Tag: Deeper relationship with God

Our Current Trial

What trial are you currently in? I want to share with you the one I just went through. As I eluded in my last blog Embrace the Unknown, God was calling me to step out onto the waters of the unknown. He wasn’t calming the storm before me—He wasn’t changing my circumstance then asking me to come. No, the wind was blowing and the waves were tossing!

The funny thing (it’s funny now) is the trail I was in was nothing I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve been in literal devastation—and lived tell of God’s faithfulness. In one summer not only did my childhood hero—my brother—die, but my two-year old daughter as well (read about it here Hero of Grace—Finding Treasure). Many times my marriage dangled by a mere thread. I’ve had three miscarriages, and been on the verge of death myself. We’ve lost our home and our business-starting over many times. I’ve had three of my dear sons walk away from the Lord—very heartbreaking—to say the least. I’ve been disowned by my family. And these are just the major events after marriage.

So I’m no stranger to suffering, what was so different about my current trial? I believe it was different because this time I knew (sort of) what I was fighting for. And as I look back over all the years, I see I was always fighting for the same thing.

It was a fight for my faith.

Your current trial is a fight for your faith.

For about the last year I’ve been in a season of purposefully strengthening my faith—my goal is to be fully convinced without wavering, (Romans 4:20). Therefore in this trial I was fighting to believe God’s Word and the devil was fighting for his ground of unbelief in my heart. God was purposing to remove a deeper layer of fear in my life—namely the fear-of-lack. Fear rooted it’s self in my life when I was a child. It makes sense—God’s plan for my life is that I’d be a person of deep, unwavering faith—the devil’s plan—just the opposite—fear.

Throughout my years of suffering I could feel God’s comfort, and even when the sea of the unknown tossed, as I remember it now, I felt I was in the boat. This time He stood out on the frenzied ocean, extending His hand, asking me to step out on a sea of unknown waters—to trust Him even as it raged.

I’m sure He’s always wanted this scenario and every battle I’ve fought has brought me nearer to this. And while I’m embarrassed to just now, decades after becoming a Christian, come to this place, on the other hand God is ecstatic with me!

I really thought I failed in this current trial, because my head continually bobbed in and out of the water. The heavy hand of the enemy’s oppression—the spirit of unbelief—continually tried to push my head under. I couldn’t sleep and when I did, I’d wake in panic. Worry overwhelming me like never before. The difference was—I fought tooth and nail to believe God’s promises. The harder I fought the heavier it got. Some days I sat all day just reading the Word or listening to worship music, continually praying—determined to own what I claim to believe.

I felt like I wavered, (I’m always way harder on myself than God is). He told me I won the battle the moment I determined to believe—the moment I chose to sit all day reading His Word instead of escaping by sleeping or watching a movie.

The bummer to pressing in while in battle with the enemy is that he presses harder. But God came running to save me the moment I began to falter. And in His faithful love He waited, watching and interceding for my success, holding back breakthrough—until just the right hour, knowing stronger unwavering faith was my real need.

What’s your real need? Breakthrough or stronger faith?

Have you ever read the book of Job? God allowed catastrophes (plural) to strike him. In it the enemy of his soul had a plan, which was to steal Job’s faith and get Him to curse God. God’s plan for Job was that he would not just know about Him but for Job to actually know Him, making God Lord of all—this meant Job’s faith would have to be foolproof.

Over the years God has delivered me from many aspects of fear and I’m very happy to say I am now on the other side of this battle—the fear-of-lack and the spirit of lack its self are broken off my life! You have got to love the faithfulness of God!

This is my song of thanksgiving to God! Psalm 34:1-7,

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.

Please be encouraged in your current trial to understand it’s more about your faith than your need.

James 1:2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Suddenly Moments

What do you do when you are having a bad day? Do you ever just worship God? Give thanks, glory or praise? Understandably being the humans that we are—this is not always our default reaction.

But I want to challenge you to step out of your normal default box and into the realm of suddenly moments—that result in God shaking our life to its very core and bringing about change.

I heard an amazing message—totally worth repeating—on Acts 16. Follow along with me as I reiterate what was happening and how God—our Knight in shining armor suddenly comes to save the day.

Paul and Silas, in the will of God—directed by Him—went to Macedonia. As they were lingering in Philippi, they met a God-fearing woman named Lydia who on hearing the Word of the Lord believed with all her heart, as a result she and her household were baptized and insisted the men stay at their home. At this point all is going well, Paul’s preaching—God’s moving and they are invited to stay and be cared for, in a rather nice place. Acts 16:6-15

One day on the way to prayer a demon possessed psychic, slave girl, started following them around, drawing attention to them by yelling out “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”

Paul, not wanting to be in agreement with her or to be identified as being with her, ignored her for a few days then finally when too annoyed he cast the demon out of her. The slave girl was suddenly free and her owners very upset—their lucrative little business had come to an end. Consequently, Paul and Silas were dragged into the market place—they were lied about and accused, causing the crowd to turn into an angry gang. Their clothes were torn off and they were ordered to be severely beaten and thrown into prison, under high security wearing leg irons.  Acts 16:16-24

Paul and Silas—bloody and beaten, sit chained in prison. Would you say they were having a bad day? Absolutely!

What did they do? Did they accuse God of unfaithfulness by whining and complaining?

No—just the opposite! Paul and Silas were found praying and worshipping.

What would you do?

I love how Paul and Silas handled the situation! Their default heart and soul reaction was to pray and worship God—in doing so they were giving thanks.

I pray our default heart reaction would be to silence the mouth of the accuser and give thanks by worshipping God.

How? Why? Because the truth is—He is always good. We must train our heart and soul to worship and give thanks according to truth—not circumstance.

This is when the suddenly moments of God’s faithfulness rule our life.

What happens next in Acts 16:25-26 is the cry of our heart.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! Paul and Silas’ worship caused God to shake the very foundations and set the prisoners free—the scripture says immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Not just our own freedom from the prisons we find ourselves inoccurs when we worship, but freedom for others as well.

I don’t know about you but I need and want God to suddenly shake the foundation of various situations in my life and in the life of those I love and care about.

This Word from the book of Acts has brought fresh understanding to the scripture in 2 Thessalonians 5:18

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Please be encouraged to grab ahold of and own this concept. Worship God, giving Him thanks in every situation—lifting our eyes from life and circumstances to the God of the impossible—the One who can suddenly shake any situation and change the landscape of impossible surroundings.

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A Heart-Style of Thanksgiving

I love the Thanksgiving holiday, one of my favorite traditions is what my family does after the meal. We go around the table and express what and who we are thankful for.

God in his immeasurable goodness takes thanksgiving to the highest level. It’s not about a meal—it’s about thousands of meals. It’s not about gathering yearly, but gathering daily. Especially, it’s not about telling each other and God how thankful we are once a year, just as we’ve finished an abundant meal. No, life lived in relationship with God is about having a thankful heart—daily—in good times and in bad. Essentially, thanksgiving is a heart-style as well as a lifestyle.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 truthfully tells us,

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? Here’s your answer—give thanks.

Why does God want us to give thanks for everything? Why is this heart-style His will?

One attribute I adore about God is His infinite wisdom. God knows everything beginning to end. The reason He wants us to live a life of gratitude is because He knows and understands what thankfulness accomplishes in our heart and life.

The biggest revelation to me about living a heart-style of thanksgiving is the fact that thankfulness in hard times causes our heart to stay soft towards God. When we are thankful, there is no room to blame God.

A few years back my family, to put it mildly, experienced somewhat of a car crisis. I prayed for a newer car for quite a while—expecting God, my provider, to hear and answer my prayer. The answer was long in coming—really long in coming.

God showed me that I must thank Him for not having a car. Thank Him for the season—thank Him for His grace in this season—thank Him for being good and faithful, no matter what I’m going through or what my life looks like.

Prior to learning thankfulness in that season, I found myself questioning Him, whining, grumbling and yes, complaining about my car situation. He showed me was my heart attitude was one of blame towards Him, not only blame but one of unbelief. Ouch, this grieved me!

You see thankfulness causes our heart to be tender and trusting—of faith. Instead of irritably wondering what’s going on—when will God come through and worse why and how could He do such a thing, or allow such suffering in my life—which would be unbelief.

A heart-style of thanksgiving releases us in to the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10) Gratitude is in essence putting on rose-colored glasses.

A heart-style of thanksgiving causes praise to abound in and through us, changing our perspective on life. It brings Philippians 4:11-12 to life;

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation

Not only does thanksgiving cause us not to blame God—changing our unbelief to faith, but it releases miracles and brings salvation. Even Jesus Himself gave thanks to God, and every time He did—the miraculous followed. (John 6:11, John11:41, Luke 22:17.19)

The foremost aspect of a heart-style of thanksgiving is the very fact that it brings us into a deeper relationship with God and His Son. In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul says He’s learned the secret of contentment—the secret is not thanksgiving—it’s Jesus. Thanksgiving paves the way to make Jesus what He should be in our lives—the main thing—Lord of all.

Please be encouraged to make thanksgiving your heart-style, therefore causing your heart to overflow with the Love of God—Jesus Himself.

Jesus IS Enough

To live a lifestyle where Jesus is enough, we have to walk submitted to His will in regard to all things both big and small. We also have to purpose as the Psalmist did, in Psalm 33:22 and 62:5 to put all our hope and expectation in Him alone:

 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.  Psalm 33:22

My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5

When God started to require me to live in the manner where He is all I need, He introduced the concept of Jesus being enough through my best friend Cathy. Over and over again I would ask her to explain what it means for Jesus to be enough.

Has God ever asked you to do something that you feel totally unqualified for? For me it seems this way quite often, especially during difficulties and suffering. In these times, I find myself saying to the Lord, “I can’t do it… but You can.” This is the essence of Jesus being enough. It’s where we come up short, knowing He will make up the difference and equip us for whatever He asks us to do or walk through.

To better understand the concept of Jesus being enough, visualize a rough wood surface covered with divots, grooves and holes. Now imagine a large putty knife or trowel smoothing spackle over the rough surface. This results in all the unsightly blemishes and empty holes being filled in and smoothed out. In this same manner, Jesus fills us in where we are lacking.

This concept was hard to grasp, mainly because at the time, I was still living primarily in my soul. The “Me” factor did not like the idea of losing its independence and having to become solely dependent on God. My soul found it hard to trust Jesus alone, mainly because I wanted to be in charge of my life and its direction.

For months on end Jesus would ask me, “Am I enough?” My response was “yes” but inside emptiness gnawed at me. The questions continually came: “If I never did another thing for you, am I enough? If your life never got any better than this, am I enough? If you lost everything dear to you, would I be enough?” Again my response was, “Well of course, Lord.” I struggled with letting Him be enough, but I did not want to admit it. I thought that if I committed to letting Him alone fill me then I would not get what I wanted. Finally, I answered Him truthfully, “No Lord, I’m sorry, You are not enough, but I want You to be.” This pivotal moment of truth set my journey for more depth and passion with God into further motion.

A lot of Christians do not even know that Jesus is not enough for them. The reason—we get so busy living and filling our lives with temporal treasures. I personally have found myself in pursuit of the American dream many times. If our primary concerns for ourselves are to acquire money, possessions, self-gratification, praise, status and the like, then we can be sure these things, not Jesus, complete us. Therefore, it would be fair to say Jesus is not enough. Jesus is asking us if He alone is enough, or if we need our health and all our temporal treasures to be complete.

One more way to know if Jesus is enough is to examine your actions when a storm hits or when you’re simply confronted by a rough day. What do you reach for? The phone to call a friend? The internet? Sleep? Pain relievers or antidepressants? Comfort food? Do you escape and watch TV or a movie? Or maybe you just default to your soul and you emotionally act out of stress, taking it out on everyone in your path with a nasty, bad attitude like I used to do. My comfort was also found in sleeping. When life got tough I would close my door, shut my life out and take a nap. This was one way I could avoid the truth. Other times I would look for consolation by calling a friend or escaping with a good love story chick flick.

Now that I am living in the reality of Jesus being enough, I follow a simple self-discipline guideline—I do not allow myself to call a friend unless I first call on Jesus. It’s the same with the movie—no escapism. I first have to check out the greatest love story of all…the Bible! The best news is, I rarely ever feel like shutting life out with a nap anymore. Instead, I shut myself into Jesus as my only comfort.

Jesus is enough where relationships are concerned

If relationships are let go into the hands of God and if we can turn to God as the one who fills us—not people—then we are free.

1. We are free from the emotional roller coaster that some relationships bring.

2. We can let go of all our unhealthy expectations of people.

3. Most important, we are free to just love people without choking the life out of them while trying to extract from them what we need to make us feel complete.

God longs to complete us, He wants to be enough for us where relationships are concerned. Sometimes the people we love just don’t have it in them to meet our needs—nor should they. Only God should have that role in our lives. If we let Jesus be enough then we can have healthier, freer relationships that are not all bound up by human expectations.

God has shown me that as I let Him be my everything, even in relationships, I am free to love without expecting anything in return. My love then is based out of purity and truth instead of manipulation

In the past, I tried so hard to make the people that I love, love me like I thought they should. That is reasonable when it comes to your spouse and parents because there are certain responsibilities that come with these relationships. But not everyone is whole enough to love as they should. This was true for my family. Rejection, betrayal and abandonment brought so much sorrow and pain that I would not have been able to function properly if God had not used this concept to help me love, honor and respect as the Bible requires me to.

In one of the most pressing times in my life I wanted to give up on my marriage. I knew it was not God’s plan that I give up and in a very dark season God turned to me and asked me some serious questions. “If your marriage never got any better, would you still love Me? Could I be enough for you? Could I be your husband? Would you allow Me to love you where he can’t? Could you love your husband for Me? Could you lay down your life as a bridge to him? Could you bridge his path to Me with your life and allow Me to be enough for you?”

I never could have done any of this without first giving my life up to Jesus and clinging to Him. Yes, it was agonizing and painful but by the grace of God I chose to let Jesus be enough for me.

I encourage you to be found in Him alone and to let Him fill in all the blanks in your life. Jesus undoubtedly is enough

Passion

If someone invited you to a party using these words; “The party will be dull, pretty much boring and very stale—you should come”—would you go? I think not.

How about relationship? What if a young man has interest in a young lady and when asking her to date him uses this line, “I really like you and want to date you, but first you must know—it will be a very dreary and lifeless relationship.” What girl, in her right mind, would date a guy with that personality and perspective?

What would be missing from such a relationship? Passion.

There are a couple of meanings to the word passion—the passion I’m referring to is the zest in life.

The opposite of passion is—mundane, routine, common, boring.

Passion causes people to go beyond normal—in life, relationships, work and play.

All my kids love and play extreme sports. Why play chess for a hobby when you have rock climbing or MMA? Hockey, dirt bike riding, white water rafting, kayaking, snowboarding, skateboarding and skydiving? They are passionate people and could never be satisfied with anything dull or commonplace.

Likewise we should press the limits on our Christianity. Always moving forward—insistent on loving and knowing God more—adamant in service—courageously sharing our faith—undaunted by culture and boldly exhibiting godly character.  We are to be people who go beyond normal in everyday life—faith filled people who represent God—people consumed with passion!

When God created us He set passion inside of us. Just look at the young—who live with child-like wonder, excitement, and enthusiasm about everything they encounter.

Our relationship with God should be one of passion, where we crave His Holy Spirit, and His presence. A relationship packed with zeal and fervor—not mundane—birthed out of obligation.

Matthew 22:37 boldly states what is most important in life,

To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (NKJ)

Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. (MSG)

It takes passion to love God in this manner.

Many things steal passion—heartache, sickness, offense, doubt, disobedience, selfishness and busyness. Mainly the devil—he loves to usurp our passion, along with it he steals our faith. He is master at causing situations to arise where we question and doubt God’s goodness. It’s what he lives for.

Along with passion for God we must have passion for His Word. God’s Word amongst many things, is where we read about the greatest love story ever! Not only that—but in His Word is the secret to living life skillfully.

John 1:1 says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

If you love God and are in a relationship with Him—filled with His Spirit, then you also love His Word and are in relationship with it as well. We must diligently guard our passion for the Bible—the sneaky devil is expert at making the Word seem uninteresting and irrelevant.

Last but not least—another area where passion gets evaporated by the enemy is where church is concerned.

Psalm 69:9 says,

Passion for your house has consumed me

We should be passionate for our church—if we belong to God, then church is our house and we should passionately—with all our heart—not just out of duty—love to be there, serve there and be a part of what God is doing in our local church.

The reason the devil loves to steal passion for God’s house is the isolation factor—he isolates the weak and picks them off. He initiates grumbling, offense and disunity—which make church seem routine and pointless. Fact is—passionless church goers weaken the church.

We have to be intentional in protecting our passion. Making sure not to waste our affections on trivial things of this world.

What’s your passion level? Has the enemy seized your passion for God, His Word and His house?

An incredible attribute of God is his loving-kindness. He will never be content with allowing the devil to steal from His people! He has made a way for each of us, by His grace, to take back what the puny devil steals. It will take an act of our strong self-will, but after that it’s a cake-walk.

We must simply use our will, to turn to God—access grace, confess our passionlessness and lean into His great and awesome love. With an open embrace He welcomes us—here we exchange our dryness for a greater thirst.

Please be encouraged to ask God for more passion—and it will be yours!

Skillful Living 101—20 Faithfulness

Have you ever spoken to someone confidentially, only to find out your confidence was betrayed? Or have you yourself been the one not able to hold a confidence?

Unfortunately, sometimes a faithful person is hard to find. In today’s culture faithfulness is not a value or high priority. Why? Because being a faithful person requires us to stretch beyond the norm and live selflessly—where we are not focused on our own needs, wants and desires.

Proverbs 20:6 states

Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?

Basic skillful living requires faithfulness. All day, every day, we are faced with the choice to be faithful. We must be faithful stewards of all God entrusts to us—family, spouse, relationships, work, church, the call of God on our life—faithfulness is required in our heart, soul, spirit and body. We have to be faithful with our words, thoughts, actions and reactions, with money and possessions—the list never ends! Who can do it? I know I struggle. The good news is—faithfulness is an attribute of God—the more time we spend with Him—the more we become like Him.

Ascertaining faithfulness first takes humility—an admission of our lack, then a simple exchange—our lack of faithfulness for His abundant faithfulness. It’s a process that happens layer by layer.

The Book of skillful living—Proverbs, has endless advice on how to be faithful. Something to remember as we glean life skills from the book of Proverbs is that skillful living is not just a cloak we wear, nor is it a to do list. The skillful living the Bible teaches has to embed in our very being, becoming who we are—not just what we do. This is why we need to live the Word not just read it!

We could probably go through every Proverb in Chapter 20 and see how faithfulness applies, but we will look at just a few.

Verse 1—“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

  • My father was a drinker—I was a drinker—anyone who loves or even knows a drinker can attest to the fact that faithfulness is not a high priority in their life. Be wise—don’t be led astray by the seductiveness of drinking—even in its simplest form—it’s a substitute for the fulfillment a deep relationship with God can give.

Verse 7— “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”

  • Faithfulness to righteousness and integrity, cause blessings to fall on us and our family.

Verse 15—“Drinking from the beautiful chalice of knowledge is better than adorning oneself with gold and rare gems.”

  • Be faithful in attaining godly knowledge—then we will truly be rich.

Verse 20— “Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness.”

  • Faithfulness to authority can save our life!

Verse 23—“God hates cheating in the marketplace; rigged scales are an outrage.”

  • Be faithful in business—who wants to outrage God?

Verse 27—“The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.”

  • When the light of God illuminates our inner person—may He find faithfulness.

Skillful Living Tools

  • Esteem faithfulness
  • Choose faithfulness over selfishness
  • Basic skillful living requires faithfulness
  • Ascertaining faithfulness takes humility
  • Be wise—don’t be led astray by the seductiveness of alcohol
  • Faithfulness to righteousness and integrity, cause blessings to fall on you and your family
  • Faithfulness to authority can save our life!
  • Be faithful in businessdon’t outrage God
  • God requires faithfulness in our inner person

Please be encouraged to seek, find and apprehend the faithfulness of God for every detail of your life.

Read and apply all of Proverbs 20 and please share with those who need to live skillfully!

Check out the Skillful Living Tool Box (updated) at the top of this page!

Free but Costly

If someone were to go to a free community event, would that person be free to act however they want at that event? Say they wanted to hit and offend everyone they came in contact with, could they? It’s a free event—are they free to do as they please? What if they wanted to drink alcohol and get totally drunk and act foolishly, could they? Would it be permissible for them to freely have sex at this event? Or would there be a conduct code?

What about freedom in Christ? It’s free. Can the saved person act however they want?

What does free in Christ mean? Are we free to do as we please, is that what it means?

If it’s free then why is it so costly?

Freedom is free—meaning you can’t buy or earn your way in. But freedom does have a cost. America’s freedom has cost many lives.

A Christian’s freedom is free, but it cost Jesus His life.

The freedom we have in Christ means we are free from death, sin, hell and the world—free from the devil and all his evil. We love this part and rightly so, but where things get tangled up is the world component.

We are to be in but not of the world, okay so where do we free Christians draw our line? We obviously have to live in the world and no doubt it is one of our biggest adversaries.

Now think of this as the free community event, can a person do whatever they want? The answer is no. Just because it’s free it does not mean you can freely do whatever you desire or feel like. It’s the same with Christianity; just because it’s free we are not free to do as we please.

The freedom we have in Christ translates to this—free to love and obey—we are free from the devils hold on us and we are free to love and obey God and His word.

Our freedom costs us our life as we knew it before we accepted Christ as savior. Christ bought us a relationship of intimacy with God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit—intimacy that comes by way of freely submitting (James 4:7-8).

Sadly a lot of people have a hard time with this. Until I realized that my freedom was about relationship I did too. When we are not aware of the relationship factor, then it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to do whatever we want, not caring if we grieve God, using the grace clause as our excuse. The reason being—it’s all about us and our happiness—not realizing genuine happiness is the joy that’s found in relationship with God.

Christianity is not about going to church, ministry, being good, evangelism or any other reason. These are all necessary biblical elements but they are not why we become Christians—no, we become followers of Christ because of love. He first loved us—showing us how to love Him and others.

This amazing love cannot be attained outside of a relationship with God and relationship with God will cost you your life.

It makes sense. Think about it—how can we accept the free gift and draw near to God outside of holiness? What relationship does light have with dark? None. Sin separates light from dark.

Galatians 2:20 says,

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Essentially freedom bought our ability to crucify the old worldly person/life, so Christ, the light of the world, could live in us.

Listen to Romans 6:12-14 from The Message,

That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

The freedom of God gives grace—grace leads to obedience—obedience leads to righteousness—we are instructed in Romans 6:13 to be instruments of righteousness.

Take note of what Paul says in Romans 6:15-16 about grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

We are free to love God—free to obey—free to lay our life down as a living sacrifice—free to be in the world and not of it—His grace makes way for it.

Please be encouraged in knowing that your freedom was bought with precious blood, shed to draw you near to God Himself.

Following is Romans 6:15-23 from The Message. It’s very lengthy but so good!

So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness? As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end. But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Skillful Living 101—15 Taming the Tongue

Though the tongue may be small it carries tremendous weight, having the power to bring either life or death. A perpetual topic throughout scripture is on the use of this petite, but very influential member of our body.

Controlling the words that roll off our tongue are of utmost importance to the Lord. One passage of scripture goes so far as to say, that if we cannot control our tongue than our belief is useless.

James 1:26,

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion [faith, belief] is worthless.

This is critical. If we are not cognizant of this fact, we could live our whole life in deceit—gossiping and slandering people under the guise of Christian concern. I do not want to live my life unaware of how important an unbridled tongue is to God!

Truthfully, the use of the tongue is one of those matters that most of us know about and suffer from (in some degree or another) but choose to disregard or let slide as not really a sin. Why? Basically, our flesh loves to gossip—grosser still—it feeds on it. Not to mention the devil’s plan to deceive us with the lie that it’s okay and not really gossip or slander. Worse yet, we can be deceived to the point of not even thinking gossip and slander are sin. Read 2 Timothy 3:2-5, Titus 1:15-16, Psalm 101:5 and I Peter 4:15, to see if it’s a sin or not.

As the beautiful bride of Christ this is an area we constantly have to guard and purposely keep in check.

Another important point to make about the tongue is found in Matthew 12:34,

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

If our words are foul, we need not look any further than our heart for the answer as to why. Our speech is a heart issue. Our heart is to be God’s home, a place where He alone can reside. It’s our wellspring and it needs to be kept pure.

Words that give life come from a blameless heart—such words refresh the soul of those on whom they fall. Let’s make it our passion to keep a pure heart that overflows with words of life.

Proverbs 15 holds many truths about a controlled tongue and a pure heart:

Verse 1—“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Verse 2—“The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”

Verse 4—“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

Verse 7—“The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so.”

Verse 14—“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.”

Verse 23—“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”

Verse 26—“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the words of the pure are pleasant.”

Verse 28—“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.”

Living skillfully requires an undefiled heart and a bridled tongue.

So maybe this all sounds great and the Holy Spirit is nudging (convicting) you to guard your heart and tongue, but it seems a hard task. If so, please remember He gives grace to the humble. Simply repent and turn to God asking him for the grace to purify your heart and cleanse your speech. (Read and apply James 4:6-10) God loves it when we come to Him asking for help to be more like Him!

Two, really good scriptures to pray daily are, Psalm 141:3 and Psalm 51:6;

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts [heart], and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Please be encouraged to keep your heart pure and your speech above reproach, you will live skillfully if you do!

Skillful Living Tools:

  • The power of death and life are in the tongue, (Proverbs 18:21)
  • Controlling our tongue is important to God
  • Don’t be deceived—Gossip and slander are sin, (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
  • Don’t feed your flesh with Gossip (Galatians 5:16)
  • Our speech is a heart issue, (Matthew 12:34)
  • Keep a pure heart that overflows with words of life
  • A soft answer turns away wrath
  • A wholesome tongue is a tree of life
  • A perverse tongue breaks the spirit
  • The words of the pure are pleasant
  • The heart of the righteous studies how to answer

Please share with those who need to live skillfully!

Check out the Skillful Living Tool Box (updated weekly) at the top of this page!

True Repentance

A lifestyle of repentance is a vital spiritual discipline for the thriving Christian. Without it, our flesh remains prideful. It is what we do with our sin that makes all the difference. If we hide our sin and defend ourselves, making excuses for our behavior, God cannot help us. Hidden sin has to be exposed—preferably by the one sinning.

Exposed sin needs to lead us to godly sorrow, which opens the door to true repentance. Godly sorrow is the grief we experience when we realize we have sinned against God Himself, this truth is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

The sorrow the world has to offer leads to death because it has nothing to do with true repentance; therefore, no changes are made. Worldly sorrow cheaply spits the words “I’m sorry” out of its mouth, desperately trying to relieve its own conscience. It is all about self, with no real regard for God or those it has hurt and wounded, which is why it leads to death.

Oswald Chambers says it in this manner,

Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes—a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

True repentance is a lethal weapon to be exercised daily. It births us into a healthy lifelong change. Repentance is not just acknowledging and confessing our sin, but the starting point of turning away from sin, as indicated in Acts 3:19.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Casual Christians treat repentance as if it were the cold ocean where they just tiptoe at the shore. If we seriously want to be healed and live in a deeper relationship with God, than we cannot afford to be casual or to dabble. True repentance has to become our lifestyle.

It has to become our lifestyle because sin happens daily. When we ask Christ to be our savior He wipes away all our past sins. It would be great if at that point we stopped sinning all together, but that’s not the way it is.

There are sins of omission and sins of commission. There are heart attitudes that have to be dealt with daily, as well as issues that we are in the process of overcoming. We never arrive to perfection but are a work in progress.

A lifestyle of repentance is not meant to make us feel like losers, but to assist us in moving forward—in the way of sanctification.

One aspect of true repentance is that it can change our pallet for sin. Sin becomes distasteful when true repentance is taken in and savored—mainly because we recognize how our sin has separated us from God.

Another truth about repentance is that it kills pride in us. Isaiah 57:15 says,

I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

God dwells with those who are contrite and humble. Pride is a major enemy to a lifestyle of true repentance.

It’s also important to realize that the grace of God is what leads us to repentance and it comes by way of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, as stated in Romans 2:4

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness [grace] of God leads you to repentance?

When we repent and ask for forgiveness, God takes our sin and remembers it no more, as clearly specified  in Psalm 103:12

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

Please do not keep reminding Him of it, simply shut the mouth of the devil and be led by the Holy Spirit.

In Romans 8:1, Paul writes,

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

If we live in the Spirit and not the flesh there is no condemnation or guilt. One way to know if we are operating in true repentance is to check our condemnation and guilt level. True repentance sets us free with no regret. True repentance also wipes out our sin and lifts our burden, allowing God’s refreshing to come to us. The enemy of our soul will try to convince us we’re not forgiven, set free, healed or delivered. He will attempt to heap shame on us, but we have to remember; if we sincerely repent, turn and operate in Godly sorrow, God forgives us. End of story. Our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west.

Essentially true repentance is priceless—it brings times of refreshing (Acts 3:19) that allow us to draw closer to God—who wouldn’t want that?

Please be encouraged to welcome godly conviction in your life and to live a lifestyle of true repentance. You won’t regret it.

The contents of this blog was taken from my book Thirsty Heart.