Book Review – Letters to the Church

I read Francis Chan’s “Letters to the Church” about a month ago, and wasn’t sure if I was going to share a review on it; however, I think with all that’s been happening within the last few months, I’ve decided it’d be a good idea.

If you’ve ever heard Francis Chan speak or read any if his books, you’d recognize that he’s a praying man; humble, and full of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if you just jump into this book without knowing his character, you may be quick to judge him as overly critical of the American Church. So much so, that his main point may be completely missed: the American Church looks VERY different from the biblical Church.

So, what should the Church look like, according to Chan?

We should be devoted to passionate prayer; live lives that are holy and pleasing to God; live in unity and with love for one another; be committed to God & devoted to the Word of God; and be humble servants who are committed to training up new leaders & making disciples.

Basically, he’s of the opinion that less is more; and that much of what the modern American Church has done in the name of the Father, has become more of a distraction and a hindrance to the health of the Church.

Now, why did I feel it necessary to share a quick review of this book? Because with the current state of things–churches unable to meet, due to COVID-19, and political unrest in some cities–Chan does a great job of describing a model for what the home church might look like. And let’s be honest, we don’t know what the future might hold; we see a lot of censorship and accusations flying around these days. One thing’s for certain, we mustn’t neglect the meeting of the Church, even if it’s different from what we’re accustomed to.

Therefore, I recommend this book, particularly to be used as a guidebook for the future of the Church. Even if you don’t read it now, you may want it on your shelf for future use, because there may come a time when the Church won’t be able to meet in a public setting, for reasons other than a virus. I’m not saying we should live in fear, but we should be prepared and ready to pivot, as things change in our political or religious climate.

Justice

The violence of the wicked shall sweep them away, because they refuse to do justice. ~ Proverbs 21:7

As I read the above verse, back in October of 2019, I paused and reflected on it’s meaning. “Who would be swept away?” I asked myself. At first glance, the violently wicked; but upon further inspection, I noticed that those who refuse to do justice, are included.

We hear a lot about “justice” in the news; it’s one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, actually, and I don’t think many actually understand its meaning. Often it’s mistaken for revenge, rather than the fair and impartial judgement that it actually means. However, if we’re all being honest, we’d recognize that our U.S. justice system has its flaws; and while we like to state that “justice is blind,” we know that it isn’t. Some are judged more harshly, or conversely, shown favor, because of their skin color, background, or socioeconomic status. The Bible states that we should show no partiality and bare no false testimonies, but because we live in a fallen world, these are two things that plague the current justice system and prevent it from working as it should. And sadly, it will never be perfect because we’re imperfect.

Nonetheless, as believers, we should speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves, we should proclaim truth wherever we go, and we should show no partiality. Listed below are some of the scripture regarding justice found throughout the Word.

  • He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. ~ Deuteronomy 10:18, ESV
  • You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. ~ Deuteronomy 16:19, ESV
  • “The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He. ~ Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV
  • Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. ~ Psalm 82:3, ESV
  • I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. ~ Psalm 140:12, ESV
  • Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. ~ Psalm 146:5-9, ESV
  • To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. ~ Proverbs 21:3, ESV
  • Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. ~ Proverbs 29:26, ESV
  • Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. ~ Isaiah 1:16-17, ESV

Over and over again, God tells us He desires for us to seek and execute justice, because He is JUST. He is just and He shows no partiality and that’s what He desires from us! He doesn’t care what the color of our skin is, what language we speak, where we were raised, whether we’re rich or poor, what our political affiliation is…if we call ourselves followers of Christ, we should care about what HE CARES ABOUT, period.

I love ya’ll and I’m not trying to make anybody upset. I’m just sharing the Word, and I’m praying. I’m praying for peace in the hearts and minds of people across the nation and around the world, because God knows everything that’s going on right now. I’ve also been praying for discernment, because there’s a lot of junk being spread around and I want to recognize the truth from the lies. However, God repeatedly tells me not to worry about any of it and just focus on His Truth, so that’s what I’m trying to do. 😉

Peace, love, and grace!

Angelica

Spiritual Immaturity

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? ~ 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, ESV

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The Church is no stranger to jealousy and dissension, but as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 3, it’s actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. He repeats his comment about following certain teachers, from chapter 1, but this time makes it a point to say that no matter who we follow, the foundation of what we believe must be Christ; and each teacher and pastor simply builds upon that foundation. It’s God who provides the growth. In other words, we each have a part to play within the body of Christ, but it’s God who really does the work. We are all equally important and equipped by Him to complete the tasks He’s assigned to us; no one’s role is bigger or better than another, just different, and all have the same goal: to preach Christ crucified.

Paul goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, that our works (faith in action) will one day be tested by fire. These verses make me think of the story of the three little pigs. You know how you have one pig that builds a house of straw; one, a house of sticks; and another, a house of bricks; and only the house of bricks is left standing? Why is that? I believe it was because two of the pigs refused to put in any real effort, or thought, into what they were building: a home that would stand the test of time. I think as believers we can fall into this same line of thinking. We may serve, but with the wrong mindset. Our purpose should be to build the Church–to add to the kingdom–but sometimes we feel the task we’ve been issued is too small or insignificant, or we just do it to check it off a list, instead of focusing on the big picture. According to this passage our salvation isn’t necessarily at stake, but apparently another heavenly reward will be denied. I can’t help but wonder what that might be. What might we miss out on, because our hearts and minds weren’t fully in line with God’s heart?

Again, our goal as believers is to worship the one true God with our lives; and if we truly believe in the message of the gospel, we can’t help but share it with the people around us. And that is God’s heart! That all would come to Him and be saved! When jealousy and strife enter the church, they do more to tear down the Church, than to build it up. So, let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work in us and ask that He help us see the bigger picture, and the greater goal we’re working towards. Finally, let us stop worrying about who has a bigger or better role in the plan of God, because what matters most is the attitude of our heart, as we shower the love of God on our neighbors and point them towards Christ.

Just Speak

I read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 aloud, to my baby a few days ago. She refused to nap when I wanted to read the Word, but I’m kind of glad she did. Because once I read it aloud, I began to dissect it aloud, as well–lol, as though my 6-week-old would understand. Basically, Paul was saying that he didn’t come to the church at Corinth prepared with a fancy speech or message. He simply came with the Gospel Truth: Christ died for our sins.

And what was impressed upon me, was he was scared when he spoke; but he allowed God to speak through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about having all the right words, because he was trusting that the Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, knew precisely what He was doing.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, to describe the wisdom of God, which we who believe in the Lord, have been given through the Holy Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit of God, that lives in us, that we can read the Word and understand the heart of the Father; because the Holy Spirit and the Father are One. An unbeliever cannot comprehend the things of God, because the Spirit of God doesn’t live within him and make things clear to him. In other words, things are hidden to the unbeliever, in the same the way the parables of Jesus–found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke–were hidden to the crowd. But remember, Jesus revealed the meanings of the parables to His closest disciples; as the Holy Spirit does with us. The Spirit gives us insight and discernment, not of this world; therefore, those of this natural world cannot judge us for acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

So, what have I gathered from these verses? That we should just open up our mouths and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be worried about sounding foolish, or not having practiced our speech; because the Spirit is going to use us and reveal the Truth to those whose hearts are ready. And we shouldn’t be discouraged by those who would judge or ridicule us for our beliefs, because they lack understanding of spiritual things.

Division in the (Early) Church

I began this post at the end of my second pregnancy, and I’ve been pretty distracted since then; about a month ago I gave birth to another little girl, my little “Bug.” She was overdue by 6 days and I was an emotional wreck, as I waited for her arrival, lol.

Before then, however, I did a study on the book of John, and have since then moved on to the epistles–Paul’s letters to the early churches. The epistles are so interesting, and although, I’ve been running on very little sleep, and struggle to remain focused I figured writing would help me organize my scattered thoughts. One of the things I always enjoy about the epistles, is how Paul addressed the early Church as they struggled with many of the same things we struggle with today.

For instance, the epistles cover division (and unity), immortality, and idolatry within the Church; forgiving those who don’t deserve it, reconciliation, and generosity; salvation through grace; faith as evidenced through works; gifts of the Spirit; and so much more. They really are powerful, Spirit-filled little books of the Bible, that shouldn’t be ignored.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, in which, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about division in the church. Apparently, people were divided over teachers of the gospel. Think of it this way, they favored some teachers over others, and argued over who was the better teacher. Does this sound familiar?

Paul had to remind them that they weren’t following him, but Christ! He basically says, “Y’all weren’t baptized in my name! And you certainly aren’t saved by my words; for it’s the power of the cross that saves!”

Today’s believers often fall into this same trap. We may follow a preacher or teacher (or even, church denomination) at the expense of unity. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning when it comes to teachers and preachers of the Word; because, obviously, if a teaching is unbiblical we shouldn’t be accepting of it. However, more often than not, the differences between pastors/teachers we follow are more about preferences, like teaching styles and traditions, than biblical foundations. (I actually shared a post on this way back in 2012, which you can find here.)

Do you know, there are some who are willing to cross denomination lines and attend churches that they didn’t grow up in, or consider themselves to be members of? For some of you, that may be sacrilegious! But if we are all Spirit-filled believers and followers of the Word, this should be the norm. After all, we’re all One body, whose head is Christ; and only once we understand this and move together in the spirit of unity, will we make a real difference in our communities.

“Momming” in the Early Years

Being a mom during the early years is SO hard. Whether you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom, whose only time away from your child(ren) is when they’re sleeping; or a mom working outside the home, who doesn’t get to spend nearly as much time with your child(ren) as you’d like, doesn’t matter. Raising little ones is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.

It’d be so easy as a busy mom to let my exhaustion get the best of me, and use it as an excuse to be lazy in my walk with Christ, but I can’t. And neither should you! As moms of littles we miss a lot of church. When we give birth we stay home for the first few weeks; we may miss service to nurse/feed our babies; and later, when our children are sick, we end up staying home with them so they don’t infect other children. We often end up either serving in the nursery, or getting stuck in there with our own clingy child. We may miss out on bible studies, women’s events, prayer meetings, outreach opportunities–the list goes on–and we often end up feeling distant from God.

Honestly, it can be incredibly discouraging. However, this is exactly the reason why we must fight, scrape for, and cling to the moments we can get alone with our heavenly Father. We need His strength and encouragement, we need His Words of Truth to teach and discipline us, and His peace to rule our hearts on a daily basis. This means we must make Him a priority in our lives, even if it means getting up early to study the Word before our children get up; giving up a hour of evening television so we can pray; or holding off on a household task, so we can finish a Bible study or book we’ve been working on.

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Don’t give up momma! You’re not alone. You’re not insignificant. You have purpose. We are children of God, doing exactly what He designed us for. And in each season He develops us further into what He desires us to be. While we love our children immensely, our lives should not revolve around them, nor should they keep us from seeking the Lord, during any season.

There are ways for us to use our time more wisely…As a nursing mom, I found myself scrolling through social media a lot while feeding, so I added a bible app to my phone, that way I could read Scripture, instead. As a mom of a toddler, I find getting up before my little one, is the best time for me to spend time with the Lord. I’m most alert, focused, and less rushed in the morning. (During her afternoon nap is my second option–of course, it’s not as predictable, since she’s been fighting her naps, lately.) Since I’m currently pregnant with my second, I’ve been mulling over more options besides my bible app, such as podcasts, and online bible studies. Is it a sacrifice? Absolutely; but it’s worth it!

What I don’t want any of us to fall into the trap of believing, is the lie that we’re “just” moms. This is a time for us to continue learning and growing, and allowing God to use us, both inside and outside our homes. One of the most well-known passages of Scripture regarding women and motherhood can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31.

It’s easy to read this passage and get caught up in all the woman does for her family; however, the most important verse is 31, which states, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” We can be as productive and successful as anybody in this world, but it’s our relationship with Christ that sets us apart. He is what matters most. He determines our steps, guides us and gives us understanding. He teaches us patience and gives us wisdom in dealing with our household, our finances, our husband, children, and every other decision and relationship in our lives. But we must stay connected to our source of Life; the True vine.

If we find that our lives are too busy to make time to meet with God, we may need to take a step back, re-prioritize, and cut some things from our lives; because if something else comes before our relationship with Christ, then we’ve made it an idol in our lives.

Lastly, I’ve been finishing up a study by Lysa TerKeurst, “Finding I AM,” and one of my (many) takeaways was that God can use what little we have to do something significant for the cause of the Kingdom. We may not be able to do everything we want to during this season, but we can do something. And we shouldn’t let anything, including unmet expectations, or unanswered prayers, prevent us from seeing what God has placed right in front of our noses. It may be a challenging time to use every talent God has given us, but it may be the perfect time to allow God to use us in small ways, right where we are. I know it’s cliché, but bloom where you’re planted ladies! But, I reiterate, we cannot pour, we cannot serve, we cannot do anything, apart from God.

Make Him your priority.

I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5, ESV

Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

Book Review – I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian

I picked up a book back in December, by Thom Rainer, called “I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian,” but it wasn’t until recently that I actually took the time to read it. It’s a short read–just a little over 100 pages–so this is going to be a really quick review.

wp-image-1867108290jpg.jpgI’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but I think I thought it was going to be more about missions. So, I was a little surprised to find out that it’s actually directed towards believers.

It’s no secret that the state of the American church is in disarray. As Rainer put it, “Somewhere in the twentieth century, believers, particularly in America, began to shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service to God and worship of God, to consumer-focused, self-servicing attitudes” (p. 30). This statement pretty much sums up the purpose of the book: to make believers aware of this fact (if we weren’t already) and to show us the way back.

Rainer talks about our attitudes as believers; the importance of being a growing member of a church, and worshiping in community; serving (both in and outside of the church); being a giver; sharing the gospel; and avoiding the traps of what he calls Churchianity— which he defines as “practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines” (p.93).

Overall, I think this is a good book for believers who find themselves often complaining or are unsatisfied with the churches they attend. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the music, the message, the parking, the ministries, etc., then perhaps you may want to pick up a copy of this book, take a step back, and rethink the purpose of the church. (Honestly, I think that most believers have felt frustrated with the church at some point in their walk, but our attitude and how we react–whether or not we allow God to change our heart–makes all the difference.)

After reading this book you should come away asking what you can do for the church, rather than what the church can do for you. So…what will you do?

Take care, and God bless!

Recalling Our Example: Christ

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve observed a number of people express their feelings towards others, in a way that can only be described as un-Christ-like. The funny thing is that every one of these individuals claims to be a Christian. Therefore, I decided to remind us all what being a Christian ought to look like.

I’ve been reading the epistles of Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m really fascinated by Paul, and I really I love reading his letters. He was such a wonderful writer, and I see so much of my style in the way he wrote. Usually his words have me praising God in agreement and/or laughing because I just get a kick out of his use of sarcasm.

Paul intrigues me because he was a man that grew up in the church. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the Word, and practiced what he preached. He was so firm in his beliefs that when the first Christian believers began sharing the news that Jesus was the Messiah and had raised from the dead, he whole-heartedly believe they were blaspheming and attempted to snuff them out. He thought he was doing the right thing. But on the road to Damascus, his whole world was changed. He came face-to-face with Jesus Himself! The very person whom he had denied! (You can read more of his transformation, beginning in Acts 9.)thCA0DHMHN

His combined knowledge of the Word and his relationship with Christ could have made Paul prideful. However, it had just the opposite effect. Paul recognized that it wasn’t his knowledge of the Word or his actions that saved him, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. (Romans 3:25-27)

Now, Paul wasn’t saying that our faith in Christ trumped the law that God established in the creation of the 10 Commandments, but was making the point that we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Jesus did all the Work!

Therefore, it angers me to see certain individuals (I’ll call them P1) believe that because they’ve lived the “right way” their entire lives (or so they think), look down on those who’ve sinned in the past (I’ll call them P2), even after P2 has accepted Christ as their Lord and savior has been allowing God to transform them day by day! The truth is, as Paul said, we have nothing to boast about, because we didn’t save ourselves! Even if we never broke any of the commandments—which only ONE individual could ever honestly claim—we were still born into sin, because sin is passed on through our father’s bloodline (Romans 5:12)!

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) [emphasis added]

How dare we believe that we are any better than any other individual, when Christ died for us all!

Okay, so that was just part one, of what I have say (lol). Here’s part number two…Just because we are saved by faith and not by works, does NOT give us the excuse to not follow the law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)—and He actually had even higher standards (Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 5:21-48)!  And Paul states in Romans that the law is not nullified by our faith, as well (Romans 3:31).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is to save us from that sin, but we’re not supposed to go back to wallowing in our filth one once we’ve been redeemed of it (Romans 6:2)!

    • For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
    • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
    • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Furthermore, Jesus and Paul, both explained to us, very clearly, that while we can (attempt to) uphold the law and have an established relationship with God, the greatest commandments aren’t actually explicitly written in the law. And ‘what is that?’ you might ask. L-O-V-E.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

This request that we love, doesn’t nullify our faith or obedience, it enhances it. The fact that God loved us in our sin enough to send His Son to die for us, reveals just how great His love is for us. Our natural response, once we come into the knowledge of Christ and establish a relationship with Him, should be to lavish upon Him with a grateful heart full of love, and obedience.  And the stronger our relationship with Him grows, the more our hearts are transformed by the love of God, then the more our love ought to overflow into the lives of the people around us! (For more on this topic you may want to check out some of my other posts: Multiply: Week 3, Burning One, and All-Embracing Love)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A mistake that we often make, is believing that we can have faith in, and love God, without allowing God to penetrate our hearts and make any sort of change in us. Then we go around telling the world that we’re a believer, even though James explicitly states that faith without deeds is dead!

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Basically, James says “we have a group of people, who say they have faith and believe, but where is the proof of their faith”?! He goes on to talk about Abraham who had so much faith in the promises of God that he circumcised  himself and all the male members of his household (he took action!), before he even had evidence that God would accomplish all that He said He would (James 2:21-24; Genesis 17). We must ask ourselves, what do our actions and lifestyle say about what we believe?

Of course, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that we can do all sorts of goods things in this life, but if our actions don’t stem from love, then it’s all meaningless. This is why we have to humble ourselves and allow God to change us from the inside out. Because, if we try to do things out of a desire to earn God’s grace, rather than out of love for God and people, then our faith and works are useless.

And lastly, although, He loved all, Jesus really made it a point to reach out to those in the most desperate of circumstances. He reached out to those others ignored: women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, and even those who openly lived in sin. Jesus lived during a time when it was taught by the teachers of the law that those who struggled in lowly circumstances suffered because of sin in either their lives, or the lives of their parents. (Which is funny if you think about it, since practically all of Israel worshiped idols at some point or another.) But, there He was, God-in-the-flesh, meeting sinners right where they were. And what was His response when the Pharisees asked Him about His actions…”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

Mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others.

Many believers have fallen into the trap of surrounding themselves with nothing but other believers, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is not completely wrong. Our closest friends, those we go to for advice, to whom we turn when we’re in need of accountability, prayer, and encouragement should be fellow believers. However, those who need to hear God’s truth don’t ever get to experience the goodness of God’s love unless we tell them and show them! We cannot completely separate ourselves from them. God calls us to shower them with love, compassion, kindness, and to show understanding as we speak Truth into their lives (**Note, that we cannot leave this last part out**).truth_in_love[1]

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

Jesus told us to go into ALL the world and preach the gospel; a command that was issued not to just a few isolated believers, but to all who believe; so that we might reach men and women from every nation, every background, and from every circumstance, showing no partiality (Mark 16:15; James 2:1-9).

The Word

As I drove home from work Wednesday multiple thoughts flew across my mind. I thought about God’s Word; the book of Romans; an article I read earlier that day on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration; the church & Christianity, in general; and lastly, I thought about Paul. (Yes, I know it’s a lot to think about…this is what happens when I let myself think, smh. Sometimes it gets overwhelming and I have to ask God to just give me a break and quiet my mind.)

Regarding God’s Word, I thought about how blessed we are to have it! Imagine trying to live life without any sort of direction or guidance. (I know many people try to do it, but frankly it’s impossible and leaves one with a meaningless, purposeless, lawless, and selfish existence!) I thought about all our brothers and sisters in Christ, around the world, that are without Bibles, and how they will do anything to just have a few verses or lines of Scripture, even risking their lives to obtain it. And I thought about how we often take God’s word for granted. We are so blessed in America to have the freedom to read God’s Word, but how many of us choose not to!? Then we wonder why we feel so lost and unsure of our beliefs…Love Story Bible

Regarding the book of Romans, I thought about how chock full of information it is! As I study it, questions arise—which I jot down until I get the opportunity to ask someone (preferably a pastor) about them—and I find myself intrigued, amazed, grateful, and passionate about every verse and chapter. The book describes the purpose of the Law, our need for a Savior, the love God has for us (as revealed in the fact that Jesus came to earth in the form of a man to reconcile us to God), and how even though we (Christians) now fall under grace and not the law, we’re still expected to uphold the law and live our new lives—as our old lives passed away with the death of Christ on the cross and our new lives arose with His resurrection (Romans 6:6-7)—glorifying God in everything we do and say. And, I’m only finishing up chapter 8!!

Regarding the article on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration, I thought how sad that we live in a country where the minority is slowly influencing what the majority believes, says or does. Free speech has now come to mean “you can believe or say what you want as long as it’s the same as what I believe and say.” That’s not free speech! Free speech is that everybody has a right to believe and say what they want (in a respectful way, of course). If you don’t like it, that’s just too bad, because that’s freedom of speech!

Regarding the church and Christianity in general, I thought about how so many of our churches have fallen away from preaching upon certain subject matter, currently inflicting our nation and how anemic “Christians” are running around preaching a message that is not God’s message. We need to stop basing what we believe about God based on our own feelings/thoughts or upon what our pastors are telling us. Instead, we need to open up His Word and read the Bible for ourselves!! (Now you’re seeing how my thoughts have run full circle ;)) And because we have so many churches/pastors not teaching the full gospel, those that do teach the full gospel are criticized because they talk about God’s laws, and nobody wants to hear it! We have to hear about His law and His grace. We can’t learn only about His love because we’re going to find ourselves in trouble when we find ourselves face to face with His just wrath because we didn’t follow His commands which are found in His WORD. On the other hand, we can’t talk only about His law because then we’re facing legalism and the idea that we can earn our into heaven all on our own (which is impossible!). All of His word must be taught, read, studied, learned, understood, and LIVED.

And at this point is where I thought of Paul. I believe the reason God used Paul in the manner that He did was for one major reason. Paul—as Saul—was a major proponent of the law. He knew it inside and out. He studied it. He lived it. He was passionate about it. So much so, that when the early (Christian) believers began preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, Saul accused them of blaspheme and went from town to town having them imprisoned and even stoned/killed. When Saul came face to face with Christ on the road to Damascus, his life was forever changed (hence the name change to Paul). You may be wondering, “I still don’t understand, why Paul?” Paul was a murderer—he gave approval to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr—and there was absolutely no way that he would ever be able to “make it up” to God. Jesus’s grace was the only way to have his relationship with God restored. Paul understood God’s grace as well as His justice.

Whether we’ve failed a little or failed a lot, we’re all in the same boat. God’s word says we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and not one of us is perfect/righteous/ in right standing with God (Romans 3:10, 23). But that doesn’t mean we ignore God’s law because we can’t live up to it or change it so that it’s easier for us to live by. Nor does that mean that we ignore the fact that God loves us all the same and wants all to come to repentance, and turn our back to those we think are “undeserving” or “too sinful.” For God’s word also says that His grace can cover it all and His grace has no limit (Romans 5:20)!

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, we really must teach truth in love. Even then, we need to remember that the truth often stings, and we, therefore, must be prepared for backlash, and keep in mind what Jesus said about the world hating His disciples because we bring the message of hope to a dying world and bright light to a darkened room (John 17:14, 3:19; 8:12).

Live in the Word. Breathe in the Word. Allow it to transform the way you view the world and the people around you. Let it transform you: your reactions, your actions, your words, your life! You cannot survive on 1 or 2 pieces of cake each week (I call it cake because it gives you a momentary “spiritual” high); you need your daily bread, your meat, your living water!