Posted in My Journey

God’s Word Is Life

Oh, if I could only wrap myself in the word of God and make it my blanket, my head would snuggle in its phrases and my heart would feel its warmth in delight. If within its pages I could lose myself and never return, I would ask God for others to do the same, and swim in the ocean of its truth to experience the breadth of God’s love.

God’s word is life. God’s word is love. God’s word is everything anyone would ever want, because everything is what God’s word is. It discerns. It reveals. It cuts to the bone to expose the innermost secrets:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Oh, how wonderful God is to have opened salvation to us through Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For only through Jesus, the Word, can we attain salvation (John 1:1-4, 14). Line upon line, verse upon verse; every word from God’s mouth is a light on to my feet. It builds. It edifies. It supports the church on a cornerstone others have rejected. And it floods the spirit of those wanting to know what truth is.

Be enraptured by God’s word. Be enthralled by it. Grow in its knowledge and in its depth. Know that he gave us this moment in time to draw nearer to him in absolute adoration and joy for him. For the joy of reading God’s word is life on to the reader.

Let us read life into our lives.

Posted in Other Things

Take Off the Mask

[Note from Jack Flacco: Erica Hedtke Barreto attends Hoboken Grace in New Jersey and is this week’s contributing writer for Looking to God.]

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other night when he came home from his men’s dinner group. He explained how the group’s discussion centered on sharing God’s message with others. The group consensus was that each of them was hesitant to talk about who God is, not only in their workplace, but also with the people who were not within their church circle. They admitted their fear of people’s judgement and the labels they would inherit, for instance “Jesus freak”. While we were sitting on the couch together talking about this, I knew I had to have this same conversation with you.

I remember how a few years ago I listened to a sermon telling us that we should be the same person in every moment of our lives. I did not understand this at first, but once I started paying attention, I could see that I would say and do different things at church than I would when hanging out with friends. I would be one Erica in my dinner group and another Erica at work. I would talk about my love for God to certain people, but then to others I would stay quiet. I could feel this conflict in my heart, and it bothered me that I could not be the real Jesus-loving me in every situation, even if I knew what it was that was holding me back. That it was the fear of others judging me for my faith. I was afraid of how people would look at me, treat me, and maybe go so far as to exclude me from activities all because they found out that I am more spiritual than I let on.

There is another side to the coin, though.

God calls us to be His stewards here on Earth. He does not say, “Talk about Me when you feel comfortable.” He does not say, “Praise My name only on Sunday morning surrounded by other Christians.” No, God calls us to be stewards every single day we are on this Earth. Look at what it says in the book of Mark:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

That is, to the whole creation. Not just some, not just when no one is around or paying attention to you, not just when you have an extra ten minutes to spare, not just when you feel like it, and not just to those like you, but to the whole creation.

If that sounds difficult to do, imagine what it was like for Jesus. He put himself in all kinds of uncomfortable situations with lepers, prostitutes, the high priest and the council, regardless of people not accepting Him and regardless of people hating Him; the latter of which ultimately led to His death on the cross. This is the type of surrender that verse is talking about. This is the kind of disciple God was looking for when He set out to create each one of us.

Therefore, why are we throwing ourselves under a cape, hiding our true identities? Is it to make others feel comfortable? If so, let us take off the mask of the image we are projecting, and live the real life God called us to live.

Posted in My Journey

Trust God

Our lives are like the wind. In a moment in time, we will disappear. But with God in our lives, we have meaning. He looks after us. He cares for us. He makes sure that we will not fail; for his destiny for us is greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves. Our salvation rests in Christ. No one can take away our reward. God is our king, and one day He will crown us with glory and honor, as He had done with His son Jesus. We need to trust Him:

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

May God pour love into your heart so that you may become a perfect witness for others to follow. May your light shine in the darkness so that you may become a bulwark for those who are seeking the truth. Glorify God always, giving Him honor in everything. Never allow Satan to take away what rightfully belongs to you. Trust God. His love for you will never fail.

In everything we do, let us trust God with all our might. Nothing in this world comes close to the wealth God has in store for us. Others will rebuke us for our beliefs. Others will condemn us. Others will go as far as falsely claim we are evil in God’s eyes. But we must trust God in everything we do. He knows what we suffer. And He knows what we will need in our time of need. God is just in all that He does. He will never surrender us to anyone. His love for us will be the same today, now and forever.

Trust God, for he will forever be with us always.

Posted in My Journey

Pray Always

Pray always, giving honor to God. He is good. He is awesome. He is our King. Let our prayers be as sweet incense to Him, for there is no one that can prevent us from drawing nearer to Him. His mercy is all-encompassing and His power is never-ending. Be not afraid to approach His throne with requests. He waits patiently for us to come to Him. Seek His will, and He will provide our needs:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)

If we pray steadfastly, God will never abandon us. He will never leave us. He will always be there for us, as He had done by giving His son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. God would do anything to give us everything under the sun.

Let us bend our knees to our Father, for He is a gracious God, the only god, who leads us, protects us, loves us for the sum of who we are, and does not judge us as others would judge us. Let us close our eyes and in deep humility let us worship Him for everything He has done for us in our lives. His spirit holds everything together. We may weep; we may wail; but in all things, God hears us and values our prayers as unmeasured treasure. Our voices are like gifts to Him. Let us give Him the gift of praise.

Pray always and never give evil a chance to sprout. God is a generous god, the only god, the One who will always give to those in need.

Posted in Other Things

Rise Up

[Note from Jack Flacco: I have known Erica Hedtke Barreto for several years now. Her love for Jesus and the bible is beyond measure. When I asked if she would like to submit one of her articles to me for publication, she jumped at the chance. Below is the result. Please join me today in welcoming Erica as a contributing writer for Looking to God.]

What do these three entities have in common: Voldemort, Beetlejuice and the devil? All are evil and all their names are not to be spoken aloud. However, just because we may choose not to say their names, does not mean all of them are fantasies.

Not saying “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” does not change the fact that in fictional reality, this utterance would cause him to appear. In the same way, ignoring the devil’s presence will not change the fact that in our reality he very much exists and very much interferes in our everyday life. By ignoring his presence, we end up giving him power. We are like a parent who looks the other way as the child steals the piece of candy off the shelf. Rather, what we should do is call him by name and catch him in the act. Otherwise, we let him win. He goes about his time thinking that he owns us and knows exactly how to mess with us. We let him wreak havoc on our days, on our confidence, and on our relationships.

We need to recognize that the devil is as real as God is. We need to be okay with saying his name. We need to remember that he is that evil, little monster whose job it is to play mind games and to manipulate us into thinking we are not good enough for anything. From that point on, you call him on it. Do not allow him to sneak into your thoughts; he does not deserve any power over you. Confess in that moment, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” as it says in Psalms 27:1. And if you notice that he is using his number one warfare tactic—fear—then continue that verse by saying, “whom shall I fear?” We are children of the King and our God Himself told us that if we are His, then we have no reason to fear anything.

So listen up devil: we see you. We hear you. And we are not afraid to put you back in that rightful place our King has sent you!

Let us rise up in 2019 not to be afraid to speak our salvation aloud. Let us not be afraid to take down these evil enemies. Jesus already won the war. Now, with His help, it is up to us to win the battles.

Posted in My Journey

A Gentle Spirit

Be kind to one another. Love each other as Jesus loved you, insomuch that He shed his blood for us while we were yet sinners. Give and never fear of going without. God will always provide. He is the one who created everything. Is it so difficult for Him to supply the needs for his children?

Above all else, remember to have a soft and gentle heart to those who wrong you. They are lost, and they do not know what they do when they are harming you. The apostle Peter says it this way:

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:19)

Be merciful to your persecutors. For as it says in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

A gentle spirit is humble. A gentle spirit is pure. It does not desire vengeance, nor does it desire evil for evil. It returns love for hate. It shows understanding when there is a lack of wisdom. And it promotes comfort for those times when others feel insecure.

Never be afraid to show the world what Jesus looks like living inside you.

Posted in My Journey

What Is Love?

Love does not hate; it does not boast, nor does it seek revenge. Love cares for another more than oneself; it is not proud, arrogant or unmerciful. Love leads, conquers prejudice, and gives even when in need. Love is not afraid and will always be kind.

It would be easy to quote the apostle Paul’s inspired words about love from 1 Corinthians 13, but one of the greatest thoughts about love comes from Jesus himself, when he said:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus demonstrated that very love when he died on the cross for us in order to pay for the penalty of our sins. And although the night before his death Jesus fervently prayed to God regarding this great responsibility placed on his shoulders, he still accepted it because it was God’s will. No other act in human history depicts just how much God loves us than for him to have given his son Jesus as a sacrifice to redeem us from death.

What is love? It is to look upon Christ’s sacrifice and to conclude how selfless an act it truly was for him to give his last breath for us sinners. It is to become like Jesus and to sacrifice ourselves for others as a means to allow Christ to live in us, not only in word but also in deed. We Christians owe our lives to God, and what better way to show our love for him than to give as he gave so that we can experience the fullness of his love living in us. No greater love is it than to sacrifice one’s life for friends.

As we move into the new year, let us resolve to let our light shine so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.