Resurfacing

It has been over a year since my last post. Quite the hiatus, I know. There was no particular reason, but I will say that I have been rather despondent. I have missed writing, spilling my guts onto “paper”, and letting Him flow. There has been a spiritual lull but He breaks through every now and again. Today was one of those days.

Everywhere I looked, I saw a common theme.

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This verse has been one that the Holy Spirit has brought to me multiple times…in desperate times where I felt lost and was floundering. It never fails to bring me comfort when I feel lost at sea. This morning as I scrolled through my social media, over and over again I see the same thing…

Strength.

He will give me strength.

He will be my strength.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

There is nothing like knowing the Creator is trying to get your attention. Reaching down and lifting your head. Locking eyes with you and saying,

“Hey…I’ve got you. You don’t have to try so hard.”

Now that’s my kind of strength.

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Whose Side Are You On?

My heart has been a bit heavy lately. The world has been chaotic to say the least.

What saddens me more than anything lately is the response from Christians in the face of the SCOTUS ruling. People who claim to follow Jesus have called it sick, disgusting and filth. They have deleted gay friends and relatives from Facebook and their lives to take a stand. They have drawn a line in the sand. The thing is, they’re standing on the wrong side.

The thought that I’ve had spinning around in my head is this:

As a nation, how many sins do we as Christians commit on a daily basis that are legal to do so?

The following sins all fall into the “ALL sexual immorality” category. It’s not just homosexuality that is considered a sin or sexually immoral (fornication outside of marriage).

  • Pornography – It’s also one of the leading causes of problems in marriage, and sin in singledom. It can lead to addiction, and has open doors that can lead to sexual deviancy. There is also “soft porn” that is accepted among the public…many Christians are huge fans of a certain movie and book series about Mr. Grey and the current hit Magic Mike XXL. But because it’s legal, that’s ok, right?
  • Adultery – Affairs, flings, and one night stands are all legal. They also lead to divorce and broken families.
  • Premarital sex – Some Christian parents hand out condoms and birth control to their children to protect them if they decide to go through with it.
  • Cohabitation is legal…and recognized as Common Law marriage. This usually leads to premarital sex and children outside of wedlock.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” Colossians 3:5

Let’s say that you don’t fall into that category. Here are some of the more common, day to day LEGAL sins.

  • Idolatry – We can’t tear ourselves away from our cell phones. We are obsessed with social media. We obsessed with our selves (and selfies).  We have made silver and gold idols out of every material possession imaginable. Social status supersedes spiritual status. Black Friday is evidence of where our priorities are when it comes to Christmas.
  • Gluttony – We can’t seem to get enough food. Thanksgiving is not the only day we succumb to overeating. Obesity is more common than ever…in the United States.
  • Gossip – I’m not just talking about celebrities (who are our brothers & sisters too). Sadly, some camouflage it in concern and take it to their girlfriends instead of the Holy Spirit. This is very common within the church itself.
  • Complaining – We have one-upped the Isrealites when it comes to grumbling and murmuring. We take things for granted, and we always want more. Facebook is used more for ranting than social purposes. If God was to rain down manna from heaven for us, how do you think we would respond? Would we be grateful? Or would we demand something else and ask for a drink too?
  • Worrying – Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Can we say that we fully trust Him as He wants us to? By worrying, we are basically saying that we don’t trust God to handle things as He promised.

Let us look to Proverbs 6:16 for some elaboration on some things God hates:

“These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”

Most of all, our lack of prayer and love for the Lord are our greatest sin. He calls us to be zealous for Him, to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. But do we? Is He our first love still? Or are we lukewarm? Revelation 3:16 warns against the danger of this.

Why aren’t we as enraged over other issues as we are this one? There are major issues in the world that can be changed by us being His hands and feet. Abortion, sex trafficking, racism, hunger, animal abuse…I could go on. I find it very strange to have seen more anger and discussion over this matter than anger over ISIS wreaking havoc and killing children and decapitating people.

There is a way to deal with sin. The Word tells us how to address it in and outside of the Church. There are different ways depending on if people are outsiders or believers. One thing is for sure…it must be led by the Holy Spirit and it must be in love. Not by a stranger, a generic meme, or a picket sign. 

Have we forgotten how Jesus responded when the prostitute was being stoned by the Pharisees in John 8? He drew a line in the sand…and He stood on her side. He picked her up, dusted her off, and silenced her accusers. He loved her, and said go and sin no more.

Jesus didn’t come to get political. He came to seek and save the lost. The issue is not what sins are legal. The issue is:

Are we as concerned with people’s salvation as we are with their sexuality?

Why do we downplay our own sins and fixate on this one? I believe in the Holy Word & Scripture. I also believe that none of should pick & choose what we want to hear from it and use it to our convenience.

We ALL need to repent. We ALL need to turn from sin. We all need to LOVE.

The line in the sand has been drawn. Whose side are you on?
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – John 8:2


Loving Kindness

The Holy Spirit wisely advised us through Paul that faith, hope and love endure, but that the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Love serves as a gateway for other fruits to develop. It’s the one fruit of the Spirit that we must possess in order for the the others to manifest or be meaningful at all. Paul goes as far to say that without love, he has nothing.

Throughout the Word of God, there are multiple references to one character of God that has personally drawn me closer to Him in my walk. It just so happens to be a fruit of the Spirit.

The kindness of God.

But not only does it mention His kindness, but it goes a step further.

His loving kindness.

The authors of the Scriptures could not find a way to emphasize just how kind God is…so they married two fruits of the Spirit to get their point across.

I believe it is very important to understand God’s loving kindness and His character in order for us to learn how to mirror ourselves after our Father. After all, the whole point of developing fruit is to be transformed into the image of Christ, amen?

There is one verse that has been coursing through my veins this week. I’m sure it was no coincidence considering that kindness was the fruit that I was starting to write about. He’s attentive like that.

“It is of Jehovah’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” – Lamentations 3:22  

This verse really brings it home for me. The very fact that we are not consumed or overcome in this life is simply and profoundly because of His loving kindness. Our salvation is a direct result of this beautiful trait of His. Not only does He save us by this, but it is also what draws us to Him.

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” – Jeremiah 31:3

I know I went King James there, but look at it! We can’t help but be drawn and captured by Him because He extends His sweet, unfailing love to us! It’s like a magnetic attraction. He chooses us first, but then we respond to His irresistible loving kindness.

Let’s pause here and just dwell on that tonight. Be drawn to Him and enraptured by His kindness towards you.

 

 

 

Perfect Patience

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” – James 1:2 KJV

Oh, Patience. You are a high commodity these days. One of the most popular prayers requests, but one of the least practiced. Impatience can manifest in many situations…especially everyday occurrences, such as traffic, long lines, or inconveniences.

Another word for patience is Long-suffering: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

Oh…other people. You mean other people wear your patience?

Yes…especially.

It doesn’t matter who it is…family, spouse, friend, coworker…even strangers work our nerves and test us.

When I reflect on how Jesus handled these types of situations in the Bible, I have to say, it motivates me. An enemy was in his close circle of friends for 3 years. Judas, the one who would sell him out and seal it with a kiss. Jesus knew this. But He displayed patience with him, and loved him knowing what would happen.

If we want to live out patience, we must mirror ourselves after Jesus. We must pattern ourselves after His character and behavior towards others. Even our enemies.

How do we live it out?

Remember that God is patient with you. Judas wasn’t the only one who would betray Jesus. Peter wasn’t the only one who would deny Him. We all have turned away at one point. According to Hebrews 6:6, when we fall away, we are crucifying Him all over again. He still shows mercy. He still chose to die for us, foreseeing all of this. So we must see others through His eyes and show mercy and love. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Grow thicker skin.  Jesus goes so far as to say allow a person to slap you 77 times and turn the other cheek. This is a tough one to swallow for many. It takes maturity and self control to refrain from retaliating. We don’t want to ruin our opportunity to shine the light of Jesus in a person’s life because our feelings remain hurt. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11

Don’t give up. God has placed within us a certain measure of faith. Bearing with one another means not throwing up our hands and giving up on someone. Change takes time and we must learn not to become frustrated and walk away. We may miss seeing change come to fruition in someone’s life. God has perfect timing, but we don’t always know when it will happen. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

As always, stay close to Jesus. Learn from His meekness. He is the Lamb of God and was the perfect example of patience throughout His life, even His persecution.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43

The Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

When I first read the Beatitudes, I always wondered which category I would fall into…if any. It felt like some high calling, something to reach for and hopefully be able to attain. I thought to myself, “I sure hope He’s talking about me.”

A question kept echoing in my head as I read the verse above:

Would I be associated with this group or would be the opposite? Would I be considered a troublemaker instead of a peacemaker?

It never said, “Blessed are the troublemakers.”

If I’m being honest…I would be lying if I said that I was a peacemaker. In fact, it’s laughable. How would I describe myself, you ask? Fiesty, protective, sarcastic…and cynical. (And that’s on a good day…don’t even ask about my bad ones)

I highly doubt that Jesus had any of those characteristics. But He made me knowing full well that I would. He also has come to make me new.

The definition of peacemaker:
“A person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.”

How does a peacemaker walk through this world with out throwing a hissy fit or causing a riot? Surely they lose their cool in traffic, or snap sometimes! To be honest, it’s a conscious choice they make. We all have the free will to be peaceful everyday, but sometimes our flesh takes over and peace is not our strongest suit. Now, there are some people who are passive and mellow by nature. For these people, it may be easier. But true peace, just as true joy, comes from Jesus.

Throughout the day, we are faced with situations and circumstances to practice peace. Usually it will be in our responses that it will be evident if we are walking in peace. How can we start developing peace?

– Resist the urge to argue
– Refuse to participate in anything that could lead to conflict…gossip, etc
– Refuse to retaliate and love instead
– Accept that there will be trials and suffering but God provides and sustains us…He is always good.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:17

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.” – 1 Peter 3:8

Root of Peace

In order to know how to bear the Fruit of Peace, we must know the Root of peace.

“And again Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will come,
even He who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:12

Isaiah 9 foretells of our Savior, Jesus…the Prince of Peace Himself. His legacy proceeded Him. Word of mouth revealed His glory and a promise that wouldn’t be forgotten. God knew that we needed peace. The status quo was no longer cutting it. He had to save us from ourselves.

God’s promise of peace is detailed in Jeremiah 33…and the fine print is enticing.

  • Health & Healing
  • Abundance of Prosperity & Security
  • Restoration of Fortunes
  • Rebuilding
  • Cleansing from Guilt
  • Forgiveness of Sins
  • New name of joy, a praise and a glory before all nations

I couldn’t have worded it better if I tried.

Sometimes we have our own idea of peace. Usually its assumed as a quiet, drama free life. But Jesus’ idea of peace is a far cry from ours. He’s a God of over and above, and He will always have something better than what we have in mind. He even lets us in on the plan to stir our hearts. He could just say, “It will get better”. But He breaks it down, step by step. Jeremiah 33:16 sums it up:

“In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.”

We can have peace in knowing that He reigns. even in the midst of chaos, His words remind us that we can maintain peace because He lives in us. He reminds us of what’s to come and sustains us in the now.

 ”Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.” – Jeremiah 33:6

True Joy

One day, a friend of mine asked, “Gina, why are you always smiling?”
I simply replied, “Jesus.”

All of my life, people have always asked me the same question. I never knew that there was a perpetual grin plastered on my face until I noticed the theme about my smile. Apparently, not many people are giving away smiles. It’s always been something that I naturally do. My countenance is not forced, contrived, or fake. Honestly, I’m not even aware of it until it’s mentioned. It has inspired nicknames such as Smiley & Sunshine, which the Holy Spirit has so sweetly spoken through others.

Then one day, the Lord took it a step further.

A dear friend declared something powerful over me. She said that she will call me Joy…unspeakable Joy. That same week, another close friend gave me two verses.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10 

“In your presence there is fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:11

He didn’t just give me a nickname…He renamed me. That solidified my stance in this life. Sometimes people think that because you constantly smile that you haven’t experienced the trials of life. So not true.  I have walked through my share of deep valleys. But I choose joy. He calls us to choose joy…and it’s not hard to. Some call it having a glass half full mentality, but the way I view it, my cup overfloweth. He pours out, and it spills over the brim.

This doesn’t mean that I never have my days where I shed tears, feel pain or lament. Ask my husband or closest friends…I can whine with the best of them. I just don’t call attention to pain or trials that I may experience. Those closest to me are witnesses to those moments, but I refuse to give glory to anything other than God. When you make a spectacle of your suffering, it pulls the focus of God.

Please understand that God doesn’t want you to put up a front. He wants us to be honest with him. David was very forthright and honest in his sufferings through Psalms. But He always turned it into praise. Worshiping God in the midst of a trial is the most powerful thing you can do. Thank Him for the victory while you’re walking through it. Acknowledge Him by your side when you are in the fire. Refuse the temptation to complain, grumble or rebuke God for not stopping it.

True joy never fades or withers during trials. It raises its hands in the face of the battle and reminds itself that God reigns.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2

“Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” – Psalm 21:6

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 43:5