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Day Of Freedom

I spent this 4th of July on pier in Manhattan, with a great view of some great, nationally renouned fireworks. We arrived with hours to spare, and while we were waiting a sky banner flew by proclaiming “atheism is patriotic.”

I was dismayed to see it for numerous reasons, but what struck me most was the absurdity of this. Our country was founded by people seeking religious freedom – not because they rejected God, but because they worshipped Him and followed Him so strictly. The Revolutionary and Civil Wars were both fought based on faith that God would stand by the side of those who were being oppressed. Without faith in God, courage to take a stand and fight those wars would never have existed. Even our currency says ‘In God we trust.’ Faith is so tied in to our country’s history that even with the separation of church and state, atheism has almost no place in patriotism.

That aside, the banner stuck with me. It got me thinking what a shame it was to have that flown over a large family-friendly crowd. Then I realized that because we have full freedom of expression here in the United States, the atheists had every right to fly that banner. In fact, we have the right to a lot of things. We can practice our faith and spirituality without fear of persecution. We can speak and write anything that comes to mind without fear of punishment. Even with the economic recession, even with unemployment, we are a fortunate country. For each of these freedoms you should thank – profusely and sincerely – the many troops who served over the years, sacrificing everything to gain them for us.

Side note: I did say to thank the soldiers. Now think about what these freedoms actually are. They are freedoms of this world. They last you as long as your lifetime lasts. Soldiers, while great, are merely human. Humans here on earth, with no true authority. We sure do enjoy our freedom here, but it is very much a short term thing. True freedom is eternal and automatic with salvation. Only One can give it to us, and He isn’t a soldier. Jesus, too, paid the ultimate sacrifice that we would be free. While we’re busy thanking soldiers and celebrating Independence Day, have we thanked Him today? Compared to His gift to us (salvation), all other freedoms pale in comparison. As they should! We humans can’t even fathom what heaven is like and what treasures we have stored there.

We do know that eternal freedom is among those treasures, and that by His precious blood our chains have been broken. So take a minute today to give thanks and worship this great God we serve!

God bless!

~Rebekah A

True Forgiveness

“Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. A sneaky thing, even. We know we’re supposed to give it, and give it freely. It’s our Christian duty to do so. So we do – or so we say. We try to be the bigger the person. But look at your language for a second. Do you ever refer to someone by the act they committed against you? In conversation, or even in your head? Ever think, “that girl, the one who ____”, or “<insert name here>, that ex, the one who dumped me after ______”? Think through the tough things you’ve been through in your life, and the people involved. How do you think of them now – really think of them?

See, we can’t just say the words. Forgiveness is indeed a word, and if we only forgive on the surface that’s all it will ever be. But we are called to do more than just say the words. Why? Because the Lord forgave you. Whatever you did in your past. Whatever addictions you had, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever you have done that even your best friends and family and partners in crime don’t know about….God knows. And He forgives you.

What does that mean? Well, if you’ve confessed to God, it means that when you go to judgement day to be held accountable for your time here on earth, there’s a lot of dirt on you that won’t actually be written down. You may even think to yourself “but what about the time I _____?” It’s not in there, because Jesus Christ washed it away with His blood. He is your Savior and this is exactly why. True forgiveness is complete, instant, and eternal. It means that the sins you’ve accrued don’t even make it into your judgement book. It means that even if you got up to heaven and asked God Himself “what about the time I ____?”, He’d say “what are you talking about?” He washes you clean the instant you repent and confess. He can restore innocence. He can’t take away consequences of your actions…..but He can forgive them. And once He does, they don’t come back to haunt you.

Is that the level of forgiveness we freely give to others? All the time?  I doubt it. But you can. And here’s how. Instead of just saying to yourself, ‘I forgive ____’, say it to God. Search your life and your heart for old wounds, even when they involve people you’ve thought you’ve forgiven. Then, name those people to God. Literally say the words. “I forgive _____. God, I forgive them, in the precious name of Jesus, I forgive them now. You forgave me when I didn’t deserve it, and I will not deny it from someone else. I won’t fall into that trap. I forgive them with all my heart and soul.” Take it a step further and tell God what the situation was, and tell Him outright that you’re letting it go now because the time for forgiveness has come. By the way, don’t worry about speaking formally, or quoting me verbatim if you have a different way to say it. Don’t worry about feeling or sounding cheesy – you don’t. These words are beautiful in God’s ears, and you are made by Him. So the feelings you feel and the way you pray and speak to Him…..you’re only being who He made you to be. So talk to Him freely.

Anyway, I put this forgiveness thing to the test the other day. Some of the things I dredged up  I thought were already forgiven and dealt with. Some were years old. Some even required me to forgive myself. And the coolest part was, as soon as I said the words to God that I was letting go and in faith and obedience to Him I was forgiving, He gave the strength to do it. When I told Him that I forgave, He lifted the hurt away. It was gone. It was like it never happened. I literally felt lighter.

I can’t speak for what God will do all the time, but I do know that the freedom I feel now is worth trying for. Don’t settle for superficial forgiveness. Don’t settle for a life that still has you wrestling with your past in weak moments. Forgive others and forgive yourself. And do it on a soul-deep level. Bring God into it, and He will help you to take it beyond the words. For me, I think what I meant when I said to God “I forgive” was that I wanted to forgive and was ready to let it go. But He honestly did the rest. He helped share the emotional load and He helped with the actual forgiveness part. It was like handing God the keys to the garbage truck and watching Him drive away the junk, leaving me new and clean and fresh. It was amazing. And so I beg you to try it.  Please. And if you want any extra prayer support, email me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. Everyone needs extra prayer support, right?

To every reader of this blog: put God to the test in this area, let your past go, and feel the lightness and growth and closeness to God that comes instantly afterwards. When you truly let go, you’ll get a glimpse of how deep your own salvation is in God’s eyes. I pray that you get to feel that. God bless, and know that I am praying for each and every one of you to find true forgiveness and peace, for others in your life and also for yourself.

~Rebekah A

True Belief

“Through Him, everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” ~Acts 13:39

The other day, I saw a facebook friend post a bumper sticker that read “Religion is good. But not all “Christians” are saved.” He posted this so that he could protest it (vehemently), saying “I don’t have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus. I didn’t ‘give’ my life to Christ. I didn’t turn away from a life of sin or get circumcised to be saved. I BELIEVED on the LORD Jesus Christ and was passed from death unto life because HE GAVE. I can NEVER lose my salvation.”

I know many Christians who take both of these views, and many with views in between. I so often hear “I’m going to Heaven and that person isn’t” or I’ve even heard “Jesus take me home; I can’t handle the corruption that’s here.”

First of all, if you want my opinion on the bumper sticker, I’d say that Jesus is good, and religion is an imperfect, human interpretation of Him.

Now to address my friend’s comment. Yes, Jesus said that the way to the Father was through Him. We need to believe in Him to be saved. In theory, just saying “I believe that Jesus Christ existed and is my savior” is enough to get you saved. Some people don’t go any further than that, and still make it to heaven. Simple, right?

However, there’s a lot more to this belief thing than just that. For instance, if you believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior, if you believe that most basic part of Him, don’t you have to believe all of Him? What about the part of Him that said He was the living bread that came down from heaven? If He is the living bread, don’t we need to look to Him daily for nourishment? How can we do that without a relationship with Him? What about the part of Him that refused to condemn an adulterous woman but merely told her not to do it again; what about the part of Him that said after He was risen from the dead He would send an Advocate, a Counselor, to guide us and advise us? Is this Advocate not the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us? Is it possible to truly say “I don’t have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus, but I believe in Him?” That’s like cutting out your internal organs and saying you have a fully functional and healthy body.

As we progress through our walks with Christ, He reveals more and more of Himself to us, and shapes our hearts more and more like His own. That’s the epitome of a progressing relationship, and to stay in His will, there are changes we need to make along the way.

And let’s not forget Jesus’ distinction of true and false disciples. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Yes, belief is all that it takes to get into Heaven. HOWEVER, belief is a continuous process, to be renewed and refined. If you had asked me at age 5 “do you believe in Jesus?”, my answer would have been an undoubted ‘yes!’. At age 20, my answer was “I believe in something, some power that means we aren’t here by mistake, but I’m not sure that it’s God per se”. Now at 27, my answer is “of course!”. If I had died as a child, I would’ve gotten into heaven. But it wasn’t until my twenties that God told me what salvation and Christianity truly meant. Does that mean I didn’t really believe in Jesus as a child? Of course not; I believed. It’s just that later, when God brought me back to Him, He revealed more of Himself to me, and refined that belief and grew it into something unshakable (given my stint as an agnostic, my childhood faith was clearly shakable).

When we ignore the commands of God, or when we spend time in our Babylons, or even fail to love others the way He wants, we’re essentially saying that our daily worldly desires are more important than His. We’re saying that God is not as important as us. He tells us how important He is to us; He’s our daily bread! We need Him! To act any other way is to essentially say “God, we don’t believe You that You’re most important, so I’m going to cut my prayer time short to go on facebook.”  If we believed that God is who He says He is, every moment of every day, we would act like it; and our walks with God would look much different.  That’s why when people spend their lives proclaiming Jesus as Lord like we’re told to, but then deny His name through a life of jealousy and judgement, their salvation may be in jeopardy. Maybe not. Only God knows where everybody is on their individual walks with Him; He knows who accepted Him with their last breath and didn’t have time to change their ways, and He knows who had plenty of chances to repent the darkness in their heart and should have known better.

But if your belief in Jesus is exactly the same as it always was, your walk looks the same and you haven’t grown in your belief, that’s a problem. God is not stagnant. Chances are, He’s tried to reveal more to you and you missed it. So spend some time with Him; ask Him to reveal the areas of unbelief that you harbor in your heart. And give them up to Him, so that He can have mercy on them and guide you from here on out. And if He IS moving a lot in your life, I want to hear about it! So write to me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Unveiling Your Treasures

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” ~James 4:3

I’ve been noticing a heavy sense of entitlement in the Church. It’s no secret that we work hard to become closer to God. We fast, we pray, we meditate, we worship, we fellowship, we go to church, we sacrifice things we know we shouldn’t be doing.

Then, at the end of it, we say “God! Look! I’ve fasted! I’ve humbled myself! You can reward me now!!”

Yes, God rewards us. Yes He blesses us. He loves us and desires to bless us. However, we need to check our priorities here. Why are you fasting? Are you fasting and sacrificing so that if you ‘prove’ yourself to God, He’ll reward you in kind? If you act kingdom-minded enough, He’ll give you the worldly things you want too?

If that’s the case, you’re already living the reward. You got the greatest reward you ever could – eternity life with the Holy Spirit. If we were truly kingdom-minded, as kingdom-minded as we’re called to be, we would be rejoicing in the sacrifice itself. The more of the world and our human, fleshly desires that we shed, the more room there is in us for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself. The bright His light shines through us as we move through the world, that the space may be brighter for us having passed through. That’s a reward in and of itself. That’s the ULTIMATE reward.

Has God not already rewarded us in advance, by the stripes and cross of Jesus Christ? No act in our lifetime will ever be great enough to deserve that; yet it was given to us in advance.  Does God not promise us that He finds the best pathway for us to be on as we navigate the world? No act in our lifetime will ever be great enough to deserve that; yet it was promised to us already.

Yet here we are. “God I fasted; show me the fruit of my labor.” “God I prayed; send me a boyfriend.” “God I sacrificed ____ because I know it’s not right in your eyes; so reward me.” If we were truly kingdom-minded, those statements would look more like “God I prayed; deepen my prayer and multiply my time so I have more time to rejoice in You”. Or “God I fasted; my physical hunger left room for spiritual nourishment, and I’m more full of you than ever.”  I’m not saying God’s never going to bless you; of course He is, and He’ll bless you with earthly things.

But for our part, when we go around sacrificing and doing these things so that we can be blessed and rewarded, we are putting God’s promises above God Himself. The action may be Godly, yes….but in our hearts, if we’re doing it for the blessing that comes later, are we not still just doing it for our own gain? Is that being truly kingdom-minded?

And what about those times that we do godly things, go on fasts and prayer journeys, and really dig deep into God, and then look around for our reward and get disappointed when we don’t see it? Are we perhaps looking for rewards with worldly eyes? We’re told we’re storing up treasures in Heaven, not here on earth. Do you think treasure looks the same up there? Maybe when we don’t see a tangible reward, we just aren’t looking for it with kingdom-minded eyes; our worldly eyes are looking for tangible things. God does reward, but He sees things differently than we do. If we were truly kingdom-minded, we wouldn’t measure God’s rewards with worldly eyes. We’d be looking with His eyes. That changes the value of all treasure here on earth. Just like a flawed mirror of ourselves, the world gives us flawed glasses. Treasure here, and tangible things here pales in comparison to the treasure God can truly give us. A glorious ministry, a clear path, a husband….these are all good things and God can and will bless us with them. But nonetheless, they are things of this world. If we’re looking around for tangible rewards right where we stand, aren’t we putting God in a box? When He does reward, let’s let Him do so in His own way. Who knows, maybe He did reward you and you were so busy looking for some worldly thing that you missed it?

Also, I feel a sense of condemnation in this sacrifice – I’ve been feeling it in myself, and God’s been doing a lot this week to relieve me of it. “Lord I don’t know you enough; I don’t have enough of you in me; I’m bad at being Your daughter; I need to sacrifice and stop doing ___ and see if I can find more of you somewhere.” We condemn ourselves to it; God loves us to it. We put up blocks sometimes, thinking we aren’t good enough yet or worthy yet to fully let God in. We try to do more and more, thinking “at the end of this sacrifice, I’ll be worthy to feel God more fully.” It’s a constant feeling of striving.

Striving for more of God is great. But the thing is, God is already in relationship with each one of us. In active relationship. Some of us know Him intimately, and some are mere acquaintances, and some are strangers. Either way, it’s a relationship. I don’t think it’s possible to have full revelation of God here on earth. Our human minds are so small compared to Him, and He even tells us we should always desire more of the Spirit.  That hunger, that desire, is always going to be in us, because as Rebekah M said, we aren’t home yet. We’re here for a short time, and this isn’t our true home. While we walk here in this foreign land, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way we’re supposed to go and show us how to think and act. But the Holy Spirit is not something we need to go on a quest to find; it’s already inside us. We just need to look inside ourselves and let it love us. We get so caught up in changing ourselves that sometimes we get ahead of God, or sometimes we forget to stop and check in with the Holy Spirit inside us and let it show us what it’s done in us already.

Sometimes there are things that need change. The difference is we see ourselves as “bad Christians” when it comes to certain things. God doesn’t see us as bad; He just sees that He isn’t done molding us yet. So He brings us through tests and trials, He trains us…sometimes we don’t need to anything at all, we just need to sit there and let Him come over us and love us, and let the presence of His light cast out our darkness. Sometimes we are called to fast and sacrifice.

But either way, God is always there. Always. And we were created to serve, worship, and love Him.  So, if we feel called to make certain changes or sacrifices, and we do, and we don’t see the fruit of it right away, check your heart. Are you doing this for God, or for God’s promised reward? Are you looking for a reward from God through the flawed glasses of the world?

If you feel like you’ve been fighting an uphill battle, take the time today to just spend time with God. Just let Him love you. Let yourself feel Him. It’s enough to just dine with Him at His table. We don’t need to be questioning Him and putting demands on Him; just sit there and belong to Him. Check your motives with Him, and give Him your heart. Just bask in His presence; meditate on His kingdom. Because at the end of the day, there’s your reward. It’s there, right next to you, waiting for you to truly embrace it, without veiling it with the expectations of the world.

I pray for all who read this blog that this revelation of God’s rewards may touch them. And I’d love to pray for you individually! So write to me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com.

God bless!

~Rebekah A