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Refuge

It is December, and the weather outside is beginning to settle into winter. No doubt, many parts of the country will experience heavy winter snows and storms to come. Winter cold and storms cause us to seek shelter and warmth. It is so similar with life. Sometimes days feel just right like spring, but it is not unique to experience what feels like a “winter of life” or a “storm of life”. Sometimes life is exhausting like intense heat. The Bible confirms all of these experiences, and the fact is that many times in this lifetime you and I will absolutely not have what it takes to “weather the elements”. As humans we seek refuge in intense weather conditions, and we seek refuge in intense life conditions. 

During a tornado, for example, it is important to know where to seek refuge. If you seek refuge in an inadequate place you are in SERIOUS DANGER. If you do not know how to find proper relief from heat exhaustion you are in serious danger. Failure to find proper refuge and relief can lead to death. It is the same with seeking refuge for “trials/storms of life”.

Ok, I am going to take this to the level of my daily life (and yours) because it is no good to appreciate an analogy if it does not impact real life. God has spoken about REFUGE quite often in his Word which means that there is something quite important and relevant here! He has told us not only that life will bring trials, but that there is also an enemy who is actively seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (no matter how alluring his net may seem- he is out to harm!). I have recently realized I have to ask myself the question, “Where do I seek refuge?”

-God has told us that in this world we will have trouble and trials. (John 16:33). 

-God has said that there is an enemy who seeks to take life from us. (John 10:10).

-Most importantly, God has spoken and declared himself to be our REFUGE.

Humans can seek refuge in a variety of other things. Some of these things are not good, but not all of these things are bad by themselves. Some are only dangerous when we run to them as refuges. Anything we make a refuge besides God will prove to be a FAULTY REFUGE, and will surely lead to our harm ultimately.

Specifically, humans are prone to seek refuge from trials of life in other people who we elevate to the level of God… in entertainment, alcohol, food, and drugs which we use as an escape… in busyness…. in religious activities that are routines void of that personal relationship with Jesus… in working harder when it is a result of placing all trust in myself to deliver me from this hardship…of running (sometimes literally running, sometimes running by not facing a hardship with the help of God in his prescribed way)… some take refuge and comfort in their “good works” thinking that if they are good they will make it to heaven (these do not seek Jesus as a refuge from God’s wrath as the Bible has said we must do!)…these are just a few ways. If you are bold enough for the challenge, list the refuges you typically seek.

Most idolatry that is recorded in Scripture is not just a result of a people wanting to carve statues for fun… it is a desperate attempt of a people to find refuge and deliverance from their deepest, darkest troubles and enemies! Their culture was far more spiritually tuned than our materialistic American culture, so they more easily believed that there were other gods who had power to give them what they wanted or prevent what they feared. Today, we still believe that certain things (like the ones mentioned above) can provide what we want and prevent our worst fears from becoming reality.

God has said that he is our refuge, our escape, our deliverance, our shade! He is a strong fortress and refuge, proving himself to be so good to those who take refuge in him.

The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.(Nahum 1:7, NLT).

“The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.” (Psalm 121:5, NLT).

“This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” (Psalm 91:2, NLT).

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…” (Isaiah 25:4, NIV).

The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:22, NIV).

 We demonstrate beautiful, deep trust in God when we turn toward him in our search for refuge. Seeking refuge in God can be a way of life, and it leads to the blessed, peaceful life! Seeking refuge in God honors him. It is a sign that we trust him to be for us the protector, defender, counselor, (etc.) that he has promised to be to those who are his.

Think of what it might look like to actively seek refuge in God from storms of life.  Sometimes seeking refuge in God may be praying instead of choosing to take matters into your own hands right away. Seeking refuge in God would surely involve time in God’s Word listening for his instruction and love. Seeking refuge in God will involve refusing run to your usual “refuge” during a time of crisis or stress. What would you have to refuse as a refuge to seek refuge in God?

(post written by RBL Blog Writer Lauren Mathers)

Has anyone been feeling discouraged in the battle lately? Is anyone sick of finding yourself at rock-bottom emotionally? If this is your reality right now, please continue to choose to hope for your future to change. Life can be different, but as we know, it takes work.  I would love to share some truth about how to begin to do battle in our minds, but first, would you consider Hebrews 11:6:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Choosing to change the way that lays out for us in the Bible is a good start. I say this realizing that many of you feel anger, hostility, disappointment, and even bitterness toward God. Some may feel like they cannot possibly believe in God. Faith is not easy, but the starting place for healing is to come to God choosing to exercise faith (against what you feel) that he exists, that he is good and that good reward will come from seeking him. He knows you and loves you. If you have not invited this God into your heart and life as your only Savior, you will not know the victory he can bring. There is hope in God. There is no hope in this life, or in eternity apart from Jesus. This being said, believers have been told to wage war in their hearts and minds. During my worst days, I found myself asking, “how did I get here in this really bad state of mind!?” Answer: I thought my way there. No matter what the circumstances there are two ways to process: by faith or unbelief.

I have often chosen to interpret my life through eyes of unbelief, and have found myself in dark places. I’ve heard it compared to tumbling down a staircase. Normally, you would begin at the top of the stairs and take step after step until you reached the bottom. The top step is a thought that is against how God has told us to think in Philippians 4:8 (read it!). Choosing to walk down the steps one bad thought at a time, we end up at the bottom of the stairs in a really bad state! Eventually, that certain “staircase of thoughts” or that pattern of downward-spiraling thoughts becomes habitual. When you have thought a certain way for an extended amount of time, you can end up at the bottom, in a dark place in your mind after the first thought. I’m asking you to consider your thought patterns.

Sometimes we can think thoughts that we do not even realize we are thinking. If you find yourself in a bad place emotionally it helps to pull out a sheet of paper and list all that you can remember thinking in the past five minutes. Next, evaluate each of these thoughts in light of what God says is true in the Bible. Practicing this is seriously so helpful in renewing your mind. God does tell us what is true, while the Enemy lies and deceives us. Believe God. He is for you (Romans 8:31-32).

The good news is that as believers we can put off our old self, and live the beautiful, redeemed life that Jesus has bought for us with his own blood! It’s possible to be freed, beginning in your mind. Here is how we fight:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

…One thought at a time.

Follow the link below for a worksheet to help you take your thoughts captive and be obedient to Christ!

Renewing_a_thought_worksheet-_extended-_-final (1)

 

(post written by Lauren Mathers)

This month I decided to share my testimony of the way God has (and is still) changing me into a person who worships Him alone. I hope to communicate just how gracious and big God is to change sinners who feel very stuck in sin into lovers of Jesus.

I am a sinner who has tried so many self-devised ways to get through life. I grew up in church and was a really a fan of God, but had no desire for God to rule over some parts of my life. Deep inside, I did not agree with God that his creation of life was good… or the way he created me because of my interpretation of pain I saw and felt. I became so frustrated with God because I felt there was a lack of resources for me in his way of living to deal with what I was feeling especially after the death of someone close to me. I felt that being a Christian would look put together, happy, and successful…and I TRIED and TRIED, but felt I needed something deeper, more drastic, and stronger to handle what I felt because I did not have a very big or accurate understanding of God.

My sin seemed to give me relief and created an alternate life to live apart from stress, pressure, and depression.  I learned early that people develop ways of attempting to control what they fear or what they do not want to feel and I chose my own method and dove into an eating disorder when I was 13 which would continue for the next ten years.   I trusted only in myself to keep my life under control. I piled added guilt and shame on top of this through many other foolish choices. I lived with the guilt of lying almost daily to cover my behavior. I saw many of the Christians around me as people who expected me to behave a certain way. And I realized that they just did not know how to deal with some of my best kept secrets, and would rather not know these things, so I tried to keep it quiet and not be an embarrassment. Most people were deceived, but a few knew my life and I know that I was the girl they hoped would not influence their daughter.

As part of my attempt at relief, I would turn hard-core to pursue the life of the perfect Christian in hopes that I would feel better, but also because pride was important to hang onto …but I was terribly insecure about whether or not I was even saved. I was tormented by this fear for years.  I asked Jesus to save me every day for long stretches of time. Nothing was secure.  I understood that salvation was not by works, but it was like I spent my life trying to work up enough faith within myself for God to accept me, and I swung to the other extreme of “laying down” in my sin so to speak. I judged my standing with God by everything I did, every way I felt, whether or not I could shake the depression and anxiety, whether circumstances were favorable. I think that I did not trust my life to the promise that if I looked to Jesus alone to save my life, I would live…that he holds onto and saves me. My life was worth too much to me to risk trusting another person’s Word that he could save and keep me, and so without understanding what I was doing, I added to the requirements and strived to change my own heart by looking inward to see if I was producing enough “saving faith”. I wanted God to work for me. When I couldn’t get what I wanted by using God I always turned to my idols. What I wanted needed to change.

I did know that God was the only thing in life that was not futile…and  I wanted my life to mean something, and be of some value, so I went to Bible college, and as much as I wanted to be a different person there, I took me with me… I used food and meds to get through the challenges of college life.  Eventually, I saw that my eating disorder and habits of escape prevented me from living anything near a normal life, consuming most of my time, and I sought help from Vision of Hope. I wanted my life to turn out better than it was, but God even used that incorrect motivation for his plan, because his plan was for me to be in this program.

Because I actually grew up handling everything with an eating disorder, to be honest, I didn’t have hope that I could do more than stop temporarily and/or replace it with some other habit. I let an eating disorder define me in my head…it was just as much a part of me as the color of my eyes or my height. It was my constant companion, and my focus.

The first year and a half of counseling was an endless cycle (on my part) of attempts to use God and his way to get the life, positive circumstances and feelings I wanted, and God was faithful to me never to give me any success in using him as an idol to get to all the various things I thought could make my life worth living. I did not see HIM as the treasure.

In my pride, stubbornness, fear I almost squandered the help that I had. My good girl façade that probably only existed in my head at this point collapsed… but the Lord was there … and he was gracious to answer my begging and pleading. Literally from the floor I would cry to God to open my heart and eyes to see him as better than the small benefit I was getting from my idolatry. He has been and is a better master to me than sin (I am continually learning that).

I began to see exactly where I was living… as a Pharisee who could no longer balance all the requirements. I couldn’t keep it under control anymore! I was still living in a self-created prison of rules. Though I was trying to balance the life of a good Christian My sinful “disorder” had been my identity, my worth, my consolation that had not totally let go…I used that identity to cope even when I was not practicing the behavior, but as I read a sermon on Hosea I began to desire intimacy with God instead of idols. I was forfeiting the grace that would have been there for my life by valuing control of my life and my pride over God.

I could speak the Gospel, I could explain forgiveness. I could talk through what it meant to accept forgiveness on God’s terms, but was told to look at what the past months of my life were saying… and I heard myself say I accept what God offers, but saw myself walking out of counseling and back into my system of rules for getting some small consolation in my life just in case God didn’t deliver.

I understood that in order to choose God’s way I had to reject my own system of living which was so engrained in me it took a good deal of thinking and praying to even understand this prison of rules. Some of the rules I discovered I’d built my life around had to do with food, controlling what other people know or think about me, controlling my environment and protecting myself at any cost, controlling my circumstances and the people in my life, and that I should work everything in my life for good. I had set myself up as God in my life… but under my rule I was still self-destructing.

It felt like such a risk to trash my rules and my eating disorder forever… because I didn’t know if I would fail at life, I wasn’t sure who I was without it…everything was going to be awkward and different choosing to face life without holding onto that familiar method of calming myself, comforting myself, and defining my worth. I have seen that Jesus is worth letting go to follow. All I have to face my life is Christ. The thing is, he said that he is life… and he is worth giving up my own system of life to know. (I will never forget my counselor, Janelle, saying something along the lines of: “Do you really want to stand before God and say, “See, I worked hard all my life to always weigh X number of pounds.”) How sad of a response to Jesus’ sacrifice of his body for me. My life was not a response to his grace. I could not experience the enormous grace of Jesus for your life as long as I live by your my own rules and by my own system of righteousness… I have to stand with no other hope for goodness or mercy, but that Jesus lived the life I couldn’t live in my place and has died the death to pay for the life I have lived.

It once seemed impossible not to live by what has previously dominated my life, but one of the most important things I learned through this process is that change comes by beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus, it comes through seeing more and more of him… not by assessing my situation and trying to pull myself into righteous living.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18).

I began to realize that there is nothing beautiful or worthy about serving an eating disorder. No one has ever shown the splendor of the Savior Jesus through her ruthless devotion to bulimia. There is no glory, beauty, or fulfillment in living in this kind of rebellion against God’s plan for me…and have seen something better and more beautiful than anything I’ve wanted… SOMEONE better.

I am free to admit I am human and sinful because guilt and condemnation are not mine. It is not my record that I look to to save my life. Christ’s sacrifice is enough for everything I have done and will do. And God can use what was once my rebellion and shame to show the overwhelming bigness of his grace. Sin can seem so overwhelming and big…but grace is bigger and deeper and it is God’s pleasure to reach people in dark places and make their lives to the glory of his name. It’s a relief that my salvation is God’s work… that it is up to him to save and keep me. If my life is about showcasing the gospel then it is to my advantage to say I am wicked… in my flesh there is nothing good… and even to share what I have shared. The beautiful thing is that Christ wanted me anyway, because he came to find and save those who were sick in sin, and I am freed from living as prisoner to the shameful life I created for myself, and given the ability to pursue Christ and become like him.

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Last spring, I began to understand something that has proceeded to change a lot in my life. My friend related an analogy that her husband had told her attempting to clarify what happens when a person finds Jesus to be a treasure worth abandoning all other pursuits to pursue (as described in Matthew 13:45-46). Imagine a person driving a beater of a car. This old car has it’s benefits… it can often get you from one place to another, but driving the car is an unpleasant experience of jolts. The driver can feel every bump and uneven spot in the pavement, though he does not really know anything different. That driver continues on his way, enduring the ride, until the day he is able to test drive a new 2012 car. From the moment he starts the car, he can tell the ride will be completely different. He is in love with the new smell, the powerful engine, the smooth ride, and the leather seats. His affections have shifted and he is no longer satisfied with the old car. His desires are for the new. He cannot go back. This, she said, is what it is to see the Lord as treasure. I understood. Something made sense more than ever. Jesus is love. He puts longing inside that keeps Christians pursuing the knowledge of Christ. More intimacy. More of Jesus. This is a far cry from legalism… from staring our sin in the face in attempts to refuse it and stop our affection for it. Sin IS an issue of affection. It’s strong. Saying “no” to sin is weak in itself. The only thing stronger is desire for Jesus.

Studying the gospels to learn who Jesus really is, what he has said, what he did while he was here, and what his heart is truly like kindles a fire of affection. Affection overpowers affection, and the choice is made. No turning back. Why? Because I’ve found something (Someone) better. Though sin will always appeal to the flesh, it is amazing to find that God grows a desire in us that is seriously more powerful. Thank you God, because sin was a hideous master. “The Puritan preacher Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon, ‘The Expulsive Power of a New Affection’ said that desires for God and desires for sin will not [calmly] coexist in a human heart. They are two ‘opposing’ affections- one will always push out the other. So, he said ‘the only way to dispose [the heart] of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one’ (see Galatians 5:16-17). You can’t just ‘stop it’ because the it is always more than behavior. It is always rooted in your affections, in what you love- what you worship. Chalmers points the way forward: we worshiped our way into this mess, and by God’s grace, we’ll worship our way out.” (Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, 38). “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13: 45-46, NLT).

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.” (Jude 1:24).

I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with my feelings. In a perfect world, I would feel happy all of the time. I would never be tired, or stressed, or anxious. I would feel sunshiny and energetic like I do on the perfect spring day when everything is going my way. The problem is… this world is not perfect… and neither am I.

How about you? Do you know what it is like to feel “all over the place” emotionally? Have you ever felt dark, overly tired, anxious, fearful, out of sorts, or just down? What do you do with those feelings? I have responded in many different ways to my feelings in the past… many of those ways were sinful which caused me to wind up with big problems on top of bad feelings. Not a pretty picture.

The Bible holds God’s answers for us no matter what emotion we experience… no matter how we feel compelled to handle strong emotions. If you belong to Jesus Christ, you should desire to know how your Heavenly Father wants you to respond to your feelings. He cares and understands feelings. He walked in our shoes once, and now he lives inside of his children. It’s amazing, he already lived his life here, faced every temptation and overcame, but he desires to “do it all again” as he walks with each one of his children through their individual lives. God made us. It only makes sense that he knows how we work … and how to fix our brokenness.

Sometimes we fear feeling how we know we’ve felt before. If you are prone to feel depressed, you may do all you can to avoid feeling those emotions. Anxiety is no fun either. (Not to mention that God tells us to trust him and stop the worry). A person who is “given to worry” may attempt to control her life in hopes that all of her worst fears will not come true. (Though no one ever has control… God does a much better job being in charge of our lives than we ever will!).

Sometimes we refuse to feel what we do not want to feel. We seek comfort at all costs. Often the cost we are willing to pay is great… we sin in order to avoid feeling. God has called us to take courage in him, believing his promises to us, and to face everything in our lives with his strength and help. Ps. 31:24 says, “Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” (NLT). Being strong and courageous is the opposite of refusing to feel.

The truth is, we don’t like to feel uncomfortable feelings… so, it takes something very great to cause our hearts desire to worship during those rough swings instead of turning to our sinful feeling solutions. That very great thing is our very great God. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom…” Fear (or right respect and awe) for the Lord is the beginning of learning to handle our feelings in a way that would show we honor and love our God.

So how do we handle feelings? First, know that feelings are not inherently evil or good. Feelings are simply a reflection of the heart. If your heart does not trust God’s promise to plan your future for your good, you will most likely feel anxiety of despair. The feeling is not the problem. The feeling reflects the heart, just as the “check engine light” on a car reflects what is going on under the hood.

The best place to begin when choosing to handle our feelings is to ask, “What am I believing about what I am facing?” Then you can grab a godly friend and ask for help searching in God’s Word for the TRUTH about what you are facing. This is hard work. Facing feelings instead of running or being destructive is hard work, but it is the work of a courageous believer!!!

Sometimes bad feelings are legitimate. Sometimes they stem from sin in our hearts. In this case, the only solution is to pray and confess that you have acted or thought against God. They turn around and do whatever it takes to obey. Again, this is hard work and it is not for the cowardly person. The person who takes obeying and pleasing God seriously is in for great reward, though!!!!!! God’s way is so the best way to live!!!

If you don’t get anything else, get this paragraph!: Take this whole discusson clear and simple… bottom line: Don’t obey your feelings. Obey Jesus. Obeying your feelings will lead you to destruction and will dishonor your God who promises that he is strong to save you. Our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Our feelings come from our own (often confused) hearts. The Bible says not to trust your heart! Feelings are temporary. God is your permanent King.

I have lived this ladies. I have been the girl who has acted irrationally and destructively in order to stop bad feelings instead of facing them… AND I came to a point of deciding God is worth obeying instead of my feelings, so with God’s strength and help (and the encouragement of godly people) I practiced obeying God over my feelings every day… and now I can truly say that I know what it means to have freedom in Jesus! My feelings do not rule me! They are defeated… I may still feel bad at times (we all do living here in a fallen world), but those feelings have no power over me. I obey Jesus! : ) Now, that’s living!!! I am praying all of you would know freedom through obedience!!!

Worry: Destructive and Disobedient

Anxiety or worry is the fleshes response to problems and trials in life. It’s easy to spend hours upon hours of my life worrying about a particular situation and trying to “fix it”on my own. But, if I were to truly follow the Bible, I would cast my anxiety on Jesus believing that he cares for me like he said. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT). “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down…” Pr 12:25(NASB). Worry can fill our hearts and leave no room for joy. Worry can take over a life and lead to dissatisfaction then depression. So, how do we solve this problem? One word. Obey. Obey 1 Peter 5:7 and turn worry over into God’s hands as prayer instead of mulling over the situation. Giving problems/desires/worries/situations to God is easier said than done, though, at least for me. Casting our cares on God doesn’t mean asking him for help so we can keep trying to solve it on our own and keep worrying. I need to surrender it to him and TRUST him to take care of me. You do too. It may not turn out the way we want, but we could waste a lot of time worrying instead of just letting God work without getting in the way. We cannot accomplish anything by our consistent disobedient worry anyway. It is only destructive… never constructive.

Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?    28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

(post written by Lauren, RBL’s blog writer)

Christmas is almost here! While this can be a super exciting time, it can bring a unique set of challenges. Normal schedules are interrupted. Many gather with people who may not usually be in town. Different parties and activities are planned. School is out!  You may look forward to what is planned. You may be struggling to think through the next week and a half. Wherever you find yourself, in your particular situation, there is one important question to answer.  Will you worship Jesus this Christmas?

Hit the pause button on that question for just a moment… and keep reading! Remember, every time we have an opportunity to hear the Gospel communicated is an act of GRACE from God directly upon our lives. It is

“…the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16 (NIV)

Earth is a visited planet. Humanity had chosen sin and every person born was (and is) born separated from God, under judgment, and enslaved to sin.

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” Romans 5:12 (NLT)

God Most High clothed himself in flesh and came down as a human. Jesus the Son of God and of Man fulfilled every one of over 400 prophecies that had been prophesied about a coming Savior. Jesus walked the most difficult path in his 33 years any human has ever faced as he was tried in every way, facing every temptation known to any person. Hebrews 4:15.

“He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” Isaiah 53:3 (Another prophecy that Jesus fulfilled).

Jesus was different. Jesus never sinned. At the end of 33 years, Jesus carried out God’s plan and willingly died at the hands of sinful men. During his death, God’s Word says that Jesus took on his own body the sins of humankind. Jesus bore our sin and was punished in our place so that we have a chance to live in relationship to God. God Most High accepted Jesus spilt blood as enough to pay for sin.

“For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22         

This is the choice every person will make: Choose to accept Jesus Christ as the one who saves you, or chose to reject Jesus Christ. Praise God, he came so near. He knows our suffering and he did not leave us in a hopeless situation!

 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. “Romans 8:1-4 (NLT).

What does the Gospel mean for your Christmas this year?

If you have chosen Jesus, you have chosen his authority. There is something so AWESOME and COMFORTING about the fact that Jesus gets to be in charge! We have the ability to respond to ANY and EVERYTHING that we may face! His Word teaches us how to face any situation and please him, and his counsel is perfect. Responding to your trials or your joys God’s way will only ever be good and right for you! Think of how valuable Jesus is to your life. He actually IS our life. So, in response to a PRECIOUS, LOVING, INVOLVED, WORTHY Savior, who gave away his life to own your life, you can choose to worship him by deciding, “YES, what I am facing is extremely hard for me… I am in a habit of responding to what I feel by sinning, but Jesus deserves my worship, so through his grace I will choose to serve him instead of serving myself. If Christ is your Savior, try choosing love and thankfulness when as an act of worship when things feel difficult. Think of unique ways to be loyal to God instead of to sin habits in your specific situation.

This God that gave up his Son, who was most precious to him, to save us, is worth any cost! Let’s celebrate the Christmas by giving God our worship!

What’s this I hear about grace?

Another great post by a good friend, Larry Sewell.

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Let’s dialogue for a few minutes about God’s grace.

What’s it like?  For one thing, it comes looking for me when I’m not looking for it.  Why?  Because that’s what grace does.  What do you mean?  Let me put it this way; it’s like saying, the nature of grace is aggressive in that it looks for people who need God’s help.  Well, who determines what I need?  God does.  OK, does everyone get this grace?  No. Why no?  When God made us He gave us a free will and we are totally free; no strings attached, to decide if we really want God’s grace when He offers it to us.  Really?  Yeah, really.  Pretty awesome don’t you think?  …and it’s all free.  Now, by free I don’t mean cheap.  Well, wait a minute, I wasn’t born yesterday you know.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Someone has to pay a price somewhere along the line.  That’s right!  Somebody did.  Wow, tell me about it.

What kind of price do you have to pay for grace?  The max.  What do you mean by the max?  …and who would even think of doing that for a total stranger?  Well, in a word — God did.  How did He do that?  He did what no one else could ever do.  What was that?  First He came to earth to live with people.  He was only here for about 33 years.  Get this, even though He was fully God, He was also fully man.  Why did He do that?  He did it so people could talk to Him and touch Him, and watch Him, you know, like we are doing right now.  Just think, He was God the Creator standing right there in front of them.  That’s right.  But what motivated Him to do such a thing for people who didn’t know who He was, to say nothing of the fact most people really didn’t want Him anyway?  He did it for the simple reason that He loves all of mankind; past, present and future.  Oh come on now, how can anyone do all that for total strangers?!  God can.

Well, OK, say for instance I am a little intrigued by this grace thing.  Answer this for me, what will it do for me?  Good question.  By accepting God’s provision, His grace, your sin will be totally forgiven.  …You know what sin is? or does?  Well, kinda, but, well not really.  Sin is rebellion against God. This rebellion is what separates a person from God —  forever, unless that sin
is dealt with by accepting God’s payment by faith.

His payment was giving Himself up to be crucified, shedding His blood and dying.  But, since He is the author of life, He rose from the grave, stayed on earth for a short time and then went back to heaven.  Is that why He came to earth?  Sure is.  Well then how do I make that work for me?  By believing you are a sinner, that you know what sin is, and what God did to pay for it.  Here
is what the Bible says you have to do.  If you state that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  Saved means saved from eternal punishment in Hell.  God continues, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified (before God), and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

That’s pretty straight forward.  Don’t I have to do anything?  No.  Why?  Because there is nothing you could do to get into heaven if you worked at it for a million years.  So all I have to do is confess and believe?  That’s right.  …So what would you like to do?

  

This devotional blog was written by a good friend, Larry Sewell. Larry’s prayer is that God would use it in your life.

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Do you ever feel like you are a “sin magnet”?  If you are anything like me, (poor you), there are a few things that I have a tough time with from time to time.  I hate my sin.  Yet, it’s there.  Sometimes I wonder if God purposely left that old nature in me so that He might develop it into a strength to help me avoid yielding to the temptation in the first place.

As long as we are in this body we will be subject to temptation.  This is a fact we have to live with on a daily basis.  1 Corinthians 10:13 is a wonderful comfort for believers.  Do you know why?  God’s Word states it this way: “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it”.  Also, we need to know that temptation in itself is NOT sinful.

So then, when we are tempted don’t be stunned into an immobile state or become discouraged.  We are not alone in this condition.  On the other hand, we must also remember that temptation does not give us a license to just throw up our hands and yell “yahoo, let’s party with a vengeance!!”  Let’s step back and look at God’s way.

Since we are creatures of habit it could very well be that a recurring sin has a strong tie to a bad habit. Sometimes what we do becomes so engrained in us that it just seems like the normal thing to do.  In dealing with our stubborn sins be reminded that life with God is a GROWING experience…and the hallmark of growth is…growth by definition takes time.

God is faithful.  He is always there for us.  So why doesn’t He remove that miserable, wretched sin that keeps me crashing into a tree!?  In the words of one commentator it is: “…because facing it and remaining strong will be a growing experience.”  It is in the struggle to become strong, the resisting of the temptation and the standing a against temptation, that the believer will grow and mature.  You see, God promises to make it possible to resist the temptation.  When we recognize who the tempter is on the one hand, AND Who the source of our strength is on the other hand, we then see the secret to resisting.  Praise His Holy Name!!!  That, dear brothers and sisters, brings about the victorious Christian life, I do believe!

J. Larry Sewell

What is Love?

As the leader of a ministry that reaches out to hurting women, many of which have been abused by people who claimed to love them, I was not surprised recently when I was asked…”What is love?” I thought the best way to understand what love is, is to go to God’s Word and see what it says about love.

What true love is NOT:

  • Love is not just words or a feeling but requires action (love lived out) – Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
  • Love is not boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, unforgiving, slanderous (speaks falsely of another), without self-control, brutal (hateful), etc. – People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. 2 Timothy 3:2-5

    So if genuine godly love is none of those things. What is love?

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
  • Love Serves Others – You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13
  • Love is Selfless – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
  • Love is humble, gentle, and patient – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
  • Love obeys God – And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6
  • Our love for others should ultimately be God-focused – Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Perhaps you’ve asked…Does God really love me? Isn’t God just out to trip me up and watch me fail? Does He really understand what I’ve been through? How do I know? Have you ever had this thought run through your mind, “I’m not good enough for God to love me?” Oh there is so much wrong with that statement. First, God’s love doesn’t depend on who you are, what you have done, or what’s been done to you. God’s love is solely dependent on His character. God is love. He proved His love by sending His Son to die for YOU!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Let’s check out some characteristics about God’s love.

God’s love is…

  • Unfailing  – But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5
  • Extravagant – Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5
  • Priceless – How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7
  • Merciful – Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. Psalm 40:11
  • Just – I will sing of your love and justice; to you, LORD, I will sing praise. Psalm 101:1
  • Patient – But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
  • Everlasting – For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5
  • Satisfying – Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
  • Good – But you, Sovereign LORD, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. Psalm 109:21
  • Selfless – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • Parental (He disciplines His Children out of love) – because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Hebrews 12:6
  • Unrelenting – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35,37-39

You can’t hide from the love of God. You can run sure, but God is always at your side. If you have been abused by someone, you’re idea of love may be corrupted. Now you know the truth! Walk in that truth! And know that God loves you because you are His creation! I encourage you to read Psalm 139, I’ve included a portion below:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If you would like to explore this issue more with me or have any questions. I’d love to speak with you. Please get in touch with me by emailing me at restoredbyloveministries@gmail.com. There is no greater passion in my heart, than for you to know the love of God and live it out in your life! 

My prayer for you:

I pray that out of His glorious
riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the
saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and
to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure
of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19