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.

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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: Psalm 88 & 89

Currently, at my church, we are studying various books of Psalms.

Last week we read over Psalm 88 – it is deep and dark, and not fully of praise and hope like a lot of the Psalms we are used to:

“my soul is full of troubles… you have put me in the depths of the pit…your wrath lies heavy upon me…you have caused my companions to shun me…”

Whoa, okay. Things are rough for the author of this Psalm. “Sorry for him, but really I’m not in that kind of time right now in my life so I can’t really relate, but I’ll take notes for one day (far, far away) when I am feeling dark and lowly,” I thought during the sermon.

Our pastor addressed how the psalmist still prayed during his darkness, whether or not he felt God was near.

He gave us a quote  regarding this Psalm, which sticks with me today (I cannot remember the source), “It stands as a mark of realism of Biblical faith.” We will suffer, we will find ourselves in the pit, we will feel a loss of hope.

And then my pastor stated, “lamentation is the recognition that where we are at in our lives is not where we are meant to be.”

A- to the -men! We are free to lament! God invites us to lament to Him! He doesn’t send condemnation, He listens and I believe offers a little side-smirk, as He thinks to Himself “oh, but if you only knew what is ahead!”

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So… funny how things work, because just 4-5 days later, I found myself in a bit of darkness…

And yesterday, it all came to fruition. I was in that pit the psalmist talked about. I sat down in tears and read Psalm 88 word for word – now from my own darkness. It took some time because the tears overwhelmed my outloud prayer/reading.

And then I continued reading aloud in prayer to Psalm 89. The author is not the same, nor is the tone of the Psalm.

Here, here there is hope! I like to think they were situated in God’s word like this for a reason.

Oh, we may not feel hope, but there is hope. Don’t stop at the pit, keep going, keep reading!

When things are tough, when you feel so dark and there is no hope, when you are deep in the pit – PRAISE!

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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.