Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Curtain

Weekly Bible Study - Week 4 - God's Dwelling Place - from my Woman of Faith Study Bible weekly study. Here's what I learned (straight from the study is in italics):

Described in Exodus 25:17-22 and 26:31-34 is the ark, the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place itself, where God meets with Moses. The court is large because many worshipers gather there. The Holy Place is smaller because only priests can enter. And the Most Holy Place is smallest - only the high priest can enter. Each location brings the worshiper closer to the actual presence of God. The curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place shields the ark (the symbol of God's presence) from view. The shield not only keeps the priests from seeing God's glory, but also prevents God's glory from being in the presence of sin.

At Christ's death, this curtain was wondrously torn in two from top to bottom!!!! (Matthew 27:51) ALL believers today, not just the high priest now have access to the Most Holy Place beacuse of the shed blood of Jesus (Heb 10:19-20). There are Christian denominations who don't understand this!! God isn't in a certain place in the church buildings we build. He isn't behind the choir. He isn't only accesible to certain priests. He isn't only at the vatican. Christ's blood covers sin and allows believers, ALL believers no matter what, FULL access to and intimacy with Almighty God!!!!!!

What is keeping you from the Most Holy Place now!? Does your busyiness get in the way? Do you think with your head too much and not your soul? Is it just too "weird" to think that God's presence is in you?! Most little children understand that when they accepted Jesus, God was now IN them, do we still understand this as adults?!

God has chosen where He will dwell, and He has chosen to live in ME, in YOU. It's a very REAL thing. It's not a "that's a nice, cute idea" concept. It's the Truth and it's available to all who believe.

God has CLEARED the way for you to enter His presence! Exactly where you are right now -- not just on Sundays --- but in your daily life. He is there... it may be hard to picture Him in your daily life -- in moments full of stress, sin, discouragement, mundaneness, hopeless stressful times -- but that is where He loves and wants to be! Right WITH you fighting with you, for you. ***See the new quote I added to the right hand column of my blog ****

After Jesus was crucified for us, the only thing that now keeps us back from Him, is US. He has left it in our hands and given us the free will to do with our minutes as we choose!!

Ask the Holy Spirit to move in you with such intensity that you will no longer be content to remain in either the outer court or the Holy Place but will be satisfied only with the full intimacy of the Most Holy Place.

For those that don't understand -- ask for help! It's always better to do SOMEthing than nothing. Take a small step of faith even if it's just reading the Bible. Most can't jump into the Most Holy Place - it is a place we have to seek out daily. Take the small step today to get there! Open your Bible, sit in prayer, do something!

Picture Jesus standing between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place with His arms outstretched, His Hands holding the edges of the torn curtain. If you desire to go beyond the curtain, you must walk into His arms. When you do, His arms will enfold you, drawing the edges of the curtain around you, closing you off from everything but His presence. Nothing else will matter.

You will be complete in Him, enjoying His presence and love.

I have had SO many prayers requests come to me in the past month. I have so many people around me hurting. There is pain suffering sadness anger and discouragement all around. But as I always seem to be the one on the mountain when everybody around me is in a valley (and vice versa)......I'm here to say, hope is never gone. Don't be ashamed or embarassed of any of your feelings, just run into Jesus' arms just as you are right now. Things won't get easier in an instant -- but He will offer you a peace that doesn't make sense and a comfort you can't find anywhere else. I don't offer cliches like "count your blessings"...instead I will say what I always say to Raymond throughout our day --- Jesus loves you! Life can be hard, but God is good all the time! Hope may appear to be gone...but that is just because we are using our worldy eyes and worldy mind. Go to Him and ask for a moments rest from our worldy view. He will pull the curtain around you and you will be hopeful even though your cirumstances are trying to convince you not to be.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More thoughts after our church service

WOW!! Another incredible, week/month/direction changing sermon was preached today at Southside! (see previous post!) I LOVE how God is rewarding me for the small decisions I've been making. I want to give a little more background into the journey I've been on....

When grandma went to heaven in May 2007 -- a transformation happened to me. I knew I had to carry on her "legacy" and figure out how to be close to God like she was. I went through such a deep low during the time she was sick and I couldn't be with her.... BUT I knew where she would want me to turn and I really made the decision to turn to Him, at the time, I did it really just for her. I started making small decisions to start to figure out how she knew God like she did. And I have been blessed! I am totally tuned into Him and seeking Him so much and yearning for him ---- so much that I just wish I could talk to her for one more day! I wish I could cry at her feet like I used to and say now, grandma I understand!!

I cried the whole way home today out of church - I don't even know why - just out of joy I guess!! Just because whenever I feel the Spirit I have instantaneous tears. I cry a lot -- but these tears are different - it's a sob I can't hold in! I have been so blessed in the past years but especially the past months! I cried today because of my overwhelming thankfulness! Overwhelmed with the Spirit is the only way I know to express how I feel. I cried because I am reeping seeds of victory and I am seeing positive results in all areas of my life. That is why Amazing Grace, my chains are gone, has been my heart song. I feel so...changed, and free.

Last year I made a goal to read the Bible in a year for the first time all the way through - because grandma could no longer do it - and I felt I needed to pick up what the alzheimers took away from her!! She had marinated her mind soo much in the word when even when she didn't have a clue as to what was going on or who she was talking to - if I said a scripture, she could end it!! So I started reading the Bible, I think for anybody wanting to take the next step in their relationship with God - turning to the Bible more is that right first step!! Just a little each day - it was a great start to my decision to just totally absolutely seek God and to grow closer to Him. Then with my recent decision to read first thing in the morning, it has made a difference!! God is just pouring His grace, Spirit and wisdom all over me! I am just totally overflowing!

Like my previous post.....I understand now from the story of Adam & Eve that the ONLY thing that changed when we fall was OUR hearts - not His! His love for us doesn't change! Adam & Eve ran from Him because they were ashamed - not because He had chagned at all! He hasn't ever changed! He doesn't change!! WE are what has to change!! We don't have to be a certain way so that His heart for US will be changed --- no it's totally opposite!!! His love for us doesn't change! In fact, He loves us so much that He sent Jesus, because He knew we needed to change and were unable!! We can NOT be rightoues without HIm!! But we have to allow Him to love us!! We have to allow Him to take the blame for our fall. Not just wipe away the sins --- but the "iniquities" have to be laid on Him! "Iniquities" I believe to mean not only our sins -- but the BLAME, the sHAME, the guilt AND the punishments! How heartbreaking! It makes me want to be ever aware of my daily actions and habits - because I know I'm either getting closer to Him or farther away... there is no staying the same. I don't want this beautiful gift of grace to be given in vain!!!! I'm either getting closer to Him ....I'm either getting MORE useful to Him --- or I'm getting LESS useful!

Christianity is really the hardest religion - because we have to confront who we are -- but THEN the ever important critical step is to listen to the SPIRIT - not the world! The world will tell us - see you're just a sinner, you'll always be like that, you can't be xyz....your mama was like that, your daddy was like that..... the enemy will plant seeds like, "that's just who I am"....but God's voice says something diferent!!!!!! We have to listen to the Spirit -- we have to make the ever imporatnt decision to let God lift us back up into His arms and believe Him when He says, it's okay I forgive you and love you -- I want to bless you and use you, come with me! So many times we want to slump back and say no you all go ahead, I don't deserve to be blessed! But when you relize it's not about blessing YOU -- it's about using you to bless others --- then you're willing to say okay!!, take my shame, let your light shine through me!!!

I have to tell you the small decisions I've made in each area of my life - is affecting all the other areas of my life!!!! Along with reading the Bible FIRST thing in my day, a goal I've made was to just track my daily habits. What am I allowing into my mind? Where is my sin? What is my sin? What do I do all day? How much time do I spend doing xyz?? I totally just wanted to scrutinize my life and at least KNOW what bad I had around me! I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of not meeting my goals and just being a slacker --- so I have made a drastic lifestyle change! One example is in the physical aspect of my life....I only eat 1,200 calories a day - whenever I feel the need to stuff my face other than those calories, I instead have a glass of water and read the Bible and talk to God. and ya know what - God can use ANYTHING to teach us! He has even used this lifestyle change "diet" to teach me! Ya know what I learned!? I learned I don't have to be afraid of failure!! I just have to be plugged into God and the Spirit will help me every minute - with each decision! If I let Him have control of my daily habits and decisions - I don't have to worry about my life! I LOVE discipline, I love delayed gratification! I love overcoming!

When your daily habits are changed - your world is changed!! That is freedom!!!!!!!!! We fail and don't meet goals and get discouraged because we aren't plugged into the Spirit. We aren't being ever aware of our little decisions! We have to STOP and think before we act! When we aren't making decisions based on the spiritual, we make decisions with our mind, we try to reason, we choose decisions that will gratify us immediately -- and then things spin out of control! I understand truly now that it really all does boil down to SMALL decisions making the HUGE differences! These small decisions I've made have changed everything! By examining and being aware of my thoughts and actions, I have confronted my sin straight in the face and I'm getting better at recognizing my sin - and therefore stopping it!

Be aware of your daily decisions - and realize you are either getting steps closer or steps farther away from God. You are growing and learning so that He can trust you -- or you're not and you are growing LESS useful! There is no constant, there is no staying in one place - you are moving one way or another - better or worse! Take small steps, look at your daily activities, if nothing else, increase your reading, and He will pour love and blessings into your life!

Jesus' teachings on Self-Righteousness

We had another AWESOME day at church today! Raymond stayed in the nursery all through Sunday School AND church! What a good little boy! We are doing Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" in our SundaySmallGroup and I loved this first class! I'm so glad we went! Again in there, God reinforced everything I am learning about discipline, daily habits and delayed gratficiation! Those are my "themes" right now in my lessons it seems!

Here is my outline of what Pastor Kelly preached on today:

John 8: 1 - 11

1. Remember that God is good all of the time. (Psalm 11:7...Daniel 9:14)
The devil wants us to believe otherwise. The devil wants us to question God's goodness. The devil wants us to get overwhelmed and even doubtful of scripture and God's intentions - especially when we read Old Testament scripture that we don't necessarily understand or seems harsh to us (like this law of stoning somebody caught in adultery). We have to remember that we lose a lot of the story in translation first of all (Pastor who knows the Greek taught us a lot about this law that really helped me understand it a lot) ... but also, we just have to believe that God is a just God. There are reasons for the laws He laid out, and there is always a reason behind His decisions. He never acts or makes decision in His anger, He doesn't have that inherent 'bad' like us. He isn't controlled by anger. He is good and loving, all the time. In Gen 3:1 about Adam & Eve, Eve was convinced that God wasn't all good and that He had been holding back. The devil made her believe He wasn't just, fair, good....which we now know is a lie from the father of all lies. We have to do whatever we can to not believe this lie that dates back to the beginning of time.

2. Remember that we are not good most of the time. (Ps 51:5..Romans 3:23...I John 1:10...Romans 3:10,12....John 2:25)
***Because we were created to be righteous, to be good, and we are not...and all of us know that, we feel bothers us, we want to be good, we want to be righteous. So, what we do is create our own system of righteosness and the Bible calls that the sin of Self-Righteousness (this is also my answer for why their are so many religions! I truly believe evrybody knows there is more to us than physical. I believe we all know there is a different part to us, the spiritual...and I believe we were created to be good, but that we're not - and I believe we all feel the pain because of that - and until we have Jesus, we will always carry with us that unrest) ***

In this story, John 8:1 - 11 Jesus saw that the men who came to 'tattle' on this woman, carried with their accusations, the sin of self-righteousness!

What does this sin of self righteousness look like!? Well we pursue self-righteousness through a) morality and b) religion and self righteousness disgusts God... but what does this all mean?

well, morality is self-righteousness! Being well mannered, being morally good isn't what being a Christian is all about! When we focus on a system (that we ourselves have created) this disgusts God. Because you know what happens, all we do is compare ourselves to others on a scale we have created. We say, I am a good christian because I do this this and this...and I don't do this this and this. This is of no relevance to God! Just like in this story in John 8 --- did God give any attention at all to these men who wanted to show how 'good' they were because of what they did NOT do, but what others (she) did? No, God doodled in the sand, a social norm for their time - showing I want nothing to do with are of so little importance, I won't even look at you or pay you any attention. So what is your standard? Do we judge ourselves to see how we're doing on a sytem we have created? Is our standard, our church leaders? our parents? One of the biggest threats of believing and basing our life on how 'moral' we are -- is that we give the perception that God only loves people who are "good". But who did God speak to in this story in John 8. Who is the ONLY person He gave his attention and love to --- the adulterer. He quickly turned the righteous, unrighteous....and the unrighteous, righteous. That is what Jesus does...He turns our reality and our mind upside down. We can't think with our mind. We have to think with our soul, listening to Him, the Spirit. So where does this leave non christians? They might truly believe that God only loves those that are "good" they will also start to base their life on morality trying to be like the people they see that are christians (and then, when they reach the same level of their model christians, and don't know what else to change - they might then add on multiple things to put on their church resume, thinking that's the next step needed). It's a wrong code. Service is important, church is important...but God knows our intentions. He knows our every thought and why we do what we do.

We also pursue self righteousness through religion. Doing this is just like basing our life on morality.. religion is just a very structured, widely believed code of morality. That is also another answer to the 'tough question' series our small group is doing --- why are their so many religions? Answer: Because we want to be good, we were created to be good, but we have all fallen and it tears us apart. We feel an unrest because we know we're bad but we know we're supposed to be good. Without Jesus, we have to create our own systems. And these systems, over the centuries, have evolved into religions that have lasted a long time and are so believed in, that many would die for their religious code that was created by their ancestors.

3. So what's the last thing to learn here? Remember that Jesus CHANGES EVERYTHING!
Although we don't know exactly what Jesus wrote in the sand in John 8:6-8 many believe that Jesus fulfilled Jeremiah 17:13 that day. Maybe He was writing down these men's names who were coming to tattle. These men who pursued righteouess through morality (and also the religious leaders there who pursued righteousness through religion) were the sinful ones that day. They didn't realize that all the righteousness they needed, was right there in front of them, God in flesh. 1 Peter 2:24!! "so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness"

So HOW do I go from self-righteousness, which is offensive to God, to righteousness of Jesus, that is a gift from God? Trust Jesus, have faith in Jesus! That's it! Let Him in, let Him lead your life. Let the new Spirit take over, Ezek 36:26. Bible says we can NOT make ourselves better - only Jesus can. There is NO other religion like that out there that teaches this!!!! Habakkuk 2:4 ...ROmans 3:21-22!! This righteousness is available to ALL.

We can't be self-righteous -- because you know what -- when we are christians - people see righteousness in us, which is Christ's righteouess.... and they realize it's something in us they can't live up to on their own. They might get mad at us, they might get discouraged or turned off....and may even try to tear us down for what they see. What they don't realize is that's available to them too! ANd if we are self-righteoues we will reinforce this thinking! If we are self-righteous we'll be so focused on us, we'll miss the opportunity to love on somebody and teach them about Jesus and what He did for ALL of us. When we're self-righteous, we might make the huge mistake of actually believing we ARE better than a non chrisitan! Non christians are correct in getting discouraged and thinking they won't reach the righteoussness they see in us...without Jesus, they won't, but we need to extend God's grace to others, and love them where they are, and let them know it's available to them!! Nobody's sin is worse than ours! We all have sinned, none is greater than others! It's just that, sme have received His righteousness, and some haven't!

I pray that God will search my heart to make sure there is no room for self-righteousness. I want others to feel love and acceptance and mercy!! from me, and never condemnation. If I judge others on a standard I have created, they will never change...the only thing I can do is love on people and pray for them to accept the righteousness available. I also pray that God will remind me that we all are inherently bad ....especially when dealing with my loved ones and christians in my circle of influence. Let me put my hope in Jesus!! not in any one person I am around. When I feel somebody is wronging me, or just isn't following God like they should.... please don't let me push push push or even try to pull pull pull them....instead please help me extend grace and MERCY to them and encourage the good I see in them...and just pray for God who is IN them to work on them! He is the only one that can change anybody anyway!

Friday, January 25, 2008

small group, tough questions

I am really excited about our small group. I have been praying for christian friends for us for...literally YEARS. I have been abundantly blessed with friends along the way and mentors who have encouraged and lifted and helped teach us.... but I have been seeking deep christian friendships of people that love God and are passionate about Him or maybe who are just new christians but WANT to grow and be passionate about Him.

There are plenty of people we come across who are the well mannered, overly involved in church 'things' christian type --- which is better than being non well mannered, not belonging to a church not involved at all type of christian......but those things mean nothing if they are not actively pursuing and seeking God and growing. I want something deeper than what serving alongside somebody at a church function can offer. Saying hey on Sunday and Wednesday isn't enough -- I want to be around others who want to grow deeper. People who are passionate in their love of Christ (or want to be) and want to truly make Him the priority. I have been blessed with 2 friends like this through the internet (this blog!) of all places!! And now, we have now finally found couples interested in a small group! In fact we have found so many couples - we'll probably end up splitting into 2 groups!

We meet on Thursday nights. We've just been getting to know each other the past weeks, talking about some scripture, where along the path we are, etc. But we're starting a book series next week. I came home and started reading it right away. The series is called Tough Questions - it's an awesome discussion series for all kinds of small groups - seeker groups (non christians who are open minded and want to discuss) or christian groups wanting to learn more definitive answers to tough questions we hear, just a great series.

It's all about really finding the answers for yourself - it is full of questions but no answers. It does give scriptures to refer to - but I love that it's meant for people to journey and seek out the Truth for themselves. These types of questions used to 'scare' me. Maybe because my faith wasn't strong enough, my doubts were too heavy, maybe because I never really understood how to get my point across without seeming demanding, unloving, pushy. But for whatever reason, I am so intrigued and pumped about diving into these discussions.

I truly believe there is a right and wrong and that it's black and white. I believe there is ONE God, the only God, the creator of the whole universe and I believe He created us each unique and individually in His image. I believe the Bible to be the absolute Truth and word of this One God, Lord of Lords. I believe that anybody who has the courage to truly seek out the Truth and opens and studies His Word, will be given the answers, the Truth. Matthew 7:7

The book we are starting is called, "Don't All Religions Lead to God" Tough Questions series. I was reading in the back looking at the author and I realized that the man who wrote most of the other books in this series is a dear friend's father!!!!! In fact, she was one of my bridesmaids! Her name is Anna - her family is involved at Willow Creek Community Church - this series we're doing is a Willow Creek Resource. They have done soo much good in the christian community - what an awesome organization they have! Isn't that crazy though - what a small world! She lives in Chicago, we met doing an internship down at Disney - only were with each other for about 4 months -but she had (and continues to) have a wonderful impact on my life! We really don't talk to each other a lot at all - but we are joined in our love for Christ. It's amazing how the Body of Christ is all connected and He finds ways to get our paths to cross....and to continue to cross over the years!

(a brief rundown of bridesmaids: Donna (college roommate) Christin (kind of hard to explain but mother to my nephew and niece) me (the bride), Roxie (with hunter in her belly), Anna (that's the one I'm talking about! Real name Anastasia), Kimberly (swimteam friend), Meagan (hometown friend), Lisa (best friend from childhood) -- the little girls are Ashton my niece, and Alexandra whose mom & dad have been great friends and mentors to us.

Here are some of the questions from Discussion One!

Why do you think there are so many religions in the world?
Do you think all the major religions are fundamentally the same or fundamentally different?
True or False: If a religion inspires people to live better lives, we shouldn't question it.
What difference, if any, would it make if the source of an idea or concept of great value to you was false?
True or False: People who claim to have the only truth about religion are arrogant, and such conceited attitudes are the cause of great strife and conflict in the world.
What is the difference between toleration of all religions and validation of all religions?
Do Christianity's exclusive claims worry, bother or embarass you?

I'd LOVE for YOU to join in the discussion too!!! Even if you've never commented before - or want to do it anonymously - please share your heart if you'd like to!! Coming soon!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Giving to God first

I have been getting "nudged" for a while to really and truly give to God first in ALL areas of my life. One example of doing this, is finances. We believe what the Bible is absolutely true, that it's necessary to tithe the first 10% of our income. We believe that God has blessed us since we made this a priority when we got married. We've done it both ways - and it's amazing how He always provides, when we give to Him first. It's all His anyway - I'm thankful He lets us keep 90%!

But there is an area I have needed to work on -- and that is giving God the first part of my day. I can honestly say I have felt nudged on this for...years. I don't know why my heart and mind were't really open to this. I guess it's just because I have been blessed with so much time recently compared to what life was like pre-Raymond - that I figured my daily reading during Raymond's nap and prayer at nighttime was a good routine for me - much better than I did pre-Raymond....but I realized, it's not enough. It's not a good or right decision to not give Him the first part of my day. I have been doing good with my reading and tuning into Him and asking for guidance throughout the day from the Spirit ---- but good isn't good enough!!!!

SOOO after reading Candy's new blog --- and hearing the pastor plant more seeds on this on Sunday and then getting this next little picture from my mom...I realized, it's time. When I wake up - I'm pretty sure God is the first thing on my mind....but it's just not good enough for me to wake up and say.. "God thank you for today, please make be a blessing to somebody".

SOOOOO starting tomorrow - I will no longer wake up to "DADADA MAMAMA" from Raymond's room..I will wake up to the alarm (gross) and get up at least :15 before Raymond does to give the first of my day to God. :15 I think is a great start so I won't fall back on this goal. I will continue my routine of Bible reading and prayer during nap and at night -- but I think this will be a crucial and wonderful decision to help me give to God first in ALL areas of my life!

I thought this was cute --- it is wonderful that each and every day is a fresh start!
God, I am finally listening to you regarding this issue... I'm sorry it took me so long to make this decision. What a bonehead. The only way You could have made it any more obvious to me was to have me wake up with it written on my forehead. I am sorry

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Everything good in me

Today the song that caught the attention of my heart is a new song I've been hearing by Michael English entitled, "The Only Thing Good In Me".

[Chorus] The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus I’ve lived long enough to know No matter what this life may show The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus If you could walk the hallways of my heart And see things as they really are I wonder if you might be surprised Seeing faded walls of pride and fear Rooms I’ve filled with faithless tears And corners where I’ve stood in compromise But you’d see the work His grace has done You’d know just how far I’ve come [Chorus]

I always want to make sure I'm giving credit to God in all things good in me. I never want to come across in my blog or in real life in an arrogant, "oh yeah well look at what God is teaching ME" type of way. I want this blog specifically to be a positive outlet for me, to help clarify what He's teaching me, and maybe even encourage others because maybe they will see themselves in my words or stories. I want to focus on my blessings and positive to give others hope that God is good! That life can be enjoyed and can be a wonderful, abundant experience! Not to say I won't have tearful posts or negative thoughts that I need to get out. But I just hope that my heart shows and that nobody ever thinks that any of the things I type are me trying to shine light on myself. I hope any light you see, you realize is just God's light. He really is the only good in me.
I believe the changes in my life in the past year, the past 5 years, the past 10 years are an awesome testimony to what can happen when a person accepts God into their life. He fills my heart and I simply overflow and want others to know the changes I have seen and felt in my world!

I'm a failure, I'm a terrible sinner, THAT hasn't changed at all! but what did change is that.....I made eternally important decisions to accept God into my heart number one...and two, believe the Bible to be the absolute Truth, words from Him to me. I hate my sin. I hope I never stop hating it. I hope I always get a little irritated at myself when I sin. Daily, I disappoint myself. I am disgusted with a lot of my actions, I am discouraged with my daily sin.... but I don't let it tear me down like I did before I knew God.

I truly believe that shame from God is a good thing - it should fuel us to change. The shame and guilt I feel nudge me to repent and it breaks me down to keep me ever humble....but after I repent and ask forgiveness - the KEY step - the step that so many are missing - is to realize that that sin is forever forgotten. After you are broken down, God fills you back up IF you let Him. That will never cease to amaze me. I hurt Him, driving another nail into Him, and then He lifts me back up in a bear hug and says come on let's keep going, I want to bless you. BUT so many times, intead of getting back up and jumping into His arms...we want to act like Eeoyore and mope around and feel sorry for ourselves.....we want to say, no no I don't want any blessings, you just go ahead and I'll catch up, eventually finding something else to fill us (our husbands, our kids, shopping, food, exercise). WHY do we constantly forget that after God comes in..we're not just us!! His spirit is in us! When His spirit is in us, that means we're part of the body of Christ --- so when we mope around and don't get back up - we're keeping the Body of Christ Down, we're keeping His spirit down too.... we aren't allowing Him to use us. It's a selfish act. We're listening to the wrong voice.

God doesn't keep any record of wrongs. Can you really even put your mind around that thought? If you sin and continue to fall back on that same sin, to God, each time you do it.... is the first - He forgot about all the others! He will never say I told you say. The only thing that keeps us down is ourselves! Our heart is the only thing that needs to be changed back when sin crowds us with shame. God's heart and love for us is never changing! The sins we commit...don't affect the love in our relatinoship with Him, because love isn't about how much we love Him, it's all about the fact that He loves us and gave His Son so that we could be worthy of a relationship with Him.

When we ask for forgiveness - He wipes the shame away forever and completely. After He does that, if there is any shame or guilt left at all -- it's not from God. That shame is from ourselves, it's from our peers, it's from our enemies, it's from wordly views that we let creep in. The enemy will use anything to keep us separated from God, and one of the most vulnerable times the enemy can nab us is after we've sinned. Sometimes the seeds the enemy plants if we aren't in God's word will allow us to never even ask for forgiveness! He will make us believe we aren't even worthy of asking for forgiveness, yet again. The enemy wants us to believe that God thinks the same way we do. He wants us to believe that God is saying, "well you just asked forgiveness for this yesterday - get with it lady"....but the ever important step of making the decision to have FAITH that God's word is true that Jesus Christ covered ALL our sin and shame is one of the most important decisions to make in our day.

This key step is I believe why so many Christians don't live to their full potential. Not understanding this key ingredient is why there are so many wasted talents, hurting people, and just ...issues. We listen to the world that says, "she's always been like that"...."that's just who I am"...."she can't be a christian, she did xyz".... "my mama was like that, my daddy was like that, I'm just meant to be like that". This victim mentality is not the way to live. We have to start realizing that YES we are sinners, yes we are ugly, disgusting, broken, sinners. But God has overcome the world --- and when we accepted Him into our lives....we became new! We now have the ability to overcome! He put a new spirit in us (Ezekial 36:26 - verse of the week from last week). Although WE don't deserve forgiveness, and the ability to get back up refrehed and renewed after messing up --- that opportunity is given to us. We just have to appreciate it and understand it enough to accept it! We MUST realize that after we ask Jesus to come into our lives...that we ARE destined to win, we don't have to be full of shame and we have no excuse to not fulfill our purpose. "Those who look to Him are radiant. Their faces are never covered in shame" PS 34:5. We are radiant because His light shines through us!

All that being said....I realize that my relationship with God, although it does make me feel good about myself, is not to be used as a way to shine light on ME. I want everybody to be sure to know that any light you see in me, my blog, my phone conversations, in person, any changes you've seen, are HIS Light, not mine! I want to always reflect that light He gives me, back to Him. Our relationship with Him should not be about learning just so we can be showy to others with our wisdom. God examines each of our hearts and He knows what we intend with our words and actions. Are your words used to cut others down? Are they encouraging words? Are they words that will somehow stir others to make a good decision to spend time with God? Do they reflect His own light back on Him or are you just trying to absorb that light and keep it on you?

I think that's all I have tonight!

Hope you all are having a great weekend! :) Love!

Monday, January 14, 2008

lessons from the Bible today

Well we've had a great morning/early afternoon. The days just fly by with a little one around don't they!??!?! Raymond is napping and I just finished reading the Bible. I wanted to write the best lessons I got from today's reading. I am in Isaiah and I had stopped at Isaiah 43:17 last night. Just now, I couldn't believe it when I turned the page and the first verse I read was sooo applicable to today! I could have just stopped right there at Isaiah 43:18! But I kept going...

and I got to Isaiah 45:9 and on the sidenote in my book it said this about the passage: "...We are like "potsherds" - broken pieces of clay, the least valuable materials for pottery making... That's who we are compared to God, but it's not our final identity. Our relationship with God is a balance between realizing we're unworthy without Him (Ps 14:3) but worthy because of Him through Jesus Christ (2 Co 5:21). Though we're only bits of clay, when we reverence who He is versus who we are, He can remold us into vessels full of His power (2 Co 4:7)"

I loved this!!!! That is what I am striving for - I want God to be able to trust me to be used. I want Him to continue to help build up a brand new me because I have a new spirit in me (ezekiel 36:25 -- my verse for the week). I want Him to continually remind me to let Him in. I want Him to continually remind me to be aware of the power that is available to me -- so much of us walk around dead to the world, and struggling with chains of _____ (whatever you are struggling with).....but we don't have to! He can break you free of any chains you have in your life. Do you realize the power available to you!?

Man --- I love when God reaffirms what I'm learning time and time again. This is exactly what I was feeling during that song during worship yesterday - and then to open my Bible reading for the day and see it again --- is just....awesome! I can't think of any other word for it! God is so great mind-blowing.

I want to post this again:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

church worship today

This song was my favorite in worship today. I can't tell you the numbers of tears I shed as I worshipped and praised my Savior. God's presence was at Southside today like I have never felt before. These words are my heart. It feels like my life song right now. I hope this touches you...

Friday, January 11, 2008


When the Bible says to be doers of the word, not only you think God is talking only of doing physical acts of service? What do you believe it means to 'serve the church' or serve others? Doing missions trips? going on disaster relieve missions? Cooking dinners for people who have gone through tragedy? Building homes? being a deacon? being in the choir? teaching Sunday school? working with the youth group?

These physical acts of service are indeed serving people and serving the church, they are roles that are needed and I admire those called to do these acts. But I also feel like sometimes there's a whole huge handful of people that get lost in the church or are seen as outsiders or judged to be baby christians just because they aren't over involved in act of service ministries...or just because their service isn't spotlighted on Sunday mornings. I never want somebody to feel like an outsider. I never want anybody to feel judged, especially in a church! I never want people to feel they are just a number or aren't important because they aren't in a leadership role at church. I remember when I was a baby christian...and I believe my other family members were baby christians at that time too...we'd see families in church (one I can think of specifically) that were involved in EVERY possible opportunity to serve that there was... and they just seemed to be very prideful in how many items they had on their church involvement resume. I felt a sort of arrogance in them when they were asked to speak about the missions trips or opportunities they had had to serve. And I believe baby christians see this and get totally turned off. I remember thinking, oh man, to be a christian I have to be involved in ______ and do __ and __ and __ and I remember feeling overwhelmed. I remember mom and grandma telling me that God looks at the heart and that I should let Him do the judging - but at a time when I was forming my views on christianity, I was discouraged by people like this family.

As I've grown, I have come to learn that being a christian is all about Jesus, making Him the priority and living life for Him.... I am so thankful God kept my heart seeking Him long enough to get past these first negative experiences I might have had in my early church. I hope that when others have a negative experience like I did, that they will continue to seek out God long enough to learn the Truth. We did eventually switch churches when I was in high school - there really was a lot of sin and negative in this other church that I basically grew up in... and nobody seemed to encourage each other away from these sins, nobody was kept accountable.

I pray that our church doesn't come across as a "we are better than you because we are christians and we have done ____" attitude. And I pray that baby christians in all churches can look past sinful actions in people, to realize that we are all sinners - and christianity isn't about DOing or ACTing a certain way - it's all about Jesus and letting Him create a new spirit in you. When Jesus is in you, there is no room for pride, when He comes in, He takes over everything and therefore gets the credit for any good that shows. Jesus is the only way to heaven, we can't earn our way to heaven, we can't earn our way to have a relationship with God. The ONLY way to God is through Jesus John 14:6. Period. The fact that you are saved is just the beginning though - you haven't arrived when you accept Jesus, you have just started. One of the steps to becoming a mature christian is figuring out and sharpening the talents and gifts you've been given, and then figuring out how to use those gifts to help others become fully devoted to Jesus Christ! That is the purpose and vision of our church, and that is the purpose and vision for me. I want to become fully devoted to Jesus Christ, and I want to help others do the same. Service is of course an essential piece of growing as a christian....but it isn't the start, it isn't the only piece.

I hope that I never judge somebody's relationship with God, based on their involvement in acts of service. We each have our own gifts and talents...and a person might have found a way to use his or her talents in a way that I will never even see. It's a behind the scenes act of service that may not be rewarded until heaven.

“We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. That means we must give our lives for other believers." (1 John 3:16 GW) I believe there is so much more to this verse, than doing physical acts for others. Giving of our lives is sacrificing ourselves - our time, our money, our pride, our love, our energy. It is loving people - and we each have different love langauges so loving, giving, serving is shown in soo many different forms/ways!

This month marks our 4 year anniversary of attending Southside - and it has just been great. We love the church. ...Brandon and I haven't been involved in a lot of the traditional ways to serve a church here.... but God is working on us to see where our talents can be served more. Our lack of traditional involvement is in no way a reflection at all on our love for the church or our closeness with God. We have been working on ourselves and our relationship with God - and we have faith that our devotion to Him and our personal growth will be a benefit to the church in some way.

The way I see it, not everybody can be a deacon, in the choir, in the plays, a sunday school teacher, etc. etc. in fact the majority of any church is NOT going to be in one of these positions -- I hope to continue to find a way that I can serve and be used and help the majority regular church members find their special talents too and how to use them.

I'm not sure why this is on my heart.... I guess it's just because of recent interactions I've had with people with the catholic, 'deeds are needed' type mentality. Growing up, up north, I was surrounded by catholics, who really judged people's relationships with the Lord on their church involvement resume, or good deed resume...and mom and grandma always made sure I understood that isn't what being a christian is all about. They always told me that service is essential when a person is growing with the Lord - but until that service is truly what God calls you to do -- up until that point, it is a selfish act, and people will recognize that and your service won't be blessed.

We are to reach out to others...but service is not about doing something to be able to feel good about ourselves. I also believe acts of service is only one way to be of service. I believe serving really is all about giving of ourselves depending on our talents. It's not just about missions trips or taking part in putting together Sunday morning services - sometimes it's just giving of words, money, quality time..... sometimes it's just working on ourselves so that we can always be a great representation of Southside (our church) and of Jesus.

I just hope that I can help others realize that just because they haven't been blessed with musical talents, or acting talents or the ability to do missions trips (maybe at this time in their lives they aren't able to) it doesn't mean they aren't an essential part to our church. Ya know? They are still very important to the church, they were brought there for a reason, and they are essential to helping us grow. God uses networking/ exponential growth to grow his church --- but that exponential growth only happens when everybody in church realizes it is their responsibility, just like the leaders in the church, to bring others to Jesus! Imagine the growth our religion could have if each christian just brougth ONE other person to Jesus! WOW! I can't even imagine what that statistic is. Imagine if EVERY christian that was a member of a church tithed 10% of their income like the Bible commands! WOW!

My point is......We each have unique talents - I hope we can help each other find unique ways to use our unique talents to serve the church. I want to open my mind to new ways to serve the church. I want to figure out new opportunities for people to 'serve'. In the same token, I don't want people to get involved in an activity they really were not called to do. Ex: If you weren't given a singing talent, you probably shouldn't join the choir just to add it to your church involvement resume. haha So let's really seek out our own God given talents and figure out what specific roles God has for us specifically. He HAS blessed each of us with a talent and spiritual gift that could glorify Him --- a lot of people just haven't figured out what that talent and spiritual gift is yet!

I think that is all that is on my heart tonight. I am looking forward to church tomorrow....the fellowship and worshipping our Lord!!!! :)

Sorry if there are tons of grammar errors and weird sentences - I am sleepy and actually headed to bed now haha at 9:30 on a Saturday night - what a dork! :)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Weekly Bible Study - Week 1 - God's Pursuit of You

One of the things I'm going to do this year along with reading the Bible all the way through -- is also read my Bible's weekly studies. I wanted to put this week's study on here because God just totally spoke to me through this lesson. As I was reading this, it was like angels singing, lights going off in my head, revelations happening. God is so good. He always comforts me through His word, reinforces when I am on the right path and have made right decisions and confirms what lessons He is teaching me. I hope what I write makes some sense to you --- I know these lessons I learned this week were probably only "ah ha!" moments for me - but maybe you can take something from this!! A lot of you might already know these lessons - but I wanted to share where I am on my path right now:

This first week's study was entitled, "God's Pursuit of You". It talks about how life was perfect in the Garden of Eden but then that awful day of sin, Adam & Eve felt shame for the first time. "God is calling you. Are you running to meet Him - or are you hiding from Him? Shame can prevent an intimate, personal relationship with God. But it's important to differentiate between TRUE shame and FALSE shame. True shame comes when you feel guilty over a sin. False shame comes (not from God) when you have been wounded by somebody else's sin. Bring true shame to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness. Bring false shame into the arms of Jesus for healing."

When this sin happened in the Garden, nothing had changed about God. The reason Adam & Even did not run to Him as before and instead hid was because of what THEY felt because of what they had done. God's love for them hadn't changed. God had not changed. Man..... that's powerful to me. It's always the condition of OUR heart that determines the strength of our relationship with God. That is what free will is all about - He lets us choose to pursue Him. And He let's us choose how strong of a relationship we will have with Him. I think this study should have been called, "OUR Pursuit of God"!

I don't know why, but I've always had a strong conscience (and I've always 2nd guessed how to spell that word). I have been blessed with the ability to link my actions to consequences. I sometimes feel guilty of the most ridiculous, little things though! and I have come to realize that this guilt that used to keep me down was not from God. God doesn't want me wallowing in the past. He wants me to confront my sin, call it for what it is, use the true guilt the Spirit puts on me to move me to ask for forgiveness, forgive myself and then MOVE on. There is to be no dwelling. Guilt that I feel after I've already been forgiven - is not guilt from God.

Don't let anything or anybody make you feel guilty for something God has already forgiven you for. Do you realize how vast God's ability to forgive is? An example is shown in Jesus' ability to forgive those that stoned and tortured Him. It seems beyond comprehension sometimes, but it's true. Jesus' ability to forgive Paul and take away his shame is AWEsome --- Paul, who was the persecutor of His followers - now THAT is love!

Love covers all wrongs. It keeps NO record of wrongs. What Jesus did on the cross for us over 2000 years ago, took away the separation that sin had caused between God & us - so that our shame would no longer separate. What Jesus did, didn't change ANYTHING about God -- it changed OUR hearts and our souls to be able to run to Him again. But He can only change us, if we let Him in, if we accept that His grace & mercy can change the conditions of our heart. Woah. When Jesus comes into your life, He makes you a totally new person. He changes YOU so you can have a relationship with God. I don't think I ever truly understood that. "A new Spirit I will put within you" Ezekiel 36:26. WOAH - just yesterday I went through a box that mom brought and I found this bookmark that was given to me when I was baptized in 2001 - and that verse was on it!

Do you hang on to wrongdoings that you once did? Do you hang on to wrongdoings that people did against you? Can you not seem to 'get over' some mistakes you've made?? or hurts others have caused you? Why don't you run to God more often? Is it shame? Do you feel like you are not worthy of having Him in your life?

Don't look to other people for approval, or to find your worth. People will hurt you, they will cut you off from them - they will harden their hearts to you - they are humans just like you and their "humanness" will sometimes show because humans will never be perfect. Don't look to others for forgiveness. Look only to God. We are called to try to make amends with our fellow man that we have done wrong to - but if their hearts are hardened to you - you can not use that as an excuse to harbor over things that you might have done. ****The human ability to show compassion and mercy is NO reflection of God's mercy or love for you! ****

I hope that anybody who reads this, really understands this. One of the devil's best ways to keep us down is by planting seeds through other people or wherever - to make us doubt God's grace and mercy. Jesus took all your sin and shame with Him to the cross. Don't doubt it! Don't let what He did for you, be in vain. He came and fulfilled His purpose so you could have a relationship with God and know what TRUE love IS and so you could have an abundant and FULL life - and then share that truth with others. You are totally 100% forgiveable no matter what you've done. Do you deserve that mercy!? NOPE. But it is offered to you. No matter your past, no matter how crazy/silly/stupid/bad/ evil your actions might have been, God always wants you in His presence, always. He wants you to ask for forgiveness and then forgive yourself so you won't be separated from Him. He wants your heart, He wants you to spend all day with Him, He wants to show you His love.

*God's love for us doesn't change, even when we sin!*

There is a light we share, when we allow God into our lives to cover up all our darknesses, our sins, our mistakes, our ugliness. Not only will YOU benefit from allowing your heart to be changed by Jesus, but others around you will benefit too. Other people will see this light you carry when Jesus is in you. Sometimes, the light you share is why people run from you like roaches, why they might not be open to you - they aren't ready for how bright that light is. They don't like that light - because it brings to the open, their darknesses and they might not be at a point in their lives to let those wounds be open and painful before the healing comes. But shine your light anyway. Those seeds you plant in others will come up eventually.

So, look to God to take away all of your darkness this year. He has already offered to take it all away, why hold onto it? He has forgiven you and His love for you is never changing. But let Him come in & change YOUR heart so you can forgive yourself and get closer to Him!! And know that "Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never crowned with shame" (Psalm 34:5)