Jesus is my strength

Christianity is Harder Than We Pretend it is

We make a lot of pitches with Christianity.

"It’s a free gift."

"The peace and satisfaction your heart desires."

These are the expectations we set. And expectations help preface either disappointment or fulfillment.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, the reality of faith is a shocking letdown compared to the false premises that were guaranteed them by pastors, churches and other believers.

As people obsess over church attendance, burnout rates and demographic changes within Christianity, we become infatuated with solving today’s problems—determined to find the perfect fix.

Thus, we analyze church traditions, styles, techniques and theologies and wonder why the popularity of Christianity rises and falls and fluctuates. And while we scour the current state of Christianity and desperately try to improve, fix, troubleshoot and ultimately enhance it, we neglect to look at the very start of the problem: Pre-Christianity.

As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as better than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.

Before people give their lives over to Christ, before they commit to regularly attending a church, before becoming a full-fledged member of a denomination, before being baptized, before taking communion and before diving head-first into the Jesus movement—what are they really searching for? What are they expecting to get out of Christianity? More importantly, what are we selling?

Too often, when people are expecting—and want—to meet God, churches instead present an illusion, a tempting escape from reality.

Surprisingly, many people don’t reject Christianity because they’ve given up on God. Instead, they’ve given up on the people and things that represent God. They don’t hate Jesus, they just become tired of not finding Him within Christian culture.

As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as easier than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.

But while following Christ is beautiful and worthwhile, disappointment, pain, suffering, betrayal and hurt are also a part of life, and Christians aren’t immune or excluded from these horrors. Contrary to a life of ease, comfort and luxury, following Jesus demands sacrifice, honesty, vulnerability, conflict and a lifetime dedicated to loving others. This is really hard—a commitment not meant to be taken lightly.

Though not ideal, gossip, lies and disappointment happen within any group of Christians. Christians sin. They make mistakes. They can sometimes be ignorant, clueless, clumsy, mean, hateful and even downright horrible.

Unfortunately, many believers are afraid to admit this. We Christians have become experts at putting up a facade of happiness and bliss, pretending that nothing bad ever happens.

We assume that if people find out things aren’t all right—that our lives are actually chaotic, messy and out of control, that our relationships are broken, our feelings hurt and that we’re filled with worry and pain—they’ll get scared away. So we hide these things with the mistaken belief that we’re glorifying God—protecting Him from bad press.

But in doing so, we dishonor God and set ourselves up for failure.

Christians need to start communicating reality and start owning up to our mistakes, doubts, failures, insecurities and pain. It’s healthy to apologize, admit our wrongdoings, and even allow ourselves to question, doubt and change our opinions and beliefs.

Christians need to start communicating reality and start owning up to our mistakes, doubts, failures, insecurities and pain.

We need to leave room for being angry, mad, scared, depressed and anxious within churches, and must stop promoting the expectation that Christians always have to have it all together. We don’t. Believers need to quit presenting themselves—and Christianity—as perfect and should start being genuine.

Yet many churches market Christianity as an easy and painless solution to all life’s problems. Instead of introducing Christianity as a path to having a relationship with God requiring time, energy, work and intense dedication, it becomes a product that promises much without hardly any sacrifice.

Having this mindset causes our expectations to become superficial. Baptisms, prayers of faith, and declarations of solidarity to God become nothing more than posturizing—little, if anything, actually changes within our everyday lives.

In fact, we actually expect things to get favorably better for us. We assume God will shine down divine blessings: salary increases, better parking spaces, health improvements, increased social popularity and championships for our favorite sports teams. We want our faith to work for us—not the other way around.


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/christianity-harder-we-pretend-it#mX20zu9OA4jSQ7RR.99
True Love

If you’re waiting to meet that person that will trigger some sort of magical moment inside of you that will dub them as your “soul mate” or “the one,” there’s a good chance you’ll be waiting for a long, long time. Instead, do yourself a favor and begin to make connections with the people God has placed in your life. Get to know yourself, and then get to know people of the opposite sex who have the qualities you are looking for in a future mate.

Don’t freak out if the feelings aren’t magical or mystical, because frankly, they were never intended to be. Look for qualities, traits and characteristics that are attractive based on the things you know you need and want in a relationship. Find a relationship that emits healthiness, wholeness and respect. Take it one step at a time, and be assured that in a right relationship. feelings will always be present, but they can never be the foundation of a healthy relationship.

True love is based on a healthy combination of facts and feelings, and a whole lot of good choices. May God give you the wisdom to choose well.


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/why-theres-no-such-thing-soul-mate#dyGXeyE0SCwMrQ0q.99
5 Reasons Why Many Christian Guys Remain Single

God has a sense of humor. When I wrote 5 Reasons Why Many Christian Girls Remain Single, I never meant to follow it up with the same topic directed at men. But God had other ideas! Two days ago, I decided not to listen to music as I normally do in the morning but turned the radio on, hoping to hear a sermon. What I heard as I scanned for the right channel was a reading from the expositor study bible from Son life radio station here in Baton Rouge.

The couple on the radio was reading from Genesis 24 – the story of how Eliezer (Abraham’s servant) took a wife for Isaac. That particular morning, the story gripped me in a way that I had hitherto experienced. I quickly jotted down what the message spoke to me and headed out to work. Later that day, I read the story of Eliezer again. This time, the reasons why many Christian men remain single became unequivocally clear.

He is Not Listening to God’s direction

When Abraham spoke to Eliezer, he specifically directed him to go back to his (Abraham’s) land and family to take a wife for Isaac. Without godly direction, many men simply guess at where they should go to take a wife. They travel here and there, chatting up wrong women after wrong women. By the time they actually get to the place God wants them, the stories of their travels have already reached the land. The women of the land are no longer interested because they do not feel special…they feel like common currency instead of a pearl of great prize. They think, I am one of many he could love, not the one that he loves. Moreover, the man starts to look desperate to them as they start to wonder why the other women did not pick the man up. Nothing puts off a woman more than a desperate man.      

But  guys who move with godly direction do not become unequally yoked with those from strange lands. They do not have to chase after another man’s future wife!  Instead they set their course to the land of God and to the house of God, which is now their house by birthright. Guys, that is the only place where we find the sister that the Lord has planned for us.

He is Not Prepared to Meet His Mate

When Eliezer left, he left with all his master’s goods…which he put on his camels. When we leave to find our beloved, we must not go empty-handed but must leave with the goods of God. We must carry with us the love of God and the gift of the Spirit of God. We must be ready to be a blessing to her instead of going empty-handed, having to ask for and live off some of her stuff. Men, it is extremely difficult for a woman to respect a man who is not ready – who is not ready to be leader, provider, spiritual leader, and godly man that he has been called to become. When we go to find our wives, we must pack our bags of goodies and go. If we have nothing to put in the goody bag, it is not quite our time…we still have some work to do.

He Has Not Positioned Himself in the Right Spot 

When Eliezer got to his destination with his goods in hand, he positioned himself in a spot by the well where he could see the women of the land. It is tragic to think that many godly guys – who are following the will of God and have readied themselves for marriage miss out because they do not purposefully hand around godly women. They expect God to drop a wife on their lap without looking. I wonder if Eliezer would have met Rebekah if he had not purposefully positioned himself to be able to observe the women.

Just as Eliezer did, we have to position yourselves in the right spot and then pray to God to show us which woman he desires for us. Too many good men leave too many good women single because they simply will not position themselves in the right spot. Then both the men and women say ‘there is no good man or women around, they are all taken! No, they are not all taken…they are simply in the wrong spot!

He Beats About the Bush

When Eliezer saw Rebekah, he did not hang around or beat about the bush, but the bible tells us that he ran to her. Men, we cannot become shy and coy when we see an all round desirable godly woman. She will not be at the well forever! She has other things to do and a purpose to fulfill. If you are Mr. Snail, then you may find that she is gone or disinterested by the time you sum up the courage to go to her.

This reminds me of the man who had been waiting to get into the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, who Jesus asked if he wanted to be made well. Instead of just saying yes, the first words that came out of his mouth were excuses! He was going to miss the opportunity to get well because he had pinned his hope on the waters!

Similarly, you cannot pin your hopes on the lady you so desire noticing you per chance as you beat about the bush. If you are going to pursue her, then pursue her!

He Never Made His Intentions Clearly Known

When Eliezer caught up to Rebekah and she had watered his camels, he made it known to her the intention of his actions and his visit. Alas, after positioning and pursuing, too many men miss out on destiny because they end up in the friendship zone! After getting the woman’s initial attention, they do not fess up to their hearts intentions out of fear of being rejected. So they end up being the best friends of these women…doing all kind of things for them…and then watch as other men swoop. Sadly, the woman who once saw you as husband potential starts to think you are not interested and starts to see you as a friend. Men, we have to tell her our intentions. The worst thing that can happen is that she is does not go with you. If she is not interested, it is not rejection, it is simply re-direction. So tell her what you intentions her! She will respect you even if she does not care to follow you!

5 Reasons Why Many Christian Girls Remain Single

In 2012 ,I was invited to be a member of a panel at a Christian singles conference. After speaking about living a purposeful life, and remaining pure in singleness, the topic of marriage invariably came up. A woman stood up and started pouring out her heart about how she desired a husband. How she was in her late thirties and did not want to be alone anymore. She said that she was on the verge of ‘settling’!

In an attempt to comfort her, an older woman whom we will call Sarah stood up and proclaimed that she was single at 60 AND had never married. Sarah started to encourage the younger lady. She said, look at me, I am 60 and not married but I will not settle. I want what God wants for me and will not settle for less. I have had many counterfeit men come into my life. Sarah then went ahead and started to rattle off about the men that had been potential suitors and what was wrong with them. As she spoke, one things that seemingly escaped her started to become clear to those of us on the panel. She was to blame for being single at 60.

Here are some of the things we realized about Sarah that kept her single

Sarah wanted Jesus…not a disciple of Jesus…but Jesus Himself

Many women, like Sarah are looking for the perfect mate. They want someone who is going to complete them and be their everything! If this is you, then my question to you is this: If a man completes you and becomes your everything, then what position is Jesus taking in your life? Jesus is the one that completes you and is meant to be your everything. So, to look for completeness in a man is to make that man an idol in your life, it is to have put man above God! This will only lead to ruin because no man is perfect! Try as he might, he will disappoint you! So stop looking for someone who will not disappoint you over the lifetime you wish to be married…you will not find it. Even you, yes you…have and still disappoint many people…whether you realize it or not…whether you meant it or not. Instead of looking for perfection, look for someone who is striving towards perfection. This is a person that loves God and does not want to be conformed to the world but whose life’s purpose is to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

As my mom says, if you meet a person who is perfect, run away, for you will make imperfect whatever is making that person seem perfect.

Sarah saw herself as a princess, but she did not care to prince her man

There are many women who see themselves as awesome and incredible royalty. Many women say, I want to be treated like a princess! The issue is that they do not want their man to be a prince. They do not want to share any power or give up any control. Instead, they want their partners to take the position of a slave while treating them like a princess. The reason many women cannot let go of control is because of fear – perhaps due to not dealing with the hurts of past relationships. The moment the man does not give her the power she craves, she takes it as he not treating her like a princess and so searches for greener pastures. Conversely, many men see that while they are giving all they have, the woman is not following suit! Many women think that this is part of being pursued; many men simply sees it as being disrespectful.

As a princess, you have to make sure you prince your man. Compliment him and let him know that you appreciate that he is being led by the King. Let go of the control. Taking a chance at love means you take a chance with your heart. This is because only the heart can feel love, not your head.

Sarah liked being pursued but did not want to be caught

In the bible, the servant of Abraham went to a land far away in pursuit of a wife for Isaac. When he got there, it was Rebekah that came to the well. When he approached, she did not play games and dilly-dally. No, she said that she would not wait as her family had requested but would follow Eliezer immediately back to Isaac. When Boaz pursued Ruth, Ruth decided to show her interest by laying at his feet. See, both Rebekah and Ruth showed interest. They did not play games or play hard to get.

Ladies, if a prince has found you, then admit it and go forward as long as you have God’s blessing. I am not saying be easy, but at the same time, do not be hard to get. Just as you are a gift to him, he is also a gift to you! If a man is pursing you, do not run him away with games.

Sarah was way too picky

Sarah did not want God to decide whom she should marry but decided on who she wanted to marry. In essence, she said: God, forget about who you desire for me, this is the person I want to marry…now make it happen! It was no longer God’s will for her life but her will for her life!

But does God not want to give us the desires of our heart? Yes…as long as it glorifies God. In fact, the scripture says: delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. As you delight yourself in the Lord, you will find that His desires become your desire…thus your desire will glorify God!

You must believe right now that what God wants for you is better than what you could ever want for yourself in the long run. If he is not giving you your hearts desires, it may be because you are not ready to handle your heart’s desire. It may be because what you desire is not desirable!

Sarah wanted Boaz but wanted to remain a Delilah

Do not be like Sarah! Every potential suitor she met had some flaw that was fatal. One could not provide. Another could provide but was not attractive enough. A third was attractive and could provide but did not pay her enough attention. Yet, another paid her too much attention. She forgot that she was filled with flaws herself! She was so busy finding fault with everyone that she had no time to look at herself. She was so busy trying to find the speck in someone else’ life that she forgot that the log in her eyes was blinding her vision of the truth about herself. The truth that just like everyone else, she is imperfect and needs a savior as well!

Sarah could not understand why the one’s she thought were ‘perfect’ for her were not interested. Sarah, perhaps it is because they are not willing to ‘settle’ either.

I thank God that he did not wait for us to be perfect but settled for us. He wants us to settle for nothing less than Himself. This means that we have to take the reins off our own lives and surrender completely to His will. It seemed that Joseph settled for Mary when He married a pregnant girl…but He became immortalized in history because of it. Are you willing to settle for God’s best for you?

Food for Thought: Maybe I cannot find Mr.Right because I am wrong in the way I see relationships

7 Misconceptions About Christianity

BY JASON L CLARK

If the truth sets us free, then it’s safe to say that a lie holds us back. What we believe about the nature of God is of infinite importance. We are either growing in freedom or we are becoming disenfranchised.

There is one foundational truth about God’s nature by which every other aspect of His nature should be measured: God is love (1 John 4:8).

Jesus is the perfect expression of what love looks and sounds like, of what love does. He is perfect theology.

A true view of God will free and empower sons and daughters to live like Jesus. We have been designed and created to know God as love and to be transformed in this truth. But slipping into a false view of God as angry, vengeful, waiting for you to live up to His standards or whatever else can tamper your witness and your personal spiritual life.

A TRUE VIEW OF GOD WILL FREE AND EMPOWER SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO LIVE LIKE JESUS.

There are many different false ideas we put on God, but here are a few signs that you have a wrong view of God.
 

1. You’re Motivated by Shame Instead of Love.

Feelings of shame or condemnation are often the evidence that you believe God’s opinion of you is determined by how much you have pursued Him or, obeyed Him or loved Him.

First, God never communicates using shame or condemnation—those feelings come from elsewhere.

Second, you get no say in how God feels about you. God is love, and His heart toward you is perfectly displayed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.

Third, “we love because He first loved” (1 John 4:19). Your devotional life is always meant to be a response to your revelation of His love, not motivated out of a fear of His anger or disappointment.

2. You’re Scared of Being ‘Outside’ of God’s Will Instead of Trusting That He’s Guiding You.

God’s will isn’t a mystery. It’s not some giant puzzle He’s waiting for us to figure out or forever live outside of what He wants for us.

Being overly worried about figuring out what God wants for our lives betrays a lack of trust that He has a good plan for us, that He is the one in authority and the one ultimately guiding our lives.

If we get too caught up worrying about what we’re supposed to be doing, we may miss what God desires us to see right where we are. Jesus also told us in Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.” We can pray with confident faith for things that are of the Kingdom of heaven to come on earth and for God to use us in His bigger plan.

3. You Feel a Need to Defend the Gospel Instead of Reveal the Gospel.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy conversation about faith, but when you feel a need to “defend the faith” at all costs, you have a misunderstanding of Jesus. Jesus didn’t live, die and rise in order to defend a set of ideals, principles or beliefs. He never defended a Gospel, He revealed it.

Jesus had one mandate: reveal His Father. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14: 911).

God doesn’t need to be defended, but He loves to be revealed. To be honest, the best “defense” of the Gospel is sons or daughters living as expressions of love in every aspect of life.

Our main responsibility as a Christians is to reveal love.

4. You Equate Hardship With Holiness.

If you tend to equate pain and suffering with holiness and a Godly life, you have a misunderstanding of God’s heart.

The verse in Matthew 16, “take up your cross and follow me” is certainly an invitation to follow Jesus in every way, and pain and suffering are part of the Christian life, but they’re not the point. In fact, even Jesus’ suffering and death were not the main point—resurrection life was always the destination. “For the joy set before Him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

“Take up your cross” is not a celebration of suffering with Jesus; it’s an invitation to live in the power of the resurrection. Yes, sacrifice is a part of the journey, but suffering is not the high road to holiness. A Godly life is about living in the joy and power of resurrection life.
 

5. You’re Trying Harder Instead of Being Transformed.

JESUS DIDN’T LIVE, DIE AND LIVE AGAIN SO YOU COULD TRY HARDER. HE OVERCAME IN EVERY WAY SO YOU COULD BE TRANSFORMED.

Jesus didn’t live, die and live again so you could try harder. He overcame in every way so you could be transformed.

Feelings of spiritual inadequacy are often the evidence that you may have a misunderstanding of His perfect love.

Jesus lived 30 years without doing any miracles. Then, after He was baptized, His Father declared, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). It begs the question, what was the Father pleased about? Jesus hadn’t done anything yet.

It was the Father’s pleasure that empowered Jesus to do all the things He is famous for.

Discipline and principles are important, but the Christian faith was never meant to be about “trying harder,” it’s about becoming sure in God’s love. Only through the discovery of God’s love and pleasure are you empowered to do the “greater works” Jesus promised and the pastor is preaching about.


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/5-signs-you-may-have-wrong-view-god#zLj2YsZb8E7AJ2k7.99

Love Is More Than a Choice

Love Is More Than a Choice

This is a gentle pushback on a popular slogan.

There is truth in saying, “love is a choice” or “love is a decision.” It is true that if you don’t feel like doing good to your neighbor love will incline you to “choose” to do it anyway. If you feel like getting a divorce, love will incline you to “choose” to stay married and work it out.

If you shrink back from the pain of nails being driven through your hands, love will incline you to say, “Not my will but yours be done.” That’s the truth I hear in the statements: “Love is a choice,” or “Love is a decision.”

But I don’t prefer to use these statements. Too many people hear three tendencies in them that those who use the statements may not intend.

  1. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to believe love is in our power to perform, even when we don’t feel like it.

  2. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to make the will, with its decisions, the decisive moral agent rather than the heart, with its affections.

  3. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to set the bar too low: If you can will to treat someone well, you have done all you should.

I disagree with all three of these tendencies.

In their place I would say:

  1. Both at the level of desiring to do good, and the level of willing the good we don’t desire, we are totally dependent on the decisive grace of God. All that honors Christ — both affections and choices — are gifts to fallen sinners (1 Corinthians 4:7; Galatians 5:22).

  2. Beneath the will, with its decisions, there is the heart, which produces our preferences, and these preferences guide the will. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

  3. If our love is only a choice, it is not yet what it ought to be.

Here are some of the verses from Scripture that cause me to shrink back from the statement, “Love is a choice,” or “love is a decision.”

God’s love for his people is more than a decision.

“The Lᴏʀᴅ will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

“I [the Lᴏʀᴅ] will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?… My compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8).

Our love for God is more than a decision.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

“There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness … for all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). (That is we long for Jesus to be here; we desire him.)

Our love for fellow believers is more than a decision.

“Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10).

“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32). (These affectional dimensions are what it means to “walk in love” according to Ephesians 5:2.)

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

“Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant … It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).

Our love for our enemies is more than a decision.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). (A prayer for our enemy to be blessed without a heartfelt desire that he be blessed is hypocrisy.)

It is important to hear me say, “more than a decision.” I am not denying there are crucial choices and decisions to be made in a life of love. I am not denying that those choices and decisions are part of what love is. So I am not saying the statements “love is a choice” or “love is a decision,” are false.

But I am jealous that the richness and depth (and human impossibility) of what love is in the Bible not be lost. Hence this little pushback.