Faith                                                                

Part 3, Persuading Faith for All
We have discussed faith and how it goes far beyond simply believing in God.  Faith is divine persuasion by God to reveal Himself to you.  It cannot be mustered up by any human thought or prayer but is a gift from God to be received.  We can all relate to the struggle of living in the world and using it to meet our wants and need by seeking it above God, which is such a sneaky fine line but can rob us of our faith.  College students have a great danger in this while they study and learn to prepare for a secure future.  No matter who you are, we all have to be on our toes regarding this.

(This is why Chuck and I are going to the college campus, because we are obeying the call God has placed on our lives.  We will go and tell.  We want to be a part of the opportunities presented to these young adults on campus for God to speak persuasively to them so they might crossover from belief into faith.)


Let's start by rereading Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…" (emphasis mine).


When we have crossed over from belief to faith, we are in the body of Christ and Paul tells us the result will be evident in what we do (James 2:26).  This means that when we have faith we'll act on it.  We'll bear fruit because faith and action- they go together like peanut-butter and jelly.

Here's a curve ball, and not to be rude, but we have to ask this question, "So what?"  What does it mean to you and to me that we have faith and act on it in our daily living?


Romans 10:13-15, "…for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'"


So, if you have faith and are in the body of Christ, the church, then we have a call on our lives to tell others, to build others up, and to keep growing ourselves.  We cannot stop until all have been told because it is not God's will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). 

If you have packed up and moved beyond belief into faith then we have to take a look at ourselves and ask, "Where's the evidence?"  Who are you telling?  Where are you making a difference?  Are you so different from the world that people look at you and know?  What are you contributing to the body of Christ, the church? 
This is what my sister recently posted on Facebook and I loved it!  Let me share it with you because it's a wonderful ending to this devotional and a really good story to drive home the point to take with you.

(I was) talking with my preschoolers about Christ's resurrection today and ended the story with Jesus is alive and it's our job to go and tell others the good news just like Jesus instructed his disciples to do. Then one of my little precious ones looks at me and said, "You're telling our whole class the story of Jesus... that's a lot of people Mrs. Melissa."

I often get down on myself and wonder if I'm doing what I'm called to do when it comes to sharing Jesus. Yes, I'm thinking in terms of 'big' people.  It took one of my 'littles' to show me that I am telling of Jesus.  And I'm sharing it with the purest of all hearts, preschoolers.  Thank you, my friend, for teaching me.

Live in His fullness of life.  Be persuaded by God that He is God and cross over the threshold of belief into faith!  Tell someone until everyone has heard! 

by Andrea Simmons 4.10.17
  
 Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..."
Part 2, Persuading Faith for All
Last time we were together, we talked about how so many of us are living life to the fullest without knowing the fullness of life.  God has called us by His divine persuasion into faith so that we might be united with Him.  We are exploring faith, what it is, and what it means to us.  It is a spiritual gift from God that is beyond simply believing.  ​​

When we have the gift of faith, we are part of a growing body of Christ and these are good things to know.

To continue in this line of thinking we have to ask what robs us of our faith?  It is explored beautifully in Jesus' parable of the seeds.  Matthew 13:3-9, "And he told them many things in parables, saying: 'A sower went out to sow.   And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

We want to look at the third group of seeds that fell among the thorns and were choked out.  This is one of the few parables where Jesus directly explained what it means, and it's a gold nugget!  Let's read what Jesus had to say about the third group of seeds.  Matthew 13:22, "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful." 


Sigh.  This sounds so familiar.  Who hasn't cared about what the world has to offer before?  Who hasn't wanted to be rich with what the world has to offer before?  The struggle is real.


Ouch.


When we, like so many of our college students, live out our days seeking after these things for the now and for the future, Jesus is very clear in explaining to us that it chokes out His word in us.  It robs us of our faith; we are no longer persuaded by God but by the world.

Yep.  The Sunday school answer is to love Jesus and not the world, but, when we're living in it we really have to be on guard because this one can be tough!  It's sneaky.
No one gets up in the morning and thinks, "I think I'll do it all wrong today."  We are all living out our days the best we know how.  We have wants, goals, and needs.  Whether it is to make the grade and get the job to secure a future for ourselves or continue at our job trying to climb the ladder of success, how to be more beautiful, how to make it through the month- you get the idea, we are immersed in this world and what it takes to make it. 

Some of us may be super-stay-at-home-moms, while others are super-working-moms.  The question for all of us is the same, while we are trying to live life to the fullest, are we living in the fullness of life?  Are we living out our days with God in faith or are we seeking the things of the world?  It can be such a fine line to cross.


This is tough stuff.


In Ephesians 4:11-12, where do you fit in?  Are you one that is ready to reach out to others because you are in the body and have received of the gift of faith or do you still need to cross the threshold from belief to faith?  Pray and ask God if there is anything robbing you of your faith today and sit quietly listening to Him to give you some truth.  Please contact me and say, "He did!" if you were impacted today.  I would love to pray for you!  God bless, you.


By Andrea Simmons 4.10.17

 Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..."
Part 1, Persuading Faith for All
I have had the privilege of walking around three college campuses in the past few months and either speaking to students or watching as a prayer partner spoke to them.  One of the questions we asked these young intellectuals was, "What are the needs of this campus or student body?"  I was a little taken back by not only their lack of response, but their being totally taken off guard by the question.  None of them had an answer.

The students on campus are there because they want to grow in a discipline of study; they are learning to think and are the next leaders of our world.  Some of them are seeking all the experiences the college campus life has to offer.  Some are seeking wealth while others have nothing better to do.  One thing I am concerned about is that they are not thinking about the true needs of themselves and the people around them, they're just living a day pushing through piles of homework.  As my husband, Chuck, and I talked about this we concluded that there is a trend among college students who are out to live life to the fullest without knowing the fullness of life.

Ephesians straight up tells us how to live; I just love reading it lately.  Ephesians chapter 4 is particularly interesting due to the fact that it starts a new train of thought.  It seems to point back at the first three chapters, which tell us who we are when we are found in Christ, and takes note that because you are in Christ this is how you should be living every single day.

To keep things simple, let's read Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..." (emphasis mine).

The word all in these verses from the original Greek means all, including every person.  In this verse the word faith in the Greek is pisteos, and I love this word.  Let me tell you why.  Its meaning includes to be persuaded by divine persuasion.  Simply put, God Himself speaks us to so we might be persuaded of who He is.  At this point, we will either be persuaded and step over the threshold of belief into faith, which is a gift from God, or we may choose to reject Him. 

God is not partial for or against anyone yet desires for all people to come into the saving persuasion/faith of Him.  And, in that we will be unified to Him, growing in the body of the church in Christ and telling others about Him who saves.  Hosanna, Hosanna (saves, saves)!


So many students are walking the campus blind to the fact that they are part of the all.  So many of us and so many of those we work with, go to MOPS with, are in Sunday School or small groups with, whose kids are friends with our kids- so many people do not have God on their radar, even if they have belief.  James 2:9 tells us that demons believe, but faith is beyond belief.  Faith is spiritual.  We all need to learn to live in the fullness of life through faith!

In Ephesians 4:11-13, where do you fit in?  Are you one that is ready to reach others for Christ because you are in the body or do you still need to cross the threshold from belief to faith?

By Andrea Simmons 4.10.17
  
 Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..."
The Man With a Plan
We had a shed in the back yard when we learned it had termites.  The good news?  There were no termites in our house yet.  Logically, we thought to tear down that old shed and get rid of it before termites made their way to the house.  It was a good measure of protection in my mind.  So, we got out the big hammers and swung into it, tearing lumber and materials into a pile of rubble.  My dad was impressed and I quote, "You don't swing a hammer like no girl."  Thanks, Dad!

When Nehemiah heard that his hometown, Jerusalem, was still in a pile of rubble after the first and second wave of Hebrews had returned almost a hundred years prior, he was inwardly broken.  Can we just stop here for a moment and think about the beauty of Nehemiah's response?  I just love it!

Nehemiah had never even been to Jerusalem.  He was born in Persia while Israel was in exile.  Since he was so deeply gripped with love for God and His ways, Nehemiah was broken over the rubble of the Holy City, just as God was.  That's what I love about Nehemiah, he spent so much time in prayer and devotion to God and had such an exchange of love with Him, the fruit he bore affected his attitude and response to the core of his life.  I think it is safe to say that Nehemiah loved God and was His devoted servant.  He knew a pile of rubble was not where God wanted His people to live. 

The king of Persia gave Nehemiah the word to go build the walls of Jerusalem and he did in fifty-two days!  God was definitely with that man with the plan!  Now, the time when the walls were built in Jerusalem was prophesied in the book of Daniel.  Verse 9:25, "Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.  Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time."  It was the King of Persia who sent Nehemiah out to rebuild the walls and it is from the time Nehemiah built them that accurately predicts the time of Jesus' coming to us in the flesh, a prince.  This is total of 483 years.

Jerusalem's walls being built are an extremely important date in the history of the world!  God intentionally and strategically planned the timing so in His sovereignty the events of history would play out according to His will so that you and I might recognize He is God and He has a plan for the world and for us personally.  This kind of things just stirs amazement in me- the God who did this is our God!  His majesty and His power are made known to us, let's not miss it but take time to ponder it.  We will not be disappointed when we do.

How do the walls of Jerusalem relate to you and me?  The walls of Jerusalem are a physical representation of our spiritual state born into sin.  We are like a pile of rubble that Jesus came to save us from.  Through Him, we are built and restored to the original plan God had for us.  We were not born to get used to living a life of rubble; that is not what God wants for us.  God wants good things for us, which is why He gave us Jesus. 

When Nehemiah finished the eight hundred mile journey from the king's court to Jerusalem and finally got to tour around the city.  He wasn't just seeing it for the first time soaking up the view; he already knew about the destruction.  We have to wonder, though, how he responded to what he saw.  I imagine he wept as he was peered over the brokenness with a plan in mind to bring it from piles to miles of restoration.  That is what God does with you and me.  He sees and weeps over the dreadful state we are born in, but His purpose for turning His attention to us is to restore us back to Him.  That's why Jesus came.  When we experience a deep exchange of love and forgiveness with our Savior, our spiritual walls are built.  We are strengthened, we are fortified.  A pile of rubble is not where God wants us to live.  He alone can take care of the rubble, of us.  In exchange we get Him, a wonderful Savior.

(What a beautiful thought to allow to stir in our hearts this Christmas season…)

Psalm 33:11 tells us, "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations."  You are in a prime position to know God's plan includes you and always has!  Are you in a state of living amongst the rubble?  Do you have any piles that you need to look at and address with the purpose of turning them over to God for restoration?  Lift it up on purpose to our loving Savior who has a purpose and a plan that made a way for you to do just that.  Like Nehemiah, keep a close relationship with God by being obedient and remaining in prayer.  It's a basic principal, yet powerful enough to raise a city!

By Andrea Simmons 12/1/2016

Nehemiah 2
(the whole chapter)
Irrevocable
Today is more of a blog post than it is a devotional, but that's OK once in a while!  I really want to share with you what God has been doing in my life lately because, it's extreme and I love it!  I know it must be big because my husband and I have felt attacked lately and we know that when God shows up the devil does, too.

Since my husband and I were married we felt like God had something else in mind for us to do that was not what we were currently doing.  We wanted to serve God directly in kingdom building work meaning our work would be telling people about Jesus.  God put us on the same page with it, I love that, too.  But it was a long time coming.  After months and years of feeling eager and restless to learn what our next steps were, we were growing impatient.  Well, that's not good.  So, after praying we decided that we were not just waiting for the next steps; our time of waiting was to be a very active time of spiritual preparation.  The time we felt like we were 'in waiting' was not waiting at all; it was to be filled with activities of pursuing God and His righteousness and growing in faith.  So, we did.  We are talking years here, folks!

Now, I can hardly believe I'm writing these words, but we are in the next chapter of our lives.  It's a little surreal at this point, but it is very real!  God has put a calling on our lives.  We are in the phase of support raising to become college campus missionaries!  I can already tell you, support raising is not for the faint of heart…  Easy or hard here is the verse I've adopted and it's a good one.  Romans 11:29, "for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."  I just want to pause right here and read that a few more times…  He has placed a call on my husband and on me and with that obviously comes the gifts to get the job done.  Not only that, but this call and gift are irrevocable. Chuck and I are all in because it was called out by our sovereign God and I do not want to be found wicked in the sight of God by not using our gifts for His calling.

In the Parable of the Talents, the master left talents (money) with each servant according to their abilities and the last servant, who had only one talent buried it and did not put it to good use.  The master called him wicked and slothful.  In the same way, we are to put the talents and gifts to good use which God has given us.  You can read the scripture of the talents below.

Matthew 25:14, “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ "

I'm sure you are getting the irrevocable idea about our calling and its depth and seriousness of nature.  We are called to the real deal here and I am excited, serious, and overwhelmed.  But, I also know if God has called it, then it simply is reality and my job is to obey and do the work prayerfully.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us, " For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  So, here is the question.  Do you know that God has prepared good works for you to do?  I do not know what season of life you are in, but take this season to God in prayer and ask Him what it is He has for you to do right now.  Are you in a time of preparation or a time of moving? 

What we do know is that it is always God's will for us to daily seek God's will.  Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12:2 is a really good place to start by wrapping this verse around yourself and others in prayer!  It would sound something like this, "Andrea, do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you, Andrea, will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will."  
Insert your name in the verse and then pray for God to give you an understanding that can change you and what it means for you and His glory.

God bless you and thank you for reading my blog!


By Andrea Simmons
  
Romans 11:29
"For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."
Ready or Not
Today is not so much of a devotional as it is my being open with you about what is going on in my life.

Once again, I have found myself out of my comfort zone, which leaves all kinds of room for self-doubt.  There is no room inside of us for both self-doubt and trust in God, so I must choose.
Chuck and I have been invited to join a college campus ministry giving us the new title of Campus Pastors/Missionaries.  This joining will result in many things for us.  It will cause our family to uproot from our comfy little Kansas home and move to a new place where we will have to learn to call home.  We will be leaving some very important people behind.  Tears.

Not only will those kinds of things bring great change and stress that we can count on, but I flip over to the thoughts of am I qualified to disciple?  Are all of my spiritual disciplines strong enough?  Do I know the Bible and how to study it well enough?  Thing after thing flood my thoughts these past few days.

One thing I know.  Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'"   Lately I have been so dissatisfied with my life because I go to church and I am surrounded by people who love the LORD.  I go to work and I am surrounded by Christian men.   My family and friends- all good.  I am dissatisfied because the more I study the Bible the more I desire to follow Him.  I'm not doing much good in the way of being His worker if I'm not sharing Him.


At this point, I've come face-to-face with opportunity to deny myself and follow Him.  This is making me feel inadequate.  This is making me feel intimidated.  This is making me feel scared.  This is making me feel overwhelmed.


This is what else I know because God said so, "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD you God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you," Deuteronomy 31:6.

I know the truth; the question is will I choose to live by it?  It's a question of faith.  So, I will step into this position with confidence in God.  I will do it feeling inadequate.  I will do it feeling intimidated.  I will do it feeling scared.  I will to it feeling overwhelmed.  It is all because of God.  I will do it because He commands this of His people and I am more scared to be less than His when compared to the other.


Mark 12:42-44, "But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything- all she had to live on.'"


What Mark 12:42-44 tells us is that God accepts what we have to give.  Ready or not, I will give Him what I have.

What about you?
  
by Andrea Simmons

Matthew 16:24
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'"
Tough Times are for Something
I like to eat. Sadly enough, my body responds in appropriate ways and I have periods of my life that I am… let’s just say a little chubbier than I like. Was it my fault my mom was a feeder? One time I remember her telling me I was getting a little too thin, which was not viewed the same way by most standards. Now that I’m an adult surely I cannot blame good ole mom.

The problem remains that I like to feed myself some foods that don’t qualify as ‘good’ and then I physically pack on the pounds. It is simple cause and effect. Spiritually speaking, feeding yourself what is good is always necessary, too.

Human nature compels us to almost always look to the physical rather than the spiritual. We have to consider it is God’s plan that we constantly remember to feed ourselves spiritually by reading and studying His word and engaging in prayer. It is through this that He brings us through the bad times (and good times) and in turn teaches us that there is a spiritual aspect of life that needs constant feeding.

The Israelites had a bad time of it while wandering through the desert for forty years. It probably wasn’t on the top of their list to wander on hot sand for that long, but God had a purpose for it. He had something very specific in mind they needed to learn for their own good and it was through the desert that He was able to grab their attention and show it to them. They needed to remember the ways of the LORD and have a heart for Him rather than selfishly going the ways of the pagans.

And you shall remember all the ways which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands, or not. Deuteronomy 8:2-3.

We do have to put up with our naturally self-centered, physically-focused, human nature while we wade through the tough times in life. However, no hard thing you have ever gone through, are going through, or will go through is wasted. It is not meant to cause you an inferiority complex but to bring you closer to Him. The hard times test you and see what you’re made of. It is so important to cling to God during these times and not be dragged away by world. You have free will and the choices you make depict what’s inside of you. I encourage you to choose well and be found worthy.

Recall that Job was a man in the Bible who was wealthy and well respected with a large family. He kept close to God’s commands. He was a good ol’ boy! Then, the evil one, his accuser, stepped in. God put boundaries on what could be done to Job, but everything he had in the physical was taken away, even his health. His world was turned upside down, stomped on, and torn apart into shreds.

Recently, when I read the book of Job, I saw something I had never seen before. Job 42:55-6 says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Is it obvious here that God used the physical to teach Job an important spiritual lesson? This was a profound spiritual lesson teaching Job who God is and drawing him closer to Him.

After he prayed for his friends everything in the physical was restored to him in greater portions than he had before. This is not a health and wealth devotional yet the point remains that God brought Job through some of the most devastating life events and it was not in vain. God used it to grow Job’s spiritual life exponentially. This has far greater value for the now and eternity than anything he had before.

God’s great love sought him out and disciplined him by teaching a lesson that resulted in Job being so much more in love with God, which has eternal value. I imagine him treasuring God in his heart every time he makes a sacrifice for each of his children. I imagine him treasuring God in his heart so much now that his joy spills over to others and God becomes known because of him. His worship was probably sincere, glorifying to God, and contagious. There should be a Second Job so we could read how this spiritual feeding blessed his life and those around him!

Are you feeding yourself good spiritual things so what comes out of you when tested is a witness for God rather than the world? Do you realize He is seeking you, and none of your hard times will be for nothing? Let God show you in each circumstance in life what valuable lesson He has for you. The purposes for a difficult time may not be evident in the midst of it all but hold on because in God’s timing you just might be amazed! There are treasures in difficulties! God desperately wants you to know who He is and who you are in Him. He’ll go through great lengths to teach this to you and why it should be valuable to you.

Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

By Andrea Simmons
“This area can be fully edited and gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself, your website or company, your products or services.”
Single Minded About Jesus
Once up a short time I wondered how a preacher could stand up there and preach week after week and teach others about Christ when they are just the same as the rest of us. Please understand I’m not dogging any pastor- I love our pastors! This was just a growing experience I went through and I loved what I learned. Some of my thoughts included the fact that they are born into the same sin, saved by the same grace, and struggle with the same daily struggles. What I had to do was refocus my thinking. These men are not preaching on their own authority and their own words; they are preaching under God’s authority and His words making it not only OK for them to preach, but wonderful that they do so out of obedience to the LORD!

The Apostle Paul dealt with struggles in the early church of people starting churches that did not preach only God but also some man made rules, which was really a false gospel. These man made rules were not created to please God, but man. Then they had the nerve to accuse Paul of not doing it right. Well, this was unacceptable and Paul said to them, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” Galatians 1:10. Paul’s focus was clearly to put God’s agenda of love out there making God his only personal agenda.

Paul put out a great amount of effort to correct a church is Galatia to stay close to the truth of Jesus.

He was out to persuade them to be like him in seeking to please and serve only one master because he is convinced if people follow a false doctrine they will be sealing the deal to their doom. His love for God and what God loves is much too compelling to allow him to sit back and let this happen to God’s church.

Paul was sold out for the sake of Christ, but how does this apply to our personal lives? Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” What will we allow in our lives to be our authority? According to Matthew 6:24, there can only be one master in our lives, never two.

Are there any false doctrines of our culture that we let seep into our relationship with Jesus? The one I am going to address today is this, is what you believe about Jesus in accordance with the scripture? What we believe about Jesus if foundational to our faith and it must completely align with scripture, or we follow a false doctrine. Following are a list of scriptures to read about Jesus. It is vital for our hope and future in Jesus that we are perfectly clear on who He is.

Jesus was born of a virgin woman, died on the cross, was resurrected three days later, and ascended into heaven forty days after His resurrection.

Matthew 2:1-23
Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:21
John 2:19-21
John 19:33
Matthew 27:62-66
1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Jesus is divine.

John 1:1, John 1:14 (Jesus is God who came to dwell with us)
Philippians 2:5-11 (Jesus Christ is Lord)
Hebrews 1:6 (He is to be worshiped)
Romans 10:13-14, Joel 2:32 (He is prayed to)
Matthew 8:2 (He is worshiped)
Matthew 9:18 (He is a healer)
Matthew 15:25 (He is worshiped)
Matthew 20:20 (He is prayed to)
Mark 5:6 (Demons knew Him)
Acts 7:59 (He is prayed to)
John 14:6 (He is God)
John 15:7 (He is God)

Dear LORD, thank you for your word and making yourself known to us! It is my prayer that, as Christians, we seek you and be given a clear understanding of who you are and not be confused by false doctrines in our culture. This is such a vital truth to our eternity and our current identity in you. Please let everyone who reads this know that you are the Christ. Praise your holy name, amen.
 
By Andrea Simmons
Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Faith Over Fear
I have never been an inwardly confident person.  Nope.  So, when it came to me signing up for my last semester of college and student teaching I was terrified I would fail.  I almost didn’t register, but so glad I did.  It turned out that I loved student teaching and I was successful. 

Fear can dress in so many different costumes, but the root is always the same- fear!  We can be fearful of finances, sickness, people hurting us, and the list goes on.  However, when fear outweighs faith, there's a problem.  You are already living defeated.  That, in no way, is what God has in mind for you.  He has in mind for you to be more than a conqueror, filled with joy, and to have a spirit of power.  He is not defeated and in Him you are not either!

One thing God has been teaching me is that our hearts cannot be full of Him and full of evil.  Our hearts are one or the other.  In the same way, we cannot be living in faith and living in fear simultaneously.  We choose which direction we will be intentional about.  When we give way to fear it is at that moment we stop believing God is able to work in whatever is causing our fear.  Likewise, when we focus on God, faith in Him takes root over fear.  Decisions are often made in a moment so we must monitor ourselves to make sure we are sticking close to what is good and true.

What faith is can be found in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  We can't see God, but we know He exists.  Faith is also a gift from God; it is not something we can come up with and work out in ourselves all on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). 
Faith is not disbelief in God.  It is not being anxious (Philippians 4:6-7).  It is not lack of trust in God (Psalm 56:3). It is not lacking self control (2 Timothy 1:7).   It is knowing God is and is able! 

1 Samuel 17:37, "And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.'  And Saul said to David, 'Go, and the Lord be with you!'”  What David is saying is that because I have seen God at work in my life before, I am confident that He will do it again!  David has a history of faith that encourages him.

Romans 10:17, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  From this verse we learn that faith comes from hearing the Word.  This tells us, and now we know, that we have to be reading the Bible and engaging in Bible study because this will grow our faith.  We have to be engaging the written Word in some way as Christian women.

When finances turn south, relationships turn sour, or sickness turns up, it will not comfort us to think of God's gift of faith if we are not certain of Him.  When we spend our time in the Word and things strike fear into us, we are able to recall what we believe in Christ.  It is at this point that we are able to be comforted by who we believe in and trust.  We should all be studying and be ready for trials.

Be encouraged today to focus on God when you are tempted to fear.  Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  He has promised to listen to you, give you peace, and guard your heart and mind in everything.

We are weak and God knows it.  That is why He gives us His gifts of grace and faith- to meet us in our weakness and give us what we need to live in a world of harassment.  It is through the tough times He can show us who He is and allow His gifts flourish in us.  He is a good and loving God all the time! 

By Andrea Simmons​

Hebrews 11:1
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
He's Talking & We're Listening
Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

There have been people in my life that have taught me forgiving does not always have to equate with trusting. Sometimes, it does mean trust is reinstated, which is good because without trust there is no relationship. Trust is key.

When you generally do not believe what someone tells you then it is safe to say that you do not trust them, either. In order for us to trust someone, we must believe what they say with their lips and their life. The same is true for God. If we do not fully believe what God tells us through scripture then we will not be able to fully trust Him in our life. If we do not trust God, then we have a serious faith issue.

God speaks to us is through His word. I have learned that one way to know if God is speaking to you is He will repeat what it is He wants you to grasp. So, the fact that Proverbs 3:5-6 has come up to me five (yes, count them!) five times in a matter of ten days, I am certain this is much more than a coincidence and God is in fact telling me to live out these verses.

These verses start out by telling us to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart." In order for us to do that we have to believe that He is God and what He says is true. Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him," (emphasis mine). Faith, or believing God even when we do not see Him (Hebrews 11:1), is what distinguishes us from those who are unbelievers.

Being a believer means trusting God. But, when, why, how, and with what do we trust God? James 1:2-4, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." This verse tells us that we will have many trials in life; we trust Him through those. We trust Him with our family. We trust Him with our finances. We trust Him with all of our circumstances.  We trust Him with ourselves. We trust Him because He does not lie (Numbers 23:19), He works good things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), He keeps His promises (1 Kings 8:56), He uses us for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), He gives us peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7), and once we start trusting Him, trust in Him grows (Psalm 100:5).

Do you ever wonder what faith looks like in your daily life? It looks like living out the verses of Proverbs 3:5-6; it's where the rubber meets the road. If we have faith it will be seen in our obedience and belief in these commands (and many others). Once we trust God with everything then there is evidence within ourselves of faith, which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

As God has shown me these verses five times in ten days, I am going to continue to read, ponder, study, and memorize them. I am going to obey and trust God with everything I can possibly think of.  Would you join me? I would love it if you contacted me and left a message if you're in! Please let me know how these verses have changed you!

Amen.

By Andrea Simmons

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

Paul Christian
 
Adoption and Identity
When my older sister was seventeen she worked in the kitchen at a retirement home. One day she brought home a tall slim boy that she had met there. His name was John. I remember John sitting on our living room couch with a curly mullet and not speaking a word. He just sat.

It turned out that John didn’t have the best home life and the opportunity arose for him to come and live with us. It was quite an undertaking for my parents to take in a somewhat of a rebel boy having three daughters at home, two of which were still younger and impressionable. But, they did. Looking back, it was a really good decision. Now we have a brother and he is the most fun person to brag about because of his shining achievements in life!

It was through my sister, the firstborn of our family, that John was adopted into the family by my parents. He may have kept his genetic looks and his last name, but he is definitely my brother. He has the mark of our family in him.

The mark of a Christian is that we have received Christ and believe who He says He is. After we have received Christ, we are privileged to be a called a child of God. It is by Jesus’, the first born, that God is our Father, too, uniting us to Him. Because through Jesus we were adopted into the family of God, Jesus was first and we came after Him. Therefore Jesus is the firstborn. When people adopt children they cannot give them their own image, but God does. When he adopted us out of sin to Himself, we were given His spirit, the old sinful nature going away and His godly nature making us new. We are children of God.

We are children of God.

If you have asked God to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart, then your identity is now in Him and you have a Father in heaven. Not only that, but you are not a slave to sin anymore, but a son/daughter and an heir (Galatians 4:7). To be an heir means you are given a gift from God. The most prominent gift is Jesus, Himself, and the promise of being with Him in heaven.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a. When we are going about our days, if anything should challenge us in the way of wondering if we are good enough for any reason, remember your identity. You are loved, wanted, and a child of the one True King.

It was intentional and planed on God’s part to make a path for your adoption to Him. Philippians 2:15 tells us why he did it, “So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like start in the universe.” He wants you to be blameless and pure before Him and man in a world that socks it to us. If that were not enough, to take you beyond mediocrity and shine like the stars. Not only does He love you and give you a truthful identity, but our good Father wants good things for you!

Thank you for this, Jesus, in your name I pray. Amen!

by Andrea Simmons

John 1:12
“But to all who have received him, those who believe in his name, he has given the right to become God’s children.”
 
Out of the Box
I learned it was so built into who I was that I even went into teaching all those years ago because I’d spent all of my childhood in school and I didn’t know anything else. So, I naturally thought that’s what I was destined to be. But, not necessarily.

So, what about you? Do you ever put yourself in a box, which is an ironic twist of not allowing God to work through you which puts Him in a box, too? Yet, when we try to be open, does God truly have full access to us to accomplish His will through us? The things of the world are so sneaky sometimes, we often do not even realize when we are putting ourselves or God in a box!
 
I didn’t realize I was putting myself in a box and that I was limiting God in my life. But, my focus is on God and His calling on my life and, through Him, we can dream and do so much more than we could ever ask or imagine!

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Praise His name! Let’s make a commitment to memorize this verse together. While we do that, let's heavily focus on what God is capable of while having our response to Him resonate with a strong, “Here am I. Send me!” just like Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8).

Thank you, God, for allowing your people to live and move and have our being in you (Acts 17:2 where you do not limit what is done in your name. Thank you, God for the limitless possibilities. Thank you for freedom in you. It is liberating and amazing freedom; I love not being bound by people but freed by God.

No more boxes for us! We serve a creative and powerful God!
 
by A.S.
This devotional is about a side note lived out loud the other day.
 
I was with my friend, Heather, from my alma mater having coffee. She had just moved to town and her husband was pastoring at the church I grew up in.
 
We were talking and I told her about my blog. Later in the conversation she referred to me as a ‘writer’. I almost stopped her so I could correct her, because I am not really what she said I was. I mean, I have no real training and I don’t get paid for it. Then I caught myself. This was a moment of realization for me. I wrote in my blog… Just because no one else had ever declared me a writer before didn’t mean that I wasn’t. I do write things. I write and so I am a writer. I was floored for a moment.
 
Me, with a new title I had never explored before, but it was true.  There was evidence. Wow.
 
I realized that I was stuck in my childhood school where I was taught what to learn and how to apply it. Outside of someone telling me what I was supposed to do, nothing else was really true for me and I carried part of that into my adulthood.
 
Have you ever felt like that? That the people who lead you also govern you? Or, possibly that the other's who are supposed have your back keep you pinned down for whatever reason? (Let's take that job away from them and give it to God.) In that moment, I had the epiphany that I can do anything and it is between God and me and not what people tell me.
  
Ephesians 3:20
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
The Love/Humility Response, Part 1
My husband, Chuck, and I bought a laptop; it was a really nice one with all the features we wanted. We were so pleased to tote that thing around the house and use it for all our daily purposes. Then one day when my oldest daughter was done using it, she grabbed the top right corner and pushed it away from her. That wouldn’t be a big deal except she used just enough force to crack the screen in several places all the way across the screen up and down and everywhere. I remember it clearly because I had to sit out a six week session of my master’s program while we shipped it off to Florida for the $600 repair job.
 
Yes, I did day $600. Ouch!
 
We got our laptop back in perfect working condition and we resumed using it. I wish I could say this was the end of our laptop troubles but less than a month later I ran over my school bag with the laptop in it. I sat that bag up against the side of the car while I buckled my littlest one in her car seat, got in my driver’s seat and backed out of the drive way.
 
Chuck was on the porch waving at me like a mad man trying to communicate for me to stop the car and I stopped a little too late. Since we live on a budget I was horrified at the new expense I just created for us- not to mention I was in the middle of another class that I absolutely needed that computer for! At that moment my dear husband only hugged me and repeatedly said, “It’s just a thing. It’s just a thing.” Thank goodness computers were covered under our house insurance.
 
A few months later Chuck did something equally as stupid. Well, maybe not as stupid as what I’d done, but I wanted to be really mad at him for it. However, my mind would not stop replaying his graciousness to me that day on the driveway and I knew I had to extend the same grace. It did not escape me that his expressed love for me over the computer situation created a response of love in me back to him. That’s a full circle of love.
 
The same is true with those who know God’s love for them. God created us out of love. He created a plan of salvation for us out of love. He gave His one and only Son out of love. He is coming again out of love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” Deuteronomy 6:5. 
Similarly, Matthew 22:36-37 says, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your hart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Our response to God’s love for us should be to love Him back.

Just like I considered how Chuck had previously shown his love for me, King David considered what God had done for Israel.

“Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
 
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.” (Psalm 77:10-15.)

We should remember to consider who God is and what He has done out of love for us. Our response should always be love back to Him, a full circle of love in relationship with Hm.

“Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: ‘Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chronicles 29:10-13.)

The person who believes in God loves and honors Him, which is an appropriate response to Him who first loved us.
 
by A.S.

Deuteronomy 6:5
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” 
The Love/Humility Response, Part 2
My oldest daughter loves to say her best quality is humbleness. Please note the irony in her humor! But, there is a truly humble story about Booker T. Washington, the beloved black educator. A short time after he became the president of Tuskegee Institute in the state of Alabama, he was walking in a wealthier area of town and was stopped by a white woman. Not knowing who she was approaching, she asked Mr. Washington if would like to earn a few dollars by chopping firewood for her. Since he had nothing pressing at the moment, he rolled up his sleeves and humbly chopped away until the job was done. Later, as a little girl had recognized his face, his identity was revealed to the woman.
 
The next morning the embarrassed woman paid Mr. Washington a visit at the Tuskegee Institute to offer her apologies. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She was delighted as she shook his hand expressed to him that his attitude towards the situation and her had touched her heart and created a fondness for him. It was not long after this incident that she showed her admiration of by convincing some of her wealthy acquaintances to join her in giving thousands to the Tuskegee Institute.
 
Jesus was even more humble to leave His throne in Heaven on high and come to this dusty old world. He took the risk of offering us salvation while we were still hopeless sinners. Unlike the woman, we will never be able to pay Jesus back for His act of love on the cross. God’s great love should evoke in us a response of humility from deep within having been offered such a gift without ever being able to repay it. When we look at our own state of sin compared to His matchless greatness and magnificence we not only pale, we look like specs of dust next to His vast beauty. We have nothing left to do but see ourselves as we are and be humbled.
 
Isaiah 57:15, “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’” He is high and we are lowly and He is all about helping us in our current state. How can we not be humble, accept His gift, and love Him back? He makes Himself so easy to love!
 
Dear LORD, I was born in a helpless state yet you loved me, a worthless person. In all of your majesty I cannot repay you but I can bring you praise and worship. Thank you for showing me my place in all of this allowing me to come to a point of knowing who you are, which is the greatest understanding I could ever have! Keep me humble in your presence and in my daily living making sure you get all the glory that is due you. Help me to glorify you in all I do. Praise your holy name. Amen.
 
Isaiah 57:15
“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’”
No Need to Build Bridges
What would our worth look like if we had to earn our salvation?
 
What would it look like if we had to earn our salvation?
 
Not pretty.
 
Let’s just draw up a scenario. First of all, when God says He would ‘never leave us or forsake us’ we could count that out because we would be on our own, with no help from God, to make ourselves good enough to earn salvation.
 
Since we would have no help from God we would have to revert to a works based system to win the approval of God and our way into Heaven. It would be much easier for us to singlehandedly build a bridge from North America to Europe. We are incapable of building that bridge and way less capable of building our way to God. It just cannot be done because the distance between us in sin and God is a far greater chasm. We are destitute and helpless to reach salvation on our own. If we tried to always be good, always make the right sacrifices, always obey the law, and always go above and beyond we would still fail miserably in our humanness. If you repeatedly try to reach the same goal with failed efforts the result would be a total sense of worthlessness.
 
We need help in a bad way!
 
As it is, we are beyond blessed because our loving God knew this and made an effortless way for us to attain salvation in Him and go to Heaven. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. In this verse there is no implication of what we did or have to do to attain salvation other than believe in Him. He did the hard work and He will make the change in us, we need only to believe Him. Thank goodness there will be no strained efforts of bridge building on our part! Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this when it states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boat.”
 
However, the buck does not stop here. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I cannot tell you how much I love that verse! We are saved people with a purpose and in that we are able to know we have great worth. God did not save us to put us in His heavenly trophy display case. He created us to do good works and we get to be His helpers in an eternal world changing masterful plan. I definitely want to be a part of this big and amazing plan of His.
 
We do not have to worry about or question our salvation because God is faithful to do what He said He would do in us. We do not have to earn salvation- thank goodness! It is by our belief in Jesus that we confess our sins, ask forgiveness, and are saved. It is by His indwelling in us that we become new and out of that exchange of love flows our desire to follow His ways and do good works. James 2:8 beautifully emphasizes this point, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Doing good works is a natural outflow of our being saved and believing God. A person who says they are saved without any evidence of good works might be displaying a case of lip service.
 
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your plan of salvation and how you work it out in your people. You are a good and amazing God. Whenever I feel the urge to do good works please evaluate my heart and show me anything I need to bring to you to make right. Let my works be good works that glorify you and not busy acts of duty that strive to build my own bridges; you have done that for us. In your holy name I pray, amen.
 
Ephesians 2:8-9
 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boat.”
New Every Morning
The past couple of mornings Annah, my four year old, has woken up an hour earlier than normal. This usually means two things. One, my devotional time will be cut short and, two, I get to spend more time cuddling with her before the busyness of the day starts. She has crawled right up in my lap and snuggled in close. These are the kind of moments a momma’s heart longs for. I whispered to her, “I love it when you get up early so I can spend more time with you.”
 
At that moment my heart soared back to the time I felt a calling on my life in my early twenties, which was to get up early and spend time with God. It took me a while, several years in fact, but I finally created the discipline in my life to do it. (I’m not a morning person.) God so wanted me to get up early so He could spend more time with me. He certainly has shown me His love during these early morning meetings and I have felt loved. God wants a relationship with us and He seeks us out to get it.
 
The New Testament, or New Covenant, is better than the Old because of what it has to offer. It provides forgiveness of sins and iniquities, as is well known. But, it also establishes our personal relationship with God and His internal indwelling within us, so we can be more like Him and be equipped for Christian discipleship.
 
All things He provides for us, but in all honesty we bring very little to the table. We bring only ourselves and God does everything else. He makes the miraculous change in us while we only need to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Luke 9:23 initially looks a lot like starting out the day in devotion to Him, don’t you think?
 
When we follow the direction in Luke 9:23 we can see that, “God’s mercies are new every morning,” Lamentations 3:22-23. Every single morning we get a fresh clean slate; He is always available to make us new and clean. Yesterday doesn’t matter, spiritually speaking, because today is a new day. He will forgive us, stay in relationship with us, and indwell in us for His good works are every single day. With that being said, I feel a tug to mention that when Jesus spoke to the adulteress woman caught in the act of sin, He did forgive her just like we are talking about, but also commanded her to ‘go and sin no more’. We too, should go and sin no more. There is no room for God to dwell in us when we are occupied with ungodliness.
 
This is the start for fearing God in a healthy way and for all of our godly living. We do not desire to do things that are shameful or deceitful. As people of God we want to live in the truth. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This beautiful verse is for everyone.
 
God forgives, calls us close to Him, and indwells in us and we get to be free and live. He is so loving and gracious!
 
The only thing left is to make sure you are answering the call. Get up, so God can spend more time with you. Amazing things will happen because God does not leave us wanting, His mercies are new every morning!
 
by A.S.
 
Lamentations 3:22-23
“God’s mercies are new every morning.” 
My Name is Christian, Part 1
I have been thinking a lot lately about our worth. I cannot get away from the fact that when we focus too much on our own worth we are taking focus off of God, which ultimately takes away from our worth. That is not a fence I am willing to straddle. I was attempting to do a topical bible study on ‘the worth of a person’ and what I found is there is virtually nothing on the worth of people and everything on the worthiness of Christ and worth in other areas. There is only one conclusion to draw from this and that is only in the worthiness of Christ can we find our worth and be fulfilled. Apart from God our worth cannot be found. (Doesn’t this completely explain the hurt in our lost world?)
 
Then I thought about the word Christian. I was taught at an early age that it could be translated as “little Christ” meaning we were smaller than Christ but He lived in us. As I pondered this I realized if our title or our name is Christian then it is in Him that we can find our self, our purpose, and our worth. Because we were created in His image and created by God and for God we cannot separate ourselves from him and find any good thing. Only in Him can we discover who we are.
 
The word Christian was first used in the book of Acts. “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians,” Acts 11:25-26.
 
Broken down, the word Christian is Christ and ian. During this time in bible history, those who followed Caesar would add ian to the end of Caesar’s name creating the word Caesarian. This term was used to show that Caesar’s soldiers or Caesarians belonged to Caesar and followed him so closely that they would probably die for him. Yet, when those living in Antioch called the Christ followers Christians they were actually mocking them.
 
They obviously didn’t consider Jesus someone to be followed and felt the term was taunting. However, the Christians liked and adopted the term from their enemies and owned it as their own name. By accepting the term Christian they were stating to the world that it was by Christ they lived and died, it showed their deeply rooted love and dedication to Him. What the enemies meant to cause harm, God intended for the good of His people.
 
Here is the point that pulls together how we are to view our worth in Christ. We are Christians. If we take out the word Christ in Christian then we are just follower’s left prey to the evil one. If we take the ian out of Christian then what is left is Christ, which does not imply a connection with Him and does not signify our following Him. To be a Christ follower or a Christian we need to boldly proclaim both Christ and that we follow Him. When His name becomes our name and we call ourselves Christian then we have an identity.
 
Eusebius was an early church historian who claimed Christ. He was tortured mercilessly. His torturers were disturbed at every answer he gave when they asked him questions. What is your name? What nationality are you? Where do you live? Are you a slave or free? His response to every question was, “I am a Christian.” They despised the answer but he had no other answer because he was found in Christ, he was a Christian.
 
Eusebius had no reservations about who he was. In that, we can see by his actions that he did not question his worth in Christ because he was willing to only claim His name and die for Him. He must have been convinced about his worth to God because he was so committed to live and die by His son’s name. In His name is a relationship that is good and fulfilling to us. It was not in Eusebius’ separate and sole existence that gave him worth. It was Christ that gave worth to him.
 
If we want to know our worth we must know our Savior. Your name is Christian. Apart from Him we will only know what it is to be lost. It is my prayer that whoever reads this will consider who God is and who you are and learn full well where worth comes from. There is so much out there to teach us the lie that we are not worth anything at all but the absolute truth is because Christ is worthy, you are worthy. In His amazing love and provision for you, He made sure you were made with great worth- there is no doubt about that! Only in Him will we discover our worth. Praise His holy name!  by A.S
 
Acts 11:26
"...And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians."
My Name is Christian, Part 2
When it came to naming my two daughters I was thrilled to go through lists of names and whittle the list down to a few perfect names that fit my criteria. The name had to be one that I loved and it had to mean something significant or positive. For instance, the wonderful biblical name, Caleb, means dog, which is the name my husband wanted if we were to have a boy. Hum. I was not about to name my child something that means dog even if it is a wonderful name. I was a little surprised to find out that not all people were as bent on the meaning of their child’s name as I was. It made me feel a little extreme to be so dogmatic about it (pun intended) but it was important to me all the same.
 
One of the significant things about the name Christian and being a Christian is that in the name of Christ the old covenant under the law of Moses is gone and there is a new covenant in Christ. Before, the old covenant was for the people of Israel alone, God’s chosen. The new covenant is for all people. The promises from God now belong to Jews and Gentiles alike. No longer did the people need to claim “I am a Jew” or “I am Gentile”, which was a great chasm of difference between them. In this hot political time when Jesus followers were first named Christians, there was great prejudice towards each other’s nationalities. This was not just a prejudice of current preference, but their dividing history went way back. Jews would not eat or associate with a Gentile because they were unclean and to do that would cause great social ramifications. Now, in Christ, they could unify with the name ‘Christian’. This name took away deeply rooted social divides and unified people to God. Christ rocked their culture! Christian is a significant and unifying name.
 
I am a Christian.
 
Acts 11:5-10, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of pray and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.”
 
God told Peter not to call unclean what He had called clean, regarding not only the food but the Gentiles who ate the ‘unclean’ food, too. The Gentiles, who accept Christ, as well as the Jews, are now under the new covenant and are clean by the act of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection. The unfit and despised are now equal and worthy on spiritual and earthly terms.
 
God made a way for the Gentiles and for the first time they are now seeing firsthand the fruits of God’s love and provision for them. They have a new name, Christian.
 
No matter who you are, what you have done, where you have been, or what has been done to you, you have the opportunity to leave the old and become new! In Christ, you have a new significant name and a new identity. In Christ you are a Christian. The old you is gone and the new is here to stay.
 
Thank you, LORD! Because there are so many places and times in my life I have been found lesser in the eyes of the world. But not by you, God! You have made a way for each and every one of us in Your great ways! “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him,” Psalm 40:1-3. Thank you because we are all created equal in your name and you have done great things for us. You can wipe our past clean, make us new, and give us a new name. Praise you, God, and thank you. Bless your holy name that can make all things new!
 
Acts 11:10
“What God has made clean, do not call common.”
Respond With Boldness
I have spent most of my life in Sunday school classes, small groups, devotional groups, youth groups- you name it and I’ve spent some time in these church groups. One thing I have learned over the years is we are responsible for our responses to the content being taught/discussed. I had an older friend say once that if he skipped his morning prayer then he felt guilty for praying in the car on the way to work because it wasn’t good enough; he felt like he was giving God his second best. We were obviously discussing something like ‘the perfect prayer life’.
 
I am often reminded of a common response we have all had when we go through life content that challenges us as Christians. For instance when we read a book that stretches us (including the Bible) there are good responses we can have toward it. Currently, my small group is reading a book that does just that, stretches our ordinary routine of daily life. This is the kind of book that causes us to rethink what we think we know about  things Jesus teaches and makes us question the things we do. The faith stretching these kinds of books cause can be very good. Good things.
 
What I have been reminded of was that so many times, when we are stretching, we are also comparing. It looks and sounds something like this, “I just go to work and come home and I’m so far from the kind life depicted in this book… I must not be a good enough Christian because my prayer life falls short of the example in the book.”  Sometimes, we don't even know we're doing it!
 
It is so good to allow the author’s thoughts stretch us and spur us on to being more ambitious for Christ; that is probably their prayer for those who read the book. But, do not call unholy what God has called holy. If you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart then be confident that a good work is being done in you! Out of that fact that Jesus in us and we are growing to be more like Him, it may or may not look exactly like those in the book. Because Christ is holy and He is in us then we are holy. We should not down play this by comparing ourselves to exterior examples of any kind because we are not doing the exact same things as they are. Honestly, we should model after Jesus first and foremost and even then we are doing our best to fight the good fight and run towards the goal, Jesus.  We are imperfect and we will stay imperfect while on this earth, so press on.
 
We should consider praising God for the good works He’s doing through real examples in our lives and pray for the LORD to show us a need that He would like us to take care of. We have the same Salvation and grace at work in us as the book examples or any other godly examples do. We should not look at examples and compare, leaving ourselves with the short end of the stick, but be encouraged and spurred on. Do not be hindered by what we think we are not but focus on what Jesus said we are.
 
Our individual responses should be between us and God. Let’s measure what we’re studying and test it against scripture to make sure it is real truth. Let the Holy Spirit talk to us and open up to us what it is He has for us to learn. Let’s not think our relationship with the LORD as less than it is because God is powerful in us! If we are feeling spurred on to be a greater example and witness then the purpose of the author was accomplished and we should move towards the nudge we feel.
 
Our daily routine is where the rubber meets the road and is proof of our faith being lived out. If we are in a season that God has called us into and we are confident our works are because of His specific calling, and then praise God! Some of us are in a season of actively living for the LORD but there is no big ministry to speak of, still praise God. This does not make God in us lesser. This means we are in a different season, but make no mistake, the way we live our daily life and stay in relationship with God is more than very important. God at work in us can still make a big impact for His kingdom. Be spurred on, be challenged, be active, be encouraged, and be bold! Make a bold move for the LORD, these are good things! Let other’s examples cause us to be spurred on; we all serve a mighty God.
 
by A.S.
 
Faith
Faith, Because He is King
James, in the New Testament, referred to himself as a bondservant to Jesus Christ (James 1:1, NASB). In the Greek a bondservant (doulos) is defined as someone who gives up their self-interest to another’s will and is devoted to the other. James is telling us he was sold out for the sake of Christ.
 
All of his hours and minutes were spent spreading the word of Jesus to those without a shepherd. He didn’t count the money lost from a more lucrative position or count the monies in his bank account. He didn’t have a warm home because he traveled to speak. He probably was not able to keep close daily relationships with long-time family and friends either because he traveled. How many other things there must have been. His joy was Jesus and that was all he needed to live this way. It was obviously worth it to him or he would not have done it.
 
James had faith.
 
Matthew 8:9-10 a centurion approached Jesus and asked for his servant to be healed, but only requested Jesus to say the word because he knew Jesus did not need to be present, “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.  When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
 
Jesus’ response floors me. The centurion had more faith than the disciples!  Wow.  Is it because in what he said, he was telling Jesus, “I know you have authority over all and if you speak it will be done?” This concept had penetrated the Centurian's understanidng and Jesus did not let it go unfounded.
 
Before Peter walked on water in Matthew 14:22-33 , he asked Jesus if it was really Him they were seeing- and not a ghost, to command Peter to come to him. The word command in the Greek used in these verses is an action word that is associated with the authority of the head of a military over others, possibly even a king. When the authority figure gave a command, the order was carried out, plain and simple, no questions asked. Peter’s faith of asking Jesus to call him to walk on the water demonstrates that he is sure if Jesus issued the command that it would absolutely be done. Jesus is the king of the universe had authority over everything! Peter was so sure of it that he stepped out of the boat and started walking on water to Jesus!
 
Peter had faith.
 
Find and read Matthew 8 and consider the authority Jesus has over the earth and universe! Glory to Him, He is who He says He is!
 
Where is your faith at today? Spend some time wallowing in His greatness and majesty today. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Every minute spent seeking Him is a minute spent bringing Him glory and there are huge blessings in it. He gave us His Son and His word so that we might know Him. “Open wide your mouth and let Him fill it,” Psalm 81:10b.
 
by A.S.
 
Matthew 8:10
 "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”'