Friday, April 30, 2010

A Shift In Thought

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ephesians 4:15-16

One of the things I think that we may struggle with from time to time, as Christians, is how to correct someone who may be doing or saying something wrong. Or not even correct them- how do you tell someone they are doing something wrong- without having them get upset with you or offended, and that can lead to a broken friendship.

This type of thing used to keep me up at night. I would lay in bed at night and play these imaginary conversations in my head where I would bring up a problem to someone and try and tell them how to correct it. Surely I'm not the only one who has imaginary conversations in my head that don't ever really happen? Well, a while back I was in a place where someone maybe needed correction about an issue, but I just wasn't so sure that I was the person to do it- so do you know what I did? I prayed about it. I first committed the whole problem to God. I asked Him for wisdom, and I asked Him to keep my mouth shut if it needed to stay shut. But the most important thing I asked God for was to help me love that person the way he loves them. Then I started playing a little game with myself. Instead of thinking about this problem, this area that needed correction, I started thinking to myself all the different reasons why I love this person- reasons why I consider them a friend.

And do you know what happened? Over time, I stopped focusing on the issue at hand, and just focused on the person. I sought them out to give an encouraging word or a hug, and then the most crazy thing happened. That problem? They came to me asking for advice about the situation. I was able to offer a gentle suggestion, in love, along with a promise to commit the matter to prayer- which was truth since I'd already been doing it. Then, later on when the problem was resolved we were able to rejoice in it together!

The thing is, each and every member of the body of Christ is joined together- we are one with each other, and when we allow things to come between us, it strains the whole body- not just the person or two it is involved with. Think about the physical body. When I have a headache, it doesn't just affect my head. It affects my performance in everything else, it affects my reaction time, and my mood. It's much more than just a headache. Somewhere along the line we've been fed a load of garbage that tells us that there will be troubles and problems with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It's like we almost expect that there will be people we just don't get along with- because that's how it's always been. I think many of us spent time in churches where that truly was the norm, and now maybe we think it's just part of being a member of a church.

But it's not!!! We are to build each other up in love! When love is the first thing that comes out of us, those disagreements and those arguments we may have begin to melt away. Those walls that we build up to keep people out start to fall down, and a body united is a body that will be unstoppable for the kingdom of God! When we truly grab hold of this idea and begin to lift each and every one of our fellow Christians up, instead of looking for reasons to pull them down, we will experience a whole new era of brotherhood. Instead of focusing on what we think are the flaws, we need to focus on what we love. Focus on what God loves. The next time you find yourself rolling your eyes about someone or thinking about how much you really don't like a person, start telling yourself that God loves them. God loves them and created them to be exactly who they are.

And that mindset extends beyond the boundaries of the body of Christ. God loves each and every person that He has created. Every. Single. One. Think about that the next time you are thinking unwholesome thoughts about that driver who cut you off. You're sitting there fuming and swearing at one of God's precious creations... maybe it's time for a shift in thinking?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

God IS Love

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:7-11

Every spring when we would drive around and see all of creation waking up and turning beautiful, there would be one kind of tree in particular that would catch my eye. Beautiful flowering crab-apple trees that would turn a stunning color of fuchsia would just take my breath away, and I would see them, and say to Andy that some day, we would have one of those trees. Some day we would have one of these beautiful trees that God created.

And every spring as the kids and I would go walking around town, we would stop and smell different flowers along our route. We would go visit someone who had lilac bushes and I would stop and literally bury my nose deep in the blossoms. There is no fragrance like a lilac, and it is one my absolute favorite flowers- always has been.

And then there is the honeysuckle. The honeysuckle is my absolute favorite fragrance of spring. I can identify a honeysuckle from far away by simply closing my eyes and inhaling. That sweet, sweet fragrance, that I know that God created just for me, sends my senses into overdrive. It fills me with a euphoria of sorts to smell that honeysuckle in the spring.

I tell you all these things this morning to tell you just how much God loves me. He loves me so much, that 15 years (or so) ago when the people living in our house were landscaping, He had them put in these very plants. He looked ahead to the future, and He saw me living here, and He decided that He was going to put flowering crab-apple, lilac, AND honeysuckle all in this yard, just because all these years later, I would be living here, and I would enjoy them. God put these very plants here in this yard because He knew just how much they would delight me.

My flowering crab-apples are just beginning to blossom and they are nothing short of stunning. I wake up in the morning, look out my bedroom window, and all I can see are branches loaded with beautiful fuchsia blossoms. How can I not see that and think about how great God is to put that tree there for me? How can I not look around my yard and thank God every time I glance towards the lilac, or giggle at the thought of that honeysuckle getting ready to open up it's blossoms.

God is love! And like a father preparing to give his child a gift, He has been preparing this house for me and my family to live here! And it was with His perfect timing as well. Had we moved here in the fall, like we originally planned in our moving desires, the crab-apple trees would not be flowering and they would be making a horrible mess with their fruit and leaves, and we may very well have decided to have them removed. But God knew. God knew that I would be smitten with these trees. God knew how much these blossoms would fill my heart with joy, and He wanted me to move here just as they were about to explode.

I just feel so blessed and so incredibly loved. Every day, every few hours, I look around and I practically have to pinch myself because I can't believe how good God has been to us. It sometimes seems kind of cliche to say that we praise God when we win and we praise God when we lose, but then when you really and truly are at a high point- it feels like the praise we do is simply not enough. Our praise just doesn't seem adequate for thanking God for how blessed we really feel right now. And the thing is, now that we're here, now that we are totally delighting in God's provision, there is also the big part of us that is wondering what is next. Why did God bring us here? We know He wanted us here because we wanted to be here, but what is our purpose here? We're excited to learn that too.

But today, I'm feeling the love. I've been feeling the love since the day I unlocked the door and stepped in for the first time. God is truly in the house, and all I want to do is share that. I feel so loved that if I don't share that love, I feel as if I am going to burst. And isn't that the point really? As I read these verses above in 1 John today, that's exactly what it is telling me. That God loves me, and He loves my neighbor, and it's up to me to share that love with my neighbor if they don't know that love yet. And when I really and truly love God, I won't be able to help it. That love will just come out, and I'll have to share it with everyone around me. But do you know what the greatest thing about feeling God's love today is? He doesn't just love me. He loves you. And He loves your neighbor, and He loves that girl behind the checkout counter, and that guy crossing the street. And He loves that quiet co-worker who stays in their cubicle most of the day. How are you going to show God's love to them today?

As I looked out my window at those beautiful flowering trees, I felt God's love just sweep into the room and gently envelop me. And I thought to myself, okay God, help me share this today. Maybe that's where it all begins. Maybe it begins with a willingness to be a vessel for that love- to carry it with us and share it whenever the opportunity arises. There's a commercial that has been on TV for a while now that shows people helping people in different circumstances, and then someone else sees that help and gets inspired to help someone else on their own, and it becomes a cycle of sorts. Imagine the cycle that could be started if we all walked around sharing God's love! Imagine the possibilities if instead of the idea of "paying it forward" we just ran with the idea of "giving it all away!" Because I suspect that if we purposed each and every day to give away all the God-Love we have in us, that God would fill it right back up again. Seems to me that would be a good problem to have.

God. Is. Love.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Are You Praying?

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

It's that time of week again. It's the day where I set aside time to specifically pray for President Obama, his family, and other political leaders, both local and abroad. I found this morning that as I read this very familiar verse in 1 Timothy that the solution to actual world peace may actually be found within. The simple act of praying, of intercession for our leaders- for all in authority- can produce peaceful and quiet lives. That sound a little like world peace doesn't it? The power of prayer is absolutely incredible- it can change lives, and that is what I pray for each and every week.

I pray every week for that real change that we were promised all that time ago when the presidential campaigns were crossing the country. The difference today is, the change that I am praying for may not exactly be the change the present administration had in mind. I am praying for a great awakening- a return to "One nation under God" and all that may imply. One nation under God may sound idyllic, but imagine- if the power of prayer is so huge and so strong- imagine the power if every God-fearing person were to turn their hearts to heaven and pray for this president. The awakening would be earth-shattering indeed.

In recent weeks I've been very disappointed to read little quips and quotes that mention praying for the removal of President Obama. How could anyone ever wish that on our president- regardless of politics? So this week I am coming against all those wishers and foul words and I am praying extra protection over President Obama, and his wife Michelle, as well as his daughters Sasha and Malia. May the angels of protection encircle them and protect them from all harm that may threaten. May God give them supernatural protection, and may He protect their delicate spirits. May He give them courage when they need it most, and may He give them hope for the future- real hope. Hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

I believe that world peace really is possible- if we follow our Biblical principles and begin to really pray in earnest for our leaders. Peace is possible on every level- even within our small communities. Peace is possible, if only we will hear the call to pray.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saving That Which Was Lost

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

As I read this verse this morning it literally crawled off the screen to me. It was almost as if the words took on a life of their own, marched over to me like ants, crawled all over my skin, and then sunk in and became a part of me. As I read it a second time, it was like I suddenly understood that this verse was not just talking about what we always think it's talking about.

So what was lost? The obvious answer is that man was lost. When Adam and Eve sinned, that relationship between man and God was lost, and Jesus came to redeem that relationship. Jesus came so that God could once again have fellowship with the race of men, whom He so loves and cherishes. When I think about just that... then I try thinking about what it may have been like to be living in Old Testament times. I can't imagine trying to live without the assurance of God right there all the time. I can't imagine trying to live without the breathe of the Holy Spirit guiding my every move and thought. And I certainly can't imagine a life worth living without the assurance of eternity without the presence of God at all times. Jesus certainly brought that relationship into reality, and every day I am reminded of how grateful I am for that.

But there was also something else lost when man fell. We have to go all the way back to Genesis 1, to see how God truly designed things to be here on earth, to see what it was that was lost.

"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so." Genesis 1:26-30

God had given man the earth all those years ago. He specifically said to rule over it and subdue it, and when Adam and Eve sinned, that dominion was lost. And even though Jesus came over 2000 years ago, we are only now beginning to really understand these gems that are hidden throughout the Bible. We are supposed to have dominion over the earth! We, each and every one of us, have been given the earth and all that it contains.

I wanted to see this put into action, so I conducted a little experiment over the last several months. Way back in January, I started a few tomato seeds. I planted them and nurtured them until the sprouted and grew enough to be transplanted in bigger pots. I had three plants, and I separated them. One I transplanted into a larger pot and moved into a window on the first floor of the house. The other two I blessed as I planted them. I re-potted them, I gently brushed their leaves, and I commanded them to grow and bloom, and bear abundant fruit. I called them blessed, and I commanded them to grow "in Jesus' name". I did this just twice. Each time I had to transplant to a bigger pot, I again commanded and blessed the plants.

Now all three plants grew. I watered, fertilized, and tended all three plants at the same times every day. They all grew in the same south facing windows, just on different floors of the house, but I'll tell you, the ones that grew on the second floor were incredible plants. They grew and grew and were so prolific, and abundant. They just kept shooting out new growth after new growth, they grew all the way to the ceiling, and there were literally hundreds of blossoms on these plants. The one downstairs was a good three feet shorter than the other two. It was also blossoming and bearing fruit, and doing well, but it was like night and day- it looked like a completely different plant.

Now one could ask if my blessing and commanding really made the difference. My experiment was not scientific enough to conclude with absolute certainty. But boy, do I believe it made an immense and amazing difference. In the weeks to come my thoughts and attention are going to turn to the annual vegetable garden, and you can be sure that as I am planting my garden, it is going to get blessed, and I am going to command it to bear abundantly.

Because God gave us the earth! He made it for us to enjoy, He made the earth for us to inhabit and dominate and to utilize it to its full potential. And since Jesus came to restore to us that which we lost way back in the garden of Eden, I intend to do my part to reclaim that which was lost. When I think about the mere potential here, I get shivers. Just imagine the possibilities if simply blessing and commanding fruit to grow caused an increase in production! Where companies are trying to manufacture super seeds and special fertilizers to maximize growth, we can do the exact same thing with mere words. With the words of our mouth we can fertilize the very cells of the plants that were ours to command in the first place.

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Now it's up to us to make the most of that which is now found.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Monday

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Corinthians 12:27

It is a happy Monday indeed. We are officially moved into our new home, and we are completely in awe of how God worked out all the details. We are just so incredibly blessed, the mere fact that I'm sitting in my new office typing away at this computer is a blessing. If I turn around and look at the rest of my house, it may be littered with the landscape of boxes, but it is home, and it is such a blessing. God did a good job when He dropped us here.

Moving this past weekend was so much work, but at the same time, we saw and felt God's hand in it every step of the way. We had planned to move in two days, but had expected that the first day of moving it would probably just be our family doing the moving. Imagine my delight when a brother in Christ calls us at 8:00 in the morning telling us he was on his way. He worked so hard to help us load up, and most of the way through, my cousin showed up to help as well, so between these two young men and ourselves, we made a HUGE dent in our moving. We were just so blessed by how hard these guys worked! They worked so fast and efficiently that Andy was actually able to take the moving truck and make a second trip with them. And then we had people on this end, helping us unpack, and special friends who blessed our home, and even someone we never met before helped with the unloading! It was phenomenal to see God's hand in helping us get moved.

And then there was Saturday. Saturday was the day we were moving the big and heavy furniture. I was upstairs in our old house washing the windows when a truck I knew pulled up, and then three of our dearest friends hopped out, ready to help haul. I cannot explain how my heart leaped when I saw them arrive! I was so blessed that they showed up to help us! And then two friends from home saw fit to help us move, and it was actually really fitting that of all the friends we'd made in that town, it was these two who helped us move forward to the next place God had for us.

At one point I think there were about eight men helping Andy move furniture into our new home. And then two girlfriends spent the day helping me clean and unpack. To say this move was easy would be an understatement, because everyone who helped just worked with their all! Oh, we are certainly tired and sore from the long weekend, but these friends, these brothers and sisters in the body of Christ went so far above and beyond in helping us out. We had one friend take charge of moving the appliances in, and he went so far as to make sure the washer and dryer were hooked up and ready to go! Another friend personally took the time to assemble all the beds, which may not sound like much, but at the end of the day, we really wanted to crawl into them, and that one act in itself was a huge blessing! One less thing that we had to do at the end of the day!

God's hand was apparent with the dear people who helped us move. I just keep shaking my head when I think about the love that was poured out this weekend. And I mean poured out, these people didn't help us move because they felt like they had to, they didn't help us move out of obligation, they helped us move because they love us, and wanted to make our task that much easier for us.

To say that we are so blessed us such a huge understatement. I am amazed this morning, and I think I am going to be amazed for some time, as I think of all these people who helped us out- our forever family- who were so eager to see us move into our destiny that they gave up a whole day to help, and then some. This house is such a gift from God. As we spend the next few weeks getting unpacked and settled, there is going to be many a prayer lifted for these people who helped us out. These people who understand the idea that we are all part of one body, and when we help each other in love, we're making a huge difference that God Himself is proud of.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.

6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.

7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars." Job 9:5-7

There is something very unique about the actions of the earth that I never really thought about before. I mean, I knew about it, but I never really thought about it in that way. The earth itself is an amazing sign and a wonder of God. Nature and everything that happens in nature happens because God designed it to happen that way. And when the earth shakes, or a volcano erupts, or a meteor passes through the sky, credit can only go to God. And I love thinking on these things.

I love thinking on this volcano that's been going crazy in Iceland- bathing Europe in ash so thick that airports all over have been closed for days. Why on earth did God cause that to happen? I would love to ask Him, but I think it may be fun to speculate. Look at the stunning photos of the erupting going on- they are absolutely stunning- they paint a picture with colors that God thought belonged together at that moment. But why the massive ash cloud that closed airports? You know, there have been so many people praying against terrorism and evil these days, that maybe that big dark ash cloud prevented some major terror attack from the skies? We may never know, but we do know that God allowed that ash cloud to happen.

And so this week, I just feel like I want to pray in a slightly different direction. I want to pray for the groans of the earth. I want to pray that they sign and the wonder that the earth is will speak volumes to people all over. That people will look at the wonders before them and KNOW that He IS God! That people will look at all of creation with new eyes and will see the beauty before them and know that only God could have created something so beautiful and so perfect. That as each raindrop or snowflake falls, or each cloud passes by, that people will know that God put that raindrop there for that exact moment in time. That God specifically put that cloud there for a reason. May the earth around us speak of the Creator.

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." Romans 8:19-21

The earth groans and shakes in anticipation. It's waiting for the people of this world to rise up, to take dominion and accept our places as heirs to the Kingdom of God! The earth is shaking in anticipation of our commands, it is shaking in anticipation of being liberated from the dark one who has kept her in bondage since the fall of man. The earth around us is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to stand up and take our rightful places! The beautiful earth around us is actually in bondage and decay! Think about that, and think about how beautiful it will really be when satan is removed from her completely!

So as I'm praying for our leaders this week, as I'm praying for President Obama and our other governmental leaders, may the great awakening begin. May the president and his staff make Godly decisions in the weeks to come, and may they turn their hearts and their minds fully to what God would have them do. May the disagreements and the fighting come to an end, and may peace and a desire to work together for the glory of God surpass all other desires. And may God keep these men and women safe. May He protect them from all harm, and bless them for their courage and their willingness to serve in their chosen capacity.

And with this Warfare Wednesday post, I am signing off for a long weekend. Moving Day is upon us, and when I next come to you, it will be from the computer in our new, God-given home. Be blessed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No More Sting

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

The sting of death is gone for those who have found Jesus! The whole concept of death can be scary and uncertain- I mean, who really knows exactly what will happen when the time comes? But we can be assured that for those of us who love and follow Jesus, that death is but a part of life to go through. Just as we go through birth, puberty, and young adulthood, eventually we will take part in the process of death.

But death is simply a metamorphosis. It is the time when we shed these earthly skins and reveal our eternal bodies. How cool is that! Jesus conquered death for us when he sacrificed all for us- and as a result, we get to experience forever as eternal beings in the presence of God! Now that is something I'm looking forward to!

Death has no sting. As I've been reading a lot of history over the last year, I read quite a bit about the Spanish Inquisition and the subsequent inquisitions under King Henry in England. So many people were burned at the stake or had their heads removed because they didn't quite follow the church the way the kings and queens wanted them followed. There are accounts though, of the people who were burned at the stake, who didn't seem to feel any pain whatsoever. There are accounts of people who had their heads chopped off who appeared to be at great peace the whole time- even smiling while the deed was done. Why is that? I believe it is because they found Jesus, and death had no meaning for them. Death for them meant that they were to move on to the next phase of life- and death had lost its sting for them!

This may seem a little morbid for a Tuesday morning discussion-this subject of death, but I can't help but think that if we who love God with all our hearts can eliminate a fear of death from our lives, that we would be more successful in foiling the devils attacks. There have been many times where I have had a bit of a panic attack over something health-wise. Whether it be a blood clot in my leg, or an odd chest pain that terrifies me at the moment. In those moments, when I look back, I can see the devil trying his best to torment me, to scare me and make me think that I could indeed be dying. But if there were no fear of death at all- no fear of that moment of leaving this earth for a heavenly destination, that whole area of torture would be unavailable for the devils use. It would cut him off completely, because I could laugh in his face and proclaim that I am a daughter of the Most High and death has no sting for me!

I think that the more we spend time in our Bibles reading these verses that tell us that the devil really has no power in our lives, the more we will come out victorious when he sends his minions to try and knock us off course. The enemy will fail every time if we can continue to build up our faith in God, and in Jesus Christ who defeated sin and death for us! God already gave us the tools we need to win every single time, we just need to reach inside and pull those tools out! God is so good- He did not make us defenseless beings, He made us in His Image! He made us to be like Him, and gave us the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead- we just need to stir it up inside of us and bring it to the surface. And we do that by spending time in His Word, and building up our faith to the point where those tools float right to the top.

God is just so good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

To Be Unique

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

What a wonderful weekend! It is always such joy to spend an entire weekend worshiping and praising God, and learning what He's saying to the body of Christ today. This morning as I woke up, while I'm physically exhausted from the weekend, the biggest part of me is actually a bit sad that it's a plain old Monday. Someday the day will come where we will spend time in His Glory, and we'll never stop.

There was something that really stuck out to me this weekend, and that is how God has truly made each one of us unique and special in our own way. As I would watch people worship, I noticed that no two people worshiped in the exact same way- there was something different about each person. As we had different speakers come up and share God's heart, each person had a completely different way of speaking, and a completely different message- but yet each message worked with the others to tell the story of how much God loves us.

It just struck me as something truly remarkable how God made each and every one of us so incredibly different, and yet we all work together in such wonderful ways! The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 talks about this very thing- how we are each important to the body of Christ- and I highly recommend you take some time to really read this chapter in the Bible.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1 Corinthians 12:21-26

Each part is important- there isn't a single one of us who isn't important to the body of Christ as a whole. Think about that! YOU are important to the body just the way you are! One of the things I was thinking of this weekend, as I spent time with all these wonderful people was how I appreciated the uniqueness of each and every person. I can't even begin to name all the ways these people struck me as unique this weekend. You know, once upon a time, I would be one of those people who would walk around wishing I could be someone else. I would see someone else do something incredible and wish that I could do that too- and then I would see a different person doing something and wish that I could add a touch of that as well.

But God made me exactly the way He wanted me to be so that I would fit into the exact place in the body that He has prepared for me. And as He wants me to change and adjust He will place the desire in my heart for that change. Before man was even created, God knew the role that every single person was going to have in the body of Christ. That is a remarkable thought- God planned your role before Adam and Eve even walked on the earth.

And so I just wanted to share this reminder this morning that there is no such thing as a person who can be discarded- or a job that isn't necessary. It is just as important to be that person who sharpens pencils as it is to be the person who gives the message. Both people fulfill vital roles and both people serve the God Most High. That person who picks up the litter in the parking lot between services is just as important as the worship leader. Both people are using their God-given abilities to take care of what God has told them to take care of.

There is no such thing as an unimportant person, and I think when we start to think like that- when we start to look over the crowd and see our family- our co-heirs with Christ- instead of the individuals we appear to be, we will make great strides in coming together in unity. God designed us for unity. He designed us to work together in perfect harmony, it's just that sometimes a few of the parts may need a little encouraging along the way.

So be encouraged. Fulfill your role- no matter how small it may seem to you. There is no such thing as a small role in God's Kingdom, and when you do your absolute best with the small part He may have assigned to you for now, you may find yourself with something a little more important to do next time. But no matter what, do your appointed task with all your heart, in honor to The King. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is pleased when you do your very best in His service. And He loves you. He loves you so much that He created you to be exactly who you are today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Turning Back

"As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Luke 9:57

This morning when I woke up, I had the strangest song in my head. It's an old song, one that instantly reminded me of the days of summer camp. Here is a version sung by Leeland, and I'm sure that most of you will recollect it instantly.

Once upon a time, that song was sang every summer by camp kids all over- of that I have no doubt. But listen to it! At the time, when we all sang it, we were all so moved by it... there may have been tears, but we sang it with passion, with fervor, and we made that declaration. That declaration that we will follow Jesus no matter what! And then we went home from summer camp "changed forever", although just a few days later it was life back to normal and camp was but a distant memory.

Now let's read a few more verses from Luke, chapter 9.

"He said to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

62Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:59-62

No turning back. The problem we all had in the summer camp days was that we turned back. Just days after we sang "No turning back" and "though none go with me" we turned back to what was normal for us at the time. How many of us, even now, could sing these words, read these verses, and then move forward, without turning back.

I just think... how many times are we going to say, "wait Lord, I'd like to do this first. Then I'll follow you." How many times are we going to look towards heaven, desire His presence in our life, but then ignore the Bible on the shelf, or the quiet time that simply beckons?

I think that there were an awful lot of us "back in the day" who sang that song at summer camp. And I suspect there are an awful lot of people who sang that song, who maybe aren't even active with their faith at all. But I say that an awakening is coming. An awakening like what I experienced this morning. Where on earth did that song come from? I have no idea, but as it rolled through my head I felt it course through my veins, as if it had awakened something that had been in a deep slumber. I say that all those who sang this song once upon a time are going to remember their words, remember their promise, and it's going to burn like fire in their veins, and they're going to want nothing more than to take up their cross and follow Jesus for real.

I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back. I can only go forward at this point, and I can't wait to see how the journey progresses.

I'll be taking an extra day off this weekend, and not posting tomorrow. We have a conference this weekend, and I'm really excited about it. I think this is the first time that we'll be attending a conference at our church without something...pressing... that we want to hear from God about. It's exciting! Every time we've spent the weekend in His Glory, we've received wonderful answers to questions or directions for situations, and this weekend, we just get to go expecting to get closer to God. I'm so excited to not have some big looming decision or idea trying to suck my focus elsewhere!

And I also want to add for anyone who is interested, that the conference this weekend is being streamed online for free! (Of course, if you live locally, attendance is free and you are most welcome.) Services are Thurs. at 7:00 pm; Friday at 10:00am, 2:00pm, and 7:00pm; Saturday at 10:00am, 2:00pm, 7:00pm; and Sunday at 10:30am, 6:30pm, all at central standard time. Click on this link here to the church, and then to the left is a button for "watch services live" and it will take you there. It's going to be a great time! I'll be back on Monday, have a wonderfully blessed weekend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect." 1 Corinthians 15:10

This morning as I set my mind to pray for President Obama, I quickly scanned through the news headlines and updates to see if there was anything urgent that needed praying for. Do you know what I found? A headline that just saddened me and made me shake my head. The headline said "Conservatives prepare to fight Obama court pick". Now, at first glance that may sound fairly normal in this day and age, except that you would expect that headline after a particular person has been nominated for consideration. The problem is that in this case, no person has been selected, and I think this seemingly plain headline actually speaks volumes about our country right now, and it shows that we really need to spend time praying for it. Before any one person has been nominated for the Supreme Court, people are preparing to fight against the nominee- regardless of who it is. Is this fighting just for fighting's sake or...?

"If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand." Mark 3:25

I think that there is a fine line between thinking for yourself and voicing your opinion, and actually fighting against every idea. It is my prayer this morning that the people who make the big decisions in this country will listen to the opinions of their constituents, and then find a way to work together to find solutions. When we drift from one extreme to the other, all we do is fan the flames of division. We need to stop being so divided about everything! Instead of just assuming that whoever President Obama nominates is going to be too liberal, why don't we just pray for him to have Godly wisdom regarding this decision? When we commit the decisions and choices to prayer, we commit the problem and the solution to God. God knows who would be the best choice for the Supreme Court, and our prayers can put that person into the mind and favor of President Obama. This preparation for a fight is so contrary to what this country truly needs.

The fact is, we need God. We need to remember that we are "one nation, under God. Indivisible." Indivisible means a country that cannot be divided. We are 50 states united under the common banner of liberty, justice, freedom for all, and God. We are not a country if 309,065,518 individual citizens who should prepare to fight each and every one of our countrymen, simply because we think our ideas are better than theirs. Just think how much we could accomplish if we would all work together with the common goals of bettering life for each other, for our fellow countrymen, and for our mates all around the globe!

If we go back to Genesis we see with the Tower of Babel that when people purpose to work together, we can accomplish exactly what we set out to do.

"The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." Genesis 11:6

We need to plan for good and not harm. We need to try to work together, for a country that works together under God is a country that can bring good change to the entire globe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

With Sureness And Certainty

"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2

I had a dream last night that I was about to paddle a canoe down a river. It wasn't a normal river, it was more like, well, it was kind of like a water park ride, with all kinds of bends and turns and bumps. However, this river I was to navigate was very narrow, and there was no margin for error, because it was also part of a larger body of water. Too far to the left or the right on either side of this river would mean certain doom for myself and my passengers. I had passengers. I had my sister and my son behind me, and as I scoped out the scene before me, I gripped my paddle tightly, and then turned around and gave direction to them. I told them exactly where to sit and how to hang on. Then I turned back around and focused on the task before me. It was important that I get to the end of this run. I took off down the run, expertly navigating the twists and turns, and moving ever so fast. I was running so fast that we were able to glide right over tough parts and we made it to our destination safely and unscathed, it was like a walk in the park.

When I woke up this morning, I looked up these verses in Isaiah, and I kind of smiled at the water parts of it. Because in my dream, while I knew that the situation we were in was very serious, I also had complete confidence. Complete. I knew with absolute certainty that we would make it to the other side, we just needed to go about getting there. And as I wake up this morning and read these verses, the whole thing fills me with such excitement and energy.

The waters in my dreams could really mean anything. They could mean trouble, they could mean a journey, they could mean a trial to overcome. No matter what they mean, though, I know that no matter what may come my way, I will have a confidence in God to give me the knowledge to get to the other side. Because that's what it felt like in my dream. I felt like an expert navigator, like I could read the water and see the exact way we needed to go. So often as we look at out troubles and the trials that come our way, we begin to feel despair, or we wish they would just go away. But the reality is that God has already prepared us for the trials to come.

Think about that. Every trial we go through, no matter how small, is helping to shape who we are, so that we can overcome the trials to come with confidence, and with wisdom from God. So as we face down another trial, another mountain in our walk here on earth, we can move forward with absolute confidence that God has already given us the tools we need to succeed and overcome. That is just so cool to think about! That whatever is is standing before us, we can move forward with utter confidence in our God to get us to the other side. We can paddle out onto the river knowing with absolute certainty that the waters will not sweep over us. God will keep us afloat. And more than that- with complete faith, we can rise above the waters that threaten. We can change our focus, and focus solely on Jesus, and walk right over that water.

"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

29"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Matthew 14:25-30

Peter took his focus off Jesus. I suspect that if He had kept his eyes on Jesus, He would have crossed the water the whole way and maybe even done a little dance on the water. But he lost focus and he looked at the situation around him instead and allowed the physical reality of the situation to command his focus, and he lost his footing. He lost his sureness when he lost his focus, and thus began to sink.

When we focus on Jesus, our trials will be like butter. We will sail through them with ease, and we will also gain the wisdom necessary to help others navigate the trials before them as well. He is with us always and I think if we could really and truly remember that, then we wouldn't struggle so much with the trials. The trials come along, and they stir us up and steal our focus for a while. They rear their ugly head at us, and we become focused on the trouble. Instead, we need to turn our eyes upon Jesus. We need to look beyond our troubles and focus on Him. We can focus on what He is saying to us, and focus on the fact that He literally has our back. He will get us safely through our trials, and we will become more like Him because of it.

With sureness and certainty we can have confidence in our Lord God to provide us with the exact tools we need to navigate any threat that comes our way. We can hold our head high and laugh at the troubles that come our way, because we are overcomers in Him, and through Him.

"In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Ephesians 3:12

Monday, April 12, 2010

Burn, Baby Burn

"He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."

34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!" " 1 Kings 18:33-39

These verses today are part of a bigger passage in 1 Kings. I am going to encourage you to go read the rest of the account to yourself- beginning at verse 16. In these well-known verses, Elijah issues a challenge to the worshipers of Baal and Asherah, and these people readily accept the challenge, thinking their god will rise to the challenge. Clearly, they lose, because there is only one God- and He is mighty and Holy above all.

I read this the other day, and just felt like it was one that I needed to spend some time in, so I pulled out a few versions of the Bible and read it over and over, and I took some notes on it, and I just was amazed at this portion of the Bible- even though it's one of those stories I've heard since about second grade. When you're young, it's just a really cool story about how God works. But as I read it this time, we peeled back a few layers of the onion, and I see so much how this is to be applied to me, and the body of Christ today.

I want to begin thinking on verses 33 and 34, here's verse 34.

"Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench." 1 Kings 18:34

Not only did Elijah prepare his altar properly for the sacrifice, but after it was prepared he had all the people pour water on the sacrifice and on the wood- so much water that it was dripping wet, and a trench around the alter was filled with water, like a moat around a castle. Everything was soaking, and if you've ever been camping and tried to build a fire after a pouring rain, you'd understand that wet wood and kindling simply does not burn. It doesn't even smolder, it resists burning completely.

Now lets take this account of pouring on water, and think about other meanings for "dousing with water". I can think of one specifically. Often times, when a person is crabby or tries to bring someone down when they are excited, they are called a wet blanket. A wet blanket is someone who tries to bring down the mood, or ruin someones joy. Now think about all those times where you've been excited about something God is doing in your life, or that you've heard about God doing for someone else. When you mention that excitement to friends, neighbors, family members, there's almost always someone who tries to bring you down about that excitement. They give all kinds of logical explanations about why it cannot be God, or why they don't believe it, and just like that, your excitement and your passion for God goes down a few notches.

I think that as long as we are on this earth, there will always be servants of Baal trying to douse your passion for God with water. They will always try to throw a bit of water on your party to get you to stop being so excited about God. But the great news for us today is that the world around us can bring it on, and it won't make a lick of difference. When we focus on God, when we prepare ourselves correctly, and when we call on His Name, look what happens:

"Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. " 1 Kings 18:38

The water is rendered completely useless. In fact, when the fire of God fell, it consumed everything- including the water around the altar. And the result of that is that the people who worshiped Baal- the people of the world realized that God is God, and there is no other!

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

And when people see this- when they see that the "water" they keep pouring on us has no effect whatsoever, and they see the fire of God in our eyes, they will have no choice but to accept that He Is God!

Right now, God is stirring up great fire and passion in His servants. I see it every time we go to church. I see it every time we simply gather with other believers. He is stirring up the passion and filling His people with an all-consuming fire. We don't need to be afraid of this fire, this passion. We just need to accept it and allow it to burn unrelentingly inside of us, and when we do, the world will see the fire in our bellies and want it for themselves. They will want it, and the awesome thing is that they can have it! This fire is for everyone who wants it! And everyone will want it. Everyone will want the fire. And everyone will burn with the fire of the Lord.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Removing The High Places

"Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 14 Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life." 1 Kings 15:11-14

I was reading through parts of 1 Kings yesterday, reading about all the kings who did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and then I came to Asa. Asa was a breath of fresh air, as he made the right choice, and chose to follow in David's footsteps and worship and honor God. Of all the kings who followed Solomon- in both Judah and Israel, only Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. And yet, Asa still missed something very important. He left the high places. The high places were places of worship, places to sacrifice burnt offerings, but they were not the Lord's. They often had stones and idols at those high places representing other gods. They were called high places because they were, in fact, in high places. On hilltops or mountains or other high points in the land. People who made a pilgrimage would go from high place to high place, offering sacrifices at each one. But these high places were not for God alone. Asa overlooked the high places, and as a result, even his goodness could not bring Judah back to the favor of God.

What are our high places? I think this goes right along with the passion I spoke about yesterday. Is our high place our job? Is our high place our finances? Is our high place our house or other physical material? When we sacrifice ourselves- why do we do it? Many of us sacrifice of ourselves each and every day for the sake of a job, which brings in income, which we all know does many things. But WHY do you work. That is the high place that needs to be examined. I don't work outside the home, but my husband does, and every day, when he goes to work, he is sacrificing time away from his family, his home, and often times he sacrifices other things because he has to work such long days. Where for him, it used to be all about the paycheck, it isn't anymore, he's had a shift in his thinking and has cast down that high place. He no longer goes to work to earn a paycheck. Instead, my husband goes to work every day at his mission field. Every day he asks God to bring him opportunities to share his faith, or to show God's glory. Monday through Friday Andy goes to his mission field where he works his absolute hardest and best, and at the end of the week, his reward is a paycheck. Sometimes he also gets the pleasure of having a great conversation with someone about God's provision.

Getting rid of that high place, the sacrifice for a paycheck, has made a profound difference in faith in our household. Because Andy has trusted in God completely, to not only provide a paycheck, but provide for his family, he's seen that faith rewarded. God does provide and meet our needs- every single time! When we throw down what distracts us from God, it increases our faith and draws us closer to Him.

A high place can be anything that distracts us from God. Anything that takes our adoration away from Jehovah and places it on something else is a high place that should be removed. When someone goes to work everyday with the idea of making money so that they can take that incredible vacation later in the year- the vacation becomes a high place. As I'm thinking on high places, it seems to me that they can spring up on their own sometimes, and we don't even realize they are there. Actually, as I think on this a little more, I think that in light of the recent recession, a lot of people have developed high places without realizing it too- so many people have discovered the art of savings, and they become a slave to their savings account, because they're supposed to have so much in savings as a cushion in case of disaster or sudden unemployment. I'm certainly not saying that savings accounts are bad at all- they are a wonderful resource, but when your focus is on bringing in money to add to that account, your focus is in the wrong place.

A high place takes our focus off God and places it on someone or something else. Let us not be like Asa. Let us look closely at ourselves and see the high places for what they are and remove them.

May we focus on Him and Him alone, because when we do that, everything else will fall in line just as it should. Our focus should be on God.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


"Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire." Hosea 7:6

God wants our passion. He wants us to be passionate about Him!

"For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." Deuteronomy 4:24

God is a jealous God, and He wants our passion.

God created us to spend time with us and to be in a relationship with us. And what does He get? he watches us be passionate about everything else...except for Him. We get passionate about our sports- can't miss a football/soccer/baseball game. We get passionate about our hobbies, forgoing Sunday services to spend the days fishing/boating/shopping. We spend hours a day scrap booking/gaming/watching TV but we can't seem to find a few minutes just for Him. We claim to be caught up in the act of parenting, with never a dull moment, but when we do get time to ourselves, we pick up one of our many activities and devote some time to that instead of to Him.

God wants our passion!

God wants our hearts- He wants all of us. He doesn't just want us on Sunday mornings. He doesn't just want us when we have a few minutes, He wants us All. The. Time.

When we get to heaven, God is not going to congratulate us for all the computer games we've won, all the scrapbook pages we've completed, all the vegetable gardens we've designed, or all the books we've read. Or worse, we're not going to be congratulated for choosing to sleep a little later or longer...And all that stuff really doesn't matter. Yet, we give it a priority and we call it a passion.

Do I honestly believe that if I woke up earlier in the morning and devoted time to God, that He wouldn't bless me with the energy to get through my day?

Now I'm not talking about giving up everything, discarding everything to just spend time with God (although I suppose for a few, that could be a very real calling). But what I'm talking about is priorities and passion. We need to make passion for God our number one priority. And after we've spent time with Him, after we've given Him our best time first, then we can try knitting that sweater or baking that cake. After we've given him the best of our day, THEN we can see about getting the kids to soccer/ballet/playgroup. When we purpose to put God first, He will give us the tools we need for the rest of our day. When we put Him first, everything else falls into place. We suddenly find ourselves with the energy needed to care for our families, homes and the people around us.

But we have to put Him first.

That's how He designed us. Adam and Eve made the mistake of not putting God first. They put themselves first when they decided to disobey. They were cast out of that intimate relationship with God... but thankfully, then, Jesus came to redeem man and restore the opportunity for that relationship. And every year we celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas, and his death and resurrection at Easter- but where is our real celebration? Where is our passion? Where are our priorities? Jesus made a way- and yet we choose to ignore that way, we choose to set God aside, proclaiming that we don't have time. Meanwhile, we pour ourselves a cup of coffee and sidle up to the computer to waste away a few hours doing absolutely nothing.

God wants our passion.

He wants our hearts. All of it.

We don't we call God a passion? Why don't we put Him first? That's what God wants from us. And He won't stop until He gets that, because He is a jealous God.

"But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:3

Don't be fooled by a world around us that says we have this to do and that to do. Don't be fooled by the world around us who says we won't be happy unless we have all these material possessions. Give it all to Him. Give Him your checkbook, your home, your boat, and most importantly, give Him your heart. And then, then He will give you all the time and money and things you need. He will provide your shelter. He will provide your meals, and He will provide you with the most beautiful Saturday morning where you can spend time fishing- which He knows you love to do.

Do not be led astray by the world around us that says we need to be passionate about everything we do. We need passion for one: we need passion for God.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:26

This week as we pray for President Obama, he is getting ready to travel to Prague, Russia. He will travel there this evening with his top advisers in order to discuss nuclear arms with world leaders. This is one of those meetings that just needs to be laced with Godly wisdom... with some countries scrambling to develop nuclear arms programs, the U.S., Russia, and other countries need to be wise in how they reduce the world stockpile of these deadly weapons. May God give all these leaders understanding and wisdom- both for how they need to reduce stockpiles in their own country, and also wisdom in dealing with these troublesome nations trying to rise up as nuclear powers.

This morning I also feel the need to pray for the people of Indonesia, Sumatra, and the other island nations affected by an earthquake early this morning. The first reports don't appear to have devastating news, but I imagine there will be some casualties- may God give those people peace and comfort in this time. And may He grant peace to the people in that region- may they not feel fear from the earth shaking them this morning, and may they feel the arms of their loving Father surrounding them as they go about their day. May God continue to show mercy to the people of and around the Pacific Rim, while these tremors and earthquakes continue. Where the earth shakes, His glory will follow, and those are the reports I'm looking forward to hearing about.

While we're praying for peace this morning, my attention is turning to the state of West Virginia, specifically, Montcoal. Monday a coal mine in the region experienced a horrific explosion, killing 25, injuring 2, and leaving 4 miners missing. May God's peace flood that town and the surrounding areas. May He bring peace and comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones, and may He flood the waiting families with abundant peace as well. I am praying this morning for those four miners, may God supernaturally fill them with the energy and the oxygen they need to survive until rescue crews can get to them. God can provide the miracle that the community is hoping for... I pray that He works in a mighty way. May the Lord turn His face toward them and breathe peace onto the whole area, and let them know just how much He loves them.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

This Matter of Gifts

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:7-8

I read this passage in the Bible this morning, and it made me go back and read it again. And again, and again. Sometimes that's a great way to try and gain new insight or understanding. I read a passage over and over until I start to generate some new thoughts about it. Sometimes that means I need to look it up in a different translation, sometimes that means I need to focus on just one piece of it or a few particular words.

This morning as I read the first part of these verses, I was thinking about "ask and you shall receive" and I began thinking of all the times growing up or in my young adult years when I would read that verse and start asking God for a financial windfall. Who doesn't grow up thinking about how much fun it would be to win a million dollars somehow? Or when I was a teenage girl, always in love with one boy or another, my asking was more along the lines of having Mr. Dreamy become Mr. Boyfriend. Just thinking about that makes me giggle a little to myself, but then I look over at my growing daughter and the giggle is halted, because she is getting oh-so close to that age. Yikes!

Anyway. I was thinking about all the times over the years that I asked for something and didn't receive it. Even lately, I was asking God for a house, for a place to call our own where we didn't have to share walls with anyone. I really thought we were going to be given a house- and we were in a situation to have that very thing happen. But the closer that came to being a reality, the more I felt like that would be a bad thing. I can't really explain that thought process, but moving to another rental situation is just right for us at this time. God knew exactly what He was doing when He did not answer my prayers in the way that I thought they should be answered.

That is where thinking like a parent comes in. How many times do my children ask me for something completely ridiculous. At birthday time or Christmas time my kids compile these lists of anything and everything- and a lot of the stuff on their list is junk. Cheap toys that will break right away or not work properly after just a few days of use. As parents, when we look at these lists- these requests, we think about whether or not they will be of any benefit to the child. Will this particular gift bring them joy? Will it be joy for a moment, or something that will bring joy for some time to come?

God doesn't give us junk. And He also doesn't give us anything that won't bring us lasting joy. Just as sometimes, we parents go through the requests our kids have and discard the junk, God does the very same thing. He knows exactly what will make our hearts sing with joy. He knows my heart better than I know my heart- He knows which ideas in our heads are a passing fancy, and which ideas are there for the long haul.

While sometimes too, this verse could very well be applied to the physical stuff- as I've been speaking about, but how about the spiritual stuff? That's where these verses really come to life. Think about someone asking Jesus into their life for the very first time. He is never, ever going to say no- they ask, and they receive. Just like that, their life is changed for forever. Anyone who gathers up the courage to knock on the door of Christ will have the door opened up for them to a whole new world. No one will be turned away or denied- it is the greatest gift of all and it is truly for everyone who desires it! How many times do we hear of people who are looking for joy- people who are on a life journey to discover what truly makes them happy. For so many, they look to other answers, money, fancy cars, boats, houses, careers, and while all those things may be good for a time- they simply don't last. Jesus is everlasting.

Jesus is the gift that literally lasts a lifetime- and beyond. And once we've accepted the gift of salvation, there are many, many other gifts just waiting for us to enhance our walk with Christ. There is the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit- a mighty gift indeed. There are all the other spiritual gifts that come with that as well, the gifts of discernment, leadership, and evangelism to name a few. The fruit of the spirit is a gift to us as well- great gifts that will grow naturally the more we seek Him. Who doesn't want a little more patience, or a little more gentleness present in their life!

God gives us good gifts! He gives us great gifts! And not a single one of them will bring us harm or hurt us in any way. Every single one of them is designed to enhance our lives, and He, as our precious Holy Father, knows exactly when we should receive each gift. Just as I, as a parent, know the best time to present my children with particular gifts (like a bicycle, car or video game system, as an example) God knows exactly at what "age" we will best be ready to use what He gives us. All we need to do is ask for these gifts, and they are ours. That's it! We don't need to beg mercilessly, we don't need to keep asking over and over. We ask, and we receive- God will not deny us these precious gifts that will only serve to transform us more into the eternal beings we are meant to be.

God is love. And His gifts are love. We don't need to be ashamed of asking for them either- it's good to desire His gifts. As a parent, I LOVE it when I learn that the gift I am going to give my child is the thing they want most. God is the exact same way. So what do you want from Him today? Ask, and you shall receive. For God loves you, and wants to lavish His beloved with gift upon gift.

Monday, April 05, 2010

An Answer

"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." Jeremiah 29:11

Well, well. Today is the day that I get to write about the thing I've most been wanting to write about for months. Today is the day that I get to give God all the glory and the praise for answering prayers in a way that only HE could orchestrate.

Because my dear friends, God has provided my family with a new home.

But first, I need to share about a dream that I hadn't shared about here yet.

At the very beginning of January, at the beginning of the new year, I had a dream that I received a beautiful necklace. It was unlike anything I've ever seen, it had a large vibrant aquamarine in the center, surrounded by large diamonds in a kind of snowflake pattern. The chain was silver and nondescript, and the necklace came in a flat velvet box. With it came a little note that had some writing I didn't remember when I woke, except for the very end which said Love, Daddy. When I woke up, I knew that was a significant dream, and looked up some things online about aquamarines. It turned out that these are the birthstone for March. I decided that God was going to do something special for me in March, and I couldn't wait. This dream was a message for me to have patience and hold on.

Last week I shared my personal revelation, about how this home searching process has been used by the Holy Spirit to teach me the gift of discernment. I mentioned how with each house that we looked at, there was something in my spirit that thought the house was wrong for us. As the months ticked by and the houses ticked by, I maintained my patience. And when the last house didn't pan out for us in February, there was a growing unease trying to gnaw at us, trying to get us to do something drastic and settle for less than what God has for us. But I kept thinking about this dream I had, and I just knew that God was going to do something in March. I just knew it! So I kept holding to faith and patience, and made a deal with Andy that we would not look for a desperate option until April 1st. We were going to give God time.

As March went on though, something unexpected happened. Something within our church body began shaking loose in March and every single church service we had just got sweeter and sweeter. I watched as precious people that I've been praying for were able to experience a freedom in God that was so wonderful and new for them. Then I had my moment where I realized that I've been learning the gift of discernment, and at that moment, I thought that maybe, that was the gift that had been on display in my dream. I thanked God, and I was honest with Him. I told Him that I'd been expecting something different, but that I loved Him and that I was so thankful for what He'd given me in March and I also told Him that HE was enough for me.

Because God is enough. As long as we have Him, as long as we keep our focus on Him, nothing else really matters. Because something great happens when we focus on God. When we focus on Him, all the other things that we could be focused on seem to take care of themselves. Answers to problems just happen, and God steps in and takes care of it all- to me it's almost a reward for focusing in the first place.

So the last day of March came. My day went on as any other, and it was a church night. At worship that night I reiterated to God that I was so thankful for the month that was coming to a close, and I was looking forward to April. And I did something else. I told God that I wanted to stop being so focused on finding a new place to live. I wanted to be able to just focus on Him, and that I was going to try really hard to just set the new home aside and really focus for a time. Well, wouldn't you know, God doesn't tell a lie. Ever. And my dream in January was significant, because when I got home from church that night there were two e-mails in my inbox from people who had a place for us to look at. It was a God moment if ever there was one. I read them over and promptly e-mailed one of them back, because it seemed to us that it was the better of the two options, only because the other one was so vague.

All day Thursday and all day Friday we were so, so excited, because we had plans to go look at this house on Friday. Neither of us slept much for a few days because we were so certain that God was going to answer our prayers and put us in this house. Our appointed time came, and we went to look at this house. We walked through it, walked through the yard, talked to the owners, and the whole time I was keeping open for that feeling of unease, but at the same time, I was also expecting to have a happy feeling. But that feeling didn't come. And at the end of our time there, that feeling of "something about this isn't quite right" came back. We left, and it took me a long while to be able to voice my concerns, because I honestly didn't know what they were at first. But then they came, and then it came to the point where we really were bummed, and we realized we needed to sleep on it. But at the same time, that negative feeling had been there, and I realized that I needed to give the decision to God completely. We decided to wait until Saturday to make a firm decision, and in the meantime, I e-mailed this second person, the one who had one that sounded less-than-ideal and asked for a location so I could drive by it.

(Oh dear, this is going to be a long one today! I'm so sorry!)

Saturday morning I woke after not sleeping too well. We'd received good counsel the night before on this house we'd looked at, and I was really feeling like I needed to pay attention to that uneasiness and we needed to turn down that house, despite all it had going for it. I had planned to go shopping that day, and before I left, I received a reply to my inquiry with an address for this second house, and I figured I would drive past it and see it from the outside. So I did that. I got to town and found it easily enough. As I was driving past it, I saw someone inside, and then I saw the big backyard. I went to leave and drive away when I really felt that I needed to turn around and look again. I went around the block, got out of my van, and asked if I could take a look.

And the rest is history and a story that God put into our lives that we're going to be telling for some time. Because I walked through this house and looked it over, and I spent a good hour talking to the owners, feeling really, really comfortable. I looked at the backyard and my heart literally leaped. I looked at the massive screen porch and I saw my kids sitting out there doing their schoolwork on a breezy spring day. When I left, I assured them my husband would be calling, and as I drove on, I was filled with indescribable joy. I'm sure I was glowing, and do you know what? I now know what a yes answer from God feels like. I was so delighted and excited that the store I was going to? I passed it by a good couple of miles before I realized what I was doing. I was just so amazed with God! And as I thought over the past few days, there was no doubt that God guided every step, every emotion I was having, and He also made good on His promise to me of the gift- because we'd received the answer on the last day of March, we had just overlooked it for what looked like the better answer at the time.

Yesterday after church we took the kids to look at it as well, and they both loved it. They both got excited about it and seemed to make themselves at home right away. We can honestly find nothing bad about it, and it fits with our perfect timetable as well. God knew what He was doing!! Every time we told someone that we were trusting in God, we were adding to our faith in Him to provide and follow through. This verse in Jeremiah that I posted today has been so, so important to me. Every day as I would just start to feel consumed about the urgency to find a place, I would start to recite to myself "For I know the plans I have for you..." and it would just calm me so much. I would put on some awesome praise music and just praise Him for a time while I did my housework. God knew exactly where we were going to end up. He's been preparing it so that it would be ready exactly when we needed it.

He is just SO GOOD! I can't stop thinking that and saying that!! God orchestrated the perfect series of events to bring us to this place where we are just beyond excited and thrilled. And so amazed. Above all, we are incredibly blessed and in awe of God who really did have plans for us. When we focused on Him, and purposed in our hearts to praise Him no matter what, I think we helped create the forward motion of God's plan coming to fruition. We really were ready to settle if it took us to where God wanted us. Honestly, if it meant moving into an apartment complex with numerous neighbors and no yard of our own, we would have done it if it would have gotten us into the city we wanted to be in. But God had better plans, and when we placed our complete reliance on Him, and praised Him regardless of the outcome, He came through in a mighty, mighty big way.

He loves our family, and we are worth so much more to him that even the sparrows, who he cares for. And God loves you, and your family. Trust in Him. Rely on Him. And He will guide your path the way it needs to go.

"in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6

Friday, April 02, 2010

You Are His Beloved

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I 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 17:24-26

That is what Easter weekend is all about. It's all about love. A love that is so deep and so eternal, that it boggles the mind to think on it.

I had a thought the other day as I was thinking on this weekend and how much it means to all of us. I was thinking about being a parent and how much the process reminds me of God sometimes, and I thought about a season I have not come to yet with my kids, and it really made me think. I'm thinking about those parents who have prodigal children. Well, even the story of the prodigal son, here's a snip at the end.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. " Luke 15:20-24

When I think about the father, and how he must have felt while his son was wandering the world, separated, I think we get a small glimpse at how God must have felt having His son on earth for a time. We know that Jesus was with God in the beginning, and when God chose to send His only son to earth for a time, there was a time of separation there. Oh, how God must have missed having Christ all to himself. And yet, He sent Him anyway, to stand in for all mankind, to redeem us from an eternity of suffering. God sent his only son, who was a very piece of Himself, to bear all of our iniquities and rescue us from judgement and death.

Love. That's all one can say about that. God loved US so much that He did this impossible thing. Yes, impossible. When I really think about it, I could not do it. I could not send my precious son, this being who is a little piece of me, to be tortured and killed- no matter what the reason. And that makes God's gift to us even greater.

You know that question people ask, how much does Jesus love you- and then as the answer they hold out their arms and say this much- basically meaning that he stretched out his hands on a cross for us? Anyway, do you know how much Jesus really does love you? Not only did he stretch out his hands on a cross for you, but more than anything, He wants to take those arms, those loving arms and wrap them around you. He wants to wrap them around you in the most loving hug you can imagine. And He wants to hold you tight to himself for all eternity. That's how much Jesus loves you. His arms are love, and when we come to Him, and allow Him to wrap us up in His love, we can see and know that God is love.

Then, it's up to us to share that love.

Because after Jesus suffered, HE rose again and redeemed all mankind, so that we can spend eternity with Him. Eternity. And the very same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in each and every one of us. The power of love. A love so great, that we may never fully understand it. But we can accept it. And we can share it.

It is my prayer this morning that every single person reading this has the most blessed and wonderful Easter weekend-however is is you celebrate. May God make Himself real to you this weekend, and may He love on you and bring you complete joy and happiness.

Have a blessed weekend. I'll see you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Gift of Discernment

"For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things-- 10That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition]. Colossians 1:9-10 (Amplified version)

It wasn't until two days ago that I realized something very incredible about God. I had posted about our home search and the clear no answers I'd been receiving about different places as we looked at them. Then someone e-mailed me to ask for a little more understanding- how did I feel? Was there something special that confirmed to me that the answer was no? I was able to explain, and I'll do so a little here as well. With each of those times, every time I decided that the answer was indeed no, I felt a real calm, a peacefulness about the decision. There wasn't any pang of regret, I just felt an overwhelming peace in my spirit, and I was able to rest with my decision. The other night, I had been thinking over and over about that house, I couldn't stop thinking about it. So I started to pray and ask guide for guidance. As soon as I had my answer, and I agreed with it, the house no longer occupied my thoughts. Not only was there peace, there was almost a...dismissal of the object in question from my mind. I just knew that I'd made the right decision- and God showed me how to reach it.

I didn't realize, until the moment I was typing out a more thorough response to my friend, that all this time, I've been learning something. This whole time that we've been home searching, God has used the process to teach me an incredible gift- the gift of discernment.

Just saying that out loud is overwhelming to me. Here I thought we were simply looking for a home and learning to trust in God, and it was so, so much more for me. Last summer I was told to be patient and trust in God, and the reward would come. And I've been extremely patient (much to the bafflement of all around me, I'm certain), and I've trusted completely (again with the bafflement), and I discovered that my reward was not what I thought it was going to be. Honestly? I thought the reward for now was going to be a home for my family, and I suspect that is coming too, but to find the reward in this long journey is a real and true gift from God... I AM overwhelmed by His Goodness and His mercy.

Because this spiritual gift of discernment is... amazing... I have thought for a long time that I was experiencing a portion of it. I can sometimes function as a human lie detector- I can see the truth hidden behind people's words sometimes. I don't know how to explain it, but when someone bends the truth, I just know what the real truth is. I don't tell them I know it, but I know it all the same, and I've just always assumed that it was part of the spiritual gift of discernment.

But the gift of discernment...

"and to another distinguishing between spirits” 1 Corinthians 12:10

The gift of discernment is the ability to distinguish between good and bad, in essence. All those houses we looked at, or even just talked about, I had an unrest in my spirit about them. About a month ago we were about to be in a situation with a house that I had just felt uneasy about in my spirit. I didn't say anything to anyone about it because I just felt like even though it wasn't ideal, that maybe it was where God wanted us anyway. Every time I thought about it, I would think on the good things, but in the back of my mind there was this unrest, this uneasiness. One Sunday, on our drive into church we had been talking about it again, the next day I was to go make a final walk thru and a final decision. I looked out my van window and silently asked God to make it very, very clear to me if this was the house.

I didn't even have to wait to do the walk-thru. Just a few hours later after church, Andy talked to his coworker- the house was falling off it's foundation, and the cost to fix that wasn't worth it. Let me tell you, I had such a sense of relief when I heard that! Part of me was disappointed, because it meant our search was not over, but my spirit felt like it had been freed of something- that unrest and uneasiness was gone. That unrest was gone because the situation was gone.

When I think about that... when I am thinking about this house hunting, and the feelings of uneasiness I've had about each one, I know exactly what God is telling me about the spirit of discernment. God has used a basic situation to teach me how to discern His spirit in a situation. I can only imagine how He might have me put this to use in the days to come.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8

Have you ever had those conversations where someone brings something to your attention and asks what you think of it? It could be something like the latest "guru book" on how to live your life to the fullest. It's those moments where the spirit of discernment can be utilized to help steer someone back to the right direction. By taking a quiet moment and reflecting on God and asking the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation, the gift of discernment can guide me to saying the right things- asking if the book can be pointed back to scripture for a basis. Or, I can use the gift of discernment to sense an unease- an ugliness about the book that might indicate that it was inspired by things not of heaven, and should be avoided as much as possible.

I can't even begin to number the situations where the gift of discernment could be applicable- in everyday situations and conversations... and now, now that I've been going through this season of teaching, I know exactly what "feelings" I'm looking for. I know that when that sense of unease and unrest are stirring up inside me, that it means something- that it's not just something in the back of my mind to be ignored. At the very least, it means to look closer and spend some time talking to God about it.

Do you know what the best part of this whole story is? Yes, the Holy Spirit has just spent the last several months teaching me about the gift of discernment, and yes, I am humbled by it. But do you know the greatest part? It's for you too.

"For God does not show favoritism." Romans 2:11 (NIV)

or in the Amplified version:

"For God shows no partiality [undue favor or unfairness; with Him one man is not different from another]." Romans 2:11 (AMP)

God is no respecter of persons. What He does for one man, He will do for another. God has seen fit to teach me this precious gift of the Holy Spirit, and He wants you to experience it too! How awesome is that! All you have to do is talk to God about it- be blunt and say "I want what she's got!" and it's yours! It's as simple as that!

Although, I pray that you don't have to go through nearly 8 months of home hunting to learn it. God loves you just as much as He loves me- and He wants you to have the tools you need to succeed in your walk with Him just as much as He wanted me to have them. God is a God of love, and where there is love- He is also.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8