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Archive for the tag “Trusting God”

Lordship Over All

Over the last few years, it has come to my attention on numerous occasions that there may be a lordship problem amongst the Body of Christ – well, maybe it’s just my problem. But if it’s a problem with me, it might be a problem for others. I think we can all agree that Jesus came to save us from our sins, so yes, He is our Savior. But can we also agree that He is not only our Savior, but supposed to be our Lord – over all things in our lives? Not just the Lord over our spiritual lives, but also our marriages, our families, our working lives, and yes, even over our finances. Everything should be surrendered to His control.

I am a financial person. It’s my training, it’s my experience, it’s my nature to look at things financially first before I consider other things. My Mom was the same way, so I owe my financial nature to her. I have been blessed with parents who did not live beyond their means. They were good stewards of the resources God gave them. And they taught me to do so as well. Being a single woman, I really have no one to be accountable to for financial resourcefulness. It’s me and only me – unless you put Jesus in the mix, then I am accountable to Him for how I manage His resources.

As followers of Jesus, we are managers of everything He has given us. We will be accountable for how we use His resources – that includes our gifts, abilities, time, and our financial resources. He doesn’t just give us funds for our pleasure, but for His purpose. Sure, He gives us opportunities to use some of the resources for pleasure, but not all of it. We can say “no” to our inner child when our inner child sees a something it wants. It’s called self-control. And we need to have better discipline over God’s resources.

This was a big lesson for me to learn a few years ago. God put a passion in me that required a bit of training to do it well. I researched the schools that were available at the time. Each time I looked over the possibilities, I kept coming back to the same school. It was going to take a big step of faith. It was a big expense. I had a bit of savings but not enough for the travel and expenses it was going to take over a period of ten months. But I felt this was the right one for me, and God seemed to confirm it on several occasions. God opened the way for me to do it, but it cost me to follow through.

Through that experience, I learned to say “no” so that I could say “yes” to something greater. I think that’s what Jesus’ Lordship is all about. Saying “no” to our fleshly desires gives us greater opportunities to say “yes” to something better. Putting Jesus Lord over all things gives us something greater. That includes our financial resources. Spending every last penny and borrowing more to feed our fleshly desires is robbing us of the true joy that can be found in Jesus alone.

We need margin. We need to be able to serve God with our financial resources; the resources that He has allowed us to have. He gives to us so that we can be a blessing to others. We are called to be “funnels” of His resources. We are not to hoard and believe that what has been given is solely for our use.

This is the lesson that I am currently learning. I want to be a funnel, but right now, I have that mentality of scarcity because of my lack of resources. I am in an uncomfortable position to learn this lesson – whether its by my own doing or His – He is teaching me through it. It’s about opening my hands. He can place resources in my palm and take them out at His discretion. This is not mine, but His. I am just His manager, and He instructs me on how to use what He has given me. At least, that’s what I am learning.

There were things I had to let go of. He determines which is best to go and which is to stay. It’s uncomfortable. However, I am committed to His Lordship over all. He has to be – He made the purchase for that right. He purchased my sins and my life by His death. He paid the price so that I could live a better life through Him. This is His right as my redeemer. And by His resurrection He has given me a new life.

I acknowledge that He is my Savior and Lord. I hope you can do the same. Learn the lesson so that you can be a blessing because He will give you so much more than you can ever earn on your own. Trust Him! Trust His character. He will never give you less than His best.

 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” Luke 12:29-32 (MSG)

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Rain and Frogs

After hearing the messages from last week’s Code Orange Revival from Elevation Church, I want to reflect a bit on what I heard. As I sit here at my table this early morning, I hear the rain coming down. Levi Lesko said that rain was a symbol of God’s blessing. Rain is a precious commodity especially in a dry season. Elijah prayed for a drought because of the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. And God sent a drought for three and half years. At the end of the drought, Elijah sent for the people to gather at Mount Carmel to see the One true God. The message is found in 1 Kings 18:20-46.

The people watched as Elijah dug a trench around the altar that he repaired. The people were told to fill four large jars with water. Where did they get the water? Did they go to the sea to get it? Or did they use what they had brought with them? Whether they had to use what they had or they had to go a distance to find water, it cost them something to see a miracle happen. Elijah poured out the water jars on the altar and then asked the people to fill them a second time; then a third time. The water was running over the altar and into the trench. Elijah prayed and fire fell down on the altar and licked up every drop of that precious commodity.

The story didn’t end there. Drought was still on the land. Before there was a cloud formed, Elijah told the King Ahab to “go, eat and drink for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Elijah went to the top of the mountain and prayed. Seven times he asked his servant to go and see if there was anything on the horizon. The seventh time the servant reported a small cloud rose from the sea. And with that small cloud, a blessing of rain came.

Elijah was persistent in praying. He continued in his efforts until a small cloud formed. He heard the sound of rain before the cloud appeared; actually before he started to pray. He knew that God would hear his prayer and knew that God would answer his prayer; he just didn’t know how long it would take. He kept praying until he received the answer. Persistence and belief go hand in hand to receive those answered prayers.

John Gray said that the sound of heaven brings things together for miracles to happen. God’s voice spoke creation into existence. Particles come together to form the earth and everything in it. God spoke and light separated darkness. The sound from heaven begins the process. Sometimes we just don’t hear the sound; sometimes we are too busy to hear the voice of God speak. But sometimes God sends a burning bush to get our attention.

Christine Caine spoke about the frog plague found in Exodus 8:1-14. God sent plagues on the land of Egypt in order to release Israel from the bondage of slavery. Moses was his instrument that He used to bring about these miracles. Dharius Daniels mentioned that the people cried out to God; God spoke to Moses. But the people didn’t know God was working on the problem. The people may have thought God didn’t hear their prayers cause nothing seemed to change. They were still in slavery, yet God was working on Moses. Moses had a few doubts about his ability to handle this God-sized task. We are never adequate for God-sized tasks; but God is, and He asks the most unlikely people to do the job so that He gets the glory.

So the frogs came and the people of Egypt had frogs everywhere – in their houses, in their kitchens, in their bedrooms and even in their beds. Yuck! Can you imagine? Pharaoh summons Moses to pray to remove the frogs. Moses told him to set the time of the removal. Pharaoh said tomorrow. God could have removed them immediately, but Pharaoh chose another night with the problem. When the prayer was answered, the people were left with the consequences of the plague. The people had to remove the dead frogs from their houses. The stench filled the air.

The plague of frogs is a bit like our sins. Sin is a stench to God. The only way we can remove the stench is to seek forgiveness from God. But we have to do it today, not tomorrow. Sin is removed immediately upon forgiveness, but we have to deal with the consequences of our sins. Whatever is causing our distress, our sin or someone else’s; when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries. An answer is coming but sometimes it may take a while to see the results. God may be dealing with another Moses to answer our prayers. In the meantime, God is working on our hearts.

Persistence and belief in our gracious Father brings about a change in our hearts not a circumstance, but ultimately God will answer according to His time and in His way. God will send the rain, and the dry season will end. Wait for it. Persist and believe!

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

Revival is Now!

I like to listen to prophecy experts. I’m not sure if they are prophets or just teachers who pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Either way, I find it very interesting. One of the things I hear from a variety of sources is a possibility of a great revival happening here in the US. There are many who believe Jesus will be returning for His church in the near future. There are many who think there will be a revival before that day of Jesus’ return. Someone mentioned that the revival will come as a result of this political craziness that we are experiencing. Many talk about martial law going into effect and there will be no “changing of the guard” for the presidential seat. Many visions have been seen revealing devastating earthquakes, tsunamis happening on both coasts, and even a great divide splitting the US at the Mississippi. Only God knows what’s really coming. I do believe judgment is coming one day.

People come back to church when their world has been shaken. But as it was with 9/11 with only a few weeks of returning, will it be a true revival or just a stepping back to family traditions? What will it take for a true revival?

Many times, Jesus spoke of persecution happening because of Him. In John 15, He said that if He was persecuted, then His disciples would be as well. As we have seen in the Book of Acts, the church body grew with persecution. Today, there are many who are being persecuted in different parts of the world. They ask us not to pray for the persecution to end, but for them to be bold and strengthened during persecution; to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus.

Recently, I read a couple of books concerning the persecution of the church. It’s difficult to read about what people have experienced, but what faith they exhibit in the face of persecution. As one who has never experienced such a trial, I cannot imagine how they endured it all. If persecution grows the church, then this could explain why the American branch of the church is showing signs of decline. Our population is increasing exponentially, but our churches are not seeing the same increase. In other parts of the world, the church is increasing even in the midst of great persecution. At the beginning of the church age, found in the Book of Acts – persecution brought the scattering of the church. As persecution continued throughout the next couple of centuries, the growth of the church exploded.

From 120 to 3000 to 5000, then persecution began. My pastor said recently that by the end of the first century there were approximately 25,000 believers. By the time that the Roman Empire “legalized” Christianity around the middle of the third century, 33 million were believed to have been Jesus followers.

So what would it take for us to have a revival today that would show this kind of increase? Do I dare say it? One of the speakers I listen to fairly regularly is a pastor in Hawaii. He gives a prophecy update every Sunday. This past Sunday, he spoke of a revival as well. He said on Sunday that we may have to face persecution like we’ve never experienced it here in the US. The revival may come not of the natural disasters or the man-made disaster from the political fallout; it may come at the expense of what we believe. Because of Jesus and His teaching, we may find ourselves in a position to either stand up for Him or deny Him.

At times, I have wondered if my faith is strong enough. Could I withstand persecution? Would I deny Christ as Peter did at his first persecution? Of course, that was before the Holy Spirit took hold of him and radically changed him. The Holy Spirit gave him such boldness that nothing deterred him from proclaiming the name of Jesus. That’s what the ones who are facing persecution are asking for today. Boldness. Maybe that’s what we all need to be asking for regardless if we are under persecution or trying to reach our friends and neighbors.

Suffering for the sake of the message of Jesus is considered a joy to those who experience it. Suffering helps us identify with Christ. He suffered for us. Jesus said the greatest gift of friendship is dying for one’s friends. If we consider ourselves a friend of Jesus, then we should be willing to die for Him – physically as well as just die to ourselves; losing those things that we hold on to that have no eternal value. So whatever happens in the future, my revival begins now. It starts with me ready to face whatever is in store, with boldness and with the strength God gives me through the Holy Spirit living in me. My revival is now – how about yours? Are you ready?

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” John 16:1-4 (MSG)

Becoming Great Again

I just can’t figure out what the Lord is up to. I have tried to come up with scenarios with this political season. I mean, there has to be a reason why we have these two particular candidates. But what is God up to? I have heard some speak of a great revival coming with this political season. I have heard many say that there is disaster just around the corner for our nation. I have heard of tsunamis and earthquakes that will destroy the east and/or the west coast; economic collapse; a number of things that would cause us to seek God once again.

Right after 9/11, there was a surge of people who came back to church seeking God. But it didn’t last. The numbers fell off again after a few weeks. Some stayed, but the majority went right back to doing what they had always done. In this country, we have been blessed with success. With success though, we don’t need God. We don’t really depend on Him for anything anymore. We have grown so independent that we have removed Him from our public places. I have heard of this separation of church and state all my life, but I didn’t understand what that really meant. It’s gradually become something that was not intended by our forefathers.

Our forefathers came from places where church was dictated by the government. The church in England was run by the King of England. He was considered the head of the church. Many countries today have that mandate that if you live there, then this is what you will practice as a religion. That’s not how we run things in this country. The separation of church and state was to keep the state from running our religious practices. We have a freedom to choose what we believe and what we practice.

I think we have forgotten where we came from and what freedom really means. The church was instrumental in developing this country – whether we like to admit it or not. But slowly through time, we have lost our footing. The further we’re away from the foundation, the further we have fallen away from the principles that made this nation great and the freedoms we enjoy. Many around the world hate us because of our arrogance that comes from our greatness. But let one thing happen, and they are begging us to come to the rescue. And we go, because that’s who we are. We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God’s hand has been on this nation from the start.

On that first day of office, George Washington dedicated our nation to the Lord. He understood the importance of keeping God at the forefront of the government. The Lord has worked through our leaders as He used us for His plan. I believe His main use for this nation was to be a light to the other nations. I think one of our main blessings was to help Israel as a nation, first to become a nation, then eventually to become the greatest light of the world. Israel is the epicenter and will be instrumental in future events to play out in God’s plan.

The leadership that we chose in this political season is pivotal for the future of our nation – whether we will remain as a nation who blesses or a nation who continues to fall away from our foundation. These next few months will be interesting to see what God has in mind for us. The plan may mean that we have to decrease so that Israel can increase. It may be that we have to decrease so that we will once again get back to our foundation of relying on God instead of our success.

I don’t know what’s coming. God hasn’t given me a vision. I just know that God has a plan, and we are a part of it. He raised us up for a purpose. Has our purpose been fulfilled? Only God knows. God is up to something. I just can’t figure it out, and it drives me crazy not knowing the outcome before it happens. I hear that’s what faith is all about. Faith means we believe God is still on His throne no matter what happens here. I trust God to work it out for His greatness not ours!

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. 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Shield

A few years ago, I took one of those spiritual gifts assessment tests. One of the gifts that came out highest of all was faith. In my past, I have taken a few risks, but I never attributed it to having great faith. I have left jobs to move to other cities. Over five years ago, I took a leap of faith to leave a good paying job. At the time, I believed it was the right thing to do. I believed God led me to that decision. Taking a risk always causes a bit of trepidation. Sometimes, God will reveal part of the plan to me, and I feel a bit more certain in my decisions. However, it’s been over five years, and I am having doubts as to the plan God had for this time. God isn’t doing what He has done in my past. He is not meeting my expectations, and I just fail to recognize that God has a different plan than what I expected. He’s creative that way!

In the study of the shield of faith in the Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer quotes her Daddy’s (Dr. Tony Evans) definition of faith: “Faith is acting like it is so, even when it is not so, so that it might be so, simply because God said so.” She also gave this definition: “faith is acting like God is telling the truth” (both quotes found on page 127). One thing that was revealed to me in this week’s lessons is the fact that God wants to see faith in us; faith is what is counted as righteousness. And He is all about growing our faith. This season for me maybe a time of truly putting my faith to a test!

Abraham was the example of having a righteous faith. He believed God – to show him where to go when he left his home; to have a son in his old age; and when he was asked to sacrifice that promised son. But Abraham made some wrong moves throughout his life, yet his faith was still counted as righteous. Hebrews 11 is gives a highlight of those who have had faith through the Bible. However, Genesis is the Book that shows the beginning of the faith journey. It is ripe with stories of faith building. Through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we see the times of building faith through their journeys. However, the further the story goes in Genesis, the further back God recedes. Faith is rooted in the past but focused on the future. Faith is built on what we have experienced in the past.

One of the questions Priscilla asked (page 124) is what is the difference between belief and faith? My response was that belief is wings and faith is the air beneath the wings. It helps us take a leap of faith and fly. We can believe all we want; but until we put action with the belief, we will never get anywhere. We believe God will still do what He said He would do and act on the promise. It’s what we do when we believe God. When we doubt, we actually believe the enemy’s lie rather than God’s word. The enemy does whatever he can to keep us from taking a risk. He sends doubts, fears, distractions; anything that will cause us to shrink back from God’s word.

Paul likened faith to a Roman shield. It was a protection from the enemy. Also, it could be linked together. Soldiers in a battle could link their shields together to form an impenetrable barrier. There was no way an enemy’s arrows could make it throw to do harm. So instead, the enemy would send a flaming arrow to something flammable. This would cause a distraction to the soldiers and cause them to focus on the flame instead of the enemy. As long as the soldier stayed behind the shield, the enemy had no power over them. The minute they dropped their protection to fight the fire, they were vulnerable.

In these troubled times, we have to link our shields together. The enemy is sending all kinds of distractions. The fires are raging around us. Our faith is the only thing that will keep us from getting burned by the enemy. It’s important to know who we can trust and who to turn to. Our faith has to be in someone or something much greater than the problem or else there is no point in having faith. Without faith, it’s just religion; it’s just a tradition that does nothing in the name of Jesus. Taking a risk for Jesus activates the shield and brings God glory. It’s time for God’s people to link up and become a mighty force. The world is waiting to see how we will react to our circumstances. Faith or fear. It’s either one or the other. Let’s act as if God is telling the truth and believe He will do a mighty work in and through us. Take a leap of faith and trust Him in the process.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Blindsided

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. It’s a game played out on a remote island somewhere far away. It starts with 18 people of different backgrounds with different life skills and different game skills. The players have to outlast and outplay the others to remain on the island and ultimately become the sole survivor (and the million dollar winner). Each episode ends with a person voted out of the game. The one voted out can be blindsided by the vote. The people they thought were their alliance will turn against them; they don’t see it coming, and they are voted out of the game. No more chances to play; no more chances for the million dollar prize – they go home.

It’s interesting to see the dynamics shift. Bonds are formed. Alliances are made. You place great confidence in the ones who you think will take you to the end. But in the end, all the people are voted out of the game except for the one who will take home the prize. There is always a celebration at the end of the game. Everyone comes together to celebrate the winner. It’s a great game, and everybody on the show recognizes it’s just a game.

But what happens when we are blindsided by life? My next door neighbor was blindsided yesterday. They didn’t see it coming. They moved in about a year and a half ago. They were excited to have a new house. I remember the wife’s enthusiasm as they moved in and got settled. They have a small son. He’s too young to know what’s going on in the house today.

You see, about six months after they moved in, the husband was diagnosed with cancer. He did all the treatments and thought he beat it. It came back; and as cancer does, it came back in multiple places. They gave him about six to nine months until the cancer would take his life. He would be voted out of this game called life. He would exit the playing field. This morning, the wife and the son will wake up to a new chapter in their lives.

I watched a program last night on John Paul Jackson on Daystar. He too had a battle with cancer. I watched the program as he talked about beating the cancer. He talked about the time he discovered the cancer. He had been a runner and found the tumor one day while he was running. It came out of nowhere. Blindsided. He was very encouraging as he talked about how he trusted God through it all. God would see him through it.

At the end of the program, I waited to see when the program was originally on. It was dated 2014. I was hoping for a more current date thinking that maybe I had heard wrong. You see, I found out last year, John Paul Jackson lost the battle and died. I assume the cancer came back, and it beat him. We never know when circumstances will turn against us; when we will be blindsided by a diagnosis or the death of a loved one or anything else that knocks us down. But we have a loving Father who knows everything from the very first breath to the very last, and we can trust him to see us through each and every day – no matter what. Even if the diagnosis comes and the outcome isn’t good, God has a plan to get us to the other side of it. It’s a matter of trusting in the One who knows it all.

John Paul Jackson had a celebration in the end. When the battle ended, there was a celebration in heaven when he walked through those pearly gates. He received the greatest prize ever – a life with Jesus for eternity. I don’t know about my neighbor’s outcome. I don’t know where he stood with Jesus. I hope the prayers I offered on his behalf were answered, but I won’t know it until I go home myself.

We will all face those moments when we will be blindsided. There will be a moment in time when we don’t see it coming. Our friends and family can surround us, but it’s a moment when the only one you can have confidence in is the One who knows how the game will end. Our loving Father will never leave us or forsake us. He is trustworthy to get us to the end. He is also the greatest prize we could ever hope for. And the celebration that we receive will be amazing if we endure to the end.

A new chapter begins as the old one closes. My prayers will shift now to the wife and son who are beginning again this morning. The birds are singing. The trash has to be taken out. The lawn needs to be mowed. Life still goes on even when we have been blindsided. The moment comes when we have to decide to get up and trust God to work it out in the end. And He will because that’s what He does. Trust Him.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8

The Adventurous Spirit

I have a confession to make – I’m bored. I have been bored for years. I don’t know when boredom set in, but it’s been years since I’ve had a sense of adventure. I used to enjoy new challenges and loved change – change of scenery was especially welcomed. I changed jobs every two or three years. When I changed jobs, I moved to a new city. I liked the change of place and new opportunities. Packing up the household meant I cleaned out the clutter which was especially beneficial.

After my sister became single again, we began traveling together. About once a year, we planned a trip to New York or some other destination. We traveled as far as Alaska and Hawaii; and then even went as far as London. It was fabulous to experience new places. I loved it. When my travel partner got married again, I decided to keep on traveling even if it meant going alone. I went to Vermont and Maine. I even went to New Zealand and Australia. Of course, my Mom was not too crazy about the trips alone. She especially wasn’t happy about the time away in NZ and Australia. But oh the things I got to experience in those places!

It would have been nice to have someone travel with me. But the things I experienced while alone put me in a place of vulnerability. Most would think that was a bad thing, but as a Christian I need to be in a place of vulnerability. It means I have to rely upon Jesus to help me through some tight spots. And I had a few while traveling.

I realized the other day I haven’t had an opportunity to travel in the last six years. I also realized I love staying in hotels and living out of a suitcase. I loved going. But something has changed. I don’t have a sense of adventure as I once did. I have had plenty of time to go, but the financial means isn’t there. I don’t feel like I can “waste” the money on unnecessary travel. I have settled into this sameness mentality that is draining me. My sense of adventure has to come back. I can’t settle for mediocrity. By the very definition of Jesus follower means going where Jesus goes and His path is never boring. So why have I settled for boredom?

When I traveled to New Zealand, I didn’t go on a mission trip. I went for the adventure. I moved off the beaten path so to speak. Buses carried me from one point to the other. I loved seeing the countryside. I love visiting cities, but the country is where the beauty lies. From the mountain peaks to the green valleys, nature is painted with God’s glory. When I was in Christchurch, I visited the famous church in the downtown square. I walked in wanting to experience the awe of the place. I snapped a picture of one of the panels of stained glass. As soon as I did, I was reprimanded by one of the officials. I hadn’t paid for the right to take a picture. I immediately deleted it, and left the building.

I realized at that moment, that building was a business not a holy place. And I really couldn’t contain His beauty in a picture anyway. God didn’t fill that place with His glory. His glory has to be experienced by the eye – spiritual or physical. I went to the lakes and the mountaintops; and caught a glimpse of His grandeur and majesty. I had a sense of awe at the beauty I found in those places. God isn’t contained in a building.

God is experienced in the movement of the Holy Spirit. We settle in the comfort place and forget to be led by the Spirit to experience God’s presence in those places. We all need our sense of wonder back. We all need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one experiencing the boredom of my comfortable place. Boredom shouldn’t be the feeling of any Jesus follower. If it is, then we’re not doing it right. It’s time to get back to where we experience God’s presence again. We don’t have to travel to distant lands to see God’s glory. We just have to open our spiritual eyes to see it once again. We have to be open to His voice to move in obedience to what we hear.

Something has to change. I am asking for a fresh perspective. Will you join me in the adventure God has for each of us? Don’t settle in that comfortable place. Let’s be Jesus followers in every sense of what that entails. Lord, lead your people out of boredom and into the great adventure You have for us. Amen!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

The Next Level: Fearless

When I was growing up, my Mom used to give me a back rub to help me sleep at night. She would come in after I had gotten in bed, we would say a prayer and then she would give me a little relaxing back rub. Needless to say, I love back rubs! However, I have to pay for them these days. Yesterday, I had the opportunity for a massage. I haven’t had one in over a year, and it was a real treat for me.

The massage I had yesterday was a bit different. The therapist did some deep tissue work, but she also stretched me. The stretches were a bit difficult -at times I felt I was being stretched too far. It was actually a little painful. But after it was all said and done, I felt good. I was relaxed. Today, everything is loose and feels amazing. Even though it was painful in a spot or two, I must have needed the stretching the most.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked God to do whatever He needed to do in order to move me to the next level. I guess in theory I asked Him to stretch me. Stepping out in faith really tests those faith muscles. We really don’t know how much faith we have until it is stretched – until it’s tested. Then we can know whether what we say we have is really true.

The challenge came from the pulpit on Sunday. Generosity is the tool for stretching. I have been in this church body for a little over four years, and the pastor hardly ever speaks about money. He reminded us that the church didn’t need the money, but we, as the Body, needed to be stretched (my words, not his). God has all the resources available to Him so He doesn’t need our money. The pastor emphasized that generosity is a heart issue.

The challenge is to step up to the next level of giving. The last level is fearless giving – Andy Stanley calls it “crazy” giving. It’s “sell your assets to give away” kind of giving. It’s what the early church body did to make sure no one was in need. But I would say that each level can be a step into fearless giving. Each step takes us out of the comfort zone. The first step to give is instant giving; throwing money in the pot as it passes or emotional giving. It can be uncomfortable to someone who has very little to give when an opportunity arises. But fearlessly, they give.

The next level is giving intentionally; setting aside money to give regularly. Having a plan in place before the opportunity arises. Again, if someone has never done this before, it’s uncomfortable to plan ahead – who does that nowadays? The next level is proportionate giving. This is a percentage of what is made. If income goes up, so does the giving. Again it can become a fear factor when it looks like we’re not going to have enough to cover the bills.

Then the pastor called the last level fearless giving. Sell and give; in other words, sacrificial giving. To be stretched until it hurts. This is a faith building exercise. Do we really believe God has all the resources in His hands? If we do, then we will sacrifice all we have because we believe God will take care of all our needs. After all, it says so in the Bible. Do we believe it or not? Are we willing to step out in faith to do the thing He calls us to do? He may ask us to go into the deep end where we have to trust Him.

After fishing all night, Simon Peter was asked to push off a little from shore so that Jesus could speak to the crowd. After speaking to the crowd, Jesus turned to Simon Peter. Jesus asked Peter to go out into the deep and drop his nets. Peter had caught nothing the night before. He was disappointed and frustrated for sure. This was how he made a living – and he caught nothing. He had already cleaned his nets; Peter already knew it was useless because the fish weren’t there. However, he did it anyway because Jesus asked him to do it. The amazing catch changed Peter’s perception of Jesus. He was actually speechless! He couldn’t even call to his partners to come help – he signaled them instead.

When we are asked to do something with Jesus, it’s going to be crazy. It may even scare us unbelievable so. But after we have been stretched, we are going to feel amazing. We will have a “fish” story to tell. We may have to sacrifice something we dearly love in order to gain something better. We may even come away with a different perception of Jesus. Now wouldn’t that be amazing?! All we are asked to do is trust Him in the process – to become fearless in the next level; to be stretched so that we can grow to become more like Him. Fearless like Him.

Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 MSG

Work it Through

A couple of weeks ago, I tried my hand at making yeast rolls (gluten free). My first attempt didn’t go well. They didn’t rise. The flavor was good though. I think my problem was the yeast. I didn’t let it proof long enough to get the yeast to activate before I added it to the flour mixture. I have two more packets of yeast, so I have two more attempts to make these rolls – I understand it’s close to the original texture if I can make them correctly.

In my quiet time on Tuesday, I found myself thinking about my attempt at yeast rolls. The Scripture in my quiet time was from 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8. The passage was on yeast and unleavened bread. In context, Paul was instructing the Corinthians to get rid of their old ways of malice and wickedness (the yeast). Apparently there were issues in the Corinthian church! God’s people should be the unleavened bread; “the bread of sincerity and truth.”

My thoughts went in a different direction. You see, I was also reading about how the Bible should be read and digested so that it permeates through our lives. It’s the yeast that should be kneaded into every crevice of our hearts. I read about the quality of the soils in Matthew 13. I know; I was all over the place. But the Holy Spirit wrapped it all up in the yeast.

The Word has to be put in good soil to produce an abundant harvest for the “farmer.” The good soil like yeast has to be mixed up to produce the right outcome. A farmer will till the soil before the seed is planted. A baker will work the yeast through the whole dough before the dough will begin to rise; to increase in size. The tilling and the kneading make a difference to produce the right results.

Some of the seeds fell in a thorny mess and on a rocky path. Both soils reminded me of a tough situation where the person will fall away from God because God didn’t meet their expectations. They don’t trust God with the mess. The worries of life (the thorns) cause us to fall away too easily. Jesus explained people hear the word, but they don’t let the Word work through their heart. It sits on the surface, never penetrating to do what it needs to do in their lives.

The ground has to be prepared before the trying times or else we will have the thorny mess permeating throughout our lives. The Word has to be hidden and worked through our hearts in the good times for the peace in the bad times. We will always be in crisis, coming out of the crisis or about to enter a crisis. There is always a thorny mess waiting for us.

Spending quiet time with Jesus in His Word; prayer for understanding of what we read. Spending time with Jesus is never wasted. It is necessary for a deeper relationship. He is our refuge in times of crisis. This is not a relationship where it lies only on the surface. Like a bird after the seed on the ground, Satan will snatch away anything that is only planted on the surface. This is not a “fair weather” relationship for only the good times. Jesus and His Word are for here and for now. Good times and the bad. But it means being intentional;  working it through like kneading yeast in the dough. It takes time and patience (and the right soil).

But the yeast actually needs a little heat to make the yeast activate. If the heat is not there, then all we have is a lump of dough that is flat and hard. The mess we have is the heat to activate the trust we have in Jesus. If trust is not there, then all we have is a faith that falls away at the first sign of trouble.

Proof the yeast and work it through every fiber of your being. You will not be disappointed in the outcome!

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 2:15-17 (NLT)

Whole Lot of Shaking

Have you looked at your retirement fund or stock portfolio lately? I haven’t. I have been scared to even peek at it. A couple of nights ago, I was listening to an alternative financial guru (alternative – meaning not the mainstream media folks). He is forecasting this year to be the collapse of the almighty dollar. The dollar hasn’t been backed by gold since the 70’s; and I have often wondered how currency floats without anything but paper to hold it up. I am not an economist and have no clue how the economy actually works. To me, it just doesn’t seem too stable. No wonder God tells us not to trust in money – it’s not very reliable to hold anything up for long!

Are you aware of all the earthquakes and volcano activity over the last year or so? There’s a YouTube channel that posts updates on all the activity around the world. It’s amazing the number of earthquakes that occur every week. The “ring of fire” is definitely on fire. The activity travels around the plates as they all move and shift under our feet. Can’t rely on the earth being a firm foundation either! It could shift right from under us. Not to mention the incredible storms we have had in the past few years. What in the world is going on?

Then there’s the war on terror happening around the globe. Extremists are trying to blow up anyone that doesn’t agree with their religious views. I read Joel Rosenberg’s the Twelve Imam series a few weeks ago. It was pretty eye-opening as a fictional account of radicalism that hits pretty close to home. His books are too eerily close to reality for peace of mind in this crazy world we live in. When I read his fictional accounts, I have to remind myself “this is fiction; not reality!”

We have hardly even started the political campaigning, and I am already tired of hearing about it. The candidates think they are the answer to the country’s woes. Why would anyone in their right mind want to take on this enormous task to straighten out this country? With the debt, with the immigration issues, with the possible terrorists camping out in plain sight; everything seems about ready to implode! Yet, people want to be the head of this mess. I just say “good luck, you’re going to need it!” The leader of this country is not going to get us out of this mess. The government cannot be our savior.

Nothing but doom and gloom on the horizon. The picture is not too bright (if you listen to the nightly news). However, if you look at the news through the biblical lens, I see God’s hand at work. The stage is being set. The earth is groaning and waiting for that Day. What if this is the year Jesus comes back for His church?! Scripture tells us it will be just like in the days of Noah. There was no sign of rain when the boat was sealed. People laughed and thought he was so foolish. Scripture tells us Jesus will come like a thief in the night. No one will suspect His coming.

There is nothing in this world we can count on, but the promises of God. God is the Promise Keeper. He is the only One who can fix our woes – nationally and personally. He is the only One we can rely upon. He is our firm foundation. God doesn’t change. He is trustworthy. When all else fails, the great I AM will never fail. Provider, protector, comforter, all His attributes are surrounded by love for us. God tells us to have courage. Andy Stanley said in his message this weekend, “We should not grow weary and lose heart. We are scaring the children!” People are watching Christians to see how we react to the circumstances. Scripture tells us to fix our eyes upon Jesus. Stand firm on His promises. Let nothing move us. Stanley says “We’re not to be sissy Christians!” We have a trustworthy God – believe Him! He keeps His promises.

Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king. He will answer him from his holy heaven and rescue him by his great power. Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:6-8 (NLT)

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