Do You Know Who You Are?

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21

My husband and I had an interesting conversation on the way home from church last Sunday. Someone made a statement in his Sunday school class that some of the men found a little unsettling. While discussing the struggle we all have with sin, the familiar comment surfaced that we’re all sinners who fall short of glory.

But one gentleman in the room interrupted to make a very different statement. He insisted he wouldn’t take that label. He wouldn’t call himself a sinner. He’s a redeemed child of God.

Most of the men in the room didn’t quite know how to respond to that. After all, everyone sins. Only Jesus lived a perfect life.

Well, that’s absolutely true. But once we’re saved, what does still calling ourselves sinners say about what Christ accomplished for us on the cross?

Bear with me for a moment here. Let’s pause to look at it from heaven’s perspective.

Every one of us came into this world bound by sin. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes it perfectly.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Our sin nature, bound to the prince of this world, made us children of wrath. None of us could do anything to save ourselves.

Then Jesus became a sacrificial Lamb to do something impossible.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you see it, dear one? Jesus made an exchange. In an astounding act of mercy and grace, Jesus became sin so that we could become righteousness. He took our old nature—our sin nature that positioned us for wrath—and exchanged it for His. Now we can celebrate the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I’ll be honest. For years, my mind translated that scripture something like, “if anyone is in Christ, one day if they work hard enough, they’ll eventually become a new creation.” Can you relate? But I need you to focus in on the tense of that scripture. It says that if I am in Christ, I am a new creation. Present tense. The old me has already passed away. Let’s look at a few more scriptures that confirm that truth.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24

Based on these scriptures, beloved, if you are in Christ, should you still call yourself a sinner? God’s Word answers that with a resounding “No.” Christ crucified your sin nature on that cross. Then He gave you His. Now you participate in Christ’s nature.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Jesus conquered your flesh and gave you His divine nature in its place. To continue to call yourself a sinner once you’ve been redeemed—though appearing like humility that recognizes your need of Jesus—actually denies what He accomplished for you on that cross. And that unbelief cuts you off from the power He poured out to accomplish it.

It’s time we start believing what God says about us. Faith alone ushers us into His grace. Faith alone transforms us from the inside out. As we receive the implanted word into our hearts by faith, the Spirit within us will water that seed, causing it to sprout fruit. Our faith allows the Spirit to manifest the word we have believed and empower us to live it out.

When something comes against me and I’m tempted to respond from my flesh, I’m learning to tell myself, “That’s not who I am anymore. Jesus crucified my flesh, and I refuse to give it life. Jesus has made me all that He is. I am love. I am purity. I am forgiveness. I am grace. Lord, empower me to live from the nature you have given me.”

That, dear one, is how I believe we live out Ephesians 4:22-24, which challenges us,

…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Renew your mind with the truth of God’s Word, dear one. Your sin nature has passed away. You have been given a new self, recreated in God’s likeness in true righteousness and holiness. Your enemy wants to convince you you’re still just a sinner, giving you the excuse to justify your sin so he can keep you bound by it. Don’t let him win, beloved. He has kept Christ’s church in bondage for far too long with his deceptions. Only the truth will set you free and empower you to live the life God intends.

Put off the sinner, dear one. It’s time we put on the righteousness Christ bought with His blood.

How Scarcity Overflows into Wealth

… in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2 Corinthians 8:2

I wonder if you feel like your circumstances have left you with nothing to give. Maybe you feel depleted, barely able to hang on. Your scarcity may be financial, relational, or even emotional, but it really doesn’t matter. Your stores are empty. You don’t have what you need, never mind the ability to give to anyone else.

Can you relate, dear one? If so, perhaps that empty place is the perfect place for you to be.

Let’s see if you really pay attention to what you read. In our opening scripture, what did the Macedonian churches’ wealth of generosity flow from?

Yes. You read it right. Extreme poverty.

In the natural world, that sentence doesn’t even make sense. By definition, poverty represents lack. It means want or extreme need. Scarcity, shortage, deficit, and debt are all synonyms.

Beloved, extreme poverty means not having enough for yourself. So how can what you don’t have provide what somewhat else needs?

Yet that’s precisely how scripture describes these churches. Extreme poverty overflowed into wealth. Their own lack became generous provision for others. How?

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Our God of the impossible makes lack overflow into provision. It doesn’t make sense to the natural mind. It seems unbelievable. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Take a moment to ponder Jesus’ words from Luke 6:38.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

You and I need to understand this biblical truth, beloved. If we want to receive from God, He requires us to give.

If you need money, give to someone in need. If you need comfort, comfort someone else. If you need forgiveness, forgive. If you desperately need to feel love, be the one who gives it. And God promises that He will return what you give back to you. With good measure, pressed down and running over, He will put into your own lap the very thing you have given.

Because giving—particularly from lack—requires a little something from us. It requires faith. And faith moves God to pour out grace.

That, dear one, is how lack overflows into wealth. When we trust God by giving what we don’t have, the God of overflow fills the void to provide it.

Let’s look at a few scriptures relating God to overflow.

He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people? Psalm 78:20

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

Beloved, God alone can make your cup overflow, even when enemies threaten to take everything. His presence made water flow from solid rock to provide for His thirsty people in the desert. He longs to show His overflow in your desert places. But He waits for you to exercise a little faith.

Jesus released God’s overflow when He fed five thousand men—plus women and children—with only five loaves and two fish. But do you know when that food multiplied, dear one? When the disciples trusted Jesus by giving the little they had in their hands away.

Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Matthew 14:19-20

Twelve disciples gave from their lack. They each went home with a basket of left overs—pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Oh beloved. Let’s not wait to give from our abundance. Giving from poverty releases God to reveal Himself.

 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

And she alone experienced God when He gave her more.

Are You a Fan or a Follower?

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

This week’s Super Bowl has left the country shaking its head. No one expected the game to play out the way it did. I have to say. I watched it. And I still have trouble believing it.

But I’ll confess. I sure was happy about it.

Yep. Born and raised in New England, I’m a Patriots fan. I hesitate to even share this publicly, knowing the—how should I put it—“strong feelings” most of the country has toward my home team. But I’m not here to argue football with you. I’d rather point your attention toward another unbelievable comeback with much greater implications than a Super Bowl ring.

My cousin Ben posted this message to Facebook after Sunday’s game.

So insanely happy about the Super Bowl win for the Patriots, but driving home I was convicted when I had the thought, “When was the last time I was this excited for Jesus Christ and how he died to save the entire world from sin?” After all, the greatest comeback of all time was not Super Bowl 51, but Jesus Christ coming back from the dead after 3 days.

He has a point. I really can’t think of anything more impressive than conquering death itself. Let’s take a moment to revisit the scene of Jesus’ final breath.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:50-54, emphasis mine

Unbelievable … yet just as real as the Patriots’ staggering comeback from a 25 point deficit. Death could not defeat the King of Kings.

But Jesus wasn’t the only person to come back from the dead. His resurrection also revealed a foretaste of what’s to come. Saints rose from their tombs and walked into Jerusalem! That’s the amazing story of the cross, beloved. This is the Jesus we profess to follow. He conquers death—and raises what death has taken back to life.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Somehow fireworks and confetti seem much too small to honor it, but even that’s far more attention than we usually give it. So I’ll ask you the question the Spirit stirred in my cousin’s heart after the big game. When was the last time you were this excited for Jesus Christ and how he died to save the entire world from sin?

Are we as passionate about Jesus as we are about our football teams? Do we get as angry over someone disparaging Jesus’ name as we do if they disrespect our quarterback? Do we want to see Christ’s church prevail as much as we care if our team wins?

Sadly, most of the time the honest answer is no. We get pretty fired up about Jesus when we attend a worship event. We may even raise our hands to cheer Him within the safe embrace of other believers. But our passion fades when we return to normal life. And when confronted by people who aren’t fans, we often hide our allegiance.

Even worse, when we believe Jesus has let us down, we become the very voices in the crowd who disparage Him.

Jesus didn’t die to make us fair weather fans, beloved. He died for followers, for those who would risk everything to stand with Him. He even made this astounding statement in Mark 8:38.

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Are you ashamed of your allegiance to Jesus, beloved? Or do those who meet you know you’re on His team?

Real faith doesn’t fade when circumstances shout defeat or when others don’t believe. Instead, it swells in the moments that seem darkest. It whispers strength into the heart of true followers and empowers them to stand.

Jesus still reigns as the ultimate comeback champion. And when we choose to stand in faith while the world anticipates our defeat, He shows up to stand with us.

Let’s hold tight to the promise of Isaiah 30:20.

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

 When we really believe that’s true, we’ll follow.

Is Love Worth the Pain it Brings?

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23


It moves us. Compels us.

Sometimes it breaks us.

Recently my heart broke under its weight as we said goodbye to our beloved Annie, our Australian Shepherd puppy-person that melted our hearts from the first day we met her.

Some of you may not understand such a strong attachment to a four-legged creature. But perhaps you’ve never opened your heart to receive the love of one.

You see, our Annie never held her love back like people do. She gave it. Freely.

She always greeted us with enthusiastic kisses—whether we’d been gone for 15 minutes or 15 days—and she loved snuggles more than anyone I know. Her tender heart often reflected our moods. She would share joys and bear burdens, lovingly coming near to lay with me and comfort me when she sensed my heart hurting.

Annie knew how to make a girl feel special. She followed me wherever I went in the house—even if only to run back upstairs to grab something I forgot. But Annie was unconcerned over the reason for going. She simply went. Because nothing gave her greater joy than to be in the presence of the one who loved and took care of her.

Oh, that we would love our God without restraint like Annie loved me!

Over these last ten years, she taught me so much about unconditional love. But recently, as cancer revealed itself in our family again—this time in our furry, precious loved one—a fresh awareness of the cross washed over me. While laying with Annie to comfort her when disease had rapidly taken her strength and she could no longer get up to follow me, an overwhelming desire to release her suffering gripped my heart.

And I realized. That’s precisely how God feels about our suffering. He aches. And He wants to remove everything that hinders our capacity to enjoy one another completely.

God wants to remove everything that hinders our capacity to enjoy one another completely. Click To Tweet

But being God, He’s able to do something about it. And He did. He sent His Son to bear our suffering, so that He could redeem it. And suffering itself became the catalyst for our redemption.

Christ’s love flowed red at Calvary, beloved.

Now the only thing that can keep us from the power of His love is our refusal to receive it. A guarded heart that won’t open to love will never experience its resurrection power.

And so the enemy of our souls keeps us fearing love.

In this fallen world we live in, we’re going to hurt, dear one. Man’s choice to separate from God brought pain—pain the enemy of our souls has convinced us we can escape if we avoid loving freely.

But you and I were created to love. Made in the image of the God of love, we can never experience the joy of abundant life without loving. Love brings life to dead places. It exhilarates. It heals. And yes, sometimes it hurts.

But the beauty of pure love reveals itself in its faithfulness. In love’s embrace, even the hurt will become joy again as love heals.

You and I don’t want to run from love, beloved. We want to run toward it. We want to dive headlong straight into the arms of its Source. So we can become it. And give it. Freely. Because only as we give it can we receive what it gives. Jesus said so in Luke 6:38,

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

But loving takes faith, dear one. We’ve got to trust to love. We must love without fear.

God is love. Love is eternal. Love never fails. Nothing entrusted to love is ever lost, and nothing birthed out of love well ever die. But there are some places that love does not grow; love cannot flourish in the company of its rival, fear. Fear has an end—actually, fear is a dead end. Fear is an ungodly spirit that leads to torment. Fear advises from its seat in the shadow of doubt, while love draws its wisdom from the light of faith. If you heed the counsel of fear for too long, you will fail.

(Lisa Bevere, THE ONE THING I WOULD CHANGE IN MY MARRIAGE, Messenger International,

As I lay holding Annie, my heart in shattered pieces under the heavy weight of loss, I never regretted my decision to love her. My lips offered a sacrifice of praise to my God for the privilege of it. I thanked Him for the cuddles and kisses, the laughter, and the joy. And I know my heart—though broken—will keep beating. My Father’s love will heal and mend it, making it even stronger. Increasing its capacity, and allowing it to give even more.

Beloved, when we love, we bear our Father’s image.

Don’t hold back from love, dear one. Become it. Give it. Feel it.

And live reaping its resurrection power.