ARE WE COMFORTABLE CHRISTIANS?

10.07.2015

For the past year my heart has been heavy for people I do not know personally.  The world seems to be in turmoil and a downward spiral seems inevitable.  Every where you turn there are horrific news of senseless acts of violence, death and war.  Our sisters and brothers in Christ are being persecuted for their beliefs.  Beheaded because they refuse to renounce Christianity and Jesus Christ.

We need to pray for our world, for our brothers and sisters.  For humanity.  The words from 2 Chronicles captures God's promise and bring me comfort:

HUMBLE YOURSELF TO ME.

PRAY TO ME.

SEEK ME.

TURN AWAY FROM WICKEDNESS.

THEN I WILL HEAR YOU AND FORGIVE YOU.



Our nation and our world need healing BIG TIME. Persecution does not only happen in a violent way.  It also happens verbally and by actions.  This country needs to get back to the values it was founded on with the foundation of God as our Master.  This is why I think that it has taken a while for this country to respond to the killing of Christians (and minorities) in Iraq.  In some level the world has become desensitized to Christians dying.  So desensitized that when it happened last week in Oregon, the discussion turned to gun control rather than the fact that those who were murdered we targeted for being Christians.

I read something that truly brought me to tears: THE BRAVEST PERSON IN AMERICA? THE SECOND PERSON TO ADMIT TO BEING A CHRISTIAN AFTER THE UCC SHOOTER MURDERED THE FIRST ONE.

To me this really puts everything into context.  I am not here to make a political statement.  I am writing this words because my heart cries for the death of our brothers and sisters.  But also because it truly brings home what it is that the Scripture calls us to do:  to live a Christ-like life and embrace everything that it entails... even persecution and death.  It is easy to say "yes, Jesus I am here for you NO MATTER what" from the comfort of our homes where, while we may have troubles, it probably does not include dying for our faith.

But here is what strikes me as amazing with all the Christians dying around the world.  Yes, some have renounce their faith (only to be killed regardless) but the majority have hold on to their love for Jesus. In some of these areas of the world where persecution is occurring, freedom of religion is non-existent yet people are choosing Jesus and EVERYTHING that comes with it.  That my friends, is Christianity at it's core.  Talk about living to love Jesus.

And it makes me wonder: what am I doing with my religious freedom?  And the truth is piecing and convicting because the answer is truly NOT MUCH.  I find myself exercising comfortable Christianity and I need to shake things off.  I am taking some of the recommendations in my previous post and becoming more intentional about it.  Aside from that I am praying that God show me how else can I serve Him.   Because something inside me is telling me I can do more with my freedom to love Him and say so out loud.

And would I die for Jesus? For my faith?  I would like to say a resounding YES.  But truthfully, I do not know how I would react if confronted with that situation.  It is easy to say YES I WOULD where I am sitting right now.  But when faced with life or death-- I am not sure.  This too is something I pray constantly. For you and for all of us: that if presented with this choice we will say "YES LORD, I WILL!" without any doubts. 


Elizabeth. Barbie. Shelley. Holley. Joan. Jennifer. Beth. Laura. Holly. Woman to Woman. Beth. Bonnie. Sue. Lily. Brittany.

HOW TO PREPARE THE SOUL FOR THE NEW SEASON {WELCOME AUTUMN}

9.16.2014

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September... you are already half way gone.  Oh how I love thee.  There is something about your arrival that immediately causes to slow down.  It happens without thinking.  It is probably because with you, you bring a long awaited friend: autumn.  She with her beautiful colors of yellows, oranges, red...  brilliance in all its glory follows her everywhere she goes.  

In September and through the rest of the fall season, life resembles that of a garden too.  There is always something to do and maintain in preparation for next season.  It is time to clean up the garden.  And think about what perfect time it is to reset and get spiritually ready for the next season when the biggest miracle in human history takes place.  That moment when God decides to become man and comes to us in the form of a baby. 

Yes, indeed.  It is time to do a spiritual cleanse and prepare for the next season.  

Do you feel spent?  Do you feel like the weeds and slugs of the world are after the spiritual garden you so lovingly care for?  Let us remove them and keep after them so they do not come back!

Do you feel like you are in a rut and need a change in your life?  Pray hard and bold.  Just like a perennial that is overgrown and needs to be moved to a new area,  life can feel like "too much" sometimes.  Maybe it is time for a change?

In the garden, fall is the perfect time to plant new and replacement perennials.  It is also time to dig up and take care of bulbs before the first frost.  Do you feel that you need a more intimate relationship with God?  Maybe joining a bible study or a coffee group of likeminded women would be a good way to take care of that spiritual garden.  It is about identifying the things that are not nurturing your spirit and maybe finding other tools that will help you nurture and care for that God-loving heart of yours.

I love filling gaps in the garden with autumn flowering plants.  And just like that I like to fill the gaps in my spiritual life.  Maybe study a new book, join a small group at church, do hospital visits for sick people who do not have anyone to visit them?  These experiences strengthen our spiritual life and our community.  It makes us open to the concept of serving others like Jesus wants us to do.  

But here is the best thing I like about fall-- it's prunning time! I do not know why I like it but prunning is relaxing to me.  It symbolizes making way for new growth.  Friends, it is time to get rid of those things that are old and dead.  Relationships that bring you down or steer you away from God?  Get rid of them.  Things that put into question your integrity and values?  Get rid of them!  Did you have things that happened this summer or situations that left you hardened and feeling like a tree without leaves? Then now it's the time to clean all that up before it hardens inside of you.

Just like a garden we have to tender the heart but most importantly the spirit.  I used to think the phrase "spiritual warfare" was so dramatic until I realized that is exactly what happens when the enemy attacks it.  But I truly believe if we prepare spiritually as one would prepare the soil with rich nutrients, water and sun-- we have a great foundation to ensure we have a pest-free garden where no insects, bugs or fungus can take refuge.  Now it's the time to prepare for the coming season so that we can welcome the miracle with open arms and grow in the promise that He brings.

I may join these wonderful faith gardeners: Elizabeth. Barbie. Shelley. Holley. Joan. Jennifer. Beth. Laura. Holly.  Woman to Woman. Beth. Bonnie. Sue. LilyBrittany.

ARE YOU READY TO COME HOME? {THE BOOK OF HOSEA}

9.12.2014


ALL PHOTOS CREDIT

Two weeks ago I wrote a post titled "Not Your God" based on a verse from a bible study I was doing on the Book of Hosea.  It was Day 2 of the study and I remember feeling this sadness reading the verse because all this time I have been taking God for granted.  I know He saved me, He loves me and He is always there.  But what if He got tired of my lazy effort as a Christian and my sins?  What if one day He gets tired and says: bye, bye... I give up on you.  And it was with this thought in mind that I immersed myself in this Bible study.  I could tell from Day 2 that it would be uncomfortable.  It would be messy and it would make me face the reality of my life as a Christian. 

I started a few Bible studies in the past but never finished them yet I was determined to finish this one because I find myself in a place when I am going through a transition as a Christian.  I have come to a time when I crave to serve God and have a more intimate relationship with him-- not just during the hardship times but always.   But something has been holding me back.  The story  felt very drawn to this study because I had never read Hosea before.

I can write for days about everything that I learned from this study and things that I learned about myself but pull up a chair and let me tell you the two most important things:

{NO. 1}  I     H  U  R  T    G  O  D

This was the hardest truth to wrap my head around.  That while this omnipotent and bigger than life God does not need to love me, He does.  Yet I am incredibly hurtful to Him.  There is great happiness and hope at the end of Hosea but this book to me was all about God's sadness due to our disobedience.  Through most of the book I kept hearing this incredible sadness behind the anger whenever God talks of Israel and Ephraim.  But not just them-- ALSO US.  We, today in this world, are Israel and Ephraim anytime we are disobedient. 

Throughout the Bible I have read much about disobedience to God but this is the first book when I actually hear sadness.  And this was eye opening to me.  Yes, I have the ability to hurt God, just as I would hurt my earthly father if I did something wrong.  I found myself in the quietness of my room saying out loud: God, how I have hurt you.  Please forgive me.  It was a simple statement yet those words, saying them out loud-- carried such a heaviness.  And made me think for days about His Grace, which brings me to my second point. 

{NO. 2}  No matter what I have done I can ALWAYS return to God.



With the heaviness of having hurt God with my disobedience still in my heart, this was quite a revelation for me.  You see, I am a fairly new Christian.  I did not fully accept Christ into my life until 2010.  Yet, even after I accepted Him there was this feeling of inadequacy inside of me.  How can this righteous God love me?  Me who insulted Him when I was a non-believer.  Me who thought of His and Christians as conceited.  Me who never gave Him a second thought and loved rebelling against Him?  Yes sisters... I loved being a rebel against God.  My practical and clinical mind was right and God was wrong.   

This study showed me how.  The key to me was Hosea 11:9 "I will not execute by burning anger... for I AM GOD and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."   Wooooo!  Can you feel it?!  Can you feel the deep love and mercy in His words?  

I AM GOD

I can punish you and make life hard for you.

YET I choose to withhold wrath and my anger BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.  
 


I get goosebumps reading this, sisters!  His love and mercy wins over anything we have done.  While the world may judge us God does not, and that is the important thing!  Through the mess and muck HE IS CALLING US HOME!!!  Calling us to Him!  I read something on the study that I jotted down because it moved me:

Wherever we are-- His mercy and compassion finds us there.

Whatever we've done-- the Cross of Christ is the bridge that carries us over.

And this is where everything comes back to.  To that moment when Jesus died in the Cross for us.  When he took our sins, bore them and with His blood cleansed them away.

He redeemed us. He redeemed us. He redeemed us, sisters.  Oh, how He redeemed us.  Hallelujah!

I am writing this with tears in my eyes repeating that truth because finally I have accepted in my heart that His blood is more powerful than any sins I have committed.  He washed away my sins and I am worthy of His love.  For the first time since I became a Christian my heart is full with this truth that no matter what the enemy says or does, feels branded in my heart.  

All these years in the darkness God was lighting the path for me to find my way home to Him.  All these years that my beautiful mom prayed for me to find God and open my heart, were part of His tools here on earth to help me find my way home.  I had a wandering heart and it was not until now that noticed that I have been standing on the threshold of God's home-- one foot inside the house while the other is stuck outside the door because I felt unworthy.  But now I finally get it-- that I can step inside with both feet. I can return home without any doubt in my mind about my worthiness or His love.  I can return home and God is happy about that-- He will not turn me away. I feel it in my bones, sisters!  I feel it and I love it! I am ready to come home and start a more personal relationship with God.

Oh, I pray that you be blessed with discernment and clarity about God's love for you, if you have a heart where doubt and hope reside.  Remember that both cannot live together at the same time.  And if you did the study, I would love to hear what you learned from it.  Be blessed!
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Sharing with SheReadsTruth 
and Five Minutes Friday 
{it is amazing how words flow when you are inspired!}

A DOUBTFUL & HOPEFUL HEART

9.09.2014

I love how God works when you need encouragement from Him.  Whether it is a phone call from someone, a phrase you read or just that feeling of "you are not alone... take a deep breath" that comes over you-- God winks are awesome!  Yesterday I was dealing with a situation that for whatever reason totally made me stress even though I KNOW God got this.  I know it because I am following His plan yet I chose to stress.  Even my fiance was surprised. 
That is how the enemy works, right?  Adding stress to a situation where there should not be none.  Making it seem like the world will come undone if everything does not go by the plan.  So, once I got home and got prepared for next day, I sat in bed to pray.  I felt much better after it mostly because before the prayer, I vented with God.  I find that when something is festering inside me, I have to let it out so I can have an open heart to the Word. 
As I laid in bed, I remembered a phrase I read from Renee Swope from Proverbs 31 Ministries-- it came to me at the right time. 
"YET DOUBT AND HOPE CANNOT LIVE IN OUR HEARTS AT THE SAME TIME."

Because when it came down it, this is exactly what I was doing yesterday.  I was trying to be hopeful with a dose of doubt in the background.  I was saying: I trust you God... if you can please help me".  You see what is wrong with this prayer, right?  Talk about limiting the power of God in my life.  In reality what I was saying was "I kind of trust you, God" and that is not good enough for God. 
So, my only advise today is when you find yourself in this place of spiritual conflict, get on your knees and pray that God gives you an open and strong heart that is prepared to battle this emotional warfare when situations arise.  Remember that He's got this, sisters!  He is wonderful and omnipotent.  He is greater and more powerful than anything or anyone in this world, and He has got a plan for us all.  One of my favorite inspiring speakers shared this yesterday: as long as you got a pulse, He's got a plan.  That my friends is powerful and a truth that should make us all chose to let hope live in our hearts instead of doubt. 
 
Joining these beautiful ladies: Elizabeth. Barbie. Shelley. Angie. Deidra. Holley. Joan. Jennifer. Beth. Laura. Holly. Anne. Woman to Woman. Beth. Bonnie. Sue.

NOT YOUR GOD {WHERE HE BROUGHT ME FROM}

8.27.2014

In a world where we take everything for granted, the pace of our lives can sometimes make us take God's love for granted.  It is there-- stubborn and ever-present.  We know this.  He sent His Son to die for us.  No better proof of unending love.  That certainty makes us face a sometimes dark world with faith and hope because we know God and Christ have our backs.  But what if that certainty was no there?
I am not a bible study person but about a month ago I felt a stirring in my heart and started doing the She Reads Truth online bible studies and it has helped me tremendously in my understanding of the Bible but most importanly that praising Jesus does not take away from God's importance (yes, I thought that way).  I am on my second bible study and a few days ago we started to study the Book of Hosea. 
I have never read Hosea but we were warned that it would not be a comfortable book to study because of the imagery and some upsetting topics.  And with that in mind I dove into it.  I am here to tell you that the first line of day one stopped me on my tracks:


I read this verse from Hosea and I felt sick.  I don't know why, but I did and my eyes filled with tears.  Actually, I do know why: because for a second I wondered
"What if God stood in front of me RIGHT NOW and said these words to me?" 
"What if He did not find me worthy of His love?"
"What if He turned His back on me?"
As I type this, the mere thought of these possibilities ties my stomach in knots.   In a world that seems to be sinking into conflict and darkness how would I-- would we-- survive if God said to us I AM NOT YOUR GOD.  To say I would be crushed would be an understatement.  Imagine how Hosea must have felt.  Actually I do not think we can.  Married to an unfaithful woman and with three children with names that forecasted doom and gloom-- Hosea's love story was the example of redemption.  His was a call to love like God does: love everyone regardless of flaws and sins. 
The Gospel and it's message is a beautiful thing but as pointed to me, many bad things happened before it.  And it is in this that I find my Christian story woven with some of yours and theirs.  For I was in a pit of sin and despair but God loved me no matter what.  And through His Son-- the living God-- we became His people again.  Many times I wonder why my previous life, one without regards for others or myself at times, was so dark at times.  It felt like a pit.  And it has been through my study of God's Word that I have come to realize why: so that I can appreciate where He brought me from.
I bear the self-inflicted scars and guilt of a previous life, not to duel on them but as a beautiful reminder that I was ALWAYS part of His plan just as His people were even when He declared them "not His people".  That stubborn love that I talked about before is what made Him never give up on me. 
Be thankful and rejoice that we never had to hear the words in Hosea 1:9 and that we did not have to experience a life where God does not consider us part of His people.  Be blessed my friends,
 
Joining these beautiful ladies: Elizabeth. Barbie. Shelley. Angie. Deidra. Holley. Joan. Jennifer. Beth. Laura. Holly. Anne. Woman to Woman. Beth. Bonnie. Sue.

CHANGE {TAKING A LEAP OF FAITH}

8.21.2014

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Today I am joining Five Minute Friday at Heading Home and today's prompt could not bee more timely.  It is CHANGE.

Change.  I am not a fan of change.  I like my comfort zone.  I am a creature of habit that finds comfort in knowing what comes next.  But for many years I have been stalled in a life that while rewarding it is not my call any longer.  This life prepared me for my next chapter.  

While part of me feels a twinge of panic in the stomach at times, the big part of me knows it is time to listen to the still small voice of God in my heart, close my eyes and with open arms take that leap of faith.

Change.  This time the need for it came strong and raw with an overwhelming quality that rocked my world.  The realization that I needed and craved change was unexpected and moving.  It felt like a fire in my soul and it made me say for the first time "Yes, Lord.  I hear you".  Yes, it rocked me to the core.  It needed to be like that for I am stubborn.  There have been many times in my life when God has had to use a spiritual 2x4 for me to listen.  And this one of them.  

This change that will take place during this coming year is such a big departure from where I saw my life going yet it is where I want to go.  More importantly, it is where I am destined to go.  Because He-- our God-- says so.  This is a huge leap of faith.  But I feel strangely at peace which lets me know He is backing me up one hundred and fifty percent.  

I am certain of this: that God wants change in my life in order to find my calling.  That same calling that I have been praying to be revealed to me.  I have wanted to know my calling yet have been unwilling to make the necessary changes today that will put me in my path to my future.  So here I am changing as we speak and saying "Yes God, I accept your guidance".  

STOP.

Now head on over and join in the Five Minute Friday link-up.  Be blessed!
 
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HIS STUBBORN LOVE {FOR WHEN WE NEED A BIG CUP OF FAITH}

8.13.2014

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Stubborn.  Unyielding.  Unrelenting.  Indelible.  Willful.  Obstinate. All words that when normally used in a sentence have a negative connotation.  But when used to describe the love of God for us, become a beautiful arrangement of letters that gives us hope.  Because all these words describe His love for me and you. 
He is a God that loves STUBBORNLY.
He loves us UNYIELDINGLY.
He loves you and me UNRELENTLESSLY.
His love when accepted leaves an INDELIBLE mark in our hearts.
God's love and ability to love us even when WE HURT HIM is OBSTINATE. 
His love is not fickle like human love.  His is everlasting and always forgiving.  Something for which I am thankful for.  I am a sinner.  Truth be told, sometimes I know I am sinning and something inside still let's me do it.  It is frustrating and makes me feel a little broken.  Because that moment when you know you are hurting God makes you feel a little broken.
And I say a prayer of strength and I open my soul and bare it all to Him.  Because there is no sense in hiding what is inside you.  He already knows it.  But in order to put the pieces back together it helps to say it out loud.  Just you and Him.  It is when I can finally let down my guard and tell Him my truth:
I am WEAK God.
I CANNOT do this WITHOUT YOU.
Never turn your back on me, God.
It is a plea from deep within me that I know it to be true.  I am weak and I need Him.  No one else can help me in my weakness and in the constant struggle to rise above that which makes me sin.  Only He can help me.  And it is in those moments when the fire of His love shines.  I think you have to have experienced God's continuous love to understand when I say that one can actually feel that moment when God puts this feeling in your heart that seems to say "my daughter, I am here.  Always here.  You are growing and you are making mistakes-- but my love never fails.  It is stubborn and will always be there". 
Like that solitary boulder in the middle of the ocean, storms may come, we may distance ourselves from God, we may at times feel like we hate him for whatever is happening in our lives BUT He never stops loving us.  I am a a living example of this.  In the lowest moments, especially those when I have hurt Him with my words or thoughts, I know that He loves me and that my human stain has not made Him turn away from me. 
So when we are feeling like God does not love us remember the words in Ephesians 2: 4-5 "But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead."  Sometimes it is so hard to believe this; that God loves us. But it is a simple truth. As Billy Graham once said: "God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world -- I love you.  And that my friends, is an indelible truth.  Be thanksful of His love.  Of that stubborn of love of God.

 
Three Words Wednesday. Thought Provoking Thursday. Thankful Thursday. Whitespace Link-Up.