What is Spiritual Maturity? | Video

What does it take to be “spiritually mature?” In today’s new YouTube video, we’re exploring:

  • How we should access our faith walk.
  • Why growth is vital.
  • The initial steps of maturity we can take today.

Click below to watch the full video!

 

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Is Your Breakthrough One Step Away?

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

(Mark 8:25 NIV)


Look up at the sky before or during a storm. What you’ll find are dense clouds covering every inch of the sky. No blue in sight. Probably no sun.

From the ground, there’s no way you can see what’s on the other side.

Different seasons in our lives can often feel this way. There may be times we encounter long, painful, and slow seasons. Seasons where we’re not just waiting for change but we need a change. A miracle, breakthrough, healing–an answer.

Seasons where the “other side” seems further and further from our grasp. Times when you have been praying about an unchanging situation for days, weeks, months, and years.

What happens when God doesn’t respond right away?

In Mark 8:22-26, we encounter a blind man in need of healing. However, instead of instantly healing him at once, Jesus heals him in two steps. In this prolonged moment, Jesus shows that the real process of restoration is way beyond our perception of time.
Continue reading “Is Your Breakthrough One Step Away?”

Taking Steps of Faith vs. Steps of Fear | Video

You’ve heard it before: Actions speak louder than words.

Did you know that your actions reveal your level of faith? In today’s video, I discuss how to know if you’re acting in fear or faith–and how to take steps towards a deeper trust in God.

Click below to watch my new YouTube video!

 

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Day 12: I will forgive | Love Letters

For·give·ness: The act of forgiving or the state of being forgiven; willingness to forgive.

[Source]

What is considered unforgivable to you?

Think about someone who has hurt you. Someone you could never dream of speaking to–let alone see–ever again. Imagine forgiving that person, as if what had been done in the past never happened.

Quite difficult.

Now think about a time when you have hurt someone. Maybe you didn’t apologize, but to this day, you know what happened. It might be something that appears in your mind now and then. Some days you forget what happened, other days the memory of what you did hits you.

Even harder to think about.

Considering the first scenario, we can easily say, People can be heartless. I could never forgive them. Considering the second scenario, we remember, I can be heartless. How could anyone forgive me? Putting both together, we can conclude that sin is a part of human nature.

Looking closer at the wrong that we’ve done and that others have done to us, forgiveness can seem like the last thing anyone deserves.

A man in the Bible who was deemed unforgivable by society was Zacchaeus.

We’re introduced to him in Luke 19:2; he is a chief tax collector. Tax collectors made a lot of money at this time, so for Zacchaeus to be in a role of leadership, we know he is very wealthy. Tax collectors were typically wealthy for a reason–they were known to be greedy and deceitful. They often cheated people of their money so they could gain more, and as a result, they were intensely hated by others. Pretty much completely unforgivable.

Zacchaeus, a man ostracized by others, is found near a synagogue–the last place he should be according to society, as he is considered “spiritually unclean.” He knows that Jesus is passing through the city of Jericho today, and he wants to see Him:

“And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way” (Luke 19:3-4 NKJV).

Zacchaeus’ determination to see Jesus is fascinating. He not only comes to a place where he is unwelcome, he runs and climbs a tree to make sure he sees Him. Although Zacchaeus has all the money he needs–and probably loves his wealth over anything–he is still empty. Something is missing in his life, and he is searching for it.

God never pushes away those who come seeking for Him–no matter who they are. Jesus displays this characteristic of God by His response to Zacchaeus, a hated man in the world’s eyes: “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house’” (v. 5).

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and asks him to come. He wants to fellowship with him at his own home. This is unheard of.

Zacchaeus’ life changes the moment he makes contact with Jesus. In verse 6, he comes down from the tree quickly and joyfully. He is filled with utter joy that he is invited by Christ Himself with such amazing love–a love he has never seen before.

However, this interaction is met by criticism. Luke 19:7 states, “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’” The crowd thinks it’s wrong that Jesus is willing to accompany a sinner, but they don’t understand what true love is.

Nevertheless, Jesus doesn’t worry about what others think. Jesus offers forgiveness, and Zacchaeus takes it by making a decision to come down and fellowship with Him.

How do we know Zacchaeus is truly repentant? By his actions. In verse 8, he tells Jesus that he will give half his wealth to the poor and return anything he has taken from others, restoring it four times the amount he actually owes! Zacchaeus chooses to abandon his former life as a sinner, in love with money and his lifestyle, to love the God who loves him.

Jesus acknowledges Zacchaeus’ changed heart, saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 18:9-10 NKJV). He honors Zacchaeus, mentioning that he is displaying the same faith that Abraham showed in God. This was a huge recognition for someone who was seen as undeserving of any forgiveness. Jesus also confirms what He came to do: forgive.

Jesus came to save those who are lost–to save those who are unlovable, broken, undeserving, and have made mistakes. He came to forgive us.

God tells us, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32 NIV).

Zacchaeus’ story is one of many. The Bible is filled with people who have been forgiven by God, even though they were sinners:

  • King David – An adulterer and murderer, David is called a man after God’s own heart, because he sought God’s forgiveness and turned back to Him.
  • Peter – He denied Jesus three times as if he never knew Him before Jesus died on the cross. Jesus still died for Peter and forgave him when he came back to Him.
  • Paul – He was known as a persecutor of Christians, responsible for several deaths, yet he transformed because he chose God. Not only was Paul forgiven but he was used to establish the church and wrote over half of the New Testament.

Can you imagine that God offered his forgiveness to every single one of them? If God could save them, He can save you.

Just as Jesus called Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree, He’s calling you to come down and come to Him–from wherever you currently stand. The “tree” you are currently staying in could be pain, pride, regret, addiction, prejudice, violence, selfishness, lack of forgiveness–whatever. The Lord saw Zacchaeus where he was–he couldn’t hide. And He sees you, too.

Zacchaeus not only came down from the tree and came to Jesus, he turned away from his sins. He abandoned his former life–where sin and shame lived–for a better one. This was true repentance. And there was joy there.

Are you ready to abandon the former things to let God in? Are you ready for real joy?

A relationship with God isn’t an elite club only open to the best, the brightest, and the most righteous. It’s open to everyone. I encourage you to take a hold of God’s forgiveness today. You are not out of His reach. You are not too far gone and unable to be restored. God’s love for you means He offers His forgiveness to you.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 NIV)

Love Letter 12

[*Please note: Today’s post is based on a sermon I recently heard at my church.]

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 11

Read Day 13

 

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Day 3: I can offer you more | Love Letters

More: to a greater extent.

“Maybe this is as good as it gets.”

Have you ever found yourself saying that? That you have no choice but to stay where you are, because it will only get worse from here?

You might feel you must stay within a bad relationship, because there’s no one else for you. Or, you feel you have to hang out with toxic friends, because otherwise you’d be alone. Maybe you feel you need to sacrifice your health to get perfect grades, because you’re convinced you’ll fail if you don’t. You feel you have to perform perfectly at work, or else you won’t be valued.

Whatever the case is, you feel as though if you don’t hold onto something, you have nothing.

Any of these things–relationships, grades, or careers–can disappear at any moment. And you probably know this, which is why you feel the need to maintain them constantly.

These are all things you can enjoy, if they are good things. But when you find your entire worth in them, you’re going to find yourself empty.

You were not made to find your security in temporary things. God has more for you than that. He provides more, or to a greater extent. But how do we get to this “more”?

Understanding God’s love for you is the first step. His love for you is unchanging, and it lasts forever. When you secure yourself in God–a sure and permanent thing–you’re able to make better use of non-permanent things in life.

You won’t put pressure on others to reassure you. You won’t feel defeated over your mistakes. You’ll be able to walk away from negative people and situations, because you know your worth is not in them. You’ll be able to enjoy your blessings–knowing your worth is not in them, either.

Your value is not based on what you have or don’t have. God sees your value. He created you with value.

God can do more for you than what you can do for yourself.  What you see with your own eyes is the surface. When you commit your life to Him, you’ll find that good moments in life can get better. And better.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

Love Letter 3

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 2

Read Day 4

 

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Day 2: You can give Me your burdens | Love Letters

Bur·den:

  1. Something that is carried.
  2. Something that is emotionally difficult to bear; a source of great worry or stress.
  3. A responsibility or duty.

[Source]

You were not made to carry everything. But it’s quite easy to think you’re supposed to.

We live in a DIY culture: Do it yourself. Make it happen. Figure it out. Find a way. Solve the problem. Don’t wait for anyone.

Now. There is some value we can take from these thoughts: Don’t just lean on anything. When the storms come, you discover what is made of substance and what is not. A house set on an unstable foundation is bound to crumble when a natural disaster strikes. A boat built with weak materials will sink when it’s tossed to and fro on the ocean.

We need to stand on something with substance–something that is stable enough to hold us up, to keep us afloat no matter what.

Leaning on yourself can’t do that.

Have you ever been in a situation where you stop and think, Wow. I can’t do this…? Have you tried pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline only to realize you fell asleep hours in? Have you promised a friend a favor only to realize days later, I can’t believe I forgot to do that!

We get tired, we get faint, we run out of energy. We fail, we break promises, we forget. It’s normal. But it shows how human we are.

You were not made to carry everything.

God provides access to Him because He knows this. We can go to Him freely. God takes joy in talking to you. He loves providing a way for you, opening doors, and seeing you fulfill your purpose. He sees you in your challenges, and He wants to help.

It’s not your duty to carry your burden on your own. Whatever you’re carrying today, give it to the Lord. What does that mean? Go to Him about it. Talk to Him about it like you would talk to a friend. Humans can only do so much.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Love Letter 2.png

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 1

Read Day 3

 

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It’s Better to Believe

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

(Romans 8:24-25 NKJV)


Do you ever wonder what can get in the way of miracles?  sparklers_believe post.jpg

Sometimes, we can rely on rituals to “make sure” that God answers our prayers. Maybe this can look like feeling you need to pray the exact prayer you did the last time God blessed you…or making sure you wear the same shirt you were wearing when God helped you ace that test…or worrying that God won’t protect you today because you didn’t get up at 5:00 am to pray.

This is tiring! I believe that we should be disciplined in seeking God, but we’ve taken up a wrong mindset if we start to get paranoid that God won’t be there for us if we “mess up” on a made-up routine in our heads. The sacrifices we make to seek Christ, based on His Word, should bring peace in our hearts.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 KJV).

Acts 16:31 reminds us that the foundation of our faith is believing God for who He is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” However, the miracle of salvation is just the beginning. Believe that if God has the power to save you from sin through Jesus Christ, He has the power to provide for you in everyday life. And as Romans 8:25 encourages us, we can wait in expectancy for what He will do.

Continue reading “It’s Better to Believe”

“It Is Finished” | Feature Fridays

Welcome back to another Feature Friday! (Unfortunately, a day late!)

As we remember the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, let us rejoice in knowing His work is finished, as He declared. When we go through our daily lives, we are fighting from a place of victory, not fighting for victory.

Today’s feature is a powerful animation that depicts Christ’s death on the cross. By conquering death, the Lord has overcome the world, and we can be made new in Him.


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:25-26)

Love Series | Elizabeth (Part Four)

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

(Luke 1:13 KJV)


A couple weeks ago, the Samaritan woman’s story in Part 2 of the Love Series emphasized that love modeled after Christ breaks barriers.

Society sets up expectations of what success is, what love is, what fulfillment is in ways that are deceitful, fruitless, and contrary to what God defines them as. When we turn to the Bible, we learn that there is no fear in God’s love (1 John 4:18), there is no condemnation (1 John 4:9-11), there are no limits (Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 86:15). When we practice a barrier-breaking, countercultural, and selfless love, we set ourselves and others free.

For the last part in the Love Series, we look at Elizabeth, a woman who loved God in a limitless way–and how He blessed her in a way that surpassed human expectations.

INTRODUCING ELIZABETH

(Reference: Luke 1:5-25)

Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias, a priest in a temple in Jerusalem (v. 5, 8-9). Right away, she seems to be in a desolate circumstance. Elizabeth couldn’t conceive, and perhaps others looked down on her and her husband because they were old had no children. Elizabeth herself probably felt burdened because she was considered “barren.”

Nevertheless, God moved in this hopeless situation.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John (Luke 1:11-13).

An angel approached Zacharias during his usual service in the temple, giving a special message from the Lord–that his wife would conceive a son. Zacharias first responded in fear when he saw the angel, then with doubt. After so many years of being childless, such a message was hard to believe.

And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (Luke 1:18-19).

Nevertheless, the angel, Gabriel, assured him that this was something from God. It was Zacharias’ own answered prayer (v. 13)–and it would come to pass. Despite Zacharias’ initial unbelief, Elizabeth became pregnant.

The Effects of God’s Love: Hopelessness to Favor

And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men (Luke 1:24-25).

God restored Elizabeth, giving her a new beginning. Beyond this miracle, there was something even greater to come–He was about to restore humanity through the birth of Jesus. Just as God brought Elizabeth from sadness to joy, He was about to do the exact same for humanity through a Savior.

Elizabeth had special favor from God. Luke 1:41 tells us that she was filled with the Holy Ghost–and she was the first in the book of Luke to experience this: And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

Because of the presence of the Holy Ghost, Elizabeth and even her unborn son–who stirred in her womb–were the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, while He was still in Mary’s womb.

God brought Elizabeth amazing restoration, and this remarkable moment was one of the many blessings of this restoration. God’s gracious love allowed Elizabeth to go from childlessness to fertility, the impossible to the possible. He is faithful to fulfill promises. Even this moment of recognizing the Messiah was a reminder of that He was about to fulfill another promise, the coming of the Savior who would restore His people.

Another blessing was the child God had blessed Elizabeth and Zacharias with. Their son, John, would become John the Baptist–a forerunner of Jesus. John had a tremendous purpose for the Lord, as He helped prepare people for the coming of the Messiah, encouraging them to turn away from sin and be baptized as a showing of their repentance and new life. So, not only was this child a blessing to the couple, but he would grow up to have a tremendous ministry that would lead many to Christ.

Gabriel gave a special prophesy about John the Baptist.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God (Luke 1:14-16).

Before John was born, Elizabeth and Zacharias were given assurance that this birth would bring great joy–which it did. That John would be filled with the Holy Ghost even in Elizabeth’s womb–which he was. And that many would turn to Christ because of this birth–which they did.

See how God is faithful?

Gabriel also tells Zacharias that he would become mute until everything God had promised concerning the birth of John came to pass. This might seem like a strange promise–but I believe it showed even more that God was working. Even as Zacharias was in the temple with the angel, people outside were aware that something was happening:

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house (Luke 1:21-23).

There were others who were about to witness God’s glory. Now that Zacharias was mute, it could not be ignored that something supernatural, God Himself, was at work. And of course, just as He promised, after Elizabeth gave birth, Zacharias regained his speech.

The First Step: Elizabeth’s Love for God

Now that we’ve looked more into this miracle, let’s look back at Elizabeth. She and Zacharias both had a love for God. It wasn’t a love that was simply lip-service but a love that matched with actions. We see this first by Zacharias’ diligence in his service for the Lord in the temple. This true sacrificial love for God is why they are described as righteous before Him (v. 6).

The fact that the angel Gabriel approached Zacharias and Elizabeth to conceive John the Baptist is also telling of their character. They had to be righteous before God in order to raise such a man who would do wonders for His kingdom! That’s huge to keep in mind. Though there was initial doubt, Elizabeth believed (v. 45). She believed God, and she was used by Him.

Gabriel is the same angel who visited Mary and Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus (v. 35). In verse 36, He even uses Elizabeth’s restoration as an example to comfort Mary: And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. Elizabeth was unlikely to become pregnant, but her testimony showed that God could not be limited–and so, Mary could trust Him.

For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

I love that both Zacharias and Elizabeth both were God-honoring. They were both Christ-minded. The couple was present before the birth of Jesus and were used as a team during this time to prepare others for His coming (just as their own son, John, would do in the future!) Elizabeth was used as a testimony for Mary, and similarly, Zacharias was used to prophesy about Jesus, who Mary would birth. Just as Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, so was Zacharias (v. 67). We see this prophecy in verses 67-80, where Zacharias spoke of the restoration Jesus will bring to all people.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (Luke 1:68-71).

“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

Elizabeth’s love for God is not only boundary-breaking but bridge-forming. Her obedience and trust in Him built bridges that allowed others around her to be blessed–her husband, her cousin, Mary, and Joseph, her son, John the Baptist, and those who were brought to Christ as a result. Also, Elizabeth’s love for God broke the boundaries built by the world who would have said that none of these things were possible–starting from Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy at an old age.

Does our love for God break boundaries of doubt and form bridges of restoration?–Or does it fall short? Is our love for God a limited love based on what’s going on in our lives? Do we only trust Him when we see things are working out?–Or do we trust Him when there seems to be no answer–or when things don’t go our way at all?

Funny enough, our love for God will reflect in our love for others. You limit a limitless God, you’ll find that you’ll definitely limit a limited human.

The restoration God gave to Elizabeth and so many others in this story–and the stories of the other women we’ve explored in the Love Series is available for us today.

God knows our flaws, our strongholds, and He still promises His presence. Instead of leaving us, He gave his Son so we could have eternal life and freedom on earth as His children. He continues to give blessings today even when we don’t deserve it.

Elizabeth’s story shows the limitlessness of our Savior’s love. The nature of His love is a model for how we should love Him. It’s an agape love–a sacrificial, unconditional, no-strings-attached, nothing’s-in-it-for-me kind of love.


And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

(Luke 1:45 KJV)