Monday, August 27, 2012

Change Your Name!

Has someone ever put a label on you? Weirdo! Loser! Freak! Some of these labels are oftentimes placed on us throughout high school, college, and even at the workplace. Labels are needed to define a particular thing. Without labels we wouldn’t know salt from sugar, right? But sometimes labels can be misrepresentations of who you really are. As Believers, negative labels are put on us by the devil from our pasts. Liar! Fornicator! Adulterer! Cheater! Hater! If we allow it, these labels can easily define us. But how detrimental can these labels be if we desire to draw near to the Lord? How can they stop us from becoming everything God initially labeled us to be? Let’s take a look.

There are two prominent examples of identity changes in the New Testament: 
  1. First we see in Matthew 16:16-18, that Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter. Notice that the change of his name occurred AFTER he confessed who Jesus was in His deity. We can safely conjecture that Simon was ridiculously unstable. Throughout most of his time with Jesus, he was constantly doubting and questioning everything. Many would label Simon as “the foolish disciple.” However, Jesus took that label given to him and flipped the script by giving him the name Peter, meaning “stone.” 
  2. In Acts 9, Saul has a life changing encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. In verse 5, Saul clearly recognizes Jesus’ voice. Notice again, the name change occurs AFTER the acknowledgement of who Jesus is. Fast forward to Acts 13:9 and it’s clear that Saul is now also known as Paul. Now, Saul was a man who persecuted the followers of Christ. Easily, the first label that comes to mind when thinking about Saul is “murderer.” But Christ saw differently, he saw him as Paul, meaning “humble.”
Peter and Paul could’ve easily let the labels of the world define who they were. However, when they recognized who they were in Christ, everything about their identity changed. Saul “the murderer” went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. Simon “the foolish disciple” evangelized, spreading the Gospel in various places. It wasn’t just about the name; it was about the new identity that came with the name. By changing their names, they were no longer being defined by their past, but by who they were in Christ.  Again, both Peter and Paul could’ve easily allowed the labels from their past define their future. But instead, they put on the labels given to them by the Lord. 

Beloved of God, what labels are defining you right now? What labels has the devil put on you that you have yet to take off? These labels will stop you from drawing closer to the Lord because you'll focus more on the labels than you will on Him. Labels of your past can not define who are now in Christ. If you are struggling with a besetting sin that you can’t seem to shake; “failure” is a label of your past—“OVER-COMER” is your new name given to you by Christ. Low self esteem does not define you; when you see “ugly,” change your name to “FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE” (Psalm 139:14). Peter writes it best, the Lord called you by name out of darkness into His light (1 Peter 2:9). No label could ever change that.

Today, identify yourself in His grace by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His love to you. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul goes on to encourage the reader that nothing can ever separate you from His love—not even your past.  Right now, where ever you are, CHANGE YOUR NAME! Your identity is not in the girl that broke your heart, or the father that was never there for you. It’s not in what you did last night or even that lie you told before reading this post—it’s in Jesus Christ. Your new label, your new name, your new identity is found in His grace. Know who you are in Christ!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This One Thing

"It's "this ONE thing" that is keeping from drawing closer to You, God!" Have you ever said something like that to the Lord? If you have ever been serious about your relationship with Him, you probably have. You get to the point where you desire to draw closer to the Lord, but this one addictionthis one mountain seems impossible to move. No matter what the addiction was, I truly believe that every follower of Christ has had "one thing" that has stood in their way of getting to the Lord at some point. Addictions come in so many different forms, it's easy to just look at sex, alcohol and drugs as the ONLY hardcore addictions. However, doubt, worry, and attention addictions can be just as detrimental. It certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how these addictions can stop someone from drawing closer to the Lord.

The guilt and shame that comes alongside addictions makes pursuing God seem almost impossible. I've had quite a few of addictions in my life, depression, people, doubt, fear, lust, are just a few. However, my "one thing" was definitely lust. I felt like the more I struggled, the further away I was driving myself from the Lord. But isn't it like the Lord to make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28)? No matter how bad your "one thing" looks, it's actually bringing you closer the Lord. I got to the point where I knew I had to COMPLETELY lean on the Lord for healing in my life. The more I began to lean on Him, the closer I began to draw to the Lord.

The lady with the issue of blood in the bible shows us perfectly how the Lord sometimes uses that "one thing" to bring you closer to Him (Mark 5:25-34). During this time period, anyone with a deformity or disease was outlawed. Since her disease was so visible, she was deemed "unclean" wherever she went. With judgement and ridicule following her everywhere, we can conjecture that her "one thing" was people. But when she heard that Jesus was in town, her "one thing" was not going to stop her from getting to Him. As she pushed through the crowd, exposing her "one thing," she grabbed the hem of His garment (Mark 5:27). She knew that she needed to lean on Him more than ANYTHING to receive healing. By recognizing this, she ended up at the feet of Jesus, somewhere she probably could've never imagined that her "one thing" could take her.

It's very easy to look at how bad your "one thing" is. However, this mentality will only leave you disappointed. Your "ONE THING" that you THINK is pushing you away from God is actually bringing you closer to Him. How is this so, you say? Well, our God is so amazing that He takes negative situations and turns them into a greater testimony. He uses the egg that was cracked to bring together all of the ingredients for the beautiful cake. So the cracks in your shell are necessary for the outcome of the cake. If you were never cracked, you'd never be used. You'd think, "I've got it all together, not one single crack is on my shell. I don't need the Maker... I don't even need this cake. I'm perfect." Ultimately, you would never lean on the Lord if you didn't have that "one thing" because you would have it all together. Allow Him use your "one thing" for His good and His glory.

Today, stop telling God what He already knows. He knows you more than you even know yourself. He knows exactly what "one thing" you struggle with and He desires to heal you. But it's up to you, Believer, to lean on Him in this season like you never have before. The lady with the issue had to push through the crowd to get to Jesus. Push through those crowds of thoughts in your head that say, "You will never get set free from this one thing." OR " This one thing is what is going to stop you from getting to Jesus." Those are all lies from the devil. The more you focus on how bad your "one thing" looks, the less you'll fix your eyes on Jesus. Remind yourself of His grace. You can start by daily declaring, "I WILL receive the healing I need! I AM drawing closer to the Lord by His grace alone!" Every time you fall into that "one thing" and get back up through His grace, you are one step closer to the Lord. "It's this one thing that is bringing me closer to Your grace... To Your love... To You, God."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why Can't I Walk Pure?

“You only live once” seems to be the anthem for this generation. For many YOLO is just an excuse to live young, wild, and free without any reverence to God. On the contrary, young Christ followers know how important it is to honor the Lord with everything—soul, spirit, and body. And as it relates to walking in purity, young Believers sometimes find it difficult to walk in total purity. Believer, if you are struggling with walking in purity, you are not alone. Personally, I know it gets very tough walking in purity sometimes. Now, that I am no longer bound to sexual lusts, I know that walking in purity is not impossible. If you desire to walk in freedom from sexual lust of any kind, whether its fornication, premarital sex, pornography etc… know that NO sin is too big for the Lord. My Pastor always says, “The Lord isn’t afraid of your porn addiction.” I always laugh at that but it’s so true. Today, don't read this post with your mind but with your heart. The Lord wants to set you free from these lusts but it starts with YOU.

As you probably already know, the Word of God tells us to flee from fornication and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). You’ve probably gotten to the point like most of us have before, where you tell God something like He is completely unaware. “God, do you know how hard it is to stay pure in this day and age?!” Listen, the Lord never said walking pure would be easy but it's definitely not impossible. God simply wants your heart. He can’t have your heart if it’s full of sexual lusts, right? So it’s important that we guard our hearts at all times (Proverbs 4:22). What TV shows, movies, books, and music that are filled with sexual content in it are you allowing go into your heart? Who are you hanging around that always has something lustful and dirty to say? Where your heart is, your mind will follow. Where your mind is, your actions will follow. 

Beloved child of God, really think about why one turns to sexual lusts in the first place. At some point in life we have all experienced rejection. If it wasn't from a mother or father that abandoned you, then it was from a friend who turned their back on you. When we haven’t been healed from this rejection, we turn to that no good guy/girl or the internet for acceptance. And for those few moments you finally aren’t feeling rejected. Unfortunately, acceptance in that manner is only temporary. Then the guilt sets in. You repent but still feel ashamed. You’re good for a few days. Then you’re right back in the cycle again. You say, "Why can't I walk pure?!" It takes true healing from rejection to be set free from these sexual lusts, Believer. 

Look at the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. In verse 13, Jesus offered the woman acceptance that will never run out. He knew she was a fornicator but He also knew she needed healing more than anything. Jesus was telling the woman, once you receive my healing, you’ll never go thirsty again. So you can’t break that pornography addiction not because you’re super lustful, but due to the fact that you have yet to drink the healing water from the Holy Spirit. Once you’ve become healed from past rejection, you will start walking in freedom and purity. 

Today, the Lord is knocking at your heart. It’s up to YOU to answer it. There is NOTHING too hard for our great God to handle. He desires to set you free. But again, it’s up to you. How bad do you desire to walk in purity? Accept His offer, today. He wants to give you acceptance that will never run out. Drink from His healing water. Right now, you can be set free in the name of Jesus. It’s as simple as praying this prayer: “Holy Spirit, heal me from whatever makes me go back to that guy/girl, porn, or those perverted thoughts.” I can assure you that He will start to expose the rejection in your heart and begin to heal you. If you sense that lust coming back, down the road, pray for more healing. This walk is an everyday process (Luke 9:23). Again, it's up to you to do your part by guarding your heart. What are you letting go in your heart that will soon show in your actions?  Drink from His cup of healing. It’s up to YOU, now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Worship is Life

This topic is extremely important to me because it was equally as important to Christ. Today, I pray that all who reads will have a deeper understanding of the true meaning of worship... Let’s get right to it.

There is more to worship than a song. Worship leader Kim Walker-Smith describes worship as, "a direct connection of our hearts with God’s heart." We were created to be in His presence to worship Him. Look back at the beginning when God created Adam and Eve. They were literally in God’s presence all the time. Their connection with God was always alive and fresh. However, when sin came in the picture, this connection could no longer freely happen. Someone then had to pay for this connection.  As a result of the fall of man, every year a High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies, a special area in the Temple, to present a sacrifice offering to God to cover the sins of the people. No one except the Priest would be allowed to go in God’s presence and present this sacrifice. But Jesus, our High Priest according to Hebrews 2:17, came as the sacrifice for all, to tear the veil that separated us from God’s presence. Now, we are the temple where God dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus not only did this to cover our sins, redeem us back, and to set us free, He also did it for worship. It meant so much to the Lord to have this connection with us once again, that He sent His only son to die for it.

When this understanding of worship was revealed to me, my worship life radically changed. Those who follow me on Twitter, see that I tweet, “I live for worship!” quite often. Worship is a lifestyle. His presence means everything to me. Maybe you’re reading this today and desire to grow deeper in your worship life with the Lord. If you want your worship to become a lifestyle, here's a simple two-step process that will connect your heart with God's every day of your life.

Become more aware of the Holy Spirit. This is essential due to the fact that it centers your heart on the Lord. It will also keep you out of sin. Think about it…. It’s difficult to curse when you are aware that the Lord is present right where you are, at that very moment. Sin keeps you away from worship. As I have said in previous posts, it’s the devil’s duty to have you sin so you cannot connect with the Lord. We see that he succeeded with Adam and Eve. Furthermore, acknowledge His presence in whatever way works for you. Oftentimes, I do this by picturing a cross or the name of Jesus. You can even be at the mall and do this. Just be aware that He is in you and with you. Ultimately, this step is ALL about stopping whatever you’re doing or thinking about and focusing on Him.
Talk to the Holy Spirit. This is where worship becomes intimate. After you’ve acknowledged His presence, talk to Him. Although our God is a great, amazing, and sometimes indescribable God, He’s also very simple. Just talk to the Holy Spirit like you would your friend (John 15:15). Then, listen to His voice. When I was younger I would think that God didn’t speak to me. One day, my dad told me, “It’s not that He’s not speaking, Kieya, it’s that you’re not listening.” Once I began to settle my heart and press into His voice, I began to hear Him. Again, you can be anywhere and worship. At the mall, on your job, walking your dog, just talk with Him. It doesn't have to even be out loud. Without any communication, you’ll never grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Believer, worship isn’t complicated. It isn’t something you do, it’s who you are. You were created to worship Him. Don’t go through this journey thinking that worship is ONLY a song. Worship songs, dances, poetry, rap, artwork etc… are all an outwardly expression of an inward passion of love for Him. The worst singer in the world could have an awesome worship life. Why? Simply because worship is all about the heart. It’s about loving the Lord enough to acknowledge His presence where ever you are. It’s those intimate talks you have with Him that make your worship an actual lifestyle. If you desire to have a lifestyle of worship, start right now. Begin by centering your heart on Him. Then open your mouth and talk with Him—every day, all day. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your ears so you can hear His voice and become more aware of where He is. So now when you sing a song, dance, play an instrument, rap or even just lift your hands during Sunday morning worship, there will be so much more passion behind it. Worship not only brings life… Worship is life.