Passed Up

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18 NIV

My God place is a trail that runs along a creek.  Most of it is hidden from the road. Only a few people know about it or dare to venture off to the unpaved portion.  It is commonly referred to as my “secret place” to friends and to God it’s referred to as our place.  I feel most in God’s presence outdoors and living in an area covered by concrete, it is my nearby escape when I need to listen to what God wants to speak to my heart.

Now, I should let you know that God speaks to me in feathers. It is directly associated with a situation I’m in and I tend to collect them when I see them.  Lately, they have been everywhere in indoor locations which is kind of odd.  They have been constant reminders of what I want to ignore, give-up on, and forget.  But, he seems to be bringing them like rain coming in through a roof.

This morning on my walk, I unexpectedly ran across one that was white.  I picked it up because it reminded me of purity, salvation, and also out of habit. On the way back when I was almost home, again my eye unexpectedly saw one in the grass.  But, this one didn’t look pretty.  It was kind of wet from the dew and mangled.  So after a short pause, I continued in my stride determining its value was not worth bending down to pick up.

And then came the download from God.

People like to pick what is pretty, what looks fresh, and what seems valuable.  The ones that seem dirty, disheveled, and discarded are the ones that get passed up.  The one who is so entrenched in sin, to the point it is obvious to others, is given a quick glance and then ignored.  It seems as if they are not worth the time anymore to pick-up and carry along.

But with a perspective of salvation, God revealed what those two feathers represented. One is the before and one is the after.  We need to be willing to pick a person up and carry them when they don’t seem worth the time of day. By no means are we meant to literally carry what only God can handle and hold.  However, there is much value in a person’s testimony even if their present tells a different story. Passing them up in prayer can be tempting when they seem too far gone, but today was a great reminder that there is always hope that their trial will lead to salvation and a mighty testimony.

With hope,

Erica Salazar

 

 

Resting in Salvation

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

When things started to get really crazy at the stores, every entrance had a stand with sanitizing wipes.  What was the purpose behind providing this offering upon entrance?

  1.  It brought you comfort to keep yourself personally pure of germs from anything that was infected.
  2. It brought you comfort to purify anything you touched in the event you unknowingly were infected with something.

Whatever your personal reason would be for utilizing the wipes, you still had to choose to use them.

Like these sanitation wipes, salvation is a free gift that you have to choose to take and utilize. Choosing salvation and Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, purifies your sinful soul and flesh.  We never reach perfection, but we become clean and a new creation in Christ despite our sinful past.

You also get the mind of a Christ and begin to see things from the Lord‘s perspective. This keeps you from exposing yourself to sin the way you use to   You want to stay pure because you inherit a peace of mind in that lifestyle. You aren’t weighted with guilt, shame, and a feeling of dirtiness.   Instead you can stand confident in your salvation.

Being saved and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, allows you to rest in salvation instead of being restless in sin with a fear of death

I wouldn’t say that death scares me.  The world can be such an ugly place that even with close friends we jokingly/seriously make comments like, “Can’t Jesus come already.  I’m so ready for Heaven.”

What has been on my mind the most during this time is, “Will this chaos create a stirring in the lost to come back to God? Will this calamity cause a calling out from the ones that have denied and rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior?”

I hope it does.  I hope people start reaching for that free gift of salvation that stands at the door of their heart.

With love,

Erica

The Power of IT: Abortion

In my life there have been certain focuses and strongholds that have falsely formed my value and self-worth. Therefore, this series is a sort of testimony on each area before and after coming to Christ.

Before Christ:

I remember a distinct memory from Girl Scouts. We were making a clear ball ornament and decorating it with puff paint. I chose to create three babies holding hands. There was a peach, light yellow, and a baby blue one. I wrote across the bottom, “Save the Babies.” I have faint memories of abortion and women’s rights protests on TV which must have been the motivation of me choosing a side. Sometime between the age of 11-13, it just didn’t seem logical to kill a baby inside a woman’s body. Fast forward to my first couple of years in college; I felt the same way.

However, one day I realized I was “late.” After softball practice, I sat in the dorm community restroom taking a pregnancy test while a teammate waited by the sink to hear the results.

Very quickly two pink lines appeared indicating I was pregnant. Panicked, I told her, “I’m pregnant and I can’t have this baby.” Like that, my position changed because it was happening to me.

Many things raced through my mind at once:

1. Why is this happening to me? I’m a “good” girl. (To my false standards)
2. I’m going to lose my softball scholarship.
3. I don’t want to go back home and live in Houston.
4. I don’t want to become a teacher. (I don’t know why this popped in my head because I was an international business major.)
5. I don’t want to be single forever. Who is going to want to marry me if I have a child already? I want to be married. (Keep in mind I was 20, and having a child outside of marriage was uncommon to me.)

I called my boyfriend immediately and told him that I was pregnant, but was having an abortion. I never asked what he thought or for his opinion. It was a done deal. When I told my coach, she said that she knew this was going to happen. However, I was the last person she thought it would happen to.

The day of the abortion I was wearing black jeans and a gray shirt. My boyfriend drove me in my Ford Ranger to Corpus Christi which was 45 minutes away. I cried the entire way up there. I sat there hoping he would ask me to marry him so it would be “ok” in my mind to have the baby. As we sat in the lobby, I cried uncontrollably. Selfishly, adoption wasn’t an option because I knew if I had the baby I wouldn’t let it go. A lady from the abortion clinic told me that if I didn’t stop crying then the doctor wouldn’t perform the abortion. At some point, I gathered myself together and had it. At that time, they didn’t do an ultrasound, so I just convinced myself at six weeks of pregnancy that it was just a blob.

Following the abortion, I just picked up and moved on with life not giving it too much thought unless I was getting into a serious relationship. That information was always difficult to break and always received with some hesitation and disappointment.

What was going on in my life when I came to Christ:

Again, I was married during this time, but not in a hurry to have kids. I wanted everything to be perfect in my career, our finances, and our quality time. As I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord in Savior, I began to read the Bible and that’s when I was convicted again of what I had done.

I remember reading Jeremiah 29:11 and realizing that everything would have been ok had I had the baby. I also realized had I read the Bible, then I wouldn’t have made that mistake. Fear wouldn’t have dictated my decision. Instead, God’s truth would have and I could have rested and held onto that comfort.

I didn’t know it at the time, but later I struggled with infertility. Many times I would hear testimonies from women who also had abortions and their emotional struggles and scars. However, their testimony always ended with, “But God blessed me with kids.” My story wasn’t having that result and I started to wonder if God loved me less.

My Life Now as a Follower of Christ:

Although I am forgiven, I still struggle with that decision. However, there were three things I was trying to avoid that happened anyway.

1. Living in Houston.
2. Being single
3. Being a teacher
(I happen to actually really love teaching.)

Going through a divorce, one thing that also sticks out is that I would have never met my spouse had I not gotten an abortion. That decision ended up being course altering.

Conclusion:

The truth is, an abortion was a way for me to control my consequences not my body. I exercised my bodily rights/freedoms when I engaged in intercourse. It was a false sense of control much like the deception Eve fell for.

Psalm 139:13 NIV
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:15 NLT
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

To God be the Glory

 

 

The Power of IT: SEX

In my life there have been certain focuses and strongholds that have falsely formed my value and self-worth. Therefore, this series is a sort of testimony on each area before and after coming to Christ.

Before Christ:

I think of all of the human components that have been a part of my life, this has been the most detrimental, although I didn’t realize it until after coming to Christ and going through a divorce.

I remember at a very young age being exposed to pornography or pornographic images (unintentionally I believe and not by my parents).

I remember pulling up my socks high in the back of the daycare bus at the age of 5 because I wanted to be sexy like the girl in the Legs video by ZZ Top. I remember after seeing a Playboy at a slumber party at the age of 6 wanting to be that girl when I grew up and being upset when the city of Corpus Christi wanted to take down the huge bigger than life stripper cutout that towered above the strip club by the freeway. There are several other memories, but what is sad is that these are just some of earliest ones. I hadn’t even made it out of first grade.

Luckily, I had lovingly strict parents, so although this seed was planted at a young age it really couldn’t blossom into action beyond the occasional late night sneaking around trying to catch a glimpse of something on TV with my hand strategically on the remote (or knob) in case my parents woke up and some other boundaries I should not have crossed.

When I got into college, I was really naive and planning on waiting until marriage. Unfortunately, I put myself in a situation and around the wrong type of person and lost IT. I remember crying afterwards and feeling so devalued and ruined and the guy had the nerve to ask me, “Why are you crying?”

I turned on God that day.

From that point on, it was ok as long as I was in a long term relationship. As a marketing major my motto was, “sex sells.” As the president of my college’s American Marketing Association chapter, I hosted a best chest (shirts on for females) contest as a fundraiser. My dancing at clubs definitely didn’t Glorify God and I would say I finally relinquished that playlist from the not so glory days about 3-4 years ago.

What was going on in my life when I received Jesus Christ:

When I received Christ I was married, but carrying this warped image of sex to the point that a lot of my value was tied into it. I would fall for the lies/tricks that the magazines such as Cosmopolitan promoted to supposedly make me irresistible and make the marriage fool proof. Satan knew this, and knew exactly how to destroy the marriage and my self-worth. But, around the third year of marriage I found Christ. My relationship with Him, put me on a trajectory that continues today in discovering that there is only one foundation that sustains a marriage and my value cannot be based off of being enough or not enough for my spouse.

My life now as a follower of Christ:

After being divorced this year and single, I knew that SEX was going to be one of the litmus tests that would show if I’m really a follower of Christ. At first, realizing this after filing for divorce was a double gulp.

But, being in a relationship with Jesus Christ and being able to see in hindsight the damage premarital sex had on me before and after marriage, I saw the truth about SEX and any form of the “everything but sex” category.

1. Anything outside of marriage or the marriage covenant is a cheapened form of the beauty it is intended to be.

2. Sex before marriage or outside the marriage covenant focuses on the flesh: pleasure, performance, ego, control, and lust. In its proper Godly relationship, it is about communion, oneness, unity, and peace. These things bring a deeper pleasure beyond the flesh, because it was not driven by romance as an exchange of “being in love.”

3. Sex before marriage cheapened me and lowered my self esteem when the relationship ended. Was I not good enough to keep him?

4. Those experiences prior to marriage mentally filter their way in, do not prepare you for marriage, or make you better in the bedroom for your spouse. In fact you compare even when you don’t want to. It’s a sort of rolodex of memories that interferes. This includes pornography.

Conclusion:
I’m a sinner saved by grace, but still have to rely on God to keep me protected and pure in this area. Although I have never been addicted to pornography, I know it’s the area that can take me down if I even start to entertain it. I have to guard my eyes from things on the internet and TV. I’ve actually become quite sensitive to things because I’ve gone without TV for over a year. I have had to repent when my finger scrolled back up or slowed down to get a longer glimpse of something that I saw on Facebook that I shouldn’t have. I have also had to unfollow some people due to the images or videos they post that I know can be a stumbling block to me.

Why?

Because it does not glorify God in THAT context and in the end is short term, a quick fix, and an empty void in the long term.

It also devalues me and devalues women. It also communicates to men that our purpose is to be looked at, lusted after, and purely for pleasure first.

God created women (and men) in his image. So to be viewed through the lens of lust is a defilement. Instead we should be viewed through the lens of dignity which respects, lifts up, and protects.

Galatians 5:19-21

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

To God Be the Glory

 

Heart Transplant Bible Study: Week 1

A Heart for Jesus

Worship: King of My Heart

Memory Verse:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Day 1: Introduction
Heart a transplant Eligibility:
According to the Mayo Clinic website, people with serious heart conditions leading to heart failure may be most appropriately treated with a heart transplant if other treatment options have been considered or tried. Heart failure may be caused by many medical conditions….

Reading this I immediately identified with why I needed Jesus in my life. Jesus has always been there by my side. But where I had him was not in my heart. He was in my mind. I believed in Jesus. I believed, that going to heaven meant I needed to be an overall good person. Of course, the deeper my sin, the lower the bar of “good” fell. I believed in going to church and when I didn’t I felt that I should.

This seems pretty normal and from the outside even put together. But the truth is, I was broken. Like the serious heart condition above, I was going about life applying treatments trying to fix this brokenness that I was blind to. I tried to heal it with relationships, accomplishments, and competitiveness. But those treatments were not meant to heal my heart.

God knew this self-treatment was ineffective.

He knows this about all of us. This is why he offers us a “Heart Transplant.” It is an opportunity to let Him perform a mighty spiritual surgery on us that brings us salvation. Will you agree to the operation? It requires your consent.

Day 2: Read Acts 9:1-9 three times https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+9

In verses 9:1-9 there are three types of blindness occurring. First, Paul is blind to the fact that he is persecuting the one true God. I love the line, “breathing out murderous threats.” It really showed his zeal and passion to exterminate who he saw as the enemy. It is pure, fervent, and an unwavering passion that would later be used to save instead of kill.

The second blindness occurred after his conversion. His physical blindness required him to depend on others to get to Damascus. How humbling this must have been for him.

Third, he was blind to his future. Suddenly what he thought his tomorrow would be like was no longer going to be the case.

Reflection:

1. Do you relate to Saul’s blindness in any way?
2. Did Saul choose the day of conversion?
3. When Jesus told Saul to get up and continue to Damascus in verse 6, did he force Saul to go?
4. What words would you use to describe Saul’s decision to follow the Lord’s instructions?

When you agree to let God perform a heart transplant, He has called you to let you know something is wrong. He tells you He has the remedy that will fix it. You have to agree that you need Him in your heart. Then you have to just close your eyes and lay on the operation table and trust God with it.

Day 3: Read Acts 9:10-19 three times

The University of San Francisco Medical Center describes the initial heart transplant recovery below:

“After your surgery, you will wake up in a special sterile room to ensure that you aren’t exposed to infection. Staff and visitors must take measures to make sure that they do not bring in bacteria and infections by scrubbing their hands and wearing protective masks and gowns.
Once you are able to breathe on your own, the ventilator will be removed. However, you will continue to be hooked up to various monitors and catheters for awhile.”

Reflection:
Just like a medical heart transplant, there are “staff” and “visitors” that God brings into your life to assist you. These people will understand the protection you need. They will not be people who will entice you to go back to your old ways. These people don’t want you sick or infected anymore.

1. Who were the “staff” and “visitors” that the Lord brought into Saul’s life to help start and walk along side him in his new journey?
2. Who are people in your life that have a heart for Jesus that can walk along side you?
3. Who can you walk along side?
4. Is there anything that you are doing that could “infect” you or others?

Day 4: A Heart for Jesus

Read Acts 9:20-22 three times

In this passage we witness two things occurring as a result of Saul’s, “Jesus hating heart,” being transplanted with a heart for Jesus. First, people were shocked because it was not in line with his past. Second, we witness that with his new heart, he was becoming more powerful because he not only believed, but trusted the one true Messiah.

Below is the rest of the initial heart transplant recovery according to The University of San Francisco Medical Center.

“When you are stronger, you may be moved to a more general hospital room.
You will have to take precautions to prevent your exposure to infection for the rest of your life. Much of the rest of your hospital recovery will include education and training about taking care of yourself. This includes learning about the anti-rejection medications you will need to take, how to follow a heart-healthy low-fat diet and other changes.”

Reflection:

1. It is normal for people to be shocked at the “new” you. The “You” on the road to spiritual recovery. However, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes, we won’t forgive ourselves or forget the sin even after we have confessed it and acknowledged that Jesus died for our sins. Do you feel you or anyone else is focusing on your “old” self? Explain.
2. Where can you be trained and educated on living a life that reflects you have a heart for Jesus?
3. Why would this be important as you enter a more “general” room?
4. Does a spiritual heart transplant mean that you can continue your previous lifestyle or is it a complete lifestyle change?

Prayer:
Lord, I want to thank you for calling me. I want to thank you for coming into my heart. I became alive in Christ the night I asked you into my heart. The days before were purpose less. My heart had no reason to beat. But, you gave me a new heart. A kicking beating heart that stirs up and desires your will all the days of my remaining life.

To God be the Glory
,