Saturday, August 11, 2018

Healing for the Hurt

(a letter that I wrote to my cousin in response to some struggles he expressed)

Don't feel bad opening up about this.  We're human and we're going to have times where we struggle with our thoughts and feelings and don't really know exactly how to deal with them.  If you can't talk to a loved one you trust, who CAN you talk to.  We all need someone we can relate to who can empathize with our struggles (without judgment).  And you're right; we have to have the mind of Christ and be filled with His love so we can forgive - otherwise the bitterness and resentment can eat us up (that's why I had that stint back in the late 2000's where I started getting so much grey hair; I was carrying a lot of resentment and bitterness inside and it was literally eating me alive).

As much as we want to be Christ-like, I really believe that the majority of us believers are not even close to being "good Christians" unfortunately.  I know that we have the ability to measure up to the high standard that Jesus came and demonstrated for the world, but it takes a level of sacrifice that most of us aren't willing to sacrifice :(... I've been a Christian for 27 years, and there was only ONE time in that span of time where I fully surrendered and started to see what it really means to be a Christian... And it started to fade as soon as I went back to work.  It's really challenging to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)  Again, it's not impossible, but unless you're a full-time pastor or evangelist, it's often times a battle to press toward that mark while you're immersed in the world (which is where most of us Christians are when we're spending a large portion of our time in the workplace).

I think one of the most important things we can do is to realize that we can't do it in our own power.  We need God, and we can't give up.  We have to keep doing what we know is right, and what the Spirit leads us to do (digging in to the Word, spending time alone with God, renewing our minds and hearts, etc).

So many people have wronged and hurt us, and they don't deserve our love or forgiveness.  And the world didn't deserve God's love or forgiveness, but He freely gave it anyway.  So we have to love the unlovable, and we have to forgive the unforgivable.  And often times, not for THEM, but for US.  Us choosing to do what Christ did changes OUR hearts.  And God willing, the people in our lives who don't deserve it will hopefully see something in us that is different from what's seen in the rest of the world (Christ in us, the hope of glory - Colossians 1:27).

Sorry man, I always seem to transition from an encouraging chat to a sermon, lol.  You know what though?  It's often times the Holy Spirit talking directly to me while also talking to the person I'm sharing with. I need this sermon just as much as you might need it!  I even have times where I'll re-read an email that I sent to someone because God used it to encourage and build MY faith.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Standing In Faith

(a letter that I wrote to my dad)

Hey dad, before we talk again today or this week, I wanted to say some things that are on my heart.

There are at least 110 places in the bible where we're told to "fear not" (essentially, "do not be afraid").  I believe that one of the main reasons we're told to "fear not" is because fear is toxic.  After all, the opposite of "faith" is "fear".  But I believe another main reason we're instructed to not be afraid is because fear blocks the blessings of God.

When God created us, He created us in His image and His likeness, and He also gave us authority.  We're to be like Him; operating in the same way that He operates (Genesis 1:26-28).

Along with that, "we've been given the mind of Christ", and "we've not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, power and of a sound mind" (1 Corinthians 2:16 and 2 Timothy 1:7).

There's an example in Mark 5 and in Luke 8.  The gist of the story is that there was a church leader whose young daughter was on her death bed, and then she died.  But despite the fact that the little girl was dead in the natural realm, Jesus told the church leader "fear not; believe only, and she shall be made whole".  As children of God, we have to renew our minds to the fact that the spirit realm is actually more real than the natural realm that we see and feel.  And everything that exists in the natural realm is first birthed in the spirit realm.

Jesus told the leader to not be afraid because he knew that fear in the man's heart would block the blessing.  Notice also that Jesus instructed him to "believe only".  You can imagine how hard it would be to only trust in God and His perfect will if your own child was dead, but that's exactly what Jesus told the man to do.

Bad things happen to "good" people all the time, but that doesn't mean that God is ever bad.  We live in a fallen world, and bad things are going to happen.  But how we choose to respond to those bad things is what determines the final outcome in our lives.

God's will is always to prosper us.  God speaks directly to us in Jeremiah 29:11 when He says "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," saith the Lord, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end".  God's will is that we would prosper in all our ways.  And the bible has a lot to say about it (

This reminds me of the number of times I've heard people say "God is in control".  Every time something good happens, you always hear people say "Praise God!".  But every time something bad happens, it's all to common to hear those same people speak a somber "well... God is in control.... I guess we just have to trust that He knows what He's doing".

But despite what a lot of people think, God is not in control.  If that were true, the world would not be so chaotic and filled with evil.  God was not in control when Adam and Eve were living in the garden thousands of years ago, and God is not in control today.  We are in control, and we can choose to seek God and allow His Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, or we can choose to exclusively take control ourselves.  That's exactly what Adam and Eve did when they ate the forbidden fruit.  There were commanded by God to NOT eat the fruit of that tree.  They were supposed to trust in Him and obey Him.  But despite the fact that, in their hearts, they knew better, they still chose to be disobedient and go against what God told them not to do.  And that one act of disobedience is what ushered in sin and death, and it's been at work in this world ever since.

But glory be to God!  Jesus came to die in our place, and He died and rose again to conquer sin and death.  His victory becomes our victory when we choose to believe in Him, and obey what He leads us to say and do in every waking moment of our lives.  Christ came to demonstrate to us how God desires us to live.  And Jesus was the perfect example of who we can be if we'll fully surrender ourselves to the leading of God and His Holy Spirit in our lives.  Here are three examples where Jesus showed us by example how we should live (like He did):
John 5:19, John 8:28 and John 12:48-50.

Remember the story of Job?  He was an extremely successful, blessed, prosperous man.  But he lost everything when satan attacked him.  And despite the fact that his entire family and friends wouldn't support him and actually turned their backs on him, he never stopped believing that God is good.  And he was eventually restored by God to an even greater place and status than he was at before the attack that had previously nearly destroyed him.

Every time something bad happens in our lives, we have a choice; we can either submit to it and ultimately let the enemy defeat us, or we can "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) and "overcome through Christ" (Philippians 4:13  and Revelation 12:11).

In Deuteronomy 30:19, we're told to "choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live".  Every time the enemy attacks us, we can either fall into a victim mentality and start being afraid of a bunch of things that haven't even happened, or we can do what Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to do: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.", and what James 4:7 tells us to do: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you".

This is the way we should think and act at all times: 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  "Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Joshua 1:8:  "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."

My ultimate desire is to walk in God's ways and to please Him.  And in order to do that, I have to live by faith. There are four different passages in the bible that say "The just shall live by faith".  As "believers", we're not supposed to "try to be good people" or "do our best in our own power" or "go to church once per week and put something in the offering plate".  We're commanded to LIVE by faith.  That means that we're supposed to always be striving to live this life the way that God intends it to be lived.  We may not always understand or know exactly what He's doing, but we're never supposed to stop trusting in Him, and we should always be diligently seeking Him.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us "...without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

I could go on and on right now, so I'll leave you with that for now :).

One of the primary reasons I'm sharing all of this with you is because I want to prep your mind and heart for our next voice-to-voice conversations this week.

Last scripture/thought:  We're not supposed to be like the world.  We're supposed to look different, and operate on a higher level.  And the only way we can do that is by not leaning unto our own understanding, but instead "being transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can know and live in the pleasing and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).