Choose the God-Kind of Life

Abundant-Life-Choose-the-God-Kind-of-Life-Walk-out-of-grave-quoteThe death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door to a new life.

When Jesus walked out of the grave He gave us the opportunity to walk out with Him. He gave us the option to live an abundant life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10 (NASB)

This abundant life is a decision, and it’s one that we have to make for ourselves.

We actively choose to live the God-kind of life. Jesus can’t make this decision for us, neither can our spouse, our friends or even our pastor. They can deeply desire it for us, but they can’t force it on us.

So, if we sense that we are not experiencing all that Christ has to give, we should stop and ask ourselves “Have I truly decided to live the abundant life? Or am I holding onto old mindsets, grudges and habits?”

Abundant-Life-Choose-the-God-Kind-of-Life-Abundant-Life-is-a-Decision-quoteIf we have already accepted Jesus as our savior and continue to hold onto the past, we have walked back into the grave.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first,” 2 Peter 2:20 (NASB)

However, we don’t need to read that verse and feel guilty, condemned or ashamed. We should see it and realize that we have an amazing opportunity to move forward.

We can make the decision to do exactly what Jesus did and walk out of the grave permanently; never looking back at what we left behind.

We do this knowing that the life Jesus created for us is far greater than anything we’ve left behind.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

This is an invitation for us to continually live the resurrected life in and with Jesus Christ. If you haven’t been living the abundant life, make the decision today to live it. Let go of what is behind and move forward.

Forgive. Love Does

Love, real love, forgives.  20170314-Forgive-Love-Does-Love-is-Strong-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-clemonojeghuo

Love is strong enough to look past a person’s actions or words and love them for who they really are.  We have all experienced pain and heartbreak because of another person’s words or actions. We can allow these situations to scar our hearts and affect us for the rest of our lives. In fact, that’s exactly what the world and the Enemy tells us to do. They say that we should never forgive the person that hurt us. They say we should let the pain of our past be the captain of our future by putting walls up, and living in fear and selfishness.

There is another way, though.

Love forgives.  We can see the person in love knowing that who they really are is a child of God. They may have been used by Satan to cause us pain, but that doesn’t make them our enemy.

Forgive-Love-Does-Love-Keeps-from-losing-hope-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-reddangelo “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fade-less under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening],” (1 Corinthians 13:7 Amplified).

When we choose to love that person we can forgive.

We can bear up under their hurtful words or actions.  We can believe that God is working in them so they don’t make the same mistake again.

Walking in love stops us from losing hope in all people because of one person’s choices. We don’t need to put up walls around our hearts in order to keep people out. We must continue to hope in God and see people through that hope.

The way we love people should be a reflection of the way we love God. Forgive-Love-Does-The-Way-We-Love-People-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-garcia

We love Him because He loved us first. We love people because we know we are perfectly loved by our Father.

If you are struggling with bitterness or unforgiveness, remind yourself that you are loved by God. Knowing that you are loved will cause you to love other people, even if what they’ve done is painful, selfish and inexcusable.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you,” C.S. Lewis

For Love or Hate?

When advocating change, taking a stand for a cause, is it done out of love or hate?

“It (Love) is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking,” (1 Corinthians 13:5 Amplified).

20170307-For-Love-Or-Hate-Movements-Based-In-Hate-Fizzle-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-Pawel-Janiak.Right now the people of the world love to make a show of themselves. It seems like there is a new movement or “social justice” group rising up and protesting. Nothing ever comes of these protests other than news segments and viral videos being shared on social media. In fact, it seems like more often than not these protests are more effective at creating counter-protests rather than the change they advocate.

These movements don’t achieve much because they are focused on themselves more than anything or anyone else. They promote themselves over their values. They are angry, hateful and selfish. This comes out in their rhetoric and the fact that they are better at communicating what they are against rather than what they are for.

These are movements based in hate, so they fizzle out.

For-Love-Or-Hate-Everything-Jesus-Did-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-Kayle-KaupangerOver 2,000 years ago Jesus started the greatest movement in the history of mankind. Its influence has only increased since it began and it has impacted the world more than any other political or social movement. He didn’t do it by promoting Himself, talking about what He hated or spewing anger and fear from a stage. He did it by living a life of serving others and then giving His life through death on a cross.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8 NASB).

Everything Jesus did was motivated by love.

He lived His life to glorify God and show God’s love to everyone around Him. He always turned the spotlight away from Himself and placed it on His Father. That is why His movement, Christianity, continues to grow and change the world.

There is a simple and powerful truth hidden in this contrast: What is done in selfishness and hate will die, but what is done in love will last.  For-Love-Or-Hate-Hate-dies-Love-lasts-Quote-photo-from-unsplash-by-Cristina-Gottardi

New Beginnings – Positive Change

People generally do not like change, they are creatures of habit.

We tend to avoid change and instead do the same things over the course of a week. We wake up at the same time, eat at the same restaurants, go to the same jobs and talk to the same people. There’s nothing wrong with having a routine. In fact, a routine can be a great thing, however, it can also put us in a rut where our weeks become months and months become years.

Our Father has not called us to live this way.  We intuitively know that we are not supposed to be stuck. God has called us to continually press forward into His purpose for us.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14).

 

Even though we know we’re supposed to change and improve, we can become so accustomed to our way of life that change seems almost impossible.

So, we wait for the New Year. We play a game in our minds to convince ourselves that if we begin on a special day the change is more likely to last. What we’re really doing is delaying needed changes.

We do this because change is hard. Change requires moving out of our comfort zones and we know that could involve failure. We need to realize that we might experience failure along the way, but that doesn’t make it our final destination. It also shouldn’t stop us from trying to better ourselves.

 “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul,” (Hebrews 10:39).

When we’re trying to make a positive change in our lives we have to remember that we are not alone.

The Spirit of God lives on the inside of us to lead us on to victory. It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is. Whether it’s keeping a clean house, getting out of debt or fixing the division in a marriage, God will give us the strength and wisdom we need to complete the task.

We don’t need a special day to start making changes to our lives.  We don’t need to fear failure along the way. God will always pick us back up and set us on the right path. I encourage you to not put off the change you know you need to make. Start today and let the power of God work in you to bring that change to completion.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 1:6).

Searching For…

searching-for-photo-of-magnifying-glass-on-bookEveryone is searching.

We are searching for love, acceptance and a myriad of other desires.  This is because everyone is born with a deep, inner longing for a relationship with God.  Sadly, many people don’t realize what the longing is for and try to satisfy it with other things.

We don’t realize that the desire of our heart is for our Father. Last week we learned that when we allow the pain we experienced from our earthly father to shape our view of God, we severely limit our relationship with Him.

Seeing our heavenly Father in the light of our negative experiences instead of the truth of His Word causes us to look for joy in the things of the world. We will never find joy apart from a relationship with our Father.

searching-for-photo-of-street-view-blurredWe are unable to find true, lasting satisfaction in the world because everything in it is only temporary.

Alcohol only numbs our pain for a short time. Drugs can make us forget for a night. The television shows we binge watch on Netflix will eventually come to an end. The distraction only lasts for a short time and we are left with our hearts still searching for something more. Until we find joy in our Father, we will take increasingly larger doses of the world in hopes of finding it there.

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever,” (1 John 2:15-17).

We should take note of these verses when they show us that if we love the world, then we do not have the love of the Father.

This does not mean that God does not love us.

searching-for-photo-of-hand-reaching-toward-blurred-windowIt means that we have not yet experienced the fullness and perfection of His love, because if we had, we would no longer need the fleeting pleasures of the world.

We should see this as a great encouragement, though. It’s a promise from God that His love will satisfy. It won’t just last for a moment, or a night, or a week. It will continue on forever. This will answer the cry of our heart. It will completely fill the void in us forever. He is the end to our desperate search for joy and satisfaction.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth,” (Psalm 73:25).

If you’re one of the people who is searching for love and joy, God is waiting to be your Father. He’s not just the God who answers your prayers. He’s the God who is the answer to your prayers.

Perfect Love Causes Fear To Lose Power

We know that the perfect love of God causes fear to lose all its power.

When we know that we are loved and cared for by the Creator of the Universe it puts our lives and our problems in the right perspective. However, fear will try to skew our vision. Fear knows that if it can draw our eyes away from the love of Jesus, it has greatly increased its chances of destroying us.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’” (Romans 8:35-36)

The things listed in these verses are all tools.  Fear uses these tools to convince us that we are separated from the perfect love of God and His provision. It uses these things as distractions from the truth. Fear tries to build them up in our minds, so we’ll view them as greater than what we have in Christ. We will see our trial as our final destination and accept it as our lot in life.

Perfect Love - Photo of man readingGod’s Word teaches us to do exactly the opposite.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).

While fear wants to use tests and trials to shipwreck our lives, God will use them to strengthen us. We need to know that God does not send the trials, but He is more than capable of using them for His glory and our good.

So, it wouldn’t make sense to think that our faith would be strengthened and God would be glorified by a trial that destroys us. He would not tell us to consider it all joy when we endure trials if He did not already have a way out for us.

The only way we grow and succeed in trials is when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Perfect Love - Photo of the Cross by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/df47UDrfi8IThe only way we fail is when we take our eyes off of Him. If we allow fear to convince us that our trials is evidence of God’s absence, then they will defeat us.

God reassures us in His word that it is impossible to for these things to separate us from Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:37-39).

Instead of thinking that our hardships separate us from Christ, we should have faith that victory is ours.  Whatever we go through, trials or distresses, isn’t greater than our heavenly Father or His perfect love for us. So, let’s keep our eyes on Him.  Let’s keep ourselves in the love of Christ and we will always have victory.

Where Does Anger Come From?

Where does anger come from?

Anger - Photo of Man's Fist on DeskThere is anger that comes from pride. There is righteous anger at injustices and evil, and there is anger that comes from fear.

Many times anger grows out of a fear that we are the victims of injustices.We think that people are always plotting against us, talking about us behind our back or trying to give us less than we think we deserve.

This fear stops us from being able to see the good in anything, because we’re too busy trying to find out how we’re being shortchanged.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you’ve been waiting on a promotion at work and it finally happens. This should be cause for celebration, but when you allow this anger to control you you’ll obsess over how you should’ve been promoted months ago rather than how you are being blessed with a promotion.

The problem with this kind of anger is that we devalue the blessing of God in our lives.

A few weeks ago we talked about how Eve was deceived into believing that the way God made her wasn’t good enough. What this fear-driven anger will do is look at what God has given us and say “It’s not good enough,” or “It should’ve happened earlier,” or “It’s not the way I wanted it to go.”

It saps the possible joy out of every good situation. Our lack of joy is always everyone else’s fault because we are convinced that the entire world is against us.

One name for this kind of fear could be a victim’s mentality.

It gives us an unwillingness to take responsibility for our own lives. It makes us like wild animals backed into a corner. The irony is that we put ourselves in the corner. So, we lash out at anyone who comes close to us.

It will ultimately make us unapproachable and lonely. All the while we will be fully assured of our lack of culpability in our own negative situation.  

The cure for this is the very thing that anger robs us of: Joy.

Anger - Photo of Man watching sun burst through cloudsInstead of looking for the negative in every positive, joy will shine a light on even the smallest good thing. It will look at the darkest of situations and magnify the possibility for God’s power and love to work.

If we read that last sentence and think, “That sounds nice, but I don’t have any joy,” we’re wrong.

The Bible shows us that joy is already ours.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior He gives us the joy of the Lord. Our part is just to let it flow out of us. We have to make a conscious decision to stop seeing what’s wrong with everything and everyone and allow joy to be the lens through which we view our lives.

I encourage you to pray and ask your Heavenly Father to help you with this. It will definitely  change your life.

Remove the Power of Sudden Fear

Sudden-Fear-Image-of-woman-with-head-down.jpgFear tries to dominate our lives in many ways.

There is a slow, steady fear that tries to stay with us throughout our day-to-day lives. This fear’s goal is to convince us that we’ll never achieve our dreams, never overcome our problems and spend the rest of our lives stuck exactly where we are right now. This fear is the quiet voice of insecurity that keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.

Sudden Fear - Photo of man stressed looking at laptopAnother form fear takes is what the Bible calls sudden fear.

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear, Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes,” (Proverbs 3:25 NASB).

This kind of fear is unexpected. It brings alarm and shock to our lives. Sudden fear often comes in the form of negative reports from the doctor, getting fired from our job, bad news about our family, etc. It catches us off guard and tries to elicit an emotional response from us.

The devil uses this kind of fear to blindside us. He hopes that he’s going to catch us with our guard down and throw us into a downward spiral of anger, frustration and depression.

Sudden Fear - Photo of Man in dark surrounded by smokeThe natural, human tendency in these situations is to think of every possible destructive outcome. Our imagination wants to run wild, creating scenarios in our head that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen. However, once we think of one that seems logical, even if only slightly, we latch onto it, foster it and place our faith in it.  

This is the devil’s strategy when he throws sudden fear at our lives.

He wants us to respond naturally with exaggerated negative thoughts and emotions, because they will open the door to further attack.

What we’re actually doing when we react this way is taking a step back in our faith.  This allows the enemy to advance in our life. We are shrinking back in intimidation while the devil puffs himself up to seem much more powerful than he is. One sudden attack can lead to an onslaught, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Proverbs 3:25 tells us to not be afraid of sudden fear or of an onslaught and the next verse tells us why: Sudden-Fear-Image-of-Rainbow.jpg

“Because God will be right there with you; He’ll keep you safe and sound,” (Proverbs 3:26 The Message).

The enemy’s goal with sudden fear is ultimately to make us forget that God is always with us.

When sudden fear attempts to blindside us we need to remind ourselves of Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” As soon as we come into agreement with this verse we stop placing our faith in the words of men and place it on the Word of God. This removes all power from the sudden fear.

We need to know that at some point we’re all going to receive bad news about something or someone. This should not cause us to fall apart and forget that we are sons and daughters of an all-powerful God. We should look at these situations as opportunities for God to show His power and love in our lives.

Strengthen Your Faith

If we’re going to stay faithful and not lose heart in following God’s plan for our lives, we’re going to need to strengthen our faith daily.

How do we strengthen our faith?

Religion wants to make you think that being a strong Christian is a complicated process with unsure results.

It isn’t.

The Word of God makes it simple.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17).

This verse isn’t telling us to hear the Word once and move on. It means that we need to continually hear the Word of God. If we’re going to stand firm in our faith and be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13) we need to hear the teaching and preaching of God’s Word every day.

Whether we are paying attention or not, we are continually hearing something.

Strengthen Your Faith - Weight Sets Photo

It’s songs on the radio, words on the television.  It’s words from our friends and family and the list goes on and on.

The way continually hearing the Word of God will strengthen our faith, continually hearing the things of the world will sap our strength. We’ll slowly become more accustomed to the words of fear and doubt that the world is constantly speaking and we’ll believe them before we believe the Word of God.

None of us would consciously choose to weaken our faith. But that is what we’re doing when we are continually listening to everything on the news and social media. We’re wiring ourselves to believe what the world believes and to respond how they respond.

This is not God’s desire for us.

God wants to us to have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).

We won’t experience the God-kind of life if we’re listening to the world more than God’s Word.

When we make the decision that we’re going to follow God’s plan for our lives, we’re going to face tests, trials and temptations. If the world is our source, then we are more likely to falter in the face of hard times.

However, when we are daily strengthening our faith by hearing the Word of God, we’ll be able to stand strong in our calling, even when times get hard. Our faith gives us the ability to believe that what God has promised, He is able to do (Romans 4:21). Instead of giving in to tests, trials and temptations, we will hold fast to God and His promises.

So, make it a point this week to turn off secular media and listen to sound, biblical teaching. It will strengthen your faith and prepare you for anything life tries to throw at you.

More than a Shallow Understanding

One of the simplest things we can do to follow the plan for our lives is to know and understand the One who created it.

If our relationship with our Heavenly Father is something we only think about on Sunday mornings, then we’re going to have a shallow understanding of His plan for us. However, the more time we spend getting to know Him, the more revelation we’ll have about His specific will for our lives.

More Than a Shallow Understanding - Photo of Stacked Rocks

Knowing, understanding and acting on God’s Word is the rock whereby we lay the foundation of our lives. If the foundation is small, we won’t step into the fullness of everything He has for us.

That’s why Jesus teaches us to build our lives on the rock of His word.

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,” (Luke 6:47-48).  We need to be like the man in these verses.

We need to dig deep and lay the foundation of our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  We do this by renewing our minds to God’s word.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2)

Before Jesus saved us, our minds were formed and influenced by the ways of the world. We lived by the world’s standard and desired what the world told us was valuable.

We have to change our standard and our desires through reading and meditating on God’s Word. It’s not going to just magically happen. No one becomes like Jesus on accident. It is a conscious decision we make every single day to leave behind the old way and live by the wisdom that is available to us in God’s Word.

As we do this, we will find ourselves being made into the image of Jesus more and more every day. Reading, understanding and meditating on God’s Word literally changes us from the inside out.

The devil will attempt to downplay this fact in our lives, though.

He will try to convince us that our daily Bible reading and the time we spend in prayer is inconsequential; it isn’t. He’ll try to lie to us and tell us that we aren’t understanding what we are reading, making it impossible to change, that we still make the same mistakes and we’re still the person we were before we got saved; we aren’t. Don’t give in to the lies. Keep pressing forward.

Look at the verse from Romans 12 one more time. Our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds. When our minds are made new by God’s Word, our actions will follow. It’s a process; one that we must commit to if we’re going to walk in God’s plan for our lives.

So, I encourage you, dig deep to lay the foundation of your life upon the rock of Jesus Christ and He will reveal His specific plan for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a better understanding.  Be patient; God is more than capable to do what He has promised.

Save