Stand Still

Exodus 14:14

14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

praying by the lake

[Narrative]

The finish line draws near; however, peace is not my prize. As I pick up speed, I notice the ribbon sagging from the weight of this world. It drips with sorrow, lies, hypocrisy, disunity, and pride. The ribbon holders laugh at my stride and posture which once represented faith, hope, and love. A quick look over my shoulder reinforces my deepest fears…I’m on the wrong road.

My foot strikes the ground with discernible force through the activation of every fiber in my body causing me to abruptly stop. Both force and motion propel me to the ground; yet, I refuse to brace the fall. Through slow-motion action, my past replays through my mind just before slamming face-first into the ground…stillness.

Multiple wounds appear but the origin is suspicious. After careful inspection, my flesh is unharmed but my soul is damaged. Each movement in an attempt to get back on my feet deepens the fragile soul. A prayer is heard and a still small voice whispers from above.

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I am lifted into the Father’s arms where the shadow of the Almighty soothes my soul. I am taken to a mighty oak tree. The Holy Spirit imparts wisdom and truth while resting under the branches. The shifting shadows and flickering lights force a weary mind to be still and know that He is God for only God could make light dance through the trees. I am whisked away high upon a mountaintop where the snow sings a gospel chorus. I see the Father’s hand effortlessly conducting this melodious symphony bringing praise back into His arms. I am then carried to the seashore where the sand welcomes the tide as if begging to be refreshed. My eyes are unveiled as I observe the Father placing the waves exactly where He pleases. The boulders accept His announcement by clapping the waters together resulting in an eruption of praise.

A gentle stare is interrupted with the warmest of touches. The Father’s hands rest on my shoulders causing me to fall backwards. This fall was most certainly different than the one before. I expected an embrace this time! My soul fell upon His gentle embrace and my faith was restored. As I attempted to look into His face, the blinding light shouts a promise, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I then awaken on my new road…one with purpose and paved with His will. My eyes remain on the cross as a great cloud of witnesses cheer me on. The fiery darts do not stop; however, they are extinguished by the blood covering of the spotless Lamb. Each step brings new meaning and strengthens my desire to do more for the Kingdom, and praises abound from a heart overjoyed with knowing that I am truly free!

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Judging Others

Matthew 7:1-5

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

judgement

The tongue brings forth both praise and condemnation almost within the same breath. We’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” However, I want to take this a step further by saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, ask God to reveal your own plank so the Master Surgeon can skillfully remove this evil from your body.”

James 3:8-9, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

Yes, I’ve heard it all! You say, “But her sin is greater than mine!” “She went down a dark road and ruined many lives.” “He lives in sin yet comes to church like nothing is wrong.” The list is endless! Yet, the mirror image of your condemnation tarnishes your very own appearance.

The stumbling block verbally created by linguistically simple phrases blocks spiritual progress in the body of Christ. In other words, it doesn’t take much effort and much movement within the mouth to destroy not just one person but an entire assembly through relentless gossip, judgement, and hate.

~Venom projects into the body of Christ with such articulate morphology of evil overtones.

~Charisma masks the hatred under the skin in order to draw others into the stumbling block of defeat.

~A critical spirit takes residence within the laryngeal vestibule.

~Speech is filtered now through evil intentions.

~What can break this type of stronghold? The NAME OF JESUS!

Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Dear believers, we come together and ask that God pierce us all against such sinfulness masquerading as concern for others. The simple truth is…you are gossiping and holding the body of Christ hostage with your entangled words. No one is immune to the simplicity of this mighty sin. Therefore, if you truly have nothing nice to say, I ask that the Holy Spirit humble you at that very moment. Seek His face in order that your words may be uplifting and beneficial to those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Question: Have you allowed your tongue to produce venomous condemnation or fruitful edification?

Challenge: Ask God to place a spiritual mirror in your face at the very moment you feel the desire to condemn others?

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Empathy

Psalm 56:8

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Empathy

PRIDE manifests in many different ways. I recently had an experience with pride that was rooted in fear. You see, the evil one knows our weaknesses, and he also knows how to capitalize on our faults. As I walked into an unfamiliar life situation last week, fear appeared to accompany me. In a moment of weakness, pride sprung forth and stole a kingdom opportunity to “live like Jesus.” The blessing is in the conviction. I am thankful when the Holy Spirit immediately convicts us of our sins. We are then able to humble ourselves before the Lord and seek the Father’s forgiveness. 

~What does pride look like in your life?  

P – Pious 

R – Rebellious

I – Impolite

D – Domineering

E – Egocentric

Pride steals our ability to see others through the eyes of Jesus! Empathy is not just a “psychological” term if you will.  It embodies the life of Jesus as well. Luke 10:27 says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Frankly dear friends, you cannot fully love the Lord and love your neighbor when you are too in love with yourself.

Jesus provides us a beautiful example of empathy and truly “living like Jesus” through the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:33-35 says, “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.'”

The Samaritan man exemplified the true heart of Jesus – empathy out of love. Empathy has nothing to do with feeling sorry for someone. Empathy, to me, is more of an action emotion. The good Samaritan not only felt compassion (i.e., empathy), he acted! How do you respond when you see your neighbor, friend, stranger, church member, etc. hurting? Do you judge them based on your own values and personal characteristics or do you act out of love?

Over the past several weeks, I have held in tears of the unknown. Yet, the Holy Spirit pierced my heart not long thereafter when He said to me, “I collect your tears!” Please don’t get me wrong…I was not shedding tears out of anxiety or fear for I truly believed God would carry me through my valley. Yet, God quickly reminded me that it is okay to be human!

How did Jesus respond when his dear friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” [John 11:35] It is stated in this passage that those standing around Jesus saw how much he loved his dear friend. Was Jesus crying out of fear, worry, unrighteous anger? Emphatic NO!

I strongly encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit full access to your heart. Demonstrating true empathy when others are hurting can only grow out of humility. Please never forget that pride typically doesn’t stand alone. It loves misery and brings friends along. Therefore, pride sits at the head of the table with jealousy, judgment, anger, and fear.

Question: How do you respond to those around you? [Empathy vs Pride]

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Perfect Love

1 John 4:18-19

18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.19 We love because He first loved us.

victory

It has been a long day, but these words circulate through her mind like a broken record, “Is it really over? Do I have the energy to fight for this marriage any longer?” She musters the strength to clock out after a 12 hour nursing shift which only leads to acknowledging bottled up emotions from a broken marriage.

She finds herself driving home in “autopilot” unaware of stop signs and passing emergency vehicles because fear has overwhelmed her senses. The thoughts once implanted deep within her brain have quickly surfaced into a single person dialogue. She thinks, “Why doesn’t he love me like I need to be loved? He’s just so angry all the time! Where did it all go wrong?” Yet, this time she hears a reply, “He doesn’t love you, and you aren’t good enough.” Stunned, she reflexively slams on the breaks yet her feet never move. She is disoriented because her reality doesn’t match her emotions. She quickly pulls over to catch her breath, “Am I having a nervous breakdown?” she thinks. At that very moment fear is born and rapidly growing.

As she enters through the front door of their single story country home, she shuts the door ever so softly hoping not to be noticed. She just can’t find the strength to argue any more. She removes her shoes and slides across the living room floor as anxiety and frustration increase. Her thoughts begin to take control, “Why do I have to act like this in my own home? I’m done with him and living like this!” As she enters the bedroom, her fears quickly multiply as she comes face to face with her husband. “Why are you just standing there?” she says forcefully. “Better yet, don’t answer that. I don’t have the energy to argue with you. Just get out of my way; don’t talk to me, and leave me alone. I’m obviously not good enough for you so why even try!”

As she walks around him, her eyes are unveiled for the first time in months. She sees roses and love notes scattered across the room. Her fear is crippling and attempts to induce confusion. “Wait, um, what is all of this?” she says under her breath hoping not to cry. He takes her hand and begins to speak, “I’ve been praying and God has revealed His perfect love to me. Even more, He has convicted me, and I first want to say I’m sorry.”

At that very moment, perfect love drives out all fear from their home and the Holy Spirit is allowed to begin the healing process. Trust and mutual respect will be restored. Love and generosity replace resentment and bitterness.

God reminds us that His design is perfect. His love is perfect. In fact, He sent His Son to die on a cross to save the entire world out of perfect love and perfect obedience. What a beautiful example for us all! Dear friends, always remember that fear is a spirit, one that we should not welcome and one that is not from our heavenly Father. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Perfect love is so powerful, Christ-centered love, that it drives out fear.

Satan is well aware that He is no match for the Father, but the evil one has convinced you, your family, your relationships, your friends, etc. that bitterness, fear, anger, resentment, and failure are inevitable. Today we say – NO MORE! Under the blood covering of Jesus Christ, we take back our families and relationships as we stand on perfect love! We shall never forget that Jesus Christ is the author of perfect love, and we will thrive on His cornerstone.

Question: Are you in a struggling relationship? How will you use “perfect love” to drive out fear?

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Keep Going!

Galatians 6:9

So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

never give up

Will it ever end? Maybe those words have crossed your mind this week. Between reoccurring natural disasters and the recent attack on innocent lives, there is a lot to mourn. In fact, The Psalmist said it best in Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Is God paying attention? YES!

Does He care? OF COURSE!

Is He still in control? ABSOLUTELY!

What strikes me the most is learning to remain faithful through tragedy. In essence, I yearn to have a “prison like deliverance” similar to Paul and Silas. You see, they chose to pray and sing hymns while in jail…did you catch that? Did they sulk? No, quite the opposite; they were praising God and being powerful examples of Christ in the worst of environments. The best part of the story could arguably be the resultant salvation of the guard and his family…wow! It all started with worship in the midst of tragedy. Please hear me when I say that dear friends…it starts with simply focusing on Christ and humbly worshiping the Creator; the One who is ultimately in control!

You have no idea who is watching you! You are charged with being pillars and examples of the Most High! You have a powerful responsibility to praise during tragedy; start with worship and expect God to always show up! If you believe, the Spirit is willing and able! So, do not get tired of doing good! Keep pressing forward in the faith and making disciples. Remember, you are in the business of Kingdom authority.

P.S. Check out this great blogger who posts inspirational messages on life and faith in God: “Humble Mumblings” by Ali – click here.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Blaze

James 3:2-6

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

flame

We’ve all been there…with just seconds separating the two episodes, both edifying words and destructive gossip inhabit the same space—your tongue! We have all seen the destructive power of the tongue. Sadly, many of us have been the “lingual pyromaniacs” before!

We know from science and psychology that pyromania is an impulse control disorder where an individual cannot control the urge to start fires. However, I am here today to shed light on the truth that many of us have the same impulse control disorder when it comes to controlling the tongue.

Many of us are never fully aware of how our words catastrophically impact others, situations, events, etc. We simply express negative thoughts, hurtful gossip, and wrongful lies without ever thinking of the whole impact; in fact, we feel somewhat reinforced when we are able to spread information to others, even falsely. This is true sin-nature.

Just as the passage above denotes, your “tiny spark” of negativity and gossip has great potential to set an entire “forest on fire.” To be fully transparent, I was a witness to this exact phenomenon recently. I was approached by a friend who “heard some gossip” about a local leader. These defamatory words were being shared in rapid transformation between multiple parties creating a “forest fire” of lies, hate, gossip, and division! Sadly, the information presented was not even worth sharing, repeating, engaging, etc. However, the devil used just the right people at just the right time to create a fire storm in order to destroy a leader…for what…gossip!

Let’s be real…Does the instigator know that he or she created such a mess? Honestly, probably not but that’s the point! Most of us are never fully aware. I am here to tell you that the impact is always great! Do not assume that impact is proportionate with volume. Meaning, “If I share this hateful speech, negative thought, or wrongful gossip with just one other person and it ‘stops’ there, then it won’t be so bad!” —WRONG.

The damage is done when the language leaves your mouth and travels through the atmosphere awaiting the acoustic clearing into another’s mind. Satan is granted permission to use your “spark” and create a firestorm of destruction. Dear friends, do NOT be used by the evil forces surrounding us. For starters, I strongly want to encourage each of us to focus on the cross, mind our manners, and stop thinking so piously of ourselves.

You may find that you have so much to say about others because you find yourself so important. You begin to find peace and stillness in speech when you humble yourself before the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and make you keenly aware of such sin; repent and allow the Spirit to feed you correctly. If you find that you are instigating such hurtful speech, I encourage you to extinguish such behavior through prayer and worship. Use your speech to glorify the Father, which gives you less time to focus on yourself and what other’s are doing or not doing to your satisfaction. As God is faithful to forgive, I implore you to seek forgiveness from those you have hurt as well.

Question: How are you using your words lately?…[edification or destruction]

Thankful,

Christian Armetta