The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

What compares to the love of God — the greatest love? Our lives are a journey, discovering and nurturing this love which comes from God. We all possess this most basic need to love and be loved. At the end of our lives, when we enter eternity, the only thing that will matter is who we loved and how well we loved. After all is said and done, the love of God reigns supreme.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

Lovelessness

For most of my life, a warped concept of love defined my relationships. Although, I grew up in a very loving and supportive family, I struggled to replicate that pattern of living and loving. A false self-identity labelled me as a misfit and insignificant. Due to a low value of myself, I found it impossible to truly love and value others.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

My inability to love originated from that poor self-identity and feelings of worthlessness. I thought I could escape the realm of lovelessness and enter the domain of true love through marriage. This placed unrealistic expectations on my husband to fill the internal void made only for God.

The Encounter

I first encountered the love of God at a Bible camp as a preteen. Counselors explained through Scripture how Jesus was born the perfect Son of God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for my sins (which even then were many), and He rose from the grave to give me life.

My parents’ example of love made receiving God’s love an easy step. Though loving, they didn’t understand or believe in the need for confessing one’s faith in Jesus Christ or for salvation, however.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

As a young girl, isolated in my faith and lacking other Christian support, I was unable to successful maneuver the opposition I felt. And as a result, I unfortunately made a deliberate choice to abandon faith in Jesus.

No Other Love

Almost immediately, addiction and mental illness opened it’s gaping mouth, devouring all hope and life from me. I was naive to believe that there could be love apart from God who is the very essence of true, enduring love. The battle with depression ravaged my mind and soul.

When one tastes the sweet love of God, no other love suffices. In denying the One who truly loves, nothing else satisfied my longing. The journey back to the Lord took ten long and pain-filled years.

Though I had abandoned Him, He never abandoned me. By His grace, He pursued me with the greatest love.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not of works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 

First Love

Jesus’ words directly applied to me,

“Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first . . .”
Revelation 2:4,5

As I knelt in repentance and committed my life back to Jesus Christ, I uttered one additional prayer, “Lord, teach me to love!” For too long, I had failed to offer genuine, unconditional, and selfless love to those around me.

As God draws us into intimate relationship with Himself, through His love, we learn to love. Then, He renews our minds and transforms our hearts by the truth of the Bible. Then, the Holy Spirit fills us and leads us to the greatest love. We learn to love best through relationship with others who are themselves learning the lessons of love.

The Love of God

When we allow God to become our pre-eminent love everything else falls into place — not instantaneously, but as we consistently follow His example of love.

He begins to become the first One we talk to in the morning and the last One we spend time with at night. We increasingly value prayer, meditation of Scripture, and worship. And we learn to submit to His authority, allowing Him to interrupt and redirect us, as we prioritize time and focus for and with Him.

Not everyone will understand such devotion and commitment. Yet, we realize that we only have the capacity to give to others what we first receive in the presence of His love. As we embrace the greatest love from the One who is love, we gradually obtain the ability to love those around us.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

Oh! May we all learn to follow in the way of the love of God. Then our love for each other will become unhindered and unpolluted. The love of God, the greatest love, continues to make a huge difference in my life and in the lives of multiple others who experienced it. His love transforms us from the inside out.

This life-long process of learning to love as God loves brings life and fulfillment through authentic relationships with others. We all have a story — a personal testimony of learning how to walk in the love of God. What is your story?

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The full story of God’s grace and love over my life can be found here — Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go. Available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

In MaryAnn Ward's  personal testimony through addictions, depression, and sexual molestation.

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

As I look back, I realize more than ever how often a few seconds can change a life. I am still learning the art of using my time wisely by valuing the days, moments, and even seconds God has given to me. The results, or fruit, of these moments become the seeds that influence many other moments of our lives.

I have often told others, “I can not afford to have one negative thought toward anyone.” Why? Because the thought I harbor will influence my actions, my actions will form patterns of behavior, and those patterns will ultimately dictate the course of my life.

Does this sound too dramatic or overstated? Perhaps, but not likely!

God continues to challenge me with the reality of making the most of this moment of time — to reevaluate and refocus.

Procrastination

Procrastination robs us of any future reward for present effort. It deceives us into believing we have unlimited time to do the things we know we should do, and to think the way we know we should think. In the deception, we are hindered from moving forward.

“I know I should forgive, but …” “I should invest in that relationship, but …” “I shouldn’t think this way, but …”

We muse, buried in excuses and self-absorption — unmoved and unchanged. It’s a sad representation of far too many lives.

In a Few Seconds

In a few seconds, we have the power to change both our thoughts and actions.

  • “There’s nothing I can do about it,” can become “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”
  • “Someone else will do a better job of that,” can become “I may not be the best, but I can make a difference.”
  • “It’s not my problem,” can become “Whether I’m the source of the problem or not, I am responsible to do my part.”
  • “I tried, but nothing changed,” can become “This relationship means too much to quit now. I will do everything I can to bring change.”

These changes of attitude demonstrate single moment re-thinks capable of transforming the lives of more people than we realize. A few seconds can change a life. Even mine!

The Seeds of Change

What is it today? What is God asking us to do right now? Les Parrott speaks of six impulses that keep us from improving:

  • Giving up before trying … because we feel helpless.
  • Shunning a challenge … because it seems daunting.
  • Settling for the statue quo … because we lack vision.
  • Shirking responsibility … because its easier to shift blame.
  • Doing the bare minimum … because that is all that’s expected.
  • Avoiding taking action … because we fear failure.

We don’t need to lose momentum, robbed of time and opportunity. By God’s grace, we can move beyond limitations into a lifestyle of wise time management. A few seconds can change a life!

May we be bold, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas which are keeping us from living to our full potential. We have all faced similar challenges.

Truth to Hold on To

Instead of focusing on the problem, God offers us living truth:

  • We are not helpless!

 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”
Romans 8:26

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:5

  • I will do my best in every situation.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

  • God defines me, not failure!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life

Let’s take a few seconds to consider these truths God declares about us — seconds that may change our lives. Hopefully, these seeds of change will produce the fruit of change in others.

“Lord Jesus, show me the paralysing lies that keep me from transformational change. May the truth You declare about me become stronger than the belief systems that have bound me. May I use the time You have given me wisely, bringing life, love, and hope to others. May I accomplish the full purpose and design You have declared for me. Today, Lord, I turn from wasted moments. I know that what You have ahead of me is greater than I can imagine. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”

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5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

We can find far more than five unbeatable exchanges that nobody wants to miss — divine exchanges which bring immeasurable benefits. Today as I focus on these few (life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise) may we also discover the many other exchanges available to every believer.

Often things that once worked perfectly, begin to malfunction over time. Some companies even offer trade in discounts to exchange newer, upgraded products for older models. Usually, it’s a limited time offer to urge customers to purchase the latest, fastest, gadgets.

Our children, like everyone else’s, quickly grew out of their clothes as too much leg began to show beneath the hem of pants and tummies protruded from under shirt lines. Shoes also became too tight and developed holes. I smile as I remember how the new purchases seemed to make them stand taller and how they proudly showed off their new-found ability to run faster.

Purging closets and cupboards comes easier to me than loosening my grip on other things which I know I should get rid of — even when those things no longer serve a useful purpose.

An exchange means changes. With changes come challenges we would often rather avoid. But God offers everyone five unbeatable exchanges nobody wants to miss.

The Greatest Exchange

The most beautiful and powerful exchange comes when we surrender our old, temporary life for a new, eternal life in Christ. This divine exchange occurs not outside, but inside us — in the spirit — as we accept Christ’s payment for our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross.

No one dares to claim full understanding of such an exchange. We only receive it by faith. Jesus did for us what we could never do — bridging the gap of separation between us and God and bringing us into relationship with Him.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Colossians 2:13

What a wonderful exchange … death for life … separation from God to being united with Him! Nothing compares to the freedom and joy found in this magnificent exchange.

 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

Labor for Peace

Although we are all unique, we each feel the weight of responsibilities and concerns. But Jesus welcomes us to exchange our burdens for His perfect peace and rest.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Another version puts it this way: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Too often, life feels “heavy or ill-fitting.” These never come from God. Sickness, death, and pain were never God’s plan for us. But because we live in a fallen world, rampant with evil, we face trials. God stands with open arms, offering to carry the full weight for us. He teaches us His “unforced rhythms of grace” to walk through even the most difficult times.

Three Exchanges in One

Hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, Isaiah promised the unbeatable exchanges Jesus would one day bring.

“… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61:3

Will we sometimes feel like our lives have disintegrated into ashes scattered by the wind? Sadly, yes. Will we face the heaviness of grief and mourning? Undoubtedly. Will we experience seasons of hopelessness and despair? Perhaps.

However, as we draw near to Jesus He promises to bring beauty from the ashes. Even in the midst of mourning, He pours healing oil into our wounded hearts. And out of the dust of despair, He can and will bring forth songs of praise — not for the circumstances, but for His Presence bringing us through those circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. Twice in verse seven of the same chapter, Isaiah tells us that Jesus will give us “a double portion” for any trouble we have experienced as we choose to place our weakness into His strength.

Unbeatable Exchanges

Even as I write, I sense the heaviness of what some of you are experiencing today. So, I write with tears of compassion. I feel the heart of God welcoming you to His divine exchange, surrendering your loss for great and eternal gain.

Please join in this simple prayer, accepting His divine exchange.

Lord Jesus, I am tired and worn out — tired of pretending I’m strong and have life together. My heart hurts and my emotions feel as scrambled as my thoughts. I give you my broken life and welcome Your whole one. I long for an intimate relationship with You as my loving Father God. Take my sins and failures, Lord. I believe You died for me. I receive the unbeatable exchange of life and fellowship in Christ. The burdens and pressures have become too much for me to carry, Lord. So, I lay them at Your feet. Teach me the “unforced rhythms” of walking in Your grace. I give you the heaviness of my heart — the burned ashes of dead hopes, the mourning over lost dreams, and the heavy spirit of despair. Today, Lord, I receive Your unbeatable exchanges of life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise. Only You can transform my life into something that will ultimately bring You glory and praise. And in that transformation, I know You will give me life eternal and immeasurable good.
Amen.

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White and Black Dog: The One We Feed Will Grow

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog_Black Dog

A wise, elderly pastor shared an illustration, explaining how life resembles living with both a white and black dog inside of us. Whichever one we feed will grow; while the one we neglect will become dominant. The black dog represents the sin nature with all its selfish cravings and demands. The white dog represents a life empowered by the Holy Spirit, following and obeying everything godly — love, grace, and beauty … honor, humility, and honesty. God encourages us to intentionally feed and focus on only the “white dog” of the Holy Spirit.

I know the illustration is faulty, but it also gives a clear picture of the two realms we struggle between. In Romans 7, Paul explained this daily dilemma of living with two desires warring against each other.

Dead

When we commit our lives to Christ, God wipes the slate of past sin clean, erasing all the charges once rightly held against us. The old has gone and the new has come! Done deal!

Although this “legally” holds true, we experience a different reality — a reality of contending for the very victory Christ has already won. The white and black dog war within us. The black dog refuses to accept death, while the white dog welcomes us to the fullness and freedom that is ours.

For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious.
Romans 7:5

How true these words? Whatever we felt we could get away with, we did or perhaps still do.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Black Dog

Alive

But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”
Romans 7:6

“But now!” Oh, how I love those words! The white and black dog both ask to be fed. But now, the freedom of Christ gives us the power to choose. Will we feed the things of the Spirit or our own cravings?

Deciding to do the right thing, the good thing, the godly thing, often fails us, however. Our past rebellion ingrains our present actions, as we repeatedly say and do things which we know dishonor God and hurt others. Again and again, we feed the black dog.

We obviously need help. The thing we want to do, we are unable to accomplish.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog - Black Dog

Something More

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.”
Romans 7:17-19

God understands our dilemma and has given us all we need for complete victory. The something more we need is Someone more — Jesus Christ. Into our poverty and powerlessness, He comes, providing the way.

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
Romans 7:25

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Which Dog Will We Feed

The Choice

So, we live within a sobering reality. God provided through Jesus all we need for a complete and victorious life in the Spirit. Each decision leads us to feed either the white or black dog.

Jesus summarized all the commandments this way,

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

Whatever attention we give to the black dog of sin results in a disastrous outcome. It may be delayed, but it will come. But love always feeds the things of the Spirit. As we give our full attention to loving God and others, the things of the Holy Spirit (or the white dog) will grow stronger. Through Jesus Christ, victory becomes our portion over every area of our lives.

When we can’t find the strength or power to will and do God’s pleasure, thank God … Jesus Christ can and does! Let us turn to Him each day in prayer and petition, in reading His Word and devoting ourselves to follow its direction, and to love and serve God and others to the best of our ability.

May the black dog die from neglect and the white dog flourish.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog

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A Personal Testimony: Facing Our Fears: Whom Shall I Fear

MaryAnn Ward, Blog Post, Facing Our Fears

Facing our fears presents unique challenges for us all. We try to bury, deny, and wrangle fears into corners of avoidance. Sooner or later, however, God graciously leads us into bravely facing and dethroning them.

My Amplified Bible calls out the heading for Psalm 27 as “A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.” Oh, if only I might claim such a constant position of faith. Isn’t that what we all seek? A fearless trust, not in ourselves but in Omnipotent God.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life—Whom shall I dread?”

Psalm 27:1

When it comes to most things, I have more nerve than a toothache, naively going where others dread or doing what some prefer to shy away from. But lately, I’ve been facing more than a tad of fear. Only I didn’t recognize it until some close friends discreetly called it out. For that, I am most grateful.

Please, let me explain.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Fearless

The Origin

Last September at an InScribe Writer’s Conference, I felt God compelling me to write my memoir. Though I have shared snippets of my life story, I panicked at the thought of exposing the ugliness of my former life for all to see. “No, Lord,” I pleaded through tears.

I’ve never yet won an argument with God. After all, long ago my story became His story woven through the bright and glorious as well as the dark and ominous segments of life. Could His story in and through me possibly bring hope and help to others?

Grudgingly, I consented. “I give you thirty days,” I conceded, fearing the intensity of the emotional cost.

“Yes,” I felt God counter in my Spirit, “and you will paint thirty pictures in those thirty days — thirty pictures of roses.”

I laughed. To write “His story” in thirty days seemed more than an impossibility. To add another thirty day challenge felt outrageous. And roses! As a fairly new painter I’ve never once tried to paint roses.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37

But here we were, God and I, co-laboring to do something that would expose every raw piece of emotional flesh and disrobe every protective covering I’d invented. Numbly, I mass dumped memory after memory onto the pages until I was too exhausted to continue. Then, I’d paint, finding soul healing in the brush strokes. After thirty days of writing and painting, the rough draft and paintings were complete.

Facing my fears, God carried me through.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father

God Intervention

But God had more proof that this little memoir was of His choosing. The first editor waved all her fees and asked to use the book, in combination with her resources, to bring healing to many others.

The second person to read the draft had the most to risk with the publication, but he found the contents entirely redemptive and healing. “This needs to be published. It will help many people,” he said.

The second professional editor also waved her fees. Without request, she offered this review:

“… Readers will come away with a renewed sense of hope, because through this writer’s experience they will discover that no one is too lost, too broken, or too far gone to have their lives restored beyond what they could even ask or imagine…” – Michele H.

“Do it afraid!” the slogan declares, regarding facing our fears.

But God provided even more assurance. Ordering the first shipment of books, I charged them to my credit card. Since my business account had funds to cover the cost, I neither worried nor prayed about finances. However, before the credit card payment came due, God stirred the hearts of people to donate money to my ministry efforts. (Something never done before!) No one knew the pending costs. I hadn’t expressed a need. But God picked up the full tab, providing more than enough to pay the entire bill!

Through God’s provision, He stamped, “MINE!” over this little memoir. “This is My story!”

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father's Love

Thursday’s Child

So, I now present to everyone Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go — a book I never chose to write and never paid for. I lay it down as a humble example of facing our fears.

“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaian 43:1-2

Has there been fear? Yes, many times. Have I completely overcome fears of rejection, exposure, shame, and criticism? No, not at all. But this is and always will be God’s story of healing, deliverance, and redemption. A story to bring hope to others.

If you aren’t brave, please don’t read it. But if you would like to be brave, please read it. I’m sorry that it is a hard read. But I’m not sorry that it will make the road easier for others. Far too many people will relate to the painful experiences written within its pages. But far more people will hear God’s redemptive voice speak courage and life into their personal experiences.

Available to Order:

Overcome

As God leads, may we overcome our fears together. His love exceeds all other loves. Facing our fears, we focus on Jesus Christ who casts out all fear.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.
1 John 4:18

I welcome you to take a few moments to rest in His cascading love and to meditate on these few Bible verses to bring comfort and strength.

  • Isaiah 41:10 — “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Psalm 34:4 —“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears
  • Psalm 23:4 — “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 — “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I’ve also included this play list of songs that has encouraged me, as one more resource that might help you.

Psalm 34 - Taste and See - by Shane & Shane (Lyric Video) | Christian Worship Music
Chris Tomlin - Whom Shall I Fear [God Of Angel Armies] (Lyric Video)
Zach Williams - No Longer Slaves (Live from Harding Prison)

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Self-Identification — Realigning to our God Identity

Self-Identification — Realigning to our God Identity

Biblically, self-identification comes through realigning to our God identity and coming into agreement with what He says is true about us.

While the western world has perhaps created confusion around self-identification, the concept of recognizing and acknowledging who we are goes beyond the realms of governments and social correctness. How we view ourselves and who we verbally declare ourselves to be forms the grid upon which we make life choices and decisions.

The Bible offers a clear view of who God declares us to be in Christ. Adopting His viewpoint becomes pivotal to our success and reaching our full potential.

I constantly remind myself of these basic principles, introducing them to the people I mentor. I ask them to daily repeat (out loud) God’s identifying truth for several weeks to solidify them in their hearts and minds.

The first step to realigning to our God identity begins as we experience His love for and acceptance of us — welcoming us into a personal and ongoing relationship with Himself. From that beginning, God calls us to steward His truth. This includes His truth about ourselves.

If we don’t allow God to “label” us, the world will.

Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].”
Colossians 3:2 AMP

Our words repeat heavenly realities, and our lives reflect our beliefs.

Who I Am

Realigning to our God identity falls under three main categories: who God says I am, what God says I can do, and what He says I can have. I don’t believe in a “name-it-and-claim-it” philosophy, but I do believe God’s Word to be infallibly true. As a result, whatever He says I believe.

That faith-hold on His Word comes by hearing it again and again. Just as an abused child believes their worthlessness through repeated actions and verbal declarations, the reverse holds true. The lies and judgments we have heard and come to believe break away as we steward God’s truth over ourselves.

Though this list is far from exhaustive, I include a few main points below.

I am

  • a Son (Daughter), a child of God and not an orphan (John 1:12)
  • God’s adopted child (Ephesians 1:5)
  • in Christ and He is in me (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • holy and blameless through the finished work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:4)
  • a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • secure in my relationship with God (John 10:28-29)
  • fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14)
  • a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
  • rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17)
  • chosen, holy, and dearly loved by God (Colossians 3:12)
  • more than a conqueror through Christ (Romans 8:37)
  • a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)

What I Can Do

Everyone encounters discouragement and failure. We have given our best and somehow fallen short. However, God’s declaration over us destroys the twisted delusion of previous experience. Here is a snippet of what God says we can do.

I can

  • stand firm because God has anointed and stamped me with the seal of His love (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
  • accomplish anything in cooperation with God — even the impossible (Mark 9:23)
  • grow and mature spiritually as God’s child (Ephesians 4:15)
  • understand what God’s will is for my life (Ephesians 5:17; Romans 12:2)
  • be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)
  • approach God with confidence and freedom through Christ (Ephesians 3:12)
  • overcome any obstacle that stands in my way (Mark 11:23)
  • have the ability to create wealth and glorify God through it (Deuteronomy 8:18; Proverbs 8:17-21)
  • forgive others as Christ has forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32)
  • be kind and compassionate toward others (Ephesians 4:32)
  • choose to give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
  • stand firm in my faith clothed in God’s armor when troubles come (Ephesians 6:13)

What I Have

Every time we declare God’s truth over ourselves, we are realigning to our God identity. We fix our eyes on Him, while refusing to allow the past to define us. God points our gaze to the future and the fullness of our God-potential.

The Bible says a lot about who we are and what we can do in and through God’s abiding presence. But it also makes powerful declarations about what we have in Him.

I have

  • everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  • received God’s grace poured out on me (Ephesians 1:5-8)
  • a fruitful and productive life (John 15:1-5)
  • the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
  • an eternal hope through Christ (Ephesians 1:12)
  • everything I need according to God’s riches through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
  • a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • treasure and riches stored for me in secret places (Isaiah 45:3)
  • supernatural peace in Christ (Ephesians 2:14)
  • fresh opportunities and a new beginning in Christ (Isaiah 43:18-19)
  • unhindered access to the Father through Jesus (Ephesians 2:18)

Realignment

May we receive our true self-identification, receiving biblical truth and realigning to our God identity. For most of us, realignment comes as a life-long process, allowing what God says about us to become our standard.

As I walked through inner healing and the Steps to Freedom these truths began to develop strong roots in my life. Rather than a leap of faith, each truth grounded me in the soil of God’s love, allowing enduring growth and spiritual fruit.

May the same be true for you. May each truth become life-giving nourishment. And most of all, may what God says about us become our self-identification.

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Procrastination — The Great Destroyer

Procrastination — The Great Destroyer

The effects of procrastination plague like rusting relics — visible and invisible evidence of the presence of the great destroyer. Why does procrastination invade so many of our lives, paralyzing us from making decisive decisions and confident actions.

As many as one quarter of people struggle under the weight of procrastination. Often the issue is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or an inability to focus. Perhaps, it results from a combination of many factors. Whatever the reasons, we are all affected by it in some way.

This lack of confidence in making decisions and moving into action impact us all in so many ways. God knows the root lies deep and He says much on the subject. But one of the most sobering is this:

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
James 4:17

Whatever holds us back from doing the right thing or making the right choice, God counts as sin. That alone should be enough reason to take procrastination seriously and recognize it as a great destroyer of God-given potential.

Mental Health

Just as we seek help to overcome physical health issues, we cannot afford to ignore the crippling impact of poor mental health. I’ve struggled enough in this area to realize change isn’t a simple one-two step and your done. Recovery requires time and often professional assistance. But the first step in any recovery begins with acknowledgment.

Procrastinators habitually put off for later the things that should and could be done now. Later may mean an hour, a day, a year, or a lifetime. The resulting consequences of the delay could prove to be small or devastating. To procrastinators, it all feels overwhelming.

In the wait, life falls apart around them — a fence, a house, a business, a marriage, or an entire life. The pressure of making a decision and acting upon it proves far more risky than any consequence.

“One day I passed by the field of a lazy man, and I noticed the vineyards of a slacker. I observed nothing but thorns, weeds, and broken-down walls. So I considered their lack of wisdom, and I pondered the lessons I could learn from this: Professional work habits prevent poverty from becoming your permanent business partner. And: If you put off until tomorrow the work you could do today, tomorrow never seems to come.”
Proverbs 24:30-34 TPT

Limited

Most often the areas of procrastination show up where a person feels the most vulnerable and insecure. Those times when a person feels at the greatest risk of failure or making a mistake. But it is also a sign of passive aggressive behavior — a deliberate avoidance of what needs to be done.

Little by little the walls begin to crumble. Finally, one more missed project turns into a missed grade. One more failure to step up at work turns into dismissal. One more refusal to be responsible results in a breakdown in relationship.

Several times this past week, I have heard the tell-tale comment of the great destroyer, “May I have an extension. I thought I had more time.”

The procrastinator assumes they will be granted more time, more opportunity, more grace, more tolerance, more of whatever is needed to continue dancing with the great destroyer.

Time is short! Today’s opportunity to do what is right and good will never come again! When the sun sets, today is over — never to return.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

Occupy

Jesus used the parable of the talents to illustrate the importance of fully using opportunities. When He handed His servants their gifts, He commanded them to “work until I come back” (Luke 19:13). Another version says “occupy until I come.” This implies immediate and consistent action.

Those who used their time and resources wisely were delegated greater authority and received a greater reward. The one who was slothful and procrastinated, delaying action and decisions on how to use the talents, ended up losing everything he had been given. How tragic! But how common!

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! …”
Matthew 25:26

God doesn’t take the abuse or misuse of our time lightly! Both are a precious gifts from Him. He holds us accountable for both. If God takes it seriously, we would be wise to do the same.

Healing

We might consider God’s assessment a bit harsh, but the first step toward better emotional health and healing begins with confession and prayer. God knows procrastination is self-protection, an escape from the responsibility whenever possible. But there is good news.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
1 John 1:9

Forgiveness is the beginning step. To overcome the great destroyer, we must redeem the time! God can and will turn things around, when we work with Him through the healing journey. He has not left us to fight any battle alone.

  • Choose to no longer put mental health on hold.
  • Seek Christian counsellors and mentors.
  • In a healing environment, confess faults to one another so we will be healed (James 5:16).
  • Identify the specific areas when we tend to procrastinate and ask others to hold us accountable in that area.
  • Don’t expect a quick rescue! Work through the healing process.

Well Done

Everyone wants to hear Jesus say, “Well done.” God cares far more about who we are than about what we accomplish for Him. He wants us free from the control of the great destroyer.

We dare not expect more time, when we are not fully using the time God has already given to us. He has given us time to receive His grace, time to share our faith, and time to love others.

God is not obligated to guarantee any of us more time or opportunity.

“For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

“The right time is now.” Let’s make today the day for change. Let’s not let procrastination remain as the great destroyer in our lives.

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Find Your Identity in Christ

Find Your Identity in Christ

Do you know your identity in Christ? Are you experiencing the freedom and ease of being all God called you to be?

Yesterday while on my daily walk, a little robin ran ahead of me along the paved path. In spite of his ferocious paddling and unable to maintain a safe distance, he finally lifted his wings and with complete ease and freedom flew to far off reaches. I felt in my spirit an invitation from God to rediscover my identity in Christ — to abandon frantic self-efforts and rise to the ease of what He has anointed and called me to be. But what is that? How do I know when I’m soaring in my true identity?

The only way we discover and fulfill our identity in Christ is through relationship with Him. Apart from our loving Creator we will forever be like that little bird running along the ground instead of flying freely.

Our identity in Christ is grounded not in what we do for Him or others, but rather in what He has done for us. Let’s explore this more!

God Says

The Bible offers clear assurance of our true identity. We are …

This list is by no means complete. It barely gives us a glimpse into God’s wonderful plan and purpose for us. Though we often measure ourselves and others by earth’s standards, God sees us from a higher perspective. Only when we begin to visualize ourselves through His eyes will we understand and acknowledge our secure identity in Christ.

Then we will spread our wings and soar into our destiny and God-purpose.

Destiny

Our identity in Christ forms the foundation on which our lives grow and our destinies come to completion. May we allow the above truths to shape our thinking and silence our hearts to rest secure in Him. I encourage us all to take as much time as necessary to read each verse, mediating on them. God promises to reveal new truths as we read and ponder His Word.

Which five items in the list are settled in your soul?

  • #1__________________________________
  • #2__________________________________
  • #3__________________________________
  • #4__________________________________
  • #5__________________________________

Which five do you struggle to believe as personally true?

  • #1__________________________________
  • #2__________________________________
  • #3__________________________________
  • #4__________________________________
  • #5__________________________________

Security

One of the biggest assaults against Christians of all ages and ethnicities comes against our identity in Christ. But when we walk secure in who God says we are, we become an unstoppable force for His Kingdom.

That little robin never pretended to be an eagle. Neither does an eagle pretend to be a robin. Each is secure in their true identity.

We must never fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others in the body of Christ. Our security lies in who God says we are. Loved and secure within our relationship with Him, we thrive! And thrive is exactly what God desires for us all.

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Freedom and Victory: Living the Victorious Christian Life Today!

Freedom and Victory: Living the Victorious Christian Life Today!

The cross of Jesus Christ delivered us from the sordid penalty of sin. It also guarantees our freedom and victory from the power of sin. What He accomplished is for today! For here! For now!

As a Christian, our future deliverance from the presence of all sin will eternally be experienced in Heaven. But how well have we been taught and demonstrated a life of freedom and victory in the grungy realities of our present circumstances?

The enemy keeps way too many people trapped in the recesses of darkness by blinding us to this beautiful reality.

Probably for you, as it is for me, the battle with sin refused to cease upon the confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Why? What’s going on? Why are so many Christians living cloaked in unnecessary guilt and shame.

We find the solution in Romans chapter 6.

Because of Baptism

Paul encourages the Roman believers, and us today, that because of baptism in Christ, we sin no more!

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Romans 6:1-4

In Christ, we died to sin. It is done! Finished! Past tense!

And in Christ, we were baptized into his death. So in the same way, in Christ we may live a new life of freedom and victory now — today.

That’s worth shouting, “Freedom! Celebrate! Victory is ours!”

No Longer Slaves

Our old lives conditioned us to listen to the slave master of sin, who continues to bark out orders. Everything in us cringes and cowers to the sound, while we resist the urge to obey our old master.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:6

The Passion Translation contains a wonderful note:

“…that the body of sin might be annulled and put out of business. To beg God for victory over sin is a refusal to understand that we have already died to sin. Our joyful task is to believe the good news, rather than to seek to “crucify ourselves.” Sin is not suppressed by the cross; it is eliminated. Upon the “water” God commands us to step out and walk, for we are now in him.”

We don’t need to beg God for victory over sin in any area of our lives. But oh how marvelous to understand that we have already died to all its demands. Through our union with Jesus Christ, every sin in our lives has been put out of business.

Listen to the Right Voice

Jesus gives us the freedom and victory to listen to the right voice — His voice.

The voice of sin barks commands, “You may as well give in, you will do it anyway … You’ll enjoy this … Just once more … You know you want this …” Whatever his enticement, we don’t need to listen to the deceptive voice of our old slave master, sin.

Jesus whispers His truth to our hearts, “You don’t need to do this anymore. You don’t need to watch that, tweet that, smoke that, eat that, say that, or do that. You are mine! I have set you free! You don’t have to sin anymore!”

I keep a simple “self-portrait” in my Bible as a cheerful reminder of my union with Christ. Just as this little image is in my Bible, I am in Christ. Where my Bible goes, the sketch goes. As Christ leads, I follow. Why? I am in Christ Jesus.

“For by his sacrifice he died to sin’s power once and for all, but he now lives continuously for the Father’s pleasure.”
Romans 6:10 TPT

Consecrate

The Oxford dictionary defines consecration as declaring something to be sacred and formally dedicated to a divine purpose. Things are consecrated and sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intended. Everyone, once consecrated, lives according to God’s design and perfect purpose for their lives.

With Jesus’ example before us, we consecrate and devote ourselves to also live continuously for the Father’s pleasure. We give back to Him what He has already given to us — our hands, our feet, our mouths, our time, our resources, our gifts, our all — living each day in freedom and victory.

“So let it be the same way with you! Since you are now joined with him, you must continually view yourselves as dead and unresponsive to sin’s appeal while living daily for God’s pleasure in union with Jesus, the Anointed One.”
Romans 6:11 TPT

An Invitation

“This life of reflected goodness, and beauty is not only a demonstration, it’s also an invitation. By its very nature, it calls to people and invites them to more. More than they ever thought was possible. More than they could ever ask or imagine … So the life we live and the work we do reveals a new reality in Christ that is both available now, and will continue to unfold for all eternity … How you live matters to God because you are His plan for releasing His Kingdom in the earth … This is the work of the Kingdom. It’s for now and it only gets better. Abundant, transformative living with an eternal hope.”
– Matt Tommey

Let’s respond to God’s invitation to walk in liberty, united with Christ in the freedom and victory we possess today.

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Code of Conduct Determines the Outcome

Code of Conduct Determines the Outcome

In every aspect of life, we encounter a code of conduct. Our greatest satisfaction and highest achievement exist within those guidelines. Ignore them and life becomes increasingly uncomfortable.

I’ve spent my fair share of watching and coaching little league sports. Initially, the equipment used and the playing field dimensions are the strongest indications of what sport is involved. The more rules become understood and applied, the more exciting the game also becomes.

Many say, “Rules are meant to be broken!” Broken rules lead to penalties of one kind or another, adversely affecting the individual’s performance and the entire team’s outcome.

What holds true in sports certainly holds true in our daily lives.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
Philippians 1:27

Why do we value rules and codes of behavior in sports and the workplace, but so easily reject them as Christians? The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, amplifies the importance of God’s code of conduct.

Wisdom and Insight

“Oh how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.”

Psalm 119:97-104

The wisdom and insight we wish to possess comes from understanding and following God’s commands and rules. Just as a game of sports quickly becomes chaos and confusion when rules are thrown to the wind, so our lives reflect the same.

Full Potential

Whether a team sport or an individual endeavor, we only reach our full potential by adhering to a code of conduct. The scriptural term sanctification primarily means “holiness, to sanctify, or make holy.” But another meaning is “the state of proper functioning.”

To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. Through Christ’s atonement, we are set apart unto service for God A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. A person is sanctified, therefore, when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose 1.

God ultimately designed within each of us a unique and fulfilling purpose. The only avenue to achieve His full purposes for us comes through adhering to His code of conduct.

I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Romans 6:19

Throw away the code of conduct and our world, including us, becomes a free-for-all! Learn from God’s perfect laws and everyone thrives. One leads to “lawlessness” the other to “sanctification” — the fulfilling of God’s intended purposes for our lives.

Grace

But alas! Rules are difficult, even impossible, to consistently follow.

So by God’s great grace, He gave us Jesus Christ. By living in and through Him, He enables us to overcome the draw of lawlessness and walk in the freedom of becoming. Freedom comes as we are motivated by love, respect, and grace. These three form the true motivation behind God’s code of conduct.

He desires everyone to reach their full potential and intended use. So, He gave us the freedom and the power through the Holy Spirit to go that direction.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

The word “offer” signifies a once-and-for-all surrender of ourselves to God, like a gift of gratitude.

Practical Steps

We recognize following God’s code of conduct cannot be done in and of ourselves. But as we surrender, first in our hearts and minds, once-and-for-all to Him, we begin the process. Then, we learn to daily walk it out.

Here is how:

  • Read the Bible to discover who God is and His design for us.
  • Pray. Prayer, honest communication with God, forms the bedrock of our relationship with Him.
  • Repent of attitudes and actions misaligned with His code of conduct.
  • Consecrate ourselves, committing everything to Him — our hands for His service, our hearts for His molding, our minds to His instruction, our feet to His direction, our motives to His desires.
  • Dedicate. We also choose to dedicate all we are (or ever will be), and all we possess to His service. We are nothing and receive nothing apart from Him. Each day, we have the privilege of committing it all back to Him.

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

Isaiah 64:8

Prayer

Lord, teach me Your ways — Your code of conduct. Instruct me and show me how to reach the full potential You have designed for my life. I confess that I have attempted to live by self-made rules. Thank You for redirecting me back to You. Holy Spirit fill me with the power and desire to walk according to God’s ways. Because life is not a game to be casually played, I recommit myself to You, Lord. May I experience the joy and freedom of living a life set apart for You, fulfilling You purpose and calling. Amen.

1. Walter A. Elwell, Ed., Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Entry for Sanctification, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House Company, 1996)

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