surrounded but she also knew if anyone could heal her, He could. She had tried everything from doctors to other remedies and nothing helped. Yet she heard about Jesus and she had faith that if she could be healed, He could do it. Realizing that she couldn’t get to Him, she became fully convinced that if she could just touch the hem of his cloak that she could be made whole. So, she did what anyone desperate for healing would do, she pressed forward as hard as she could so that she could touch the hem. When she did, Jesus turned and asked who touched Him. Think about that, He is surrounded and is almost being crushed by the crowd around Him. How could he possibly discern the difference between the crowd swirling around Him and the touch of this one woman? Her touch required something. Her faith drew upon His virtue. He could feel the power leave His body.

Here’s the thing, He had enough power to heal this woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years (a miracle He wasn’t anticipating performing), but He also still had enough power to continue to Jairus’s house and raise his daughter from the dead. His power supply is limitless. He’s not the Wizard of Oz with a limited number of wishes to grant. His power and mercy are infinite. He can take you much farther than Kansas.

The question is would you dare to believe that He is completely able to do it? If He doesn’t grant you what you ask, it is isn’t because He can’t do it. It is usually because He wants to release an all-surpassing power and reveal an even greater glory through another answer. Will we laugh at the thought like the foolish mourners outside Jairus’s house? Or will we be invited into the house to behold a miracle?

The 23rd Psalm Without The Shepherd

Erik and I had a random discussion about the 23 Psalm and how different it would be if The Shepherd were not involved, if He were not as merciful as He is.  How would it read?  What kind of life would that be? Here is my rendition of the 23 Psalm for a person who has not chosen God as their shepherd.

This is not my shepherd; I want for everything

I am forced to lie down on stony paths; I am consumed by troubled waters

My soul is void and bereft of life; I walk in the paths of unrighteousness for my own name’s sake

And as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear all things: for I am alone and there is no comfort for me.

A table has been prepared for my enemies so that they may feast upon me.  I have anointed myself in shame until my cup runneth over.

Surely wrath and despair shall follow me all the days of my life and I will be cast from the house of the Lord forever.

 

Thank God that He is our shepherd and is merciful.  A life like this would be unbearable!

Condemned No Longer

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Many people are familiar with this scripture.  Basically what it is saying, is that those who have turned their lives over to Christ have become new creatures and are no longer destined for death as their previous life of sin would demand. Sounds awesome doesn’t it?  It is awesome!!! 

However, here’s the thing:  We often cannot stop condemning one another or ourselves even as we begin this Christian journey.  We often are so ready to point out someone else’s faults or how they stumble, just because they sin differently than us. Not one of us is perfect and we all fall short of the glory of God.  Knowing that, what good does it do for you to criticize someone else’s journey.  There is a meme that has the quote “Don’t judge her.  You have no idea of the storms I have asked her to walk through -God”.  This is so true.  You have no idea what someone else’s journey might have looked like for them to get to where they are now. This journey with God is not a race, it’s not a competition with other people.  We are all tasked to run our own race at our own pace.  We are tasked with “staying in our lane”.  You can’t judge someone’s walk by what you have done and you can’t compare where you are to someone else.  Chances are you are only looking at their highlight reel anyway.  Someone may be more successful than you, but you don’t know what kind of hell they went through to be there.  Another person may have nicer material things than you but if you are counting your blessings based on the materialistic things you have in your life, you have NO IDEA what a real blessing is!  Material things are temporal, they are temporary and can always change.

Now let us talk about self-condemnation. We often have no worse enemy other than ourselves. We ask for forgiveness from God but we still beat ourselves up over mistakes that we have made.  We remind ourselves constantly of what wrongs we have committed. We think that keeping those things forefront in our mind will keep us from making the same mistakes. All it does is remind us of what we have done and keeps it replaying in our minds.  We replay it over and over and soon we are consumed by something we did long ago and it’s depressing. We still allow other people to call us names that He never gave us.  Some people only know us by our mistakes or our pasts.  If they choose to not get to know you any other way, then they can’t travel on this new journey with you.  You are not your past.  You are not your mistakes. You are what God has called you to be.  He has not called you condemned, forgotten, a mistake or worthless.  So, don’t call yourself those things or allow anyone else to call you those things either.

Hurt people hurt people. You are no longer condemned and there is no need to condemn others. You are loved, favored, and blessed.  Your Father made you so unique that there is not another like you anywhere else in the world. He took the time to look over all creation and make you. You are not condemned, you are His child.