8.30.2013

Free to struggle


'Hallelujah
We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
So children, drop your chains and sing.'
- 'The Struggle' / Tenth Avenue North


I was blessed to be able to volunteer at a Christian concert festival a couple weekends ago.  One of the bands that performed was Tenth Avenue North.  It was my first time seeing them live.  And it came at such a perfect time in my life.  God knew I needed to see and hear them.  

One of the songs they sung was 'The Struggle'.  It's a song of encouragement to believers that even though we are saved, and we are free, we still struggle in life.  With temptations, with pride, with sin.  But we are free to struggle because we have already been bought with a price.  We are His children no matter what.  Nothing can change His love for us.   

We may be tired and worn from all the struggles we face.  We may feel like we fail every day and can God still love us after we've fallen to a temptation for the umpteeth time?  The weight of this world wears on us.  It beats us down.  It tries to stifle us and make us believe that we're worthless and good for nothing.  Our souls feel crushed.  We are worn and have lost our wills to fight...

But amidst all of this, we can cry out with all that we have.  We can have hope in the knowledge that in God's merciful redemption, we win.  
With His strength, this struggle ends.  
He can mend anything.
A heart that's broken.  
   A breath that's frail.  
      A life that feels torn.  
Through Him, a song can rise from your parched lips.  
Whatever feels dead inside us can be made alive and reborn through the breath of His life.

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'Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.  The help of my countenance and my God.'
- Psalm 42:11

8.26.2013

Complete Abandonment



To live a life of faith means to trust God in all circumstances, even with the pain you cannot understand.  To reject the way of redemption only leads you to a life of bitterness and unsatisfaction.  If you can’t trust God with your pain, then you will hate Him for it.

Giving your life to God in complete abandonment means to join the battle against evil, to struggle with suffering and sin.  Loving God means giving our lives that we thought we could control, into the hands of the Father who takes us - not where we WANT to go but where we need to go.  And sometimes this looks so different than from what we imagined it would be like.  Sometimes everything we’re sensing Him asking of us is completely opposite of what we’ve always wanted and hoped for.  Yet God knows the plans for us.  He choses the men and women who He knows will continue to fight for Him - regardless of what WE think the outcome will be.

When you feel abandoned by God yet you continue to trust Him and serve Him through the painful times, you worship Him in the deepest way possible.  It’s as if you’re raising your hands to Him and saying ‘I will praise You through this.  I will trust that You know what You’re doing - even if I don’t.  And I will still love You even though this pain is weighing me down.’

As Christians, we suffer the most, but in the end, we have the greatest reward.

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‘To live is Christ, but to die is gain.’
- Philippians 1:21

8.22.2013

Everyday Blessings // 13


>> a job
>> new friends who live super close
>> having a bestie who never, ever gives up on you
>> frozen yogurt
>> Dutch Bros.
>> finding out who your real friends are
>> being told that you're a godly inspiration
>> more ministry partners
>> free concert tickets
>> volunteering at a Christian concert festival
>> staying up super late and watching movies with your bestie
>> that feeling of being almost done with writing your second novel
>> having mini-concerts for your family
>> rewriting a country song with a friend
>> holding a newborn baby
>> getting 4 new books and 2 movies for under $7
>> not being ashamed of praising the Name of Jesus
>> harvesting your own fruits and berries
>> new music
>> reaching goals in singing
>> starting (and completing) new devotional books
>> late night heart to heart chats with friends about God
>> autumn rain

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Hope y'all are having a blessed week!

8.13.2013

The Four S’s | Using Your Gifts For God’s Glory



We are each given a gift from God.  To use in worship and service to Him and the Church.  I’ve had a lot of people ask me how they can discover these gifts in themselves.  I’m put together a four point list of finding these gifts and talents and how to use them for God’s glory.

Sacrifice
This is probably the hardest step of all.  And yes, it’s the first.  To sacrifice means to give up something that is special or important to you.  Something that you’d rather have, but need to give up.  This prepares the way to discovering your gifts because, while you may want to keep this talent to yourself and not share it with others, it’s actually the very thing God is wanting you to give and use.
Your gift can be anything from being good with children, balancing a check-book, cooking, singing, writing, or having an extra seat in your car.  Stay with me...I’ll show you how these can be beneficial in the family of God.
And if you don’t know what your gift is, as the LORD to reveal it to you.  And be humble.


Seek
Opportunities won’t always come to you.  God doesn’t expect us to just sit at home all day and needs will just come knocking at our doors.  We must go out and SEEK people to serve - siblings in Christ and non-believers.  We never know who we could help that God will touch through our hands.


Stir Up
In the Church and Christian circles, you may know of people who just aren’t that excited about the LORD and His Word.  Your opportunity to get them excited is by using your talents and gifts to show them that God truly is at work in their lives - through you!  By being a joyful servant and sacrificing your needs and desires for someone else’s, this is the heart of Jesus.  To love others better than yourselves.  To love even when it’s not wanted.  To serve even when someone says they can do it by themselves.  Stir up the body of Christ by keeping those hands moving, those feet walking, those lips speaking His praises.


Serve
Your talents - whether great or small - are gifts from God, for you to use for the benefit of others and all to His glory.  Like I said, it can be something as simple as balancing a check-book.  You never know who, in your local family of God, can’t/doesn’t know how to pay their bills.  Have you ever asked?  Or the mother of 6 children whose husband works long days and needs an extra pair of hands to help with dishes or babysitting so the tired mama can get some rest.  Maybe you could squeeze in a couple hours from your days to help her out.
Or the elderly lady who doesn’t have her own car and would do anything to be there on Sunday mornings.  Maybe that extra seat in your car could be for her.
There are literally millions of ways to serve others.  And sometimes, even the smallest efforts, reap the greatest rewards.  

We are sons and daughters of the Creator.  We were placed on this earth to glorify Him.  We need to remember that the world has their eyes ON US.  What sort of representation are we giving of Jesus and His love?  We are the hands and feet.  We need to do what He would do.  We need to go where He would go.  And nothing - absolutely nothing! - done with love and for Him goes unnoticed or unblessed.

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‘For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’
- Galatians 5:13

‘...knowing that from the LORD you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the LORD Christ whom you serve.’
- Colossians 3:24

8.10.2013

Our King has won the war



Facing temptations is a daily struggle for us.  We, as believers, are constantly waging a battle against the evil forces in this world.  Against the temptations that are placed before us on a platter of delicious looking delights.  And it takes all we can to stop, turn around and walk away from it.

When you are facing temptations like these, here are some quick passages to turn to in your sword.  

Remember: the Word of God contains everything you need to pursue a godly life and to fight against the evil one.  God didn’t put us on this earth and say ‘Here, try figuring out life till I call you home.’  No.  He gave us guidelines, rules, encouragement, and help.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Remember: You are MORE than conquerers through Jesus Christ.  What He did on the cross paid the price for all your sins, sealed the deal, and you’re His forever.

Remember: In Christ, the battle is already won.  Whenever you’re facing challenges and fears, when you think you can’t succeed in something, or you feel like you’re slipping back into a sinful habit, remember that Jesus already won that battle for you.  It’s been fought.  You won it IN HIM.

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‘No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.’
- 1 Corinthians 10:13


‘I will lift my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD Who made the heavens and the earth.’
- Psalm 121:1-2

‘Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’
- James 4:7-8

‘For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.’
- Hebrews 2:18

‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with prayer and supplication through thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.  And let the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
- Philippians 4:6-7

‘It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.’
- Galatians 5:1

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Song suggestions:






8.08.2013

God Can't




‘Raquel, God can do everything!  What are you talking about?’

Oh but can He?

Here is a small compilation of things God can’t do.  Comment if you have more examples...

God Can’t...lie.
'...in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.' (Titus 1:2)


God Can’t...remember sins that His Son, Jesus, paid for.
'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' 
(1 John 1:9)


God Can’t...create something ugly.
'God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good...'
(Genesis 1:31)


God Can’t...tempt you with evil.
'Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.'
(James 1:13)


God Can't...deny Himself.
'If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.' 
(2 Timothy 2:13)


God Can't...stop being God.
'Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world.  Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.' 
(Psalm 90:2)


God Can't...sin.
'As for God, His way is blameless; the Word of the LORD is tried...' 
(Psalm 18:30)


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8.05.2013

Holding, not pulling | a poem



We were walking on a dock at a lake.
Side by side, hand in hand
I saw something glitter in the water
It looked like a treasure
I pulled Him over to the edge
As I leaned over
Reaching down
Trying to grab the object that was
Just underneath the surface
‘Let me get it,’ I said to Him
‘You can try, but I’d rather you stay here with Me.’
‘I won’t get hurt.’
‘You may fall in.’
‘Well then don’t let go.’
‘I won’t.  But do you really want to try?’
I thought for a moment
Then answered with a ‘yes’.
I thought I saw Him give a sad smile
But turned away, as the glitter was more fascinating than His face.
I kept reaching forward 
Until my arm and shoulder were in the water.
‘Stop pulling me!’ I told Him.
‘I’m not pulling.  I’m holding.’
And then
I fell in.
The glitter disappeared.
I suddenly realized how dangerous this was
‘I should’ve listened to Him,’ I thought.
I looked up at Him, still on the dock
Me all wet, in the water.
‘Help me out?’
Without a word, He pulled me up
And into His arms.
My face was wet, but not with just water
With tears.
‘Thank You for pulling me out.’
‘I didn’t pull.  I was holding you all along.
You chose to reach for the glitter in the water.
But it proved to be fleeting.’
I nestled in His arms
Dry and warm in an instant
‘Thank You for not letting go.’
‘You’re always going to be Mine
Even if you choose to do something I would rather you not
I won’t keep you from learning your lessons.’
‘And You’ll never let go?’
‘I’ll always hold your hand.
I always have.’

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This is a dramatized poem of what I think it's like when we sin.  God never lets us go, but He lets us learn the lesson we choose to.  

8.01.2013

One Man, One Woman...?



Homosexuality has become a norm in today’s culture and society.  For a lot of people, it’s been a recent movement, but actually, it’s been around since Bible times.  And it was clear in the Old Testament, and very clear in the New Testament, that practicing homosexuality is wrong.  It’s a sin.  And no, I’m not the one who’s saying that.  God did.

A few OT verses that talk about homosexuality are in Leviticus (18:22, 20:13), but let’s look at the NT portions of Scripture.  

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, it says, ‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God.’ 

And in 1 Timothy 1, it talks about homosexuality (among other practices) being ungodly, sinful, unholy and profane.  So basically, it’s wrong.  And I certainly believe it is.  It’s not natural, not right and it kills the Biblical view of marriage.  And if you’re a Christian, it’s certainly not okay.

Marriage was designed for one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24).  When God first created Eve, He brought her to Adam - not to another woman.  ‘Gay marriage’ isn’t even a real marriage.  Marriage is between one man, one woman - no exceptions.  God created a man and a woman’s body differently for one another.  I don’t care if two people of the same sex ‘fell in love’.  Marriage is not meant for two people of same sex.  

‘For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.’
- Romans 1:26-27


But what if a person is born gay, Raquel?
Uh, excuse me?  God is the Creator, right?  Would He create something He hates?  Homosexuality is an abomination in His eyes.  Saying He would make someone male with a female ‘instinct’ who’s attracted to the same sex (or vice versa) is going against His whole Being and Who He is.


What if a Christian is gay?
I don’t believe, for one minute that a professing Christian can be ‘gay’ and willingly practice it.  I’ve had some people accuse me saying, ‘Well if you’re saying a gay person can’t be a Christian, then how would you defend you living in the sexual sin that you talked about in your testimony?’  Yes, I was living in sin.  But so do many other Christians.  I know Christian men who struggle with porn, or know of women who are married but are having affairs.  That doesn’t automatically make them a non-believer.  Christians aren’t perfect.  We sin.  But it’s when a person is willfully indulging in a sin (with no intention of getting out of it), that the validity of their Christian profession can - and should be! - considered.  Homosexuality is a sin.  But it’s not greater than any other sin.  We are all sinners in need of God’s grace, including me.  No one is a better Christian or a bigger sinner.  And there is no sin that God can’t forgive.

‘But immorality and any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.’
- Ephesians 5:3-5


Do you hate gay people?
If you are ‘gay’, I won’t hate you.  I’ll talk to you.  I’ll love you like I’m called (as a Christian) to love people.  I have a couple acquaintances who are ‘gay’.  We get along great!  (And honestly, all the homosexuals that I’ve ever met are actually super nice.)
I’m not writing this to ‘judge’ you or make you feel like you’re being ‘preached at’.  But if you claim to be a Christian, I will tell you that you are in sin.  Don’t feel that you need to continue living this way.  God won’t turn you away if you come to Him, asking for forgiveness.    

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‘For you have been bought with a price.  Therefore, glory God in your body.’
- 1 Corinthians 6:20


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"Marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve - one man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don't think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't."
- Kirk Cameron