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!

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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.

Actions are Louder than Words

IMG_3454January 22, 2016 was the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. A group of friends and I planned to participate, however, due to the expected amount of snowfall in the area we decided not to risk traveling in the snow and getting stuck anywhere.

In a previous post I mentioned that this would be the year for action. This is the year where I stop talking about doing things and actually step outside my comfort zone and DO them. March for Life was meant to be the first of this year’s actions and I was prepared to share that with you, however, it appears it will have to wait another year.

If you’ve read my testimony you would understand why March for Life was something I really wanted to be a part of. Every year I say I want to go, but only this year did I mark it on my calendar, take the day off from work, put money on my Metro pass, and gather a group of like-minded friends who were willing to make the trip up north with me. We even waited until the very last minute to cancel because we were so committed to participating in this event.

But honestly, our passion shouldn’t end here.

Not only should we be ready for whatever else is occurring this year, we should be ready to reach out to the people we come into contact with every day! Our local pregnancy center hosts events practically every month (ex. April 21st is their Empowering Life Gala) and I’m sure we all know someone in our lives—a single mom, an unwed mother, a pregnant teen, etc.—who could benefit from just having someone walk with them through life.

During our Monday night Bible study we were discussing Mark 9, when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to the mountain top and is transfigured before them. When they came down from the mountain they found the remaining disciples arguing with a crowd over their inability to cast out a demon from a man’s son. In reference to this, the author of our study, Michael Catt, made the statement: “Disciples aren’t made to live on mountaintops. We are made for valleys.” Which, in turn, reminded me of saying that goes, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.”

How often we forget that when we talk about things such as abortion, orphans, or adoption, we’re talking about real people with real struggles. It’s great to talk about change and to take action regarding the big picture, but what the smaller picture; what about the actual people? We can’t stay high on the mountain top with our beliefs and opinions, and not reach out to the people in the valley. As it is now, if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to abort, people become angry because she’s taking a life. If a woman becomes pregnant and decides to give the child up for adoption, people become angry because she’s not keeping her child. And if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to keep the child, people shun her for having a child out of wedlock. This isn’t how we’re meant to show Christ’s love!

We must remember that we all make mistakes and we can encourage right choices, but most importantly, we can be there for that woman in her pain, her fear, her shame, and confusion (because believe me, these are often emotions she’ll struggle with). She may think it’s impossible to bring a child into this world, and we’re meant to show her that it’s not; it may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

God has called us to action, to live in the valleys, to walk side-by-side with the lost, hurting, and broken, and to direct them to the Mountain of Christ. In every situation may our actions speak louder than words.

Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.

Rich in Faith

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NLT)

Yesterday, as we (my church family) were praying for churches that we’re working towards establishing in El Salvador and Ghana, I began thinking about the impoverished communities where these churches will be built. As I prayed, in my spirit I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 8:2 which states, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” Of course, in context, Paul was writing this to the church at Corinth, regarding the churches in Macedonia, who, though having very little, gave freely and abundantly to the believers in Jerusalem, who had even less. But I was reminded yesterday, that the believers in other nations and cities who are lacking basic every day needs, are in the same boat! They may have very little in monetary and dietary value, yet they are rich in faith and joy. How is that possible?

Well, let’s recall the Israelites in the desert, after God rescued them from Egypt. Did God not provide for their every physical need on a daily basis? Just as the Israelites were forced to a position of complete reliance on God for daily sustenance—manna, quail, water, and even clothing—these churches in nations with very little, recognize that God is the giver and sustainer of life! They have faith in His faithfulness and ability to provide for their every need, even though their current situation tells them otherwise.

I believe, in America, faith like this is difficult to obtain because we have so much! Having much isn’t a bad thing, but when we come to rely more on the things that we have, rather than the Giver who provides them, our faith and relationship with Christ are impacted negatively. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold so tightly to the things that God has so richly blessed us with, but always remain in a position of obedience, thanksgiving, joy and compassion that moves us to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, as I was helping out in the kid’s church on a Sunday morning, the speaker described a pitcher pouring water into a cup and the cup overflowing, as an example of Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And as he spoke on this, I immediately pictured one of those fountains in my head, in which, a pitcher pours water into one cup, which, inFountain turn, pours water into another cup, and then into another, and so forth. I remembered that God blesses all His children—whether financially, spiritually, with knowledge, or other gifts—but we aren’t to keep the gifts to ourselves! We’re to allow it to pour forth into the lives of others, so that they, in turn, can do the same.

Therefore, let us remain in a position of submission to God, seeking His face daily, and allowing Him to continually pour into and bless us, so that we can pour into and bless those around us. Let our faith be not in the things we have, but in the One who gives them; and may our hearts be full of joy and faith, knowing that God is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7; 1 John 1:9), trusting that He cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31), and having full confidence that He has and will continue to provide for us, strengthen, and protect us (Psalm 31:22-24; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 5:17-18). In Him we place our hope!

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:10, NLT)

For All to Hear

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

The words above were spoken to the prophet Samuel, after he took one look at Jesse’s son, Eliab, and immediately assumed he would be the next king of Israel. God gently chided Samuel by telling him not to judge a man by his outward appearance and reminded him that He (God) sees the parts that truly matter. This weekend, as I was praying during one of our church’s worship and prayer services, I heard the following words spoken to my spirit: How dare we pick and choose who we will share the message of the gospel of Christ with! His spilt blood and broken body are far too precious for us to keep to ourselves.

Now, for most of us this may seem common sense and we’re thinking to ourselves, “I don’t judge anybody by their outward appearance!” But honestly…how do we usually decide who we share the gospel with? Do we only share the truth with those we think will be most receptive to hear it? Do we only share the message with strangers and overlook our friends because we’re afraid of changing the status of our relationship? Or perhaps we only share the gospel with our friends and ignore strangers or people who seem different from us? I know I’ve been guilty of all of these at one point or another.Until the Whole World Hears

Whatever the case may be, the truth remains the same. Christ died for all. And our responsibility as believers is to share the good news with everybody; not just those we believe might accept it, or just with our friends and family, or only with strangers. I hear you asking, “But what if they don’t accept it?” Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe. And here’s where we need to be reminded that no one has been, or ever will be, won over by the gospel of Christ if we’re rude, pushy, judgmental, or hateful. We’re called to speak in love and truth, to live what we believe, and plant the seed, whether or not we ever see any fruit firsthand.

How many people will miss out on the saving knowledge of Christ because we’re afraid of being rejected, mocked, or persecuted? How many people will miss out on the single most important relationship they’ll ever need or want—with Christ—because we’re afraid to modify the status of our relationship with that person?

You know, when Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that if we wanted to be His disciples we must hate everybody else, He didn’t mean that we actually were to hate them; He meant it in comparison to Him. The whole point is that we are to love God so passionately that everything else we love pales in comparison. He should be our everything and the only One we should be worried about displeasing. Therefore, when we put relationships with others before Him, we’re actually being disobedient. Furthermore, don’t we want the people we come into contact with every day to have that opportunity to receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior!? What’s more important, the relationship, or their eternal soul?

Lastly, since fear is the obstacle I face most often when it comes to sharing the gospel, I like to keep Hebrews 13:6 posted in my cubicle at work (and continually in the back of my mind) to constantly remind me that God is always with me, just as He’s always with you. Now…”go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and remember He is with us always…”even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, NLT)

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, AMP)

Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, “God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, The Message)