Self-Protected, Part 2

I want to go back to my high school story.
In high school, I self-protected big time. I didn’t let this cutie, hottie boy know I liked him even a little bit. I thought I wasn’t worthy of him, so I never let it out. I realized recently with my own girls—I have two in high school—that they and their friends self-protect.

In homeschooling and in the Christian community, we sweetly call it “guarding your heart.” We say, “Oh, guard your heart because we don’t want to let just anybody in.” But the truth is that the only way to guard your heart is to give it fully to Jesus and not give it to any man or to what people say or to whether you are accepted or rejected—if you are asked to prom or not, if you are asked to dance or not. There is no way to protect yourself outside of fully surrendering your life to Christ. It is impossible.
I see all these kids and recognize in them that though they didn’t grow up in an abusive home like I did, they are already protecting themselves. If they put themselves out there, they are extremely careful. For instance, they say, “Let’s go to prom as friends.” They are afraid to say, “Hey, I like you a little. If that’s not cool, it’s no big deal. But I do. I like you a little.” 

It’s as if they deny the natural progression of the fact that they are old enough to be married—in biblical terms, not legally, but close enough. They deny transparency. They act like they’re kind-of friends and kind-of not. They skirt around the issue to the point where they are never going to allow themselves the unchained ability to pursue because they’ve put a title on their relationship called “just friends.”
I’m looking at these youth, thinking, “Is this right?” I don’t think there is any reason to go make out and whatever, yet they won’t even say, “Hey, I spend time with you because I like you. Maybe it will be more than just being friends and hanging out.” It’s almost silent, like there’s a curse on saying it. Boys text your daughters and say, “Hey, if you don’t like me like a boyfriend, then I’m not going to text you anymore.” It’s like, “Hey, can we just be friends?” instead of “Hey, I think you’re really pretty.” Let’s be real. These kids are already protecting themselves. I find myself asking the Lord, “Teach me how to teach my girls to be real and trust You with their protection instead of always protecting themselves.

Honestly, I believe every woman’s desire is to have a marriage where she doesn’t have to be the man and she can actually be the wife. The husband is not a pansy. He is not a pushover. He is strong and gentle, kinder to her than anybody else. He would lay down his life. He will protect her. She can rest in his protection because he is a living example of Christ. He has laid down his life, and he is not going to put anything above her. I mean, that is really a woman’s strongest desire. When she feels that protection removed, she immediately starts standing in self-protective mode. Then she loses her sweet, gentle, loving qualities. You miss the best parts of her when she is in self-protecting mode.

I wish we had so much security in Christ that we would be willing to be rejected 490 times to infinity so we could be real and transparent instead of playing a game and not living real lives. Why is it so bad to be rejected if you can go lay your head on the lap of the One who accepts you?

Jesus Is

If you think God allowed something in your life, then you won’t be able to resist it. The Bible says, in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (NIV).
If you think God allowed sickness or poverty to come against you to teach you something, then, first of all, you are probably under condemnation, feeling guilty about something you did and thinking you deserve it.
Jesus Christ paid the entire price on the cross. He paid for it all. He provided everything we needed through the cross. Let me tell you this: He didn’t stay there. He was resurrected and lifted up to the right hand of the Father, where He deposited His Holy Spirit into us, and we were then lifted up to the right hand of the Father. We are positioned near the King. We are to reign in this life as kings.
But if you continue to think God is punishing you because He is mad at you and is trying to teach you a lesson through sickness, then you will not resist it. You will receive it. You will hold fast to it. You will change the way you do life. You will make accommodations for this new sickness when it’s actually from the devil.
A lot of people say, “You know, God allowed this to happen in my life.” I would say you allowed it. You didn’t resist the enemy. You passively sat by, being tossed to and fro in a wave of the sea, because you weren’t really sure: “Is this from God or not from God? I don’t want it. I don’t want my child to have it. I hate it. I am doing everything I can medically to get rid of it.” Yet, you think God allowed it in your life to help you. If you are right about that, yet you seek medical attention, then you are in complete and total rebellion, searching for a way out of what God gave you.
We can’t pray, asking and begging God to change His mind after He has given us something. The reason why we see miracles is because He is not the author of it. 
Every time sickness is referred to in the Bible, it is either a curse of the law—but Jesus Christ became cursed for us, so we’re no longer under the curses in Deuteronomy 28—or it is referred to as captivity, as in Job 42. God said, “I will release Job from his captivity” (see Job 42:10 KJV). We all know from being sick that sickness is captivity to your bed. You are unable to move to work or to do anything.
Seek God with all of your heart. Keep a pure heart before Him. Seek first His kingdom, and everything will be added to you (Matthew 6:33). He is a God who wants you to prosper, who sent His Son so you could live in this life. He sent His Holy Spirit, who has the same power that raised Christ from the dead. 

In Luke 10:19, Jesus said He gave us all the power and authority. It is the authority we need over the enemy to prevail so no harm can come near us from the enemy. We have the authority of God to use to speak to the devil and say, “Get away from me. Get out of here. I am not submitting. I am not going into captivity because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. There is freedom. I am keeping my freedom. You are not knocking me out.”
But instead, we are so unsure. Our foundation is so rocky. “Did God give this to me or not? Is He using it for my good? I’m not sure. You know, it’s confusing. This stuff is coming at me like darts from every direction. Is this good? Is this for my good? Am I being punished? I did something to deserve this. Maybe God sent it to me.” 

Those are lies. You are leaning on your own understanding rather than standing on the Word of God. In Isaiah 54:9, God said, “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again” (NIV). Never! He is not angry. He is not a mad God. He is a good Father. “Every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17 NIV). Stop labeling what is evil as “good.” Stop it. It needs to stop, in Jesus’ name.

Wrestle with Assurance

I gave my life to Christ when I was ten years old. I was in a Baptist church, and they talked about hell and scared me to death. I did not want to burn in flames, so I thought I would buy my insurance policy and get out. I raised my hand and went down, and nothing changed.
My life was still the same. Nothing changed at all about who I was. No one taught me how to know the Lord and have intimacy with Him. I continued on the same path I was on. I kept going to church. That is what I thought knowing God was all about. I thought it was all about going to church every week, paying your tithe and serving, going to Sunday school classes, and reading your Bible—if you could understand it. 

For me, I couldn’t understand it. I wanted to read the Bible. I read it, and I was like, “What are these words? I can’t even pronounce them.” I wasn’t that great of a reader. I probably should have been in a reading class for slow readers. I didn’t want to be labeled with a disability, although I felt like I had one. I couldn’t read the Bible. I couldn’t pronounce half the names that were in it. So I continued in my life and called myself a “Christian,” but I was like I was before. Nothing had changed.
Now, the Bible says when you become a Christian, you become a new creation. I wasn’t a new creation. Was I saved or not saved? I didn’t know. I had a lot of confidence that I wasn’t going to hell. It wasn’t until later in life when I read John 17:3 that my eyes were opened. It says eternity—in my opinion, heaven—is truly knowing God. It doesn’t say eternity is a place called heaven where you will go some day after you die. Eternal life is knowing God. 

What an eye-opening moment it was. Oh my gosh! This whole time, I thought being a Christian was about going to a destination upon death. But actually, being a Christian is about a destination in your heart that begins the moment you receive Jesus as your Savior. It’s a door opening to knowing God, and knowing God brings you life. Unbelievable. I had no idea. I kind of felt betrayed, honestly, by my church and all my teachers. Like, “How did I not know this? How did I live all these years completely clueless?”

So then I started to clue in that my life was a wreck. I had broken relationships. I’d basically broken every commandment in the Bible. I was like, “I’m supposed to be a Christian, but yet, you know, I don’t even get this. I’ve done everything wrong. What in the world?” So I made a decision. “Okay, God. I don’t know what I am supposed to do to be Your child, but I do know I have to stop breaking Your commandments. I have to stop going in the opposite direction of You. I actually have to pursue You and try to find You.” I tried. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV). I started seeking God. I changed everything. I stopped going out. I stopped drinking. I stopped partying. I stopped sleeping around. I stopped everything. I started seeking God.
Unbelievably, I found Him. I started to realize He had been there all along. He was a God who would basically partner with me and be with me. He would help me shut my mouth when I needed to. He would help me do the right thing. He would be my helper and my friend.
Yet, even still, I went to church. I sought God. I started tearing through my Bible, reading the Word and asking tons of questions because I didn’t understand. See, I didn’t feel qualified to know the answers. I thought, “These people who are pastors, they went to school. They are qualified. They know the answers. They are the ones. If I could just get them to help me make sure I know God, then I will feel better about it. If I can just have that assurance.”
I found myself. I knew I was pursuing God at this point. I thought I was a Christian, but I still had this little percentage of doubt. Do you have a little percentage of doubt? That little percentage of doubt agonized me. Is this truly the right way? Is this the way?
I would take my teacher—she was a pastor and had all these young people in there— and I would ask her question after question after question. I came to realize that I can never get my assurance about being in Christ from another human being. It is impossible. They don’t know me. They don’t know my heart.

But I wanted it. I wrestled with having assurance that I was truly a Christ follower. I sought so hard. I sought man. I looked for man’s opinion. I asked pastors, “How do you know? How are you sure?” I asked the questions over and over. I drove my class insane. They were so mad at me that it ended up creating a feud. I kept asking, and I kept pursuing. It was like, “I have to know!” I have to know God has forgiven me for my past, for breaking all of His commandments.
But you know, no one ever taught me the law was for sinners, for before you received grace. Once you have received grace, you are not under the law. You are under grace. Christ became the cursed for you. God is not mad at you. I had never heard that message. I couldn’t forgive myself. I wasn’t walking in grace. I was still walking under the law. I never felt the fullness of forgiveness, so I wrestled with assurance.

Have you wrestled with being sure? Are you sure? How do you know? How can you be sure? We are going to continue this tomorrow on this blog.

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.

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.

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.


Are Negative Thoughts Running Your Life?

Resist the devil.
There are many times when negative thoughts will pop into your head and cause you to feel as if youre not loved by anyone and youre all alone. Recently Robin Williams committed suicide. He had depression. You know, this whole problem had to start with a negative thought. One negative thought is not a big deal until it builds into a mountain of negative thoughts.
It is essential we learn to differentiate between good and evil thoughts. As Jesus put it, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). If a destructive thought enters your mind and tries to steal the hope, faith, love, and peace you have in Jesus Christ, why would you even consider letting it be okay? Well, the truth is you probably wouldn’t think much of it because one negative thought isnt a big deal unless you allow it to take root. Then other negative thoughts creep in and build on it, and destruction takes hold.
We must learn to recognize that those stealing thoughts are from the enemy. They are from the devil. James wrote, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). It sounds simple, right? It is simple, but it also requires hard work. We need to be active in our resistance. This mental effort is part of submitting ourselves to God. When were not resisting those negative thoughts, were actually submitting to the devil.
There is no gray area, no middle ground, no in-between. You cant accept a destructive thought and claim you’re submitting to God. When we submit to God, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). If we are fully surrendered to God, we actually want to rid our minds of every harmful thought. We don’t want to keep those thoughts because we know they are not His.
I have noticed many Christians struggle with determining whether the thoughts and influences peppering our minds are from God or from the enemy. We have trouble sorting through everything. Many of us are living in a constant state of confusion. The uncertainty provides a foothold for negativity. We start to recall all of our sins. We know we’re guilty. We know the punishment our sin deserves. We start to believe the destructive thoughts are God’s way of punishing us.
I can assure you with 100 percent certainty that God is not looking for opportunities to bring you down. He is full of compassion towards you. He is not trying to find reasons to be mad at you (Isaiah 54:9–10 NIV). The devil, on the other hand, stands ready to leap into every gap in our faith. The enemy wants to deceive you. He wants you to believe the damaging thoughts are from God because then you will receive them. 

Once you allow negative thoughts to take hold, they will poison your mind. They will shackle you and prevent you from moving forward in the work God has for you to do. Pessimism will hold you in captivity. You will be a slave, and you will remain in bondage so long as you allow the negative thoughts to consume you. You wont be living in the fullness of the freedom Jesus paid dearly for you to experience.
The good news is God provides us with everything we need to resist destructive thoughts. If we “take up the shield of faith,” we “can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). We possess the equipment; what we need is a battle plan.
Step one: Pay attention to what you are thinking. We need to be aware of all our thoughts, and we need to learn how to distinguish between thoughts in step with God’s truth and God’s ways and thoughts from the enemy or our own flesh. The best way to learn the difference is to study the Bible. God will speak to you and teach you as you read His Word. You will learn to recognize His voice.
Step two: Resist the devil. Isolate destructive thoughts and refuse to accept them. When you feel tempted to view pornography, when you notice an attractive man and start wanting him more than your husband, when you are shopping and covet clothes you can’t afford, when you envy someone who seems to be more successful than you are, when you view your reflection in the mirror and start criticizing the way God formed you—those are the times when you need to surrender your thoughts to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Turn to God’s Word. Keep it nearby, in your heart and on a notepad or on your phone. Seek God’s truth and rely on His promises. Put your full faith in Him. Be sure to replace the sinful thoughts immediately with the truth because, as Jesus warned, if you kick evil out and dont replace it with anything, it will return seven times as strong (Luke 11:24–26 NIV).