buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

The Passing

Ever since I heard of Billy Graham’s change of address – his words he hasn’t died but changed addresses; I have been moved to tears with many of the testimonies on the wide world web. His impact cannot be denied.

Although he wasn’t instrumental in my “Just as I am” moment (my local pastor was), Dr. Graham (or Billy as he like to be called) did impact me too. He was part of my spiritual journey. When his events were televised, I listened with my parents; sometimes under compulsion, sometimes with great interest. When Billy had an event in my town, I went and sat on the steps – disregarding fire regulations and the ushers. I don’t remember a word that was said. But I remember the feeling of being in something significant. Many lives were being changed in that moment of time.

I think I am most sad today that it is a passing that will most likely never be matched again. World leaders will die and be honored in such a way that will match the magnitude of what we witness next week. However, there is something so much more significant in what we will observe with his passing. One last time, we will witness something significant. We may not understand it in the moment, but I believe when we look back we will recognize this moment – it will be a hinge moment in our history. It will be a significant passing.

God chose this hour for Billy’s passing from this life to his eternal life. I think it is very significant in the greater picture. I think our nation is in that moment when people are seeking something greater. They say Billy reached millions for Jesus Christ. I totally agree with it. But what I have been wondering about the aftermath of the crusades. The ones who received that glorious gift in those events, did they go on to be discipled in the way of Jesus’ teaching? Maybe, maybe not. I can’t say.

My prayer is for the next week, those people who were not discipled will remember the moment they heard Billy’s message will respond once again in his passing. They have to wonder if what they have is real as it was for Billy. And they will start seeking once again.

I am praying for such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that anyone who has heard the message in their lives, that they will respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting – whatever that prompting maybe. Change of heart; change of lifestyle; removing any obstacle that is breaking the fellowship with Jesus; anything that will hinder the Good News in their lives so that they can live more authentically with Jesus.

They say Billy was a humble man. They say he was authentic at home as he was on stage. He raised good kids who all have championed the call of Jesus Christ. I have read that he prayed continually and kept an open Bible close by so that anytime he passed by he would read a verse or two, a chapter or two or stay in it for an hour or two. He was dedicated to knowing this Jesus whom he proclaimed as Lord and Savior for whosoever – all; no distinction of color, race, gender or nationality.

Many are calling Billy the modern-day Apostle Paul. Paul was greatly used by God to reach the known world for Jesus – in Paul’s time, but also in ours. Billy has been said to have reached millions, more than any other pastor in history. There have been many in generations who led great awakenings and carried the Word to the masses. They didn’t have all the technology advances to do everything that Billy did in his lifetime. I wonder how Billy stacks up to the rest of those who have done great things. But then again, does it really matter? God can use anybody at anytime to do such things – greater things than anyone could imagine; even Billy said he had no idea what God had in store for him.

The difference in these men (and women) of faith who did these things was that they were available. That’s all God is asking of us. Be available to be used. Just say yes. Billy’s passing isn’t the end of the era of those great things. It’s just another opportunity for someone else to step into the void and be the useful tool in God’s hands. Who is it going to be? If there is another great awakening in this land, then someone needs to stand in the gap. Is it you? Is it me? Is it all of us doing our part? Yes, to it all. It’s reaching across the fence to the one on the other side to share what Jesus has done in each of us. People want to know if this Jesus is real. Tell them the story. You have one. Me too. Maybe it’s the time when you were at the Billy Graham crusade and met Jesus there.

Billy’s faith became sight on February 21. And we can have the same confidence that Billy had. We can also discover this Jesus for ourselves in His Word, just like Billy. The difference is – will we take the time to discover these things or just pass them off – save it for later in life? We just never know when life will change in a heartbeat and we discover Jesus is for real when it’s too late to choose. The choice is here and now, not when we get to heaven. Billy left us with a reminder that Jesus is for all “just as I am.”

“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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Advertisements

Be the Light

Have you ever had a dream that left you feeling unsettled? The last two mornings, I have had that feeling. I don’t know why I dreamed the things I have dreamed, but they were disturbing nonetheless. This last one was about a storm brewing that I could not escape. The winds were picking up and the black clouds were rolling in. I was not at home and I couldn’t make my way there because I couldn’t find my car – actually it was a van which is a bit more unsettling to me as well! Anyway, I woke up in that state of “what am I to do?” “Where am I going to go?” Yuck. I didn’t get to finish the dream. I guess that’s why it’s so unsettling; there’s no conclusion. Did I make it through the storm? Did I ever find the hideous van? (Nothing against vans, but this one was a wreck.)

Maybe this dream was because of the unsettled times we’re in. The storm brewing feels like it’s never going to end. And we are, for sure, not at home in this place. I don’t usually write about the tragedies we are experiencing. But I read some of the comments on Facebook last night about gun control, mental illness and politics that left me feeling a bit unsettled. There is a lot of anger coming from all corners. I don’t have kids so I really don’t think about the things parents think about, but I understand the anger.

I don’t have a problem with guns, although I don’t like them. I feel sorry for those who are dealing with mental illness. And I am sorry that all they are given are drugs instead of helping them with the problem. There has to be a different course of action. Background checks will continue to fail the system. Evil is still a problem that cannot be legislated. Parkland maybe the latest but unfortunately will not be the last. There is always a way for evil to find its way. “Where there is a will there will be a way.” It does feel hopeless and unsettling.

We have been on this slippery slope for quite some time. I can remember the unsettling times we had when I was growing up. Back then it was rioting and knives were the course of action. Guns were not an issue. I don’t remember what set it all off. I was in grade school when the riots happened in the local high school. When the high school kids came onto our school grounds, the principal made them leave – and they did. There was respect for authority back then.

Maybe it was my generation that began this slippery slope. We didn’t like the rules we had growing up and we relaxed them for our kids. Maybe the baby boomers got it wrong and the generations coming from them are experiencing the consequences. We took out spanking the kids when they broke the rules – I know; child abuse and all that – I get it. We have to be politically correct and not allow any mention of God in school life. No prayers; although I don’t remember prayers in my school at the time. But the things I grew up with, seemed to have gone away. School isn’t the same as it once was. I don’t know whose fault it really is but culture will not change any time soon. We’re too far down the slope to turn back now, right?

The real problem we’re facing is a heart problem. Somewhere along the way, the heart problem got more pronounced. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. We haven’t sown into the heart the ideas of right and wrong; of love and kindness; of respect for authority. We have gotten way off track. I think we started chasing the almighty dollar and left the family to fend for itself. The dollar has failed us. The family unit is no longer the same. When the family unit has been destroyed, so will the community as a whole. The threads of life are unraveling at a faster pace than ever before. It’s hard to get the family and the community back together again. And the systems are failing because of it.

So, what is the answer we are seeking? Yes, the correct answer is Jesus. However, the community needs the church to wake up to the problem. We need to stop chasing the dollar and start paying more attention to the family. We need to bring back the heart of Jesus’ message to the church and to the community. Love God and love one another. When we follow those commands, it will change the family and the community. It’s not a simple change. It’s a small ruder to turn this boat around.

The church has quite a bit of accountability for this slippery slope. We have allowed evil to reign in our communities and in our families. The church has to be more proactive instead of reactive. It’s not about our programs that will change this world. It’s about the heart of Jesus and showing it to others outside of our walls.

You do know who the church is, right? It’s you. And me. Anyone who follows Jesus has a part to play in solving this problem. And we need to get more involved – even if we don’t have kids – yes, I am talking to myself now. The light will dispel the darkness. We have to be out there showing the love of Jesus to those who have no idea He will change their lives – He will change their hearts. We can’t just talk about it anymore. We have to demonstrate it. Let others experience this love for themselves. It changes everything.

Maybe we need to experience it again too. Maybe we’re part of the problem. We have forgotten God’s love for us and we feel unloved as a whole. Are you on your knees? It’s time, church. We can make a difference. One child at a time. One family at a time. One community at a time. One state. One nation. One world. It’s our purpose. Let’s get on with it.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Pressing In

Several years ago, I realized I needed to make a move before I was in the age of unemployable; but I didn’t make the move. Like the times before when I have made a move, I stayed in the job until I became dissatisfied and restless. When the restlessness settled in, I jumped into something new. I didn’t know how I was going to make it on my own, but I felt that God was with me in it. And He was, just not the way I envisioned it.

It’s been seven years ago this month since I made the move to try this new thing. The new thing is no longer new or deemed feasible for my long-term progress. So here I am in this age of unemployable where I didn’t want to be. Is God doing something in this season? Yes, but it’s going to be different from what I envision – it’s just His way.

Over the last few weeks, I have been pressing more into God. I am learning how to pray more effectively or at least pressing into the desperation more and praying for God to move. At times, the lack of faith is evident with a certain downcast spirit. A feeling of defeat settles on me, which is not from God.

The feeling of defeat is none other than the enemy trying to devouring me. The enemy looks for those types of opportunities when the faith is weak and the opportunity to trust God is great. It’s the perfect set up for God, but also the perfect set up for the enemy to cast us into worry.

Speaking of worry, Dr. Tony Evans had a message on how to reverse anxiety. He said that worry is a sin. Worry means we are “torn into” – it shows we are torn between two masters and we cannot serve both. Worry actually shows our lack of faith in our great God. The passage in Matthew 6:25-34 gives us Jesus’ take on worry. The “worry” teaching comes right after the “money” teaching. Jesus told His disciples that life is more than food and clothes. He said to look at nature and see that nature doesn’t worry about the things we wring our hands over. The birds always get the worms. They always find twigs for nests. The lilies of the field receive sunshine and rain. God gives them exactly what they need to survive.

Why do we worry? God knows what we need. If He provides in nature, why don’t we think He will provide for us, who He loves more than the birds and the flowers? Jesus said to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Dr. Evans said that trouble in our lives is our opportunity for God to show up. This is the season to press harder into God’s loving embrace. Dr. Evans said that God doesn’t give us tomorrow’s mercy today. There are new mercies every day. God is faithful in today. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. So for today, this is the day to remember God’s faithfulness. He has been faithful in the past, so why would He change today? He doesn’t. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is never late. Nothing is a surprise either. I may have not seen this season coming, but He did.

I usually do not worry. I usually have more faith. Sometimes though, worry creeps in until I can get a hold of God’s promises. Once I get with God, He will reassure me and I find peace once again. This season will be a defining season for me – it will be a faith building exercise. It’s not the end of my story. God’s pen is still poised to write a greater testimony for me. I can’t wait to see how He will show up and show off. I can’t wait to sit down and write what He is doing. Right now, I am praising Him for the opportunity and for the provision for today. I am rejoicing that God is still on His throne and He still has His eyes on me.

Dr. Evans stated: God is in His rightful place; He is not reacting to us, but we need to react to Him. If God is moving, then we need to move with Him. We need to see the opportunities as they come. It means we keep our faith in Him but also do our part. God has me in the right place to learn a new lesson and I will write the testimony of God’s greatness. However, I wouldn’t mind if the prayer warriors reading this would help me pray about these matters.

In Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle 40 day prayer challenge he wrote that we need to share our testimonies of how God moves in our lives during our rough spots. We need to share it because others need to hear it. Mark wrote that if God did it for them, He might just do it for me. So testimonies are fuel for our faith. Let’s spark some fire in our souls; watch God work through us and give Him a shout of praise! Amen!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Think About This

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to live when Jesus walked the earth? What would it have been like to be in the crowds listening to Him preach the Word of God? Would you have walked away when the teaching got hard? I might have. I would like to think I would have been as attentive as Mary sitting at His feet. I would like to believe that I too would have followed Him even if it meant I would die for my beliefs. I know many people followed for a little while then many left because He wasn’t what they had envisioned as their Messiah – a war hero that came to conquer Rome.

Since the Christmas season, something I read during that time has been marinating in my brain. The story of the wise men visiting the baby Jesus is the seed of thought. When the wise men inquired about the place of birth for the King of the Jews, they asked the sitting ruler of the region, King Herod. The King didn’t know the answer, so he called the chief priests and the teachers of the law. The men knew the answer because it was written by the prophet Micah centuries ago.

The wise men told the King the star had risen in the east and they followed the star so that they could worship the king of the Jews. The king was disturbed and all of Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3). I understand why the king was disturbed – he didn’t want to be replaced by another king. His lifestyle would have changed; his position would come to an end; maybe even his life if a new king was crowned. But why was Jerusalem disturbed? Also, why is it when the wise men set out for Bethlehem, they went alone? Wouldn’t the chief priests want to see their Messiah and worship Him too? Weren’t they curious?

These were learned men. They had been taught from very early in life and memorized everything written in their Scripture. Yet, they missed the best thing about the Word – the Word came to life that day. The chance passed without one thought toward it because they kept missing Him.

The next time we read about Jesus, we find Him old enough to sit in the temple listening and asking questions of the teachers. Luke records everyone was amazed at His understanding and his answers (Luke 2:47). But no one seems to have been aware that the Messiah was in their midst. If these teachers were in the crowd that day at King Herod’s palace when the wise men came to visit, they didn’t seem to recall the Messiah had been born. Surely the Messiah would show up one day in the temple where everyone was expected to visit – especially during their high Holy Days. They obviously didn’t connect the dots.

The next time we see Jesus, He’s a grown man and ready to change the world. He visits the temple in His home town. But they couldn’t get passed the snotty little kid that they had known from years ago to this learned scholar who knew things that they didn’t understand. And they had no understanding how He came to be so knowledgeable. They missed the greatest thing to ever come out of Nazareth. They missed the Messiah – their King. They actually got angry with Him and tried to kill Him (Luke 4:14-30).

Scripture tells us many were amazed at His teaching. Crowds followed Him eager to hear Him speak and see the miracles He performed. They probably left every time and spoke about Him to everyone they met because word spread throughout the region. Yet, the chief priests got angrier and angrier as the years passed by. Jesus didn’t follow the rules. Jesus came into their midst and they missed His significance even though they knew the Holy Scripture that spoke of Him through every verse they had memorized. How can this be? How can they be so clueless?

Hindsight always gives greater insight so I can’t be too harsh with them. I might have been just as bad. I might not have liked His hard teaching to turn the cheek or give my coat to one who did not have one or any of the other teachings that got me out of my comfort zone. After all, I have those same words before me today and I can be just as stubborn as the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. I can ignore those teachings just as they did. At times, I am no better than them. And I guess that thought is what is disturbing me since Christmas. I have a lot to consider about my actions or lack thereof if I truly want to follow Him like He desires.

It’s never too late for any of us to consider these things and change. What a different world we would live in if we would truly take these things to heart. I think revival of the church body begins with each of us. We all have to consider where we stand with Jesus. Are we following closely, at a distance or have we walked away feeling let down because He wasn’t what we had anticipated? Where do you stand today?

Jesus is the answer we seek, even though it may be different from our expectation. He is the total package – the real deal. Let’s not miss Him being in our midst. Sit at His feet and listen, then go and do as He instructs. Let’s change the world.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20b-21; 25-26

Let Us Pray

Father, Almighty God, Sovereign King of Heaven and Earth, Creator God,

In You we do trust and believe. Forgive us for the sins that breaks our fellowship with you. For the plight of the poor that we have ignored; for the ones who are enslaved and have done nothing to free them; for the lives we have taken in our ignorance that You have fearfully and wonderfully made them in their mother’s womb; for the blood we have shed because of our hatred of those different from ourselves. There are so many sins against us that they are too numerous to mention; however, You know every one of them. You know our hearts, Lord. We do what’s evil in Your sight. Forgive us Lord God; help us, heal us, change us. Remove these sins from our hearts by the power of the blood of Jesus.

I read just this week of Jim Cymbala’s vision for his church – a church known for its prayer meetings. In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, he made note of Charles Spurgeon’s declaration about the church. “The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings… If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer.”

Father, let that not be true today of Your people who gather before You. Let us remember that we are to be a praying church. Nothing will change unless we bring it before You. Let us get right before You and stand on Your promises that You hear us when we pray. Let us once again be humbled in Your presence. Remind us of Your greatness. Let us remember once again that You have all the answers if we would just seek You with all our hearts.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3 we have been rooted and established in love and need to grasp the depth, the width, the height of Your love for us. Not because of us, because we are not worthy; but because of You – there is no being greater; no love stronger or more secure. It’s who You are.

Father, help us to grasp it and internalize it individually. We can only love because of You. You first loved us. You first called to us and drew us near. This love did not originate with us first. We love only ourselves. But by Your grace and mercy, You called out to us. Some of us responded, some of us need more convincing. Father, don’t let up – keep calling us to the fullest relationship we can have with You here on earth.

Change our hearts and change our minds, Lord Jesus. You know what is eating at us and how worried we are. Let us remember You are Sovereign over all. Nothing is impossible for You. Our biggest worry is nothing in Your sight; but because it worries us, You care to intervene on our behalf. Thank you, Lord. We bring that worry to You right now. We ask that You take it from us as we release it to You. Let Your will be done on earth as it’s done in heaven. It’s in Your perfect time and help us to wait patiently for the answer. Let us wait like it’s said in Isaiah 40:31 with hope and renewed strength. Let us soar like the eagles.

It has been said of eagles that they go to the high peaks and wait for the change in the wind; once the wind changes, the eagles take a leap of faith off the edge and soar to greater heights with the wind beneath their wings. We are told in Scripture that the Holy Spirit is like the wind. Our waiting should be like that eagle waiting on the edge – waiting to take the leap of faith, for the Holy Spirit to lift us up to greater heights. Again, this is not because of us; but because we are called for a purpose far greater than we can imagine.

Lord Jesus, we gather together at Your feet; waiting on Your instructions for this time and place. We are here because You have placed us here. But once we hear, please help us do what You ask when You ask it. Let us be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives. Let us not miss the opportunities to reach our communities for the love of Jesus. Let us not miss what You are doing around us. Let us be sensitive again to the Holy Spirit’s quietness. Jesus, we need You desperately to intervene in our lives – not only for our sake, but also for those around us. Let our testimony of all that You have done be made known so that You may receive all the glory.

Come Lord Jesus, come. Shake us awake. Fill us again. Give us a hunger and thirst for Your Word and for You personally to be made known to us again. Lord Jesus, hear these prayers and bring the greatness of Your name to this earth again. Thank You for all You are going to do once again in us and through us – for Your glory.

For all this we pray, in Your precious and holy name – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:14b-15

One Thing is Needed

Do you remember that simple prayer that you were taught as a young child? Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. Seems rather odd today, doesn’t it? But back in the day, children would die in sleep. Epidemics, malnutrition, etc would not allow for a long life. You just didn’t know if you would wake up in the morning regardless of the age of the one praying.

Back in the day, women would die during childbirth. Back in the day, life was short with no guarantees of tomorrow. I think we have forgotten how risky life really is. Medicine is keeping us alive longer. We say someone who has died in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or 70’s how young they were – taken in their prime. However, not too long ago, it was the norm. Prosperity has brought a new perspective. We believe we’ll live forever. At least, that’s my perception of today’s thinking. But we just don’t know how long we have on this earth. God teaches us through His Word to number our days; to make each day count.

One thing has been made clear to me over these first weeks of this year; prayer is foundation for a successful year. We might not know what this year will bring, but prayer puts us in the right place to hear from God to make this year successful in His sight. We don’t know how many of these years we have left, but we do know that God has a work designed just for you and for me. The only way to succeed at this thing is to be on the same page as Him. He designed the page, He holds the pen. He has a story to write through us, but do we know it unless we sit with Him in prayer?

I struggle with this thing called prayer. It’s not that I don’t pray. I do – every day and often throughout the day. What I struggle with is not the mechanics of prayer but the heart of prayer – being sensitive to the Holy Spirit as I pray. The Holy Spirit is our guide. He is our intercessor between us and God. God speaks to us through that still, quiet voice which is the Holy Spirit whispering the words of God into our spirit. The trouble is the quietness of prayer – being still in His presence in order to hear Him.

This week, I listened to Jim Cymbala’s teaching on My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer. This teaching reminded me how devoted he and his church are to prayer. The Tuesday night prayer meetings are legendary. In his teaching, he noted a response from a Korean about the state of the church in Korea. The Korean was asked why the church is growing so rapidly in that place and the Korean noted that the American church relies on programs; the Koreans rely on prayer. That’s significant.

In the original gathering of the disciples in the upper room after Jesus ascended, prayer was the underpinning of the movement. It all started as the Holy Spirit fell upon that room when the disciples were praying. The only way to bring revival in this land is to lay the foundation of prayer to bring the movement into this season. Churches have fallen away from “prayer meetings” as it was called back in the day. Very few feel the need to attend such gatherings, but how much more is it needed today?

I am inclined to believe there are certain things that are done only by way of prayer. God isn’t going to move big in our lives unless we ask for Him to do so – that we devote our time to persistent prayer for God to do big things – not because we’re so great, but because He is and He will get the glory for it.

A.W. Tozer said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When we have a small view of God, we have small prayers. When we believe in a big God who is bigger than the biggest hurdle we face, God can do greater things in us and through us.

We have heard that prayer changes things. It can shake the heavens. It can rock the earth and cause prison doors to fly open and chains to be broken. It can heal the sick and cause the blind to see. All these things will bring glory to God when we bring it before our Father in heaven. Jesus said that we have not because we ask not. We have to be before Him persistently until we hear the answer – yes, no, or not yet. Don’t give up on that prayer that you’re offering today. Continue to circle it until God sends the “rain.” If you believe in one prayer is the will of the Father, then be sure to pray it with passion that will move God to act on your behalf.

These are the things I am learning – it may take a lifetime to learn, but God knows the length of my days. God is faithful to fulfill everything He has started in me. Let’s not waste another day without going before the Father to bring His will to earth.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9b-12

World Changer

Seven years ago this weekend, I had a major decision to make. I was given the opportunity to move into another area at work or leave my full-time job. It was a hard decision, but I chose to walk out in faith to do something new. I believed God had something else in mind. It had seemed over the last couple years of employment that circumstances made me more uncomfortable in that place. I felt God had positioned me to leave. Was it right or wrong, I second guess it every now and then. But during these last seven years, I think God did do something new – in me.

It’s not easy stepping out of full-time employment. Yes, I have had freedom to do what I wanted to do. However, with no real money coming in, resources are very limited as to what can be done. I made the comment a couple of years before I left my job that I just wanted to quit my job and write. Guess what? That’s the opportunity I was given when I quit – I started writing. I wrote two books within the first five years. I started this blog during that time as well. The last two years, I picked up part-time jobs to help pay the bills. Yet, I still feel like there is something waiting in the future that I just don’t see. After seven years, I really thought I would have the revelation by now. Here I sit still waiting.

One of the things God has been doing over these last seven years is work on me. He has changed my heart and changed my perspective on a few things. He has given me a greater thirst for Him and His Word. I have had a great opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. I haven’t been perfect in my attendance or in my attention. However, He has been faithful to teach me right where I am. There have been many opportunities to grow closer to Him. I desire to be closer still. I need more of Him and less of me – I need to be emptied of my selfish desires. However, I struggle with it.

I just finished two books by the same author on Seven Great Men and Seven Great Women and the secrets of their greatness. Eric Metaxas picked men and women throughout modern history to reflect on what they did to change events in history. The men and women weren’t great because of who they were but what they did when they surrendered everything to Jesus. They emptied themselves of their selfish desires and totally surrendered their future to God.

Joan of Arc was the first woman the author introduced us to. I had read her story a couple of years ago – a peasant girl who changed France single-handedly led by the Spirit of God (her “voices”). George Washington was the first man and how he could have become king of this nation – it was his right to do so, but through providence he chose to begin something new. William Wilberforce changed his nation and the world by two significant choices – he chose to end slavery through legislation in Great Britain and he taught the world how to be kind again – it’s an interesting story and it changed the western world in both regards. Mother Theresa and Rosa Parks were two small women who changed their worlds. Jackie Robinson did the same when he broke the color barrier in sports.

We look back at how these men and women changed their worlds and wonder if it could be done again. These men and women didn’t set out to change their worlds. They just surrendered to Jesus and look what He did through them. They gave up their comfort to endure the storms and the battles that were waged spiritually in order to change the world. It seems impossible to believe that one person could do all that; and it was. There were many behind the scenes that didn’t get the notice, but supported the efforts and championed the cause. It’s not done alone. No one can withstand the storms or battles alone. We need each other. If there is a cause, it takes one person to notice; but it takes many to engage in the battle.

The last couple of weeks of December, I had this word before me. I don’t know what this word means for me or for my circumstances. Maybe it’s really not for me but what God is going to do and I can be a part of it. The word is multiply. What’s God going to do? How will God do it? Those are the million dollar questions, right?

I don’t know what 2018 will bring. But I do know that we all need each other to engage in the battle that God places before us. We may not get noticed by the world as world changers, but God knows what He has determined for us to join together to make a difference. Multiply. Maybe it’s the people He will bring together to change the world as we know it.

You know what it takes to do it? Surrender. That’s what these great men and women did. That’s what we are called to do for our generation. We have to finish what has been started and we need to finish well. This world is waiting for someone to step into the gap. Are you the one? Am I? How about we do it together?

As I began my journey years ago, God gave me this verse and it’s the verse I leave with you today. Let it encourage you for this year.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen
you and help you;
I will uphold you
with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Order of Priorities

“We are accountable to God for what He has given us and how we use it for His Kingdom.” Pastor James MacDonald laid it out for the ones listening to his message this past weekend. God gives us our gifts and talents to help the Body of Christ. For those who have mercy, there are people in the Body who need mercy. For those who have the gift of encouragement, the Body needs that encouragement. For those who have the talent of singing, join the choir or the worship team. For those who have the gift of administration, the Body needs someone to organize and manage.

We all have opportunities that we can fulfill because God has equipped us to do it. If the Body is lacking something fundamental, then someone has not stepped up and stepped into the role. As we take care of each other, unbelievers will notice. God expects us to use what He has given us. This is my take away from the message on Luke 19:11-27. Jesus also said that we are to shine our lights and not hide them under a bushel. I know there is more that I could do in the Church Body. How about you? Have you stepped up?

Time is not an excuse for not serving in the Body of Christ. If you don’t have time, then the priorities are wrong. It’s important to know what God expects of us. We have been given freedom with boundaries, which are for our protection. We are free to use everything we have been given by God; but like our money, we are to give to the Body of Christ first. Maybe I’m stretching the point too far, but it’s really important to know that God wants the best for us and the best starts with giving back to Him first – money, talents and gifts. It all comes from Him for our use; but how we honor Him with it is essential. The more we have, the more He expects from us.

One more thought about money. I get that we don’t have to live by the “tenth” rule since it was Old Testament rules. God said to bring the whole tithe (means a tenth) into the House of God – it pleases Him for us to do so. But if we no longer have to live by the Law of Moses, how much more should we give because we are living under God’s grace? A tenth of all we have is nothing in comparison to what He has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ! A tenth is the least we should give. Grace is more generous than the Law.

In Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, Mark wrote about God being our Senior Partner (Day 36). He wrote about a man in his late 90’s who decided on day one of his business that he would give God 51% of the business. He wanted to honor God from the get-go. At some point the man felt convicted about keeping 49% for himself. The parable of the merchant who found the pearl of great price and sold everything he had to obtain it changed this man’s perspective. At that point, he became a salaried employee and put everything else in God’s Hands. This man truly believed God and God blessed his company.

That’s pretty shocking, isn’t it? But this man believed that the treasure in heaven is more essential than any treasure that could be had here on earth. It was deeply convicting to me. I remember the story of the woman at the temple treasure who put in two mites, which was all she had to live on. She believed God. Can you imagine doing that today? I can’t, but what does that say about me? Mark’s last point for that day was “What we keep we ultimately lose; what we give away we ultimately get back.” He wrote that “if we don’t hold out on God, God won’t hold out on us.”

We will all be accountable for everything God had given us. I could also mention our bodies. It is the first of the year when most people have a resolution to get healthy or lose weight. I believe also we will be accountable about how we took care of God’s temple – our bodies. I know, you know it. But sometimes we need a little push to do what’s right. This might be your push to change a few things this year. If we want different results, then we have to do something different. What are you going to do different this year?

It’s never easy to do something different, but it would be the best thing for us. God hasn’t changed. He still provides for us even in this day and age. Let’s trust Him to do mighty things for us and through us as we put Him first this year. Are you up for it?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Singing a New Song

Last Sunday, Christmas Eve, we sang a few Christmas songs during our worship time. It wasn’t the traditional carols. Yes, “Go tell it” was one of them, but it was a different version. Then there were a couple of songs that I couldn’t name for you, much less sing well because I was unfamiliar with the tune. They were different and upbeat – even had a rap song thrown in for good measure. However, I enjoyed them.

Do you get tired of singing the old songs over and over? Does your worship go routine when the old songs are sung? Do we pay attention to the words any longer when it becomes routine? Is our worship affected by routine? I can imagine God saying – “sing me something new” – “feel something different in the newness for me.”

Routine. Rut. Same ol’ same ol’. I think my own routines get the best of me at times. I can imagine that God wants something different for us as well. Routines will kill the Holy Spirit’s movement. Routine is just a mind-numbing exercise. It’s hard to get excited about routines. Yes, I do find some comfort in routines, but it’s when it wears down to a rut that it becomes the monotony of life and just going through the motions.

December 1st, I started the Draw the Circle, 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. Yesterday’s reading (Day 29) gave me a bit of a pause. It was all about getting out of the routine. The author wrote this profound statement “sacred routines become empty rituals if we do them out of left-brain memory instead of right-brain imagination.” I am good at left-brain work. It’s the creativity that I have a problem with, but I can see that creativity is something God put in us so that we can use it to worship Him more effectively. After all, wouldn’t the Creator give us that same desire to create – we are made in His own image, right?

If you have been following my blog for any time, you may have noticed that for the last year I have been posting on Thursdays. Before that I posted on Wednesdays. Since I started a new job two months ago, I realized that I need to move the day again. I can no longer write in the mornings when I have to be at work at 8 o’clock. This work isn’t working for me! So here I sit on a Saturday morning typing away. This is my right-brain activity for the day! I might throw in another creative outlet at some point as well at some other point in the week, but for now this is what works. Change is a good thing, right?

Mark Batterson noted a response to one of his sermons about prayer from someone in the audience concerning his continual prayer out of his knowledge of the human body. The responder had a degree in biology and started to thank God for all the interactions that occur in the body. He wrote “Thank You for mitochondria, which right now are creating ATP. Thank You for ATP. Thank You for glycolysis. Thank You for pyruvate.” This may not hit you as it hit me, but these are the things I am currently learning through my interest in healthy living.

This responder had a lot more knowledge than I do and he went on to other areas of the body and in nature as well. He was thanking God for the complete work that is going on in our bodies that we have no control over but by His hands we live and breathe and function without a single thought on our own. He did it. He sustains us even when we don’t even think about it. It’s just amazing what God has done for us. It’s His breath in our lungs. It’s His handiwork in our bodies. It’s all Him.

We can get in our routines and not even think about it. But how much more we would get out of life when we contemplate every aspect of our lives are in the palm of God’s hands. How much more we would worship Him when we realize how great and majestic He is and the work that He has done in us and through us. It’s time for a little creativity in our worship and in our prayer lives too. It’s time to get out of our routines and try something new. Are you with me in this?

We are starting a new year in just a few hours. Let’s make it a goal to try something different this year. Let’s tap into our creative imagination and watch what God can do in the midst of it. You up for it? Let me know what you come up with and how God responds to you in that newness. Happy New Year!

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:1-4

Ho Ho Home for Christmas

No matter what stage of life I’m in, I always want to be home for Christmas. I love being there with my family gathered together. This year is extra special since my nephew and his family is back from the far country where they have been for the last few years. I am grateful that God has brought them home again safe and sound. But I am also grateful for the time they have had serving the Lord in what He has called them to do. As we all gather, my nephews and families, my sisters and husbands, my Dad and his wife – it will be as it should be – together again.

Home has changed throughout the years. When my parents and I moved when I was twelve, home moved with us. However, the dynamics changed because my sisters didn’t move with us. Christmas became a moving event. We either went to my sisters or my sisters came to us. Sometimes it was just for a day, sometimes it was for two or three days; every year was a bit different. But when my parents settled back in my hometown after their retirement, it once again felt like it should be. It was home in every sense of the word.

When my Mom died, it felt like everything got off kilter and we lost our center – our anchor. The first year was a tough year. But we managed through it. As the years have passed, I have come to realize Mom wasn’t the center of our family. Mom was a representation – a physical presence – but what lives on is love. Love is the core of who we are as a family. It wraps us up in a warm embrace. It feels like home.

This morning, I read about Jacob’s dream (found in Genesis 28:10-17) about seeing God and the angels that went to and fro from the place where he rested. God gave Jacob a promise that night. God said that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he rested. That land was going to be home to millions. But at that time, Jacob had no one. He was alone and running from his brother. God promised Jacob “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). That’s a big promise.

Eventually, Jacob did make it back to that place and settled in that land. Eventually, there would be millions who would come from his family line. God fulfilled His promise to Jacob. But the bigger promise of everyone being blessed because of Jacob’s family was much more defined by a person than the family itself. The blessing came centuries after the promise through Jesus Christ. A baby would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin; an announcement from the angel under a starlit sky to shepherds watching over those sacrificial lambs; God had done this thing He promised to do. The blessing was born – the promised fulfilled.

The author who wrote the devotional this morning (Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Bread, December 21, 2017) had this take away from the Jacob’s dream scripture: “Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.” Jesus is our home. He is the love that surrounds us and gives us that belonging. He is the center of our family and He is the one who draws us close.

Sometimes we can run away from home, but love will always bring us back. If we are truly Jesus’ followers, no matter how far away we run, He will always search for us and receive us back. He wants us to be home with Him forever. He went to great lengths to assure us of His promise that we will always have a place with Him. “Home is where the heart is” but it’s Jesus at the center of that heart that makes it true in every sense.

Jesus gave us another big promise at the end of His life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Just as the promise for Jacob was fulfilled through Jesus, we can trust that what Jesus promised will also be fulfilled by His word. We have a home being prepared for that day and it’s going to be glorious.

During this Christmas season as my family gathers, I recognize that this is just a small representation of what heaven will be like one day. The larger family will gather in a glorious place filled with love. There will be a feast beyond imagination and a celebration of Jesus that we cannot fathom at this time. This is the idea that helps me celebrate with more enthusiasm every year that passes. One day, I will be home for Christmas and the best gift of all will be the eternal blessing with Jesus.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

Post Navigation