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.

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. Who’s 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.

 

 

 

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

Joy

When I think of the meaning of joy,  there are many things that come to mind. A baby in a fit of giggles. Christmas morning. A proposal. A new puppy. A surprise party. A fun wedding dance. The expression on a person’s face experiencing it is telling of their blissful state. What I love about joy is that it’s contagious. Once someone gets the giggles, it’s not long before those near bust out themselves.

There’s a different kind of joy in Jesus. One that cannot compare to any other pleasure we feel this side of Heaven.

It’s the joy found in His presence. 

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalm 16:11

Not just a taste…not just a hint…but fullness of joy is ours when we are in His presence. He is a god of abundance…He lavishes His love upon us…how can that not bring joy? David spoke of this joy much throughout Psalms. The presence of God was so vital in his life that He begged God to never let it leave.

“Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:11

The presence of God, the Holy Spirit, is the most exquisite thing you will ever experience. There have been certain moments in my life where I have felt Him so strongly & so intensely that I truly thought I would melt into a gooey puddle. I didn’t want to leave because of the overwhelming love, peace & joy I felt. Jesus made a way for us to experience Him at anytime when He gave Himself up for our sins. When you sense Him near, you just can’t help yourself.

This is where the difference between religion & relationship become obvious. Religion is the furthest thing from joyful. There’s no passion, no spark. Relationship bears witness of His character. Relationship is a yearning to be with Him instead of it being a chore or task. Relationship knows their God as a close friend, a confidante.  It is in those moments when you have realized who He is and what you are to Him that the joy comes. Joy cannot be experienced in a rigid environment. It flourishes in an atmosphere of love.

When you are in His presence, His voice can be heard. To hear the Lover of our soul whisper to us & and that He wants to know us just as much…wow.

He is the root of all joy. Get in His presence frequently and I assure you, you will start to bear this fruit without much effort.

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” – John 3:29

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27

“Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy.”  – Psalm 100:2

“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6

Sibling Rivalry

“Deliver me from my hateful thoughts…I’m committing murder in the presence of God.” –  “Deliver Me” by Bethany Dillon 

When I first heard these lyrics, it caught me off guard. It’s not often you hear the word ‘murder’ in a worship song. As I replayed it, I understood the reason for this intense analogy.

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:11

From the beginning, we’ve been fighting with our siblings. When we try to justify our reasons for feeling this way towards another child of God, do you know what we sound like? A child trying to make excuses for their actions against their sibling. Can you just hear it now? “But Mom…they did it first!” 

There is no room for division in God’s family. He did not create us for broken homes. His intention in adopting us into the family of God is for us to never encounter dissension again and to live in complete harmony. He created us to fellowship with one another, not quarrel. When we allow hurt feelings, jealousy, or bitterness to take over, we leave a door wide open to the enemy to tear down our home.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” – Mark 3:24

A healthy, stable and loving family is God’s desire. One who strives for peace, for harmony. Let’s do all we can to please our Father.

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:14

Study Scriptures

1 John 3:11-24

1 John 4:7-21

Loving the Unlovables

Loving the unlovables. That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Loving those who are difficult to love. That can apply to many different types of people in each of our lives. May I list a few?

  • The arch enemies
  • The instigators
  • The opinionated
  • The drama queens
  • The judgmentals
  • The gossips

Those are the obvious ones, though. There are others that are closer to home. 

  • Our spouse…or ex-spouse
  • Our in-laws
  • Our siblings
  • Our parents

Maybe these bleed into one another, but we will eventually come across difficult people in our walk on earth. The question is how do we abide in love in these situations? 

Pray and Read God’s Word

This sounds simple, but it’s the most effective way to learn God’s ways. He will speak to you through the Word. Partner that with prayer (conversing with God), and He will speak to you, and teach you how to walk in the Spirit.

Realize that you yourself are unlovable at times

I think I just heard alot of gasps as I typed this. I know, it’s shocking! (haha) But we must hold ourselves accountable. Minimizing our own sins in comparison holds no ground and is not what God had in mind.  

“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” – Ecclesiastes 7:21

Look at them through God’s eyes

John 2:25 states that Jesus knew what was in man. He knew human nature. Noone’s actions surprised Him, not even when they betrayed Him. Even after Peter denied Him 3 times…He STILL was merciful. Even in our sinful state…God chose us. Knowing full well that we would deny & crucify Him, He came for us anyway. What did He see in us that moved Him to be so selfless and loving in the face of our sin? His nature is love. He can’t help BUT to love us. So we must use look others from the His point of view. James 3:9 states that we curse those made in God’s likeness. The unlovables are still creations of our God…and loved by Him just as much as we are. If He loves them, who are we not to?

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32

Yield to the Holy Spirit and surrender

As I was walking through my house yesterday, the Holy Spirit highlighted a phrase from a sign on my walls: 

 

0902142219

This sign has been up since the week we moved in, but it was so confirming for me, considering last week this was the focus (abiding in Love). Since God is love, I translate it to “Let God abide.” But what sticks out to me in this is the word ‘Let’. Loving the way God does not come easy, nor can we do it ourselves. It means making room for Him to love through us. It means surrendering & yielding to Him so that His love can flow. It means letting Him take over. 
________________________________________________________________

 

 

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” – Luke 6:27

 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

Abide in Love

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

Since the beginning, it’s been about love.

  • He formed us to love us, not as a science experiment
  • He warned Adam out of love, not to keep anything from him
  • He parted the Red Sea out of love, not to show off
  • He poured manna from Heaven out of love, even though we grumbled while chewing
  • He thought of the Cross out of love, though He knew some would politely decline

There is much emphasis put on love throughout His word. It’s the first fruit of the Spirit mentioned. Out of faith, hope & love, it’s proclaimed as the greatest. God even declares Himself AS love.

Since we are created in His image, you know what that means. We are called to love as well. Better yet, we are called to love like Him. Is that even possible? Somewhat, yes. The intensity of our love could never come close. However, we can choose to mirror His style of loving & allow Him to love through us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” – 1 John 4

There’s that word again…abide. That has been a theme each time I’ve studied fruit of the Spirit. Abide means to dwell, remain, or sojourn. The image that comes to mind is a baby bird under the wing of it’s mother. It is there in that secret place that He transforms us. It is in the abiding that we began to look like Jesus. The fruit begins to grow, and we start to flourish.

Love comes from abiding in Love Himself.