My Soul, My Responsibility

Throughout my life, I’ve never been good at keeping appointments. Whether it was my annual physical with my doctor or my 6 month teeth cleaning, I’ve always felt the urge to cancel the appointment at the last minute. And now I know why… I didn’t like change, and I definitely didn’t like someone telling me that I needed to change or take on new habits. I was stubborn. However, doctors are persistent.

It’s always the same questions over and over again: Do you drink? Are you taking your vitamins? Are you getting proper exercise? I often found myself rolling my eyes at those questions as I answered, “sometimes.” I know you’re probably thinking, how rude. Yes, it was probably a bit rude, but being questioned and interrogated while my naked body was covered with the thinnest cloth made me uncomfortable. As time went on, I got to know my doctor better. I developed a deeper relationship with her, making it easier for me to open up and trust her. And the more I trusted her, the more I wanted to take her advice seriously.

Are you trusting in your Physician?

I don’t mean your physical doctor. As you look beyond the natural you begin to realize that there is a great Physician who cares about your health and well being, and His name is Jesus. As you build a relationship with Him, you begin to trust in His advice and His correction.

So, how is your soul?

Growing in Christ requires inspection, and it invites us to go deeper than the surface. Are we able to be spiritually naked in order to expose things that need healing? Without exposure there is no restoration. And in order for our spirits to be healthy, there are some areas in our lives that we need to take a closer look at.

How is your weight? Maybe you are carrying some things that are weighing you down. God is saying, release it to Me today. How is your diet? Just like a physical diet, it is important for us to add healthy choices and remove – and resist – the wrong ones. Are you exercising? Salvation is something that must be maintained. And are you having fun? God is a joyous God, and a cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22).

God is calling you to draw near to Him. You don’t need to make an appointment, hang out in a waiting room for hours, or sit in a small, cold room as you wait for Him to be done with other patients. Wherever you are, right now, you can call on Him and He will be there with you. He comes to bring comfort, but He also comes to ask us those tough questions:

How is your obedience to God’s word?

Are you growing in humility?

Are you more tender and compassionate?

Are you more in love with Jesus?

Are you more in love with the church?

Are you seeking to reach the lost?

Do you have a servant’s heart?

Are you accountable?

Are you more generous?

Are you enjoying life?

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health, and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” -3 John 1:2

A Matter of Perspective

Sometimes things aren’t merely what we see. Think of a stage play. As an audience member, I see actors on stage reciting well-memorized lines in a convincing way. But behind the scenes, there’s a truckload of equipment and a busload of stagehands. Yes, the play is the thing, but there’s a lot more involved in the production than what we see on stage.

Perhaps an even better example is a movie. Think of the extraordinary amount of people who are gathered off-camera as the actors act. Look at the long list of credits at the end of a movie. I often find myself watching movies and using my imagination to envision what the director, lighting, sound, grips, key grips, best boy, etc. are doing at the moment captured on film. There’s so much going on behind the scenes!  

Sometimes when we look beyond the obvious, an entirely new perspective opens to us.

In our day to day lives, when we realize that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them,” (Romans 8:28) we can experience an extraordinary change in perspective. That swivel, that shift towards understanding that “everything” is being used by God is a vital moment in any given situation as we live God-centered lives.  

There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than is evident to our limited perspective. This simple realization is a part of what we understand as faith; we have faith in the promise that God is in everything with us and He causes everything to work together for the good.  

Having faith that God is behind the scenes, working out every detail, allows us to avoid lots of pitfalls. My friend jokes, “The first rule of accountability is finding someone to blame.” Well, guess what? Knowing God is large and in charge means we no longer play the blame game. We aren’t victims; we are victors.  

Having faith that God is at work allows me to avoid a “me vs. them” mindset. I can have faith that God is at work in every single person’s life. The Holy Spirit is whispering to some people and yelling at others. We don’t need to know who is which, we just know He is at work, 24/7 in everyone. That frees us to engage people with confidence. We can simply pray, “Father God, I know you’re at work in my friend, please use me to further what you’re already doing and allow me to speak into what you’re already speaking.”

Pray like that and keep praying. It’s through prayer, through honest, heartfelt conversation with Him that builds our faith. Even when things seem out of control, He is in control. When things seem like a desert, He is bringing His rain. When we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, He is walking beside us.  

Perhaps knowing the God of all creation wants to walk beside us is the biggest perspective shift. If He is beside us and each step is in step with Him, then is there anything, anyone or anyplace that we need to fear? In fact, as He is beside us, does it matter if all we get to see is the next step? We can let Him be the One working behind our lifelong movie. Instead of a long list of behind-the-scene names including the director, lighting, sound, grips, key grips, best boy, and others, there’s just one name: Jesus. And He is Lord.


Things Have a Way of Working Out

There’s nothing in the world more practical than faith. People tend to think that having faith means moving impossible mountains or taking giant leaps into the unknown. We serve a God who can do the impossible, but even greater faith is the everyday faith. It’s simply trusting God and having an unshakeable confidence that He is still on the throne despite life’s circumstances. With God, things have a way of working out and this should be the foundation of our everyday thought process.

The enemy wants us to take on a worldly mindset which believes that things have a way of going from bad to worse. When we’re facing hardship in our day to day lives, it’s important for us to remember that God is present and working things out. We may not see a way out in the natural, but our Christianity needs to be solid on the fact that God is our Master and He has it all under control. He has the power and authority to shift things in our favor. By knowing the God we serve, it makes it easier to trust Him to get us through whatever difficult circumstances we’re dealing with.

When things don’t go as planned in our lives, it’s easy to let our emotions take over. We quickly turn to fear or panic forgetting that God has complete authority over our situation. Fear paralyzes our faith and keeps us from living in His peace and freedom, but as we put our trust in God, fear loses its power.

Storms in our lives will often come without warning. In the book of Matthew, Jesus was sleeping in a boat with His disciples when without warning, a storm hit and the waves swept over their boat. The disciples cried out that they were going to drown rather than remembering that Jesus was going through the storm with them. Jesus is capable of calming the storm which is exactly what He did that day. The natural response to storms is fear and doubt, but Jesus tells us our response should always be trust.

No matter what you’re going through, dealing with or facing right now, know that God is in the fight with you and He’s more than able to turn an unfavorable situation around for your good. Rest in the Lord and place your confidence in Him. Trust that He is working things out on your behalf.


Before I had a relationship with Jesus, I found myself in the “self-help” section of the bookstore quite often. If you have never been to this section of the bookstore then let me just tell you, they have a book for everything offering quick-fixes and wishful thinking for our deep-rooted problems. Unhappy in your marriage? Get a divorce. Not making enough money? Cheat your way to the top. What these books told me was that I was the solution to all of my problems, and in order to live a blessed and satisfying life, I had to have faith in myself. And because of that, I remained in a rut. Why? Because I wasn’t happy with who I was. No book could speak to my brokenness, and I soon began to see that self-help was the path to a selfish life.

There is only one Book that holds the answers we are searching for- the Bible – God’s Word. In a world that is filled with different opinions and “self-help” books, it is easy to look for answers in all the wrong places. But when we surrender our lives to Jesus, He removes the blinders from our eyes, enabling us to see life from a different perspective. Faith no longer hangs upon what we can or can’t do on our own, but is found in a God who was, and is, and is to come.

“You are blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.” – Psalm 119:1-8

We all want a blessed life, to live joyfully and to be content. But in order to do that, we must live by principles. This means we must look past how we feel and obey what God says. Our feelings will betray us, but God’s Word never returns void, and it will always produce the right kind of fruit. God didn’t promise a pain-free life, but He did promise that our pain would produce endurance.

Our greatest motivating factor is love. We love our spouses, so we honor them and remain faithful. We love others, so we encourage people daily. We love our children, so we protect them. Love compels us to action, just like it compelled Jesus to action. For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son (John 3:16). A difficult, yet love-motivated, sacrifice. For God is love, and if we truly love Him then following the straight and narrow path isn’t hard.  

So, I want to leave you with some questions to wrestle with as you seek to live a blessed life…

Am I a person of integrity?

Do I obey God’s Word?

Am I searching for God with all of my heart?

Do I compromise with evil when things get tough, or do I turn from evil?

Do my actions reflect God’s decrees?

Does the way I live show gratitude?

Do I compare myself to others, or do I compare myself to God’s commands?

Do you believe that God will never give up on you?

Living a blessed life isn’t about self-gratification, nor is it wishful thinking. Living blessed is intentional, a posture of the heart. It’s saying, God is first no matter what comes my way.

Grace & Truth

They were trying to trap Him again; they were trying to find something to use against Jesus to prove He was some kind of heretic. Again. They disturbingly caught a woman in adultery and threw her to the streets, large stones in their hands ready to kill her. She was to die at the hands of these men, because truth without grace is harsh. “The law of Moses says this woman should be killed! What do you say?!” they demanded to know. But instead of answering right away, Jesus starts writing in the dust of the streets. He lowers Himself to where this woman is probably lying terrified and draws. When He rises, He says, “okay. Go ahead. And whoever has never sinned should throw the first stone.” He kneels down again and begins to write in the dusty streets while the men walked away and until all that was left was Jesus, this saved woman, and these big stones. “Where are your accusers? Does nobody condemn you?”

“No…” she says (I imagine through teary and astonished eyes).

“Neither do I. Now go and leave your life of sin.”

Neither do I. Grace.

Now go and leave your life of sin. Truth.

If Jesus had only operated in grace with her, or with us, there would be no accountability, no change. She would have kept sleeping with men who weren’t her husband, and we would still be going strong with whatever we wanted to do. If He had only operated in truth, she would have been stoned, and we would all be facing the death we deserved.  

Jesus balanced grace and truth in His interaction with this woman then, and in His relationship with us now. His grace, His unmerited favor, covers our lives and the truth He brings with Him charges us to live more and more like Him. And since He perfectly covers and charges us with grace and truth, we are also to live in the tension and balance between the two. His ministry model now becomes ours, but how do we do this in a world that’s not very graceful and insists on making truth a buffet?

It’s impossible to live like Jesus without His Spirit-the first guiding factor we need to balance grace and truth in our lives.

Truth is not subjective, nor does it does not come in various sizes according to our wants or preferences which is where our great wrestle with God comes into play. But whose truth will we choose to guide us? Our own “truth,” or God’s truth? And how will we share the truth with others? With big stones and poor motives on Facebook so everyone has a chance to throw their rock? Or balanced with grace and brought on by pure motives?

If we tend to put more weight towards truth, let’s be aware of our motives. Let’s take note of the way in which we speak God’s truth. And let’s follow Ephesians 4:15 which says to speak the truth in love to become more and more like Christ.

On the other end of the scale balancing out truth is grace, and too much weight towards grace will leave us with a doctrine of emotionalism with good vibes and zero accountability. Jesus gives us grace not as a license to sin, but to live above sin and mediocrity. He doesn’t want to stop at just good vibes (grace) with us, but wants to chase grace with truth so we are empowered to live above, to live our fullest, and to live in the perfect tension of grace and truth. Grace saves us, and truth convicts us.

Let’s ask and learn to live in the tension, and to be balanced with grace and truth. We will win people, which is exponentially better than only winning arguments.

Put Jesus First

I know that one word from God can change everything. I also know that when God speaks, His word(s) bring blessings to me. He wants good for me, nothing less than blessings will do. How do I know this is true? Because of Jesus. Jesus wants me to live my life to its fullest, and He wants my life to bless others. How can I bless others if I am not blessed? You can’t give what you don’t have, right? Jesus wants me to use the blessings He gives me to impact the world the way He did. His heart for me is to become more like Him, to reflect His glorious light into a dark, confused world.

So how do I do this? How do I hear from God and receive from Him?

First, put Jesus first in everything. Purposefully invite Him into your life. Then ask Him to help you put Him first. Welcome Him into your time, your money, your affections. It’s good to remember that Jesus put you first. He calls you His bride and He left His Father in heaven to claim you through His death on the cross.

If you want to put Him first, there are three things to recognize as threats. Three enemies are vying for first place in your heart.

1) Yourself.  You have a carnal nature. Saint Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, says “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” Another translation reads “I beat my flesh into submission.” Even Saint Paul isn’t perfect, he has to combat the part of himself that is against God. That part of ourselves is our “flesh.” Our flesh holds pride, unforgiveness, anger, selfishness. Our flesh is our worst critic. Paul writes “the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so…” The problem with our flesh is that our flesh goes everywhere we go. We cannot escape.  But the Holy Spirit also travels everywhere with us! Who will we listen to? It is a choice we make every single day and in every moment. Ask Jesus for help.

2) Carnal Relationships. The Bible advises that we not be “yoked” with unbelievers. In other words, keep core relationships in life, business, and pleasure between yourself and other Christians. You become who you hang with. The enemy, Satan, will use whomever you let influence you to steal God’s blessings. Satan will even use your own family. So be aware that if someone isn’t hearing from God through His Word and His Spirit, it is wise to keep their influence in your life to a minimum. Pray for guidance and affections to come from the right people, from God’s holy people.

3) The World. The world can be a powerful enemy. It is never an ally. The world’s voice is always trying to distract us from God. Whether it’s movies or music, books or magazines, newspapers or blogs, friends or foes, the world wants to draw our attention its way. “Just compromise a little,” that’s the world’s message. Think about the music you listen to, the words in the music and how it affects you. Worldly things attempt to sneak past the gatekeepers of our heart and mind. Pray to Jesus for discernment. Then follow His lead and fill your mind and heart with things of His, not things of the world.

In all things put Jesus first. Trust Him and never be afraid to ask Him for help.

Who Are You?

How would you respond if someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” Most people would probably reply with their name, age, profession, or education. While these may be facts about the person you are today, they don’t define who you are. Our identity goes beyond these external factors and can only be found in the One who created us. Unfortunately, there are many Christians today who are experiencing an identity crisis. Instead of identifying with Christ, they identify and even call themselves as their problems: sick, divorced, bankrupt, etc. It’s when we begin to understand who we are in Christ that the way we think and live changes. Identity is simply understanding ourselves in relation to Christ and living out this reality daily.

As human beings, it’s natural for us to want to identify ourselves with something or someone. But while we’re busy trying to shape our personal identity through outward appearance, achievements, or failures, God has already defined us in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. We often lose sight of that identity and end up chasing after earthly possessions and sinful experiences in an attempt to find life and fulfillment. But our hearts will always remain restless until we meet Jesus.

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “What does God think about me?” or “Who does God say I am?” Many times in scripture, God changed people’s identities. They may have seen themselves one way, but God told them who they really were. This is what happened with Peter. Peter only saw himself in the natural, but God called out who he was in the spiritual – a rock that He would build His Church on (Matthew 16:18).

In the natural realm, this statement doesn’t make any sense. After all, Peter was just a fisherman who denied Jesus three times. He didn’t see himself as a rock or a pillar, but God calls things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17). He doesn’t speak to who we are; He speaks to who we’re meant to be. And He’ll always remind us of who we are before He tells us what to do because our identity determines what we do; what we do doesn’t determine our identity.

We are given our identity so others can see God through us. In other words, God made us who we are so we can make the greatness of God known. It’s up to us to tap into our God-given identity in order for God to use us to reach and build people. We’ve been given the power and the authority to speak things into existence, so if we’re constantly telling ourselves that we’re unworthy, unloved or inadequate, it will dictate what we do and how we influence others.  If you’re steady and secure in your identity in Christ, your actions, speech and life will reflect Him.


Who Is Jesus?

If you were to ask one hundred different people who you were, you would get one hundred different answers. I am a wife to my husband, a daughter to my parents, a mother to my own daughter, a sister, a friend, or a stranger to anybody else. With all of these roles come many different opinions and experiences, even if I’m a stranger to you. If we cannot claim to know one another at all then opinions easily come from our own subjectivity, or based off of the opinion or experience of another. 

And so it is in our experience or lack thereof with Jesus. He’s the same always, but the opinions of Him can be vastly different. If proximity + intimacy = experience then our choices become either positioning ourselves near God, listening for the intimacy of our heartbeats aligning with His own heartbeat, or distancing our hearts, and consequently robbing ourselves of a uniquely Holy experience. Our opinions and experiences of Jesus are in direct relation to our proximity and intimacy with Him.

→ Proximity + Intimacy = Experience

Before I got married, I wanted to be as prepared as possible, and so I read all the books I had enough time for. I got all the information and knowledge I could about cultivating a healthy marriage, but no amount of books could have compared with the actual experience of being married. And how useful would all my information and knowledge have been when that first big throw down exploded if I didn’t use all I had learned? We can have all the information and knowledge about Jesus in the world, but what is it worth if we don’t apply our information and use it in our experience of Him, and His goodness, His grace, His love?

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples give Jesus their answers, and He then asks, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Jesus wasn’t playing on insecurities here-He knows who He is-Jesus was asking His disciples what was in their hearts about Him. They were close to Him, they were intimately wrapped up in Him, so what was their experience of Him? Who did they say He was?

Simon Peter called Him the Christ, the Son of the living God. He was right! But how would you answer?

  1.     Pray! The ultimate question we can answer is who we say Jesus is. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
  2.    Read the Gospels. Jesus, who was fully human and fully divine truly shows how relatable, how relevant, and how completely Holy He is. Begin with the Gospel of John if you need a starting point!
  3.    Invite Jesus into your full life. Remember, our proximity and intimacy culminates into our experience. Inviting Jesus into just bits and pieces of life won’t cut it if we want to fully experience all that He is.

So how about you? Who do you say He is?

The Great Sacrifice

In the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Henry Turner is on the hunt for the treasure that will release his father and the Flying Dutchman from its curse. While chasing another ship, Henry’s ship sails into the Devil’s Triangle where his entire crew is slaughtered by Captain Salazar, leaving Henry as the only survivor. In a brutal battle to locate this treasure, Henry does not give up. With the help of Jack Sparrow and a few others, they find the treasure that releases the cursed ship, reuniting Henry with his father.

The sacrifice of the treasure releases us from the curse. 

Many of us are good at sacrificing our time; we come early to serve and we stay late to break down. We are also faithful at using our God-given talents to serve others. But what about our treasure? We freely give our time and our talents, yet there is something about treasure that we like to hold on to, as if it’s ours. As we fight to hoard, God whispers let go.

Faith requires sacrifice.

For God so loved the world that He gave.

The true meaning of sacrifice is found in Jesus Christ. That day on the cross, Jesus did something that didn’t make sense in the natural. He took our place, and although He knew He was destined for it, it was no easy feat. From His remove this cup from me prayer on Mount of Olives, to Father I entrust my Spirit into your hands (His final words), a shift takes place.

I believe that we too experienced a shift. When Pastor Marco presented us with the mantle of sacrifice a few Sundays ago, many of us were hesitant to pick it up. Reluctance and fear filled the air as we heard the words, “let’s make a huge statement of faith.” HUUUUGE!

As each vision Sunday unfolded, God began releasing his power on the church in a fresh new way, and miracles began to happen. As I walked through the sanctuary doors this Sunday, there was freedom in the air, and a new normal was birthed. With great faith, we boldly released our treasure at the altar breaking the curse of poverty over our city. Hearts that were once reluctant gave from a place of joy. In a matter of minutes there was a freedom that fell over New Bedford. Our giving may not make sense to others, and it may challenge the framework of our culture, but more than anything it is a statement of faith – a legacy left for generations to follow. 

But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us.”

– 1 Chronicles 29:14

We don’t give because we have to-we do it because He first gave. We give because, at the end of the day, it’s all His. And, most importantly, we give because it is more blessed to give than to receive. We know what it’s like to receive God’s love every day. And in our giving, we are sowing into the lives that will come to know this love at 4 Wright Street.

Something Big

Growing up at my house meant dinner around the family table.  All the kids and both parents ate dinner together on every single day of the week.  It was a time for good food (thanks Mom!), conversation, questions and sometimes life lessons.  During dinner, my Dad would instigate conversation by asking questions.  As his kids, we got used to my Dad’s prying intellect.  It seemed normal to have a Dad inquire about your day and thoughts about life.  We would zoom from talk on peanut butter sandwiches to the meaning of life and back again.  I thought this was the normal family dinner experience.  But when friends joined our family’s table and told me how much fun it was to experience this style of table-talk; I realized that my family has its DNA. Thanks to my Dad, asking questions and thinking about life became part of my family’s unique dinner-time DNA.  

Last Sunday our church’s “Dad,” Pastor Steve Boyce, joined our New Bedford church family for a morning of amazing revelation and powerful encouragement.  He reminded us of the New Life Family’s unique DNA.

God put our DNA together and designed New Life DNA for greatness. Satan, on the other hand, lies to us and tries to tell us we are worthless. He wants us to trade God’s DNA for his counterfeit.  But God has other things in mind. God wants us to get out there and be miraculous.  For instance, you’re not just called to give generously; you’re called to give sacrificially.  That’s DNA for you.

Our new building is going to take more money than we find easy to give.  It’s going to push our giving-ness to a very uncomfortable place.  This building is a big sacrifice. It’s a huge risk.  But God is in it with us.

When he asks New Life to risk financially are we expecting success or failure?  It’s easy to set our expectations low.  When we do that, any amount raised would be an incredible success.  But God has our expectations set sky-high!  $320,000! We aren’t called to respect money, to hoard money or to be a slave to money.  We’re not here to worship the “god of money” but rather the God of Everything.  We’re here to give sacrificially and to give extravagantly.  Our God is large and in charge!

It’s wise to note that Satan wants us to back down.  Satan doesn’t want the church to talk about finances or take financial risks. He wants the church to play it safe: analyze finances, plan accordingly, make sound, logical decisions.  He wants the church to think like a business.  If the church thinks like a business, it’ll be poor and broke! And Satan wants the church poor and broke. Good thing Satan isn’t in charge, right?  If he were, we would have a mentality that God is broke (which He isn’t).  New Life finances are never about economic mathematics but rather New Life finances are always about faith.

David thought the house of God ought to be a majestic thing. Like David, New Life wants our building to be a landmark in New Bedford.  This building will open up awesome things and incredible opportunities. New Life New Bedford will be busy day and night. There will be people meetings, prayer meetings, street meetings, praise meetings, young people, old people, lost people, found people…all there 24/7 DOWN AT THE CHURCH.

Yes, this building calls for a big effort and a big sacrifice. And, yes, there’s going to be a fight. God is looking for people that won’t back down from this calling. God is looking for individuals with a particular DNA, with New Life DNA.  God is calling New Lifers to be more than a just church people; He wants warriors for God. He wants something big!