Christianity

Unashamed

My daughter came home from attending church the other day and shared with me her frustration with preachers who make altar calls at which time they say something to this effect: “Now, with eyes closed and every head bowed, raise your hand if you wish to accept Jesus as your Savior.” It is a frustration that I share, and I strongly believe that this practice—and the underlying belief behind it- is one of the reasons for the ‘lukewarmness’ that pervades our American churches today. This method of ‘saving souls’ does not date back to scripture; rather, it began in America in the 1800’s. Besides the obvious concern that this practice isn’t scriptural, it also easily leads to the impression that people should be ashamed to profess Christ as their Savior. What possible reason is there for such a discreet method of inviting people to accept Christ as their Savior other than the concern that the person might be afraid to profess his belief in God in front of others? Think of it: sinners in a church service surrounded by others who profess to believe in and trust in God, given the impression that they have something to hide if they want to be aligned with God. How absurd it is—and grievous— to think that sinners who deserve hell and damnation for their rebellion against a Holy God should be encouraged in a church to feel fearful before men for aligning themselves with God, the very One who loved them so much that while they were yet sinners, He died for them. (Romans 5:8)

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We have not been called to fear man, but only to fear God and to fear Him above all else. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) We also need to remember the words of Jesus Who said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

Can you imagine Paul or any of the early disciples sharing the gospel and making such an altar call that involves no public profession of one’s faith? Do you think that such a practice is consistent with Paul’s words recorded in 2nd Timothy?

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace… But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (italics added) 2nd Timothy 1:7-9, 12-13

In nations where hostility toward the gospel is the rule, people who receive the gift of salvation and are baptized into the faith are aware that being aligned with Jesus might well cost them everything, including their physical life. In contrast, in America, we all too often assure people that they are ‘saved’ just because they raised their hand at a church service. First and foremost, although we are called and commanded to share the gospel and to make disciples, only the Father can draw anyone to Jesus. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) God alone is able to save; He alone knows the hearts of people and whether or not they are indeed disciples. Yes, Jesus’ death on the cross was all that was necessary to pay the price for our sin. However, in order to obtain salvation you must believe in Him (John 6:29), and a true belief in Jesus will lead you to repent of your sins and to follow Him.

Jesus would not have told us to count the cost of following Him if all we had to do is raise our hand to be considered one of His followers.

Listen to Jesus’ words written in Luke:

“Now great crowds accompanied him (Jesus), and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (italics added) Luke 14:27-29, 33

Before we ask people to raise their hands in church to indicate that they want to receive Jesus as their Savior, shouldn’t they know what it means to be a disciple of Christ? Shouldn’t they know that it will cost them dying to their old life— a life filled with selfish ambitions and worldly desires (Luke 9:23)— and in exchange they will receive the power to live the only life worth living…a life dedicated to the glory of God and filled with His peace, joy, and love ?

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What To Do & Pray When You've Hurt Someone

When I think about the moment the words flew out of my mouth, I just want to cringe.  I wish I could take them back, my intent was pure, but the timing was awful and worse yet, I had misunderstood something earlier in the day…so what does all this equal? I offended my friend.

I was wrong.

She was hurting.

I knew I had to talk about this with her, but first

I needed to do these 4 things:

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  1. Pray-  Confess it as sin before God and ask for His forgiveness. 

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]—then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!- Psalm 32:5

He who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will obtain mercy- Proverbs 28:13

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].- 1 John 1:9

2. Confess your sin to a trusted friend or mentor (motive check: be careful not to share it with others as a way to gossip or have your "side" heard, notice the verse below says confess your faults, not your "reasons, justifications or others' faults")

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healedand restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. - James 5:16

3. Pray- Ask God for perfect timing, pray for the words to speak, pray they are received,

In a recent blog “Wisdom Hunters” wrote titled "Timing Matters":

“Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:30

Timing is everything. It is the difference between a strike and a home run in baseball. It determines if a cake is moist and baked perfectly, or hard and dry. Timing in conversation can solicit receptivity or invite defensiveness. It may grow or hinder relationships. When and how we move forward with a decision to change determines the degree of success. Yes, timing in telling the truth is best when anger has subsided and hearts are comforted. Prayer leads to the right time.”

4. Humble Yourself- Ask your friend for forgiveness.  Do not try to defend your actions, or talk over the situation again with hopes that he/she will see it from your point of view.  Take full responsibility, be humble, and willing to “let go” of the details and your need to be “understood," “right,”  or "justified."  

He leads the humble in what is right, and the humble He teaches His way.- Psalm 25:9

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].- Philippians 2:3

We cannot control how others will respond to us when we ask for forgiveness, but we can know that we are right before God when we have done these things with sincere repentance, and a pure heart.

Written by: Jamie Shaver

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What To Pray After You've Been Hurt

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Recognizing that the greatest challenge you will face after being wounded by someone is keeping yourself free from anger, bitterness, and resentment, I suggest that your first prayer should be for yourself.  Our role is to be pure vessels through which the Holy Spirit can freely flow.  We must not harbor anything that will block the flowing of His Spirit within and through us.

Example of a prayer for yourself:

  •  If you are unable to love and forgive the person, confess that as sin to God.  “Lord, forgive me that I have not loved  ___ (name of person) as you have loved me (John 13:34-35); that I have not forgiven _______ as you have forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32). Give me Your heart of love and forgiveness for________(the person who wounded you). Please give me ‘a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone’ (Ezekiel 36:26), and ‘create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).  Give me eyes to see ________ as your child whom you love and with whom you long for me to be in unity by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Empty me of all that stands in the way of you having full reign in my life, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit! Help me to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as you have loved me. (Matthew 22:36-40 )

If you are tempted to harbor anger, bitterness, and resentment against the person who wounded you, immediately take the thought captive (2ndCorinthians 10:5). Instead of focusing on the sin against you, look to Jesus who bore both your sins and the sins of the person who wounded you.  We’ve been commanded to love and pray for others, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). “God is rich in mercy, full of compassion, not desiring that any should perish but that all should come to know Him and have eternal life. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reachrepentance.”(2nd Peter 3:9).  Do for the other person what Jesus does for you: intercede!

Example of a prayer for the person who wounded you:

  •  “Lord, break his/her heart over that which breaks Yours!  Give him/her a revelation of how deep your love is for them; draw them to Yourself where they alone can find forgiveness, peace, joy and true and everlasting love.  Give them a vision of eternity that they might humble themselves, confess their sin, and turn from it to You. Give him/her the gift of faith so that they might comprehend how deep, wide, long and high is Your love for them so that they might be filled to the full measure of You (Ephesians 3:14-19). May they have “love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:9-11)

You cannot pray for someone with love for them and at the same time hold bitterness toward them.  Which are you going to allow to grow in your heart….seeds of bitterness that lead to death, or seeds of intercession that spring forth new life? What you choose to do will not only affect the person who wounded you, but even more importantly, it will determine the intimacy of your relationship with Jesus, the most important thing in your life.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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The "Tug" In My Spirit Doesn't Make Sense!

As I lay down on the hotel bed to take a one-hour nap before we left for a church service in a large Midwestern city, I kept feeling a “tug” in my heart to stay home from the meeting that night.  But I wanted to go hear the special speaker that evening.  Besides, many of our ministry friends were going to be there, and I wanted to tell them goodbye since this was to be our last night in the area. As we walked out the door of the hotel room, I turned to Denise and said, “I don’t know why, Denise, but I think I’m going to let you go tonight, and I’m going to stay here.”  As she walked out the door, however, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a fantastic night at the meeting, so I headed downstairs to the car that waited to take us.  I couldn’t figure out why I seemed impressed to stay in the room that night, so I overruled what my spirit was telling me and went on to church.

When the car pulled up to the church, I was overwhelmed with a “knowing” that I had to go back to the room.  Once again, I told Denise, “I’m going to tell everyone goodbye right now before the meeting begins; then I’m going back to the room.  I’ll see you when you get home from church tonight.”  But as I went around telling people goodbye, I got involved in first one conversation, then another, and then another, until time began to slip away.  Finally, the turmoil in my spirit became so strong that I asked the driver to take me right back to the hotel.

As I drove to the hotel, I kept thinking how irrational it was for me to feel like I needed to be at the hotel that night.  Why would I need to be there?  There was nothing urgent to do and no calls to make, so why did I have this incredible “urge” to get back to the hotel room?  But when I opened to the door to our room, I was stunned to see that the entire room had been ransacked.

  • Suitcases were sprawled across the room
  • Clothes were hurled all over the place
  • Denise’s jewelry boxes were opened, empty, and scattered on the floor.
  • My computer had been taken from the desk where it had been sitting
  • My briefcase that contained my tickets, my passport, and my visas was gone

When I saw that my computer and briefcase were gone, I realized that whoever had done this hadn’t just stolen those two items.  The information on my computer and in my briefcase included:

  • Nine years of important study notes.
  • My American passport.
  • My Latvian residence visa.
  • My brand-new Russian visa.
  • All my international travel documents.
  • All my credit cards.
  • My birth certificate.
  • My Daytimer that was filled with vital addresses and phone numbers.

The above story is a direct quote and excerpt from “Sparkling Gems From The Greek” by Rick Renner.

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I was captivated by his story.  I couldn’t help but picture being in his shoes.  How frustrated would you be with yourself?!

I also imagined what it would have been like had he obeyed.  Most likely, a quite, peaceful night would have ensued where “nothing” seemed to happen.  There was once a time when I wanted to go to a women’s bible study that my friend was leading back in my hometown where I would’ve been able to see a lot of women I had not seen in a long time.  I wanted to go so badly; however, I felt the same “tug” that said I should stay at my parent’s home and not go!  What?!  God was asking me not to go to a bible study?!  It seemed ridiculous.  I did obey that “tug” and stayed home.  I hated making that phone call because I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to catch-up and enjoy  getting into God’s Word with my friends.  I remember wondering “why” God wanted me to stay at my parent’s house that night.  Nothing “important” seemed to happen.  I did not “hear” from God in some mighty way as I sometimes expect when God asks me to do something.  Instead, it was a regular ol’ night, uneventful.  I wonder what God protected me from?  We know we have an enemy that wants to rob, kill and destroy.

In Acts 13:4

So then, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from [that port] they sailed away to Cyprus

We know that God will never ask us to do something, send us somewhere, or keep us from something that is not in our very best interest.  We just need to obey.

Trust that He has a good reason for every. single. thing. He will ever ask of you.  He can be trusted, even when we don’t know why He asked us to do what He’s asking us to do.  We may never know what He saved us from experiencing.  I would much rather have an uneventful day/night because of my obedience, then to sin by disobeying  or as Rick Renner shares above “delayed obedience” and “discover” the reason  WHY God was prompting me to do a certain thing.

What is your experience with the Holy Spirit's prompting?  Share your story with us!

Written by Jamie Shaver

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

Flinch-Proof Your Faith

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”  Elizabeth Rundle Charles

Flinch: verb

1. to draw back or shrink, as fromwhat is dangerous, difficult, or unpleasant.

2. to shrink under pain; wince.

Are there any parts of your Christian faith that make you wince?

Do you ever wish you could take an eraser to certain verses in the Bible?

I can tell you that the times I’ve “flinched” in my faith have been times when I’ve feared man more than I’ve feared God.

I shrunk under the fear of possible rejection.

I found it easier to draw back from an unpleasant conversation than state the truth from God’s Word.

Upon doing the following I began to notice that I flinched less and less in my faith:

  • Participated in an “in-depth” bible study that helped me understand WHO God is, so I no longer winced at those tough verses in the bible.Instead, I began to understand them in the full context of the Scriptures and character of God.
  • Prayed that God would enable me to share His truth with love.
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Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 When you boldly speak His truth, and people reject you; remember they are also rejecting Him who sent you, for you are never alone.God never flinches.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

I sent a quick text to my mom the other day requesting that she pray for me and about a situation our family is going through.Her response was, “You’ve got the connections!” referring to my relationship with God.

That got me thinking, we as Christians DO have the connections! It’s often been said; “It’s not ‘what’ you know, it’s ‘who’ you know.”Well, as Christians we know God, and He has ALL the connections!As I thought about her text it was mind-boggling to imagine all of the “connections” God has as the Creator and Sustainer of everything.As His child I can literally say:

“My Father knows everyone!”

“My Father knows all things.”

“Nothing is impossible for my Father.”

“My Father can I be trusted.”

Perhaps like me, you’re praying for something that would be a “long-shot” to happen. If so, be encouraged; you have a Father who specializes in the impossible!  Genesis 18:4; Luke 1:37; Matthew 19: 26 

As believers in Christ we are part of a huge family.I love when Jesus is told in Matthew 12: 46-50 that his mother and brothers are outside waiting for an audience with him. He responds to his disciples saying, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

What a joy and comfort to know that we who follow Jesus are all part of the family of God. We all have connections with God and therefore with one another because we are a part of God’s family.

I recently heard a story about a man who was in a deep state of mourning after the loss of his wife.As thoughts of her ran through his mind, he began remembering the little things.The things she wore, her smile, even her favorite chicken potpie.The Lord put on his heart two specific bible verses that brought him comfort in the midst of his overwhelming sorrow.

At the same time, there was a woman who knew and loved God.She was going about her day when she sensed that she should make a homemade potpie and take it over to this man for dinner—a man she hadn’t been in touch with for over twenty years.She called him to let him know she was going to bring a potpie over to him.In that moment, his joy was restored because he knew that the Lord was with him and loved him so much that He was even in the details of his pain.

Interestingly, when the woman came to drop off the potpie she also brought along a card.In the blank card, she had felt the Holy Spirit tell her to write just two things:the same scripture references that the Lord had given to the man earlier.

Yes, we have a God who has all the connections.All we need is to stay connected to Him and to follow His instructions.In doing so, we like the two people in this story, have an opportunity to be part of God’s everyday miracles.

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If you have a dream, a plan, or a desire, be encouraged. “You’ve got the connections!” God is faithful to lead you, equip you, and fulfill His good purposes in your life.

Written by Jamie Shaver

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

Peace Comes Through Trust, Not Control

It’s 3am and I wake up to my frightened daughter saying, “Mom, I can’t sleep, the wind is too loud.”Funny thing, I hadn’t heard the wind until she woke me up.Then after hearing it I found myself wide awake and thinking about…the house!The day before we had signed papers to make an offer on a house I REALLY wanted.As I lay awake in bed, tons of thoughts ran through my mind.

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  • Would we get the house?
  • Was our offer going to be too low?
  • What could we do to be sure we win the bid?
  • I want to MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
  • What if we do win the bid? I’d be so happy BUT…then…
  • What if there is major inflation soon? Would we still be able to afford the payment?
  • What if after we buy it, we find out there are tons of repairs that need to be done?

As the wind continued to whistle outside, the questions circled faster and faster in my mind.Then a thought jumped out at me that was very different from all the others.What if…I just trusted God’s plan?

So, I prayed.  Then, having cast all my cares upon Him, I fell back asleep.

Six hours later, I find myself doing a “drive by”; after all, it is a vacant home. I just want to see it again (as if the 50 times I’ve viewed it online were not enough!)And then I see it.Someone’s car is in the driveway.Who is looking at my house? I’m bidding on this house; it’s mine, I begin thinking.Suddenly I’m flooded with thoughts of how I could control this situation to get what I want!Ugh!I hate when this happens.Six hours before, I had just “let go & let God”, and now look at me.I already want to take back control!

As I drove home— annoyed with my behavior— I knew what I needed to do.I needed to increase my faith and trust God.This is what I did, and what I do when I feel my faith is waning. 

Pray God’s Word back to Him.

· Proverbs 3:5-6

"TrustintheLordwithallyourheart and lean not on your own understanding; inallyour ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

· Romans 8:28

"And we know that in all thingsGod works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

· Psalm 40:4

"Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…”

· Proverbs 19:21

 ”Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

· I remind myself that God always has my best interest in mind.  If I pray and have trouble believing what God’s Word says, I next pray what the boy’s father prayed in Mark 9:24“…I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Today, I did not drive by the house. I resisted the urge to try to control my life, and I had peace when I prayed “not my will, Father, but thy will be done.”

Written by Jamie Shaver

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?