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Team Jesus: Your Sins Can Never Void God’s Gift of Salvation

This article originally appeared in Team Jesus Magazine. Check them out for more amazing content.

The Gift of Salvation Never Expires

gift

Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s love? Do you believe that your past actions or current behaviors are so sinful that God will not forgive you, or He’ll withdraw His offer of salvation to you?  

I write these words because I have had conversations with people – some friends, some strangers – about this very topic over the years and it’s apparent to me that they were misled. It’s not their fault, though. When you look at a lot of Christians and their “better than thou” attitudes, one would think that having a relationship with God requires perfection.  

That is so far from the truth!  All you need to begin having a relationship with God is the desire and honesty – God will meet you right there.

Hope for Salvation

crucify him

The first thing you need to know is that God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NLT).  And, by “everyone”, God means everyone.  

God is talking about people from all walks of life, every ethnicity, every socioeconomic class, every education level – all people who sin (which is everyone who still has breath in their lungs).  

One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is when Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees (these were people who taught on religion) as to why He would eat with sinners. Jesus replied, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.  I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17 NLT).  If God only wanted a relationship with righteous people, He would have never sent Jesus to die on the cross to allow sinners to have a relationship with God and to be able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you are reading this message, then there is still hope for you.  The only reason you aren’t in this relationship with God yet is because you are running from the call of Jesus or you haven’t recognized the call as what it really is. Jesus is waiting for you to come to Him.  Jesus says in Revelation 3:20-21, “Look! I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.  Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my father on His throne.”  I know that if you are reading this it is because you have heard the knock, but maybe you aren’t sure if it is the voice of Jesus behind that door. Maybe you aren’t sure what your next steps should be. 

The best thing that you’ll ever do in life is to open that door.

SO, WHAT’S THE PLAY CALL?

  • The first thing that you’re going to want to do is answer the call of Jesus by opening that door immediately. Don’t hesitate to let Jesus into your life.  It’s time to stop questioning and start doing.
  • Confess all of the sins that you can think of to God and ask for forgiveness. “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9 NLT).  God knows what you’ve done without you telling Him – your confession is simply an act of obedience and proof that you are ready to enter a relationship with God based on honesty and openness.
  • If you’ve never been saved, you must “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 NLT).  “And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago.  The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people.  He did this so we would praise and glorify Him” (Ephesians 1:13-14 NLT).
  • If you have already been saved, but have separated yourself from God for any reason, God is waiting for you, too!  Isaiah 55:7 (ESV) says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”  You are known by God and your actions did not catch Him by surprise. He just wants that relationship with you to be back and stronger than ever. Repent and pick up where you left off.
  • Be patient with yourself.  Leaving a sinful life behind can take some time. I highly recommend finding a church that not only preaches but teaches the Word of God in truth.  The more you know, the more you will progress into righteous living. 

Click here for the original article.

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Big Rocks, Little Rocks

get your priorities straight

Normally, when I read the Bible I am on the lookout for what would make a good blog post or article, but I realized that it left something lacking in my relationship with God.  I also didn’t like that I had begun to feel that I was some all-knowing, wise person whose purpose was to tell other people what they needed to do to grow closer to God.  So, lately I have been praying that God will reveal to me what I need to understand from my Bible studies.  It has been really freeing for me to focus on me when reading and studying instead of trying to think about what I’m going to write about next.  The only problem is, I have had a hard time coming up with topics when it is time for a new article.  It has been hard for me to find time to both read and study for my personal growth and to read and study for my articles.

I was reading today and I know that God revealed to me that I need balance.  Not just balance for Elevate Through Faith, although God knows that I’m struggling, I need balance for my entire life.  And as I started to really think about balance I knew that I wasn’t the only one who had trouble prioritizing.  Especially with the New Year just rolling in, I’m sure we could all use a bit more balance.  Let me give you all a quick peek at a normal day in the life of Shaw.  Usually, my day starts between 4:45 AM – 5:15 AM.  I leave my house around 7 AM and drop off my three kids in three different locations before heading to work myself.  We normally get home around 6 PM, where I cook dinner, help with homework, have a little time to catch up with the kids between showers.  Then we say prayers and I put the kids in bed by 9 PM.  After the kids are in bed I clean up the kitchen.  By this time, I’m exhausted myself but I have not completed any of my other tasks.  And honestly, I normally choose sleep over anything else, but that just leads me to feeling overwhelmed and unproductive. I know that if I want to accomplish any of the goals I’ve set for myself, I will have to stay up later than I would like.  I’ve never been someone who goes to bed late, so this is always a challenge to me, but I have to find balance.  Proverbs 10:4 (NIV) says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth”.  I do not want God to look at me when I get to heaven and tell me that I was lazy to receive all of the blessings He had in store for me, so I have made the decision to be diligent.

So What Can We Do?

There are some things that I have to change about myself in order to become diligent.  I want to share them with you all in case it will be helpful to you as well.

  • In order to find balance, you must first prioritize what is most important to you.  It’s the concept of “Big Rocks, Little Rocks”.  This is a powerful concept that was illustrated in the book First Things First written by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, in which a speaker was teaching on prioritizing and productivity.  The speaker took out a jar and some fist-sized rocks.  He placed those rocks into the jar until it was filled to the brim.  The speaker then asked the group if the jar was full, and everyone agreed that the jar was full.  But instead of stopping there, the speaker poured gravel into the jar.  Then he poured in sand, and then water.  The point of the lesson is that if the gravel (little rocks), sand, and water were put into the jar first, then the big rocks would have never fit.  Think about your life, are you filling it up with the smaller priorities first only to realize that you don’t have the time to complete your larger priorities?  If your big rocks are spending time with your family and working on your business project, but you find yourself spending more time at the grocery store, then you may want to try ordering groceries online and picking them up or even having them delivered.
  • Being proactive is the second thing you have to do to find balance.  Yes, you now know what to prioritize, but most of the time you cannot complete all of your big rocks in the same day.  So maybe you take your kids out for ice cream and a movie and at night you work a little on your business project. Because you made quality time with the kids your biggest rock on this day, the next day your biggest rock should be your business plan.  Being proactive means recognizing that your big rocks can change day to day based on your needs and not feeling guilty that you cannot do everything every day.
  • Give yourself deadlines.  If you are anything like me, procrastinating just comes naturally.  And honestly, it seems like you work best under pressure.  But when setting your own goals, there is no deadline so it’s easy to keep putting your personal projects on the back burner in favor of other activities or even just relaxing.  But, this year we want results and if we have to become disciplined, that is just what we will force ourselves to do!  So when your write down your goals, write the deadline beside it.  Put the deadline on your calendar with periodic reminders that will keep you motivated and on track.  Start to think of yourself as your own boss and don’t give yourself any choice but to complete the task.
  • Last, but certainly not least, make sure your make time to be in relationship with God.  It can be so easy to become so focused on what we are trying to accomplish that we don’t make time for the One who created us.  We will need Him throughout everything we do.  Remember John 15:5 (NLT) “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing”.  
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Don’t Lie On Me

 

IMG_6475-1

So something you all may not know about me is that I fiercely believe in living in truth and respect for others.  I can honestly say that this is something that I model daily.  Being that I value truth and respect so deeply, these are the only two things that I get really upset about.  When I say upset, I mean UPSET.  If I feel like someone is being disrespectful towards me or if I know that someone has lied on me, I have been known to go into a place of unholy anger.  A place that requires me to seek God in order to escape.  Because I know myself, I try to live my life in a way that gives no one a chance to be disrespectful because I’m always going to be respectful to everyone.  I also try my best to be very transparent and I live by the rule that you shouldn’t do anything that would be embarrassing if someone else knew.  I feel like this saves me from feeling the urge to lie and doesn’t give anyone the opportunity to lie on me.  To be clear, to lie on me is considered disrespectful.

The Angry Place

This is a story that only my husband and a few close friends know that I am going to share.  And I’m going to share just to show how faithful God is in fulfilling His promises.  A couple of years ago a woman that I considered to be my friend lied on me.  And not only was it a horrible lie, it could have cost me something very important to me.  Sadly, I would not have even known that she lied, but the person who controlled “the very important thing” called and asked me about it.  I was so furious that I couldn’t even sleep the night I found out about the lie.  The woman who lied is not someone that I could avoid, at this point I saw her on an almost daily basis.  So I tried to figure out why she lied and I couldn’t come up with any other answer than that she lied to get herself out of trouble.  This fact made my anger worse, because why would she try to get me into trouble with a lie when the consequences would have been the same for her as it was for me?  Then I started to rehearse how I would confront her about the lie, because the level of anger I was at was not the level that would allow me to let the lie slide.  I had to pray that my words would come out right and that I would say what needed to be said without being disrespectful and without sinning.  

The Confrontation

When the time came, I told the truth in a way that left no room for the lie to prevail.  The woman who lied on me ended up admitting that what she accused me of did not happen.  And I remembered God’s promise in Isaiah 54:17 “‘No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord.”  God did not allow this weapon (the lie) to win the battle against me and I was able to refute the tongue of the woman who lied on me.  This is a promise that I have seen fulfilled firsthand.  What I realized during that confrontation made me pray for the woman who lied on me.  I saw a fear in her that I have never known.  And although I was still angry that she lied on me, I prayed for her because I knew that she did so out of desperation.  I also had to be obedient to God’s Word in Luke 6:27-28 (NIV) “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  In this moment, I decided to just love her.

Don’t Lie On Me

I was able to move on.  I still had to see the woman regularly so I decided that ,although I did not trust her anymore, I would put this past me and at least have a friendly relationship with her.  Things were going well for over a year and then she struck again.  She told another lie that was in her own self-interest.  I could not believe it!  Another lie that definitely would have cost me the same thing that I love had it been believed.  And again, it was behind my back so I was caught off guard.  Except this time I was armed with the promises of God.  Enough time had passed and my faith had been strengthened so much that I learned from the previous lie and was able not to be so upset, as a matter of fact, I didn’t react in the same way at all.  When I was asked about the lie, I told the truth and decided to let my word be my word.  I believed the Word of God was true in Exodus 14:14 (MSG) that says, “God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!”  The only time that I spoke about the lie was when I was initially asked what really happened.  I didn’t confront the woman about the lie.  I didn’t worry about it after I told the truth.  I just stood on God’s promise and let Him fight my battle for me.  And you know what?  It worked!  The entire dilemma handled itself without me from that point on and it was proven that I did not lie.  The beautiful thing is that no one even believed the lie to begin with.  The woman that lied on me suffered the consequences and I am still cordial with her when I see her.  Luckily, God has pretty much removed her from my life, I only see her occasionally now and it’s never long enough for her to fabricate any stories concerning me.  I know this happened because I kept God’s command to pray for those who mistreat me.  1 John 3:21-23 says, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.”

I know that this may seem like a petty example of how God keeps all of His promises.  But it shows that if you believe, you can apply God’s promises to any area of your life.  When you start looking for ways that God has shown Himself faithful it helps to increase your faith in Him.  Start looking for God to show up in every situation, I guarantee that you will find Him carrying out His promises.

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Still, You Must Live!

 

Still, You Must Live

I don’t consider myself a Bible scholar, I’m just a woman trying her best to follow Jesus and make God proud. With that being said, I cannot say with certainty that we are living in the end times, but what I can say is that we are living in uncertain times. By uncertain I mean that you never know what new tragedy you will read about on any given day. Just this morning, right before I began writing this post, I read about a woman being beat by the police for having an open container on the beach, I read about a toddler hanging from a balcony without the knowledge of the parent, and I read about an 11 year old who committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a 16 story building. Not to mention the almost daily stories of missing children, mass shootings, war, and rumors of war.
This world has no shortage of real life horror stories. I wish that I could protect my children and just keep them in my house, homeschool them, and feed my family from our farm. The problem with this is that I don’t have a farm and even if I did, I wouldn’t know the first thing about farming. My husband and I both have to work for a living so keeping the children home and homeschooling is off the table. It’s hard not to have a sense of trepidation every time I drop my kids off at school in the morning, but because God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) I cannot allow the state of the world to paralyze me and my family. This is where I replace fear with the promises of God.
This week’s promise come from John 10:28 NKJV:
John 10:28
This is the promise of Eternal Security that the sheep of Jesus can hold on to in the moments where we are just afraid to make a late night store run in a safe neighborhood because human trafficking is everywhere. Jesus has promised us that no matter what happens to us on earth or in heaven, we will live eternally just because we choose to follow Him. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, we have to have the faith to know that we are in His hand and the enemy doesn’t have enough power to snatch us out.
I also think about this promise when I think back on my younger days and how I could have easily headed down the wrong path in life. It makes me pretty emotional thinking of all the things I have done wrong in life, so many mistakes that I willingly made without caring about the consequences. Because I have free will, Jesus let me make those mistakes but He never took His hand off of me. He held onto me because before He formed me in my mother’s womb, He knew me and set me apart for His holy purpose (Jeremiah 1:5 GW).
John 10:28 is not just speaking of life as we know it, this verse is telling us that no matter where we are, heaven or earth, we will always be with our Creator. So even if tragedy strikes “we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV). So go out and live! Do what God will have you to do without fear of could happen. I’m going to leave you with this Word from God, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.  Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.  For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”(Isaiah 41:10-13 NIV).

 

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Answered Prayers

answered prayers

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5: 14-15 NIV 

One of my first posts on Elevate Through Faith was called “God Promised” and in that post I discussed what I consider the ultimate promise: John 14:2-3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going to there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”. I consider this the ultimate promise because my end goal is to be with Jesus on the throne (Revelation 3:21).
Throughout the Bible, there are several thousands of promises that God has given us. Because I know that God cannot tell a lie, I know that I can rest in these promises without hesitation or doubt. When I originally wrote the post “God Promised” I planned to do a series about God’s promises but did not know where to start because there are way too many to choose from. I recently received a mailing from In Touch Ministries and inside the package was an envelope with nine flash cards of scriptures with some of God’s promises printed onto them. I decided that this was perfect for me because it took away some of the agonizing that I would undoubtedly do if I had to choose the promises myself. So this is the first blog in my God Promised Series, so stay tuned for more!
The Promises of GodThis is the envelope that the flashcards are in.
1 John 5: 14-15 declares that if we ask God for anything that is in alignment with His will, that God hears us and that He will give us what we ask.
Let’s take a look at 2 Kings 20 which tells the story of how God granted a prayer from a righteous man, Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the king of Judah and in this text, he was deathly ill. The prophet Isaiah went to visit the king to give him a message from God. The message from Isaiah was “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness” (2 Kings 20:1 NLT).  Hezekiah started to pray immediately because he was not ready to die. In his prayer to God, Hezekiah reminded God that he had lived a faithful life, devoted his life to serving the Lord, and lived righteously. Before the prophet Isaiah had left the grounds, God spoke to him, telling Isaiah to go back and deliver a new message from Him. Isaiah did as instructed and told Hezekiah, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 20: 5-6 NIV). God not only extended Hezekiah’s life, but He also gave Hezekiah a bonus blessing by delivering his city from Assyria. Remember God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV).  What I love about this text is how confidently King Hezekiah approached God in prayer, not once did he ask God to add years to his life, he reminded God of why he deserved to live. God answered Hezekiah’s prayer because it is within God’s will to grant the requests of the righteous.
I love to write my prayers in a journal, I’ve been doing it for years. Recently I found one of my journals from 2013 in which I prayed for my husband to start attending church with me. I honestly forgot about this prayer until I found the journal a few weeks ago, and my husband and I have been attending church for years at this point. Finding a church home has meant so much to my family and we are both serving in our church. But the level of faith that my husband has reached since we became members is astonishing. But that’s not my point. My point is that I asked God in prayer for my husband to start attending church, and because my request was within His will, He gave me what I asked. And not only did He give me what I asked, He far surpassed what I asked. That is the Ephesians 3:20 blessing! God is so faithful that He goes above and beyond for His children. And God gets the glory for everything that has transpired since then. Our lives are so much better, our relationship with each other is so much better. And I credit it all to God!
As you see from my example, God did not grant my request immediately, because He knows what steps need to take place before He gives us what we ask for. There are definitely times where God will not give us what we ask for in prayer because what we have asked for is not within His will. But the truth is that most of the time we ask God for things that we aren’t even prepared to receive. Sometimes our character needs some work, sometimes other events need to precede our requests, sometimes we need to leave some of the people in our social circle, and other times we need to meet someone new who will be instrumental in our prayers being answered. Trust God’s timing and know that if your prayers are not answered immediately, they are at least in progress. How can I be so confident in this you ask? I am confident because God promised.
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You Have the Favor of God

Favor of God

Psalm 5:12 (NIV) Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield

I have been thinking a lot about how the favor of God is evident in my life. I notice it so often in my marriage, in my relationship with my children, and at work. And I wanted to drop by on the blog today to let my readers know that they have the favor of God too! Dictionary.com defines favor in several ways, but there are two definitions that I want to highlight. 1. “Something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration; a kind act.” 2. “Excessive kindness or unfair partiality; preferential treatment.” Biblestudytools.com defines favor as “gaining approval, acceptance, or special benefits or blessings.” This website also states that, “The favor that human beings receive from God depends on his good pleasure and is often extended in response to prayer or righteous living.” I could not agree more. God’s favor is a blessing because He is not required to give us favor. My hope is that when you are done reading this post that you will see that favor surrounds you too!
Since I was a young child, I have never had any interest in cooking. My mother, who is a great cook, would often invite my sister and I into the kitchen as she was preparing meals to teach us how to cook. I cannot recall one time that I took her up on her offer. The thought of cooking was so unpleasant that when I was around 12 or 13 years old, I remember praying that God would send me a husband who liked to cook. Many years later I met my husband, Kevin. “Coincidentally,” Kevin is the greatest chef I have ever met. I would rather eat my husband’s food over any chef in any great restaurant that I have tasted. My husband is so great at his craft that whenever we go to a restaurant and I find a dish that I really love, my husband recreates it at home and it is always much better. He loves cooking for me and our family. This is not a coincidence at all, this shows the favor of God has followed me since I was a child.Psalm 23:6 (NASB) says, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”.  I consider myself a blessed woman.
Open your eyes! Things that happen that you deem “coincidental” or “good luck” are really God’s way of showing you His favor. The more you look for favor, the more you will notice it. As believers, we also have to start expecting God’s favor. I have been reading “Your Best Life Now” by Joel Osteen and he speaks on favor in a way that I have never heard. In one passage Osteen states, “My attitude is: I’m a child of the Most High God. My Father created the whole universe. He has crowned me with favor, therefore, I can expect preferential treatment” (p. 39).  Imagine being bold enough to make these same declarations in your life. God wants you to have this kind of faith in who He is and who you are. Our Father, the King of all kings, desires that His children remember that they are royalty and expect to be treated as such.
I have another example that concerns my husband. When Kevin was hired for his current job, he was told that he would have to work third shift. Although we needed him to take the job, we were both dreading the third shift hours. It would also mean that he would miss out on time with the children. And we were all so used to daddy being at home and available to the family. Kevin is such a great husband and father that the lack of his presence would have been difficult to deal with. Kevin had about a month of training before he was to start working third shift. During this time we prayed for a smooth transition. But once his training was over, his supervisors noticed that he was a hard worker with a great attitude and Kevin was never asked to go to third shift. This is preferential treatment! This is the favor of God! Psalm 84:11 (ESV) says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly”.
Do not leave yet, because you have homework! Every night for seven days I want you to take a journal and write down every good thing that happened that day, no matter how big or small. After you have them all written down, reflect on what sequence of events took place to bring about the good thing. Ask yourself these questions: Were these events planned by you? Could you have pulled it off alone? Was it a miracle? Did it seem coincidental? Then, thank God for each good thing on your list. Remember, Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17, NLT).
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The Holy Spirit-God’s Grace Within Us

Holy Spirit-God's GraceWithin US

Titus 2:11-13 NIVFor the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
 
I accepted Christ at a young age and at that time I did not have a full understanding of what it meant to be saved. I accepted Christ because I believed in Jesus and I believed in God. I did not know anything about the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, I barely knew much about Jesus as a kid. I knew God. I remember being taught that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) and I wasn’t even sure how to do this. So instead of praying without ceasing, I talked without ceasing. I was always having a silent conversation with God, He was my confidant. As I grew up, we stopped going to church so my spiritual growth was at a halt. I still believed and I still talked to God like He was my best friend, but I did not learn all the things that I should have about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, faith, grace, forgiveness, etc. It was not until my twenties that I started to study the Bible on my own and go to church sporadically. In my late twenties I really began to get involved in church and became devoted to studying my Bible and developing a strong faith. Now I know Jesus and I know the Holy Spirit. I’m so amazed when I look back over my life and see how I was guided by the Holy Spirit although I did not realize the Holy Spirit at work in my life at the time. So many relationships I avoided that I thought I just knew better than to befriend them, but really it was the Holy Spirit directing my path. So many things that I never tried and not because I did not know people who were trying them but because I had wisdom from the Holy Spirit and did not know. There have been many things happened in my life that I thought was just coincidental and when I look at it now I know without doubt that I it had to be the Holy Spirit.
 
 
The Holy Spirit is one of God’s greatest gifts to us as believers. Luke 11:13 NIV says that “The Holy Spirit is a gift of grace”. The Holy Spirit is the constant evidence of God’s grace because the Holy Spirit now indwells in us. John 14:15-17 ESV states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
 

I hear a lot of talk about grace and a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit but usually they are not spoken of together. So in this post, I just want to put the two together and show why the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift of grace ever given. First, let’s look at Titus 2:11-13 NIV, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Although these verses describe grace, they also describe the Holy Spirit. And I would venture to say that these verses are intentionally describing the Holy Spirit. When you look at the whole chapter of Titus 2, it details how we should set examples for those watching us. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling within us, we could not set good examples because we would be subject to the flesh which would not allow us to live godly lives. We would have no self-control without the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16-17 NIV says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh”.
 
Let’s look at the similarities of grace and the Holy Spirit based off of Titus 2:11-13:
 
In my opinion, the Holy Spirit is the best representation of God’s grace. Without the Holy Spirit, believers would not be able to operate in the grace described in Titus 2:11-13, because the Holy Spirit gives us the temperament and the instruction to live godly lives. I am glad that I serve a God who knew that I could not live a holy life without help and gave me a Helper.
 
Much love until next time,
 
Shaw
Elevate

High Expectations Seasoned with Grace

High Expectations with Grace

Philippians 3:14 (KJV), “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.
 
 
 
When my 7 year old, Felicity, was around 4 years old she was a wee bit mischievous and I found myself correcting her quite often. One particular time, I don’t remember what she did, but I do remember telling her not to do it. Would you believe that she did it anyway? I was so upset that I raised my voice at her and she burst into tears. It broke my heart to see her cry but I just could not get over the fact that I told her not to do something and instead of keeping my command, she did it any way. I picked Felicity up and carried her to the couch to explain why I was upset. Through tears she said, “I’m sorry mommy. Do you forgive me?” I replied, “Of course I forgive you baby, I will always forgive you.” Ever since that day, I have had numerous similar conversations with all my children, usually stemming from them being disobedient. As they have gotten older, I have increased my level of expectations for each in regards to how they communicate when they are upset, what chores they are given and how I expect them to be completed, I expect them to complete our normal routines without having to be prodded over and over, I expect them to listen and follow instructions without complaining or procrastinating (depending on the age of the child that I’m talking to), etc. Now I rarely have days where all of these things happen, so instead of getting angry and raising my voice I have chosen just to correct them and forgive them. I find that I am like a broken record because I’m constantly explaining my expectations to my kids. I do this because I can’t give up although that would make my life easier, because my goal is to raise kids who can function without their parents one day. I fully look forward to the day where all of my kids are adults, living on their own, and productive citizens to society and the Kingdom. But until that day comes, I cannot grow weary if I expect to reap the harvest that I want.
 
Does this sound familiar? Being told not to do something but doing the exact thing we were told not to do? Disobedience with forgiveness as a given? High expectations that are not met consistently? Being told the same thing over and over only to complain or procrastinate? Constant correction done in love? Our relationship with God mirrors our relationship with our children so much that I am almost certain that one of God’s purposes for giving us children is so that we can see the error in our own ways. In my post Self-Reliance is NOT a Kingdom Principle, I mentioned that God has high expectations of us. Which is why “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6, NIV). Just like parents, when God gives us clear instruction, He expects us to follow directions. The Bible is full of God’s expectations of His children, and just like we do with our children, these expectations are repeated over and over again from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
 
 
 
These are just a few of God’s expectations and these are generally the ones that are the easiest to keep. I think of these as the basic commandments, these are the commandments we teach our young children. But as we become more mature in our faith, God’s level of expectation rises in the same way we increase our expectations of our children as they mature. Just read Colossians 3 for a detailed list of the expectations God has for believers who are mature in their faith. I’m going to give you Colossians 3:8 from the NIV for a little snippet. It states, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” This whole chapter is filled with instructions on what not to do and what to do. It is a wonderful representation of the expectations.
As I read through this list again just now, I saw a couple of things that I failed at just this week. Romans 3:23 NLT states, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Although God sets the standard, He also knows that we will have a difficult time meeting the standard. The beautiful thing about our God is that He does not expect perfection but the constant striving to meet His expectations. In Philippians 3:14 KJV, Paul says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Even Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was only striving; He did not meet all of God’s expectations, but he never gave up. That is what God expects from us, He gives us the standard to live by and then we judge ourselves by the standard. And when we fail, we correct ourselves and keep striving. The grace that we receive is that God continues to offer blessings upon blessings even though we continue to fall short of His standard. I do this same thing with Felicity every single day. There is not a day that goes by that she does something that she knows that she should not do, but there is also not a day that goes by that I don’t forgive her and show her my love in different ways. She doesn’t deserve many of the things she receives from her father and I, but it’s something about her humbleness and genuine apologies that makes us want to bless her with a new toy, a special excursion, or even a snack she loves. God does this for all of us if we just humble ourselves and genuinely repent of our sins. Remember God wants to bless us, the least we can do is eagerly attempt to do His Will.
Elevate

From Condemnation to Conviction

From condemnation to conviction

The enemy is very crafty and will try to use something intended to glorify God to make you feel bad about yourself. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to do something that would seriously help a singe mother. I kind of wanted to help but it was going to be an inconvenience for my family. The enemy swooped right in before I made a decision of whether or not to help and made me feel horrible about not wanting to help a single mother. “How could you not, you’ve been a single mother before?” the enemy taunted. “You are so mean and selfish!” he screamed. “You never want to help anyone unless it fits into your schedule,” he went on and on. Satan was condemning me and he was using things that I have heard from my family in the past to make me feel like I was a horrible Christian.
Satan had me feeling so bad about myself that I had to pray. I prayed because I know that I’m not a bad person and that I had not even made up my mind not to help, I was just thinking about the implications of helping and how my family fit into the picture. While I was praying, the Holy Spirit said, “Let us not grow weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9a NIV). I was convicted by the Holy Spirit, and I knew that I was being called to help this young lady, so that is just what I did. And wouldn’t you know it, the inconvenience to my family was so minimal that I cannot even call it an inconvenience.
Satan will always use your past to condemn you, but “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). Yes, in the past I was a little selfish, I liked things to operate on my schedule. But now that I’m following Christ Jesus more closely, I realize when someone has a need, it isn’t going to always fit into my free time.
So how do you turn condemnation into conviction? You need to recognize when you are being condemned. When those thoughts come into your head, ask yourself if these thoughts line up with the Word of God. God wants us to use Philippians 4:8as our model for thoughts:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (NKJV)
This passage does not tell you to think of your negative past, but of praiseworthy things. It doesn’t say put yourself down, it tells us to think of noble things. It doesn’t say think of your unfavorable characteristics, but to think of your lovely characteristics. God uses things that are “just” and “virtuous” to convict us at times; but never to make us feel bad, only to glorify Him.
2 Corinthians 2:16b says, “But we have the mind of Christ.”I know that it doesn’t always seem that way, especially when Satan attacks our minds with condemnation. When this happens we have to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).
Also keep in mind that turning condemnation to conviction does not mean that God will tell you to do the thing that Satan is condemning you about. Whatever God convicts you of will always line up with His Word.
Satan may try to pull a fast one on you. For instance, if some friends invite you out for drinks but you don’t drink anymore because you tend to drink too much, Satan may try to convince you to go out and drink through condemnation. He’ll say things like, “Oh now you think you are too good to hang out with old friends”. “Now that you’re a Christian you can’t have any fun anymore, you are boring!” “You’ll never win your friends over to Christ if you don’t spend time with them”. Yes, the enemy will try to condemn you using Jesus as the reason you should do something. But when you ask God for help, He will come back with Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”. Or Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
Conviction is a good thing that believers receive from God as a form of discipline, correction, encouragement, and love. When you are convicted view it as the love of your Father.
In addition to prayer, meditate on these verses to turn any condemnation into conviction:
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Philippians 4:8
  • 2 Corinthians 2:16
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
~Shaw
Elevate

Self-Reliance is NOT a Kingdom Principle

self-reliance is not a kingdom principle

In the past, I struggled with being self-reliant. I really adopted the independent woman persona, trying to do all things by myself. It was like I had something to prove. I wanted to be seen as an organized, multitasking, well put together superwoman who did not need anyone’s help. It was not until I started studying my Bible, praying, and hearing the Word of God through my Bishop that I realized thatbeing self-reliant is not a Kingdom principle. It took some work in building my faith, but I learned to rely on God way more than I rely on myself. Well, in the last couple of weeks, self-reliance has reared its ungodly head in my life again. So this morning I prayed that God remove this spirit of self-reliance and replace it with remembering to call on Him every day. My ultimate goal is to glorify God with everything that I do, but I cannot glorify God without His guidance. Right after I prayed, the Holy Spirit led me to read John 15 (NLT), specifically focusing on verses 4-5. Jesus says in these verses,
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
God does not want or expect us to make it on our own. He wants us to remain in Him so that we can produce much fruit. Isn’t this just what we were created for? To produce much fruit in Christ Jesus? But right here, Jesus lays it out plain for us, we cannot produce much fruit without Him, because apart from Him we cannot do anything. I always thought being independent was the most desirable attribute of a woman, but God has definitely changed my viewpoint. I thank Him for that revelation in my life. Trying to be independent would have led me down a lonely road, I probably would have never considered getting married if it wasn’t for that revelation.
The truth is God was helping me even when I was not actively trying to remain on His vine. God does that for all of us. I want you to do me a favor and think back over your life. I mean go all the way back as far back as you can remember. Remember all of the situations that you have been in, that you should not have come out of unscathed or should not have made it out at all. Think of all the things you tried that you knew that you shouldn’t try, but you tried anyway. Think of all the addictive substances you used but thank God that you did not become addicted. Think of the unhealthy relationships that you knew you should have left but you stuck around longer than you should. Think of the people who you hung around that you knew were a bad influence but you let them pressure you into making horrible decisions. And when you recall these memories just start praising and thanking God, because your life could be so much worse than the blessed life you are currently living.
The reason God kept saving us, and continues to save us, is because we have larger purposes to fulfill. God keeps rescuing us despite our free-willed mistakes because He has high expectations of us! He created us for specific purposes that He knows we are capable of executing with His help. God is just waiting on us to ask for His help in accomplishing His perfect plan. So when you get tired of spinning the wheels of independence and self-reliance, call on God. With Jesus Christ interceding on your behalf, God will begin to prepare you to walk in your abundantdestiny.