Wednesday’s Worship: Better Word

Today’s song was a difficult choice, because there were a few different songs that I could have shared. But Sunday, an old song popped into my head, “Nothing But the Blood” by Matt Redman. The verse that stuck out was, “Your blood speaks a better word…” and I began to think about different aspects of the Word.

In Genesis, God spoke a word and the world, and everything within was formed. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Then John 1:14 described Jesus as the Word made flesh. In John 19, Jesus said that “it is finished” and then in Revelation 12 we read that Satan, the accuser, is conquered by the blood of the lamb and the word of the testimony of the believers.

And so, the song we’re looking at today is “Better Word” by Elevation Worship. Beside the chorus singing, “Nothing but the blood/A better word was spoken” the bridge goes on to state “I left my shame where the nails were,” and I can’t help but get excited about this song, and the fact that it reminds us of what Christ did for us on the cross. There aren’t a lot of current songs that talk about our sin and need for Christ–it’s actually something that I personally feel has prevented revival in this generation; a lack of brokenness and repentance, but that’s a conversation for another date.

Check out the lyrics below and listen for yourself to this simple, but beautiful song describing an individual who finally realizes there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves. It’s only by the blood shed on the cross that we’re saved, and it’s to that, we cling.

What can wash away the guilty stain
After all the wrong I’ve done?
I’ve already tried a thousand ways
But it’s never been enough
What could be enough?

Chorus: Nothing but the blood
A better word was spoken
Oh, I know it was
Nothing but the blood
Every curse was broken
Oh, I know it was
Nothing but the blood
Nothing but the blood

And when I’m reminded of my shame
To the fountain I will run
Every failure covered now in grace
For the Lamb has overcome
What can overcome?

Bridge: On that cross, hallelujah
I left my shame where the nails were
Jesus Christ, O Lamb of God
Be lifted higher forever
On that cross, hallelujah
I left my shame where the nails were
Jesus Christ, O Lamb of God
Be lifted higher forever

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Motherhood: The First Season

Recently, I remarked to my hubby that I’m in a place where I truly appreciate everything my mother did for us, as children. She was a military spouse, whose husband went away for months–and once, a whole year–at a time, which meant she was at home with me and my younger sisters, without any help (or family nearby) for extended periods of time. And it’s not that I didn’t love my mother or appreciate her before, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), whose husband sometimes goes away for weeks at a time, I truly understand what this entails and appreciate the sacrifices she made.

Honestly, when I was younger, being a SAHM didn’t appeal to me, because I thought I’d be bored (HAHAHA). I didn’t realize the amount of work involved in being with your child. All. The. Time. It’s a never-ending routine of changing, nursing, feeding, bathing, reading, and so forth…and that’s not including all the household chores, grocery trips, or meal-making. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I love having the financial freedom to be at home with my Cookie Girl. It’s extremely rewarding, but can also be lonely and exhausting.

A week or so ago, our church organized an outreach in our neighborhood. I tried to sit through an informational meeting, beforehand, with a squirming toddler, and failed miserably. I ended up leaving early, frustrated. God and I had a good talk on my drive home, though; and I’ve come to the realization that things will not be the same as they were before we had children, at least not for a very long time. My place, for now, is with my child(ren) and sometimes I will have to stay back, or behind the scenes, in order to be of any service. At first, I was upset about it. It didn’t seem fair that I wouldn’t get to participate in things the way I used to (or how I want to). However, I’ve accepted that for now, W and I have to play tag until baby girl gets a little older; it’s just the season of life that we’re in.

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As I’ve written before, this season will not last forever, nor does it mean that I’ve completely given up on my own dreams or visions. As a matter of fact, God placed something big on my heart, after a visit to Philadelphia, with the passing of my grandfather. But I’m recognizing the need to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. The things He’s planted in me will come to pass, even if not right away. I just have to let Him continue to prepare me for these things. Interestingly enough, I heard confirmation of this during Sunday’s sermon: that we’re never too old to walk out the calling God has placed on our lives and that we must stay on the anvil of God and allow Him to shape and mold us.

Therefore, whatever God’s promised you, whatever He’s planted in your heart to complete, sometimes we just have to be patient. We have to continue to seek His face and His will for our lives, and allow Him to mold and shape us through the power of His Holy Spirit. There are tons of biblical examples of men and women of God who probably wanted to give up on their dreams as they ran away from their enemies (Moses, David, Elijah), wandered through the wilderness (Moses, Joshua, Caleb), or as year after year passed, without child(ren) (Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah, Zechariah & Elizabeth). As I’ve been studying Genesis–through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study–I realized that Noah was 500 years old before he had his sons, and 600 years old when he boarded the ark (Genesis 5:32, 7:6). It could very well have taken 100 years to build an ark for a flood that God promised a century before (we don’t know the details!). A hundred years…

David was just a teen when he was anointed as Israel’s next king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but it would be many years before he actually sat on the throne, at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:1-5). The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before Joshua or Caleb got to enter the promised land (Numbers 14; Joshua 1). And Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 17-18), and Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-24) were just two couples way beyond their child-bearing years, who gave birth to influential men of God! Jesus, Himself, didn’t begin His ministry until He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

As for me…this first season of parenthood is a tough one, requiring self-sacrifice, patience, trust, and complete dependence on God to get through each day; in fact, I am in no way the same person I was before our little Cookie came on the scene. But I know each season will be different, and each will teach me something new about myself, like what I can and cannot handle on my own, about the importance of flexibility, how to better manage my time, and how to show grace in different situations. And each season will change me for the better, and shape me more into the woman that God desires me to be, for which, I’m incredibly grateful.

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!

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

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

Let Your Light Shine

Welcome back y’all! I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and have really wanted to share with you. This year is almost over and I’ve been going over my posts and realizing that when I first began this blog in 2012, I started out strong and posted very often, but this year I’ve posted very little. It’s not because there haven’t been things I wanted to share with you, but simply because things have really started to kick off this year and I’ve been pretty busy.

Believe

At the beginning of the year our church decided on the theme “Believe” for 2014, and we started out by filling out these little “Believe” cards, on which we wrote down things for with we were believing God to do in our lives this year. For me, the areas that I was praying over and believing that God would take care of involved my relationships, ministry opportunities, health, and a job. Since then, the only one that I’m still waiting for God’s hand to move in has been career wise.

I began dating someone from church back in July and have been working on strengthening my relationships with other women, as well. I got good news from my doctor a few months ago, that some cell abnormalities finally came back normal—I hugged my doctor and left the office praising God. Then the ministry opportunities began springing up! I’d been involved in the worship team, but then I decided to also help out with the children’s worship ministry, and then I was asked to teach our Young Adults class on Wednesday nights (score!). If you’ve ever read my About Me section you’ll find out that I love to teach; that’s why I began this blog to begin with! I still feel like God isn’t done with me, yet. My heart for young adults and the vision I’ve had for them include a Young Adults worship team, small group meetings outside the church, and students with such a passion for God that we’re unashamed to share the gospel with those around us and moved to be involved in outreach and services to others, which brings me to my next point.

The Great Commission

Just a few weeks ago, we began studying the book of Hebrews. This book begins by describing who Jesus Christ is (Hebrews 1:1-4):

  • The heir of all things.
  • The One through whom God made the universe.
  • The radiance of God’s glory.
  • The exact expression of God’s nature and being.
  • Sustainer of all things by His word.
  • The One who made purification for sins.
  • The One who sits at the right hand of Majesty on high.

It also talks about Jesus being greater than the angels and how important it is to obey what He commanded so that we don’t drift away; as well as the importance of Christ coming to us in human form. According to Hebrews, Christ’s purpose for dying on the cross was to destroy the Devil, give us freedom, and to reach out to us so that we would have opportunity for relationship with God (Hebrews 2:1-18).

In my personal Bible study I’ve begun the book of Revelation, of which the first three chapters describe the state of the 7 churches in Asia, which really had me thinking about the state of our churches now; and the state of the American Church, in particular, as I read Revelation 3:14:22 regarding the church at Laodicea being lukewarm.

Furthermore, in the world around me, I’ve noticed recently an excessive amount of sickness, tragedy, and death that has been pricking at my heart, basically screaming at me to share the Truth before it’s too late. But how? Do you notice that the question is not “why,” but rather, “how”? Because the why has already been answered…because of these Truths that I’ve just mentioned! Because of Who Christ is, because He suffered and died for us, because He took on the wrath of God for our sin (Hebrews 2:17; propitiation = wrath-bearing sacrifice) so that we might be reconciled—our sin debt paid for—to the Father. He loves each and every one of us—even those who have done horrible things—and wants us ALL to turn away from the things that we’ve put first in our lives to follow after Him.

So, back to my question, “how”? To be honest, I’m a much better writer than speaker. I always seem to have trouble searching for exact word I want to use, when speaking aloud. I have shared my testimony with a few young women from my church, but now I think I’d really like to share it with you all. I’ve been making some changes to this blog, and I feel that after I finally finish my testimony, I’ll be making a few more in light of my testimony. I want y’all to realize how much God loves us, how much He’s done for us, and how He’s called us to be a light in this dark and dying world. As believers we are called to be different, called to be set apart, but we are also called to love and serve those around us; and what better way to love those around us then by sharing the most important gift God has given us? I encourage you, if you have not already done so, write out your testimony and share it with those around you. In today’s world we have so many platforms in which to do this…in person, through blogs, books, videos, letters, art, song etc. How will you share your testimony? And with whom will you share it?