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Sinners and saints

I saw a meme the other day, and I’ve heard this sentiment more than once:  “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”  I have difficulty with this phrase.  Not because we don’t sin, nor because the church can’t be a place of healing.  But, I believe the premise is backwards.  The Church is made up of believers in Jesus.  When we put our trust in Him, we become sanctified – set apart for God.  Holy.  In a word, a SAINT.  I know this might sound strange.  It was to me, when I first read that in Scripture.  We don’t tend to see ourselves as saints.  The biblical definition of a saint is someone who is set apart for God.  So, the Church is not a museum – it is a living temple of God.
When we fail to see ourselves as the new creation that God has made us, we diminish the finished work of Christ on Calvary’s cross.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we all live perfectly when we are saved.  I know I don’t.  But, the point is that God sees us through the blood that Jesus shed.  God sees us as perfect in Christ.  As we confess our sins, [they are cast as far from us as the east is from the west] (which never meet).

The purpose of the church is to build one another up in Christ.  To bear each others’ burdens.  To fulfill the ministry of reconciliation.  In that sense, the church is a hospital.  We are to come to the aid of other believers so that we can go out into the world and point the world to Jesus.  We cannot heal each other, however.  No matter how well-intentioned I am, or how much I try, I can never bring healing to your pain.  I can sympathize, empathize, hug, listen, pray and offer advice, but true healing is only found in one place – through Jesus.  As the Church (believers) points each of us to Jesus over and over again, encouraging one another to remain in the Word of God and on our knees,  Jesus brings the healing and strength we so desperately need.

I have a confession to make.  I have been in places the last couple years that have left me feeling worthless.  Feeling depressed.  Feeling utterly hopeless.  Feeling lost.  It has been tempting to give up and run away (a tropical island sounds good sometimes).  In short, because of some extremely difficult circumstances, I had doubted my identity in Christ, and consequently, my attitudes and behaviors followed suit.  But, do you know what?  God’s Word has a way of sneaking up on me.  God won’t let me forget His everlasting love.  He has challenged me over and over to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Romans 12:2), and He has reminded me over and over that He has not given me a spirit of fear, but a sound mind.  (2 Tim.  1:7).  And that I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

Believers from around the world (literally) have pointed me to Christ at every turn.  Oh, to be sure, they would allow me to lament and wail and grieve and cry (sometimes for extended periods of time).  But, then, they would calmly ask “Are you done?”  “Are you ready to remember what God has said?”  “Are you ready to listen to Him?”  And God heals.  He brings truth.  He gives hope.  He is patient (yes, even with me!).  He convicts. He chastises.  He forgives.  He is good.  I cannot express enough thanks for those that have faithfully, consistently, over and over (and over and over) pointed me back to Jesus; reminding me of who I am, and Whose I am.  God is not done working yet, and I have no idea what the future will look like, but my prayer is that as I remember my first love (Revelation. 2:4), I will be able to face difficulties with much more grace and confidence than I have in the past.

So, I want to leave you with a few questions (questions are like potato chips to me – I can never ask just one), if you are a believer:  Do you see yourself as a saint?  Do you find your value and worth in Jesus?  Do you live like a child of the King of Kings?  Do you seek to please Him?  How have other Christians pointed you to Christ?  Has God given you the opportunity to point other believers back to Jesus?  I want to challenge you to read the book of Ephesians.  The first three chapters are a reminder of who we are in Christ.  The last three chapters show how to live it out.

Life is hard.  But God is good.  Keep abiding on.

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Free from Your Critics!

Great article from Love Worth Finding Ministries.

Free from Your Critics!.

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Abiding in the Battle

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. – Eph 6:10-11 

The goal (v. 11):  To take your stand against the Devil’s schemes.

 The battle (v.12):  Not against flesh and blood.  Against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world.  And against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (See Ephesians 2:2)

The solution (v. 13):  Put on the armor!!!!  So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND your ground, and after you have done everything, to STAND.  STAND FIRM, then!  (v. 14) Remember, we are not called to storm the gates of Hell.  Jesus has already won the victory.  We are not allowed to run, either.  There is no armor on the back!  We are simply called to stand firm in Christ, and who we are in Christ.

The armor: (v. 14)   It seems as though the first three pieces are to stay on at all times.  There is no command to put them on or to pick them up.  “Stand firm then,” with…

The belt of truth buckled around your waist.  Purpose:  to keep our armor firmly in place.  Jesus is the truth, and without Him as the center of our lives, the rest of our armor does us no good.  (v. 14)   Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”  Jn. 14:6              “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” Jn. 17:17

The breastplate of righteousness in place.  Purpose – to make us righteous in God’s sight – not with our own righteousness (because we have none of our own), but with the righteousness of Christ.  See 1 Thessalonians 5:24-26     “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Cor. 5:21   For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  – 1 Peter 3:18

Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  Purpose – to help us stand firmly in Christ, Who is our Peace, and to keep us “always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”   1 Peter 3:15     “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”  Isaiah 52:7

 The next three pieces are things we need to “take up:”   (v. 16 & 17)

The shield of faith.  Purpose – to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.  “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17           “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  – Hebrews 12:1

The helmet of salvation.  Purpose: to protect our minds.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise-worthy – think about such things.”  Phil. 4:8         “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.”  Rom. 12:2           “Set your mind on the things above, not on earthly things.” – Col 3:2

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Purpose: to discern and reveal truth from error.  The Word of God exposes and thwarts the lies that come at us constantly.       “For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12              “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  Col. 3:16           “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Tim. 3:16-17

The action:  Yes, we are to stand, but we are to DO SOMETHING as we stand – PRAY.  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18

 Yes, the battle can be fierce.  Yes the enemy prowls around, seeking those he may devour.  But the victory has been won by Jesus.  Stand firm in Him, and keep abiding on.

 

 

 

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Struggling

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – Jhn 16:33

These words were spoken by Jesus shortly before He was sentenced to death on the cross.  As He was facing incredible pain and anguish, he sought to comfort us.  This promise from Him is sandwiched between His admonition to abide in Him, and His prayer for us found in chapter 17, where He says this: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – Jhn 16:33 NASB .  When we feel troubled and tribulations, stresses and trials of life overwhelm us,  Jesus says to take courage.  He has overcome the world.  So, as we abide in Him, we will still have a firm foundation in whatever we face.

Many of us today are struggling with debilitating diseases.  Many of us face seemingly insurmountable depression and anxiety.  Some of us are feeling persecuted.  Some feel misunderstood, or abandoned, or struggle with shame or guilt or anger or bitterness.  Unfortunately, these things happen in a fallen world.  But Jesus says to take courage.  He says that we can have His peace – in the midst of tribulation.

I am struggling with myself right now.  Checking and re-checking everything I think, say, and do.  Alternately feeling guilty, and not really knowing what I’ve done wrong, to feeling completely misunderstood and judged.  Not the most peaceful feeling, let me assure you.  I wrestle between simply giving up and hiding under the couch until He comes for me so I don’t do any more damage, and standing firm in what I believe to be true regardless of how it appears.  The sad part is, the more I focus on myself and perceptions of myself, the worse I get. But still,  I need to take Jesus at His Word.  Literally.  It’s time for me to take some of my own advice.  I need to get on my knees, get my nose in the Word, and stay there.  It is the only hope for true, lasting peace.  As I abide in the Word of God, and seek His face, He will transform me – yes, even me – into someone He can use.

I guess I’m writing this more for myself right now, rather than for the original intent of this blog.  Thank you for reading my ramblings.  If you would, I could use your prayers that I would keep abiding on, and that my heart would stay soft towards Jesus.  Thank you.

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