This is not often the most popular message; however, it is necessary as a Christian. We read this scripture “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely reject and disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own, as you continually surrender to my ways.”Matthew 16:24, but often we tend to skip over the denying yourself and taking up your cross part and go straight to the following Jesus part. However, we MUST die to us before we can ever truly follow Jesus.
I recently had a dream of my own crucifixion. It was one of the most beautiful, humbling, powerful experiences I’ve ever had with Jesus. The reality is, we must crucify our flesh, our desires, our opinions, our thoughts, our plans, our characteristics, so that we can take on more of Him.
It says in Galatians 2:20, “My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me— we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine!”
Our wonderful Father is not asking us to die to us because He wants to create robots. He’s asking us to die because without the death of us, we cannot be fully alive in Him, operating in everything Jesus died for. Fully alive in Jesus means that we look like Him. It means that we walk in the greatest love, kindness, boldness, passion, compassion, patience, joy, peace, etc.
This world needs Christians fully alive in Jesus. We’re not fully alive if we haven’t died to us yet. We sacrifice our obedience to God because we haven’t died to our comforts yet. When we’re fully dead to us and alive in Jesus, obedience to Holy Spirit is always top priority. This world doesn’t need Christians that look like self. This world needs Christians that look like Jesus. This world is waiting, groaning, longing for Christians who look like Jesus. They need face to face encounters with the King.
Let’s take a moment to pray. Make this personal to you.
Holy Spirit, I ask You to come. I ask You to show me what it means to die to me so that I can fully live in You. I ask for a personal revelation of crucifying me. I want to stay close to Your spirit, close to Your fire, the fire that purges me so that I become like You. I love You God and I thank You for inviting me into this death. Dying to me so that I live freely in Jesus is the most wonderful invitation and I say yes. Amen.
So here is the thing, I have issues with feeling inadequate at times. Like, “How can God use me?” “What is my purpose for the kingdom?”
Ever since I was asked to contribute to this page, I have worried that I wasn’t worthy or had anything worthwhile to say. I don’t always have the most catchy or witty things to say, and I questioned if anyone would even want to read anything that I wrote.
I began to write a “cookie cutter” lesson on my computer at school, but then the Lord stepped in. I came home to finalize that post only to find out that I had not saved it properly. Lost – everything was lost! I had to start over from scratch. Then the Lord spoke to me and said, “I am doing a NEW work in you! I have something else for you to say.”
Isn’t that just like the year we have had? All the plans and paths we thought we were on suddenly changed almost a year ago, and we have all had to adapt and readjust. I believe strongly that this is a time in history where God is going to do amazing things. We just have to be willing to be true disciples of His.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
EVERY Christian, not just those in formal ministry roles, are called to make disciples of all nations. The Lord has been showing me lately that my “nation” might just be my neighborhood. We all have a sphere of influence that the Lord has entrusted to us with whom we need to share the love of Jesus by simply doing life with each other.
You don’t have to go to a foreign land, have a degree in theology, or have a formal role in ministry to make disciples of those around you. Moms are called to love their children and families like Jesus does, and that is a mission field for sure. Teachers can positively impact students lives by loving them like Jesus when they need it most.
People in this country, probably more than ever, need Jesus and are seeking Him, even if they don’t realize it. The words we speak can either speak life or death into someone’s spirit, and I pray that all that I say or do will point the people I come into contact with to the cross.
Over the course of my life, I can look back on the everyday people I have come into contact with that have ministered to me in a meaningful way, many of which had no idea what they did. They simply lived their life out in such a way that it pointed to Christ. Rather that be a praying Grandmother that got me through many trials in life, to a caring teacher that offered extra encouragement at just the right moment, or a friend that offered to be present and listen just when I needed it.
When we fill our hearts, souls, and minds with the word of God, that overflow naturally impacts those around us and could quite possibly change the trajectory of not only their day but also their eternity.
I want to encourage anyone reading this to be filled with so much Jesus that it can’t help but overflow, to be intentional about relationships, and to treat your neighborhood as your mission field.
Now go out and make disciples. Yes YOU! I’m telling you to go out and make disciples!
I come from a family that loves sports almost as much as they love me.
In my younger years we were heavy into softball. I can vividly remember my dad, and my big sister, telling me to keep my eye on the ball.
Because let’s be honest – I am easily distracted. I have a creative spirit. I’m a dreamer. Focusing on one thing is hard for me.
Since I’m focusing on how to focus this year, I’m working my way through Philippians 4:8. I had a huge a-ha moment while digging deep into “whatever is just”. Just comes from the Greek word dikaios which means deemed righteous by God. When we relate our lives back to this scripture the question is: Are we focusing on what’s deemed righteous by God, or are we focused on what’s deemed righteous by the world?
My dad and my big sister knew that for me to be successful I couldn’t let my eye wander. They knew that I could easily be distracted by shiny things, butterflies, or friends eating french fries in the bleachers. I had to have unwavering focus.
God knows that, too.
Today, I challenge you [and me] to be unwavering in your faith and your focus. If Godly success can be attributed by focusing on what’s deemed righteous by God, then that’s what I want to do. That’s what I need to do. And if that’s what I need to do, don’t you know the devil’s gonna be slanging all kinds of glitter my way.
Don’t take your eye off of God, y’all. And rest assured that He never takes His eye off of you.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 1 Peter 1:13
Yesterday Dianne Smith Timberlake and I were deep in conversation, and she said this to me, “What we think is hardship could actually be hope.”
That’s good stuff.
I’ve been all over the Bible, the dictionary, and commentaries this morning looking at “hope”. Here is one of the definitions I found in the dictionary for hope: a person or thing that may help to save someone.
We all know that person is Jesus. Today, I pray for anyone reading this that needs that hope. He is right here to save you. Just ask.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” Ephesians 1:8
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2-3
The definition of transformation is: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
Transformation has to be thorough, which causes it to take time.
I’ve entered into a time of waiting. Waiting to hear hidden words in normal conversations, and waiting to become enlightened with what the next piece to the puzzle of my life will be.
While waiting on God’s time has proved time and time again to grow and groom God’s people for their future ministry, waiting isn’t easy.
I have always struggled with being impatient. By living in a world of immediacy, I think it has become way too easy to grow impatient.
“What do you mean my package won’t get here until Tuesday?”
“Why am I having to wait in line at the grocery store?”
” Why won’t the internet connect already?”
Even when I was just simply waiting for my sibling to get out of the restroom, I find myself growing more and more impatient. I find myself wanting instant gratification in everything.
The Bible speaks of seasons of waiting as seeds that will grow overtime. As Christians we use the word “growth” a lot. We might even pray that God would cause us to grow, but not many of us are willing to take the time to actually grow.
From seed to tree transformation occurs, but the tree does not appear suddenly after the seed is planted. The seed has to endure weather of all kinds, it has to dig through layers of dirt and rock to stay connected to its water source, and most importantly, it has to go through the process of growth.
Transformation takes time.
Most everything in the Bible always took waiting for the perfect time to occur.
When God told Abraham he was to have a son, Abraham was 75 years old. Abraham would only receive his son Isaac 25 years later. God promised the Isrialites that they would find The Promised Land, but before they did they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Even when God sent his Son to save us all from our sin, His son spent 30 years growing up so that he could complete His father’s will.
Yet, we still expect change and transformation should happen right after we ask. Sometimes I find myself wanting the fruit-bearing tree right after I planted the seed, but it doesn’t work that way. That is not the process.
Hebrews 6:12 states that through faith and patience we can inherit God’s promises.
If you, like myself, are entering or are already in that process of waiting, be patient with the process and be open to inherit God’s promises in 2021.
“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:43-45 NLT
One of my favorite memories from when I was young has to be standing by my siblings and cousins in my grandparent’s living room reading the Christmas story on Christmas Day.
I have always thought so highly of Mary. How wonderful to be hand chosen. How blessed she must have felt to be picked to birth the son of Christ. The mother of the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, and son to come into our world to save each and every one of us.
Wow. Just wow.
I still think highly of Mary to this day. Of course because she’s the mother of Jesus that gave birth on Christmas Eve many many years ago.
– but also because of her character. For who she was. She was ordinary. Just like all of us. She was one who looked in the mirror and didn’t see much more than just a servant girl, but the Lord saw so much more in her. Just like he does in each of us. Mary never once thought she was worthy enough. She found herself in awe of the fact that He took notice of “his lowly servant girl” to which she called herself. It shows her character. Maybe we can relate to her today.
“For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
Luke 1:48-49 NLT
She could have questioned God’s will for her life. She could have chosen to live in fear or disbelief. She could have chosen to run and hide. But she didn’t. She came to the realization that she was good enough, and He saw the capability to impact the world through her. God noticed her even when she felt “unnoticeable” and used her for his glory.
As we wrap up 2020 and head into 2021, what if we all strived to be less like the world and more like Mary? Simply believing the Lord is who He says He is, and trusting in His plan. Maybe you do not see much when looking into the mirror, but perhaps this “New Year” you can trust in the Lord and remind yourself that He sees all of your capabilities.
Perhaps next Christmas you can say, I strived to be more like Jesus this year. Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.
We all know, far too well, that 2020 has been a hard year. We’ve experienced the fear and instability of a global pandemic, lost loved ones to a confusing virus that we still don’t fully understand, struggled with the political division in our nation, shifted our plans and reprioritized our lives, and come face-to-face with the fragility of life that our hearts do not know how to handle. It almost feels like too much to list, much less experience.
And throughout all of this, we’re still experiencing the daily struggles of normal life: hectic schedules, family commitments, hard decisions, weddings, births, divorces, deaths, job
transitions, and moving. And yet, while the virus has pressed the pause button on so many activities and gatherings that are closest to our hearts, life has still been zooming ahead. As surreal as it seems to still have the daily mundane tasks to attend to while the world deals with such a large scale crisis, this is how living has been in the long months of 2020.
All of this has been turning in my head as the holiday season has approached. At times I’ve felt guilty for not feeling my usual amount of joy and wonder, and other times I’ve felt so incredibly thankful to be here to see the lights go up and the trees come out. All of the emotions I’ve felt swirled particularly intensely when I heard “O Holy Night” for the first time this season:
“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
If there has ever been a year in my lifetime when the world felt weary, it has been this year. If we’ve ever been reminded of our need for a new and glorious morning, for a new sun to rise, it’s been this year. But the miracle of this season that cannot be dulled by the difficulties in this year is that He came. Jesus Christ knew our need for hope, and so He came. Veiled in flesh, “the King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; in all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus has never shied away from our struggle or our despair.
The Bible shows Him not only coming to us in the form of a baby, but to people in need over and over. He comes to Peter’s mother-in-law on her sickbed, to the crippled beggar on his mat in Jerusalem, and to Jarius’s sick daughter. There are so many examples of Jesus getting right into the middle of the messes made in people’s lives, from the miracle of His birth to the small moments He shared with individuals.
Ultimately, we celebrate Christmas to honor His coming, and His choice to be with us and die for us. But the incredible news is that He is coming again, to set all things right, and to remake the Earth as it was intended to be. In a year like this, when the very patterns and intricacies of our lives seem to remind us that all is not well, this is the hope that we have: that God hears, and sees; that Christ came, and will come again; that we are not alone.
We were in need of hope, of a Savior, of God, long before 2020. He came then, and He comes now, and He will come again.
Pivot, change, pause, cancel! The different words we have had to say this year, for obvious reasons. No matter your age or profession, I am positive you have had to re-adjust and learn to do things in a new way in some area of your life. With Christmas as our final event of 2020, we are still faced with having to pivot and perhaps change things. This season, I am challenging myself and asking God to show me how to see Him and His birth in a new way.
First, no matter our circumstances, the coming of our king promised hope because we have a God who is sovereign, powerful and has authority over everything, as prophesized long before His birth.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Second, as some of us have experienced loss, disappointment and fear this year, there is one truth that I have been reminded often from words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
I cannot think of anything more valuable than the peace of knowing I have Jesus Christ as my Savior and that no matter what, I have eternal salvation through Him. That is what it is all about it.
Without question, we have been forced to slow down, change perspective, and do things differently in 2020. What could happen if we threw out our thought patterns, traditions and mindset around Christmas with a daily reminder? The birth of Jesus brought us peace, grace and the offer of eternal salvation which is the most valuable gift we will ever receive. And that is what it is all about.