destined to save

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

Mark 14:53-54

This is my story, this is my song.

Avoiding my Savior all the day long.

I trail behind him, following at a distance,

Preferring my suffering to His.

Warming my hands by the fire with those who mock my Lord,

I let Him die alone.

Why do I do this? I don’t know.

I wish I understood.

 I’d rather lie beside a fake flame then wait for His fire.

But maybe it’s because I was destined to betray.

And He

destined to save.

the benefits of belief

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a]

Romans 4:3

We know the Lord loves faith and hates unbelief. When Christ was found in towns with doubt that wouldn’t let him heal, strict warnings were released. But when Abram agreed with the symbolism of promise as stars in the sky, the Lord was pleased. So much so, that He credited it to him as righteousness.

Why did God credit Abraham’s belief as righteousness? Because belief comes with benefits.

Belief, or faith, breaks down the door of the flesh, providing an entryway into sinless living and fruitfulness – because when you choose to believe God, you stop believing yourself. 

With belief comes the beginnings of complete surrender. With belief comes trust. With belief comes honor. With belief comes gentleness, humility and respect for others. Belief in God frees you from the need to prove yourself – because you believe that God will do it. In fact, once it comes to pass, you know God did it… because you didn’t do anything but believe. And somehow, it happened.

When you believe God, He honors your faith with the grace to rest in Him and let Him do it. When you believe God, you stop striving and simply receive. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that we have been saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast; and sanctification is the same. Our works do not save us – rather, right living is a result of right belief.

In what areas of life are you struggling the most? May I suggest that those might be the greatest areas of unbelief? Pray and ask the Lord to increase your faith, that you may believe. Benefits will come, too.

even if He doesn’t vs. He won’t

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”

Daniel 3:16-20

Remember this story from Vacation Bible School? Rack, Shack, and Benny anyone?

Anyways.

I don’t know about you, but…now, in adulthood, this furnace feels all too real. If you’re in a ‘furnace’ that you desperately want God to deliver you from, (a job, a season, a storm), and you believe you have been given a promise from Him, let’s dig into this text for a bit. What did those Hebrew boys say again?

“He will. But even if He doesn’t…He will still be praised.”

As I wait on God’s promise, I find myself resting in the “even if He doesn’t”. It feels like a safer place than “He will” – because when I find peace in the possibility that He won’t, I feel I’ve made progress. I feel that, though I’ve been waiting and hoping for something that God has promised for years, if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be cool with that.

I camp in the “He won’t” camp. I build my tent in the place where God doesn’t deliver on promises; and I feel faithful.

…yeah, that’s not gonna work.

I hear the Holy Spirit say on behalf of the Father;

Dear Daughter,

“Even if He doesn’t”, does not mean, “He won’t”.

I am and I will.

Love, Dad

Sigh.

Why is this distinction between “Even if He doesn’t” and “He won’t” so important? Why does this matter so much?

It matters because one sentiment expresses faith, while the other expresses fear. And, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

It also matters because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. We haven’t seen the finish line – therefore, we don’t know for sure if He will or if He won’t! But to flat out say, “He won’t”, does not prove your faith – it proves your doubt – because it is deduced by the evidence of things seen.

“He won’t” says this: “I haven’t seen it. Therefore, He won’t.”

Newsflash: you’re judging by what you’ve seen. No expectancy, no wisdom, no sacrifice of praise, no faith.

In fact, by saying “He won’t”, (BUT DON’T FORGET, Y’ALL – I’LL STILL PRAISE HIM), is like saying you’re the faithful one and God is not!

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
If we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

One last time, all together now! “Even if He doesn’t” does not mean “He won’t”.

Even if He doesn’t” means that He doesn’t need to prove His faithfulness to you – because He already did that on the cross.

God’s faithfulness was fulled through the body and blood of Jesus Christ. All of God’s promises are yes and amen in Jesus! Therefore, even if He doesn’t do whatever you want Him to do – or, whatever He’s promised He’ll do – He’s still faithful. For God demonstrates His love for us in this: not by fulfilling all our desires, but in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Keep your gaze there – on the cross. Nothing more, nothing less. He is faithful, nonetheless.

And don’t forget to praise Him!

 

wwjd: what would jonah do?

Those of you familiar with the story of Jonah are probably wrinkling your eyebrows and pursing your lips in skepticism with one glance at the title of this blog post. I can already hear the ‘pfft’.

‘Umm..I’m pretty sure Jonah ran from God, begrudgingly completed his assignment, then got pissed when the people repented. Why would I want to do what Jonah did?’

Congratulations. You know your Bible.

That doesn’t negate the fact that there’s a Jonah in all of us.

Chances are, you very well might be running from the Lord right now. Or, you might be delaying obedience. Or, you might even be sulking and seething, envious of the grace of God on someone else’s life. I have found myself in one of Jonah’s moods many a time. Let’s lay down our pride and learn from the story of Jonah together, shall we?

For this blog post, we’re going to look specifically at the first chapter. Read that here.

Here’s a summary:

  • Jonah was a prophet. Jonah was God’s mouthpiece. He had a call on his life from God to speak the words that God put in his mouth to the people God told him to go to. He had been given a difficult assignment: go tell the people in Nineveh to repent. “The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” (Jonah 1:1-2)
  • Jonah disobeyed. “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.” (Jonah 1:3)
  • His disobedience affected those around him. “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.” (Jonah 1:4-5)
  • Jonah didn’t care. He slept. “But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.” (Jonah 1:5b)
  • Despite his disobedience, Jonah was still set apart by God. “Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.” (Jonah 1:7)
  • Jonah responds with a confession of faith. “Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (Jonah 1:9)
  • Jonah repents. “And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” (Jonah 1:11-12)
  • God stops the storm. Then they (the sailors) cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!” (Jonah 1:14-15)
  • God is glorified: “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” (Jonah 1:16)
  • God provides shelter for Jonah. “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

If you relate to anything I’ve just written, please read this word from the Lord:

1. Wake up. Your disobedience is causing a storm that is affecting other people. BUT YOU ARE ASLEEP! Here’s the call to you: wake up! Open your eyes! See what your actions have caused in the lives of other people.
2. Confess your faith. Who do you worship? Do you worship the Lord, the God of heaven? Do you worship money? Do you worship yourself? Do you worship your accomplishments, your reputation, your own strength?
3. Confess your sin & repent! Do the thing that God is telling you to do for your own sake and for the safety of the people around you.

Here’s what God will do:

1. He will stop the storm.

2. He will provide you with shelter. 

3. He will be glorified.

Lord, I pray this word reaches the Jonahs who are running from you right now. Forgive us for running from you. Reveal to us our next steps. You are faithful to save. WE LOVE YOU. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

no time to regret

Fully demolish the stronghold of fantasy.

I want what You want, and what You want is me. All of me.

Strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees…cause we’ve walked a while.

While I walked with weight you never asked me to carry, You waited. You waited back there, You waited up ahead, and You wait in me. Your weight in me.

Glory.

Will I wait on him forever? Will I one day be weightless? Will I ever learn to fly?

Will we flock together?

Here’s a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: I would rather fly alone than never leave the ground.

My failures won’t fail me. They’ll always cling so closely.

But even Failure flies.

And yet, Regret restricts. It thinks its string can hold me down.

If only you knew, Regret…that by the blood, you’re silly string.

I snap,

and I am free.

the blueprint

“My dear friends, you always obeyed what you were taught. Just as you obeyed when I was with you, it is even more important for you to obey now that I am not there. So you must continue to live in a way that gives meaning to your salvation. Do this with fear and respect for God. Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.”
Philippians 2:12-13 ERV

Many of you may be familiar with this scripture – but you might not be familiar with this particular translation. The wording that has been used most frequently for the third sentence in the passage is, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This wording confuses many. I believe the ERV, or “Easy to Read Version”, provides a refreshing, practical perspective, while continuing to maintain an appropriate reverence and awe of God.

I also believe that this passage provides us with a blueprint to spiritual maturity.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“My dear friends, you always obeyed what you were taught. Just as you obeyed when I was with you, it is even more important for you to obey now that I am not there.”

  1. The first step to spiritual maturity is to obey while no one’s watching.

While it is good and right to act in love and compassion while in the presence of your pastor and leaders, it cannot stop there. We must continue to pray, worship, read the Word, and love our neighbors while we are living our day-to-day lives. In fact, as Paul states, it is even more important that we obey Monday through Saturday than just on Sundays.

Here’s a practical example for all the mothers among us: which of these scenarios brings more joy?

  • Your child will only clean her room while under your strict supervision – one hand on your hip, the other on her doorway.
  • Your child cleans her room without you ever having to ask.

While I am not yet a mother, from what I remember about growing up with my own mom, I’d bet she’d choose the second option. Likewise, God values our obedience most when it is unseen – and unprompted – by others. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew Chapter 6, verse 1:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

I don’t know about you, but this verse terrifies me. Yikes! Lord, purify our hearts!

Let’s continue.

“So you must continue to live in a way that gives meaning to your salvation.”

What brings meaning to something? Understanding.

2. The second step to spiritual maturity is to continue to ask God for understanding. 

Understanding is the difference between memorization and meditation. Think about a young child “reading” a book to you that has been read to her hundreds of times. She’s not reading – she’s reciting. Does she fully understand the concepts and context of the book? Not quite. She merely has it memorized.

God doesn’t want us to just memorize His word. He wants us to understand His word.

Psalm 119 verse 34 says, Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”

Understanding brings true meaning and continued obedience to God’s word. We need understanding of God’s nature, love, and character to acknowledge and believe that His law is worth adhering to at all times.

Here’s one more.

“Do this with fear and respect for God. Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.”

Up until now, this whole thing has seemed impossible, has it not? How do we denounce the desire to display our good works? How do we obtain the understanding for continued obedience? What is the spiritual secret sauce that can help us out?

Here it is: You’re not the one doing the work!

3. The third step to spiritual maturity is relinquishing all control to the Holy Spirit.

For all you Enneagram geeks out there, I am a 7 with an 8 wing, otherwise known as “The Opportunist”. Some benefits to being “The Opportunist” include: high-energy and positivity, confidence and charisma, a love of life. One not-so-great aspect? I avoid pain at all costs.

Last year in July, I stepped down off a ledge; clumsily landing in a dip in the grass while wearing new, narrow wedges. I wobbled and fell. I brushed it off as a rolled ankle and continued to live life normally. But July turned to October…turned to January…turned to now May…and my foot is still in pain. I’ve tried wearing an orthotics boot, I’ve tried limiting physical activity. Still in pain.

Why God? Why? I know that You are more than capable of healing my foot in an instant. I’ve prayed over it many times in faith. I’ve seen you move miraculously before. Why aren’t You doing it now?

Here’s what I’ve been receiving from the Lord:

Yes, He could heal it instantly. But what is His purpose in the pain? Romans 8 says that God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose…not my own.

Could He possibly be teaching me that the presence of pain does not mean the absence of God? Could He possibly be showing me that the greater miracle is the miracle of a Gina who relinquishes all control and is brave in the face of pain?

Thanks to His understanding, I believe Him. And, thankfully, I don’t need to relinquish control on my own. The spirit of Christ works in me. He helps me do what pleases Him – He helps me sit in the pain and trust in the healing process. He gives me the power to do it.

Think back on moments of youth when you stood in the kitchen with your mother / grandmom / older sibling watching them cook. Which moments are more memorable? The ones when the other person did all the cooking, or the ones when they elicited your help and you cooked together?

I picture my 6-year-old self standing on a kitchen chair helping my YiaYia by pouring a measuring cup of Uncle Ben’s rice into a pot of boiling water. I’ve forgotten the hundreds of times she made rice without my help – but I will never forget the moments when she asked me to cooperate with her. She lifted me onto the chair. She put the pot of water on the stove. She handed me the rice. She even held my hand as we poured it together.

That’s how God wants to work with us – an intense, deep connection formed by letting His life live through us. And as we continue steps 1-3 over and over again, I am confident in this: that He who has begun a good work in us will see it through to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you for the Holy Spirit. We thank You for sending Him to us to guide us into all truth. Holy Spirit, give us fear and respect for God. Help us continue to obey. Help us relinquish all control and let You live Your life through us. You are Worthy. We love You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

for freedom

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

John 9:18-23

How many of you are familiar with this story? It’s a fascinating one!

At the beginning of this chapter, we find Jesus going for a walk with his disciples. As they pass by a man born blind, the disciples asked Jesus a telling question about this man’s condition.

2“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Though that question may seem insensitive to the modern-day reader, it is revelatory of biblical history and culture. Jews historically believed that a physical disability such as blindness must have been caused by sin – and in this case, the disciples were curious.

Here stands a man born blind. Who’s fault is it?

Jesus, per usual, completely shifts their paradigm.

 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

In this statement, the Christ replaces the blame of man with the fame of God. He releases both the man and his parents from responsibility for the disability, and instead, offers an entirely new perspective.

What if this was no one’s fault? What if, instead, it was permitted to bring God glory?

What if?

See, the blind man sees this. Later on in the narrative, the blind man does not shy away from testifying about the truth of who Jesus is. He boldly makes his profession of faith in the assembly. He does not allow the Pharisees to pressure him into eschewing away the Savior. He is not paralyzed by fear of man – for once, he was blind; and now, he sees.

This God-man healed me, this man says. He is certain that Jesus is more than a man – so certain, that his faith comes back around to save Him. Jesus revisits him and allows him the opportunity to confess and believe in the son of man. Jesus saves him.

Not so for his parents.

Sadly, though his parents may have had faith in Jesus, their faith was not seen.

Put yourself in his parents’ shoes for a moment:

Imagine the mounting weight of blame for causing your son’s blindness. Imagine the cloud of guilt that hovers whenever he is seen with you in public. Picture the stares from folks walking by, men and women shaking their heads at you. Hear his parents’ thoughts: “We are bad. We brought a son into a world that hates him. Why did this happen? What evil could we have possibly done to bring this about? Will there ever be a way out?”

Yeah, there could have been.

Had they chosen to confess the Christ, they would be freed. They would have received a revelation of their situation that would completely alter their reality.

This perspective shift would say this:

No, your sin has not visited the next generation. God has visited His people.

Meet Jesus.

Jesus, the sinless man who meets with sinners. The word made flesh. The Creator entered His creation and chose their son, of all people, in whom to display His glory. Just as Mary, they had indeed found favor with the Lord, and were called blessed enough to be the recipients of God’s glory.

For, as mentioned earlier,

“3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

But they feared man, so they did not confess Jesus as Christ.

Their fear of man kept them from their freedom.

In what ways does our fear of man keep us from confessing Jesus as Christ, thus keeping us in bondage?

grace to the humble

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Judges 7:2

Today, I am convicted.

I am convicted of believing that I have outgrown the blood of Jesus. I have forgotten the depth of the pit which God delivered me from. I have failed to trust in God for His promises and have acted out of foolishness. I have found myself in friendships for selfish gain. I have forgotten that everything I have has come from His hand. I have begun to take credit where credit is not due.

I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

But what’s worse than sinning? The pride that keeps me from admitting my sin.

Gina, who are you? You are a sinner. You are but a vapor. You are you.

God knows you. God knows your sin. He’s not fooled.

Gina, God allows you to sin so that you can never say that your own hand has saved you. He will continue to strip down the army of your pride, as long as you live. Thank Him for this. Thank Him that only the Lord can turn beauty to ashes and can turn shame into glory. You can’t do that.

You never needed to.

That’s His job.

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. Don’t take what is God’s. Let Him get the glory.

Even if that means it costs you yours.

 

 

leave tomorrow alone

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

We are in a season in which it seems that the only certainty is uncertainty.

The above scripture is the words of Jesus, the words of the God-man himself. They have never been more applicable than they are right now.

Day after day, we are watching in horror as peoples’ worst nightmares come true. Naturally, this leads to worry. But for the sake of our sanity, we cannot afford to let our minds wander to worrisome “What if’s” – because right now, nothing is off the table. Any number of terrible things could happen. Therefore, we must be very diligent to remain focused on the present.

What is your present circumstance? Think on that. Do not allow your mind to wander. Stay thankful for the reality of your current situation.

Are you healthy? Thank God for your health.

Are your loved ones healthy? Thank God for their health.

Are you still employed? Thank God for employment.

Are you still breathing? Thank God for your breath.

Are you still alive? Thank God for your life.

Please, family: Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Stay focused on today. And if you are in need of prayer, please leave a comment on this post and let me know how to pray for you.

Love, Gina.

 

 

dwelling place

17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:17-22

I know I’m not the only one finding comfort and laughter in memes right now. One of my favorites features the fabulous Jim Halpert, with a look of disbelief. See below:

IMG_8267.JPG

Pretty crazy, huh?

In this time of isolation, I am finding myself meditating more and more on this reality: The early church was isolated, too. Persecution and prison often prevented Pastor Paul from gathering in person with his people. What did they do?

They prayed.

Over and over again, we read Paul begin his letters with I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy…” 

In this time of isolation, are you praying for your people? Do you truly believe that prayer works?

If you aren’t, it’s okay. But I would encourage you to begin praying regularly for the body of Christ.

I had an awesome dream this past week involving me and my good friend and fellow prayer warrior Megan. In the dream, she and I stood outside of a hospital. We were looking at a massive football field to the left of the building. This football field was filled with thousands and thousands of people lined up in single file lines.  Each line had a leader holding a poster board that listed that line’s assignment.

As I woke up and prayed, I believe the lines were representative of individual churches praying for the world and for one another. Megan and I were both simultaneously participating in the massive prayer network, being covered by it, and being able to see it from the outside. The Lord encouraged me – our prayers are working!

In these days, God is building the spiritual structure of His bride. This back on the scripture in Ephesians: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” 

How can we be “built together” when we are all apart?

The dwelling place is a spiritual one. 

One of my key scriptures during this time has been Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

We dwell in Him. And when we all choose to dwell in Him through prayer, the church is built

Today, I ask: where do you dwell?