Sisters, Who Do You Say That He Is?

Matthew 16:13–15 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Everyone was talking about who people said Jesus was, but Jesus turned and asked His disciples, “Well, who do you say I am?” I think that is a really important question. When you are in the middle of a faith crisis, you cannot rely or stand firmly on who someone else says God is. You can only stand firmly on who you personally know Him to be. There are so many character qualities and facets of God that it is impossible for two people to be leaning on Him in the exact same way because it’s based on how intimately you know Him and what you are going through at the time.
Recently, when I was super discouraged, I started listening to old messages I had recorded. When you know something to be true or you have experienced God in a certain way, you should record yourself talking about it. To review what you have learned about His character and how He has been in your life and hear your own voice saying it is a very powerful tool. As I listened to recordings of my own voice speaking about my walk with God—how He has encouraged me, truth that I know and stand firmly in, miracles He has done on my behalf, the way He has moved in my life—I was seriously encouraged.
Some days, discouragement will come out of left field and punch your lights out. If you leave discouragement alone, it will eat your lunch. But if you take discouraging thoughts and imaginings captive, if you cast them down and put your foot on their neck and replace them with truth, then they will have no impact. We need to encourage ourselves daily. Don’t wait on someone else to encourage you.
Encourage yourself daily. How do you do that? Remember who God is to you. Amy says, “If you can trust God with your yesterdays, you can trust Him in your tomorrows.” What has God already done for you? Who has He been to you?

There is a song that Bethel Church wrote called “Good, Good Father.” As I was thinking about this song, I began to replace the lyrics and make my own version based on my personal walk with God:
You’re a good, good doctor.
It’s who You are.
And I’m healed by You.
It’s who I am.

You’re a good, good shepherd.
It’s who You are.
And I am safe in You.
It’s who I am. 

Now I want you to think about that song. Listen to it. Pray about it. Really ask yourself, “How am I experiencing God right now?” What if Jesus were to ask you face to face, “Who do you say that I am?” I want you to ask yourself that question and then fill out this song. Add your lyrics with this and share it with us.
When we share, we encourage others. There are some times when you need to fill up your tank because you can’t feed others on an empty tank. You have to have daily bread; you need fuel. Pour it in every day. It’s a great reminder. “As iron sharpens iron,” we can sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). As you share your song, it’s going to help another sister see God through your eyes, see Him in a new way, and trust Him more today than she did yesterday.
Don’t let technology or time get in your way. Just pause and listen to the song. Read the lyrics and then throw out your own. Who do you say that He is? 
If this has encouraged you in any way, share it to encourage someone else.

3 Types of Struggles

There are three types of people when they are in the midst of struggling. The first are those who struggle in the public eye. The second are those who struggle all alone. The third are those who struggle amongst their inner circle.
The first are those who tell everyone every detail of what is going on with their life. They can appear to be dramatic. One day they are great, and the next day they are awful. So every person who can peek into their world sees their roller coaster of a life, moment by moment, from day to day.
I have witnessed some people going through trials and tough circumstances in the public eye. They have asked people to pray for life or for their loved one. I have actually heard people who knew of their circumstances pray death over their loved ones—that they would be comforted and it would go quickly. They didn’t actually listen to the heart of their loved one. They listened to their own understanding. That is a con of living in the public eye. 
The pro of this is everyone knows what you are going through and they can throw resources, food, or anything else you need in your direction. They know what is going on, so if you actually lose a battle, you don’t have to explain what was happening behind the scenes that no one knew anything about. They are able to pity you or empathize with you. They are also able to pray with you and pray over you.
When I was pregnant in 2000, I had not told many people yet because my little sister had gotten pregnant at the exact same time. Because this was my second child, I really didn’t want to upstage her. I really wanted her to enjoy the attention of having a baby. So I only told a handful of people. I hadn’t made it public yet. When I miscarried at twelve weeks, right around the time when I was going to make it public, no one knew I had been pregnant. So I didn’t have a crowd of people gather around me to grieve with me; no one understood what I was going through. They couldn’t have empathy or pity, and there was no help.
Second, for the people who are struggling all alone—no one knows their circumstance. They have told no one. It’s all internal. The roller coaster is still happening, but no one has seen it. It’s not outwardly expressed. It is completely inward. No one knows about it. No one knows how you are doing. Outwardly, you look amazing.
These people are so susceptible to suicide because no one knows how they are doing. When I was a teenager going through abuse at home, I didn’t tell my mom. I didn’t tell a single friend. I was too ashamed. Every day was like a mask. There was not a single person who knew what was truly going on in my life. I am positive that the drama I had with all of my friends stemmed from drama at home with my stepdad—and they had no idea.
It’s when you are struggling all alone and there is no one to give you a hand and lift you out that your thoughts become increasingly negative to an extreme perspective, where the negativity can make you take your own life.
I cannot think of a single pro to struggling all alone. I can’t think of one.
Third, those who struggle within their inner circle—these are people who aren’t really in the public eye. They don’t tell anyone and everyone. They may share it with some stranger because they may feel their story or testimony can encourage someone. But other than that, they really have a close few who they share it with.
I think I generally fall into this category. I’ve witnessed so many people struggle in the public eye. I’ve witnessed so many people die because they have struggled on their own. For me, I have people in my life who I know will stand firm and fight for me. They will speak boldly to me and speak truth into me. I have known them and respected them long enough to receive it. I know they will be a source of encouragement. I know I can reach out to them at any time, in weakness or in strength, and they will never shame me or discourage me in any way. They hold my feet steady on a rock. 

I am so very grateful to those who hold up my arms like Aaron and Hur. It wasn’t a crowd holding up Moses’ arms. It was two people holding up his arms. Gossip can’t be stirred in amongst the few. Jesus didn’t have a zillion disciples. He chose twelve. He definitely spoke and taught the word to the masses, but He chose twelve who were drawn in and were close with Him all the time.
I am thankful for those of you who are in my circle. You know who you are. I love and appreciate you so much. I praise God for the depth of roots in the truth and your intimate relationship with Him that makes me want to draw close to you, too, because I recognize the Spirit in you.
If you are struggling through something, don’t be discouraged. The Bible says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Struggles will come. It’s not if, it’s when. So when they come, be sure you have people around you who will remind you of the overcoming promises of Jesus, people who won’t try to explain or lean on their own understanding, people who will stand firm with you in Christ. That will be their position, and they won’t change their mind. They will remind you of God’s promises of who He is. 

The last thing I want to hear is someone who is unsettled or unsure of what is coming from the enemy and what is coming from God. I can tell you right now, it will make you toss to and fro and be dramatic, up and down, all over the place. Find some people to help you remain steadfast because in the shelter of the Most High God, we remain stable and fixed, under the shadow of the Almighty. Thank you, Jesus.

Needer Should Not Be the Leader

After my husband and I got married, we were in desperate need of godly married couples. We talked to the pastor in our church, and he said, “Since you need it, you should lead it.”
So we started a group. We didn’t truly know what we were doing, but we started a Sunday school group. We got a book, and we led every week out of that. Eventually, people left the group. We had struggles. I sought counsel and learned how to lead everyone through the different struggles we had the best I could. But I didn’t know what I was doing. Neither did my husband.
During that time, because I was studying the Bible at a different Bible study somewhere else, the love of Jesus struck me in the heart, and suddenly I understood my need for Him more than ever. I understood how to have Him in every part and every area of my life, every day. I started to bring this truth to the group, but nobody could even understand it. It was incomprehensible to them. All of a sudden, I was wacko. It was crazy.
But I know so many people who need to belong or need to be free from something, so they start a group. They become a leader and try to lead people into freedom when they are not free themselves. My theory is the needer should never be the leader. If you have the need, you probably should not lead. You need a leader.

I think it’s interesting that broke people try to lead broke people into financial freedom. Poor and addicted people try to lead poor and addicted people into freedom. If you don’t know how to be free and you haven’t had any sustainability, can you honestly teach someone else how to be free?

Many times, people get together and talk about their problems. They talk about their desires, and they talk about why they do it. But the Bible never says discussing your problem will set you free. It says the truth will set you free—the truth and the truth only.

If you have to pick up a book to lead someone through it, to help them break free, or to help them grow, then are you truly the right person to lead that group? If you can’t lead it straight out of the truth—the Word of God—from your own walk and your own testimony that you have gone ahead of them, then are you the right person to lead someone else into the authentic freedom of Jesus Christ? Are you the one who should be leading?

I believe the needer should not be the leader. If you have a need, find someone who has walked through the fire, has a testimony, and has paved the way for you. Maybe they are a pioneer. Ask them for help. Consider having them start a group to help you so you can experience the freedom they have.

Jesus’ Name and the Authority to Use It

In 2003, I didn’t have a clue that Jesus’ name was literally above every other name that could be named on earth. I had no clue it was a name that had power in it or that it was for my use in my life to speak over mountains so they would be cast into the sea. I had no idea I could use it in my family’s life while praying over them or for them. I had no idea I could share it with strangers at the grocery store and see them be healed.

In 2003, I was blind. I knew there was a God who loved me, but I wasn’t convinced He was for me. I had no idea He had left me with the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

From August of 2003 until about November of 2005, I dug into the word of God daily, searching and striving, hungrily devouring every page and every word. I would be in awe of who God is, who Jesus is. Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact representation of God.

I had an idea of who God was from the Old Testament and what I had been told by my church. I had an idea of who God was. I thought He was a God who was on a throne, dictating and controlling. He was kind of our puppeteer, if you will. Yet how could He be controlling a stepdad who was abusing his daughter? How could He be controlling my behavior? How could He be willing to put me through all of that? I’ll tell you how. He wasn’t. He was not.

He is a God who is sitting on a throne and sent His Son, who loves me so much, to bail me out. He sent His Son through every temptation that I would ever walk through. He left His Son on the cross to die. When Jesus ascended to be with God, He sent His Holy Spirit to come and live inside of me. He sent a piece of Himself to live with me, inside of me. It is a deposit guaranteeing my inheritance. Once He puts it in, He is not taking it back until He returns. It’s fully mine. I have full ownership of it. It’s part of who I am. I am in Him, and He is in me.

When you look at the attributes of what comes with the Holy Spirit, you see power. It is delegated power from God. It is like the alien mother ship sent me down as an alien, part of His kingdom, to take back this world. Hello? Yes.

He didn’t do it so I could spend every single day suffering and worrying about myself and taking care of myself. He gave me the same power that raised Christ from the dead and the name of Jesus Christ, which is a name above every other name, and the authority to use that name so I could live life to the full and share it with others. How do people know we are His disciples? They know by our love. Amazing! Oh my goodness. I had no idea.

I was not taught in church that Jesus’ name was above every other name and God had given me the authority to use it. It’s not my name. It’s the name of Jesus. It’s what He did for us. It’s the finished work He already completed. I have it. I have the opportunity to exercise it. I can have a trial come into my face—a sickness, a doctor’s report, bills, strife, teenage rebellion—but it cannot contain me. It cannot take me.

If I pull out the weapon of Jesus, whose name is above every other name, the giant must fall. The mountain will be reduced to dust because it is just a molehill under the name of Jesus Christ. I have the power to use that. It’s true I have the power to complain. I have the power to agree with all the turmoil and all the trials that come in my direction. I also have the power to choose to stand in the name of Jesus Christ, in His name and His authority and His finished work.

I once was blind, but now I see. Scripture says it’s for lack of knowledge that we perish. I once didn’t know, but now I do know. I have the knowledge. I have the relational knowledge of knowing God intimately and deeply. I know I have access to the name of Jesus Christ, a name above every other name.

Medicines versus Miracles

When you have a headache, it’s easy to run to a bottle of Advil. When you have a sore throat, it’s easy to take a throat lozenge. When you are sick, it’s easy to run to a doctor.

But you know what, if you start practicing the use of the name of Jesus when you have a headache, it’s easy to get rid of the headache by speaking to your head and saying, “Headache, I command you to leave in the name of Jesus.” It begins to become easier to speak to your body until your sore throat goes in the name of Jesus. It begins to be easier to tell your body, “Hey, cramps—I know you may have come when you have come, but I am under a new covenant and I command you to leave in the name of Jesus.” I don’t have to live any longer at the beck and call of my body as it cries out and tells me how it feels and what medicine it needs. I command my body and speak to it and tell it what to do because it is my slave. I am no longer a slave to it, but it is my slave.

In medicine, who gets the glory? In miracles, it’s clear who gets the glory. It’s not you. It’s not your power. It’s the power of the name of Jesus Christ, which is above every name and has been delegated for you to use.

It doesn’t cost anything. You don’t keep it on the shelf in stock and then breathe easy because you are covered. You don’t have to risk someone opening it and getting into it and getting poisoned. You don’t have to run and see a doctor to get a prescription for it. You don’t have to risk becoming addicted to it. You get to take it everywhere. The name of Jesus doesn’t take up any space on your trips. The name of Jesus can be called upon anywhere you go, with anyone.

You can use His name, but it is like a muscle. It has to be practiced and used in the little situations so you can use it in the big situations. These big things seem scarier, but the name of Jesus works alike on the small and the big.

For some reason, in the mind, sickness becomes a huge mountain rather than a molehill. The name of Jesus, the blood that was shed 2,000 years ago, paid for sicknesses and diseases that weren’t even discovered yet. His blood cleanses all things from the beginning to the end, from the past into the future.
When you know that you know Him, when you are 100 percent sure of who He is and that He left you His name and delegated it for you to use to bring glory to Himself so people would know Him, then you will use it. You will catch yourself before you reach for a bottle of medicine. You will say, “Wait a second, there is something else I can look for first: a miracle. I can speak to this ache or sickness in the name of Jesus so that God gets the glory—not man and not medicine, with no bottle, no money, no brand name—only Jesus.”

I encourage you to pray and ask God about the difference between medicine and miracles. I pray that He will flood the eyes of your heart so you will know for yourself what you have in Him. I pray that you know you are a co-heir. An heir doesn’t receive based on performance but based on relationship. You have received an inheritance of the name of Jesus, which is above every name (Ephesians 1:17–21). That is the full measure; it lives in you, and you can access it at any time.

His name is stronger than any medicine, any heart shocker, and any chemotherapy. It is above every name. There is nothing on this earth that is above the name and the power of Jesus Christ.

Father, just open our eyes and show us who You are more deeply and intimately. Help us get rid of lies we believe, facts we have heard, naysayers who surround us, and the chains of our own understanding so that we can simply step into Your power and You will receive the glory. In Jesus’ name.

Stirring My Expectations

The Fight to Remain Hopeful in Devastating Times

All the power of Jesus flows through me because He deposited it in me through the Holy Spirit. If I speak to a mountain and I have only faith as small as a mustard seed—the tiniest thing on earth—then it will be moved. I have to have that faith, though. Faith has to be there. What is faith? “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV).

When God spoke the world into being, He spoke. But who was listening? No one, right? So why did He have to speak if no one was actually listening? He spoke because He took what was invisible and made it visible. That is how He spoke. He spoke the invisible into the visible. When we speak, we are bringing the invisible to the visible. That is how the power works in and through us. 

But we cannot do that unless our imagination can imagine it. We have to be able to imagine it. Our imagination is generally for vain use, thinking of the negatives and the what-ifs. We think, “How will I live with this? How will I live with that?” versus “What can God do here? I can imagine this person healed and walking.” There are two ways of using your imagination: a way that gives God glory and brings miracles to pass or the way of negativity.

God meets you where your faith is. In the Bible, when Jesus was walking around, He met people exactly where they were. The majority of the time, there had to be a point of expectation where they were expecting to receive something from Jesus. They didn’t necessarily have to expect to receive a miracle, but they had to have an expectation. What is expectation? It’s another word for hope. You have to have a hope.

I think, so many times, in all of the trials, we become discouraged and overridden with the inability to have hope. We lose our expectation. We become bitter and burdened. We are not full of hope and seeking, knowing and believing God is going to bring about His promises and make them come to pass. We have to have a point of expectation.

During this issue I have had, I recognized the point of expectation was immediate healing. When that didn’t come to pass, I lost my expectation. I had to go back and say, “Okay, what is my expectation? I have to reestablish my expectation. I have to reignite my hope.” It’s kind of like hope is our part and faith is God’s part. The faith you have is a gift from God. You can’t conjure it up. He gave it to you. It is deposited in you. He gave you the very ability to believe in Him. 

I had to ask myself, “What do I expect? Who is my hope in? Do I really believe Jesus is who He says He is? Do I believe?” He asked His disciples at one point, “This is what everyone else is saying about me. But who do you say I am?” I really had to answer that question. Who do I say God is? Who do I believe Him to be? Even though I haven’t seen this manifested in my own body, do I believe who He says He is?

I began to listen to the Word pour in and realized my fear was limiting my ability to receive from God. It had punched out my expectation and my hope. I started saying, “Do not be afraid. Only believe. Don’t be in fear. Only believe. Believe only; do not fear.” You can only do one or the other. I started quoting these Scriptures. “I will come and heal. I will, and you will be clean.”

I am saying Jesus is willing. Greater is He who is in me than anything else in the world. There is nothing that can come against me that’s greater than the One who is in me. Jesus is willing. He says, “I will.” His will is aligned with God’s will. So if He will, God will. If God wants to, Jesus wants to. God is willing. Jesus has compassion on us. That is His heart’s desire. He does not want to see us hurting. He wants to see us prosper and be in good health.

I realized I have been robbed of my joy, my hope, my thankfulness, and my health. Not only was I robbed of my physical health, I also was robbed of my joy and my hope. I had to start being thankful and started thinking, “God, thank You, Father, that I can walk. Thank You, Father, that my neck isn’t broken. Thank You, Father, that I am awake another day. Thank You that I am seen and not viewed. Thank You, Father, that I am loved. Thank You that I know Your Word. It is deposited in me. Help awaken it.” As I truly started to motivate and keep my hope up, I stopped walking alone.

The thing is, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion. He wants to separate you from your pack. He wants to make you prey. Really, the only way to get to your prey is to get them away from their pack, where they are safe.

This journey for me has been isolating. It has been isolating physically. I can’t really hug and kiss my children or people in general because I don’t know if they can be as gentle as they need to be. So to protect myself, I’ve had to say, “No, thank you. We can hand hug.” The other thing is this has limited my intimacy with my husband because I can’t fully function physically right now.

Mentally and emotionally, I can’t engage in conversations with people. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t have small talk in me. I’m easily exhausted. I can only take on these little bitty bites of social activity. The thought of being social burdens me so much. I don’t want to be social right now. I don’t want drop-by visitors. I don’t want people to bring me food because I don’t want to have to talk to them. I don’t want to have to engage socially. If they want to leave it on the porch, thank you for blessing me. But it’s not really a blessing for me to have to engage and entertain right now. It hurts my neck to turn and be in conversation. It hurts my eyes to look up to the left and down to the right. It’s just random little things. It’s truly been isolating. I’ve been all alone. I don’t even want to text because it hurts my arm, neck, and eyes to have my phone in front of me. It’s been a silent time.

The truth is I am not alone. I couldn’t be more loved, adored, and surrounded by the Father and the people who are around me. I just don’t want to engage with them right now. But I know they’re my friends. They will be there until the end. They are fighting for me, standing in the gap for me. It’s almost like they remind me I am not alone and that increases my hope.

One of my daughters made me realize I had lost my smile. She made me realize I had given up on joy because the pain was so severe that I had lost my ability to smile and engage in laughter. Other days, I didn’t do as much. I sat around and didn’t speak. I didn’t have anything to say.

That’s enough. It’s not okay to steal my joy because that’s attached to my hope and my health. That is one thing I need to keep. I continue to encourage myself. I tell myself I shouldn’t be afraid and I should believe only. I asked the Father to rid me of doubt. I read the Word and realized God meets you where your faith is.

Remember the woman with the issue of blood? Her faith was, “If I only touch the hem of His garment, then I will be healed.” The centurion would speak the Word only. That was his faith. The guy at the gate called Beautiful wasn’t even expecting to be healed, but he looked at Peter and John with the expectation to receive something. That was his point of faith. Jesus met them there.

I reestablished my point of expectation, just proclaimed it out loud, “I repent for losing my expectation. This is my expectation. This is what I believe.” I had a face to face visit with Jesus. I pictured Him in my mind, and I said, “I don’t want to be like Your disciples, who, even though they saw You, walked with You, and saw Your miracles, were still in awe and shocked by them because they didn’t really know who You were. But I know You. I know who You are. I have walked with You. I know You are willing. I know You are trustworthy. I know You have sent Your Holy Spirit, and greater are You than that which is in me. Father, this is what I expect. I expect that every time I have a symptom, I can speak Your name only and it will be gone in Jesus’ name. I know that every symptom doesn’t mean healing didn’t come. It came two thousand years ago, and healing is present. I believe and expect my body to receive that healing immediately. When a new symptom comes, it is exactly what it is. It is the enemy trying to make the symptoms louder than my knowledge and relationally knowing who God is and what He desires for me. Those new symptoms, I will not let them tear me down in fear. I will rebuke fear in the name of Jesus. Now I pray, Father, that You will set me free from the fear that has entangled me.”

I reestablished my expectation and said, “This is what I expect to happen.” It made me fight before I move. I speak, and I pray. I speak to my mountain, and I expect. I am not just praying and hoping, wishing a wishful hope. I am praying, fully expecting it to happen. I am expecting the visible to submit to the invisible. How awesome is that? And He is doing it.

Who I Am?

One of my dear friends told me a long time ago that my blog didn’t truly and completely reflect my personality. She and I talked about this. I told her, I am funny in person. I’m fun. I have a spunky spirit about me. I’m joyful. I love the Lord. I love to dance. But when it comes to the truth of Jesus Christ, there is nothing as fun as knowing the Lord and being in Him. So my blogs tend to be more serious. It’s such a serious matter to me! I lived so many years having fun, but I was dead. I am so done with that! 

So many things in our lives can take over and become more important than the gospel, the good news—the greatest news on earth, the scandalous news of Jesus Christ. These other things can become more important than our relationship with God. Before we know it, we end up in idle relationships, idle chatter, talking about nothing, or we end up idly going through life and letting our busy schedules push us around.
While I am fun and I have my idle moments, I do not live there. I can hardly stand small talk. If I get into a group and it becomes idle or a group where we just talk about problems or nothing all the time, you will slowly start to see me disappear. I do not have enough life left to put my time into things that don’t matter, that don’t have eternal value. Who does? You don’t.
So I can be funny, pull your chain, and entertain you if you want. But you know what? That is plan B, in case the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up. He always shows up when we speak the truth. If I under-teach Jesus or I limit Jesus in what I share on my blog, then people may lose a chance to see His full self. The fullness of Him will be missed. He will be limited in your own life.
There is such a vast well or mine to dig in to find out who Jesus is. We should be doing it in every conversation, at every meal, every time we pick up a fork. Every time we see a friend, we should be like, “Hey, tell me how you are learning about Jesus. Yeah. Sing it. Dance it. Do flips with it. I don’t care. Lets do it. I want to learn from you, too.” We can learn in fun ways. We can worship Him and jump around and hang out together.
When we put Him at the center of every relationship and every group, those roots in the center become firmly planted. It becomes a firm union, unshakable by anything. Whatever is in the center is going to be the thing that roots you together. Do you want to be rooted together based on your problems? Do you want to be rooted together based on shopping? Do you want to be rooted together based on fitness? Or do you want to be rooted together based on Jesus?

I choose Jesus.
Think about your friendships. Think about the circles you are in. See if there are any of them that need to change. What is your authentic position in your friendship circles? 

Know Your Identity in Christ

When you know your identity in Jesus Christ, it changes you. It changes everything. You realize that in Christ you are free. God has always given us the freedom of choice. He did not create us as robots. He has never forced us to love Him or obey Him. However, if we choose to follow Christ, we enjoy a new kind of freedom because “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2 NIV). 

In Christ, we are free from the control of our sinful nature and the death it brings. We are free to turn away from sin. When we are tempted, we have “a way out” (1 Cor. 10:13 NIV). We are free to choose love and let go of hatred. We are free to move beyond the pain and guilt of our past. We can live in freedom as a result of God’s grace and mercy.

Let’s examine mercy and grace. We are the objects of mercy when we are spared the punishment we deserve. We experience grace when we are offered a free gift we did not earn. It is difficult for us to comprehend grace fully because our society is work-oriented and proud. We have a hard time receiving gifts we haven’t earned. We believe we should put in our eight hours and then receive the pay we are due. 

Here’s the problem: God does not owe us anything good. God challenged Job, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11 NIV). We cannot give anything to God that does not already belong to Him. Therefore, God does not owe us any benefits, favors, gifts, or blessings.
In fact, what we are due from God is a sentence of death because the just penalty for sin is death (Rom. 6:23 NIV). God sent His sinless Son as a sacrifice to suffer our punishment for us (Rom. 3:25; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18–19 NIV). We deserve death, and God sent His Son so we could experience life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23 NIV). We are no longer bound in slavery to death, thanks to God’s mercy.
God not only cancels our debts, He also gives us who put our faith in Christ life “to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). We do not have to pay the price for our sins, and we also receive an additional gift: grace. We do not have to wait for our new blessed, eternal life. It begins as soon as we accept, through faith, Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior. God places His Spirit within us, and we embark on a life of fellowship with Him (John 14:16–20, 23; Rom. 8:11; Titus 3:4–7 NIV). God offers us the gift of a personal relationship with Him. We enjoy the entirely undeserved privilege of conversation with the Lord God Almighty. He ministers to our hearts and maintains His hand in our lives to protect, bless, guide, and teach us. We never need to stand alone.
It is humbling to consider how we never can earn or deserve God’s great gift to us. Not one of us is good without Him. Paul wrote, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 7:18 NIV). Not a single hair on our heads, nor a cell in our bodies, is good apart from the Lord. If we could achieve salvation by our own efforts, there would be no need for God’s grace (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 2:21 NIV). We would not need a Savior, and our faith would be meaningless. In truth, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23–24 NIV). God “saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4–5 NIV).
There is actually freedom in the fact that God’s gift of reconciliation with Him is and must be free. Since the covenant is based on who God is and what He has done, we can rest in this understanding: our salvation is secure. We no longer need to be defined by our sins. We can move forward in grace, knowing we have been forgiven and restored completely. There is nothing in our past God is remembering and holding against us.
It can be difficult to believe we have been redeemed when we feel guilty over past sins and stuck in our sinful nature, incapable of being anything else. When our faith falters, we need simply to turn to God’s word, which is full of assurances. Paul asserted that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 NIV), for “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19 NIV). Jesus Himself declared, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).
This message of hope is not limited to the New Testament. God reveals the loving, compassionate, forgiving aspects of His nature in the Old Testament as well. Through the prophet Isaiah, God proclaimed, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25 NIV). God urges us “not [to] dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18 NIV). He separates us from our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12 NIV). 

Our God “pardons sin” and “delight[s] to show mercy” (Micah 7:18 NIV). He “tread[s] our sins underfoot and hurl[s] all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19 NIV). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:34 NIV). God has compassion on us “[a]s a father has compassion on his children” (Psalm 103:13 NIV). His love for us is unshakable, and His “covenant of peace [will not] be removed” (Isaiah 54:10 NIV).
God does not view us as worthless disappointments. Instead, He cherishes us as His children. When we put our faith in Christ, God removes our sin and gives us a righteousness we never could earn (Rom. 3:21–25; Rom. 10:4 NIV). As Paul explained, in Christ we can “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV). We are “clothed … with Christ” (Gal. 3:27 NIV), and Christ lives in us (John 14:20; John 17:22–23, 26; Gal. 2:20 NIV). When God looks at us, He sees Christ. He loves us as He loves Christ (John 17:23, 26 NIV).
We who believe in Christ have a new identity as beloved brothers of Christ and children of God (Rom. 8:14-17, 29; Gal. 3:26; Gal. 4:4–7; Titus 3:4–7 NIV). With that new identity comes a new way of worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24 NIV). We now “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6 NIV). In Christ, there are no boundaries, only opportunities, because in Christ we are free from the law (Rom. 6:14; Rom. 7:4–6; Rom. 8:2; Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:25; Gal. 5:18 NIV). That doesn’t mean the law is now valueless and we should simply ignore the whole first part of the Bible. The law still has purpose today. Through the law, we learn what sin is and become aware that we are guilty of it (Rom. 3:20; Rom. 7:7 NIV). The law exposes our inadequacy and so leads us to our Savior.
The difference in our new view of the law is the understanding that we cannot gain righteousness by obeying the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:15–16 NIV). No matter what we do, we cannot meet God’s standard (Rom. 3:23 NIV). Only God can meet God’s standard, which is why redemption, forgiveness, and righteousness must come by Christ (Rom. 8:3–4 NIV). We need to be careful never to be trapped by the false belief that we can meet God’s standard and achieve His glory by our own efforts (Gal. 5:1 NIV). It is important to God for us to walk in freedom by His Spirit (Gal. 5:1; 2 Cor. 3:17 NIV).
For people who are already saved, the law serves the further purpose of teaching us what matters to God so we can learn how to be more like Him. We are “dearly loved children” and have a deep desire to be like our Father, following Christ’s example (Eph. 5:1–2 NIV). The love of God explodes in our hearts, and we follow Him and obey Him out of this love. As Jesus told His disciples, people who love Him will obey Him (John 14:15, 21, 23 NIV). 

I don’t believe this means we obey God to prove we love Him. No, the love we have for Him because of what He has done for us is what creates a response of obedience to Him. Paul called it “the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom. 1:5 NIV). A life of loving God and loving people with our thoughts, words, and actions is the evidence of our faith (Gal. 5:6, 14; Matt. 22:35–40; John 13:34–35; John 15:17 NIV).
God’s love within us brings us freedom because we dont want to sin anymore. We dont want to be in bondage to pornography or envy or hatred. We dont want to be slaves to bitterness. Ive already done this. I have lived such a life, and its painful. Holding a grudge against someone eats at you from the inside out. Its like cancer in your soul. When we are new in Christ and filled with the Spirit of God, we don’t want this kind of life anymore. We turn away from destructive ways. We know we belong to God, and we want to do His work (Rom. 7:4; Phil. 3:12–14 NIV). We want to love as He loves. We want to walk with Him and dwell in His presence forever.
God considered a personal relationship with each of us so precious that He paid the highest price in order to reconcile us to Him. Now nothing and no one can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35–39 NIV). I know I have not been rejected. I have not been abandoned. I am loved. I am loved beyond understanding. I have received the greatest gift and the greatest forgiveness. I don’t need boundaries. My God directs my steps. He changes my path. He is constantly straightening my crooked ways. In every step I take, I rest in God’s love and guidance. I have the fullness of joy and peace in every moment of my life. This is freedom.

Leaders, Here Is the Best Piece of Advice

We all serve in some kind of leadership role. It is good to learn from each other, so I love this question that Lisa Bevere recently asked:

For all my sisters who serve in a leadership capacity at their church, what’s your best piece of advice?

Here are just a few of the responses. Which one do you need to consider in your life? 

It’s important for leaders to have integrity and be consistent. Guard your heart, don’t take the bait, and see things from God’s perspective!

Remember that you don’t serve anyone but Jesus. Everything you do in the body of Christ is because of your love for Jesus. You can only give what has been poured into you. Also remember that you are a work in progress.

Stay humble. Keep your eyes on Jesus and don’t allow offenses to creep in!

Don’t lose intimacy with Christ. Set aside time for personal devotions and prayer. Don’t work for God; work with Him. Love and have grace and mercy on people.

Know the difference between being led and feeling obligated or driven. You’re only empowered to do what God leads you to do. The rest is a waste of energy.

Preach what you practice! Integrity is huge!

Do it for Jesus alone. Don’t seek rewards, praise, and recognition. Let it be a bonus when these happen. Do it for Jesus, who loves purely, not based on our perfomance.
A good leader is first a good follower.
Have faith and forgive. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is our source.

I’ve been so busy having babies that I have not been in a position of leadership in over a year now, but here’s what I would say. Ask God to help you see those He brings you into contact with the way He does: through eyes of love and compassion and as ones whose sins have been covered.

Remain teachable at all times, especially when in a leadership role.

Help those you are leading, in this way showing them the love of Jesus.

Have vision backed up by the Word of God. Be committed, passionate, and mindful of the One you’re serving.

First, regularly have quiet time with the Lord, like being in an upper room with Him. His presence is the answer for everything. Second, never compare yourself to anyone else and don’t worry about what everyone thinks. What God thinks is what is important. 🙂

It’s wonderful to be organized and use your administrative gift, but sometimes the Holy Spirit needs to take over fully. It may look messy, but in the end God is glorified! Trust Him in all things. Remember you’re serving from the heart, not for accolades, and your service makes a difference in others’ lives.

Know that God is faithful. Always stay humble and let Jesus guide your steps.
Shun offense. Don’t pick it up. Don’t hear it. Don’t even look at it.
Honor the grace that God has given you for this season. Oftentimes we, myself included, get so caught up in the vision and the future without honoring the present.

These days I’m learning from the life of queen Esther, how she was humble and trusted God only. I’m also learning from great women of God in modern times, like you and Joyce Meyer. When we open our mouths, words of wisdom from God should flow out from us. We are the builder women of God. We are women of destiny.

Love! Walk in humility and serve like Jesus.

Be authentic, be yourself, and love God and His Word.
Lead by example. No one will or should follow us if we cannot be led. So, be teachable. Mostly, be patient. When things go ‘wrong,’ pray and get God’s strategy and opinion before you take any action. Generally, I’ve found that given time, God resolves the issue with little or nothing required from me. Stay connected to and with God. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. You will not always be liked; you will get offended. But God will see you through it all! I would further say (to a new leader especially) what a leader told me: Start making every decision as if you are already in the position you are hoping to achieve. That way you will develop the character to manage it with grace and love.

Remember to allow time for yourself and God to hang out. Allow space for rest and fun.
Do not neglect your own personal time with God. Your first priority is your husband and children. If it fails there, you have no testimony.

Take time to listen to your people. Know their hearts.


My Faith Is Weak—I Need More Faith

Immediately the boys father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)

We all have the faith of Jesus Christ. That’s what Scripture says. You cannot come to God without Him. He actually gives you the faith to believe in Him. The faith you have isn’t your own. You didn’t muster it up. You’re not some great person of faith. Yes, sometimes He gives people a spiritual gift of faith, but it’s still from Him. He is the author of it.

If you and I have the same faith because God gave it to us so we could know Him and love Him, then how do we make our faith work more effectually? Some people have more effective faith than I do. I look at them and think, “How is that? How is that possible?” I believe it comes from their relationship with God. They’re seeking Him and pursuing Him. They’re reading His Word, chomping it up, ingesting it, and believing what it says with childlike faith. It stirs them up.

I received a gift from a friend of mine. It’s a candle. I don’t burn candles in my home. I haven’t burned them since I had kids. I don’t want to risk the accidental knocking over and fire or wax in the carpet. It was a gift my friend gave to me, but it’s never really been used. It just sits there. I think that’s what faith is like. God gives it to you, and you either light it and use it, or you don’t and it just sits there.

So how do we light the candle of our faith? I believe the answer is in Hebrews 11:1. It says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). I believe hope is the fire for your faith. Hope is your part, and faith is God’s part. God gave you the faith; now, can you keep up your hope? Can you keep yourself focused on the promises of God? Can you keep yourself focused on this amazing promise: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV)?

Jesus also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 NIV). He wouldn’t give you a command you could not keep. I believe that when you let your heart be troubled, you lose your hope, and it’s not there to spark your faith. We need to learn, remember, and put our hope in the promises of God. 

“Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you.” (Luke 10:19 AMP)

I keep my eyes on this truth. It keeps stirring me up. It builds up my hope. It makes my hope grow and become active and alive so it can light the candle of my faiththe faith that God has deposited in me. It’s not really my faith, so I cannot boast in it! I refer to it as my faith, but it’s really not. It was a gift given to me by God. It’s His. He deposited it. When I place my hope in Him, it lights and connects. The faith He has given me ignites, and sparks fly!

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Jump into your Bible. As you read, your hope in the Lord will grow and SOAR!