now faith

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”

Hebrews 11:1-4

Let’s break down this passage together. Read it out loud with me.

“Now faith…”

Now faith. Not then faith. Not the last time you heard a preacher say “Now faith”. That was then. This is now. Now faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

What do you hope for now? What are you sure about now that you do not yet see?

Is it God’s righteousness on this earth? Is it God’s provision in your life? Is it God’s healing and restoration in your family? What do you believe in so much that you are willing to sacrifice by faith now in order to see it come to pass?

Do you even have that kind of faith?

This the the faith that the ancients were commended for – their now faith in God. Their now faith is being commended now, even though they had it then. By faith, the ancients, like Abel, still speak.

Are you listening?

Let’s listen…now.

He’s worth listening to – after all, God commended him as righteous. Why was God pleased with his offerings? Because he brought them by his now faith. The text says that by faith, Abel brought God a better sacrifice.

Thinking about your now faith…what is a better sacrifice to bring now?

What is worth giving up to the Lord in order to see something much better? Don’t forget – sacrifices expire. Some things we sacrifice to the Lord in one season lose their power in another. Whats a better sacrifice for you now?

Before you begin to think whether about it’s harder for you to give up coffee or wine, look at verse 2.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

“By faith we understand.” This clause alone is worth meditating on.

We do not walk in faith by our own understanding. But rather by faith, we understand that the better sacrifice is only better because God says it is better – not because we say it is.

You see, God’s commands don’t just inform. They form.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Let God’s commands form your frame of mind to understand what is the better sacrifice in this season.

Then, obey.

Now.

Oh, one more thing.

God gave the best sacrifice of all – He did not spare His own son. And the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Jesus speaks the best word. He is the Word.

His word saves us, for we could never speak enough of our own words to see salvation.

Therefore, approach the throne of grace boldly – knowing that our great high priest has gone before us. Through Him, we sacrifice ourselves.

After all, Jesus sacrificed himself then.

We are to sacrifice ourselves now.

Galatians got me like…

We do things to get things.

We do difficult things for the promise of being rewarded with something good.

Sometimes the reward is immediate.

Most of the time, it’s not.

What happens if we change course

before we get to claim our prize?

What if our preferred prize for obedience is not what God has in mind?

You were running this race well, Gina.

Who hindered you?

Did you think that what you once soared through by the Spirit you may now coast by in the flesh?

The battle hasn’t changed.

But your will to fight has waned.

Though you no longer see your sin through the eyes of shame, you give in more this time. You let it win.

You’re indifferent. You’re different.

In a bad way?

Depends. You’re thankful for the freedom from feeling dirty.

But if you use that freedom to freely roll around in the dirt, others can’t get clean from watching you.

My freedom isn’t for me – it’s for those still in shame.

Loving others,

Serving others,

Leading them to freedom in Christ…

That’s why I’m Free.

How do I do this? I’m still human…I want what I want…

Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Let the Spirit lead you – take His route. You’ll stay holy, stay strong, stay singing psalms and praises. You’ll bypass the byways of desire, striking a blow to your body and showing it who’s boss.

He knows the way. And don’t grow weary in doing good – for in due time, you will reap a reward.

You will.

what does Paul say?

“”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you’ve been in church for any number of years, you’ve heard these words or some other words of Paul quoted. Before the verse, in the context of a conversation about right doctrine for the believer, the Christian will often say, “well, you know what Paul says….”

What does Paul say, dear Christian?

Here, Paul very clearly declares that he will not be dominated by anything. Sure, he has the freedom to do whatever he wants. But if the situation in front of him could lead to addiction, or could compromise his self control, he doesn’t do it. He refuses to be dominated.

Here’s the scary thing:

We quote this scripture. We can explain this scripture. We even agree and believe in the truth of this scripture.

But we don’t actually live it.

I believe the epistles (Paul’s writings) are often regarded as an authority of sound biblical doctrine – and this is not untrue. However, we must not lose sight of the continual inclusivity of Paul’s writings. His writings do not merely lay out doctrines of the Christian Faith – they are invitations into the experience of the Christian life.

There is nothing that Paul had that we don’t have. If you believe that Jesus is the savior of the world, the same spirit that raised Him from the dead and lived within Paul lives within you and me.

Do we believe this? Do we read the convicting and challenging book of 1 Corinthians and actually believe that Paul’s expectations of that ancient church apply to us today? Do we believe we can live like that?

I don’t. But I’m learning how to.

I’m learning the meaning of the verse, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

The Lord has gifted me with a spirit that soaks up the word of God like a supernatural sponge. I will read scripture and receive revelation soon after. My songwriting colleagues reference me as a concordance; as I can very quickly find a scripture to match the melody. It’s a gift. I’ve never really thought about it much – or asked Him why He gave it to me in the first place.

He is gently showing me that the purpose of this gift is not to become puffed up in pride...it is to grow in humility and holiness.

As I read this convicting passage in 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 over and over again, I pray that my spirit man would swallow its truth – not to grant me an admiration of Paul’s discipline, not to boast of my intimate knowledge of the text…

but that I might not sin against Him.

if….

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me!

Psalm 66:18-20

The Lord never changes – but our understanding of Him does.

How do we grow in the knowledge of our Creator? By swimming deeper and deeper into the waters of His word; letting the Holy Spirit wash us with wisdom and weight as we worship Him.

I love this passage. Though it might make some scared, it makes me feel safe.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.

How deep His love for me that His kindness would not let me sit in darkness, sold to a sketchy scene of “grace” that does not save. He saved me to Himself.

And in order for me to stay with Him, I need to know who He is.

He is love. He is grace. He is holiness. And His grace opens our eyes to both the sickness of our sin and the saving power of His life in us, that which enables us to inhabit His holiness.

Reverend Charles Spurgeon says, “Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, not the apologist of sin.”

Grace says, “Gina, my beloved daughter. I see that iniquity clinging to the crevices of your heart. Set it free. Don’t cherish it. I do not change, but you do. Let me into your heart, that I may listen to You.”

And so, I pray, “Lord, help. Help me shed light on this iniquity with my fellow sisters. As I delight in you, turn my desires towards you. Strip me from this sin; for I need you to hear my prayers. Living without your help is not an option. Do not turn your servant away – for You have been my help.”

That’s a prayer He will not reject.

more wisdom, please!

“Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, we must be patient and filled with expectation as we wait for the appearing of the Lord. Think about the farmer who has to patiently wait for the earth’s harvest as it ripens because of the early and latter rains. So you also, keep your hopes high and be patient, for the presence of the Lord is drawing closer.”
The book of James in the Passion translation is a wonderfully convicting book of poetry. The words both cut and heal. And gosh, are they beautiful.
Take just these two verses for example.
While earlier in the passage, James chides the rich who live without fear of God in their hearts, he now likens the believer in Jesus to a patient farmer, waiting for the early and latter rains. Waiting for something that he cannot control.
How do you wait for something that you cannot control? Moreover, how do you wait both expectantly and patiently? Doesn’t expectance negate patience?
At first thought, expectance conjures up a soft image of a smiling mother sitting beside her young children on the sofa on a wintry night; shaking her head as they beg her to let them stay awake, in hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.
We can say with certainty that those children are expectant. But we can say with equal certainty that they do not personify patience.
How do we display both, as James commands us to?
The answer is found elsewhere in the book of James – Heavenly wisdom. God’s wisdom glues patience to expectancy. In Chapter 1, James teaches that God gives His wisdom freely to those who ask for it; and in Chapter 3, James teaches that there is a humility that comes from wisdom. I believe that with it, there is also a patience.
How does wisdom marry patience and expectance?
If my hopes are high, that means I am not expecting something mediocre. I am expecting something amazing and wonderful from my amazing and wonderful Father. Wisdom tells me that this thing needs time to become what it must be.
And so, patience comes, birthed from wisdom.
But what if I lose expectation and let my hopes hang low? Must I have expectation to have patience?
Yes.
If my hope falls, I have no need for patience. Without hope, I am indifferent – and indifference is not the same as patience.
Patience precedes a promise fulfilled. Indifference doesn’t care either way.
Our God is far too good for indifference.
So, like the farmer, let’s live in a manner pleasing to our Father, for without faith it is impossible to please Him. Let’s expect good gifts from His hand; all while knocking on Heaven’s door for His wisdom, wisdom that teaches us to be patient…
…and to trust in His coming.
For truly, He is coming.

who’s righteousness is it anyway?

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.”

Psalm 7:17

As you learn to love Jesus,

and to let Him love you,

don’t confuse His righteousness for yours.

You need His righteousness because you are not righteous.

Don’t regret or retract repentance.

Let it happen.

Did you speak negatively about a client in front of your coworker?

Let her see your convicted conscious. Let her see that the Holy Spirit lives in you.

For the greatest proof of the gospel is not your perfect behavior –

It’s His perfect presence living in someone as sinful as you.

 

 

 

 

shut up, gina

Yesterday, at work, I was told to shut up.

Well, not exactly. Here’s what happened.

I was sitting at my desk at around 3:45pm; diligently doing some boring Excel spreadsheet stuff – but my motivation was waning vapidly. I knew I needed to power through the menial task; but I didn’t know how…until it dawned on me.

Kirk Franklin’s new album! I haven’t heard it yet!

Phew. That’ll help get me through this.

I open up a separate browser and type in “S-p-o-t-i-…” until most musicians’ favorite music-streaming site pops up. Click. Search for “K-i-r-k…” Click. Ensure that it’s not on Shuffle. Make sure my good headphones are in my ears. Click the neon green “Play”. Sip my coffee.

“Blessings and Faaavor…”

So far, I’m feelin’ the first song. The melody is similar to another track on the album that I had already heard. Bobbing my head, I’d say I’m catchin’ the album’s vibe already. It’s upbeat, feel-good, soulful, but very accessible – it’s exactly what I need to finish filling out these dang spreadsheets this late in the afternoon.

And thus, I let myself feel.

I surrender to the music and I begin to harmonize with his background singers.

After we get to the third or fourth song, I see a Slack message pop up on my monitor.

– Yo Gina!

– You’ve got a beautiful voice, but it’s a bit distracting singing at desk! People are messaging me because they’re embarrassed to say anything.

….what?

After glancing over these words, my first feeling was confusion. Did I even realize that I had been singing? No. All I knew was that I had already found myself a favorite song on the album; and that these spreadsheets were halfway done.

Second feeling? Well, more like feelings, honestly.  They came in waves.

Ashamed. Annoyed. Angry…and hurt.

Why did that make me so upset, you ask?

Here are a few reasons:

Singing literally leaks out of me. Usually, I am unaware that I am even doing it. I did not intentionally desire to create difficulty for anyone else – I’m just working.

Though many people in my office don’t spend much time actually working, I do. And I sing while I work. I’ve done it in every job I’ve ever had – from waiting tables, to wrapping flower arrangements, to writing web content.

I sing while I work. It helps me. To ask me not to sing is to make my job a lot harder.

But here’s the real reason – my voice is an extension of who I am.

You reject my voice, you reject me. If I’m being told not to sing, I am being told to be someone else. I don’t want to be anyone else; I like being me.

Coincidentally, my D-group and I are reading through A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”. The second chapter painfully elaborates about personal idols in our hearts and how often we root our love and our identity in things other than God.

And now, I believe God allowed this experience to unveil the perversion in my love for my own voice.

My voice is a gift. It’s not a guarantee.

What if, one day, I were to wake up and not be able to sing? What then?

Who would I be if I could not sing?

Would I still be me?

Would I still believe that God is good?

Is my understanding of the goodness of God tied to the thing He gave me, and not to Him?

Well…

I think I need to pray.

can i have it?

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

2 Peter 1:3-4

I am guilty of confidently quoting conveniently abbreviated versions of Bible verses. This is one of them.

“Lord, I thank You, for You’ve given me everything I need for life and godliness…” 

Hmm…something missing there. What is the means by which we receive all things that pertain to life and godliness?

The knowledge of Him.

We must know Him to receive what we need. We must know Jesus in His sufferings, in His obedience, in His passionate pursuit of doing the will of the Father who sent Him.

Through the knowledge of Him, we are given everything we need. Apart from Him, we can do nothing – but if we abide in Him, His word abides in us, and He’ll give us anything we ask for. He’ll give us what we need.

What are you asking for?

Are you asking for all things that pertain to life and godliness? Are you asking for future protection and conviction and humility and wisdom? Are you asking confidently – not as one who doubts, for one who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord? And are you growing in your knowledge of Him?

Do not get overwhelmed – this is a never-ending journey of knowing the all-knowing God. But as you read the Word, and the Holy Spirit begins to reveal aspects of the character of Jesus, let those qualities inform your requests and the way in which you pray.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed: Jesus Christ was perceptive.

He anticipated what was to come and prayed into future situations. He asked the Father that our faith would not fail and that we would be one as He is one. He stayed up praying – and, he stayed prayed up – prepared to cast out even the most devoted demons.

Because we have died and our life is now hidden in Christ, He’ll give you that divine perception and teach you how to incorporate it into your prayer life…

…you’ve just got to ask for it.

living water

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.'”
John 4:39
Are you partial to any biblical characters? Are there select someones within the scriptures who reflect a certain aspect of your character or behavior? Or maybe they’re not like you necessarily – but you just find yourself drawn to them for some reason?
I feel this way about the Samaritan woman at the well.
I’ve written about this passage before. You can find that here. But as I revisit the story, drawing water once again, the Lord gives me fresh revelation about the power of revelation.
How does Jesus save her? How does Jesus free her from her cycles of bondage and shame? How does he open her eyes to the love that He has for her?
He tells her everything she’s ever done.
He reveals Himself as the Messiah by revealing His intimate knowledge of her. He makes sure she knows that He knows all about her past – and that it doesn’t disqualify her from the gift He has for her. In fact, I would argue that her story shows she’s thirsty for His living water; and that she was created to be a worshipper of the one true God.
But that’s besides the point.
The point is this – it’s His omniscience that convinces her that He is the Christ. When she leaves, she says, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.”
Have you let Jesus tell you everything you’ve ever done?
Have you listened to Jesus speak, in the same breath, both your deepest iniquities and your deepest dreams? He loves you. He sees both.
Open up. Let Him in.
We must worship Him in Spirit and truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Let’s get colloquial real quick – There ain’t no use fakin’ it with Jesus, man. We must let Him speak into those scary places because He is truth; and we can trust His perspective. We can trust what He says.
What will He do once we let Him in?
He’ll blow His breath of life, revealing that beneath your darkest sin hides the corrosion of a scarred heart. He’ll illuminate your holy imagination by faith; faith that pleases Him, faith that says that your most shameful dirty little secret is the product of misdirected worship. He’ll love you through your brokenness, through your pain – and in the process, you’ll gain deeper revelation of Jesus as Messiah.
Humble yourself before Jesus.
 “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Drink from the well that lives within you.
It’d be a shame to let living water go to waste.

it wasn’t me

Psalm 34.

That’s the one that talks about how good God is.

That’s the one that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

That’s the one that says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be put to shame.”

That’s the one I love. I’ve read it many times. And though I’ve read it many times, today, it read me.

I was struck, more than anything, not by the words that I’ve read many times – but by the events that led to them.

This is a psalm, “of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

Though David chose to change his behavior, and as a result, saw his enemy flee, he doesn’t take the credit for his deliverance. Psalm 34 magnifies the Lord, not David.

So, while, sometimes, in my life, deliverance from my enemies only comes after a change in behavior on my part – God is still the means and the source of freedom. And God still gets the glory.

Check this out:

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears”.

“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.”

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

If David’s behavior is what drove the enemy out, what did God have to do with it?

Maybe He gave David heavenly wisdom, teaching him how behave in a way that would drive away his enemy. Maybe His Spirit gave David the faith, the courage, and the power to obey this strange call from God. Maybe God gave David the breath in his lungs and the blood in his bones to even be able to live.

If the change of behavior didn’t necessarily cause the deliverance, but God moved through it…why did it work? Why did God choose to move through David’s obedience at that very moment?

Maybe God knew the depths of David’s dependency upon his Heavenly father – and maybe, because of David’s humility, God allowed him to participate in the act of deliverance, without the risk of pride swallowing his praise.

Because even though it seems like David saved himself, he knows that God is the one who did it.

And God knows it too.

How can we posture ourselves to live in a way where a miniscule change of behavior, fueled by faith and filled with the power of God, can drive out our enemies?