I deserve it…but what is it I deserve???

The series we just finished up at church really hit me.  I should say the last message in the series especially hit me.

We use the phrase, “I deserve it!” way too freely.  Thinking about buying a new car:  I deserve it!  Thinking about the job interview the other day:  I deserve it!  The slice of pie, or the 8 cookies I just ate…but I deserve it!

What is it we truly deserve though?  Life owes us nothing.  God owes us nothing.  All He gives to us He gives freely out of love for His creation.  And what does He give us?  Ultimately, judgement if we are apart from Christ.  But He gave us a way to grace and mercy.  Jesus lights the way.  In fact, He IS the WAY!

Every single one of us has fallen short of the glory of God.  We have ALL sinned, in big and small ways.  Covered in the stench of sin, we are filthy rags in the presence of our Holy God.  Until we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, filthy will we remain.  Only Christ can wipe the stains and stench away!

So I deserve failure.  I deserve my consequences.  I deserve…none of the blessings I have in my life.  In the past, I turned away from God.  I doubted.  I hated.  I didn’t deserve what I experienced in this life.  Yet He showed me grace.  He held me, loved me, let me kick and scream until I saw His Truth.

Peter denied his connections to Jesus THREE times!  He turned away in the darkest hour.  So when Jesus came back, He came to Peter.  He called Peter for a specific purpose, in spite of the mistakes Peter had made.  And He calls each of us in the same way.

We deserve death, and yet He gives LIFE!  Not just life, but ETERNAL LIFE.  He gives us a relationship with Him if we but choose to follow.  Every time I think of my past, and how far He has brought me, I am in awe.  I turned away, but He never left my side.

And now, here my husband and I are in Champaign, serving our God at Grace Community Church and at Centennial High School.  We don’t know how long He has us here, but we will serve Him in the mean time.

Watch the series “I Deserve It.”  Do it.

Oceans

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Every time I hear this song, I am reminded that life does not go as I have planned it.  God really is in control, in every mountain-top experience and every valley full of shadows and unknowns.  So, as Peter did, I get out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus.  Keeping my eyes stayed on Him, He will not let me drown.  If I should (and I have) turn my eyes away and focus on the stormy waves around me, I will sink.  I have sunk before, and yet He grabs my hand and pulls me to Him.  He is my Savior, and I will continue to call upon His name!

Don’t Stop On Six (Message from March 22, 2015)

This was such an odd title for a sermon!  “Don’t stop on six!” he exclaimed.  What???

Hebrews 10:36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

Another translation uses the word “persevere” instead of “endure.”  God calls us to PERSEVERE.  He does not call us to an easy life.  He does not instantly grant all of our wishes and desires.  God’s work in our lives is that of a life time.  Covered by the blood of Jesus, our hearts and souls are made pure in a moment, but our human nature takes a life time to overcome.  In Isaiah 55, God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  We don’t understand the here and now, or the experiences we have.  We may never understand.  But in the midst of them, He whispers to us, “Press on, my child.  Persevere.  In your weakness, my power is made perfect.  I will be your strength.  Trust in ME.”

Pastor Steven Furtick takes us through the passage of scripture that brings us with Joshua to the fortified town of Jericho. (Joshua 6)  The Israelites had waited over 40 years to take this city and move into the promised land!  And God tells Joshua to walk around the city once a day for six days, then to walk around seven more times on the seventh day.  All the while, the priests are carrying the Ark of the Lord and blowing their trumpets.  I guess it took about an hour a day to walk around that city.  That’s it!  One hour.  Can you imagine what the Israelites were thinking?  How about the citizens of Jericho?  I picture the French Peas from Veggie Tales:  “You silly cucumber!  You’ll never knock down our walls!” (Josh and the Big Wall).  The laughter and mocking from those within the walls…the doubt spreading amongst the Israeli warriors…what was God going to do?

These thoughts and experiences lead to the three points as to why we tend to stop short of where God wants us to be:

1.  Our perspective gets blocked.  In the case of the Iraelites, the wall of Jericho blocked them from their goal of taking over the city.

2.  Our process isn’t always obvious.  Nothing happened after walking around the city!  Not even one brick or rock trembled to show that something was working!  Not until the army completed their instructions when they shouted with the trumpets after the end of the seventh lap on the seventh day did God show His mighty power to those who obeyed Him.  It took 13 laps around that wall!  I wonder how much doubt and fear fluttered through the hearts and minds of the soldiers, and what hope shone through to enable them to persevere?

3.  The process is open-ended.  We don’t always see the end.  Joshua knew how many times they would march around the town of Jericho.  But he did not share that with his soldiers.  He told them to march.  And they marched in faith.  Each day, they did it again.  And again.  And again…until Joshua finally told them to shout and the wall fell down!  We don’t understand the path we take.  Sometimes it takes years for us to be able to look back and see that God was and is present through even the darkest of moments in our lives.  The process prepares us for even greater perseverance down the road.  The process seems to break us, but God gives us His strength.  He alone increases our faith so that we may trust Him even though we don’t know or understand where He is leading us.

So don’t stop on six!  Press on.  Endure.  Follow Him.  His promises are true!  “What we see in our lives does not always match what God is telling us.  He is greater!  Revelation does not match reality,” is what Pastor Furtick tells us.  Remember that God’s truth transcends this society.  His treasures are greater than anything of this world.

You can watch Pastor Steven Furtick give his message here:  Don’t Stop.

Chasing Light, week 2

Week 2 of Chasing Light brings us through the issue of GREED.  The guest pastor defines greed as, “a preoccupation with possessions,” specifically MONEY.  Greed is not measured in possessions, but in infection.  Greed is a combination of envy and gluttony.  Greed destroys our ability to trust God. The speaker gives the example of the rich man in Luke 12:

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

So we ask the questions, “How much have I given to GOD, and how much have I given to THOSE IN NEED?”

1.  Giving to God:  the TITHE.  The Old Testament teaches that a true tithe is 10%.  10% of what?  In the culture, it was 10% of all earned in a year, be it wheat, corn, livestock, or money.  We can also tithe our TIME.  Sabbath may not be something we observe as a whole day anymore, but choosing to set aside 20-30 minutes a day to worship and praise God is an awesome way to tithe time. Serving at church or in ministry (homeless shelter, food pantry, volunteer work of any kind) is another way to tithe time.  Afraid of not having enough money, things, or time to give to God?  Then there may be a greed issue.  I know I have a greed issue.  I am always afraid of going without.  Without food, phone, clothes, medical supplies, movies, card-making supplies…I have begun to hoard things.  It is hard for me to let go, or hold back from purchasing that which I do not need.  I struggle to give my money to church because I am afraid I won’t have money to buy medical supplies (I am Type 1 Diabetic after all!).  I am afraid if I donate my money, I won’t be able to buy milk, eggs, and bread.  Yes, MY money.  Wait a minute…I KNOW that all I have is from the Lord.  It is HIS.  I am a vessel, a steward, of the gifts and blessings He has given.  Who am I to hold it back from Him?  So, instead of looking to tithe a month at a time, my husband and I have decided to tithe a paycheck at a time.  Looking at smaller chunks gives us better insight into our budgeting.  I am learning to let go, and give it all away.  We are in the process of decluttering (still, as I have been working on this for about 2 years now…), and have posted a ton on Craigslist and Freecycle.  When it comes to tithing, whether it be time or money or both, here is what God has to say about it, from Malachi 3:10:  “ Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”  This is the only place in scripture where He challenges us to TEST HIM!  Amazing, right?

We tithed 2 weeks ago.  A week later, we had to find money to pay our electric bill.  Would you believe that some wonderful women I met online took care of us?  It wasn’t much, but it was enough!  One told us to pay it forward, and another gave us a loan.  We’ll be repaying shortly.  God is good, He is faithful, and He provides!  With only one income right now and my husband searching for employment, and us wondering how on earth we are going to afford daycare for our two sons, we are constantly in a need to cling to His promises of provision.

2.  Giving to those in NEED:  1 John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  Now, we don’t have much money to give.  But neither did the widow who gave her last 2 coins.  Neither did the mother and son who took in Elijah.  Neither did David before he became King of Israel.  God can do MUCH with a LITTLE.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul writes, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

How do we get rid of greed?  We have to give it away!  Pastor Craig Groeschel calls this irrational giving.  We have to give and let go in order for the tentacles of greed to loosen and be released.  So I ask, “What is hindering my giving?”   Honestly, fear.  Uncertainty.  The unknown.  I hear myself saying the words of the father who falls before Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9)  Truly, faith is a spiritual gift that has been confirmed in me many times.  And yet, I doubt.  Greed is sneaky like that!  Margaret Feinberg writes in her book, Fight Back With Joy, “Stripped of my self-sufficiency, I found myself rediscovering God as Sustainer.  My next breath depended on him…Though my stubbornness often resisted, joy crept in.”  She is able to find joy in the darkest of times, because she recognizes that all she has comes from God alone.

So I challenge you to listen to this message.  The link is provided below.  Ask yourself what prevents you from giving.  Give yourself permission to ask God to break greed away from you, in Jesus’ name!  That is my prayer for me:  “Lord Jesus, break the spirit of greed from my soul.  Loosen the tentacles of greed and selfishness from my heart, by the precious blood of Jesus!  Fill that space left, Lord, with your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Chasing Light (Series message #2)

Chasing Light, week 1

This morning’s message at LifeChurch began a series called Chasing Light.

PRIDE.  Pride hinders our relationship with God.  We deny being proud, but Pride can manifest itself in many ways.  “I am the most humble man I know,” is a quote a friend shared with me a while back.  Funny, right?  We boast in our humility, in our wisdom, our knowledge, our acquisitions.  We become judgmental and critical.  We compare ourselves to others.  We deceive ourselves and become blind to our weaknesses.

James 4:6 reminds us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  It does take a lot of humility to fall before His throne and ask for forgiveness, to admit that we need grace, we NEED mercy!  It takes humility to admit that we are sinful, broken people.  It takes humility to submit to the authority of the Most High God.  (Matthew 7:3-5, Philippians 2:6-7, Micah 6:8)

Pride hides God’s light.  It boards up the windows, settles as dust and grime in our lives.  I am reminded of an episode of Curious George where he becomes a window washer for Mr. Glass.  There is a man in the apartment building who is so focused on reading his books, he doesn’t notice that his windows and eye glasses are filthy!  He complains about the lighting being poor until George cleaned the glass!  The light streamed in and the man could miraculously see!  He was amazed at George’s ability!  What would happen if we allowed the Spirit to help us clean the windows in our souls?  What would the Light reveal?  What else would we need to clear out so that we can let Christ in?  It is only the blood of Christ that can cleanse our souls enough to expose the sin within.  It is only Christ who can help us declutter the depths of our hearts and unite us with the Holy God!  Christ alone exposes the preoccupation we have with our own importance.

Take some time this week to reflect on Isaiah 55:8-9.  Let the Light shine in!

#GodNeverSaidThat

Brandon and I started attending a church here in town:  Grace Community.  In addition to coffee, fellowship, and worship music, we get to participate in the messages from Craig Groeschel through Life Church.  The last series of messages Pastor Craig shared had to do with how we misinterpret scripture.  We have a tendency to take things out of context and misconstrue them.  We twist the verses in order to make ourselves or others feel better.  Here are a few of the phrases we think God said that He never said at all:

1.  God wants you to be happy.

2.  God won’t give you more than you can handle.

3.  It doesn’t matter what you do.

4.  It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

So God really didn’t say these things???  It is true, these are half-truths from the enemy.  When we are not careful, it is very easy to fall into the enemy’s traps.  1 Peter 5:8-9 reminds us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 

So let’s break this down:

1.  The theology of Happiness:

  • Whatever makes me happy must be RIGHT.  Whatever makes me unhappy must be WRONG.
  • Discomfort, delay, risk, suffering, inconveniences, and obstacles can’t be God’s will.
  • Without knowing it, I begin to WORSHIP the false gods of comfort, money, pleasure, and things.

However, here is the TRUTH in God’s Word:  God does not want us happy…

  • When it causes us to do something wrong or unwise.
  • When it is only based on things of this world.

God calls us to holiness.  He does not call us into sin!  Happiness is not a necessity, as much as we would like it to be.  JOY and PEACE are fruits of the Spirit, but happiness is not even mentioned in that list of fruit!  Happiness is not a requirement for life.  What we do have is the fact that God wants us BLESSED.  We are blessed with His presence daily, in the dark and the bright moments of life.  In His presence, we can find the JOY and HOPE we need rather than the happiness we think we need.  Scripture references:  1 Peter 1:15, 1 John 2:15-17, Psalm 37:4, and Psalm 97:12

2.  What I have found about this half-truth is this:  God never gives us more than HE can handle.  Now a truth here is that God will never allow us to be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  However, life will at times seem like the thrashing waves in the most tempestuous storm over the ocean.  We may feel like we are drowning, and survival seems impossible.  We may feel crushed, but we are not defeated because Christ has won the battle and is victorious for us!  King David writes of this depression and crushing spirit in Psalm 38:4 and 8.  Jesus speaks of the burdens of life in Mark 14:33-34.  We are not immune from grief, depression, and despair.  It is in these darkest of moments that we DEPEND ON HIS PRESENCE and WE EXPERIENCE HIS POWER.  Check out these verses:  Jonah 2:2, 7; Psalm 145: 18; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Romans 8.

3.  It does matter what we do.  Yes, we can never earn our way into heaven.  Yes, we will sin.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  But choosing to sin when we know better can cause others to stumble and fall.  Our culture teaches these lies about sin:  A.  I am not a bad person.  B.  All sin is the same.  C.  Since I’ve already done it, I might as well keep doing it.

We all sin.  If we deny that, we are lying.  1 John 1:8 reveals that truth.  Romans 3:10 also demonstrates this.  All sin will lead to eternal death, but each sin provides us with different consequences and punishment in hell.  See Romans 6:23, Luke 20:47, John 19:11, and 1 Corinthians  6:18.  Now, since I have already “messed up,” should I keep messing up?  No!  Each day is an opportunity to try again.  Each day is an opportunity to let the Spirit move, to transform our minds.  Romans 6:1-2 reminds us that in Christ, we have died to sin!

God is faithful.  He does not want us to hinder others from finding Him, and our choices may include that as a consequence!

4.  It does matter what we believe!  Jesus himself tells us that He is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.  (John 14:6)  That’s the whole truth right there.  Narrow is the path to heaven, because we so do not want to live in such an exclusionary view!  The truth is, the only reason there is exclusion is because we first exclude Him.  When we turn to Him, He very mercifully and gracefully wraps us in His arms!  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.  No questions asked!  (James 4:8)

Watch Pastor Craig’s messages for yourself:  http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/god-never-said-that/

#GodNeverSaidThat

Fill in the blanks!

So my blogging hiatus is over!  So much has happened since my last post.  I now have two boys!  My 2-year old is an adventure!  Our latest gift will be three months on Saturday.

We are attending a new church here in town, and the messages are inspiring!  In fact, I have been thinking about a new blog post based on the latest series.  Stay tuned!

This past August, I started working as a T.A. at one of the high schools here in town.  I love it!  With two small children now, planning lessons is not something I can do, so this position is amazing!  I love the students we work with, and I love that I can come home and BE PRESENT with my family!

God has provided for our needs this past year.  I am so very thankful!

So stay tuned…next post coming soon!