Living Like Christ – Forgiveness

Forgiveness. I’ve had times in my life where having me walk through a wall would have been easier than having me forgive someone. When we are offended or hurt, we can spend so much time and energy nursing the hurt that forgiveness feels like a non-option.

Forgiveness is tricky because it feels anti-justice. When we have been wronged in some way, someone else needs to pay for it. If we forgive, we seem to think that no one will pay and that makes forgiveness a hard pill to swallow because most of us have a natural pull towards justice. Add in top of that piece of our nature sayings like “forgive and forget” and the process of forgiveness becomes almost illusive. We can become indignant that forgiveness is something we will never seek because we can never forget.

Here are some things to remember as you consider forgiveness.

1. It’s a verb. Forgiveness isn’t an emotion, it isn’t something you feel. Forgiveness is a verb, it’s an action. You make a choice to forgive with your head and then it begins to effect your heart.

2. It is not a blank check. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you give the person who hurt you access to hurt you over and over again. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you become a doormat. You can, and should, hold good and healthy boundaries with people. However, the same person may hurt you in different ways or situations and in all, you will need to forgive.

3. Forgiveness doesn’t remove pain. In all instances of trauma, the only things that remove pain are time and God. You granting forgiveness doesn’t mean you stop hurting. It does mean you don’t add to the hurt by adding bitterness to your heart.

4. It’s not optional. In Colossians 3:13, Paul makes it very clear that as followers of Jesus, fully forgiven of our own transgressions, we must forgive others. You could easily say, “Well I follow Jesus, not Paul” and decide Paul doesn’t understand the pain you are in, so how could he expect you to forgive? Jesus talked about forgiveness too so take a moment to see His comments in Matt 6:14-15, 18:21-22, Luke 6:3-7 and 17:3-4.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, let’s just be honest. The consequences of not forgiving, however, only hurt you because not forgiving is the breeding ground of bitterness. Once bitterness sets in, darkness descends and you end up living in bondage to victimhood. God is able to help you forgive so ask Him. Remember it’s a choice, so you may need to make the choice several times before you feel the healing power forgiveness brings. Advocate for yourself with the person who hurt you, set tighter boundaries for a while, and still seek to forgive. You’ve been completely forgiven as a follower of Jesus, extend that same gift to all around you.

Shalom,

KA

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No Condemnation

Condemnation. The dictionary defines it as, “…the expression of very strong disapproval.” (Google dictionary). The very word creates a strong visceral reaction in my body and my gut hurts when I read it or hear it. It conjures up images and memories in my story of times when I was told I wasn’t good enough and today, I need God to bring some healing. It stirs my own internal voice that is regularly spewing words of self condemnation.

I love New York City (NYC). From as far back as I can remember, NYC has held a really special place in my heart. From Sesame Street to Godspell, something amazing and wonderful happens in NYC and I have truly always longed to live there. My heart also longs to love people. I am most drawn to the disenfranchised, outcasts and displaced people’s. The ones that are hard to love are the ones I love the hardest. I can’t really explain either so I have to believe they are passions from God.

A few years ago I was introduced to an organization called Internal Project (IP). This ministry organization is based in NYC and its primary focus is to reach the unreached and the displaced. They provide 10 months of training on how to reach people for Jesus by becoming part of a community. The purpose is to learn how to go and love by one-on-one discipleship and small group leadership. Students then either go off to foreign missions, take their knowledge back to their home town or stay on as part of a long-term team in NYC. I fell in love the minute I heard of this organization and started praying for guidance. IP marries two of my passions: NYC and loving people.

A month ago I took a leap of faith and sent in my application to be part of the training and then the long-term team staying in NYC. Yesterday I got notice that my application had been accepted and I would move on to the next round of the process which includes background checks, interviews and a site visit. Today I woke up feeling condemned instead of hope.

Several years ago I was arrested for a suspicion of a DUI. That experience changed my life forever in amazing ways. I have never had a drop to drink and gotten behind the wheel of a car again. I learned a lot about my addiction and why I chose to numb through alcohol. A few months later I quit drinking altogether. God used it as a wake up call and I truly woke up. Here’s the downside though: that trauma on top of other trauma has led to an opening for the enemy…condemnation.

Since yesterday, my thoughts have been things like, “they won’t want you because of the arrest”, “you aren’t good enough, look at the bad things you’ve done”, “God doesn’t have any reason to give you the desires of your heart”. These words circle my brain and heart frequently and have stopped me many times. They lead me to pulling out, stepping down and closing up. If I stay in my safe corner, in agreement with the lies, then I can’t be hurt more.

This morning, I’m inviting Jesus into this battle in a new way. Well, I’m actually inviting Him into it at all, which is new. I need to take God at His word which says:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

I can’t change my past and honestly, I wouldn’t because my story allows me to help the people I love…the ones who feel unloveable. Without my particular story, I couldn’t reach the people I can reach. Without the arrest, I wouldn’t have stopped drinking and driving and I may have killed someone. Without the arrest, I wouldn’t have quit drinking when I did and I may have never connected with my daughter well. Without the arrest, I wouldn’t have my testimony of how God redeemed my life and now uses it to bring glory to His name. God took something horrible, being arrested, and used it for something good, being free.

What’s your story hold that the enemy uses to condemn you? Speak against his lies because all he wants to do is stop you. Stop you from believing, stop you from moving, and stop you from having faith. Once you believe Jesus as Lord in your life Satan can’t take your salvation, but he can take your relationship with God and cause you to waver in your faith. Don’t let him. Speak God’s word against the enemy because he has to flee. Pray scripture back to God and claim His promises. God is for you!

For me, I won’t be retracting my application and staying in my safe life. I’m pressing ahead believing that I am no longer condemned because Jesus is my Redeemer. I’m also believing God is going to reward my faith with acceptance into the program and if for some reason he doesn’t, it’s because there is something better!!

Shalom,

KA

Living Like Christ-part 1

“Put on then, as God’s chose ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…” Colossians 3:12.

It’s a challenging time to live as a Christian. As a matter of fact, for me, I don’t call myself a “Christian” anymore. Instead, I say that I’m a follower of Jesus. So many people claim the identification as a Christian but act in a manner that doesn’t seem appropriate or like Jesus at all and it leaves me wondering, how do I actually live like Jesus in today’s world? I think we find the answer to that question in Colossians 3:12-17. We’ll be taking this passage apart over the next few blogs.

The mandate.Put on…” In the original text the word used to portray this putting on is enduo which means “in the sense of sinking into a garment” (Strong’s exhaustive concordance, 1746). I love this picture because it makes me think of a big, fluffy, soft robe that is a little too big so that it wraps around you fully encompassing every inch of your body. High neck so that it is half way up your head and long, so that it reaches your ankles. If you were to walk past someone you would almost look like a floating robe. Right out of the gate, God is calling us to cloth ourselves in what is coming next. Make these characteristics part of who we are and how we operate…make them essential. 
The declaration. …as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” God moves from the mandate of His expectation to the declaration of our position. We are His chosen people, His holy and beloved children. That doesn’t mean we are perfect or that we have to present ourselves in a way that tries to convince anyone else we are perfect. It simply means that we are empowered and enabled by God to live in a way that is different than the world because of who we are…God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Without knowing who we are, we would never be able to move out and having any influence in the world around us. 

The commission.…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience,” God is sending us out into our world as ambassadors of peace. Our commission is to bring light into a dark world through compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Basically, to live like Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we live as doormats or wallflowers and let the world happen around us all the while quietly humming Kumbaya in the corner. Jesus didn’t live a life of ambiguity or indifference, He operated through compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience all the while changing the world. He had moments where He spoke against the wrongs of the world. He even flipped over a few tables! He had moments where He spoke the truth very plainly and directly. He also had moments where He let a woman cry on His feet. Jesus, fully operating in these amazing traits being called out in the verse, had a wide range of emotion and reaction with one central message: love.

If you watch the news for 5 minutes, read 2 posts on Facebook or read the newspaper, you will find yourself getting upset. The world is in a weird place of division right now and it seems more pervasive than at any other time in history. We have people raging against each other and spewing violence in both language and action at every turn and it feels like the only way to be heard is to join in. God is inviting us to create change through remembering who we are in Him and then moving out in love showing compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. This means having our emotions under control and in some instances, not responding in the moment. It means checking our feelings of offense before reacting to our emotions. It means seeking the best in the other person over wanting to voice our opinion. In a nutshell, living like Jesus.

Shalom,

KA

Brotherly Love

It’s time to move past the differences that cause division and make the choice to continue to build each other up in brotherly love. External influences are driving wedges into our communities and we are seeing more and more division because we are letting our differences rule our relationships.

Brotherly love, philadelphia, is love that says I love you with deep affection regardless of our differences. Brotherly love seeks connection over everything else. Brotherly love sets out to bless the other person with no expectations in response. Brotherly love is the foundation of community.

I have an amazing community of friends. These people are truly my tribe and my support and the relationships are equal in that, sometimes I’m in need and sometimes they are in need and in both instances, we act in love towards each other and seek to bless and provide. We don’t agree on everything. We don’t necessarily have shared calls or visions for our future. We come from different backgrounds and have different hopes and dreams. What we have is connection and the desire to see each other be successful in whatever path we choose. We let brotherly continue.

As a society, we have to get to the basics of community and stop tearing each other down. We have to stop making our focus ME, and turn our focus to US. No matter what I do, I can’t succeed without my community. God never calls us to live alone, He always calls us to live in community. We are a body of people, each with different giftings but shared purpose…love God and love people. Love is the power source that builds connection and community.

Let brotherly love continue. Seek connection and build community. It’s time to start a love revolution in our world.

Shalom,

KA

Blessings

Today, regardless of the situations we are facing, let’s take a moment to focus on some of the promises God has spoken over our lives. Let’s join our faith together knowing these promises will be fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 28:6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Deuteronomy 28:11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity…

Deuteronomy 28:13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down.

1 Peter 2:4 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

The list could go on and on! Trust God to bring about His perfect resolution and blessing through your faith and obedience.

Shalom,

KA

Making a Comeback!

Posted originally on http://www.facebook.com/pursuitchurchlive

Be Brave: Peter’s Comeback

I love Peter with all of my heart because that is how he lived, with all of his heart. From the moment Peter arrives on the scene, he captures my attention. In the gospel of John, chapter 1, Jesus meets Simon and immediately changes his name to Cephas or Peter, meaning “rock”. Here we see Jesus setting the tone of the relationship and it is actually really important to remember that Peter is foundational to the long-term ministry of Jesus. In the first moments of their relationship, Jesus gives Peter his calling and though he doesn’t understand the name change at the time, he will.

Peter isn’t typically a person we think of immediately when we think of someone being brave. You were probably already thinking that and at first glance, I would agree. To see the bravery of Peter, you have to put on your sanctified imagination a little bit. Here’s why I consider Peter to be brave: he led with his heart, failed, and got back up. To me, bravery isn’t just standing up to an enemy, bravery is stepping out when God calls and if you happen to make a mess, bravery is getting back into the game and trying again.

Have you ever stepped out in faith and then made a mess of a situation?

I want to look at one of the moments in the life of Peter where he failed and yet, he wasn’t disqualified, cast aside by God and, he didn’t quit. Grab your bible or favorite bible app, and turn to Matthew chapter 14. The disciples have just seen Jesus feed thousands of people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Not only did He feed them, they had leftovers! The disciples are tired at every level and still processing the recent news that John the Baptist was killed. The conditions are not necessarily optimal but, they are with Jesus and changing the world.

Jesus, needs some time alone with His Father so He sends His followers off across the sea ahead of Him. The weather isn’t great and the guys in the boat are getting battered by waves and wind. It’s the middle of the night and I am certain they were cranky. I mean, I would be! Then, out of nowhere, they see something that I am certain made them doubt their sanity. They saw Jesus walking on the water coming towards them! Just stop for a moment and imagine that scene. First, they are so far out that there is no earthly way Jesus could even be where they are considering the length of time they have been moving in the water. Second, Jesus is WALKING ON WATER. I probably would have passed out if I’m being totally honest.

Here is where I start to fall more in love with Peter. While most people would have been running away from someone walking on the water (let’s just be honest, it’s terrifying!), Peter is more attracted to the power of Jesus. The disciples are convinced they are seeing a ghost and they are filled with fear, but not Peter. In the midst of fear, Peter hears the voice of Jesus and he finds deeper faith. Only faith could have caused Peter to utter his next words, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Peter knows the voice of his Leader and Friend and he is firmly set in faith that he has recognized the voice and that Jesus is fully and without doubt able to allow Peter to walk on water. Jesus has only one response and it is truly a reward for his faith, “Come” (Matthew 14:29).

Can you relate to Peter in this moment? Have you had an experience where you just knew it was God and though it seemed crazy, you followed what you heard?

Peter then steps out of the boat, deeper into the storm, and walks on water toward Jesus. Now, stop here for just one moment and picture the face of Jesus as Peter would have seen Him. Here’s what I picture: deep love in His eyes, pride beaming all over His face as His friend walks in faith, a slight smile on his lips. Peter and Jesus have a moment that is so deeply special and lovely it can nearly bring me to tears if I think about it for a while. Peter is the hero of the story in this moment! He stepped out in faith and it was a HUGE success! End scene, go home. Oh but wait! It doesn’t actually end in this glorious moment. Peter starts to sink.

Peter, in what is the absolute human condition, takes his focus off of His Leader and Friend and puts it on the storm and in that moment, he loses faith and he loses footing. He starts to sink and scramble and I’m certain is filled with tremendous fear. Sometimes, it takes greater faith to stay the course, not stepping out of the boat. Peter had the faith to step out, he just didn’t have the faith to keep going when the storm around him seemed to be too much. Instead of keeping his eyes firmly planted on the goal, Jesus, he looked around, saw the storm and tried to keep going in his own strength. God will never give you the power to step out and not give you the power to keep going.

So let’s do a quick recap: the disciples are caught in a storm on the water, they see Jesus walking towards them on the water, Peter jumps out of the boat and he walks on the water, Peter sinks. For many, Peter’s bravery was in the stepping out of the boat but I would invite you to put your sanctified imagination hats on and look a little closer. I would suggest that Peter was most brave by letting Jesus save him and then getting back into the boat. As with many of the daily small details, the Bible doesn’t tell us what happened next but as we all know, it wasn’t a movie so the scene didn’t just end with Jesus saving Peter. Jesus would have had to carry Peter back to the boat, and then Peter would have had to face his friends.

Now, I know we like to think of these men, the disciples, as pillars of the community but let’s be honest, they weren’t. They were rough-and-tumble men’s men and I’m 99% positive at some point, maybe not right that moment, someone said something like, “Hey Peter, nice swim you took there!” Or “Wow Peter, way to make Jesus have to save you!!” I’m certain Peter had to face a little ridicule based on his actions and what we know about Peter is this…he stayed. Because I know that God allows freewill, I can say with assurance that Peter had the option to stop following Jesus at any moment. They all did. Peter could have been so undone by the public failure that he retreated back to being a fisherman. Praise God he didn’t!

Have you made a mistake or done something in public that fills you with shame or regret and you felt like, or perhaps you did, walking away from God’s call on your life?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill. Peter didn’t let this failure stop him from fulfilling the destiny for which he was created, to be the rock on which Jesus built His Church. (Matthew 16:18) Was Peter brave for stepping out of the boat? Absolutely. Was he even more brave for getting back into the boat, facing his friends and then continuing on with them and Jesus? A million times yes!! Without Peter, we have no Church as we know it today. Peter shows us that we can be human, make mistakes, fail, and Jesus is still there to pick us up and keep us going. I don’t believe Jesus ever mentioned what happened to Peter again. Jesus knew what Peter was capable of and He knew what Peter was called to, remember, He gave him that call the first time they met.

Each of you is one of two people: you’ve failed and quit or, you’ve failed and gotten back up. If you have failed and quit, please hear my heart. Jesus is waiting to pull you up, bring you peace and healing, and relaunch you. Your calling doesn’t have an expiration date so don’t think He won’t use you. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that will stop God from using you except you. If you let shame and guilt rule, then you let the enemy win. Please don’t let him win. Failure only has power when we allow it to hold shame and we keep it a secret. Let your secret out! Ask God for help and He will provide it.

If you have failed and gotten back up, praise God. Share your story loudly. We all need to hear how other people have failed and gotten back up to keep moving forward into their calling to bring glory to the Kingdom. We all fail at one point or another, the more we share our stories of both success and failure, the more we realize they are really both the same. Stories of success are never easy stories and in many cases, the failure was needed in order for the success to be realized.

Shalom,

KA

Naming My Freedom

This is a collage I did in my journal this morning as I think of all God did on November 10, 2011.

“What’s in a name?” A famous line from Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet is using that question to say that the name doesn’t matter, the rose is still a rose even if you called it a skunk because of its fragrance. I would argue that the name is part of the of the whole thing, which is a rose. You can’t take away the name, even though the fragrance would still be the same, the item would be different because the name would be different. Giving something a name is important.

Names are thrown around without a lot of thought. The name given to us at birth is relatively arbitrary and by that I mean, it isn’t really based much on who we are as a person. We are given a name to honor someone else, to honor a moment in time or to honor a place, but our parents have no idea if that name will “fit” us as we grow up. I’ve met some amazingly lovely people named Miriam which means bitter. I’ve also met some super unhappy folks named Joy. I think you get my point, our names given to us at birth have everything to do with the giver of the name and really, nothing to do with the receiver. But there are names given to us that define us, and in those names we find freedom or we find death. Those are the names we give ourselves, or others give ourselves, as we journey through life. 

Until I was 45 years old, I would have told you that my life had some ups-and-downs but nothing major, no trauma of any kind really. This was my truth and what I believed because I had named myself unworthy and I didn’t see it. In my mind, I wasn’t important enough to have had any trauma or anything noteworthy. The actual truth was, I had named myself unworthy, unremarkable and unimportant by my trauma and I just hadn’t learned how to see that truth. So, I operated in a realm of a secondary character that was always replaceable. My internal monologue was filled with language like “don’t rock the boat”, “don’t think differently”, “don’t wake him up”, “don’t tell anyone”. My trauma, my story, was screaming to be named but I didn’t have the skills to do that so I numbed myself with alcohol. 

Typically, I celebrate November 10th as the day I gave my life most fully to Jesus and He released me from addiction. I’m realizing today that so much more happened on that day 6 years ago and I have to name it. FREEDOM! REDEMPTION! RESTORATION! WORTH! VALUE! REMARKABLE! God took a story that was dark and full of pain and He released me, freed me and renamed me. I didn’t realize it at the time but God set me on a path that carried more pain than I could imagine but it was good pain, necessary pain, healing pain. I have spent the past 6 years looking at my trauma and giving it to God to help me name and bless and release. 

We can’t process something we can’t name. 

We can’t name something we won’t face.

 We won’t face something that holds shame.

So what do we do? How do we name our trauma and then name our freedom? Trust. Trust that God is with you always, in the darkness and the light, and that He is holding you tight. Trust that God does know the names of your trauma and the He will gently lead you to the naming. Trust that on the other side of the pain of processing is freedom. Be open to the journey of healing and I promise you, God will not disappoint you. God isn’t interested in bringing a quick fix, He’s interested in true healing and a deep relationship. I begged God for YEARS to release me from addiction and abuse and He wouldn’t do it because He wanted so much more for me. See the deal is, if He had just fixed the situation I wouldn’t be writing this now because I wouldn’t have entered into the journey of healing. I wouldn’t be any better off now then I was when I was at my darkest. God wanted more for me and He wants more for you. 

Tomorrow, November 10th, I celebrate a new name and it’s a name that God has given me through the journey of the last several years: remarkable. I am operating in freedom and it is remarkable. God is in love with me and it is remarkable. I still have things to process and name and that’s just the truth for all of us. But what I don’t have is fear of facing those things. God has shown Himself faithful and as new triggers arise and new issues need to be processed, He will continue to bring names and freedom.

I don’t know where you are in life, but I hope you are considering trusting God. It’s not an easy process, it hurts to face your trauma, and yet, it is absolutely worth it. If you aren’t sure where to start or know you just want a prayer partner, will you please simply reply with “pray” and I will pray for you. 

Shalom,

KA

Jesus Knows You

Do you ever wonder if Jesus really knows you? Like knows all about you, all you’ve done, all you think and all those “hidden” places you keep locked up tight? Did He know you from the start or does He get to know you over time? I think, based on scripture, God shows us time and time again that He knows us inside at out immediately.

Take a look at the first encounter between Jesus and Peter. 

John 1:42 He (Andrew) brought him (Simon) to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas (meaning rock).”

Jesus merely looked at Peter and knew both his history and his future. He knew his family of origin, that he was the son of John. This is a really familiar reference which leads me to believe that Jesus knew about the family dynamics and details of Simon’s upbringing. Jesus then goes on to give Simon a new name, Cephas, also known as Peter. Jesus knew that He would go on to build His Church through Peter, the rock (Matthew 16:18). In one moment, the first  meeting, Jesus identifies his past and his future.

I believe Jesus does that for all of us. When we meet Jesus for the first time, He already knows our past and, He already knows our future. I’m positive Peter was as impulsive before he became a disciple as he was after he became a disciple. That only makes sense. Jesus, knowing that Peter walked through life led by his heart and not so much by his brain, chose him to build a holy Church. I’m certain Peter was a bit perplexed by this first encounter and isn’t that true for most of us? The first time we meet Jesus and have a real encounter with Him, many find themselves feeling a bit bewildered. It’s hard to fathom the deep love of someone who knows your faults and chooses you regardless. 

This week is a big week for me because it is my anniversary of turning my whole life over to Jesus 6 years ago on November 10th. I became a believer in Jesus as a kid, I became a follower of Jesus 6 years ago. I came to Jesus in a heap of anger, pain and addiction and He looked at me, knew my history and loved me. He gave me a new name: beloved. I didn’t do anything to deserve His love and isn’t that just the thing that makes His love so incredibly powerful? In a moment, and I do mean a moment, Jesus removed years of guilt and shame and led me out of an abusive relationship and addiction. Like Peter, He started to build His Church in my heart and life and I’ve never looked back.

It’s hard to trust God. Life’s challenges mixed with the enemies voice equals doubt. Doubt that God is loving. Doubt that God cares. Doubt that He is even paying attention! I promise, He is loving, caring and not only paying attention, He is walking with you even when you think you aren’t walking with Him. This week, I’ll be sharing different pieces of my story and how God has changed me. On Friday, I’ll share what happened six years ago. I hope through all of it you find God worth the risk of faith and hope.

Shalom,

KA