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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Garbage in=Garbage Out

Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

God is so smart. Some people find Him in nature. I often find Him in science. In engineering we have a principle called a mass balance. Essentially what goes into a system comes out of a system. Even things that are absorbed during the process of chemical reactions impact the system. What you put in, is what will eventually come out. This also works for our minds.

I heard TD Jakes say, “rarely do people have fantasies of righteousness, dreams of good things happening, or the best outcome, or doing things to save the world. Most of the times our minds are filled with worry, doubt, unbelief, fantasies of sinning, anger, bad thoughts about people, dreams of how we can better our own lives instead of the world.” Why is that?

Garbage in=garbage out. What we watch, listen to, engage in, and open our minds and spirits to affects us. Listen to gossip for a long enough time, you will begin to gossip. Watch movies filled with lustful scenes all the time, you will begin to lust. What you take in, is what will come out. It’s inevitable. The passage above tells us to think on things that are good, pure, noble, praiseworthy,….the only way we are able to that is if we are purposefully filling our minds with good things. If we are purposefully spending time with God allowing Him to speak into our lives. If we are purposefully taking every thought captive and making it obedient to the Word of God. I am not saying you only read the Word, only spend time worshiping, or become a Monk. I am saying that whatever you repeatedly hear, you will begin to believe. What we open our minds to over and over plants seeds. Those seeds whether truth or lies, impact our spirits.

Fearful and worried thoughts are not from God. For there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.

Lustful thoughts are not from God. For love does not seeks its own pleasure but longs to do what is best for the other person. Lust seeks to take. Love seeks to give.∙        

Hateful thoughts are not from God. For love does not hate. Love rejoices with the truth, but loves those who sin. Love convicts, but does not condemn.        

Jealous and envious thoughts are not from God. For love is not jealous or envious. Love rejoices when someone else is blessed.

Rebellious thoughts are not from God. For love delights in doing the will of the Father. Submitting out of love and not obligation.        

Vengeful and spiteful thoughts are not from God. For love desires restoration to the Father over revenge.        

Controlling thoughts are not from God. For loves gives freedom and does not insist on its own way.

So, dear ones, may we guard our minds. The place where sin can easily creep in and begins to set up camp. May we take every thought captive and measure it against the Word. It’s seems like a painful task, but it is easier to demolish a thought, than a stronghold. Once we have dwelt on a lie or allowed sinful thoughts to take root in our minds, they are far more difficult to remove. May we put His Word in, and may His word come alive in us, working through us so we are transformed into the image of His glorious Son. In Jesus name, Amen.

Stronger

“We’re stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I am learning to box. Yes, fighting is fun until you get caught off guard and hit in the face. ☺ No worries, I am not out picking fights with people. It’s more for exercise and discipline. Life can be like a boxing match at times. You are all geared up, in the ring, ready to go, and out of the blue, BAM! Life hits you with a hefty upper cut and you are on the ground. You didn’t see it coming, but when you get up you realize something is broken.

I hate the word brokenness. It seems so final. I am broken. You are broken. It seems like such a negative word. Who wants to be broken? Mostly no one. However, as Ernest Hemingway stated and I am learning, we become the strongest in the places we have been broken. Just as our muscles become stronger after a strenuous workout, we (if we cooperate with God) become strong in the places where we have been broken. Here are some examples.

The person who’s been rejected learns to reach out to love others because they know what it feels like to be without love.

The person who’s been traumatized and abused reaches out to heal, comfort, encourage, and help those who are hurting.

The person who has failed repeatedly extends mercy to those who fail.

The person who suffers learns to help those who suffer.

The person who’s family life is beyond dysfunctional learns to be family for someone else.

The key to becoming stronger is allowing God in to every place that hurts and allowing Him to heal from the inside out. He is the Healer. Some of the most influential people I know have stories that would rock you to the core. You look at them and think, “How did they survive this?” And they use what happened to them to help others overcome. One word that I cling to is, “Don’t waste your pain.”  Use it. Use what life threw at you to destroy as a building block to help others and a stepping stone for your future. You can overcome. You can become stronger. God does not lie and He does not fail. He will use everything that happened to you to bring great glory to His name. You’ll look back years from now and say, “God is so faithful.” You are loved friends. You are deeply loved. The words I type to you, I type to me. We are more than conquerors through Christ who gives us strength. That strength is that same power that raised Christ from the dead. You are not without hope or a blessed future. Each day, may your heart grow stronger! Love, peace, and grace.

The Single Reality (Part 9)

Is Our House Divided?

A house divided against itself cannot stand, Mark 3:25

Today, I wanted to talk about something that touches my heart- Division within the Body of Christ. We learn from childhood to separate things into categories and lump things that are similar together. It is engrained into our minds to put labels on people and to associate with people who are similar. Our eyes have been trained to separate what is different. It can be a detrimental thing, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. Division is a way to destroy something or minimize its strength. Unity is powerful. One of the reasons I started this series was due to numerous blogs for married couples, engaged couples, those dating, and I could find very few that focused on single life as a Christian. If I did find one, they were geared towards getting a person to the altar instead of living a fulfilled life as a single person.

We Are In This Together….

As part of one race, the human race, we are all connected and sharing a planet. As part of Christ’s body, we are all connected by God’s Spirit. We belong to one another. In relation to single people versus married people we have some obstacles to overcome.

1. Separate Fellowship. Single and married people are to fellowship together within the body. God never intended for singles to only interact with singles and married people to only interact with other married people. He has a view of unity and community where His entire church body comes together and works together to give the world a picture of what He is like. Both groups are equal in His eyes. He sees one body, not a divided one. One is not more important that the other. They are to work together to display His Glory.

2. Isolation. I’ve met many single people who feel more and more isolated as their friends get married. Some lose their friends. Some have no community or family of their own. God never intended for anyone to feel left out, isolated, or without community. Check out the verses below from the church in Acts.

The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved, Acts 2:42-47.

The church was unified and they grew. They helped each other and supported one another. This is a true picture of a house undivided.

3. My Status Is Better Than Your Status. What a great way to keep us from loving one another than to create a world of, “My status is better than your status.” Our identity cannot be rooted in our status. Our  identity is to rooted in Christ. If our identity is rooted in Christ then we view others as a part of our spiritual family. In His eyes, we are all His children, all heirs; no status is more valuable or important. There is no “us” versus “them”. Neither status makes us greater in God’s eyes.

4. My Family Versus God’s Family. Having our own families, caring for them, and making them a priority is important. However, there is God’s family that we are called to invest in as well. Investing in His family can include serving, volunteering, making disciples, and/or developing friendships. In God’s eyes all who are in Christ are family.  We may not want to invest in anyone other than our own biological family, but we have another family as well, our spiritual family.

Prayer:

Abba, I pray that our identities are rooted in You. May we be unified and not divided. Help us to see each other through Your eyes. Help us to view single life or married life the way You do. May our eyes be fixed on You. In Jesus name, Amen.

Change Your Mind & Change Your Life!

Change Your Mind & Change Your Life!

By Erin Lamb

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will, Romans 12:2. 

I love that God does not do all the work for us. Sometimes we wish for that. However, He does not intend to do everything for us. He gives us what we need to accomplish what He calls us to do. He gives us His Word as a blue print for how to live. He gives us friends and family to support the dreams He placed in us. He gave us desires and dreams so that we will use our imaginations and be creative.

God set it up so that we would be active participants in our lives. The scripture above is talking about our minds; renewing the mind. The mind is the place that sets the tone for the rest of the body. Where the mind goes, the body follows. Feed the mind junk and negativity, out pops negative attitudes and sinful behavior. Spend all your time watching movies or TV with immoral messages and questionable behavior, eventually you will find that your mind will dwell on those things. Satan did not force Eve to sin. He simply planted a doubt in her mind. He can’t force you or me to do anything either. He can only plant lies and watch to see if we uproot them or let them settle in.

So, what are you thinking? Are you thinking that you are a gift from God and He placed you here to change the world for the better? Or are you stuck with stinking thinking where all your thoughts about yourself and the thoughts of your future are bleak and grim? Are you partnering with God for change or waiting on Him to do all the work. Sometimes He does that (all the hard work for us). But often He says, “Come partner with Me to make your dreams a reality.” I heard a funny joke a few months ago. This man was praying to God over and over to hit the lottery so he could be rich. He would pray and pray…finally one day during his prayer time, an angel showed up and said, “Buy a lottery ticket!!!” Isn’t that like us? We want God to bless us while we wait passively and idly by. Well, sometimes that works, but other times it doesn’t. Also some things in life are just tragic, and we cannot change them. I am not speaking of those things. I am speaking of the things that are within our realm of being able to change.

When God spoke to me about doing a book, that still meant I had to finish writing it, edit it, research publishers, etc…it was a lot of work. I had to do my part. I love that TD Jakes said, “God blesses doers not just hearers.” So, if we want our lives to change, it starts with what we are thinking. Change your mind. Pray. Seek Godly counsel. And get moving. Want a new job, take some classes, research what you want to do, and start sending out resumes. Want new friends, get out and meet new people! Want companionship, leave the house and do things you enjoy. Want to lose weight, exercise and eat right. Tired of your current situation, think of ways to change it and act on it. Don’t limit yourself to your current surroundings. Doing the same things over and over yields the same results. In a bad relationship, do what you can to make it better, and leave the rest to God. I’ve wasted years being frustrated at things I cannot change, but I can change my mind. I can partner with God to change my life and my outlook. I can partner with Him to have the best life possible. I can surround myself with positive, healthy, and loving people who are seeking the best out of life.

No one can do all the work for us! We are the necessary participants in changing our lives. God will do His part, but we have to do ours. We ask, seek, and knock and put ourselves in a position to be blessed.

Lastly I will say that the people you allow to speak into your life and who you spend time with will impact your thinking. Are they positive? Are they seeking God’s best for you? Are they hearing from God or providing their human logic  or opinions? God always has something affirming to say, and He is perfect in wisdom. Even His correction leads to restoration and renewal. I recommend Him as the person to talk to the most and listen to the most. He is quite amazing! Not only that, He knows every detail about everything. So if He tells you something, you can be certain it’s the truth. ☺ 

“God will You show us the areas of our lives that we need to actively participate in changing. Help us to lay all that we cannot change at Your feet and pick up the pieces that are our responsibility. Help us to trust You as the One who has what is best for us. Help us to live life to the fullest and not wait on something better to happen in order to be happy. Help us to find our happiness and contentment in what is going on right now. We love You. Thanks for all you do and have done. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Key to Happiness

Key to Happiness

By Erin Lamb

 
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand, Psalm 16:11. 

If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment, Job 36:11. 

It seems like everywhere you look people are looking for ways to be happy. Most of the time the happiness is linked to something external. If I had this job, then I would be happy. If I lost weight, then I would be happy. If I looked different, then I would be happy. If I had this person, then I would be happy. If I could get married, then I would be happy. If I could get rid of my spouse, then I would be happy. If I had more money, then I would be happy. If I had all my dreams come true, then I would be happy. If I could only have ….., then I would be happy. Well the Bible tells us something different. The Bibles says that contentment and joy come through obedience to God and by being in His presence. I am not saying that the externals don’t make a difference, they do! I am saying that the externals provide temporary relief to an underlying heart issue.

Have you ever begged God for something, then after you had it for awhile realized it didn’t fulfill you? That’s because God is the only source of lasting joy and happiness. He remains constant and steady when all of life is in chaos. He is the only tried and true, 100 percent guaranteed source of security, life, hope, and enduring love. NOTHING can replace Him. Yes, at first the things we run to, cling to, and beg for provide some fuel for our happy tank. However, once the thrill is gone and our tank is depleted, we find that we are off searching for a new fix. If God is not the ultimate source of our happiness (relationship with Him), then nothing He can give us will truly satisfy. We will cling to what the Bible refers to as empty cisterns. They provide temporary relief. If money solved all the problems in the world we wouldn’t have so many millionaires with messy lives. If being with another person solved all the problems, then we wouldn’t have so many divorces and relational breakups. The truth is, God made us for Him. He is the best thing to ever happen to us. If we are content in Him, then the externals are simply the cherry on the cake. He’s so good that He is the cake and the frosting too.

My prayer for us (me and you) is that we seek His face and not His hand. He gives really good gifts and wants to exceed our expectations in this life as well as eternity. However, He never wants the gifts to replace love for Him. He wants us to give thanks for what we have, even if it seems like a little because somewhere there is someone who is worse off than we are. Giving thanks also leads to happiness because we realize that God does not give us what we deserve which would’ve been wrath and destruction, instead He gave us Himself. He gave us life. He continues to give us love. He wants a deep intimate relationship with us. He wants to be first in our lives. He knows no other person or thing can do for us what He can.

Closing prayer:

“Abba I pray that our happy button would be connected to You, the only source of lasting joy! Only You can complete us, fill us, love us to overflow. Only You can provide lasting happiness. You are the source that never runs dry. You are perfect. Your ways are perfect. May we rest our hearts on Yours. Thanks for all you do and have done. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.”