Season of Atonement

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Every day we do not realize what we take for granted. Most of us do not recognize daily what God has given us such food, money, shelter, family, friends, clothing, etc. Whether it be big or little, we tend to overlook the blessing in disguise and Who it all came from. Let me submit to you that we, the children of God, do not give proper thanksgiving and gratitude to our Creator on a daily basis as we should. In addition, we often get carried away in our thoughts, words, and actions without realizing that perhaps we may have hurt someone with them. Maybe we’ve committed a sin and have buried it deep into our soul to never be uncovered or revealed. Perhaps we’ve unintentionally sinned in the past and don’t quite know how to deal with it.

My friends, now is the time, this is the season to make atonement for your known or unknown sins. This is the time to be humble before your friends, your family, and most importantly, before God. He sees all and knows all every single day. What you don’t want to uncover, He knows it’s there and He wants it to come to the surface so you can be healed and no longer carry that burden. Reveal your weaknesses, be vulnerable unto your King. We are imperfect human beings. We make mistakes every single day. Can you even wrap your mind around the fact that an ultimate sacrifice has already been made to cover every single sin you’ve ever intentionally or unintentionally committed? Do we take that for granted too? Do we reason that if we just make one tiny mistake that God’s grace will cover it? Does that make it okay?

It is not okay to sin and reason with yourself that God’s grace is right there to forgive you every time. This is called abusing the “grace card”, in my opinion! There was much pain and suffering that went into making that sacrifice on our behalf. The least we can do is honor it with everything in our being. The least we can do is take some time, not on just one day of the year, but every day, to pray and ask for forgiveness. We can pray and thank God for the sacrifice He made for us so that we could live forever with Him. We can be humble and leave the burden of our prideful ways behind us so that we can walk forward with a clean heart and mind and a renewed soul and spirit. Don’t we want to be closer to Him? Burying sins only leads us further away from him. Let us come to Him during this season of repentance with a humble heart, longing to be clean and pure before our King. Let us fast from the things that bring us pleasure and remember the sacrificial love that was poured out. Let us sacrifice anything and everything that would ultimately bring us pleasure and allow God to purge us of any impurities so that we may be made pure again! Then, let us rejoice because of His favor, mercy, and forgiveness! We can strive to live holy and set apart lives as if He’s right next to us watching our every move and listening to our every word. Our vulnerability brings Him joy, because it allows Him to work on us. We all could use some fixing, tweaking and healing. When we give Him that vulnerability, we will in return receive much blessing, healing, purity and growth.

Here’s My Heart

Around the Bend

around the bed pic

As a child we are so innocent. We come into the world knowing nothing except what’s constantly entering our senses as we take in and absorb our surroundings. We are so careless and have not the slightest idea of the definition of fear or love. We begin to grow and take in people, surroundings, and develop a basic level of understanding. We are solely dependent upon our loved ones who spend their lives taking care to protect and guide us to become the person God has called us to be. As we grow even older, we begin to understand that eventually we will be on our own and there are many different paths to choose and walk down that will help train us to be the best that we can be for our future family that we will have to create under the hand of God. We understand that we must learn to do things on our own, be responsible, and most importantly, follow the will of God. However, there is some point in life where we will find ourselves stuck and in stagnant waters, not knowing where to go or what to do next. And that is perfectly okay.

Each day is a new journey. It’s another day to walk with God. Does it have to be a perfect journey? No. Life in itself is one big journey. We should walk the walk as if we are a child again: innocent, fearless, curious. A quote by Chanda Kochhar says, “Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete.” Loved ones and parents enjoy every little thing and accomplishment (no matter how big or small) that their child did as they were growing up. Similarly, our journey in the Father’s eyes, each step we take, is important to God. He wants us to take the right path and end up in the right place, but each step along the way and how we handle it is even more important than how we get there. Our Father is cheering us on, helping us take those first few steps and speak those first few words to help us be the best that we can be. He helps to mature, shape, and mold us into who we are called to be. Don’t worry what’s around the bend, just focus on where you’re at now. God will provide and equip you with what you need to be sustained and taken care of. You are in good hands as long as you stay faithful and true without worry or doubt. And if you do worry or doubt, He will be right there with you to help you through it because you are never alone on the journey. There are many ups and downs to the journey of life that we all walk. How we walk the journey is what matters the most because that will determine exactly where we will end up.

How to Deal with Public Shame

Public shame is sadly a real thing. It is something that is so easy to do, and sometimes it is done unintentionally. A lot of times, however, it is something people use to cover up something that they don’t want to see, hear, or believe because it will hurt their pride or beliefs. Have you ever been bullied before? Bullying seems to be raiding through schools, deteriorating young people’s minds, and lowering their self-esteem to dangerous levels. Have you ever been ridiculed for what you believe in? How did you handle yourself? Was it difficult to stand your ground in who you are and what you believe in, or did you give in to the potential shame/discomfort that you may have felt? There are so many ways to attack a person and bring shame upon them; there are also ways to create a perception of someone and their situation and bring it to other’s attention without providing the reality and truth in its fullness. However, if we were put into such a situation, how would we deal with it?

I have had the privilege of dealing with public shame and being hurt by many people. Hold up. “What did she just say”, you may ask? Did she just say privilege? Yes, I sure did! The way that I look at it is this: being put to shame isn’t always a bad thing. It’s more of an opportunity to fine tune your beliefs, grow and mature, and be true to what God has called you to be. If I am being pressed, I should consider it joy because I know Who is on my side and Who will stick up for me. I will have the knowledge of what God says and promises, and I won’t have to stop for a minute to believe what people say. I will need to have the understanding that people will always be capable of hurting, shaming, and putting me down, but my God is there to protect, honor, and bring me to my fullest potential. And guess what. He does the same for you too.

Now, I say all of this and you’re probably like, “Yeah, well that is all easier said than done.” You’re right! When you’re in the moment, it’s not so easy to be like, “Okay, God. This is awesome, I’m going to just keep walking forward and count this as joy. Because what this person said about me publicly or what this person did to hurt me isn’t going to affect me at all. Life is great, and I know what You say, so that’s all that matters.” That’s definitely not reality. When we are hurt or shamed, we review the situation over and over in our head, and the hurtful words are repeated and become ingrained into our mind. Sometimes we even believe what people are saying but we would never admit to it. In contrast, we may never believe what people say about us, thus creating a defense wall. The enemy is very smart in using different mind tricks to get us to give in to the pressures of the outside world. We become so overcome by what people think and say about us, that we forget who we are and what we stand for. It’s not easy standing out and being different. It’s extremely hard, but it’s extremely rewarding.

In my past experiences, when I was hurt or shamed by others, I felt the need to put up a defense wall and explain my reasoning. Do you think this would be a good way to handle things? Think about it. When you get into a heated discussion or argument with someone, do you not feel the need to defend yourself by explaining the “whys” and “hows” of things in order to help the other person understand? It seems like a logical explanation to me! Another response that people use when they are hurt or shamed by others is to just avoid the situation and not make an appearance or voice. They could remain silent and choose not to speak for themselves at all and just let people think what they want to think about them. Adam and Eve were the first to use this kind of response in the garden. When their eyes were opened to their sin, they felt the shame and became afraid. Therefore, they tried to hide from God and later place the blame and accusations on one another and satan himself (Gen. 3:7-13).

So the question is … What is the right response behavior to have when you are being attacked by shame, bullying, verbal abuse, etc.? Well, I can tell you that I certainly do not know all of the answers, but I can say that there is a time for everything as recorded in Ecclesiastes 3. In whatever situations we may be in, it is important to have the proper discernment and wisdom to know what to do. We often speak or act in haste without thinking and then later regret our actions. God wants us to think before we act or speak (Ecc. 5:2, Pr. 13:16). Sometimes there is a time to be silent, sometimes there is a time to speak. Other times there is a time to go directly to a person to speak about offenses (Matt. 18), and there are times where you may need to be vulnerable for truth to be exposed. Whatever the case may be, seek to strengthen your wisdom and discernment, because those traits are very important to have and use for the glory of God. Don’t ever make a decision based upon your flesh. Always pray and tune in to the spirit. Remember that everything happens for a reason. They are not always comfortable reasons. Our job is to stay obedient, follow His path, and stay humble. Next time you are being shamed or put down for something, stop and think about the situation. Be sensitive to the example that you’re setting for those around you.

F.A.I.T.H.

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F ocus

A udit

I nternalize

T rust

H ope

 

Faith is a common subject that people teach. It’s a common word that we hear in a sermon or that we read throughout the Bible. However, in my opinion, I don’t think it’s a common thing that is practiced enough. I also believe that people have different definitions of faith. If I type into Google what the definition of faith is, it says that it’s the “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” If I look up the definition in the Bible it says, “Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see” (Complete Jewish Bible). As we can gather, these are similar definitions, but the Bible gives much more insight into what it actually is and how we can walk it out. My friends, don’t rely on search engines such as Google, and don’t put all of your confidence in how other people or places define things. Put your complete trust and confidence in what the Bible says and how IT defines things. The Word of God should be your only reliable source to finding the gateway of where the Father truly desires you to be. How do you walk out true faith? In what ways or steps should you take to gain personal, emotional, or spiritual freedom? How can faith unlock the keys to the Kingdom?

As you can see in the title, I used the word “faith” as an acronym. Let’s zoom in on the word “focus”. What does focus have to do with the word “faith”? I believe that in order to understand what faith means and how to walk it out, you first need to shift your focus and make sure it’s zoomed in towards the correct focal point. In other words, know the ultimate picture that you’re achieving to capture, and make sure there are no obstacles in the way so that the viewer doesn’t lose focus of your picture. What should the picture or vision be? The ultimate vision is up to God. Whatever His big plan is for your life, your job is to obtain that vision, maintaining focus, so that your needs can and will be met, and so that you can carry out that vision to ultimately bring glory to God. If you are constantly looking for provision or are in a state of worry, constantly being distracted, then you’ve lost the vision! There are so many instances in life where we get easily distracted from God’s plan where worry and doubt begin to creep in. We become overwhelmed by the stress, hurt and pain of this life, being swallowed up in a pit of dust that just gets thrown and tossed around in the wind. The enemy easily shifts our focus to a state of distraction, which brings us to focusing on his vision which is of strife, hardship and trial. Colossians 3:2 states, “Focus your minds on the things above, not on the things here on earth” (CJB). I’m not saying that this is an easy task. It is by no means easy, but it is possible. It’s important to be sensitive and aware of where your mind wanders to and what you allow it to zoom in on. So, what is your focal point today? What or whom is your focus on right now in your life?

After you find and understand what your focus is, then you can begin to audit. Audit what? You can audit the way you think, the way you act, the way you perceive things, the way you treat other people … you can and should essentially audit yourself as a whole. Get rid of the old, selfish focal points, and put on the new and improved lenses! Try to put yourself and your life in a position of how God might view it. Would He be pleased? Compare your life and how you live to how God says you should live and act. Does it mirror that image? Sometimes we get to a place in life where we feel so comfortable and we don’t want to put in the effort to change or don’t feel the necessity to do things different. This is so selfish of us! Comfortability tends to rule out the obvious necessity of change that most of the time we aren’t willing make. How can we have the faith to move mountains if we have giant boulders in the way of us reaching that blessing and fulfillment?

After you search out and audit those things in your life that may be holding you back from reaching your full potential and having fearless faith, then you can start to internalize things from a Godly perspective. You can begin to seek out the right motives, understand the right beliefs, set standards and goals for yourself. You can begin to see and believe things the way God does. You can begin to react out of the Spirit rather than from the flesh. In addition, you can start to understand that in order to have freedom, there must come a price. Freedom isn’t free. We are spiritually free and forgiven because there was a PRICE that was paid (the death of Yeshua). We live in a free country because of the LIVES that were given up so that we could have and experience freedom. Sometimes God calls us to walk or live in a foreign land. This could mean that certain things or experiences that happen to us don’t make sense in the physical realm. For example, we can walk a Godly walk and follow His commandments, yet He allows bad things to happen to us and we just don’t understand. Maybe He’s called you to do something and you don’t know why. It’s all foreign to you; it doesn’t make sense. Are you willing to go that route to receive God’s promises? Are you willing to give up what you can see, feel and touch in the physical so that you can experience what God has already predestined for you?

After you audit and internalize, you can begin to restore lost trust and hope. It’s so easy to lose trust in someone; sometimes it’s even easier to lose trust in God because we cannot see Him. It’s even EASIER to lose trust and hope when we go through trials and hardships. It’s an easy pit to fall into when we begin to give into our flesh of thinking, speaking and acting negative as if God isn’t bigger than our problems that we’re facing. My friends, we have to be at a point where we are willing to lose our life in order to gain it. If we want to experience freedom, we have to have faith! Faith isn’t something we can see. The Bible clearly states that, along with many different examples of people who made a tremendous impact just because of their faith (Hebrews 11). Putting your trust in something is not an easy task; but it’s doable and is proven to be very beneficial to you as a person and for your spiritual growth as well. Using the faith that can move mountains will allow you access to the Kingdom of God. The blessing and fulfillment will come and His Kingdom will be glorified. Having faith actually requires you to be selfless, lay down your pride, and surrender. You will be immensely blessed if you pay whatever price is needed and trust that God already has it taken care of. Like Nick Vujicic reminds the people of God, “Don’t let your brokenness define your future.” You may feel like you’re in a bind, you can’t hold on any longer, or you can’t bear the heaviness anymore. Well, guess what? You don’t have to! God is there to carry all of your heavy burdens and He is there to walk with you every step of the way. You only need to trust that His way is higher and His plan is greater. You may not be able to see it right now, but He promises to meet all of your needs (Phil. 4:19). If you want to experience freedom from your bondage today, then I encourage you to:

 

F ocus on the things above, and change your mindset, creating a new focal point.

A udit your life, fixing the way that you think, act and speak.

I nternalize yourself in a way that you never have before. Create goals and motives to better yourself.

T rust that God is in control. Create a new, deeper foundation of trust in your life.

H ope in what you cannot see. Don’t let go of hope just because you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. God IS hope; He CAN bring you through the seemingly endless trials.

 

 

 

Boast Your Weakness

         Weakness blog pic
          What do you think of when you hear the word “weakness”? Sometimes when I hear or think about weakness it makes me cringe. I don’t like to think of myself as weak! Who does? Who likes to ponder on their weakness or their failures? Why would we even do that, and is there a benefit in doing so? And yet, the Bible has bizarre answers to these questions. Paul writes that we are to boast about our weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30) Friends, I’m here to tell you that there is much to gain from our weaknesses. In fact, I would venture to say that if we recognize and allow God to use them, our weaknesses will be transformed into strengths. Let’s look at this a bit closer.
          First of all, what makes us weak? Were we born to be weak? Of course not! The world was created into perfection until the Fall of man. The corruption came forth from the adversary, which deformed man into being weak. God did not intend for us to be weak. Weaknesses were a result of the Fall, but God can still turn this curse into a blessing. We can now consider what Paul was writing. What does it mean to “boast” about a weakness? Boasting is a recognition and lifting up of one’s own actions, achievements, abilities, etc.. When someone boasts about themselves or something related to themselves, they usually seek other’s recognition. Perhaps what Paul meant was that we need to seek to have our weaknesses recognized, both by ourselves and others. It’s like coming into a doctor’s office and eagerly exposing all the ailments. If we hide or deny that something is wrong, how can we expect the doctor to help? When weaknesses are exposed, it brings a person to a state of surrender and humility. That first step allows us to acknowlege that we need to depend on something or someone higher than ourselves. Once we expose our weaknesses into a state of vulnerability, that allows God to work. He can use this to establish the relationship that was ordained to begin with. The Lord proclaimed to Paul that, “My power is brought to perfection in weakness,” and Paul states that this is the reason why he’s happy to boast about his weaknesses. It takes a lot of humility, but when we are weak, He is strong. No longer do we protect our flaws, but we open them up before our loving Father. When we can get to that point, what do you think God will do with us? He already says what He will do! He says that through our weakness He is strong. He uses our weaknesses for His glory as He transforms it into something good. The chains fall, and He gives us new strength.
Our weaknesses become our strengths. This is hard to fathom, but this is the reality that God proclaimed to us. And yet, how can this be? Perhaps I can bring an example that can help. Matt Stutzman is a man that holds the world record for the longest and most accurate shot in archery. Out of everyone who has ever shot a bow, he is recorded to have shot farther and more accurately than them all. So where is the weakness in that? Well, Matt has no arms. He literally shoots with his feet and mouth, and he is proud of being the best despite of that. Perhaps, some say, he became the best because of that.
When we recognize the weakness that makes us often uncomfortable and expose them instead of defending them, we will then be amazed at what Abba Father will do. Don’t be afraid. Boast about them and allow yourself to accept change, as our Father’s grace is sufficient enough for us (v. 8 ). So next time when feeling insecure or vulnerable about a weakness, dare to receive the hidden blessing that is rewarded by his faithfulness.
Listen to this beautiful song by Lauren Daigle on what God says about us despite our weakness: You Say