Purpose (Identity in Christ Part 15)

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future, Jeremiah 29:11.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps, Jeremiah 10:23.

People can wander aimlessly their entire lives and never live the abundant life Christ died to give them. There is a reason for each of us to  be alive. God does not make mistakes and every life has a divine purpose. The world says, “Focus on what’s temporary. Earn the most money, have the biggest house, car, material possessions, the best spouse, focus on your family, yourself. Have the best body. Become the most famous. Do what feels good for you.”  God says, “Put Me first. Seek first My Kingdom and everything you need will be added unto you (Matt 6:33).” The world makes the purpose of life to please ourselves and those around us. God says the purpose of life is to know Him, enjoy Him, be loved by Him, make His name famous in the earth, to become more like Him, and to love others. How backwards the world is to His Kingdom.

We also live in a world that tries to make God unnecessary. If He is not made to be unnecessary, then He is a means to get what we want. People go to God with their plans and purposes and say, “Here God, bless my agenda. Bless what I want.” God is a loving Father who longs to give us good things. However, He knows all, sees all, and loves us more than anyone else. I am not sure we try to get Him on board with our plans instead of seeking Him for His. He is perfect. We are flawed. He knows all, we know little. He loves us, we don’t always fully love ourselves. He is not a means to get what we want. He paid the ultimate price so we could be heirs with Him. We are no longer our own, but we belong to Someone great.

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men, 1 Corinthians 7:23.

You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body, 1 Corinthians 6:20.

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”, Isaiah 45:9.

So what does this mean exactly? Does it mean I need to ask God what type of toilet paper to buy, what clothes to wear, or what to eat? Not exactly. God gave us a brain and expects us to use them. He most likely will not tell us to shower, brush our teeth, or eat food to live. There are some things in life I believe we need to talk to God about, decisions that have the ability to impact our lives on earth until eternity. I believe if we are seeking God with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls we will be led by the Holy Spirit to make the right choices. It does not mean we will not fail, mess up, or misunderstand God. It does not mean God will always tell us what we want to hear. It does mean that living our lives seeking first His Kingdom leads to eternal blessings. Seeking God can only lead to blessings. Choosing our own way can lead to disaster. Think of it this way…

If we honor God with our bodies, He is glorified.

If we honor God with money, then we have the potential to help and bless others by building His Kingdom.

If we honor God by sharing the Gospel, then we can partner with God to see more people enter His Kingdom.

If we honor God with our relationships, then we can see others become more like Christ.

If we put God first, we become more like Him and are able to enjoy His presence.

What if the story of our lives is not only being written by God, it is about God? The truth is, the story is about Him. You may say, “How can God make everything about Him?” Well, He’s God. He can do anything He wants. He’s not a dictator. He is not cruel. He is love. He is good. He is the King of the Universe. There is no one above Him. He has given us full  access to Him-to the One who is perfect, wise, and good. He knows why we are here. If we want to know the purpose of something, we don’t ask the thing-we ask the one who created it. God created everything in the earth. Every human being His idea. He is the one to seek for purpose. Bless you friends! Love, Erin.

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Follow the Leader (Identity in Christ Part 14)

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Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does, John 5:19.

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me, John 5:30.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me, John 6:38.

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it, John 12:29.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me, John 12:26.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me, Matthew 16:24.

Following Jesus

There are quite a few verses above. Tonight, I wanted to talk about following Jesus. We are co-heirs with Christ, which means we are linked to Him. Not only are we linked to Him, considered family, we are called to follow Him. We live in a world that is obsessed with independence and doing things our own way. The world says, “Get yours. Do your thing. Think about yourself. It’s your world.” God has a completely different plan and purpose for our lives. Jesus modeled for us what our lives could be if we abide in Him. He said, “Follow Me.”

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It seems like a simple question. It’s more than doing what we are told. Obedience to God is important, but God is looking for more than our checking the box. God is looking at the heart. God knows why we do what we do. God doesn’t say, “Try harder.” He does repeatedly say, “Come to Me. Abide in Me. Rely on Me.” If we could do it on our own, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

I believe following Jesus starts with  relationship. Jesus died for us to be in relationship with Him. It’s not easy to follow a stranger. Following God begins with getting to know Him. Think about it. If a stranger showed up and said, “Do what I say or do as I do,” your response would most likely be, “No way. I don’t know you.” Many times we struggle because we don’t know Jesus. We know of Him. We’ve read the His Word. We go to church. However, we don’t know Jesus personally. He’s a figure, someone we hear about and read about. We obey out of obligation not love. Now think about the person you know loves you the most, would do anything for you, the one you trust the most. If they said, “Follow me,” you’d be more inclined to go.

We can spend years going to church and miss Jesus. Why? Because relationship with God is supposed to be a personal thing. Corporate worship equips us, points us to  Him, and enable us to engage in fellowship with other believers. It does not replace or substitute a relationship with God.

The Building of a Relationship

It starts with Jesus. In order to have a relationship with the Father, we start by a relationship with Son. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him,” John 14:6-7.

Submission to the Holy Spirit. God is with us everywhere. We are the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity. He works in us to teach us, lead us, guide us, and enable us to become more like Jesus. If we yield our lives to Him, we will see tremendous fruit and a flourishing relationship. He is often that still small voice that says, “This is not a good idea.” Or the nudge in your spirit to apologize, make something right, to flee from sin, to confess your sins, or to spend time with God.

We are blessed to listen to the Holy Spirit. We are told not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, 1 Thess 5:19. Everything He leads us to do is right.

Time. We have heard the words “quiet time with God” and it makes some people cringe. It seems like an obligation. “I must spend time with God today for X amount of time.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like spending time with people who feel forced to. It’s awkward and not fun. I would much rather spend time with those who want to know me, be with me, and enjoy my  company. They don’t come to study me, they come to simply be with me.

What does it look like to be with God? Well, there are endless possibilities. I’ve found sweet encounters with God while gardening, painting, walking in the park, listening to the Bible, resting, worshiping, journaling, etc…I believe we need to read the word of God and study it. However, if we limit our only time with God as reading the word for a certain amount of time we will grow bored. Some people come alive and can read the word for hours and they are satisfied. Others can not. God knows how to interact with each and every child.

Final Notes

Spending time with God, getting to know Him, enables us to trust Him. The more we get to know Him, the easier it is to follow Him. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” John 10:27. When we know Him, following Him is not a burden but a privilege. It’s an honor to follow someone who was willing to die for you. Jesus died for us while we were guilty. I don’t know of anyone who would give their life for the guilty. Not only did He die for us, He cannot lie. God is completely trustworthy, kind, generous, compassionate, and good. We can rest assured that God will not hurt or harm us. So, when He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me,” we can trust that where He is going, we want to go. We want to follow Jesus. We want the path that leads to life.

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The Fullness of God (Identity in Christ Part 13)

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The quote above from C.S Lewis is spot on for what I wanted to talk about today. We need God. We don’t need another self-help book, or more advice from people, or to have the latest greatest preacher or prophet pray for us and speak over our lives. We need GOD. People spend their lives going round and around in circles looking for answers when God is the answer. He knows all, sees all, and nothing that happens to us or will happen to us is unknown to Him. So, why do we spend so much time seeking our own wisdom, or the advice of others, instead of developing intimacy with God?

I am not stating it’s wrong to seek the counsel of others, prayer from others, or help from people. God created families and communities so we would be able to be blessed by one another. People, however, will never, ever be able to replace God. They are not God and will never be God.

Any good thing done for us is motivated by God. Did you know God can prompt a non-believer to bless you.

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him, Proverbs 16:7.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, James 1:17.

God alone is good. When we see people doing things that are genuinely good, we can thank God. Remove God and what you have is selfishness and evil.

If God alone is good (which He is), why do we not spend more time getting to know Him instead of everyone else. Here are a few traps that prevent us from going to the true source…

The trap of “I can do it on my own.”

We live in a society that says, “Take care of yourself. Be a self-made person. It’s about you!” The world promotes pride. Pride is what got Lucifer into trouble. He wanted to exalt himself above God. I believe we seek our own wisdom out of pride. There is something inside us that says, “I can figure this out. I know what to do.” The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:5-8.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.

We don’t have to ask God what to wear or about every single detail of our lives. We are encouraged to ask God for wisdom, insight, knowledge, and understanding. God is the fullness of wisdom, intelligence, insight, and knowledge. No one knows more than He does. He created everything we see. How awesome is it that He invites us to ask Him for wisdom. I don’t know about you, but I want to speak to the One who knows it all and cannot lie. People give us their opinions and insight which may be good, however everything God gives is perfect. He not only knows all, He knows what to say and how to say it. I have had people give me their opinions that did not line up with what God was speaking. They went by their perceptions of a situation. God looks at the entire picture. He knows every hair on our heads and knows why we do what we do even when we don’t know. Nothing is hidden from Him.

The trap of “I can’t know God.”

I have heard people say, “I don’t hear God’s voice, and I don’t feel Him near.” So, they give up on developing a relationship with God and settle for less than what Jesus paid for. Some people are waiting for a glorious power encounter like Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus. The Bible tells us the following. Jesus said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me, John 10:27. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse, Romans 1:20.

The Bible tells us two valuable things, God has made himself known and makes Himself known to the world. He set up nature and everything around us so we would ponder who is responsible for it all. We also have a sweet word from Jesus that as His followers we will know His voice. We can learn the voice of God and hear His voice. God makes Himself available to be known. He’s pursuing us more than we could ever pursue Him. When I first became a Christian I did not have the encounters with God that some people around me had. I thought it was only for the spiritually mature, pastors, etc…I read in the Bible I could have a great relationship with God, it simply wasn’t happening the way it was for others. It wasn’t until I read Tommy Tenney’s book Come Thirsty in my late teens that I decided this hearing from God thing was something I wanted every day and I wanted intimacy with God more than anything. I am sure it was all initiated by God, and I take no credit for the desire. Growing to know God is the best thing that has ever happened in my life.

We can all know Him and have as close of a relationship as we want to have with Him. He is no respecter of persons. It’s not for some “special people.” It’s for everyone. Come one, come all!

The trap of “I will talk to everyone but God  or substitute people for God”

We covered this earlier, but we can become obsessed with seeking people for help, counsel, and wisdom. God is the source. People are not to be our primary source. They can not handle the weight of our brokenness. Only God can. People are flawed and sinful. God has no sin. We can be completely vulnerable with God with no fear. People even with the best of intentions can do great harm and damage to us. They operate out of their world view and limited knowledge. I have confidants, but I have learned that not every person who claims Christ is trustworthy, wise, or the right person to ask for help. I now ask God to lead me to the right people instead of allowing any and everyone to speak into my life. Even family can give bad advice and counsel. People, I repeat, people are not God. They will never be God. He alone is God.

The trap of “I am too busy or I will substitute things or activity for God.”

I love the phrase, “If you only pray when you’re in trouble, you are in trouble.” We need God. If we only talk to Him when we are in need, we are running on empty. Jesus operated on full. He regularly prayed to the Father, fasted, withdrew away for alone time with the Father, and when the storms came-Jesus rebuked the storms. He operated on full. He showed us how to live life. He was fully human and fully God. We are fully human and if we are believers, filled with God’s Spirit. We are also called to operate on full and draw from and rely on the Holy Spirit. He is all-powerful. We cannot be too busy for God. He said to love Him first above all. He is to be loved above work, above ministry, above family and spouses, above friends, above comfort, above food and pleasure. God is to be first. If He is not first, then we have an idol lurking somewhere. And our idols can do nothing but enslave us. Whatever is more important than God has to be thrown on the altar, for no person can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We either worship, love, and serve God…or we don’t.

I imagine if I were giving a motivational speech to sum this up it would go something like this….

Do you want more joy, hope, peace, and love in your life? Come to Jesus!

Do you want a more fulfilled life? Come to Jesus!

Do you want more wisdom and insight? Come to Jesus!

Do you want to be a better person? Come to Jesus!

Are you tired, worn out, weary, and without hope? Come to Jesus!

Do you need a friend who will stick closer than a brother and will never leave you, forsake you, or betray you? Come to Jesus!

Are you struggling, hurting, addicted, or in desperate need? Sweet friend come to Jesus!

One size fits all! He has all that you need and more. He is never closed. He always has time for you. He always has your best interests at heart.

We have the treasure that never runs dry. God does not fail. God has unlimited resources that He longs to share with His children. God overflows. He has no lack. He is available 24/7 for us & no one else is. He is the only One who can be with us always, even to the ends of the age. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age, Matthew 28:20b.

So my dear friends, I pray that this year 2013 we will seek first the Kingdom of God and all of His righteousness. When He is first in our lives, we experience the fullness of God. We become like the One we worship. When we are full of God, every person who crosses our paths is blessed beyond measure. The world does not need more people who are full of themselves. The world needs more people who are rooted in Christ and look like their Papa. May we be those people in this dark world. Love, Erin.

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Unlimited Resources (Identity in Christ Part 12)

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Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it,~Jesus. John 14: 11-14.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11.

God has not only promised us eternal life with Him in paradise, He has promised us access to unlimited resources here on earth. I am not talking about the prosperity message you see on TV, if you ask God for a million dollars He is obligated to give it to you. He’s not obligated to do anything. He’s God and He can say no to anything He wants, any time He wants. More than making us wealthy in terms of monetary wealth, God wants our souls to prosper. He wants us to become more like Jesus. Today I wanted to talk about the resources God has given us aside from salvation.

Grace (getting what we don’t deserve), mercy (not getting what we do deserve), love (nothing can separate us from His love), peace (Jesus said, “My peace I give to you, do not be anxious or afraid“), hope (Jesus went to prepare a place for us), joy (the joy of the Lord is our strength), healing (By the stripes of Jesus we are healed), wisdom (He who asks for wisdom will receive it), comfort (Jesus said, “Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest“), rest (God gives rest to the weary), friendship (He no longer calls us slaves but friends), revelation (God reveals Himself to us), knowledge (The Holy Spirit revels the mysteries of God and provides prophetic insight), His presence (we can come boldly before God as beloved children), freedom (He who the Son sets free is free indeed), victory (we are more than conquerors through Christ who gives us strength), provision (Our God shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory), the Holy Spirit (He is our seal marking us as belonging to God, He is at work to transform us from the inside out), The gifts of the Spirit (God provides gifts to every believer to build up the body of Christ), the fruit of God’s Spirit ( the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23a)), angelic support (God gives His angels guard over us), intercession (Jesus lives to intercede for us), power (we have been given power in Jesus name over evil, sin, and the works of the enemy).

God didn’t save us and say, “Good luck down there. I hope you survive.” No, He said, “I have saved you, redeemed you, empowered you, filled you with My Spirit, given you the keys to the Kingdom, set you free to set others free, given you full access to Me, now do what you saw My Son doing.” Jesus came not only to save, but to destroy the works of the enemy. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8.

God has given us the power and resources to say no to sin, to free the captives, to bring liberty to the oppressed, to heal the sick, raise the dead, change lives, and bring heaven to earth. It’s not by our power or strength, but by the power of God working through us. We are not just here to suffer through life. We are here to be victorious. We are here to be a light in a dark world. It’s not our light, but the light of God shining through us.

So, my friends, no matter what we face in this life, God has given us unlimited resources to overcome. We don’t tell Him what to do or make Him our servant. We align ourselves with the will of God and stand on the promises of His word. We are here to bring glory to His name. We have the world’s best Papa.

Father I pray we come to You for our needs to be met. I ask that we see and embrace all that you have given us in your Son. You are awesome and mighty. You are a strong tower. You are the all sufficient One. Lead us, guide us, and set our affections solely on You. In Jesus most powerful name, Amen.

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