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Blessed are the Peacemakers

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peacemakers

Can you think of a single day in your life where there has not been conflict with another person? How about conflict that happens to be around you but doesn’t involve you personally? There always seems to be some form of tension or bickering in our lives. There is conflict on the national level, in our homes and in relationships, and in our work places. As hard as we try and as perfect as we think we are, the truth is – we all have trouble avoiding conflict.

Matthew 5:9 reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peace does not come from an organization or by man alone. It comes only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus wants us to be His ambassadors, a member of His peace corp. Not only does He want us to cease fighting with others, He wants us to also make peace. And it all begins with the work Christ does in us first.

As sinful humans, we need to recognize our own spiritual poverty and admit that we need Jesus as our Savior. We must humble our hearts and mourn the fact that we often wander away from God. We must surrender ourselves completely to the only One who can do something for us and in us. We must become a new creation as written in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Just as God did, He asks us to bring peace first and then focus on reconciliation.

As a Christian we must desire righteousness and aspire to make things right in our personal lives and for those around us. We must desire mercy because our hearts are thankful for the mercy bestowed upon us. We must desire a pure heart because what’s in our hearts produces our behavior. When our outward expressions match our inward conditions, then peacemaking will be possible. We must want to have right relationships with one another. But we cannot be peacemakers until we are at peace with God.

The problem does not lie within our marriages or children. It does not lie within our communities and nation. The problem is not out there… the problem is in our hearts. Until we have peace with God, we are not in a position to be peacemakers. We must allow God to fully meet our needs and rest in His promises. It is only then that we cease seeking to have control over people and manipulate circumstances in order to have our needs met. We will relax knowing God has already met our needs through Christ Jesus.

What is the source of our conflicts and disputes? James 4:1-3 says it best – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” It’s perfectly clear, the source of our conflicts is our insufficiency and our desire to make circumstances and people do what we want to fill a void. The truth is that only God can fill that void. When we are at peace with God, we do not lust and over desire. While it’s okay to desire things it becomes sin when those desires become more important than obeying God, treating people respectfully, and tending to our relationships. It is with lust that we become envious and quarrel. All of this can be quieted when we realize that God “will meet all of our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We must allow God to meet our deepest needs and then we can pursue peace.

How do we pursue peace? Romans 14:19 tells us “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

We are required to INITIATE peace. God wants us to be part of the holy order, for us to be the first to initiate peace. Are you waiting for the other person to take the first step, even if they are the ones who wronged you? The Bible tells us that “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” We are told that even if we are the person who has been wronged that we are CALLED to initiate peace. Someone has to be the mature person in every conflict and take the first step towards peace. Why not you? Are you the mature person?

We then are required to COMMUNICATE with love. Ephesians 4:15 commands us, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is the principle of good biblical communication – speaking clearly, in truth, and in love. Never speak out of anger or hold on to your negative feelings. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to speak the truth in love… as long as it works. We need to keep communicating even when the other person doesn’t respond the appropriate way and even if they never come around to listening.

When communicating, our voices must remain calm and our words need to be void of manipulation. Don’t punish the other person with silence or act holier by simply not arguing at all. Ephesians 2:26 remind us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. If we conceal our anger instead of calmly talking it out with the other person, we begin to build up resentment. Sometimes we may even forget why we became angry in the first place! Our hearts become hardened and toxic and we begin to take everything personally, becoming easily offended. Resolve your differences as quickly as possible and move forward.

Ephesians 4:29 reminds us of this when communicating – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Do not bring up what happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago. Use words that are only good for improvement, be positive and fruitful.

Nothing should come out of our mouth that doesn’t already have a solution. And invite them into your solution and refrain from commanding them to do and see things your way. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). The same must be true for our speech. Avoid criticism and use only positive words that are intended to build up the other person and the relationship.

Now we can begin to NEGOTIATE. Conflicts begin when two or more people believe they are right about something. But we must remind ourselves that every time there is a conflict, there will always be a solution. There is a creative third alternative than your way and their way. Only then when you look at everything, can you begin to get creative and find a solution. Be honest about the true needs, compromise. Give up complete control. You don’t have to agree with someone, if it’s a non-moral issue, just simply agree to disagree, it doesn’t really matter. God created us all differently! Sometimes we have different opinions to keep us out of trouble. We must give away our selfishness, our preferences, and love.

God made us for relationships. We are blessed with opportunities to share, love, and be flexible. It’s what it means to live in this world and be a part of the community. Intimacy brings about conflict and the resolutions of conflict produce peace and love. Pursue the things that make peace and the building up of one another. Don’t be shocked by it, afraid of it, or try to escape it; it’s a part of His plan. As we negotiate our differences we find ourselves in a better place.

The final step in creating peace is to ABDICATE. For some of us, letting go and moving forward is the hardest part of creating peace but must let go of past wrongs, all of them. Don’t collect and hoard past sins of other people. Don’t get historical in arguments or use them as a leverage to get your way. To be a peacemaker, we MUST let things go. Let go of our need to be right. It’s worthless, it has no value, and nobody is impressed with how many times you’ve been right. This means we need to relinquish our need to win. The reality is, we need to lose some argument on occasion. And it’s ok if only you and God know you are right. But you cannot be right all the time. Humility reminds us that we just might be wrong. Just the consideration of possibly being wrong causes us to be humble and yield to conflict. This does not include moral and ethical issues as we must not compromise our values. We are talking about humility that we are poor in spirit. We yield because we recognize that we are sinners and that we make mistakes.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Aren’t you glad that God initiated peacemaking with us first? He didn’t wait for us to come and die for our sins. He didn’t meet us halfway; He met us all the way. He sent His only begotten Son to die FOR US. Jesus came in the appearance of a man – the creator of the universe was willing to be seen as wrong. He hung on the cross to be seen as a criminal even though He was a Savior, to be seen as taking on the sin of the whole world, to be seen in a guilty state. He didn’t need to be seen as right or as a god in that moment and in doing so, He became the peacemaker. He asks us to repent, to turn away from the ways we think will fulfill us so that we can be turned humbled before Him.

As Christians, we are most like him when we initiate peace, communicate peace, negotiate peace, and when we abdicate and relinquish so that peace can happen. The blessings is this – we will be called the children of God. When we become peacemakers, people will look at us, recognize us, and see Jesus in us. He initiated, He communicated, He negotiated and He abdicated. We must become the catalyst and in ALL circumstances promote peace and bring people together. We must help others meet their Creator and become a part of the peacemaking process.

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4. The Cost of Being a Disciple
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What is Lent?

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Lent is the 40 day journey (excluding Sundays) set aside in the church calendar in preparation for Easter. The time spent during this period is to be devoted to prayer, repentance, and self -reflection of one’s life. Although not every church or denomination observes Lent, many Christians choose to observe this season as a way to keep their focus and shift their thoughts on the forthcoming death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is not specifically mentioned in scriptures and therefore is not a command or requirement.

The rules for fasting during the Lent season vary from denomination and geographical location. Generally, those who fast during the Lent season, fast six days a week over the course of six weeks. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and was instituted to bring the exact number of fasting days before Easter to 40. The types of food and drink people fast from also vary but generally include meat, animal products, and soda. In some religions, the fasting modifications have relaxed drastically to make the process more simple and easy. Today though, Christians are still encouraged to give up something for Lent as a form of self-denial.

Another, less popular, Lent tradition is to limit your meals to just one per day. Traditionally, this meal would be eaten in the evening or at 3pm and should be void of meats and dairy. The absence of dairy products led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) and the blessing of the Easter eggs. The Lent practices for fasting have evolved overtime to allow for additional meals for strength as well as eating fish, other meats, and dairy.

Does the number 40 sound familiar? The number 40 holds special significance for Christians. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before the Lord appeared to him on the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). And the most importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting while continually being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:2). Ash Wednesday also symbolizes the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day fasting and prayer while in the wilderness.

The choice to observe Lent should be a personal decision. When deciding what to give up for Lent, do so with a grateful and humble heart. Don’t give up something that doesn’t take effort or act like a Pharisee and look for loopholes in the guidelines. Fasting without the desire to renew your relationship with Christ is a form of blasphemy. Whether you fast from something small, give up your meals during the day, or add something to your schedule during this season, the effects of atonement and self-discipline will astound you and your relationship with our Savior will forever be changed.

While the fasting practices have changed over the years, the intent for the Lent season has remained the same – to repent of your personal sins, to renew your faith and commitment to the Church, and to prepare your heart for the return of Jesus Christ. How do you strengthen your relationship with Christ during the Lent season?

Here are some great ways for your family to celebrate Lent together:

  • Begin a Lenten devotional that accommodates the whole family.
  • Read your Bible and be intentional about memorizing scriptures.
  • Simplify your schedules and eliminate luxuries.
  • Serve others with the hope of sharing Christ.
  • Replace urges with time spent in prayer.
  • Walk humbly and keep your focus on Jesus.  Don’t publicize your Lent practices and bring the attention on yourself.  This time is about reflection on Christ, not your personal accomplishments.

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You might also like:
1. What is Ash Wednesday?
2. Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Testimony – I am Redeemed. I am Loved.

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testimonyOn this very day last year I publicly shared my testimony and wanted to share it on this blog as well.  I woke up that morning and immediately my mind wandered, just like it does most of the time.  I knew that day was coming; I had thought about that day for years.  I hadn’t planned to blog about the significance of that date but there I found myself writing.  I started writing just to let go of the baggage I carried but also so that one day my boys could read about their momma’s testimony and know how much I wanted to be their mommy.  On that day, I decided to share with whoever was reading whether it was just one person or 3,000 people what that day means to me.

I prayed and pleaded with God about what He wanted for my life.  I finally let go and let God speak to me.  This is what I heard, “My love, you think you’re finished with your story, but you have no clue.  There is one thing that you and I both know you think about secretly in the dark that I want you to bring to light.  HELP my children.”  He told me to deal with this, speak the word, and finish my story.

Today, I’m wishing a Happy 16th Birthday to my UNBORN BABY… due date January 5, 1998.

Why am I telling something so personal?  Believe me, I NEVER wanted to.  God convicted my heart one day and it hasn’t stopped yearning for these unborn babies.  I want to help the people who have made this decision to forgive themselves and I want to hopefully convince someone who is contemplating abortion that you don’t just “do it” and it’s over.  You have to deal with this for the rest of your life.  I have eleven years of school pictures I’ve missed out on and I want them to understand that this decision will affect them for the rest of their lives.  Here’s my story:

Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children
come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I found out a few days before I graduated from high school that I was pregnant.  I didn’t believe in killing a baby and I didn’t want to kill this baby.  A baby made out of sin, yes, but it was my baby. My boyfriend didn’t want me to keep the baby and even told me I didn’t have a choice, that I was having an abortion.  I begged him to let me keep the baby and even told him child support wasn’t needed.  I was already showing and attached to my baby.  I was almost at the limit to have an abortion which made it that much more difficult.  I was over three months.  I had been reading up on pregnancy and trying to eat healthier so my baby could grow big and strong in my womb.  I was willing to do this as a single mother and never ask one thing of him, but he didn’t care.

I had always believed that a baby is a human from conception and you could never convince me otherwise.  Others told me it was just an embryo and to think of it like it was a fish.  But I knew its heart was beating and God knew that baby before it was in my womb.  Regardless, I allowed myself to be taken to the abortion clinic.  I cried as we were walking up.  As I lay on that cold table with my feet in stirrups, looking at the doctor that was going to take this life out of me, I wondered if he had kids.  I wondered what he thought about what I was doing.  I wondered if he knew I didn’t want to do it, that I had been threatened and convinced otherwise.  When he stuck that ultrasound tool on me to see where the baby was and how far along I was he didn’t move the monitor where I couldn’t see.  I looked at that perfect baby floating around and moving in my womb.  I saw life.  In less than one minute, that life would no longer be in my womb, it would stop growing instantly and there would be no more creation inside of me.  It was already a human being growing, forming, so it could look like me and every other human being that God had created.  Two years from that moment, it would have been giggling and jabbering and writing all over the walls.  I saw creation and life, even through my sin.

I had an abortion that day, with a baby that was due in January of the following year, a baby that I think of everyday of my life and always will.  That baby was made out of sin, and so have a million more babies that have grown up to serve God in powerful ways.  I left that clinic that day, and I was no longer pregnant.  God cried that day and I cried with Him.  I was sick with myself.  We had just eliminated a problem that would have only been in the way of our future. This baby needed my womb to survive in a little while longer and it had been destroyed, without even knowing how to fight or cling to me for dear life.

That day I did something I would take back right now, only to see that child’s smile, only so I could have been a better person a lot sooner.  I look around my house, and sometimes my imagination runs wild enough to imagine that my now 16 yr old child would have been a Christian by now.  Maybe if it was a girl, we’d be getting pedicures together today or maybe if it was a boy, he’d be pitching the baseball to my husband.  Maybe this child of mine would have braces and be coming up to me right now to ask if their friend could spend the night.  Just maybe….  I wish this part of my life could be turned the other way around.  Maybe I would have considered abortion but in the end decided against it and had the baby.  Then I wouldn’t have to wonder who it was.  A boy or a girl?  My child would have a name and a personality and a LIFE.

There’s always reasons, they say, that life turns out the way it is.  What reason was there for this?   I had just killed my own child.  How could God ever love and forgive such a shameful act when I couldn’t even forgive myself?  My baby never had the chance to breathe one breath outside of my womb.  Babies fight for their lives every single day and parents grieve because their baby didn’t make it.  How could people be so selfish and how could I now be one of those people?  I never got to see what God could have made out of such a tragedy.

I was now going through the worst depression of my life.  The pain of holding my stomach and no longer eating for two and preparing for our future hit me hard every single day that my belly wasn’t growing.  I never felt those first kicks.  I never got that chance.  Being a mommy was all I wanted since I was 13.  I was 18 now and didn’t have a clue where my life was going.  I was so depressed that I just did not care about anything.  I tried so hard to move on.  I wasn’t happy and really never moved forward or tried to get my life back on the right path.  The depression kept me in the same cycle and I found myself pregnant again just 4 months after my first abortion.

Yes, I had gotten pregnant again.  I became angry all over again, total opposite of what I thought I would feel to have the chance to be a mommy again.  What I had imagined wasn’t what I was feeling at all.  This time I was mad that a new baby was in there when the other baby should have been in there.  I resented this pregnancy because I shouldn’t have been five weeks pregnant; I should have been seven or eight months pregnant.  I was so blurred and clouded with confusion, that I didn’t beg this time, I didn’t plead to keep this baby.  We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes.  I hadn’t learned from mine.  I lay on that same table with my legs up in stirrups, and I don’t mean to make light of this situation.  To me, I saw it for what it was.  There is no way I would have been pregnant if I had not had the first abortion.  I should be wobbling around with a huge belly and feeling the baby move and curl up inside me, feeling life.  Instead I felt nothing.  I didn’t deserve to be a mother.

By this time I truly felt that I didn’t deserve happiness or anyone to love.  Not after what I had done.  I deserved to be condemned to Hell, the place I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to be.

Through my abortions, I’ve learned that life can be redeemed, that I have been redeemed.  I’ve learned that God does forgive me and that He does still love me.  I’ve learned that I do deserve to be loved and I’ve learned that my friends still love me, despite my previous choices.  I’ve learned that abortion is not an easy answer and the problem isn’t gone within minutes.  I’ve learned that the effects of abortion are life-long.  I hurt every day and every year for the children I do not have in my arms.

I had always worried about judgment from others.  I no longer worry about that.  I’ve figured out that even the “perfect” people have baggage and they too have made mistakes.  But know this, I only share my testimony because I want people to know who I am, why I believe in a God I’ve never seen, and how I long to fulfill His purpose through me.  I know what abortion is and I know the effects they cause a woman.  Choose life for your child and don’t make the same mistakes I did.

-Shayna

A Jesus Lovers New Year’s Resolution

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newyear2It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings.  We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness.  In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.

The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you?  He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise.  He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more.  But what does He want from your heart?  How can your life glorify His name in this coming year?  What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?

Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:

Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners.  Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life.  Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others.  Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others.  We have all fallen short and we will all fail again.  Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting.  Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up!  Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer.  You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day.  Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control.  The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything.    When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to.  But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan.  Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort.  Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give.  Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission?  Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts?  Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time?  Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard.  Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost.  It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives.  Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read.  If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge.  You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture!  But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging.  Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner.  Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory.  Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God.  We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s.  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation.  Treat others with kindness and respect.  Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do.  Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, always.  Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile.  Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year.  Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them.  Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life.  The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others.  You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country.  While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown.  Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands.  To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers.  Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20

To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives.  He wants us to depend on Him.  When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen.  We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain.  But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.

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5. Christians and Biblical Marriage

What does the Bible Say About Pornography?

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james115The term “pornography” is not mentioned in the Bible because books, movies, cellphones, computers, magazines, and televisions did not exist in biblical times.  However, God did know the sinful thoughts of man and gave us plenty of warning about sexual sins.  He gave us very solid moral teachings that can be found throughout the Bible about the many different types of inappropriate sexual behaviors.  Forbidden sexual acts specifically mentioned in the Bible as sin include homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9), sex with animals (Exodus 22:19), incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), idolatry (Deuteronomy 5:21), fornication and sex outside of marriage (Matthew 15:19), orgies (Galatians 5:19-21), adultery (Exodus 20:14), and even rape (Deuteronomy 22:25).  The penalty for these sins, as stated in the Bible, is death.

Romans 8:5-8 tells us, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”  God wants our minds and hearts to be pure of sinful thoughts and feelings.  He wants us to keep our focus on heavenly things and ignore the sins of the flesh that crave our attention.  When we view pornography, when our attention is focused on lust and adultery, we cannot do the will of God.  We must be “transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Christians also need to remember that our bodies are not our own.  1 Corinthians 3:16 reads, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  As believers, the Holy Spirit lives in our bodies.  He is there to help us discern right from wrong; He is our conscious who speaks to us in times of need.  Our bodies are meant for the dwelling of our Lord, not for immoral sexual pleasures.  I dare say that it breaks our Father’s heart when we disrespect and use the good and perfect body God created in His very own image.

Pornography and lust destroys human relationships!  It dictates the satisfaction of your heart and only leaves you wanting more.  Pornography robs your joy and steals your heart.  It leaves broken hearts and shattered marriages, broken and molested children, addicted adults, wrecked and shamed teenagers.  God didn’t intend for those things to attract our hearts.  He wants us to hold true to His teachings and wants us to experience sex and love fully when married.

It is true that Christ died for our sins.  While we have freedom and redemption in Christ, we do not have freedom to sin.  As fully committed Christians who have given our life over to Christ, we must strive to live a life like Christ.  While we can never truly achieve this goal because Christ was the perfect and sinless man, we can make it our goal every day to attempt to live sin-free.  Fighting sin and temptation is part of walking with Christ.  Taking those temptations and handing them over to Christ and then leaning on Him for strength is part of walking with Christ.  Christianity is about avoiding sin and keeping our minds and hearts pure.

Christianity is also about forgiveness.  Jesus dies for us, while we were sinners.  He chose to walk this earth and take the brutal punishment of death on a cross so that we would be forgiven of our sins and live a life eternally in heaven.  Forgiveness is not a license to sin.  Once we commit our lives to Christ, we make a stand for Christ and adhere to immoral sexual behaviors.  We must strive to fight sin at all costs.  Fight the urge to look at pictures, to gawk and lust after a stranger or famous person, fight the urge to stop at the bar or adult club on your way home, and fight the desire to befriend members of the opposite sex.  Satan wants nothing more than to find your weakness; he will take hold of it and make it his goal to ruin your walk with Christ.  Give God the glory and fight temptation!

Turn your back on all kinds of pornography.  Ask a fellow Christian of the same sex to hold you accountable.  Keep your hearts and mind focused on the things of Christ and fight the temptation of satan.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind. Then you will be able to test and approve
what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect
will. For by the grace given me I say to every one
of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than
you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
judgment, in accordance with the faith God has
distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:2-3

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You might also like:
1. Dating and Sexual Purity
2. Christians and Modesty
3. Christians and Biblical Marriage
4. Homosexuality and the Bible
5. Biblical Judgment

What Should I Wear to Church?

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These-ARE-my-church-clothesSomeone recently asked me what I thought about how people should dress for church.  Honestly, my first reaction was, “who really cares?!”  Not too long after this, I heard some friends complaining about how their church members dress for church and again I wondered why this really matters.  But apparently some have a very strong opinion about what someone ought to wear to church.  I’ve spent some time in my Bible and prayer and these are the scriptures that I continue to fall back on:

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

We are called to worship in everything we do.  It says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Our lives should be a constant worship of our Creator.  The difference between worshiping daily and worshiping at a scheduled church gathering is the actual worship time and that it’s with a community of believers.  Why should our appearance be any different at the different places of worship?  The Bible tells us that we should not consider our outward appearances, but our hearts.  When we put too much energy into what we wear, especially if it’s just to please others at church, we are sinning against God’s word.  Our hearts during worship is what our Heavenly Father is looking at, not our outward appearances.   Our hearts must be in the right place and focused on our worship toward our God.

Likewise, if you are bothered by what others are wearing in church, your heart and mind are not focused on worship; your heart and mind rather are focused on others’ outward appearances.  This is a sin.  If this is something you struggle with, turn to God and ask Him to clear your mind for worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own.”  This doesn’t mean just on Sundays; it means every day our bodies are a temple for God.  Every day we should be worshipping and every day we should be mindful about our appearances.  Every day we should be modestly dressed and in preparation for worship throughout our day.

Some may choose to attend church in their absolute best clothing.  And this is okay.  Rather than worry about the appearances of others, devote time in prayer that your appearance will lead others to dress in their Sunday best.  Ask God for a more gracious and forgiving heart, and seek opportunities to clothe others if they are lacking in clothing.  And remember, if Christ came to your church wearing the only garments He owned, you wouldn’t turn your back on Him because he wasn’t in a designer suit.  Likewise, don’t turn your backs on those not dressed up in the fanciest clothing as they may already be wearing their best.  As we all grow in our walk, we are continually transformed and there is nothing wrong with wanting to “present” ourselves to our Father in an honoring fashion.

We must praise God for those who are in church, regardless of their apparel.  Hallelujah!!  People are coming to church!  What a blessing that the church doors are flooding with people who want to hear the word of God and come just as they are!  How sad it is that some of us are scoffing at mere appearances rather than seeking their hearts.  Welcome them in, have a servant’s heart, and be a witness for Christ!

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  There should be no judgment on what others may be wearing to church.  Let God, not man, convict their hearts to wearing clothing that honors our body as a temple.

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You might also like:
1. Why Go to Church?
2. Christians and Modesty
3. Modesty and Swimwear
4. No Other Gods
5. Christians and Biblical Marriage

Homosexuality Q&A

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What-The-Bible-Says-About-Homosexuality-300x2251. What about when people say they “are born this way”?

The Bible is very clear about this issue.  In Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  God is perfect in all ways and He made us in His OWN image!  We are born of perfection; sin is what makes us unclean and imperfect.

2. Times are changing, surely God would be okay with everybody just being happy and getting along versus fighting over the way some people choose to live?

What God wants is for His children to live in obedience to His word and live with a purposeful heart to spread the good news of the gospel.  God gave us commandments and principles to make our lives better and He promised us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  God knows the human heart, after all He created us!  He knows we fall subject to sin but He also provides a way out of sin.  We too often choose to go our own way in life thinking it is easier.  But God tells us in Proverbs 3:6, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  God wants obedience, He wants us to long for and rely on Him, He wants us to have faith in His ways, and He wants you and me to have victory in Christ.

3. Why should we care how other people live their lives if they aren’t hurting anyone?

Everyday Christians should be on a mission for Christ.  We should be seeking and saving those who are lost.  Acts 22:15 says, “You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.” Someone at one time took the time to reach you, to preach to you the good news of Jesus Christ.  We should also be doing the same for others.   We are also called to rebuke fellow believers when they are sinning.  James 5:20 reminds us to, “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  As Christians, we need to know when we are sinning so that we can repent and turn from our evil ways.  Sometimes we don’t recognize when we are sinning and even when we do we need to be held accountable to our fellow believers.

4. But what if you have feelings for the same sex?

We are all sinners just as it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  However, as Christians we must recognize our sins and change our mindset to praise God.  While we are born of perfection, we are subject to sinful thoughts and actions.  This sin is no different than an alcoholic struggling to not drink, a mother struggling to keep her voice down, a father fighting the urge to work late, or any person fighting any sin that keeps him away from giving God glory.  We need to recognize our sinful thoughts and ask God to change them.

5. Can a person repent of their homosexual activities and inherit the kingdom of God?

Absolutely!  We are all sinners and are all in need of the redemption and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 10:9-11 reminds us, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are put right with God, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’”  To be truly repent means to turn your back on sin completely.  You must believe in ALL the Bible and praise God in all circumstances.

6. Is it possible to be a Christian and be gay?

This is a question that is best left between each individual person and God.  I believe that as a Christian we should turn our back on ALL sin.  We cannot justify our sins to please our desires of the flesh.  As a Christian, we should strive to be like Christ in all that we do, in every way, and every day.  To knowingly sin and continue to sin, is not a true repentant heart aiming to serve God in every way.

You might also like to read Homosexuality and The Bible.

Homosexuality and the Bible

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What-The-Bible-Says-About-Homosexuality-300x225Homosexuality is clearly stated in the Bible as a sin that is condemned by God.  As Christians, we are called to have a righteous judgmental stance on sin, including homosexuality.  We must judge sin as clearly stated in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”  This clearly states that we are called to make righteous judgments that allow our hearts to discern right from wrong.  Homosexuality being a sin is not a judgment or an opinion, but a fact based on God’s word.  If you believe in the Bible, you MUST believe this to be true.  You cannot pick and choose what you want to apply to your life.  Your belief must be in ALL of the Bible, or NONE of the Bible.

Here are some scriptures that clearly define homosexuality as a sin:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Romans 1:26-28: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

Leviticus 18:11: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

1 Corinthians 7:2: “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

1 Timothy 1:9-11: “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

If you are not a Christian, these verses will not mean anything to you.  If you are a Christian and you believe the Bible was written on facts, testimonies, and words inspired by God, you must believe these scriptures to be true.  When we became Christians, we were given a gift of eternal life.  We were also given the gift of the Holy Spirit who speaks in us and helps us discern scripture and sin; this is righteous judgment.

As Christians, we are NOT called to slanderous judgment.  We should not be walking around pointing out sins in others while ignoring our own sins.  We are all sinners and there is an appropriate way, based on scripture, to hold each other accountable to God’s standards.  In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul writes, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’”  Christians are only to judge their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  This form of judgment is more than discernment but a means to hold them accountable for their actions.  If we see a believer of Christ acting in a homosexual manner, we must follow scripture and lift them up.

We are not called to judge others outside of the church.  However, we are called to DISCERN their actions as sin.  This does not mean we are to condemn them or predict their eternal salvation.  Because non-believers do not follow the standards of God’s word, they do not understand the heart of a believer.  This is why so often Christians are labeled as “judgmental.”  We must simply love.  Love covers sin and Christians must choose to love everyone.  We were not always believers and someone took the time out of their lives to love us and speak truth into our lives.  We must do the same for others, including those living a homosexual lifestyle.  Love them and build a relationship and only then will they see we care and accept our knowledge.  Love must come first.

Aside from showing love, Christians need to stand firm on the word of God.  And that means we should not approve of any homosexuality tendencies.  Our world tells us we should be more accepting and conform to today’s way of thinking.  In Romans 12:2, the Bible specifically tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As Christians, we need to be mindful about our words and actions and how they may affect others.  Just because a male isn’t athletic, does not mean he is a homosexual.  Just because a girl is athletic, doesn’t mean she’s homosexual.  Just because a male likes to act and sing or a girl doesn’t want to wear dresses and makeup, doesn’t mean they are homosexual.  Have we failed our younger generations but making fun of others or predicting their future?  Have we failed our younger generations but not loving others?

Homosexuality will always be a sin and will always be condemned by God.  This is not a passing judgment or hasty opinion.  As long as Christians believe in the Bible, this is a fact based on scripture.  You cannot pick and choose what you want to believe and what you wish to push aside to make life easier or more accepting.  As Christians, we are called to believe in the ENTIRE Bible, not just the portions that make us feel good or are easy to follow.

1 Peter 4:8-9 reads, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Have a question?  Reply to this blog and it will be answered on the follow-up Q&A blog coming soon.

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You might also like:
1. Homosexuality Q&A
2. Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
3. Christians and Biblical Marriage
4. Dating and Sexual Purity
5. Christian Response to the Legalization of Marijuana

How to Write a Testimony

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testimonyNo one can deny your personal experiences in life and how the hand of God helped you through trials and troubling times.  These hardships and sufferings are a part of your testimony and shape your walk with Christ.  The Bible is filled with testimonies and examples of how God saved people from difficult times and used them for His glory.  Your LIVING testimony has the power to point people to the love and redemption of Jesus Christ as well.  Your story can prove to others that God is love and that we are all broken and in need of a Savior.

How do you write a testimony?

1. Recognize the power of a written testimony.  There are recorded events and testimonies written throughout the Bible that we use today as examples and encouragement.  Your testimony can be the same for someone else.  Testimonies are messy but that’s the beauty in everyone’s story.  The power of overcoming the devil is something to be joyful about!

2. Devote time in prayer.  Can your testimony bring others to Christ?  Will your testimony provide a truth of redemption, God’s grace, and His everlasting love?  Reflect on your life before being rescued, your journey to finding Christ, and where God is leading you today.

3. Explain your sin.  What was life like before you surrendered your life to Christ?  What were you dealing with?  What emotions did you feel?

4. Share how you realized you needed a Savior, a solution to your problems.  Tell the readers how you came to know God and our Savior.  What brought you to the point of needing to be rescued?

5. Reveal how God is working in your life today.  How is life different with Christ as your focus?  What lessons in life has God taught you?  How have your thoughts and attitude changed overtime?  Tell the readers how your faith brings you through current sufferings.  How your life has been impacted today is just as important!

Helpful tips:

1. Stay focused on your story.  Remember the most important times and critical moments in your story.  Not every detail needs to be shared or readers may get lost in your novel versus your testimony.

2. Give specific examples of how God worked in your life.  Exercise wisdom and write as God leads you.  Do not give specific examples about your sins; your sin is not the focus of the testimony.  Make your testimony tangible with raw emotions and real events so that others can relate.

3. Be honest and real about the events in your life.  There is no reason to lie or exaggerate the truth.  Testimonies are painful and sometimes chaotic; remember the redemption at the end of your story.

4.  Do not use names or describe the sins of other people.  This is YOUR testimony, not theirs.

If you’re interested in sharing your testimony, message us on Facebook.

Christians and Biblical Marriage

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Biblical_MarriageAs Christians, we must refuse to fall into satan’s trap and battle marriage rights on a social media forum where our tones will often be misread and misunderstood.  I’m certain that social media is NOT the place to debate this sort of topic.  If you are living your life for Christ daily, your social media should already be flooded with positive, Biblical messages on a daily basis; there should be no need to take a stand for Biblical marriage because your friends will already know your stance.

For Christ followers, the truth is this:

  • God created marriage for one man and one woman.  “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.  The Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”  Genesis 2:21-22
  • It is a sin for two people of the same sex to be together sexually.  “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.” Leviticus 20:13
  • And to be clear about Biblical marriage in the New Testament, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  For this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  Mark 10:6-9

As Christians, we know the truth of the Bible’s words and we believe in the Bible in its entirety.  We must not conform to the world and distort the Bible to fit societies new way of thinking.  We need to stand up for God’s standards for our lives.  As we do this, we must also examine the plank in our own eyes.  How many Christians who are standing up for Biblical marriage are also standing up for divorce, adultery, and lust?  The Bible is very clear about these issues as well:

  • Divorce is not acceptable.  “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”
  • The Bible states that if a couple does divorce, they are not to be united with another person.  “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
  • Lust and adultery are also sins, for both men and women.  “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:28

The question is this… are Christians really for Biblical marriage?  We most definitely should be!  We should be about ONE marriage for ONE man and ONE woman.  Christians should not be in support of gay marriage, just as we should not be in support of divorce or anything else that satan uses to tear marriages apart.

The good news is that we are all sinners and we are all saved by the loving grace of our God.  We have all sinned.  We aim for perfection and we trust that our affectionate and forgiving Father will lift us up and renew our spirits when we fail.  We are all equal heirs to the kingdom of our God.

Bishop T.D. Jakes once said, “”I think that sex between two people of the same sex is condemned in the Scriptures, and as long as it is condemned in the Scriptures, I don’t get to say what I think. I get to say what the Bible says.”  We must love the sinner and hate the sin.  Loving doesn’t mean conforming or accepting sins, it means speaking truth into others.  Matthew 5:16 says this, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  We shouldn’t be provoking others to anger, including on social media platforms.  This only causes them to shut us out and we’ve lost the opportunity to be a witness and let our light shine.

In closing, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

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Book Recommendation: Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges.  “Have Christians become so preoccupied with “major” sins that we have lost sight of our need to deal with more subtle sins? Navigator author Jerry Bridges addresses the “acceptable” sins that we tend to tolerate in ourselves, including pride and anger. He goes to the heart of the matter, exploring our feelings of shame and grief and opening a new door to God’s forgiveness and grace. Travel down the road of spiritual formation with Jerry and discover your true identity as a loved child of God.”

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You might also like:
1. Dating and Sexual Purity
2. Homosexuality and the Bible
3. Dump Starbucks
4. Christians and Modesty
5. No Other Gods