IN CHRIST WE CONQUER OURSELVES

IN CHRIST WE CONQUER OURSELVES

This past Saturday, I found myself in a place that I have never been before. I had a verbal disagreement with a friend that got so heated, that I vowed to never have anything to do with the person again. I felt I had been hurt so much by this friend, who in turn felt just as strongly, that they too had been greatly hurt by my actions. Yet, though both of us were eager for the other person to appease us and address our hurts, neither of us was willing to apologize. So, we went our separate ways: angry; hurt; indignant.

Then the Lord spoke directly into the depth of my soul through the sermon the next day in church.

My entire life, I have gauged my limits (emotional, mental, and physical) on what I believed “I” could bear; “I” could understand; “I” could tolerate, “I” could change; On what “I” was deserving of or not deserving of; the things “I” could give. It was always based on “me, me, me” or “I, I, I”. Yet, every single day, I walked around proudly calling myself a Christian; saying I “walked in Christ”, praying for God to direct my steps. Claiming that I no longer live for myself, but live for Christ.

But the Lord revealed to me through His Word on Sunday, if I truly live in Him; if I’m truly emulating Him, then how can everything I do or don’t do still be centered around me? How can I continue to base “my capacity” on “me”.

If “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength”, then, how can I place the words “I can’t” before anything that I declare???

If as a Christian, I ask God to forgive me my trespasses “AS” (meaning simultaneously) I forgive those who trespass against me, how can I find it difficult to say “I’m sorry” or refuse to speak to someone??!

If I am being as selfless as Christ was, who died for my sins, how can I not endure suffering on account of my fellow man? Even suffering at the hand of my fellow man?

I don’t know why anyone else suffers with these issues, I am here today to tell you why I have always suffered with these issues:

I have always given to people as much as I believe I receive from them. Or, I have reciprocated what I believe that they have given to me. Bottom line, I’ve always had a threshold based on what I believed was my “limit” where people are concerned. Therefore, if I believed I was being treated unfairly, in response, I would either pull back my affections, or become defensive. But God told me that He has instructed me to stop measuring my threshold based on what other people do or don’t do; say or don’t say; give or don’t give. He told me to look to Him for the reciprocation that I required from people. The Lord instructed me to give as is required of me in every situation I find myself. He instructed me to be give of myself in friendship; give of myself to my spouse; give of myself in service; give of myself to “my neighbor” no matter how they treat me; and most importantly, to do all of this giving to my fellow man with no expectation of reciprocation from anyone except Him!

We often apply this bible verse:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

very literally. We apply the slapping to confrontation, the tunic and cloak to the taking of material items, the miles to effort and service and the borrowing to finances. inasmuch as they can be applied literally, they truly apply to everything a person can regard as unfair and unjust treatment of themselves. Think about it, they are all situations where one would naturally be compelled to consider and protect themselves, and/or expect the other party to consider them and change their behavior.

That is and has been my greatest cry of injustice to my spouse, my friends and to anyone who has anything to do with me. I am deeply offended when I don’t feel “considered”. It makes me feel cheated, slighted, neglected, and abused. But this weekend, the Lord instructed me to completely do away with my expectation of consideration. “Desire to do my will” He said to me.  “Do my will. ‘I’ will consider you”!

The realization; the assurance; the source of the promise; and the administration of it by the Holy Spirit, broke me down. Everything I had always used to “sustain” myself, came crumbling down like a deck of cards.

I was broken. Completely.

It was in that state of brokenness; in that very moment, on that very spot, that I surrendered myself to Christ. I surrendered myself in the nakedness of my imperfections; in the nakedness of my weakness and inability to change though I have tried time after time to do so. In my tears, I said “Lord, I surrender myself as I am. Please, help me do it as YOU require, not as I require”.

It was also in that very moment; on that very spot, that He too, began to rebuild me.

When it comes to total transformation in Christ, and being “born again”, Matthew 19:25-26 tells us:

“When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Total surrender to Christ is simply an acknowledgement that living in the flesh, in our own strength, of our own way, we are as good as conquered.

But after surrendering and asking Christ to take control, Christ renews our mind so that by His Spirit, we have the mind of Christ. Christ lives in our hearts. We live in Him; in His strength; according to His way. Then, on only then, do we become conquerors.

It is only the Spirit of Christ that can conquer Satan and every force of darkness.

All this “I, I, I” and “me, me, me” has nothing to do with Christ. It is of Satan.

1 Peter 5:8 says:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Ephesians 6:12 says:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Genesis 4:7 says:

 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

It is in our “I” and “me” state that we create avenues for sin to creep in, guided by Satan who waits patiently for the slightest opportunity. So, brethren, if any of our  thoughts, actions, or utterances are not in line with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self control, then quite simply, they are not of Christ.

If we feel that are being depleted in a relationship where the other person can’t seem to make us as happy as we’d like to be, the Spirit of Christ tells us to do everything in your power to make that person happy, and look to the Lord for your happiness.

If you find yourself constantly on the receiving end of gossip, rumors, false accusations, jealousy and envy from other people, don’t look to defend yourself to those people, look to God who always protects those who place their trust completely in Him. Then pray for those people, so that they too, may be delivered.

If you are struggling with any shortcoming: low self esteem, depression, anger, self righteousness, indignation, pride, unforgiveness, stirring dissensions, jealousy, envy, covetousness, contention, a judgmental attitude, a critical attitude, a loose tongue, insensitivity, alcoholism, addiction, a lover of strife, selfish, and a host of others, pray to the Lord to reveal your vice to you. This way, you can surrender that vice to God, and then He can begin your transformation.

Brethren, we can’t become conquerors in Christ until we have been conquered in our flesh.

Since my personal testimony is a part of this piece, I just want to share with you that there is nothing more liberating than shifting every single expectation from man onto Christ. The peace is unimaginable. The peace is the immediate reward. The lesson is that I am fully responsible for desiring to obey and taking active steps to obey Christ in dealing with my fellow man. The ultimate reward: It is Christ’s promise to me that as long as I do that, He will personally take care of me, and give me ALL that I need.

It’s a one step at a time process. But the comfort is that in every one of those steps, once we truly surrender, Christ goes before us; Christ goes with us, and He’s always with us no matter what trials come our way. There’s no better feeling than the knowledge of the creator of the entire universe, walks with us personally through every step of our journey.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Share your thoughts that you might encourage your brethren.

In Christ,

The handmaid at His feet.

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THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE (Part 3 of 3)

Celestial Church of Christ: Life & The Word of God

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This three week journey has taken us from an exploration of the cross, Christ’s sacrifice, and what it really represents; to the knowledge of what our debt to Him – our continuous debt- really is. We learned that this debt can only be repaid with Love. Love God. Love our neighbors. Because it is in loving our neighbors that we prove our love for God.

Now, the journey has now brought us to this point. The point of “how”? How exactly do we do this.

I will not be sharing with you today anything that you have not heard preached before. My prayer is that I share it with you in a way that hopefully you have never considered it before.

I’m in my sixth year of writing the Handmaid’s Blog. The sixth year began in September of 2014. The following month, I came to a decision. That I was…

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THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE

THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE. (PART 2 OF 3)

Have you ever had someone do you a favor so great, or extend a kindness or generosity that was so overwhelming that you didn’t even know how to begin to pay it back? If you’ve never been in that position, let me tell you, the feeling is one of such great gratitude that even the acceptance of the decline of repayment is too much for one to fathom. Therefore, the concluding sentiment is usually one of “I’m forever in your debt”. And even though we’ve been explicitly told that we dont have to repay the favor, the spirit of gratitude within us continuously seeks out an opportunity to express itsef. In any way possible.

It’s usually something very great and significant that would cause us to feel such a huge level of indebtedness. Yet, for all that any human being can do for us, how many would go to prison for a crime that we committed? How many would receive a vicious flogging on their bare backs for an offense that we committed? How many would suffer a gruesome death; without protest; without complaint; without objection; that was meant for our sins.

1 Peter 2:23-25 (NIV)

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

So, the question that came to me was; knowing the sacrifice that Jesus made for me, where is that feeling of overwhelming indebtedness? Why is it not as pressing as it would be if a friend gave me money to save my home from being foreclosed on, for instance? Why is Christ’s sacrifice; though we are aware of it; though we belive it, though we attest to it; not as pressing?

So, now, we are aware. The question still remains, how can we possibly repay Him? How can we repay the Messiah; the Savior of the world? Surely we cannot die for Him. So, then, what can we do?

We can express our thanks by way of praise. Speaking, singing, dancing, and praying thanks unto His Holy name. And we do. But, is that enough? Is that all He requires of us?

Brethren, the truth is that there is very little we can do for Christ to repay Him for what He did for us. It’s also important to know that He has asked for no repayment for himself.

He does have a request for us, though, and the request is as simple as it is beneficial.

Romans 13:8 tells us:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

What does loving others have to do with Christ’s sacrifice for us? Is it not enough to be obedient? Is it not enough to share the good news of salvation with others so that they can understand the immense sacrifice that Christ made for us. Is it not enough to abstain from sin and tell others how they need to do the same? “Being like Christ” will surely show Jesus that we are in gratitude for His sacrifice.

The truth about that brethren is that when we try to “be like Christ” in actions, in preaching, in “not sinning”, we will fail. Woefully!

Our actions can never make us like Christ.

Our knowledge of the word and our ability to instruct it to others will never make us like Christ.

We believe obedience is the form of showing gratitude? You’re right. And here’s proof:

Jesus says in John 14:15:

“If you love me, keep my commands.

He also said in 1 John 5:3:

 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.

Therefore, obeying God’s commandments is, in fact, proving our love for Him. So we’re set! Are we not?

1 John 4:20-21 tells us:

 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

So, God is saying that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments. He then goes further to tell us that we cannot say that we love Him, who we have never seen, and yet, not show love to our fellow man, who we see and interract with every day.

One can deduce then, that this requirement of love is very serious.

That Romans 13: 8 says to owe no one anything. Let no debt remain outstanding. With one exception.

The debt to love one another.

We feel this indebtedness toward Christ because we are so eternally grateful for what He did for us. Because our hearts truly desire to show that gratitude, we want to know what we can do.

Christ says we should love.

Love Him, with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love continuously. Over, and over again. Our love can never be exhausted. Because God’s love is not exhausted. So, the gratitude never stops, and the debt is never fulfilled. Because as long as we live, there is a reason, and an opportunity to show love to our Christian brethren, to non-Christians, even to our enemies.

We repay God for His love; we repay Christ for His sacrifice, by loving others. It’s that simple.

I’d said earlier that the act of love was also beneficial.

Romans 13:8 tells us that love is the “fulfillment of the law”.

1 Peter 4:8 tells us “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.”

We fail when we try to “Be like Christ” or “Act like Christ”.  Simply because we have sinful natures, and we will sin. In some way, shape, or form. Guaranteed!

But when we love, as God has instructed us to love, as Christ has demonstrated how to love, we atone for those sins that we are guaranteed to commit! That is why we are urged, over and over again in the bible to love! We are saved in love!

Therefore, we can succeed when we “Love like Christ”.  That is what he requires of us. That is what he expects from us. Because, He knows that it is attainable. It is attainable if we live in Him, and allow Him to live in us.

So, what is the nature of this love that God expects from us. Why are we reminded of the importance of it in so many parts of scripture? How do we feel it? How do we practice it? Why are we not getting it?

Please join us next week for part 3 of this journey into the heart of our God.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless

Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

As always, share your thoughts, that you might encourage your brethren.

In Christ,

The handmaid at His feet.

THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE. PART 1 OF 3

THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE (PART 1 OF 3)

I was reading Philippians 2 the other day, a passage that I’ve read on multiple occasions. On this particular day, however, a certain verse made me do a double take. The section I’m referring to is Philippians 2: 5-8, which reads:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The particular verse that I want to reference is verse 8. The part which reads

“ And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Christianity 101 teaches us that Jesus Christ, though sinless, died for our sins. That we may have the opportunity to have everlating life. If we believe in Him. The same Christianity 101 tells us the manner in which He died. He was crucified.

The symbol of the cross has been associated with Christianity since the crucifixion of Christ. Yet, how many of us really think of what that cross symbolizes? Those of us who have young children, or even teenagers, how many of them realize the symbolism of the cross? It has become a fashion statement for the most part. Blinged out crucifix pendants on gold, silver and diamond necklaces, Rosaries worn as necklaces, as opposed to being used as prayer beads as they were intended. Or a “religious” prop. People holding crosses as a symbol of stature and association. I do also believe that to many it is indeed a symbol of their faith. But what does it MEAN to you? What does it DO to you? What does it STIR in you?

A crucial question that we’ll ask ourselves here is, why crucifixion? We know that in order for our sins to be forgiven, there had to be a blood sacrifice. A blameless sacrifice. So, yes. Christ had to die. But, why did he have to be crucified?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at what the practice of crucifixion really is.

Crucifixion is a practice of executing a person who has been convicted of a crime by binding or nailing them to a cross. It was usually preceeded by a brutal flogging of the convicted individual. On bare skin. Done in public for all to see. It was also customary that the condemned would carry his own cross to the site where he was to be crucified. The carrying of the cross would be done after the brutal flogging.The individual would be alive when impaled onto the cross, then, he would then be left there to die.

In order for the cross to support the weight of an adult, the cross would, quite logically, have to be larger and heavier that the adult that was impaled upon it. Which implies that the flogged, bleeding individual was made to carry a large, heav cross to his crucifixion site. It is important to add that the punishment of crucifixion was not sentenced to those who committed petty crimes and misdemeanors. It was reserved for those who were considered grievious offenders. Criminals. The guilty. Those who deserved capital punishment. Those with whom the convictors wanted to make an example of to others.

As I stated earlier, the condemned individual would be tied or nailed to the cross. For the sake of examining what was done to Jesus, we’ll focus on the practice of nailing an individual to the cross. The nails were either driven through the palms or the wrist. Due to the fragile nature of the palms, and the fact that weight and gravity could cause one’s hands to eventually run right through the nails, special thick nail like things were used. To ensure that there was no chance of that. Nails were also driven through the individual’s feet or ankles to secure the lower body to the cross. Another common practice was to break the legs of the individual to hasten death. (Though the bible assures us in John 19:36 that this was not done to Jesus) The crucified person was usually naked. With only their genitals covered by a piece of linen. This too was done to humiliate the person.

In summary, crucifxion, or death on a cross, was an inhumane, gruesome, humiliating, slow, and agonizingly painful way to die. It was also the way that Jesus Christ, an innocent man, died for our transgressions.

Those light, sparkly, bloodless, beautiful crosses that we wear around our necks. This is what they represent.

Many a time, when we hear of someone’s death either at the hands of illness, accidents, gunshots, stabbings, or even natural death, we are always mindful of a very important detail. So, we usually ask “did they suffer”? When the answer is “no”, we are usually relieved. It pains us when our loved ones, or people we know, in general “Suffer” at the point of death. The opposite is also true. When we hear of a murderer, or a rapist, or a child molester, or an otherwise “bad” person dying or being killed, the feeling is usually “I hope they suffered”. That feeling usually comes from the justification of “if they caused others to suffer, then, they deserve a painful death as well.”

Now, based on that analogy, picture Jesus. He committed no sin. He committed no crime. Yet, those who hated him, incited the people against Him, then, they opted to have a murdering robber released, and asked that Jesus be crucified instead. Jesus, an innocent man, who should not have suffered in death, was condemned to suffer a gruesome death that was reserved for condemned criminals. He accepted this sentence. Because His dying was not payment for His sins. It was payment for my sins. For your sins. So that we don’t have to pay the ultimate price, of death, for our sins.

There has become a “routine” with which we Christians acknowledge the message of salvation. Christ was born; Christ died; Christ rose from the dead. I believe, because I too am guilty of the same, that we gloss over the detals, the visual, the truth of how he really died. The truth of how what the process was really like. The truth of how much he SUFFERED!

We hear news of celebrities dying. People who we don’t even know personally, and we feel sad. We even shed tears! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong about showing compassion. But, how many times have you as a Christian, wept over the death of Christ? Over His agony? Over His suffering? How many times have we put ourselves in His place and actually envisioned that being us? Will we say that we are not deserving? Will we say that we are without sin? Will we say that we have not, do not, disobey the Almighty God? Have we envisioned the scourging on bare skin with a rawhide whip amplified with sharp objects? The carrying of the heavy cross on a scourged, cut, and mangled body? Have we envisioned the driving of thick, sharp nails, through the delicate skin of soft hands and bony feet, into a wooden cross? Have we envisioned the bodyweight of an adult male, being suspended onto a cross, with the only support coming from the points of contact, where nail meets flesh and bone, meets wood, and these points of contact already being inflamed with pain?  Do we envision this at all? If we do, why aren’t we wracked with guillt daily? Where are our tears? Where are is our anguish over the fact that at the point of death, he “suffered”? A suffering that we inflicted upon Him. Where is our sorrow? We cry for strangers who have done nothing for us. Yet, we fail to weep for a Savior who gave up everything for us.

So, why Crucifixion? Why, as Philippians 2:8 states it, “even death on a cross?” Why did  Christ make this sacrifice for us? Why did The Almighty God make this sacrifice for us?

Well, the answer is as simple as it is complicated.

He did it because He loves us.

Christ gave His life for us.

God sacrificed His only begotten Son for us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

It was done in love. It was done for us.

Because God is Love, in the ultimate gesture of love, He, with Himself, claimed us from the death sententence of sin, with love.

Christ had to die. He had to SUFFER, so that the debt for sin could be paid in full.

A debt that God paid with His love.

So, for all who understand the significance of this sacrifice: of this offering; of this gift, we should all also understand the significance of the debt that we owe Him.

The debt of His Love.

Please, come back next week for the continuation of this profound journey into the heart of God.

Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.

As always, share your thoughts, that you might encourage your brethren.

In Christ.

The handmaid at His feet.

ONENESS IN CHRIST

Celestial Church of Christ: Life & The Word of God

Hands On
Judgement, or the verb To Judge. What does it mean? When is it applicable? It has become prevalent in today’s lingo to say “Don’t judge me” But, what does that mean? If someone steals something, and they are called a thief, is that judgement? After all, the dictionary definition of thief is “someone who steals.” So, it can’t be judgement. But, if I say, because you’re a thief, you are going to hell”, then, that, maybe, is judgement. Because who goes to hell is not in my hands to determine. Only God’s.

The truth is that the context in which we use the term “judgement” is by far and large incorrect. Judgement can go in more than one direction, you see. One can be judged favorably, or adversely. Rightly or wrongly. It is truly the act of making a decision, or determination on someone based on limited information. I use…

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A TRANSFORMING TRUTH

Celestial Church of Christ: Life & The Word of God

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I’ve shied away from writing on the topic of grace for a long time. To be honest, the reason is that I’m not certain I even fully understand the concept of grace.

Some of the explanations I’ve heard sound incredibly simple. Too simple. So simple that they often seem to negate the concept of choosing or making an effort to live righteously.

I know, however, that is not the case because of Romans 6:1 clearly states:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Other interpretations of grace are usually made under the umbrella of ‘God understands.’

“So, what is God’s grace. What exactly does it refer to”? I asked in exasperation,yet again.

In the past few months, the message of love; God’s Love; Agape; Ahavah; seems to be the…

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THE GUEST OF HONOR

Celestial Church of Christ: Life & The Word of God

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John 12:1-8 reads:
“Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying…

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