buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Relationship with Jesus”

The Big Ask

Why? The annoying question little children ask to learn and grow. Every answer always brings another why. After a few of those whys, we have to end the asking with “I don’t know” or “because I said so.” As adults, I think we have stopped asking why; and it’s one of our biggest mistakes. Andy Andrews said that the ones who are really successful in business never stop asking why. Why does this product line work? Why does this marketing plan work better? Why doesn’t this item produce more revenue? Why? It’s really a big question that could bring greater results.

I have been asking “why” for some time now. Why am here in this time and place? I want to find my greater purpose to why God chose me for this hour on His timetable. I want to discover the task that God has designed for me. Another speaker said recently the why gives us a vision. It’s the motivation to do what we do. It’s the purpose for living, for businesses, for ministry, etc. The vision of our heart’s purpose – the heart of the individual or the heart of the business – gets us motivated to do greater things. If we could discover the answer to the why, it could change everything for us as individuals and us as a people, the church.

Another statement about “why” is the importance of having a story behind the why. The story captures the heart of others. It causes them to act when they hear it. So if there is a vision, then there needs to be a story behind the vision. What happened that caused you to have this desire you have to do what you do? There has to be a flame of passion that fuels the vision or it will fizzle and die after a few years.

I think my biggest struggle with “my why” is that I don’t have the story. I don’t have this radical thing in my life that has stirred something in me. Spiritually speaking as well as emotionally speaking, there isn’t a great story. My spiritual awakening was a gradual increase in knowledge of Jesus and then one day deciding to follow Him with all my heart. It was after a friend’s death that I wanted to have this relationship with Jesus. Her death changed my motivation to learn what I needed to learn so that I could be sure of my salvation.

I grew up in church. I have learned about Jesus from the very beginning. There wasn’t anything radical about the experience like some have had. I just wanted what my friend seemed to have, which was a much deeper knowledge of Jesus and an assurance of where she was going in the end. I wanted that assurance so I asked Jesus to give me that desire to know Him in a real way. He did. I haven’t stopped learning about Him and the desire is still there to experience more of Him every day.

The disciples had a relationship with Jesus. They walked along with Him, ate with Him and even slept with Him. They saw Jesus’ actions, and heard Jesus’ words. They saw the miracles. When Jesus died, they had a crisis of belief. They thought that was the end. What they believed was not the reality. They believed Jesus came for a physical kingdom that would take them out of Roman rule. But that was not Jesus’ purpose. They didn’t understand the story behind the big why of Jesus. Why did Jesus come?

The disciples were not scholarly men; they were everyday, working men. They may have grown up memorizing Scripture as all Jewish boys did back in that day. But they didn’t have the understanding that Jesus was fulfilling everything that they had learned in those early years of education. Jesus came because of the great divide between God and us. He came to bridge the gap. Jesus tried to explain it to them, but they didn’t get it. However, everything changed after the resurrection. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and understanding brought revelation. It all came together for them.

So, why did Jesus save me? Why did He save you? What’s your story? I am asking the big question “why” and praying that the Holy Spirit will reveal to me what I need to give me the motivation that will last through eternity. I need a resurrection to change everything for me. How about you? What do you need to give you the motivation that will last through eternity? The trouble with asking this big question is I will hear the answer – and I have to be prepared to act upon it once I know. Yet, I am willing to risk it all for the answer. The disciples went on to great ministries that turned the world upside down. We can do the same if we are willing to risk everything for it. Are you ready? Do you have a spark that can be fanned into a flame of passion?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)

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Work it Through

A couple of weeks ago, I tried my hand at making yeast rolls (gluten free). My first attempt didn’t go well. They didn’t rise. The flavor was good though. I think my problem was the yeast. I didn’t let it proof long enough to get the yeast to activate before I added it to the flour mixture. I have two more packets of yeast, so I have two more attempts to make these rolls – I understand it’s close to the original texture if I can make them correctly.

In my quiet time on Tuesday, I found myself thinking about my attempt at yeast rolls. The Scripture in my quiet time was from 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8. The passage was on yeast and unleavened bread. In context, Paul was instructing the Corinthians to get rid of their old ways of malice and wickedness (the yeast). Apparently there were issues in the Corinthian church! God’s people should be the unleavened bread; “the bread of sincerity and truth.”

My thoughts went in a different direction. You see, I was also reading about how the Bible should be read and digested so that it permeates through our lives. It’s the yeast that should be kneaded into every crevice of our hearts. I read about the quality of the soils in Matthew 13. I know; I was all over the place. But the Holy Spirit wrapped it all up in the yeast.

The Word has to be put in good soil to produce an abundant harvest for the “farmer.” The good soil like yeast has to be mixed up to produce the right outcome. A farmer will till the soil before the seed is planted. A baker will work the yeast through the whole dough before the dough will begin to rise; to increase in size. The tilling and the kneading make a difference to produce the right results.

Some of the seeds fell in a thorny mess and on a rocky path. Both soils reminded me of a tough situation where the person will fall away from God because God didn’t meet their expectations. They don’t trust God with the mess. The worries of life (the thorns) cause us to fall away too easily. Jesus explained people hear the word, but they don’t let the Word work through their heart. It sits on the surface, never penetrating to do what it needs to do in their lives.

The ground has to be prepared before the trying times or else we will have the thorny mess permeating throughout our lives. The Word has to be hidden and worked through our hearts in the good times for the peace in the bad times. We will always be in crisis, coming out of the crisis or about to enter a crisis. There is always a thorny mess waiting for us.

Spending quiet time with Jesus in His Word; prayer for understanding of what we read. Spending time with Jesus is never wasted. It is necessary for a deeper relationship. He is our refuge in times of crisis. This is not a relationship where it lies only on the surface. Like a bird after the seed on the ground, Satan will snatch away anything that is only planted on the surface. This is not a “fair weather” relationship for only the good times. Jesus and His Word are for here and for now. Good times and the bad. But it means being intentional;  working it through like kneading yeast in the dough. It takes time and patience (and the right soil).

But the yeast actually needs a little heat to make the yeast activate. If the heat is not there, then all we have is a lump of dough that is flat and hard. The mess we have is the heat to activate the trust we have in Jesus. If trust is not there, then all we have is a faith that falls away at the first sign of trouble.

Proof the yeast and work it through every fiber of your being. You will not be disappointed in the outcome!

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 2:15-17 (NLT)

The Mathematical Equation

My pastor started a new sermon series a couple of weeks ago. This past Sunday, he asked a question that has been marinating in my mind ever since. What happens when Jesus is taken out of church? He pointed to Revelation 3:20. Jesus told John to write a letter to the church at Laodicea. The church at Laodicea was considered “lukewarm” – neither hot nor cold toward Jesus. They considered themselves to be “rich; acquired wealth and didn’t need a thing” (Revelation 3:17). However, Jesus said they didn’t realize their true nature – they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. He asked the church at Laodicea to be earnest and repent! In verse 20, Jesus said He was standing at the door knocking, waiting on them to respond. Consider this: Jesus was outside the church – He was knocking on the church’s door. I find this very disconcerting.

My pastor gave us this mathematical equation: Christianity-Christ=Religion. Religious people are good people. However, Jesus has more in mind for us than being good. When you consider the Pharisees of ancient Judaism, you get a picture of a religious person. They were sincere in their belief system. They were zealous. They gave sacrificially – doing more than the required tithe (tenth of their income). They were scholars of Moses’ Law – they knew it by heart since they had memorized it. They believed in miracles. They kept the traditions alive from generation to generation. They prayed all the time. And they even expected to see their Messiah come at any time. You would think these were the ones Jesus would be hanging out with and teaching. Yet, these are the ones who ultimately killed Him.

Jesus saved the harshest criticisms for the religious ones and turned to uneducated men to spread His Good News. Jesus flipped religion upside down. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus’ teaching. They believed they were right with God. But they didn’t understand the spiritual application of what they were learning. It was all head knowledge. They had no heart change. Revelation 3:20 is the passage many point toward when telling sinners about Jesus waiting for them to open their hearts to Him. But if Jesus is at the church doors waiting to be let in, what does that truly mean?

Over and over, Scripture tells of repentance and forgiveness. True heart change comes through repentance – agreeing with God of our unrighteousness; we don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s impossible to live a sinless life. But with Jesus all things are possible. We are given His righteousness when we repent of our sins. It’s His clothes we put on every day. Priscilla Shirer says we have to intentionally put on the breastplate of righteousness. It’s His righteousness because there is no one righteous. We don’t have it in us unless Jesus lives in us.

I have the picture in my head of Peter asleep in his jail cell. He was sleeping so soundly, an angel had to strike him to wake him up. The angel escorted him to freedom. I see this image as the church body fast asleep. I believe we are being poked and prodded into wakefulness. The angel told Peter to put on his clothes and sandals. I believe we too need to be clothed in righteousness. We need to be set free from all the chains that are keeping bound to the darkness in this world. Yes, the church body is bound up – we are neither hot nor cold. We hear the word yet it doesn’t change us. We comment that is was a good sermon, but is it applied to our lives? Do we do drive by readings or memorize Scripture for anything other than checking a box?

When people truly encountered Jesus, they were changed. My pastor’s sermon series is Re Jesus. He is going to teach us about the radical Jesus who changed the religiousity of His day. Maybe it will change ours too. If you are interested in learning more, check out the sermons at takeajourney.org. They will be life-changing! The antidote to religion is Jesus. Jesus is knocking. Will the Church open the doors to real change?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

Building a Better Relationship

Relationships are hard to develop and keep in this day and time. We are even busier than ever before. Our culture isn’t conducive to form lasting relationships either – we like our independence and we tend to move about. Last week, I mentioned that we have to be intentional about listening to those around us. But it is also about being intentional about our relationships. There is a spiritual battlefield that is going on around us to keep us from developing true friendships. I believe one of our enemy’s schemes is to drive a wedge in our relationships. The family is especially important to God. And the family has been under attack for the last few years. God put relationships in the Bible in the very beginning. It’s His design for us to depend on one another.

God introduced Adam and Eve to us in the very beginning of His Word. He designed them to need one another but also to have a relationship with Him. God walked with them in the garden. Can you imagine? What a blessing to have that kind of intimate conversation with God! Yet, we are given that opportunity too. But do we take advantage of our opportunity to have a conversation with the living God – Creator of the Universe and everything in it? Again, we have to be intentional about this relationship. We have to spend time listening to His voice. But distractions (one of the enemy’s greatest tools) keep us from hearing God’s whisper.

I have been blessed over these last four years to have the time to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. But I still have trouble hearing from Him at times. Or if I hear, I start to doubt what He’s saying. Doubt creeps in – especially when I start to act in faith when my toe is touching water! The enemy is hard at work. This weekend is a case in point. I began to make progress in a decision that I had to make. I believe I heard it was time to move forward with a new opportunity. I had a crisis of belief Sunday when I heard a series of messages that made me take my toe out of the water and pause long enough to doubt I heard correctly. The first message was to “wait on God.” The second message was not to “settle for less” and the third was to “not to let doubt take us out.”

Andy Stanley mentioned in his message that Peter started to doubt when he thought this whole “walk on water” thing wouldn’t work out. Each message was really about trusting God. The messages mean that we have to have a right relationship with Jesus in order to hear His voice. Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ followers know His voice. He is depicted as the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. The sheep are pretty dumb animals and are prone to wander in search of another blade of grass to eat. The shepherd keeps his eyes on his sheep and will move them to the place of greener grass and fresh water. I don’t want to be a sheep that is in search of the blade of grass that is in the wrong pasture. I want the right pasture, and I want it at the right time. There is a time to settle in a pasture and a time to move on.

My pastor said that God offers a better plan than what we could choose for ourselves. Andy Stanley says that “You’ll never know what God might have done if we allow our doubt to take us out.” The disciples had no idea what was in store for them when they continued to keep walking the path Jesus set before them. When we surrender to the path, God will do amazing things through us too. It takes intentional time with Jesus and with others to be the instruments that God wants us to be. It is not meant for us to walk the path alone. We are stronger together as a community of believers who listen and are active in our faith walk. One step at a time.

God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus! Romans 15:5-6 (The Message)

The Battle Zone

For the last week or so, I have been in a constant battle over emotional issues. At first, I was missing my Mom. Mother’s Day is just hard. My birthday is also coming up which brings a greater awareness of her absence – she always made me feel special on my day. No one can take her place – it’s just her place in my heart, and there will always be a void there. The places in our hearts that are not filled properly causes emotional turmoil. Loneliness waits for the opportunity to take its place in that emotional void. Sometimes it’s just hard being single. And even when friends or family are around, loneliness can still find its way into that void. It’s a battle that keeps recurring no matter how much I lean on Jesus to be my Lord of everything. We are told in Scripture that God is always with us – He never leaves us or forsakes us. We are made for companionship between Him and us and each other. We are not meant to live life alone. How do we fill up emotionally so that we don’t experience those lonely times?

I took the test of love languages for singles this past week in the midst of my battle of loneliness. My strongest language turned out to be quality time with the second and third closely tied in words of affirmation and gifts. I don’t know if these love languages come from the relationships we have early in life or they are ingrained in our DNA. But my parents do play a major role in how I feel love. My Mom was a gift giver. I believe my Dad’s love language is quality time. Not sure where the words of affirmation comes into play, since I really don’t remember having someone really encouraging me early on. These days my family time hasn’t been the greatest. And I leave with my emotional tank less than full. I know I am loved by my family, but the emotional level isn’t met. Feelings are just fickle. They want what they want!

My family loves television. It’s a constant battle to have a decent conversation without the television going on in the background (or in the foreground as the case maybe). One Sunday after spending time with family, I left feeling quite unsatisfied. I was eager to talk to someone about some problems that I needed to work through. Communication is hard when competing with game shows or golf matches! I think we have a listening problem in this world today. Nobody wants to listen to anybody; but we all want to be heard though. Interruptions are just a way of life with phones ringing or text messages that have everyone’s attention. Recently, I noticed a group of women with their eyes glued to their phones reading messages and not one word was shared between the women sitting next to one another.

We long to be heard but nobody is paying attention. The battle is raging on every front. And we are missing the opportunities to encourage one another to stand strong. No wonder some of us are feeling lonely even when we are in the midst of a crowd. I also have noticed that when talking with someone, if I am not getting my thoughts out quick enough, the subject will be changed or someone will hijack the conversation. Is it just me or does everyone have this problem? But how do I rate my own ability to listen or to express love to my loved ones? Am I meeting their needs? If I understand God’s commands to love one another, then I need to pay attention to who is in front of me and how to meet their emotional needs. Women are emotional creatures, and we need those emotional bonds strengthened at times. It is a battle that we each fight day in and day out. And our enemy loves to get into the mix and cause those emotions to swirl out of control.

We have to be intentional about our times together. We have to be intentional about relationships. An intentional relationship with Jesus is top priority. When I am experiencing loneliness, then I am not spending quality time with my Lord. He is not meeting my needs because I am not giving Him the time to express Himself in love and comfort to me. I tend to rush through my quiet time. I check the box that I have done what I am supposed to do – but that’s not developing a good relationship, that’s only filling a religious ritual. My enemy wins the battle when I focus on my pity party instead of my Comforter. The battle is raging, but we don’t have to let the enemy win. Jesus is enough to meet our every need.

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish. Psalm 25:15-17

Learning to Trust

I don’t know if you have gathered from previous posts or not – but I have issues! The one that God and I seem to be working on right now is my trust issue. I really don’t know when this became an issue for me. Maybe it wasn’t an issue for me, but it was for God. I have always had a sense of confidence in my own abilities. I was always self-sufficient. When I didn’t have something, I would wait until I could afford it or got over the urge for it. I never had to really rely on God for anything. I have always had what I wanted. I know God has provided for me (in theory) since He has given me everything in order to provide the comfortable surrounds I live in. I have a house, a car, food in my refrigerator and clothes in my closet. I have never been hungry – except when I want to be. I really haven’t had to trust much for my standard needs. I feel very blessed.

But is that really a blessing? When I don’t need to depend on God for my daily needs, is that a blessing? God likes dependency. Self-dependency means I don’t need God. If I don’t need God, I don’t seek Him in desperation. I don’t see Him as my Provider. I don’t see Him as a big God who has all the resources at His disposal. I have never really known Him in that way. He has never brought a miracle to pay some bill or meet some need. I have trusted Him for my salvation, but I have never really trusted Him with more than that. And He is so much more. I am learning in this season of life, how to trust Him. He is teaching me that He is Sovereign. He sees all; He knows all; and all things come through Him first before it ever reaches me. These are hard lessons to learn, but ones that need to be learned in order to grow in my relationship with Him.

This season of my life has given me the most peace I think I have ever had; even in the circumstances that the world would say is not a good place. I don’t have the abundance that the world says I need, but I have enough to meet my every need. I see what the world says I need and realize I don’t need a thing. There are things I would love to have. If I don’t have what I want, it’s because it’s not the right time or the right thing for me. I would love a sporty new car. I would love to fix up my house. I would love to have more money in the bank. I would love to have an income coming into my bank account that I didn’t actually have to work for! But are any of these things the best for me at this time of my life? Probably not, since I don’t have any of them.

Then I realize the blessings of material things are really no blessing at all. The sporty car is costly to maintain. The house with more things is just more difficult to keep clean. And of course, money could be more of a curse than a blessing – depending on my attitude when I get it! The love of money is said to be the root of evil. It will divide my loyalties between serving it and serving God. Life is much simpler without excess. George Mueller was noted for praying for his needs and by the end of the prayer receiving what was needed. His life was not full of worry, but full of prayer. He had a relationship with God that I desire.

Yeah, I have issues, but God and I are working on that. My relationship with Jesus is growing and eventually I will have that trust issue placed on the throne, laid down before Him, resting in His presence. I will know Him as He wants to be known – that’s the real blessing! One step closer to being the woman I am meant to be. The prize is not material blessing but being in His presence – nothing else matters!

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds.
Psalm 9:9-11

Love Letter

My dear Child,

I want you to know I am with you. I have never left your side. I feel your heart beating next to mine. I know you probably don’t feel me next to you, but I am here. I wanted you to know, I have not left you to walk alone. I want you to feel my presence. I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to grasp how wide and long and high and deep my love is for you. I want you to understand there is nothing you could do that I would take my love from you. There is nothing you could do that would cause me to love you more. My love surpasses your understanding. Know this, I came for you. I came to bring you healing and hope. I came to show you the love that only comes from my Father. I did not come to condemn you. I came to love you so much so that I died for you. I stretched out my arms for you and said “I love you this much.” I lived and died so that you could live with me for eternity. Do you believe me when I say I came for you? I love you with all my heart, and I want you to love me as well.

I know there are some things keeping you from giving me your heart completely. That’s okay, I’ll take whatever you want to give me today, just let me in. I have waited for you. I know there are obstacles in front of you, and I am prepared to go with you through them. Let me walk with you. I see you where you are right now. All I ask is for you to reach out for me. Let me help you. Let me heal you. If you really don’t know me well, I have a whole book about my life. My Father had His servants write about me before I was born to tell of my coming. He had others write about my life here on earth. The whole Book is written so that you will know me and love me as I have first loved you. My servant John was allowed to see things that have yet to come. I have made a place for you, and I am coming back for you.

I long for you to open the words and let me speak into your heart. There are so many things I have to tell you, but you have to be ready to hear. Are you ready to listen? Be still with me for just a little while, and I promise you, I will be made known to you. It’s never too late to start a relationship with me. I promise when you look for me, I will be found. I am here and I am ready. My peace I give to you this day if you will just ask. I am knocking on your heart, please let me in.

Your friend,

Jesus

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

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