Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Walk in Freedom

By Morgann Burres
Freedom. It sounds so good.
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In the Church, we love to talk about “freedom in Christ.”  We tell others of how Christ has “broken our chains.”  We sing songs about this lovely freedom that we possess as Christians.

The funny thing about it?  Most of us live as prisoners. 

We live in this well-disguised prison called religion.

We make our daily spiritual checklist:

__ Quiet time (20 mins)
__ Worship music only in the car
__ Don’t swear
__ Go to church (in a modest outfit)
__ Pray
__ Feel incredibly guilty if I don’t accomplish it all

I mean, I know it’s a bit over-exaggerated, but isn’t this true?!  We do this, whether we want to or not.  And the result is a bunch of Christians who walk around comparing their spiritual lives to those of others. 

We have a church more heavily influenced by Christian celebrities on Instagram than the Bibles they hold during their 20 minutes of quiet time. We’ve bought into the idea that good Christians have a leather-bound-handmade-by-African-women journal with an ESV Study Bible, and they do their quiet time on a solid wood table by candle light while sipping fair-trade iced coffee out of a mason jar.  And that’s all they do.  All. Day. Long.

Ladies.  WAKE UP. 

That’s not reality.

Sure, quiet time is important and healthy.  Participating in church is good and right.  Worship music is edifying and encouraging.  All good things. 

But if that’s all we do and all we’re called to, how will people hear about Jesus?

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Christ set us FREE from SLAVERY.  He set us free from the Law that says, “Do more, and more righteousness will be added to you.”  He set us free to grace which says, “Just believe, and my righteousness will be credited to you eternally.”

So what do we do with this freedom?  We live life. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13-14).

How do we determine what this looks like?  We live by the Spirit.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Ladies, this is incredible!  It means that we can stop striving to be “good enough.”  We can stop playing the game of comparison.  We can stop wondering if we’ll measure up.  We know the answers to those.  We aren’t good enough.  We don’t compare, and we won’t measure up.  That’s why we need CHRIST. 

Christ is good enough.

Christ trumps all.

Christ is the standard by which we measure up to.

So, we walk by the Spirit of the living God.  We put on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22)

We make breakfast with these attitudes.  We drive to work with these attitudes.  We play sports with these attitudes.  We do our quiet time with these attitudes.

Christ sets us free from our spiritual checklists.  People don’t come to know Jesus because we scored 100% for the day.  People come to know Jesus when we, the Church, are living life alongside others.  When we are being Christ to them. 

So I urge you: YES – read your Bibles.  YES – have your quiet time.  YES – worship in song.  But if these are the only things that help you determine how “productive” your day was, then you’ve got it all wrong.

People need Jesus.  And the only way they’re going to hear about him is if you’re not chained up in your own religious prison.  Who would want that Jesus anyway?  Jesus came to abolish the law, so let’s stop making our own.


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Freedom to live by the Spirit, freedom to serve others.  Freedom to live under the new law of grace.  Live as one who has been set free, for you are free indeed.

Amen.

[Image courtesy of Flickr.com]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Five Maundy Thursday Thoughts

I know I said the blog would be quiet until the Monday after Easter, but I could not resist sharing with you some thoughts from Luke 22. These jumped out at me so clearly this morning, and I pray they will be of help to you as you meditate on Christ's journey to the cross today.
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Luke 22:2 - The chief priests and the scribes feared man and the power and opinion of the crowds. These men looked to save themselves, crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ as a result.

In what ways am I rebelling against the Risen Lord Jesus in order to maintain control and power over my own life? Am I seeking to save my life, instead of losing it for the sake of Christ?

Luke 22:6 - Judas sought to betray Christ "in the absence of a crowd." He feared the repercussions of betraying Christ and sought to protect his own reputation. Little did Judas realize, though he could escape the crowds to betray the Lord in the garden, God saw everything.

What sins am I facing in the darkness of my own heart? How does the knowledge that nothing is hidden from God encourage me to confess and repent? 

Luke 22:13 - Peter and John find the upper room "just as [Jesus] had told them." This is yet another reminder that Christ is worthy of our trust and obedience. What God wills, He sees through to completion. This included the suffering, death and resurrection of His Son.

What do I need to trust Jesus with today? How do His sufferings, death and rising encourage me in trusting God's will? 

Luke 22:14-22 - How Jesus faced the road to Calvary is with resolute determination and thanksgiving to the Father.

How does Christ's example teach me to face trials today? 

Luke 22:24-30 - The disciples got distracted from Christ's purpose in suffering. They sought selfish ambition and set their minds on earthly value systems. In essence they said, "To be with you, Jesus, isn't enough - I want such and such benefits in addition to You."

Is Christ sufficient for me? Or do I get distracted by other ambitions, or desire the good gifts of God over knowing God, himself?

May the reality of the wonderful cross strengthen you to trust the Savior more today, as you seek to surrender your lives to His loving rule.

Have a blessed Easter! He is risen, indeed.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why We Do Not Lose Heart

By Kristen Leigh Evensen
"The only constant is change."
Most of us have probably heard that statement. And it's true. Just take one glance at the world, and it is clear that things are not as they should be. Circumstances are constantly shifting. People betray. Disaster strikes. Health fails. Finances deplete. Disappointments burden.

Many months ago, our nation experienced the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, followed by a devastating fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. A week later, a tornado flattened the town of Moore, Oklahoma. One moment, relative peace. The next, discord and chaos.

How in the world are we to deal with the inconsistencies—no, the tribulations—of this life?

We can complain and grumble. We can ignore. We can laugh it off. We can worry. We can rage. We can blame. We can run away and hide. We may exhibit all of these responses at some point or another. The frustration, though, lies in knowing that none of these reactions can truly change a thing. And just when we think circumstances are “on the upward swing,” another unexpected shift occurs.

Scripture gives us a better way to view our constantly shifting world by teaching us where to place our security, identity and hope.

The apostles of the early church found themselves up against this challenge. Persecuted at every turn for proclaiming the name of Christ, their circumstances simply could not be relied upon as they traveled from city to city, sharing the Gospel. Listen to how Paul describes their many tribulations:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

There was something wholly different about the way these men responded to their unpredictable circumstances. Amidst their seemingly dire, painful and disheartening situations, they discovered the secret to never losing heart:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The apostles chose never to lose heart because they put their hope in the only true, unseen God who never changes. Because of God’s unchanging nature, they trusted that His promises were true, His Kingdom never-failing, and their identities forever secure in Jesus Christ.

And so it can be for you.

As followers of Christ, our identity is no longer found in this world. So when the winds of change begin to blow violently all around us, we can choose to focus instead on our unchanging God. We can confidently rest in the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to make us blameless before the Father. We can wholly believe in the power of the resurrection to raise us to eternity. We can firmly trust God’s justice to make all wrongs right. We can assuredly hope in Christ’s promise to redeem all things unto Himself. This steadfast confidence remains, whether all is right with the world or chaos takes its toll.

Be encouraged by three more specific reasons as to why we do not lose heart:

ONE: We view the imperfections, disappointments and tribulations of our earthly bodies and our transient world as reminders. Paul says, "our outer self is wasting away," knowing full-well the frailties of the flesh and the troubles of the world. When situations are constantly in flux all around us, we are reminded that we are not home yet. This does not negate the difficulty of enduring heart-wrenching trials and devastations; so many troubles do indeed sadden our souls and make us yearn for our home in eternity. But we can choose not to lose heart by realizing that the world is fallen and cannot supply the constancy and security that our hearts were made to desire. In the words of the psalmist,“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalms 73:26).

TWO: Our sanctification is guaranteed. Since we are in Jesus Christ, who is the power of the resurrection, our "inner self is being renewed day by day." Although we will not attain our perfect, heavenly bodies until Christ takes us home, we rest assured that He is completing the work He began in us when we trusted Him as Savior (Philippians 1:6).

THREE: We gain a transformed perspective. Paul says that our worldly affliction is preparing for us an eternal reward “beyond all comparison.” We do not lose heart because our earthly battles are temporal in the grand scheme of the eternal Kingdom of God. This is not to belittle the pain that results from the battles, as even Christ knew unbearable suffering on the way to the cross (Philippians 3:10). But the resurrection changed everything. With the Kingdom of God as the ultimate reward and measure of glory, we can choose to view our circumstances through a transformed perspective and not lose heart.

This life is full of troubles. Jesus proclaimed this reality to His disciples over two-thousand years ago, and its truth remains. As a twenty-four-year-old, I know that I have only just skimmed the surface of our fallen world and all its implications. Yet, regardless of age, what blessed assurance for us to realize that whatever comes, Jesus’ hopeful words ring true: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Blessed Savior, we adore You and praise You for overcoming the grave! Because of the hope you have given us in Your life, we do not lose heart. Strengthen us to trust You more deeply, and renew our minds to see all things through the lens of eternity. We are confident in You and find blessed assurance at the cross, for all times and all situations. Conform us to Your likeness.

Amen. 

[This article first appeared on iBelieve.com / Image courtesy of flickr.com]

Friday, March 14, 2014


What is the purpose of studying the Scriptures?

Do you struggle with depression? Fight for joy.

This woman is nailing her ministry to the cross.

If you are battling with sin, may this post encourage you today.

If you know people who reject Christianity...


The Identity Project will be taking a respite during the Lenten season, but we will meet you here again after Easter! We pray that this season of meditating on the gospel draws you nearer to Christ, causing you to love Him more every single day.

Have a blessed weekend!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Filled With Awestruck Wonder

By Jill Daniels
Music draws me to God. 
There are a couple of songs that God has truly spoken to me through in the past couple of years. They remind me of sweet times with him. It’s almost like a familiar hug or hello from God. Every time I hear these songs on the radio or in church I feel like God is speaking to me, since he knows how much those lyrics mean to me. My face gleans a smile and my eyes instantly look up with a grateful heart that God knew in that moment I needed to hear from him.

This past week I have heard Revelation Song by Phillips Craig and Dean multiple times. I really felt like I was having a conversation with God about how great he is, as I remembered the first time this song impacted my heart.

Here's the story: You’ve probably heard me speak about my trip to Rome, Italy during my junior summer of college. It was there that this song was imprinted in my heart. Or rather, it was our reflection trip towards the end of my time there in Tuscany where it really stuck.

I had gotten to know the thirty students and staff that were there on the trip for about five weeks, and we were about to all head back to the states. We took a couple of days to retreat to Tuscany to talk about what we had learned and how we saw God impact the city we were in. The place we stayed at was a farm on a cliff (with an infinity pool!) in the mountains of Tuscany. To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.

God really met me at this place. Being in a city for five weeks with so much noise and people everywhere wasn’t a place that I heard God’s voice that often. So with the silence and beautiful nature I saw in Tuscany, it was truly a breath of fresh air to my heart. 

One night some of the students and I decided we were going to go lay out by the pool and look at the stars. One of the guys brought his guitar and we started to sing worship songs while laying on the pool deck and looking up. This is where the song that we had sung over and over on the trip really spoke to me. Let me give you a glimpse of some of the lyrics:

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lighting, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and 
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery.

The imagery of the rainbows, lighting, thunder and the awestruck feeling of seeing God is exactly what I was feeling at that very moment as I watched the stars on that cliff in the mountains.

I feel like I got a glimpse of what the psalmist was saying in Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

I wish I could have stayed in that spot for years to just be able “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”

From that moment on God has spoken to me in beautiful places. Every time I see something breathtakingly beautiful the lyrics, "Filled with wonder / awestruck wonder / at the mention of Your Name,” pop into my head. I am completely filled with wonder when I think about how God’s beauty is beyond anything that we will ever see here on this earth. Yet, he still chooses to speak to us in those places to point our hearts toward eternity, reminding us of what is to come!

God, we thank you so much for your beauty! We are so awestruck at how beautiful you have made this earth and the power you have just as we mention your name! We are filled with wonder at the way you choose to speak to us through the nature you have given us and the whisper of eternity and how beautiful it will be to be with you in heaven! Thank you for a renewed heart through this winter season! You are beautiful! 

Amen. 

[Photo courtesy of flickr.com ]

Friday, March 7, 2014











The True Measure of Success For Women

Do you make these mistakes in your women's Bible study?

How your devotional time can become dangerous...

Why the gospel frees us from perfectionism...love this reminder.

A very helpful sermon on how best to serve your family.

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Waiting Game

By Julie Gernand
I'm not good at waiting. 
Patience is definitely not a virtue that comes easily to me. Whether waiting at the dentist to go in for a teeth cleaning, or waiting to hear what part I was given in a school play, my always-on-the-go, energetic nature has often gotten the better of me. I often drive myself crazy while waiting for something to occur, hoping that somehow I can have control over the timing of the outcome. 

“I want to know things, God, and I want to keep things moving. NOW!” urges the voice in my head.

Many of us are going through a period of waiting in our current stage of life. Sometimes seasons of life mean waiting on a job, waiting for a spouse, waiting to have a child, waiting for a relationship to heal, waiting for an illness to pass...the list goes on.

Whenever I am faced with a season of waiting, I remember the times in Scripture when God called his people to wait. The Lord told Abraham and Sarah that they were to have a son. Yet - He waited until Sarah was in her nineties to fulfill this promise!

Talk about a long wait!

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, 
and Sarah your wife will have a son.” 

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18: 10-15)

Sarah’s disbelief was evident in her response to the news. She laughed! How I love that. How utterly human of her! I can see it happening. “How could God come through on something after all this time? Ha!” she thought. But our mighty God can do anything!

One caveat here. Yes, God can do anything he pleases. But often, the answer to our “God, why am I waiting?” question may come as something other than what we had in mind in our perfect scenario.

I recently heard an acronym that I find very helpful: P.U.S.H - "Pray Until Something Happens." God knows the desires of our hearts. God knows our past, present, and future. He knows what is in His best interest for us. While praying through our time of waiting, we also need to pray that God aligns the desires of our hearts to be His design for us.

We are all in the same period of waiting right now, as we await Christ’s return. Some days, when I find myself bogged down by the troubles around me, aware of all our worldly turmoil, I think, “Lord! Come quickly! End this suffering we are surrounded with and take us with you!”

And what a grand day that will be! Yet, until Christ’s return, and while we wait for earthly struggles to sort themselves out, we can be sure of three things:
  • God is supreme, aware, and active.
  • God listens, hears, and acts on our prayers. 
  • God never uses our periods of waiting on any situation for naught. 
You pray, and God will act - according to his good, gracious, and perfect will.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.
(Lamentations 3: 25-26)

Lord, Forgive me when I am impatient. I cannot see past the end of my own nose many days. Help me to see the bigger picture. Help me to trust that you have my best desires in mind, and that as I submit myself to you, you will help me to live for you, no matter what the circumstance.

Amen.
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