Sunday Scripture [Matthew 16:24-25]

Today’s scripture was the passage we read in church this morning.

It hit me hard. The words, I have read them before.

The impact, it has never been so heavy.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

Do you see that? I am supposed to DENY myself.

say what.

Oh yes, that means denying myself the extra cookie, the shirt that is on sale and oh-so-cute.

I should deny myself running an extra mile to make up for the extra cookie.

When the cute guy asks me on a date, but has no relationship with Jesus, I should deny my flesh and tell him “no thank you”.

I should even deny the chance to volunteer for something that seems to be a service for God, when my plate is already too full.

 

Denial.

We, as Americans, see this word as only a negative thing.

And when we do use it wisely, as in dieting, we do it for our own glory.

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Let me be honest. Denial is something I have very little practice in. I often find myself weak, especially in the food realm. I have struggled for years with my relationship with food. I don’t talk about it with too many people, because quite frankly it is something a lot of people don’t seem to understand. I am thin, I work out a lot, and I tend to eat pretty healthy. But food speaks to my loneliness, my borden, my dissatisfaction with myself. Food calls my name when everyone else is quiet, and I answer, and I am more unsatisfied. You see, I have made food an idol. I love to create with food, but it is something I am learning to deny. There is so much more to this story; so much more for another time.

 

Brother, sister – what are you needing to deny? What is good and pleasing, but not something necessary?

What is something that is bad, and unfruitful in your life?

Deny yourself dear friend. Deny yourself and search for Christ and you will gain life.

 

In my case, when I deny myself excess food (please know I never deny myself food unhealthily; I am denying the eating when I am not hungry or the second… or third bowl of ice cream), and ask for Jesus to strengthen me and be the bread of life to my unsatisfied soul, I find life just in the joy of overcoming. And while overcoming, I have turned to a much more satisfying source – one that brings life.

Psalm 145:18

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” 

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This weekend at my church we wrapped up our series on the Psalms. This one verse stuck out to me as our pastor noted, “He is near! Call on Him and He is near!”

And then he challenged us to imagine Jesus literally sitting next to us: how much more would we pay attention? How much more would we worship?

How much more?

Believer, call on Him. Whisper His name throughout the day when you are weak, weary, heavy laden.

This blew my mind, to be honest.

I know He is near, I get that. I read about whispering His name often in Jesus Calling. This is something I have learned to do often, when I feel lost/confused/incompetent/embarrassed/happy/sad – you get the point…

But I decided to challenge myself to try to imagine Jesus physically next to me throughout this week. How would I love the unlovable a little more? How would this affect my sin-life? Would the words I say be sweeter? Would I spend my time a bit more productively? Maybe less productively?

How about you, how would knowing Jesus is physically next to you change how you do life?

Sunday Scripture [Ephesians 2:1-10]

We read this scripture during the worship time at church today.

It spoke loudly to me, as I have been trying to figure out what it means to “renew my mind” as directed by the scriptures.

Ephesians 2:1-10 reads:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 
I’m not going to say much, except YOU ARE NO LONGER DEAD – stop living like you are.
By grace you have been saved
It is the gift of God, not a result of works.
You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
You are alive together with Christ.
Go out and live that way, friend.

Sunday Scripture [1 Peter 4:1-11]

Every Sunday, I’d like to share with you a scripture from the week.

This week, I share with you 1 Peter 4:1-11:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

Over the past couple weeks this chunk of scripture has really struck me. It’s challenging, raw, and a bit difficult to hear. Peter challenges his brothers and sisters to this:

  1. Arm yourself to suffer in the flesh, as Christ did. Be prepared, this is inevitable.
  2. Live no longer for your human passions (living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry), but for the will of God.
  3. Remember and be prepared to give account to the Lord (“him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”) for all that you have done.
  4. Be self-controlled and sober-minded.
  5. Keep loving one another earnestly.
  6. Show hospitality to one another without complaining.
  7. Use your gifts to serve one another.
  8. Speak as a child of God, speak his good word.
  9. Serve through the strength God will supply.
  10. In all you do glorify God through Jesus Christ living and active in your life.

So there’s a lot of things to strive for this week. But, as Peter mentions, love covers a multitude of sins – both our owns (through Jesus Christ) and those others have committed against us. So this week, lets choose to love without limits.

love

 

Currently, I’m reading “The Meaning of Marriage” by John Piper and was challenged yesterday by something he said. In my own abbreviated terms he said: if you don’t like someone and you treat them that way, you’ll grow to not like them even more. If you don’t like someone and you choose to treat them with love, eventually you will find you truly are loving them and your dislike for them will dissipate.

It’s like the fake it ’til you make it – but let’s not fake it. Let’s let Christ love for us, through us, to those who are especially difficult to love.

You are renamed.

Today’s post is inspired by the study of Ruth from #shereadstruth and also what God is teaching me in my life. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it for the rest of my life, I know God wants me to be learning something when it is continually presented to me in my life, in various ways. Today’s post is inspired by #shesharestruth:

Is there a discrepancy between the names by which Jesus calls you and the names you give yourself? Are there circumstances in your life to which you are giving undue power, power that rightfully—and in reality!—belongs to our sovereign God alone? Sister, who names you today—your God or your circumstances? 

 

My whole life I have been a people pleaser. And this, my dear friends, is not a good thing.

I have only recently realized how this has changed my life, how it has negatively affected me, and how I have let it influence my relationship with Christ.

Because of my desire to live up to the ideas and standards others have for me, whether or not these are real or imagined, I have done a lot of things I never expected. Not that these are all bad, not that they have all been a negative experience, but there are things that have transpired that I wish I could take back, simply because of my desire to please other people.

So I’ve called myself broken, ugly, unloveable, unworthy, dirty – whatever negative name I think someone else may think of me in a various situation – in my sense of failing. Failing not just people, failing my God.

You see, in trying to please all these other people, I have lost sight of pleasing my God. Not that He calls me to earn my salvation through my works, but He yearns for me to honor Him through my life – my words, my actions, and my thoughts. And when I forget to serve Him through my life, I feel guilty about this unearned grace He offers me over and over, and I call myself hopeless.

And then, oh then God reminds me – that is what my story is all about!

srt

That is the story of the gospel!

Yes I am broken, but He puts the pieces together again and I am used as a perfect vessel for His work.

I sure am ugly, but He calls me beautiful in the light of His glory and grace.

Unloveable – all the time. But when I allow Him to work through me, I can love better, and be more able to be loved by those around me. And He loves me. He loves me in all my dirty sin. Oh, how He loves!

And you better believe I am unworthy – not only am I unworthy of life, a job, my friends, my family, all the material things I have, etc. – I am unworthy of His beautiful grace and mercy, His salvation and the relationship He longs to have with me. Oh friends, I am unworthy. He makes me worthy through the death of His son.

Dirty – the dirtiest. So unclean and so full of sin. But praise be to God, He calls me clean. He has washed me white as snow.

still

I urge you to stop calling yourself these terrible names. For the following week, when you think a negative thought, immediately stop yourself and consider how God sees you. Tell yourself that 3 times in place of the time you would be hard on yourself.

Change your thoughts.

You are not Your Circumstance

At #shereadstruth right now we are reading the story of Ruth (and Naomi).

Today we are reminded how

Naomi’s circumstances were indeed awful. She’d buried her husband, lost two sons and said goodbye to a daughter-in-law. She had no hope of a grandchild, no path of provision. “I went away full,” she said, “and the Lord has brought me back empty” (v. 21). Yet, there was no fist-shaking at heaven. No renouncing her faith. Naomi acknowledges God without blaming Him. She believed God was sovereign, even in her tragedy.

 

She still believed He was sovereign.

 

I think this is part of why I have been M.I.A. here on the blog.

I’ve felt unworthy of writing anything, just in a low place spiritually.

But, lately God has reminded me of who He is, and who that makes me.

shereads

It doesn’t matter what are circumstances, what stupid thing we just did, what stupid thing we did years ago. We are renamed when we are His children. We are new, we are beautiful. We can continue to sing praises because despite how the world might try to name us because of our circumstances, He is still calling us beloved, redeemed, and precious. He is still calling us His child.

And He will never stop.

 

Die to self.

Death is a strong word.

Often, when people talk about a loved one dying, the use a less potent word like, “they passed,” or “we lost them.”

When I was training for a volunteer position I was doing at a grief counseling center for children, I remember discussing this, and the impact it has on children – “well go find grandpa if he is lost!”

Death seems so harsh. It stings a little bit.

And in the case of dying to self, it is exactly the word we need.

Romans 6:6 says our selves were crucified, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

dietoself

In a devotional called God Calling from May 3, this passage struck me hard (emphasis mine):

Self dethroned – that is the lesson, but in its place put Love for Me, knowledge of Me.

Self, not only dethroned, but dead. A dead self is not an imprisoned self.  An imprisoned self is more potent to harm. In all training – (in Mine of you, and in yours of others) – let self die.

But for each blow to the life of self you must at the same time embrace and hold fast the new Life, Life with Me.

It is not a dead self that men have to fear, but a thwarted, captive, imprisoned self.  That self is infinitely more self-centered than the self allowed full play.  But to you, My children, I teach a higher science-law than even freedom of the self.  I teach death to the self.  No repressions, just death.  Petty self-life exchanged for Divine Life

And now I can make more clear to you what I would say about forgiveness of injuries.

But what you do not see is that you, the self in you, can never forgive injuries.  The very thought of them means self in the foreground, then the injury, instead of appearing less, appears greater. It is one of My commands that as you seek My forgiveness, so you must forgive.

No, My children, as all true Love is of God and is God, so all true forgiveness is of God and is God. The self cannot forgive. Kill self.

Cease trying to forgive those who fretted or wronged you.  It is a mistake to think about it.  Aim at killing the self now – in your daily life, and then, and not until then, you will find there is nothing that even remembers injury, because the only one injured, the self, is dead.

As long as it recurs to your mind you deceive yourself if you think it forgiven.

Many deceive themselves in this.

Oh whoa, whoa, whoa! This gave me such a new definition to the meaning of dying to self.
“The self in you, can never forgive injuries.”
No wonder I have a hard time letting go of things at times, I am holding on to self. My self was wounded, embarrassed, hurt, betrayed, deceived, or humiliated – not Christ.  And the more I am living for myself, the more I am apt to feel those things.
When I am living in Christ, I am offended only when my God is accused or betrayed, I can easily forgive the trespasses against my humanity.
This is a a higher way of living that is hard for me to grasp, but a journey I want to begin. To truly die to self, to forgive and move on as though I truly have died to myself and am allowing Christ in me to forgive.
For more:
The Gospel Coalition – Too Many Selves
d2s