God’s New Years Resolutions

I understand that God never changes, and that his plan dates back to eternity past. In that sense, the turning of our earthly year means nothing to “the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). However, I also understand that God is gracious enough to stoop down and describe himself in human terms; this helps our puny brains keep up with him.

In that spirit, I humbly offer a dozen of God’s New Years Resolutions, followed by my single New Years Resolution at the end.

God says… “During this coming year…

  1. I RESOLVE to bless you better than you deserve. I don’t give paychecks for your good behavior; I give blessings because of Christ’s perfect behavior. You didn’t earn it; he did. My hand will supply more than you’ll ever realize.
  2. I RESOLVE to continue seeing you just as I see my son, Jesus. You’ve been joined to Christ, and as I label him, so I label you: beautiful, accepted, holy, pure, my child, spiritual royalty, complete.
  3. I RESOLVE to carry you safely through another year. I didn’t bring you this far to let you down now. Great is my faithfulness. I’ve got your hand and won’t let go.
  4. I RESOLVE to never throw your sins and failures back in your face. All your sin and shame was washed away once for all in the flood of Calvary Love. There’s no going back.
  5. I RESOLVE to continue loving you, even when you don’t love me back. I never loved you because of who and what you are or do anyway; my love flows for you because I AM love. I’m glad if you love me back, but never forget the biggest deal of all is that I love you and sent my Son for you (1 John 4:10).
  6. I RESOLVE to keep you safely wrapped in the bubble of eternal salvation. You may see a swarm of worrisome giants on the horizon in this coming year; but losing your salvation shouldn’t be one of them. You are mine. Bank on it.
  7. I RESOLVE to punch the devil and his minions in their ugly little noses as soon as they try to get close to you. You have no idea how many times I shield you each and every day — don’t worry, I won’t stop. And I will “crush Satan under your foot shortly” (Romans 16:20).
  8. I RESOLVE to surprise you with goodness you never saw coming. Your joy is my delight. If a fallen, broken-down race like yours finds joy in surprising your kids with good things, how much more does your Heavenly Father love to give good gifts to his children too!
  9. I RESOLVE to remain the same, yesterday, today, and forever, so you never have to wonder who you’re dealing with. I’m unchanging, and never fickle. As I loved my son, Jesus, so also I will love you forever and ever. You can count on me.
  10. I RESOLVE to keep furnishing your mansion in heaven. Even the tiniest faith in time creates extravagant supply in eternity. Your deepest heartaches will one day fade into oblivion, in the light of eternal joys.  You should see the design I have for you… you’re going to love it!
  11. I RESOLVE to draw close to you in your tough times. You never walk alone. No matter where you turn or what you do this year, I’ll be right there with you. You can’t shake me. I’m happily stuck with you.
  12. I RESOLVE to never shut off the lavish flow of grace coming your way. Even if you’re an idiot. Even if you turn your back on me. Even if anything. Trust me… This is going to be a great year!

So here’s my one and only New Resolution:

I say… “During this coming year…

  1. I RESOLVE to rest my heart and life more fully in the wonderful, infinite, matchless grace of God. “For it is good that the heart be established by grace…” (Hebrews 13:9).[Using the share buttons below makes you extra awesome! Thanks.]

 

GR Combo reduced[If you want to dig more deeply into the wonderful, infinite, matchless grace of God, check out Grace Rehab: The Power of Labeling Yourself the Way God Labels You, with a companion STUDY GUIDE, both on Amazon at www.GraceRehab.net ]

Grace Rehab

Introducing GRACE REHAB

GR Combo reducedMeet Grace Rehab, my latest book, and follow up to Grace Intervention.  I’d also like you to meet the Grace Rehab Study Guide, a companion book for groups or personal reflection. Since every author feels like their books are their babies, I’m excited for you to meet my latest.  I think this will give you a good idea of what’s inside.

From the Back Cover: 

You’re stupid. Ugly. Too short, tall, skinny, fat, dark, light, slow. You’ll never amount to anything.  you don’t measure up. You’re nothing. not good enough. I don’t way you. You’re a failure. Damaged goods. Dirty. Loser. Pervert. Unholy. Bad. 

Ouch! There are as many labels as there are abusive parents, schoolyard bullies, mean girls, and self-righteous preachers to slap them on you.

The two most important labels in your life are how you label yourself and how you label God. These labels create self-fulfilling prophecies. They determine how you relate to yourself, to others, and to God.

Who Are YouThe good news is that God stands ready to peel away a lifetime of demeaning labels. He wants to label you the exact same way he labels Jesus: Beautiful. Accepted. Beloved. Righteous. Powerful. Good.

In GRACE REHAB, Bill Giovannetti guides you through a total transformation of your inner labels. With humor and insight, he explores 17 Riches in Christ to help you shed your self-defeating labels and embrace with confidence the joyful person you were meant to be.

Also available: the GRACE REHAB STUDY GUIDE, with questions for personal reflection and group interaction, wherever books are sold.

From the Dedication: 

This book is dedicated to every survivor, every courageous soul, and every hero wiling to resist the world’s bullies, mean girls, abusers, users, exploiters, and unloving parents.

It is for every person who refuses to be a victim.

For all those struggling to shed the demeaning labels of the past.

For those great ones fighting to name themselves as God names them.

You inspire me.

You inspire us all.

Grace Rehab Table of Contents: 

CONTENTS (212 pages)

PART ONE: I Am in Christ…

  1. Labels
  2. Definitions
  3. Union
  4. Seed
  5. Identity
  6. Rehab

PART TWO: In Christ, I Am…

  1. New Family TreeI Am Forgiven
  2. I Am Justified
  3. I Am Reconciled
  4. I Am Adopted
  5. I Am Accepted
  6. I Am Redeemed
  7. I Am Blessed
  8. I Have An Advocate
  9. I Have Access
  10. I Am Complete In Him
  11. I Have Power
  12. I Have Dominion
  13. I Have a Superpower
  14. I Am Delivered from Darkness
  15. I Am An Heir of God
  16. I Am Being Sanctified
  17. I Am In Christ

Endnotes

Grace Rehab Study Guide Table of Contents: 

CONTENTS (104 pages)

PART ONE: I Am in Christ…

  1. Labels
  2. Definitions
  3. Union
  4. Seed
  5. Identity
  6. Rehab

PART TWO: In Christ, I Am…

  1. sample 23I Am Forgiven
  2. I Am Justified
  3. I Am Reconciled
  4. I Am Adopted
  5. I Am Accepted
  6. I Am Redeemed
  7. I Am Blessed
  8. I Have An Advocate
  9. I Have Access
  10. I Am Complete In Him
  11. I Have Power
  12. I Have Dominion
  13. I Have a Superpower
  14. I Am Delivered from Darkness
  15. I Am An Heir of God
  16. sample 24I Am Being Sanctified
  17. I Am In Christ
  18. My Daily Grace Rehab Prayer

BONUS MATERIALS

Grace Rehab Glossary
Bonus Chapter: I Am An Ambassador/Study Guide
How to Be Saved

 

 You can pick up copies here:
Click: Directly from the Author (signed copies)
Click: On Amazon
Ask your local bookseller
Sharing is appreciated using the buttons below.

 

Fear Keeps the Faithful Faithful? pt. 2

Today’s post is part 2 of a BONUS CHAPTER from Grace Intervention on Fear. There is a growing supply of free resources for you to do a Grace Intervention with your church, small group, or retreat: Click here.

If you missed it, here’s part one of today’s blog.


 

Breaking Bondage

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

You’re always running on one of two operating systems, legalism or grace. The spirit of bondage or the Spirit of adoption. You need to switch operating systems. Make the change from legalism to grace. And as often as you fall into to legalism – either neo- or traditional – you need to switch back again. The burden of this book’s intervention is to motivate, hasten, enable, persuade, instruct, and celebrate that far-reaching switch.

To use a biblical term, you need to repent.

Biblical repentance is never a legalistic addition to the gospel. It is not the super-imposition of behavioral demands on the Walking Dead who are incapable of doing good. It does not consist of self-effort, self-will, or self-improvement.

Repentance is a radical change of mind – swapping out one worldview for another. Changing operating systems. Repentance is the work of God, by the Spirit of God, applying the Word of God to the child of God.

By it, you undergo a radical transformation of your whole way of looking at God, yourself, and your relationship with him. By it, you change your mind – your perspective on reality. It’s time to swap out your old, tired, self-serving worldview for God’s holy, life-giving worldview.

  • Do you harbor the delusion you are good enough for God? That if you are a sinner, you are only a sinner-lite? Repent.
  • Do you grade yourself on the curve? Do you justify yourself by comparing yourself to someone else – say a serial killer, or a “Bridezilla,” or a serial-killing Bridezilla – and conclude you’re just not that bad? Repent.
  • Have you swallowed “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), or have you suppressed the truth (Romans 1:18), elevating your own definitions of reality above the revealed declarations of God in the Scriptures? Repent.
  • Do you diminish the value and efficacy of the death of Christ on the Cross as sufficient payment for your sin? Have you pursued the demented fallacy of self-atonement? Or denied you need atonement at all? Repent.
  • Are you chasing the happiness-butterfly through activities the Bible calls sin? Or worldliness? Or foolishness? Or evil? Repent.
  • Do you honestly think you can reach God by climbing a latter of perfection? Do you have a solution for your sins apart from the finished work of Christ? Repent.

You can’t just add the grace app to legalism’s operating system and call it good. The whole thing is going to crash.

You need a whole new system, a grace-centric outlook on everything that matters.

Enter the most beautiful, coherent, logical, generous, all-encompassing Theory of Everything ever revealed in this cosmos or any other, humbly titled the Grace of God. There is nothing like it in the annals of world religion. Take history’s smartest philosophers, the world’s greatest religious leaders, and society’s most noble women and men, throw them in a room together for a thousand years with the directive to concoct a religion, and the smartest people in the room would never come up with a system of grace. They’d come up with yet another variation on the same old theme: humans by human effort seeking to merit the approval of God.

Legalism owns the human instinct. That’s because the Fall hardwired a lie into the soul. So Grace Deficit Disorder spreads like black mold beneath life’s happy exterior.

You need to swap out the old system for the new one. The old covenant for the new covenant. Legalism for grace.

That swap is surgical. It’s transformative. It’s repentance.

Always More To Do

Legalism is “a spirit of bondage” which produces “fear.” Under legalism, you can never be confident. You can never breathe easy. There’s always another law to obey, sin to conquer, good work to perform. Under the Old Testament system of sacrifices, there was no end to the blood flowing from the altar, as sacrifice followed upon sacrifice with no end in sight. You could never just sit down and rest in the abiding love of God. Fear of God. Fear of man. Fear of final judgment. Fear of exposure. Fear of people’s opinions. Fear of the disapproving frown. Fear of outsider status. Fear of death, hell, the devil, and the corruptions ever ready to erupt from your own lunatic heart.

The legalistic operating system is built on this fear. It’s what keeps the faithful faithful.

Thank God for the Cross.

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11,12)

He sat down because his work was complete. The age of bondage was over. Fear no longer owned mankind’s instinct. A new age had been inaugurated.

The Spirit of adoption. You are no longer a slave, but a son or a daughter in the royal household of God.

Under grace, the cry of your heart is no longer, “I’m scared,” but “Abba, Father.” Dad, I’m home.

Love now keeps the faithful faithful. Gratitude. Grace. The great mystery of Christ in you.

Repentance is that eye-opening moment of realization in which you finally get what a dummy you’ve been, trying to work your way to heaven instead of receiving a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.

It is the epiphany that your happiness lies in the hand of a Father who every day reaches toward you with a compassion that knows no bounds.

It is the discovery life’s anxieties are wasted in the presence of a throne of grace.

It is the stark realization of the stench rising up from your sins, and an urgent turning and returning unto the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to wash you white as snow.

Repentance switches operating systems from legalism to grace.

It’s epic.

Monumental.

By it, you switch from works to faith.

From earning it to receiving it.

From sweating over it to resting in it.

From earning a paycheck to accepting a gift.

From your efforts to Christ’s efforts.

From your dedication to Christ’s dedication.

From your sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice.

From shadow to substance.

From image to reality.

From religion to relationship.

From despair to hope.

From fear to faith.

From hell to heaven.

And from self to God.

You can’t change your ways until you change your mind, and repentance is that change of mind.

Under grace, God has pre-positioned all your blessings for just-in-time delivery. There’s nothing you face that God hasn’t already seen, and having seen, provided for. If God is for you, who can be against you?

When God delivered me from my fear of judgment, he delivered me into a tremendous sense of peace. Whatever turmoil swirls around my life, whatever storms batter my ship of faith, I know my anchor holds, and one day, I’ll sail into the haven of rest and step into that glorious realm where fears are no more.

Bill Giovannetti, step forward.

I’m here, Father.

Welcome home, Son.

 

Fear Keeps the Faithful Faithful? pt. 1

Today’s post is a BONUS CHAPTER from Grace Intervention on Fear. There is a growing supply of free resources for you to do a Grace Intervention with your church, small group, or retreat. Click here.


Chapter 7

Fear

Even the Christian must fear God. But it is another kind of fear. It is a fear rather of what might have been than of what is; it is a fear of what would come were we not in Christ. Without such fear there can be no true love; for love of the Saviour is proportioned to one’s horror of that from which man has been saved. And how strong are the lives that are suffused with such a love! They are lives brave, not because the realities of life have been ignored, but because they have first been faced – lives that are founded upon the solid foundation of God’s grace. May such lives be ours! ~J. Gresham Machen

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there. ~Author Unknown

Bill Giovannetti, step forward.

I stood there naked, in plain sight, head hanging down, mortified at the exposure. I faced humiliation as public as any I could imagine.

I am speaking of my fear of Judgment Day.

This fear defined me for decades. It lurked in the shadows of everything I did.

The legalist mantra says, “Fear helps keep the faithful faithful.”

Worked for me. I feared final judgment. I feared loss of salvation. I feared God’s disapproving frown. I feared the loss of status with my spiritual peers. I feared a remarkably unenthusiastic welcome into the heavenly realms. I feared failure. I feared I hadn’t done it right in the first place, and wasn’t really saved.

There was a Bible verse I heard a thousand times as a kid growing up: “What a man does in secret, he will one day shout from the rooftops.” No doubt, this was the Death Star spawning my last-days’ phobia.

It wasn’t till I was much older that I made a startling discovery: there’s no such verse in the Bible. Yes, some come close, but those words simply aren’t biblical, not, at least, when it comes to the believer’s final judgment.

Here’s the closest to it I can find:

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. (Matthew 10:26,27)

Even if we apply this verse to the last judgment, it’s still debatable whether it applies to believers in Jesus or not. Otherwise, why would Jesus begin this saying with an exhortation not to fear? At any rate, this is certainly a far cry from the frightening prospect that a naked little me would be shouting my secret sins from any rooftops throughout this life or the next. That discovery blew my mind. Like an addict’s intervention, it changed the course of my life.

Here’s how God’s grace intervention took the stinger out of my life’s greatest fears.

The Guilt Trip

God used a book. The setting was my cavernous high school gym. I was a senior at Chicago’s massive Lane Technical High School, student body over 5,000 at the time. My gym coach was absent for the day, so we sat on hard wooden bleachers and used the hour as a study hall.

I’d brought a book with me about Satan.[i] Little did I know that the last quarter of that book shined a spotlight on guilt and the Cross of Christ. Growing up fundamentalist, as I did, I’d heard about the Cross a million times. But this time was different. It was the first time the death of Christ really clicked with me.

I suspect the reason is because the author framed the Cross within the topic of guilt – which happened to be my middle name. He explained how the devil’s favorite tool was guilt. And how the devil screwed guilt into our backs to slam us around every once in a while.

Who told this guy about me?

My little high school heart was pounding. Pick-up basketball games echoed in the background. The smell of old gym shoes, rubber basketballs, and sweat permeated my senses. My world narrowed to a single point – words on a page illuminated by God’s own Spirit. There, the message of the Cross pierced my guilt and shame. I learned how my sins were lifted out of me that they might be transferred to Christ. I discovered how this transfer was comprehensive – encompassing every moral failure, past, present, and future. I read in wonder how the hammer of heaven heaped justice on the head of Christ, punishing him for my sins instead of punishing me.

And then I read about those wonderful words, IT IS FINISHED, the best words ever uttered on planet earth.

What was finished?

Everything that ever had to happen to bring my sorry soul to heaven without the slightest whisper of my secret sin or shame.

Suddenly, the cosmic plasma screen shattered in a million pieces.

Behind it, I saw the smiling face of God, my Father, who approved of me, and delighted in me more than words could tell.

Grace was real.

It was stronger, far more beautiful, and infinitely more effective than I’d ever thought it was before.

That day, God converted a gym into a sanctuary, as he settled a stupendous promise into my dysfunctional soul: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; / And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

What an epiphany!

I didn’t need to fear the face of God for even one more nanosecond. He was eternally satisfied with me, just as I was.

I wanted to shout Hallelujah, but it felt weird in that setting.

Legalism’s germs proliferate in the dank cellars of fear. They thrive in the moisture of an implacable deity – a God who simply can’t be satisfied with a worm like me.

And yet, that day, God’s sun shined down into the cellars of my heart, and my fear and shame withered away.

I do not count that day as the day of my salvation; I was saved before that, and I’m convinced it “took” and it “stuck” with me forever. God is that faithful.

I do, however, count that day as the day of my assurance. A major healing of much of my Grace Deficit Disorder. I have never seriously doubted my salvation since then, and I have never again stooped beneath the burdensome anticipation of a humiliating entrance to God’s everlasting kingdom.

My guilt was gone, and with it the fear of judgment that fueled so much dysfunction in my life.


 

[i] Hal Lindsey. Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972).

Thank you for reading. Please share using the buttons below. Thanks.
Part 2 tomorrow.

 

Bible’s Top Ten Grace Interventions, pt 2

[Here’s the continuation from the last post…]

Grace is traumatic. Grace is a crisis. It’s a massive reversal of everything you thought about God. I use the word intervention on purpose. An intervention is an “in your face confrontation.” An intervention is a direct challenge to your status quo. In psychology, an intervention is a last ditch effort to persuade a person to deal with a blind spot that’s wrecking their lives.

Here are my Top Ten Grace Interventions in the Bible, part 2.

5. Esther

Grace Deficit Disorder: Our people have a huge problem and I have to solve it.

Grace Intervention: Problem solved in Esther 6, and she isn’t even in the room. Check it out for yourself. Herman’s downfall begins without one bit of help from Esther.

4. The Adulterous Woman

Grace Deficit Disorder: “they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”” John 8:4, 5, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”” John 8:10, 11, NKJV.

Notice the order of Jesus’ statements to her. Until “neither do I condemn you” is hardwired into your psyche, “Go and sin no more” will be impossible.

3. The Four Lepers

Grace Deficit Disorder: “Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? “If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.”” 2 Kings 7:3, 4, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it. Then they said to one another… This day is a day of good news…” 2 Kings 7:8, 9, NKJV.

2. The Jews at the Exodus

Grace Deficit Disorder: Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:12, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” Exodus 14:13, NKJV.

1. Paul

Grace Deficit Disorder: “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: ““Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” Acts 22:6, 7, NKJV.

and… 

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:7, 8, NKJV.

Bottom Line: Sometimes, it takes a kick in the seat of the pants to step up to new levels of grace. Human nature is terminally blind to grace. We need somebody to shake us awake. I pray that God will launch a Grace Revolution in our land. Not the insipid, bland, lenient version of grace currently popular, but the song, muscular, uncompromising grace of Jesus.

 

 

A Pastor’s Wife on Pastor Appreciation Month

You should know I count my dear wife, Margi, as the greatest gift God ever gave me besides salvation. Brave, strong, kind, true, generous, never quitting, dedicated, hard-working, smart, fun, funny, and beautiful. She asked me to share this with you… Please use the share buttons below if you’d like to encourage the pastors and ministers in your life.

October is pastor appreciation month. I am a pastor’s wife. I grew up in church. I came to hear the sermon, which sometimes I loved, sometimes I criticized and sometimes I daydreamed through. I came selfishly to hear what I needed to hear to carry me through the week. I actually never once gave a thought about what the person delivering the sermon had faced that week, that month or that year. Until I married a pastor.

I now know that my husband has to deliver his sermon extolling God’s goodness and grace, His provision, His love and kindness – no matter what.

  • When there is financial pressure and he wonders how he will ever retire, he still needs to preach that God will provide.
  • When there is bad news from the doctor for him or those he loves, he still needs to speak of God’s great love.
  • When illness hits and there seems to be no relief and no response to prayer, he still needs to teach God is the Great Healer, Jehovah Rapha.
  • When his wife cries and wonders why God doesn’t seemingly answer prayers, and his heart breaks watching her struggle with this, he still needs to preach that God answers prayers.
  • When he is sad, he must still declare the joy of the Lord.
  • When his children are hurt or wounded, he continues to preach that God loves the little children, even though it would be easy to not find love.
  • When unspeakable loss is suffered, he still proclaims that God will restore.
  • When it seems that God is taking forever to answer a prayer and he becomes impatient, he must still utter words declaring patience and longsuffering.
  • When he wants to be angry and bitter in spirit, he must reflect God’s kindness and caring.
  • When he has been hurt so deeply by someone, especially someone close to him or someone in his congregation, he must set aside pettiness and preach that vengeance is God’s and forgiveness is needed.
  • When his heart’s prayers for mercy seem to find no answer, he must still trumpet amazing grace.

Dear churchgoer, stop and take a moment to consider the person that feeds you from God’s Word. He is not a super human. He is human. He suffers the same losses, fears, sadness, uncertainties, questions that you face. He does not have a “you are godly” shield accorded to him so that the ills of life bounce off him or his family. He is not immune from the trials of life. Indeed, Satan would love nothing better than to see an effective leader stumble and fail.

In truth, I have learned that the man of God that stands before you week after week is a sensitive human being who silently faces the battles of life and bows his head and prostates himself on the mercies of God because sometimes he can no longer function under his own power. He is not immune from the battles of life that scar the soul and wrench the heart. He just needs to get up week after week and summon the Holy Spirit to speak through him to encourage, educate, challenge, mobilize, and yes, sometimes even amuse you.

This October please take a moment to thank your pastor for the incredible calling he/she answered. It is a calling that requires more than most of us would ever really give thought. It is an honor, and yet an incredible challenge. Pray for those men and women who serve God’s call. Show your love and care. Who knows? Maybe that person that has served you for years desperately needs to be encouraged and uplifted in prayer. Satan is a mighty adversary. Maybe that the man or woman that is called to meet your needs now needs your hand to lift him up and your shoulder to lean on.

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, NKJV).

~ by Margi Giovannetti, Facebook.com/Margaret.Giovannetti

October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month and the 2nd Sunday of each October is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Encourage those who encourage you. Sharing is appreciated.

 

Closure from Past Guilt and Shame

baggage

[This is an excerpt from Secrets to a Happy Life, based on the story of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph’s brothers at long last bow before him, not realizing his identity…]

When the brothers made the epic trek to Egypt, they stood before the Prime Minister to buy grain. He just happened to be their long-lost, mortally-offended brother. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him.

This made for all kinds of comical irony.

The Bible describes four cycles in their conversation, and it wasn’t good. Joseph initiated each cycle with an accusation:

  • Genesis 42:7 “he spoke roughly to them.”
  • Genesis 42:9 “he said to them, ‘You are spies!'”
  • Genesis 42:12 “He said to them, ‘No but you have come to spy out the land!'”
  • Genesis 42:14 “And Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I have told you, you are spies…'”

What was going on?

God was slapping them upside the head with a life-defining truth: the greatest disaster that can ever happen to a human being is settling into a lifestyle beneath your true identity.

So, in his mercy, God freezes his children before the mirror of truth and bids us take a long hard look. What might you see?

  • Deception, conniving, a false front
  • Bitterness, resentment, an unforgiving heart
  • Revenge, passive-agressiveness
  • Evil, cruelty, meanness, abuse
  • Selfishness, narcissism, self-justification, self-promotion
  • Broken relationships
  • Theft, greed, coveting, grasping, pleonexia
  • Slander, backbiting, gossip
  • Plotting
  • Rebellion
  • Pride, self-righteousness, religiosity, judgmentalism
  • Exclusivity, racism, sexism
  • Hypocrisy
  • Woundedness, neediness, desperation
  • Temper, rage, seething hostility
  • Self-pity, self-loathing, self-destruction
  • Despair, quitting, giving up

Welcome to the human race: you have baggage.

When you deny it, your baggage defines you.

easter2010baggageWhen you admit it, your identity in God begins to define you.

God has a place for all that baggage: at the foot of the cross where Jesus died. Leave it there. Let it go. Because Jesus will carry it far away over the ocean of God’s forgiveness and drop it into the depths of forgetfulness.

Your past need never haunt you again. It doesn’t define you. It need not dominate you. Yes, there might be consequences – lasting and difficult – but they do not change your identity in Christ. You are who God says you are, no matter what the evils, losses, traumas, and bullies from the past say about you.

Until you shed the false identity crusting over your true self, your glorious true identity stays mired in the dirt.

Because of Christ’s Cross, closure for past guilt is your birthright in the family of God.

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[as always, sharing is appreciated, thanks]

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6 Weirdly Meaningful Words Christians Have Forgotten

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Sometimes I feel like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, alone in random thoughts that probably matter only to me. Today, I ache a little over the lost of a common Christian vocabulary — the great words of theology, like justification, and propitiation. In addition to those theologically dense words, many of us grew up with other words, transliterations from Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Yesterday, I had to spell the word Maranatha for a young Christian gentleman who had grown up in church. He had never heard the word and had no idea of its connotation. No, the world hasn’t stopped spinning, and the message of Christ advances undeterred. However, I can’t shake the feeling that something’s been lost. A measure of understanding, maybe. Or a depth of insight. Or maybe it’s just a common experience of learning the vocabulary of the faith from the King James Bible.

Or maybe my Inner Curmudgeon is just feeling feisty. So, I offer you 6 weirdly meaningful words of a bygone era — words that many Christians have forgotten.

1. EBENEZER

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12, KJV).

What old-timer doesn’t remember singing, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’m come…” (Come Thou Font)? Samuel erected a monument to the faithfulness of God — something of a place marker. He did it to commemorate a mighty victory over the pesky Philistines. Look how far God has brought us! Let us never forget! God hasn’t brought us this far to let us down now. He has helped us to this point, and he will help us still. Continue reading

It’s Okay to be Free

dreamsI’m haunted by the tears of a missionary who couldn’t say what he wanted. This young man had served God for eight years as a missionary in South America. He was frustrated and felt God might be leading him to another place. He didn’t know what to do.

I asked him, “What do YOU want?”

“Well, I just want to do what God wants me to do… and it’s so hard to figure out God’s will.”

“But what do YOU want to do?” I asked again.

“Well, wherever God wants me to…”

This time I interrupted him. He needed a shock. “Forget about what God wants you to do. What do YOU want? What does YOUR HEART want?”

He looked at me like I was an alien from Jupiter’s moons. Then he burst into tears. He covered his face with his hands, and couldn’t speak. Continue reading

Happy Father’s Day

brenda2Again, I’m happy to present guest blogger Brenda Aman. I’m honored to work along side her at Neighborhood Church. She possesses rare combinations of wisdom, maturity, compassion, and no-nonsense work ethic. She shared this Father’s Day devotional with our staff, and with her permission, I share it with you. 

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I’m grateful to announce that Secrets to a Happy Life has just broken into the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon’s Inspirational list. It’s at #96, but that’s something! Thank you for your help in spreading the word!

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Father’s Day 2013

This weekend the world celebrates Father’s Day. In our busy lives, it is good that we are forced to take a moment and recognize our dads, grandfathers and spiritual dads. I have been blessed by four incredible men who have poured into my life. I had a wonderful father who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, and he taught me about unconditional love and nurturing that I carry with me.  My grandfather modeled and taught me work ethic. Mr. French, my Sunday school and spiritual teacher, taught me about Jesus. Dan Kruse, my spiritual mentor, taught me the wisdom to listen quickly and speak slowly. It has been their love and nurturing in my life that helped build the woman I am today. Continue reading