Hypocrites and Holy People (or Sinners Saved By Grace)

“…He [Christ] gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25b-26 NLT

How’s your sin life? Yes you read that correctly and no, there is no auto correct typo in that question. How is your sin life? Many devotionals focus on a person’s prayer life or their walk with Jesus but how often do we focus on the path we take in our daily sins or with ongoing strongholds that continue to set us back spiritually? God doesn’t want us to dwell on our past or worship our sin but I believe He definitely wants us to examine our hearts and allow Him to cleanse us from all that keeps us stagnant in our relationship with Him.

I’ve been called many hurtful things in my lifetime and a “hypocrite” is one of them. Truth be told, I’ve even referred to myself as a hypocrite thinking this description made me more real than sanctimonious. In fact, I had planned on titling this post “I am a Hypocrite” and writing more of a confessional than a devotional. Looking up the definition of a hypocrite and seeing what God’s word says about this word changed my mind.

The dictionary defines a hypocrite as; ” a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion…” (Merriam-Webster) God’s word describes a hypocrite as someone who puts on a show in their faith for attention and public praise (Matthew 6:2, 5 and 12.) The Bible also tells us hypocrites honor the Lord with their mouths but their hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6.) One common word to define hypocrite found in both the dictionary and the Bible is “LIAR.” There are times I am an attention seeker but one thing I am not is a liar.

Lying is the top character trait I have zero tolerance or grace for. The lack of grace is obviously a flaw in my own character and one I continue to have to surrender to the Lord allowing Him to soften my heart toward. After all, if Christ died for my lifetime of sins, I definitely need to be able to forgive someone who has lied to me or lied about me, right? I guess this post is a bit of a confessional after all and my lack of grace for liars is confession number one.

So here’s confession number two-I fail in my Christian walk every. single. day. Some ongoing strongholds I have are unforgiveness and holding on to past hurts, keeping my heart closed off to protect myself from getting hurt again, cussing, worrying, grumbling and gossiping. In one confession I have managed to admit that I do not always practice what I preach. But my posts aren’t written in a self-righteous or “holier than thou” manner where I’m esteeming my walk and pointing out the flaws in yours. In my childhood, I attended a church where the pastor preached from a pulpit of self-righteousness and his flock were the ones who were “wretches”. I prayed the prayer of salvation every Sunday in that church and never felt good enough t be redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I loved my childhood in a state of constant shame and fear of a wrathful God.

My posts are written from the depths of the muddied waters I travel through daily in hopes that my fellow mud puddle dwellers can be inspired to draw closer to Jesus and to seek His cleansing. I use my own personal experiences to show that I also strive to pursue His cleansing for my own journey. I am far from perfect. In fact, here’s a few more strongholds I struggle with:

  • I get angry and in my anger, I sin. One thing my momma used to say was “Her mouth is going to get her in trouble.” She’s been right about that far too many times.
  • I over spend and am a slave to debt. It’s why I work two jobs and don’t regularly tithe. I struggle with many sleepless nights worrying about how a bill is going to get paid or how I’m going to meet all the financial obligations I have.
  • I haven’t attended church regularly in two years. I’ve been church shopping and in a season of busyness where I choose to skip church just because I’m tired and want one full day to be home and be still. I also use the excuse that I haven’t found a church I’m drawn to as much as I was drawn to my old church.
  • I’m not always faithful in my devotionals and prayer time. Most days my prayers are more like “oh yeah hey God-I made you last again today but yeah you know I still love ya.” At night, lying in bed my prayers can become obsessive over my own needs and wants, lifetime longings and dwelling on my mistakes that I forget to pray for anyone else.
  • I struggle with lust. I’m single, never married and have two biological children. I’ve lived with more than one man in my lifetime. I’m definitely a modern day version of the woman at the well. …The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

For 2018, I am working on allowing God to define me and my character. I have spent far too many years defining my character based on how my critics describe me. One thing God is showing me that I am and am not is this-I am holy and I am not a hypocrite. You see when we give our hearts to Jesus, He covers us in His blood and makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18.) We are no longer a slave to sin but we become slaves to righteous living (Romans 6:18.) We are adopted as sons and daughters of the One True King (Romans 8:15.) God makes us holy (Hebrews 2:11).

Guess what the definition of Holy is: “specially recognized as or declared sacred…consecrated…dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” (Dictionary.com) The word consecrated means “set apart” which God shows us is exactly who we are in Psalm 4:3 when David acknowledges that the Lord set apart the godly for Himself. He shows us again in many examples in the New Testament where references are made about being a new creation, made holy and set apart for His glory. Believers whose hearts belong to Jesus cannot be hypocrites. Yes we sin. Yes we have strongholds that interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Yes we don’t always practice what we preach. Paul wrote it best when in Romans he confesses this: “…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans‬ ‭7:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But we are also redeemed by Jesus and saved by Grace.

I urge you to examine your sin life and confess every stronghold you’re still a slave to. Look up and meditate on scripture that may help you overcome those strongholds that make you feel like a failure. Strive for holiness in your daily walk but give yourself grace when you stumble and fall. Don’t lie and especially don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Lastly, no matter how many times you sin today, lay it down before the Lord and see yourself as holy, but never. ever. call yourself a hypocrite.

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Lord Above, I Need A Miracle

There’s a Third Day song titled “I Need A Miracle.” The chorus goes like this: “Well no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, there will come a time when you can’t make it on your own. And in your hour of desperation know you’re not the only one, praying Lord above, I Need a Miracle.”

Hour of desperation is a pretty powerful lyric. How many have experienced such a time in their life? What does desperation even look like? Hour of desperation is that moment when your circumstance or situation seems completely hopeless. Maybe your jobless and you just ran out of money with rent due tomorrow. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship and your partner just got drunk again which means it won’t be long before the angry words fly or holes get punched in another wall. Maybe you have a child who’s wandered away from the Christian foundation you built while raising her and says she has no belief in God. Maybe you married the wrong person and you feel stuck because God hates divorce or maybe you’re going through a divorce after marrying a person you believed was from the Lord but turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe just maybe, you’re fighting a chronic illness or was just given news of cancer with only moments left of this life and told there’s nothing modern medicine can do. All of these situations and many others not listed are hours of desperation and definitely needs for miracles.

When we pray-God answers. He doesn’t always answer exactly the way we hope or expected, but He answers. Sometimes His answers are provision, redemption, transformation, healing or reconciliation. But sometimes His answers involved a painful refining process where our world is turned upside down and it feels as though He answered completely opposite of what we asked for. What we don’t realize is that refinement is a transforming, redeeming and healing answer that molds us deeper into His image and changes us more into who He designed us to be.

Whatever your Miracle is know this-God is with you. He hears you. And He will answer in His time and His way. When you can’t see His mighty hand moving, cling to the cross-lay your burden down at the alter and trust His way and His timing. Meditate on His word and remind yourself of these words from Jesus Himself:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:1, 6-7, 10-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If I can pray for you, please email me at http://www.thewrightwordblogger@gmail.com

The Voice of Truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our daily lives we engage with many voices throughout the day. Some of those voices are encouraging, some are critical. Some voices are loud and direct while others are barely audible and more passive. Nonetheless, these voices tend to skew the way we see and carry ourselves. We give a lot of power to these voices but the only one that truly matters-the one that can truly define us, is the voice of God.

But first-let’s look at the different voices. There are voices of encouragement. These are messages that build you up, strengthen you and motivated you. These can come from your family and friends who love and support you. Heck, maybe they come from Tony Robbins, Joyce Meyers, Bishop T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick by means of a self-help book, devotional or YouTube video. Whatever the form, these voices help you walk taller, see yourself in a positive matter and display a “can do” kind of attitude.

Then we have the critical voices. These voices see your flaws and define you only by your worst moments or mistakes you’ve made. These voices condemn you, berate you and can cut deep and severe emotional wounds. They leave you seeing yourself in a very lowly manner. If you listen to them long enough these voices can lead to you feeling depressed, anxious and believing you are what these voices tell you. Ironically-these voices always seem louder and more direct than any voice of encouragement. Truth be told-these voices are liars.

The voice of truth is God’s voice. Since we are His creation, his voice is the only one that can truly define us. It’s also the only one we should be listening too. However, God’s voice isn’t always easy to hear or recognize. David describes the voice of the Lord as a thunderous roar that echoed above seas (Psalms 29:3), is powerful and majestic (Psalms 29:4), strikes with bolts of lightning (Psalms 29:7), and can split might cedars (Psalms 29:5.) In 2 Samuel 22:14, the voice of God “thundered from Heaven”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read that the voice of the Lord is a commanding shout. Thunder, echoes, shouting-these words all describe LOUD! Yet far too often, the liars are louder than the voice of truth. How can they be, what can we do about it and who are we really according to the voice of Truth?

In biblical times, we read multiple examples of God speaking directly to His people. I firmly believe He still speaks to us directly through His word and the Holy Spirit but in today’s day an age we have to remove all distractions and get quiet before Him to really hear His voice. I believe this because of the passage in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is at his lowest point, asking God to End his life and God speaks to him. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Verses 11-13.) God’s voice was a soft whisper. Can you hear whispers in the middle of noise and chaos or are whispers best heard in stillness and silence? Why else would God tell us is Psalms 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.” And again in Exodus 14:14 when promising to fight for us He says, “you need only to be still.” We can’t hear God because we’re too busy, too distracted and most likely to stuck on the critical voices that tell us we are the opposite of who God creates us to be.

What can we do about it? This is going to sound simple and cliché but we can stop, drop (to our knees) and pray. We have to carve out moments of silence daily to get into God’s word, the only source of really truth, and be still before Him. We have to pray for open hearts and open ears with the God-given ability to hear His voice and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to us. We have to be patient when we spend a day or weeks in these moments hearing nothing at all. We have to persevere and choose to stand on His truth every day. Most importantly, we have to recognize the voice of God over the voice of the creator of lies. God’s voice will always coincide with His word. God’s voice will always be pure, peace loving, gentle, full of mercy and sincere. (James 3:17). It is never condemning and will not remind you of your mistakes. (Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:5)

So who does God say we are? First and foremost we are HIS! James 1:18 confirms that with this: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” A prized possession is a priceless treasure that is safe guarded, protected and preciously cared for just as God Himself, treasures, protects and delicately cares for us. We are also FORGIVEN! 1 John 2:12 states it very matter-of-fact like: “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” Luke 7:47 reinforces that with, “““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love…” and 1 John 1:9 promises that “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

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God also say we are LOVED. He confirms this in 1 John 4:19 “we love because she first loved us.” For those who have never been unconditionally loved, this one is probably the hardest to understand. How can someone love you in spite of your failures? How can someone love before you were even born? For God it’s quite simple-God is love and He creates our inmost beings. He loves us because He created us and He knows us more intricately than we or anyone else can ever know us. One of the best ways to combat our critics to let go of their harsh words and cling to God’s love for us. It’s the only way we can rise above hate and truly walk in love.

There are many more things God says about us and you can find them all in His word. We have a choice to listen to the voice of critics or the voice of truth. When the enemy strikes you with harsh words, when liars try to remind you of your past or haters criticize you out of jealousy or selfish ambition, stand on God’s truth and if you can’t cling to His love just yet, cling to this one simple verse: “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 11:9 If you’re a child of God, He has made you clean no matter what dirty mistakes you’ve made. You are not who your critics say you are. You are exactly who God says you are. Walk as the hold of God He made you to be.

Rotten Bananas and Caterpillar Cocoons

I love to bake.  I’m not a great cook (I’ve even burned hard boiled eggs and that has to take a real talent to accomplish) but I love to bake.  I especially love to listen to reggae music while baking dozens of cookies at Christmas time.  I know reggae is not traditional Christmas music but listening to it in the middle of winter makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island somewhere and beaches and sunshine bring me joy and peace.

One of my favorite things to bake lately is banana bread.  I found a delightful recipe online and I enjoy adding different things from time to time to embellish it (like peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and once I drizzled it with caramel.)  Recently I added carob chips to the mix which is a great chocolate replacement.  I have to say, (and I know this sounds prideful but if you ever ate my regular cooking you would understand) adding the carob chips was hands down the best version of banana bread I have ever made.  I’m actually going to make a batch tonight for a work meeting tomorrow.

This week as I had bananas on my counter that I was awaiting to be ready to make some bread.  Anyone who has ever baked banana bread knows that bananas are “ready” for use when they’re blackened (or as I like to say, rotten.)  Banana bread is made with rotten bananas.  That doesn’t sound very appetizing and some may prefer to use the word, “ripened” but in reality, blackened bananas are rotting bananas.  Looking at those black bananas on my counter I started thinking about how something that is decaying can be transformed into something so delightfully tasty?  And the more I thought about it I thought about how God does a similar thing to all of us.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.

A few days ago I felt God speak to me about caterpillars (I actually dreamt about caterpillars transforming into butterflies.)  God spoke the words “belly crawler” to me regarding caterpillars.  In a sense, caterpillars are little belly crawlers are they not?  Most people don’t find caterpillars appealing-some are even grossed out by them.  But what happens to a caterpillar?  It forms a cocoon and eventually hatches into a delicate and spectacular butterfly. Interesting to think that God created a belly crawling creature that can morph into a majestic winged display of His beauty that soars with grace and elegance.   But you see God is a God of transformation and that’s what He put on my heart to share with you all today.

The word transformation means “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.”  Some synonyms for transformation include; “about-face”, “changeover” “radical change”, “renewal” and “transfiguration.”  A few of these words you will find in scripture also.  The most common verse on transformation is Romans 12:2 where Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Another scripture, this time using the word “renew” comes from Psalm 51:10 where David prays asking God to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Even Jesus Himself transfigured before the disciples, and “His face shone like the sun…His garments became as white as light.”  (Mathew 17:2.)

The Bible is full of stories of how God transformed lives also.  In the old testament Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned and God transformed him into the 2nd highest leader of his country in order to save the lives of many people.  He transformed David, an underrated shepherd boy into not only the King of Judah but also a man after God’s own heart.  God transformed Job from a wealthy man to a broken man to a man who was doubly restored.  In the New Testament He transformed a tax collector into a follower of Christ (Zacchaeus-Luke chapter 19.)  Jesus also transformed Lazarus from a dead guy into a walking, talking, living, breathing miracle (John chapter 11.)  But the greatest example of transformation would be when God did an about-face in Paul, originally Saul, a man who hated Christians and was a key player in even the stoning of one of Jesus’ disciples.

Acts chapter 9 recounts the story of what happened when God moved in Saul’s life and transformed him into Paul a man who was imprisoned repeatedly for fiercely preaching God’s word.  In verse 1 Paul (actually Saul at the time) is described as “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”  That’s a man that could be described as one seriously rotten banana or evil belly crawler.  Yet God saw the potential for transformation.  Even though it took temporary blindness to get his attention, Saul converted and was transformed into Paul.  The books of Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians are just a few of the books that depict Paul’s ministry-his bold passion for serving God, the trials and tribulations he endured and his tenacity to press on even more to win souls to Christ.  The best part of Paul’s transformation when you read about him in later books of the NT you if you hadn’t known his history you would’ve never guessed he was actually an enemy of God before he converted.  That’s major transformation when God turns you into someone your past could never recognize isn’t it?

Do you believe God can do that you?  He most definitely can.  If God cares enough to use rotten bananas to make a deliciously sweet and fluffy bread, if He cares enough to transform a slimy belly crawling bug into something that is so beautiful that you want to chase after it, and if He can change a murdering Christian hater into one of His own Apostles, than He can most definitely, undoubtedly transform you.  Are you willing to let go and let Him transform you?  Are you ready to let go of your past and see yourself the way God sees you?  No matter what you’ve done or what consequences you’re facing, no matter the hardships you are dealing with right now if you look to Jesus, He will transform you, in His time and in His way.  And the you He made you to be will be unrecognizable to the old you.  He proves it in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when Paul writes, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  Don’t forget-Paul wrote this because he lived it and so can you!

Still need more evidence of God’s transformation?  Check out this testimony by Todd White:  https://youtu.be/IN7Xkl1JFZ4  My favorite part of Todd’s testimony is the fact that his daughter has no memory of the life he lived in addiction.  Only God has the power to do that!

Trash or Treasure?

In my twenties I watched a home improvement show that involved renovating specific rooms in people’s homes.  At the end of each episode they showed a five minute clip where the hosts of the show would purchase used items from rummage sales or junk yards and transform them into decorative useful items-like turning one person’s “trash” into their own beautiful “treasure.”  I loved watching the room makeovers but I especially enjoyed the “trash to treasure” portion at the end.  I was so amazed at the creativity the hosts had and how talented they were in crafting something someone considered “junk” into home décor.  One episode in particular they changed window screens into a headboard and used the screen portion as a jewelry hanger for earrings.  Coming from a mind who’s craftiness consists of finding an idea on Pinterest and having someone else make it for me, those hosts were crazy inventive for sure!!!

Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker, that reminded me of that show.  The show itself was not discussed but a simple phrase the co-worker spoke to me and God later reinforced.  “God used something awful to make a beautiful treasure.”  She spoke this phrase several times as our conversation was ending. It was her response when I shared with her how I had been conceived.  Without giving too many personal details, I was born out of wedlock.  I became a Christian at a young age and learned all the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Christianity through a “fire and brimstone” theology.  If you do all the right things and don’t sin-then you’re in God’s will and you get to go to Heaven.  If you sin, you’ll burn in Hell.

Learning this type of theology and knowing how I was conceived, I grew up believing God had no plan for me.  How could He?  I was the bi-product of a sinful act-clearly I was something He just allowed to happen, thus He had no plan for me.  I was just here to exist and then die.  Those thoughts were lies from the enemy but as a young Christian I didn’t dig deep into my Bible and seek out my own understanding of the faith, I just listened to what a preacher told me and took it as “truth.”  It took years well into my adulthood, a road of my own rebellion and some real godly people investing in me before I started reading my Bible and learning my own truths of Christianity and God’s purpose for our lives.

God divinely placed my co-worker in my path that day to take a bathroom break the same time as me and to turn a conversation into a beautiful message from Him and this blog post.   I heard her say; “God doesn’t like sin.”

“He took something He didn’t like and turned it into a beautiful treasure.”

“That treasure is you.”

“You are His treasure.”

And it was all very hard to digest.  The whole time the enemy was fighting hard to remind me of who he fooled me into believing I was for so many years.  But I fought past it and I let what I believe the Holy Spirit spoke through her resonate inside of me.  I was nearly in tears when I left the office and headed to the grocery store.  It was while shopping I thought of the show that turned trash into treasure.  And I thought, “That’s what she means!  That’s what she’s saying.”

Sin is our trash.  It can come in some pretty packaged forms but it’s really ugly, smelly and if we stay in it too long it weighs us down and can even make us sick-spiritually, emotionally and physically.  But what does God do with our trash-what can He do with our sinful acts?  Through His grace, mercy and redeeming love, when we repent, He turns our sin into treasure He can use for His kingdom.

David and Bathsheba had an affair.  Bathsheba became pregnant.  David tried to cover up the affair.  Out of desperation he even had Bathsheba’s husband murdered and took Bathsheba as his own wife.  Although the baby Bathsheba carried died, God blessed them with Solomon, who was the wisest king of Judah. (2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12)  Out of Solomon we have the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs (treasured wisdom), and the Songs of Solomon (treasured love.)

Christ’s crucifixion was also a bi-product of sin-the Pharisees’ sin, the roman soldiers’ sin, even your and my sins and we didn’t even exist then. But God used Christ’s resurrection, rising from a grave and overcoming death as a beautiful treasure that wipes our sins clean washing us white as snow and promising us eternal life. (Isaiah 1:18.)

When the enemy tries throwing your trash (sinful past) in your face, remind him that you are God’s treasure.  Quote Romans 8:28 aloud and tell the enemy to back off because God promises to use all things (even our sinful choices) for good and for His glory.  And remind yourself of whom you are in Christ.  He created our inmost beings and knitted us in our mother’s wombs. (Psalm 139:13)  Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are His masterpieces.  He has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us. (Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 2:10 and Jeremiah 29:11)Don’t let the enemy waste another moment of your life fooling you to believe you are anything less than who God made you to be.