New Wineskins

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” ~ Matthew 9:17

God is the father of creation. While His character will never change–for the Word says He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever–He’s continually doing new things in and through our lives (Hebrews 13:8). God doesn’t fit inside the box we try to contain Him in, nor does He do things the same way over and over again. Regardless of the routines or rituals we’ve set up in our lives, God is God, and He does what He wants, when and how He wants.

The verse above came to mind during prayer a few weeks ago, followed by Ezekiel 36:26-27.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

These two verses caused me to think about how, often, the longer we walk with Christ, we tend to forget the graciousness and loving-kindness of God. We hear and read of His sacrifice for our sins so often, that sadly, we sometimes become callous to its meaning. We no longer recall the love, thanksgiving, and joy that filled us at salvation; we’ve forgotten our first love (Revelation 2:4-5)!

However, God wants to do a new thing! And in order to do so, we need to have a heart of soft, tender flesh, and we need to be flexible, new wineskins! We must let go of “how things have always been done” and our fear of the uncomfortable, and allow God to break our hearts for what breaks His.

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Tearing Down the Walls

One Sunday night, a week or so ago, during our monthly prayer service, God gave me this vision of the walls of the church crumbling. There were a couple different walls that I felt God was speaking to during this time. I’m going to attempt to unpack them below, since I feel these are for every believer.

Wall Number 1 — The Spiritual – Secular Divide

Years ago, I heard a message regarding bridging the spiritual – secular divide, and God brought it back to memory. So, what exactly does bridging the spiritual – secular divide mean?

Sometimes, as believers, we try to place God (and our faith) in this little box and take Him out a few times a week. We, in turn, keep this spiritual portion of our lives separate from the everyday, mundane, secular portion of our lives. We keep God within the confines of our churches, Bible studies, or personal prayer times; or within the boundaries of our relationships with other like-minded individuals. However, God desires to tear down these walls, and desires to permeate every aspect of our lives. And not in some weird “mystical” way that I sometimes hear used to describe the Holy Spirit, but in a meaningful, powerful, authentic manner. God desires to tear down the walls that we’ve placed in our lives; walls that we’ve built to protect ourselves, but which actually do more harm than good.

Truth be told, there should be no spiritual – secular divide! We live this one life, and have but one purpose: to glorify and make God known. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, this goal should excite us. His Spirit should stir us to action and prompt us to share His love wherever we go.

Wall Number 2 — That Which Separates us from the World

The Word of God says that we may live in this world–physically–yet, we are to be separated from it–spiritually (John 17:14-16). However, too often we think that this means that we must completely cut ourselves off from non-believers! Instead, we stay in our bubble of like-minded individuals, never reaching out, shining our light, or speaking truth into the lives of the people God has placed in our lives.

Yes, we are to be holy and set apart for God’s purpose, and there will be things we will abstain from and places we may avoid (John 17:17, 19; 1 Peter 1:16). However, just like Paul, when he said, he became all things to all men that he might win others to faith in Christ; we should pray about what and where God is leading us to, before immediately running in the opposite direction, and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Jesus, himself, spoke to some of the most unsavory characters, in the oddest of places! Which leads me to the last wall…

Wall Number 3 — Prejudice

Now, with racism being a hot topic in our current culture, this should come as no surprise to you; but prejudice isn’t only regarding race. Prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” (according to Google); it can be positive or negative, and can be based on race, social status, sex, political affiliations, or religion, just to name a few.

Prejudice can prevent us from having relationship with another individual because they’re different (or we think they’re different) from us. Prejudice can prevent us from reaching out to another because of our own fears, preconceived notions, or opinions.

James discouraged the early believers from showing partiality towards those who were wealthy, and snubbing those who were poor, and reminded us to love our neighbors as our self (James 2:1-9). This could go either way though, we could just as easily snub those who are wealthy, and favor those who are poor. The point remains the same; regardless of the other person’s background, we are to share God’s love and truth with them.

I think the most difficult part about this is, even when we allow God to fill our heart with grace, mercy, and compassion for people who are different from us, the same might not be said for them. Usually, they too have preconceived notions about us, and are fearful, angry, or suspicious of our motives. Yet, even so, we must remain calm and genuine, and allow God to work through us. Is it hard? Absolutely! But remember…the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is alive within us (Romans 8:11)!

Dead Men Walking

Hello friends! I know, it’s been a while. There have been some pretty crazy changes going on in my life. If you recall, my husband and I are expecting our first baby (it’s a girl!) in July, so I’ve had a lot going on, but I really wanted to share this with you…

I’m currently 21 weeks, and during this pregnancy there have been certain times where I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. But none stick out more prominently, than the one I had early in my second trimester, because it seemed to have spiritual significance.

In this dream, I was in a town, where everybody was dead, but they didn’t know it. They were walking around like zombies (without all the gross bodily changes that occur in the sci-fi/fantasy world). They were just trying to go on about their daily routines, but were failing. Oddly enough, some realized that they were dead and wanted to leave this town with me, even trying to take some of their children with them, but the other dead people tried their best to prevent them from leaving.

For the next couple days I pondered this dream and realized, this is reality. We walk by people who are dead in their sin every day. They just don’t know it!

In fact, Ephesians 2:1-3 states that we were all dead in our sins, walked in disobedience, and lived according to the desires of our flesh (we did what felt good/right in our own eyes); and Romans 8:7 says we were actually actively/willfully hostile to God. But God…

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. ~ Ephesians 2: 4-7, Amplified

God gives us new LIFE, hope, joy, and peace! This isn’t to say that there won’t be tough days or troubles/obstacles in our life, but that He’ll be with us every step of the way; if only we’ll believe and accept Him as Lord and Savior. There’s hope for the walking dead, found only in Christ Jesus.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” ~ Romans 10:14-15, NLT

So, who are the dead men/women walking in our lives? Could it be our co-worker, our classmate, or relative? Could it be our neighbor, our doctor, or cashier?

May we be the bringers of good news!! May we guard our tongue and speak truth in love. May our actions line up with our words and beliefs. And may we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go!

The Gift of Life

Good morning, my beautiful readers! Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I have a really good excuse this time! I’m pregnant! Currently, 13 weeks and 2 days.

I was working two jobs when my husband and I discovered we’d be expecting–the day after Thanksgiving, lol–but I quit my part-time position in December, after the holidays had subsided, and the only thing preventing me from sharing with y’all has been the fatigue and nausea associated with the first trimester. I have been feeling a little better the last few days, so hopefully, I can continue where we left off.

This morning, on my way in to work, God and I were having this really long conversation. I was talking to Him about my pregnancy and the baby; my marriage and relationship with my husband; my friends and family who are also expecting; and my friends who’ve recently given birth, and their marriages. Then I started thanking Him for the life He’s given me and here’s where I started to break down a little.

If you’ve read my testimony, you understand why I began getting so emotional. There was once a time in my life where I didn’t see a baby as a precious gift, but as an inconvenience. I’ve since then recognized my flawed thinking and repented of my sins and failures, but to be in the position that I am now…is overwhelming, to say the least. God’s not only given me new life through His Son Jesus Christ, but now He’s giving me new life in the form of a baby; and that just goes to show how forgiving, loving, and merciful and generous He is.

This Friday, January 27th, is the March for Life in D.C. Last year I got snowed out, and this year I won’t be able to make it just due to the fact that that’s a lot of walking and I’m not prepared for it in my current state (my body has been so achy, lately, since everything is shifting inside). However, if you can make it, I encourage you to do so. I’ll be praying for your safety and that God speaks clearly through you. Don’t forget that there are people on both sides of this issue and we all need to see God’s love and truth through you; we need our talk to be seasoned with grace at all times.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV

Lastly, I just want to say…we serve a great GREAT God and I don’t know where I would be without Him. If you are, or ever have been, where I once was, or you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, and you want to know more, submit a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond with love and grace. I love you all, because God loves us all, and gave up His one and only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him…all of us.

Take care and God bless!

Top Priority

Last week, in bible study, we were discussing the days leading up to the day of Pentecost, in the first chapter of Acts. We talked about how God took a group of ordinary people and brought them to a new level with Him, based on their obedience, unity, and prayer.

Somewhere during the discussion, we began sharing about how sometimes it’s so difficult to set aside time to build our personal relationship with God. For many of us there were periods in our lives where we had all the time in the world to study the Word, pray, or worship. It may have been a time when we were without a job, or as we sat beside a sick or dying loved one, or when we were simply at the end of our rope and had hit rock bottom, and the only way up was to cling to the hope found in Christ. But then there are periods in our life when we are overwhelmingly busy with family, jobs, community service & outreach opportunities, church–the list seems to never end–and our relationship with the Lord takes the back burner.

However, we must remember that we need God’s presence in every season of our life, not just the most difficult. Ironically enough, just like Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, when we feel at our weakest and turn to Christ for strength, is when we are truly strong, and when we feel strongest and try to make it without Him, we’re actually at our weakest! The Israelites were notorious for forgetting the blessings and promises of God during the good times in their lives and neglecting their worship and obedience to Him; thus causing them to eventually lose those very blessings and promised land.

As is often pointed out during these types of discussions, someone brought up the fact that we can approach God in prayer during any moment of the day. This is aligning with Scripture; I mean, the Bible actually tell us to pray without ceasing, to pray continually in the Spirit, and to pray persistently and on every occasion (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). But I also like to point out that Jesus Himself, often stole away from the busy-ness of His ministry to spend alone time with His Father (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12).

The truth is, when we desire to strengthen a relationship with someone we spend quality time with them. We participate in activities together, we communicate, we make time for one another; we try to learn as much as we can about one another. Sure, we can do that surrounded by others, but is our undivided attention upon the other individual? Or are we distracted by the television, the other cars on the road, the next activity or responsibility on our to-do list? As a newly married individual, I know that with two jobs, community service & outreach activities, and church, I may see and talk with my husband every day, but I know it’s not the same thing as spending quality time with him. Because I love him and want to continually develop and strengthen our marriage we still schedule “date nights.” We schedule that time because it’s important to us and important to our marriage.

wp-image-862409418jpg.jpgLikewise, when our time and attention are pulled in multiple directions and we’re not spending the quality time we need with our heavenly Father, no matter how many things we try to do or accomplish, we’re never going to get to the place where God can really use us the way He desires to use us. It’s just like we discussed before in Blemished Sacrifices about giving God our best, our first-fruits, instead of offering Him the leftovers. If we can schedule date nights, doctor’s appointments, coffee dates with our friends, mommy-and-me play dates, time to workout in the gym, or any other activity we deem important, then we can most certainly schedule quality personal time in the Word, prayer, and worship. If we call ourselves believers and we profess that Jesus is Lord of our life and that He comes first and foremost in our lives, then this is most certainly something we can, should, and desire to do.

HOW…

Now let’s get practical and discuss how we can do this. Some people are morning people. They have no trouble getting up early in the mornings to set aside time for prayer and the Word. I’m a morning person, but I still have trouble getting up earlier than I need to; in a perfect world I would study the Word between the hours of 9-11. But obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I’m at work during these hours. Since I recently took on a second job, I now keep a written schedule that helps keep me on track and helps me manage my time better so that I can accomplish all my goals, rather than having time manage me.

Let me tell you, this has been one of the best decisions ever! Try it! Spend 30 minutes of your morning planning out your day. How long does it take you to get ready? When do you eat lunch? How long do you spend commuting? When do you eat lunch? Cook dinner? Go grocery shopping? Planning out your day is a lot like creating a financial budget; you only have so many hours in a day and you want to spend each of them wisely. Ever since I’ve started this I feel like I get so much more accomplished. You never realize how much time is wasted surfing the internet, watching TV or YouTube, or playing games until you give an account for each moment of your day.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I don’t have fun or time to relax. Even with a schedule, sometimes I still find a few free moments to scroll through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And there are still days when I keep part of my schedule clear so that I don’t always feel so hurried. Lastly, I think even when we have a schedule, we still have to maintain some level of flexibility. Sometimes something just comes up. Plans have to be rearranged, or changed, altogether; but this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Some days I choose to use my 30 minute lunch break as my time to search the Word, while other days I get to spend 45 minutes of delicious time in His presence. But it’s only because I make it a priority. If we want to spend time in His presence, we must prioritize our time; because if we don’t, all the other activities of the day will consume us, and we will have nothing left to offer Him, but our leftovers.

God Listens and He Cares

In my last post–JOY–I alluded to the fact that God had reminded me that He cares for me, and I thought I’d let you in on what’s been going on in my life and how God has been moving.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed by my job and have been on the hunt for a new one. I was applying for everything, including part-time jobs and temporary jobs. I figured any extra income could help us (my husband and I) achieve our financial goals quicker and allow me to eventually leave my current full-time position.

So, here I sat, the day after my birthday, on my sofa, praying and journaling. I was telling God that sometimes I don’t like to come to Him with my little life struggles, because they seem so insignificant and small when I compare them to the real struggles, trials, and hardships of the people and world around me. Yet, I just talked to Him about how I’ve been feeling and how I wish I had a way out, because I felt stuck. I finally ended my journaling by just writing that I wished I just knew that He cared. All I wanted to know was that God was listening to me and that He cared.

I went on about my day, cleaning up the house, doing laundry, etc. and as I was hanging up a shirt in the closet…the phone rang. It was a reply to one of the positions I had applied for. I thought it was for a temporary position, but the manager was looking for a part-time employee. I told him my current work schedule and he didn’t think it was going to work out, so we said our goodbyes. Not 5 minutes later he called back, asked me a few more questions and I told him what was going on with my current work situation and how I eventually planned to leave; and the next thing I knew, I had an interview! You’d better believe I was thanking God and laughing after we’d hung up. God showed me very clearly that He was listening to me and that He certainly cares.
But…there’s more! The business that offered me the interview is Christian owned and operated, and during the interview process the manager told me that he’d already done all the interviews for the position, and was about to make his selection when my application hit his inbox and “something” told him he needed to take a look at it. 😀

God listens and He cares.

Afterwards, I was told that if I were to get the position I would be notified on Monday. However, Monday came and Monday went and no call. I was a little disappointed, because I was so positive that God had ordained this…

But God listens and He cares.

Tuesday afternoon, I got the call! Again, I was thanking God in my cubicle.

Oh…but wait…about an hour later, a PC notification window popped up on my work computer, letting me know of a scheduled meeting that I hadn’t even noticed before. I didn’t know what it was for. During the meeting we were surprised to discover…that our positions will be outsourced in the near future. o.o

But God listens and He cares.

So often, we think that God doesn’t hear us or that He doesn’t care…then something like this happens. God has been working behind the scenes like crazy in my life, though I couldn’t see it, and the last few weeks He has totally reminded me that He’s completely worthy of my trust. His timing is perfect and, as the Word says, He knows exactly what we need, even before we ask (Matthew 6:8; Luke 12:30).

Even as I write this, I’m thinking about that…He knows what we need, before we even recognize or are aware of our need. Wow! I’m still amazed. God knew what was coming and He made provision for me, just as He promises in His word (Luke 12).

If you’ve never fully given your life to Christ, or if you have, but you’ve been holding back and not fully walking in His will, I’m telling you, He is so good. He is so trustworthy. He is so perfect, all-powerful, and all-knowing. And He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to come to Him; yes, even with the little things! 😉 He wants you to depend on Him. He wants you to walk hand-in-hand with Him.

And tonight He wants you to know that He hears you and He cares for you…He loves you.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

     “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

     “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

~ Luke 12:22-31, NLT

 

JOY

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
~ Psalm 30:11-12, NLT

I recently had a birthday; and, as usual, I began taking stock of where I am in life. Feeling overwhelmed at work, cramped at home, and just overall exhausted, I was in a real funk for about two weeks.

Then, yesterday on my way home, it hit me like a warm ray of sunshine…JOY.

Where did it come from? I’m not sure, but suddenly I was giddy about some of the changes to come…a new two bedroom apartment, a new pet, a possible part-time job for some extra income. It was in that moment that I remembered: happiness is fleeting but joy is everlasting.

How can that be so? Because joy comes from a separate place that’s unrelated to my circumstances; and it allows me to be thankful in any situation. It’s funny, because I’m always reminding myself that my hope is in Christ, but I seem to easily forget that so is my joy! The prophet Nehemiah (8:10) actually says that the joy of the Lord is our strength! That means the joy we have in Christ Jesus is what carries us through when we’re feeling weak or unable to continue; just as I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.FontCandy (9)

And what joy can be found in Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the Savior of the world, the One who suffered and died for us because He loves us and cares for us! (Yes, He does care for us. He had to remind me of that this week, too.)

As believers, we know that one day we’ll get to worship before His throne! One day we’ll get to see His glory in all its fullness! We know that this world is temporary, and that one day we’ll see the earth in all its original splendor and perfection, and live eternally with Him. But until then, we need to let the joy found in Him sustain and empower us to reach our broken world, and reach out to those without hope, without joy, and without the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Lastly, as Paul said to the Philippians (4:4), “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”

But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew
on your people in the place of the dead!

~ Isaiah 26:19, NLT