Posts Tagged 'spiritual growth'



A New Year’s Resolution

new year

I’ve been thinking about the one thing I would tell followers of Jesus Christ to start off the New Year, and my decision will shock you!

Did that introduction make you want to click on a link to see more? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to click on anything to read what I’ve written, and I won’t bombard you with ads in any event (you can tell I’m getting a bit sick of the Internet lately, can’t you?). So let’s get to the point. The one thing I’d like to tell followers of Jesus to start the New Year is this: remember the Judgment Seat of Christ!

“Oh no, he’s going to preach! And if it’s about some sort of judgment, then I’m hosed. I don’t want to be judged, and, frankly, I’m not really keen on anyone else being judged either!”

I suppose at least one person out there may be saying or thinking these very things right now. Give me just a minute, though, and I’ll explain why you should really look forward to this particular judgment and why you should try to remember it every day.

I’ve been thinking about the Judgment Seat of Christ (also known as the Bema Seat of Christ) because I’ve been trying to figure out why God has me working so hard on criminal justice reform when I’m not so sure that we’ll even see true reform before the rapture and tribulation. If it’s true that we’re really that close to the end (like I think we are), then why bother, right?

The answer came to me as I awoke the other day. And it starts with an understanding of the exciting judgment for followers of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

We know that there’ll be judgment even for believers of Christ because in the Bible, Paul wrote:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  (2 Corr. 5: 8-10)

On its face, this judgment can seem a bit intimidating, but if you read other parts of the Bible and various commentaries, it becomes clear that this judgment is only for determining a believer’s rewards in heaven. It doesn’t include judgment for sin, because sin is taken care of by Jesus’s death on the cross. I repeat – it doesn’t involve judgment for sin. Jesus is your proxy on that matter through your belief in him. Like Denise says, belief and faith in Jesus Christ is the golden ticket. Leave it to Denise to dream up a Willy Wonka reference.

So even though the passage above says that you’ll receive what is due to you for things done “good or bad,” it doesn’t mean morally bad. Instead, it means that certain things have eternal rewards in heaven (the good) and certain things don’t (the bad).

Think of it this way. You’re going to do a lot of things during your walk in the world, and you might consider some of those things to be really, really good things. For example, you might think that holding down a particular job your entire life is a pretty good thing. And to the world, it is. But it might not be the thing that gets additional rewards in heaven. That makes sense, right? The Bible talks about building a foundation on Jesus, and if you build your foundation on anything else, a fire will burn away all that is worthless, which will include things you may have thought were pretty good but that simply don’t measure up to reward-giving status.

Paul often likened our journey on earth as a race to be run, so imagine it that way for a minute. As a runner, you might do tons of good things to get ready for the race – lift weights, stretch, practice your starts – but in the end, you get a reward for winning the race. Those are the rules. It’s not that stretching was a bad thing – heck, it may have been crucial to winning – it’s just that you don’t get the reward for stretching. You get it runnerfor crossing the finish line first. Likewise, there are certain things that God finds deserving of rewards, such as winning souls, developing your spiritual gifts, showing love and sacrifice to others, etc., but there are also things that you might think would be deserving of a reward and aren’t. So when you think of the distribution of rewards for “good and bad” things done in the body, think of it simply as receiving rewards for eligible things that you actually did in the world. If those things weren’t eligible, or if you didn’t do them even if they were eligible, then you don’t get the additional rewards.

Remember when you were a child? I don’t know about you, but when I was a child and I did something I thought was a big deal, I went running to some adult to tell it to. Usually that was my mom or dad. And when I told them what I did, I found out that sometimes it wasn’t a big deal at all to my mom or dad. But sometimes it was. And when it was, I got a reward. And man, I wanted to get those rewards! Even when I was fifty years old, taking care of my dying dad in the world, I was constantly trying to impress him, looking for those rewards – like a smile or a laugh. Believe me, when I get to heaven I want that same feeling of “reward getting” from God as I got from my dad here on earth.

“Hey wait, does all of this mean that I’ll be compared to other people?” No, so you should think of the race as being your own personal race, like running against the clock. This is between you and Jesus. You won’t be envious or jealous of others getting rewards, and, in fact, whatever regret you may think you feel from not receiving a reward that you could have received will ultimately be wiped away from the overwhelming joy of being with God. As Denise often says, it’s like having tickets to the Super Bowl. Your seat may be right on the 50 yard line, or your seat may be up in the nosebleed section. Either way, though, you’re at the freakin’ Super Bowl!

Now when it comes to figuring out what God will deem pleasing or not so pleasing in your life, I’ll leave it up to you to do some further biblical research. But you should remember the following cautionary note that has people like me needing constant reminders about what God thinks matters: Throughout the Bible, people were told that because they received an earthly reward for something they did in the world, they’ll receive no reward for it in heaven. Holy smokes! This makes everything a bit more complicated, doesn’t it? Oh well. As I’ve said before, Christianity is simple, but it isn’t always easy.

So what does all of this have to do with my criminal justice job and whether that job even matters? It matters because every day God gives us opportunities to add to the tally of things that will bring us rewards when we stand before Christ. That’s how much He loves us. And that love and those opportunities will continue right up until the day of Jesus’s return. Every day God allows us all to decide whether or not to do something that is pleasing to Him and worth eternal reward. And my work, helping people to see why we need criminal law reform, is just one more opportunity that God is presenting his children – through me – to do something eternally worthwhile.

opportunity

You and I are basically in the same earthly business when it comes to other followers of Christ – the “opportunity for eternal reward business.” Every day you will likely give someone an opportunity to do a good thing, and I or someone else will likely give you the same opportunity. And because every opportunity will only help the body of Christ, it should be our intense desire to keep expanding our business. Every day, look for opportunities to do things pleasing to God. Every day, look for ways to give other people those same opportunities.

So this year, remember the Judgement Seat of Christ! Work each day on earning your rewards. And, please, work each day to help me earn mine!

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Pray and Praise Unceasingly

As you may know, I’m a huge proponent of walking in the full authority of our rights as heirs to the kingdom of our Lord. A major component of fortifying that authority is to be in constant contact with the author of that authority – God. You’ve probably heard I Thessalonians 5:16-18 many times. It says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The King James version says to “pray without ceasing.” I always wondered what that actually looks like – I mean, how do you drive or work if you’re praying without ceasing? For a long time, my mind had the “religious” definition of how one might pray without ceasing, and it didn’t look anything like life as we know it. In fact, to me, it looked a lot like living the life of a monk. Fortunately for me (and you), though, God gave me revelation.

Jesus taught us how to pray through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer. In my book, I go through the parts of that prayer and talk about how they manifest into all of my prayers. For example, the part that says, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is my way, every day, of asking God to lead and help me through the supernatural realm. Most people think that praying is all about asking for something – petition, if you will – but that’s only one part of the Lord’s Prayer. The very beginning of the prayer is all about praise – “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed by your name.” Now, if you look up “hallowed” in the thesaurus, you’ll see that it’s not just a word that means “pretty good.” The first reference is to “godlike,” and includes words like “almighty,” “omnipotent,” “all-powerful,” “boundless,” “changeless,” and “supreme.” These aren’t words used to praise, say, a football team or anything. When is the last time anyone said, “Go Broncos, you are everlasting and supreme, omniscient and sacred?” These are the words only used to praise your Father in heaven, the creator of the universe. Therefore, every day, I start my prayers talking to God about how much I love Him using the kind of words that can only describe Him. Just calling God “Father” is pretty big praise, when you think about it. There’s no one else here on earth who I call “Father.”

But really, even though I begin my day with prayer that resembles the entire Lord’s prayer, and even though I might find the need to, say, ask for forgiveness during parts of the day, it’s petition and praise that allows me to pray without ceasing. Someone once wrote that when you pray without ceasing, your prayers will come out with every breath. Makes sense. We certainly breathe without ceasing, don’t we? So what would it be like if, with every breath, out came some small prayer or statement praising God? There would certainly be a bunch of small statements, like, “Thank you, Father,” or “Help me, God.” Just those two things can get you through most everything that comes your way in any given day.

To pray and praise without ceasing simply means to be in constant contact with our Lord – to keep Him in the forefront of our minds through every seemingly miniscule and insignificant part of our days. This can be as easy as just talking to God all the time, like you might talk to someone following along with you as you go through your day. Asking for help and thanking Him when he invariably gives it. When I ask God for help, I realize that there’s no question or request too small for Him. I’ll even ask Him what to wear each morning, and then I’ll just sit and listen. He always tells me, and then I’m quick to thank Him. I love it when I have a work problem that I can’t figure out or have misplaced my car keys. I just ask the Lord to help me out, and He always does. I love driving down the road and asking the Lord to help the family that just had an accident, and then driving on in faith that His hand is already on it. When I see one of His children, homeless, asking for money, I ask God what to do and He tells me (by the way, He keeps telling me to give to those folks). Literally everything that crosses my path is an opportunity to talk things over with God. And being in constant communication with God keeps the spiritual phone line open and keeps me pressed into Him so that I’m better able to see Him at work in my life and the world, and to be in the best alignment for blessings.

Now, I’m not saying that my prayers or petitions are always focused on my own needs. Most of my day is asking to what God wants from me, or for help on how to deal with His other children – what I should do to further His kingdom and to do His will. But by focusing on others, I’ve realized that often their needs have become my needs.  Believe me, there is so much going on out there in the world that when you pray and praise, even if you do it without ceasing, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on God, yourself, and others!

Can you pray and praise without ceasing without ever saying anything out loud? Yes, I believe you can, but don’t be afraid to look silly talking to Him out loud. There’s power in speaking into the supernatural realm out loud, both through talking to God and through rebuking Satan. And besides, I’ve seen plenty of people looking pretty crazy singing and talking out loud in public, and nobody gives them much thought at all. Just think about the last time you saw someone singing at the top of their lungs next to you in their car. These days, if you’re praying or praising God out loud, people will probably just think you’re on your Blue Tooth!

So, don’t be afraid to speak out loud. At meetings, I won’t scream it out, but I’ll definitely whisper, “Thank you, Father,” out loud every time I notice the things for which He deserves praise. In your car, invite Him to ride with you; in fact, let Him be the spiritual driver! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the car listening to my praise music and looked up to see a police officer running a speed trap. I must confess that I have a bit of a heavy foot on the gas pedal, but when I let God drive, He always slows me down.

So, start now! If you don’t know what to say, just start by saying, “Help me God” or  “Thank you, Father” with every breath. Keep God in the forefront of your mind. And realize that everything you come across in your day is an opportunity to talk to your Lord, the creator of the universe!

What is Stewardship?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, Stewardship means: the conducting, supervising or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

If you’re like me, you recognize that everything that you have in life is a gift from God. But it’s more than that, because a lot of time people will give you gifts and then forget about them – they simply don’t care what you do with them (as long as they don’t see them up for sale on eBay). God’s gifts are special, though, because He expects you to exercise responsible management over them for work in His Kingdom. In God’s eyes, we don’t own anything. Not our health, or money, or earthly resources, or spiritual gifts, or love. Nothing. But we’re stewards over all of those things.

Stewardship is important to God, and in the Bible it comes with a warning: be a good steward over everything that is given to you or don’t be surprised if it gets taken away. Just look at the parable of the talents in Matt 25:14-29, where the master gives each of three servants a specified value of talents and rewards the ones who showed earnings on the talents. Or look at the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19: 11-26, where a man of noble birth gives ten minas to ten servants, and does the same thing. In each case, the servant who did nothing with his gift loses that gift to the one who did more. Each parable ends by saying, essentially, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” So stewardship has at least two components: first, you have to recognize that everything you have is God’s, not yours. And second, you must do something with it to further God’s Kingdom.

It’s easy to think about stewarding tangible, worldly things, like money. After all, most of us were brought up in the world to faithfully drop our offering in the plate and give to the needy, etc. But I often try to think beyond money and how I might go about stewarding everything else in my life. I have a house that was given to me by God. Do I use it to further the Kingdom? I have a car, which some people don’t have. Do I use it to show God’s love or do I just use it to get back and forth to work? And what about my time? Do I offer up an hour here and there to others with no real expectation of return? And here’s a good one – spiritual gifts. I imagine that God is especially interested in how I manage those.

Managing God’s gifts often means doing a lot of things that the worldly you would rather not do. My husband, Tim, was given the gift of being able to write papers, books, letters, etc. Even though he’s worked hard at writing his whole life, he knows that his ability to write is a gift from God, and that he must use it to Glorify God. Recently, however, a person asked him to write a really difficult paper, for free, that was going to take about two or three weeks to complete. Needless to say, natural world Tim didn’t want to do it at all. So while we were talking about it one night, we asked ourselves, in the spirit of Charles Sheldon, “What would Jesus do?” The answer was clear. Jesus would write the paper and use it to glorify God. And as a steward of God’s gift of writing, Tim would do the same thing. It was hard, time consuming, and unprofitable, but it helped someone out and led to a pretty long discussion about God.

I believe that faithfully stewarding God’s gifts means abundance in this world. But I also know that someday I’m going to meet God. I’m going to bow down before Him with the hope that I tried to do everything during my life to please Him. I just don’t want to be saying, “Oh, that? You gave me that? I didn’t think that was anything.” Like the servant who invested his minas, I want to hear, “Well, done, Denise! Because you have been trustworthy with everything I gave you, including the little things, I’m giving you more!”

Think about what you have that you can steward better to make our world a better place and to display the love and grace of our Father.

What does Obedience mean?

I recently heard a pastor talk about other pastors who mostly speak about favor and abundance to people. I don’t think the pastor I heard had a problem with the message. What he didn’t like was that there was no mention of the obedience that precedes favor and abundance. This same observation has been on my heart for the past week, so I knew that I had to speak about obedience and what that means to us Christians.

I’ve always thought it was interesting that we Christians feel that we are called to strive for perfection like Christ, when clearly perfection is unattainable on this earth (as evidenced most directly by Jesus having to die for our sins on the cross). Knowing what we know about grace, we get up each morning and understand that Gods mercies are new each day. He knows we’re imperfect – He showed us perfection in His Son. But does that mean we should just give up? Doesn’t all this somehow let us all off the hook?

When writing to the Romans, Paul spoke about this very thing. He wrote: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Rom. 6:15.

To Paul, being a slave to righteousness was a supernatural step-up from being a slave to sin. Indeed, he said that we were set free from sin so that we could become obedient and thus slaves to righteousness, leading to holiness that, in turn, results in eternal life! Whenever I hear talk about trading one form of slavery for another, I always think of Bob Dylan, who sang that it didn’t matter who you were or how high up in the world you had climbed: “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” We Americans don’t like to think about serving anyone. But, really, that’s just us thinking about life in the natural world with Kings and Presidents and what-not. In the supernatural war for your soul, however, there’s no sitting on the sidelines. If you don’t pick a side to serve, you’ve already picked the devil. Obedience to God opens up the supernatural doors to everything God has to offer, including favor and abundance in this world.

I prefer to serve God and to be a slave to obedience, and I believe that true obedience has several basic parts.

1. Obedience is about knowing who God is and His direction and promises for your life. Do you know God personally or just through someone else?

To really know God, I believe you have to really read His word. Don’t just depend on your Sunday service and Pastor’s teaching to tell you who He is. He speaks to us through His word and gives us insight that is special and personal to you. You simply can’t get this kind of personal insight in corporate teachings. Every day, spend some time (even 5 minutes) reading the Bible to see what treasure the Lord has to tell you.

2. Obedience is Giving of Yourself for others – How do you treat God’s people?

Even if you don’t have a call on your life for full-time or part-time ministry service, you are still called to be an ambassador for God. I saw a man with a walker trying to get up some steps and having just spent many weeks on a walker my heart broke that no one offered to help him. I asked if he would like some help, and he was so relieved and grateful. I didn’t have to mention God or Jesus, but God definitely touched that man through me!

Look for people to bless – get out of yourself and your own way and try to actually do something to help those around you! Really, it’s not enough to notice some acute societal need and then post a comment about it in your status box on Facebook. At the very least, smile at people and be prepared to give a kind, positive, and uplifting word to everyone. People are starving for the love we have – do not be stingy. And YES, be prepared to tell people about how great our God is and give them an example of something amazing that He has done for you. Plant the seeds of what we have and let God water them.  And, if you can, MEET THEIR NEEDS! Remember that Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of God’s children, we do to Him. Matt. 25:31-46. If we ignore the homeless, we ignore Jesus. If we say “good riddance” to those in jail . . . well, you get the point. Loving one another isn’t always easy. It’s all about obedience.

 

3. Obedience means doing what He tells you to do.

I think many times God withholds his favor and abundance simply because we don’t do what we’re told. I’m not just talking about the 10 Commandments, or the “greatest commandment” to love others. I’m talking about something maybe you were told to do personally. I was recently having a difficulty at work with one of my co-workers. He thought I had said something bad about him and he told others I was a hypocrite because here I was, a Christian, speaking badly about him. Honestly, I didn’t know what I had even said, but I prayed to God about what to do. God told me that I had talked about this person, and that whether or not he took it out of context, I was to go and apologize to him. Believe me, I didn’t want to apologize, but I did. And that person was surprised and grateful! I don’t know if it healed everything, but I know that God told me to do something and I did it. For that reason alone, I felt peace.

 

Here are a few questions that I periodically ask myself to check my obedience and to ask God to help me clean up my act.

a. Am I holding un-forgiveness towards someone for any reason? If so, I need to release it!

b. Do I know that I was told to do something and I haven’t done it yet?  If so, I need to DO IT!!

c. Have I sinned and not asked God for forgiveness? If so, then I need to get on my knees and ask. Then I need to forgive myself. I can’t continue beating myself up  — if the God of the universe forgives me, then surely I can forgive myself too!

d. Am I ungrateful? If so, I remind myself to be grateful and say “thank you” to God, who loves me more than I can imagine. I give praise and thanks in even the smallest things, so that He constantly hears how much I love him!

If being a “slave” to obedience leads to righteousness and holiness, then bind me up and tell me what to do! If it also leads to God’s favor and abundance, then tie those knots even tighter!

Spiritual Confirmation

I’m always open to receiving spiritual confirmation on wisdom, training, and any messages I might get from God. That’s because my flesh is not only weak – it’s also thick and dense. There are many times when I receive some pearl of wisdom and then turn around and wonder, “Is that you God?” I understand that confusion and doubt are from the enemy, but how do I sort it all out? Well, my ongoing theory is that God speaks to us where we look for Him. And one way I look for Him is by seeking confirmation. And if you seek confirmation on any particular message, God will surely give it to you, too!

When it comes to confirmation, my agreement with God is that when I receive a message more than once I will pay special attention to it and KNOW that it’s from Him and that it’s IMPORTANT for us. Of course, I test the spirits and look at where the confirmation is coming from. I ask, “Is this from God or from another Godly person?” “Does the message line up with the Bible and who it tells me God is and His purpose for my life?” “Is it from the Bible and my daily passages?” Over time I have learned that my confirmations always come in one of these ways so that my thick and dense flesh will finally get it!

For example, I just received a confirmation like this on the blog I just posted about “Standing Firm in Trials.” Right after I posted it, I opened my daily scripture from K-Love, and it said this from James 1:2-3;

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Bam! Just like that God gave me confirmation on the message I had written. I know that often it’s hard to see or feel joy during trials, but you should always know that your Heavenly Father loves you so much that if you let Him, He will let these seeds of trial fall on good soil to grow into something beautiful to share with another in a time of need. Also, when we focus on the joy of each situation, we defeat the ploys that the enemy has in mind to magnify the trial and our pain! My confirmation told me that faith is like a muscle – when you really exercise it, it surely grow!

Whenever you hear from God, or think you’ve heard from God, tell Him that you’ll seek His spiritual confirmation so that you can stay close to Him and be able to see clearly His word and blessings for you and your life. If you start searching for God in this way, then I’m sure that He will speak to you exactly where you are looking!


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