Hope for a Better Tomorrow Without Being Able to See Past Today

Hope, a word that literally means, “grounds for believing something good may happen.” Hope isn’t something that you learn or even work for. It is something that you watch take place. It is where you see God move a mountain and believe he will do it again even when you’re in the darkest valley.

The same God who saved Moses and the Israelites from the Egyptian army by splitting the Red Sea, is the same God who will open a door you may be waiting on or even bring a family member to church one Sunday and allow them to be saved. Our God has never and will never change. He has never faded, he may seem distant, but it is only because you distanced yourself from him. God wants our full trust.

One thing many people struggle with is knowing if God is present because nothing miraculous has happened to them. A miracle does not have to occur to know God is present. God has never turned his back on you; maybe it is just the fact that you haven’t been as hopeful that God will actually change your situation. The valley you’re in may last five hours or five years, whatever time range it may be, understand that it is under God’s planning and if he wants a barrier to be broken he will never leave it standing. If he wants a sea parted he will not leave it as one. God always does what is best for you and I.

I have a big passion to change this world. The world isn’t corrupt yet, but it is making its way there. I have hope that if this generation of leaders does not change what is wrong with this world, the next one will. Why do I believe something as big as that could happen? I believe it because I have heard stories of dead men being raised and given new life in Christ. The God that did miracles in the past is the same God that is preforming miracles in the present and will preform miracles in the future.

In Isaiah 54:17 it says this, “But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

If this is the Lord’s promise to us why should we not believe it?

IF this is the living, breathing word of God that says this to us, why should we not believe it?

God has taken every one of your imperfections and made them perfect. Any obstacle Satan may try to throw your way God will turn into an incredible victory. All you have to do is have hope. Seeing is not always believing.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

-“Oceans,” Hillsong Worship

Image of God, Part 2

In a society where every celebrity, news network, neighbor, and cereal box tries to fill our brain space with the kind of person we ought to be and the kind of things we ought to think, the concept of personal worth becomes complex and fragile.  I think I am not the only one who has been found measuring myself against someone or something that I later realized was completely arbitrary (and probably born out of sneaky marketing strategy).  A couple of months ago, I had the middle and high school girls in our Bible study examine the covers of popular women’s magazines and try to determine from the pictures and headlines what Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue thought gave a woman “worth.”  The struggle, however, is universal.  Kids and adults alike are vulnerable to the voices that try to convince us that our value hinges on our conformity with trends and societal standards that cycle and change, leaving us hurting and questioning our identity.  This battle is not easily contested, but here are three truths I keep close at hand to use in the fight:
 
1.  You are made in the Image of God.
 
Genesis 1:26 tells us that God formed humankind in His own image – we were made as reflections of the Creator Himself!  Although there are varying interpretations of exactly what this means, this is for certain: whatever aspects there are that make us like Him are reasons to love and value ourselves, and God imbues us with great worth by entrusting each of us with a piece of Himself.  
 
2.  God loves YOU…
 
The craziest thing about God’s love for you and for me is that I can’t find a reason for it.  As a wayward child, one who has rebelled against the Kingdom in sin, there’s more going against my cause than for it, but listen to Paul’s confidence in writing to the Romans: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  If God truly has this crazy, relentless love for me, how can I look at myself and say, “I have no value”?  In loving me, He values me and calls me worthy.  
 
3.  …so much that He literally sent His only child to die so that you could live.
 
How much are you worth?  A piece of God Himself.  It’s a tried and true verse – “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  God calculated your value at something that couldn’t be measured in money or compliments.  He Who rightfully owns everything sacrificed Jesus – the Son – a part of the Godhead – so that you could spend eternity with Him.  How can we call ourselves worthless when we were ransomed at such an extraordinary cost?
 
It’s a very clever trick of the enemy – if he can convince you that you have no worth, then he has created a stumbling-block to you accepting the grace and love of God.  The struggle against those arbitrary and negative voices chipping away at your value is very real, but I encourage you to seek the Author of reality and root your sense of self-worth in the truth of His Word. 

Be Kind

Kindness makes all the difference.

Sometimes I feel, that our world needs a little more compassion and kindness especially from those who follow the Jesus way. The New Testament is full of moments where Jesus was moved with compassion and out of that compassion he extended kindness to the hurting, broken, and marginalized. We read that Jesus never said an unkind word to them, ignored them or pretended their situation was blown out of proportion. In fact, Jesus went against social norms and cultural trends when it came to ministering to the needs of people.

Jesus was kind.

He was kind to women. He was kind to children. He was kind to tax collectors. He never cursed those who nailed him to the cross. Jesus is kind to us all. He gives us the opportunity to live for something more than ourselves, to join in the story of God and he gives this opportunity to everyone because he is kind.

What we do and what we say go hand-in-hand.

The only way to make this world a better place is to be kind and compassionate the way Jesus was. The way the Bible shows us how to be. Just read the Gospel of John chapter 4. As you read, pay close attention to Jesus' interaction with this Samaritan woman. Take a moment and look up the cultural implications of this conversation. Jesus' kindness brought about spiritual change not just in her life, but in the village as well.

Kindness is not weakness.

There is a subtle strength that lies within a person who is able to be kind and compassionate. In fact, I would say it takes strength and courage to be kind to those who may not deserve it. But then again, to live the Jesus way is to be kind. To everyone. The great thing about kindness is that there's no need for discrimination of any kind. The same kindness you show to your family can be the same kindness you show to a stranger. The same kindness you show to your friends can be the same kindness you show to someone who serves you food at a restaurant.

JESUS WAS KIND.

Through his example we can make this world a better place. A kinder place. Take this week and challenge yourself to be kind to every person you come in contact with. Be intentional with what you say and what you do. Go make a difference. Be kind.

 

The Image of God

Last November, I had the opportunity to attend a creative conference that hosted speakers in areas such as design, branding, and photography.  Not being in any of these professions myself, much of the talk about marketing strategies and typeface creation went over my head; thankfully, several of the main speakers were great communicators and storytellers, which made their talks the ones that engaged me the most.  

The speaker on whom the majority of the attention and excitement centered was Aaron Draplin, a graphic designer from the northwest.  An animated and scattered presenter, his talk focused as much on the current political situation (voting day loomed around the corner) as on the book he was promoting.  With resentment and strong language he denounced our current president, labeling him as the worst of the worst, leaving no question that he saw no good in Donald Trump and thought that no one else should either.  About five minutes later, he was talking about his love and admiration for Barack Obama and his family, and with a hushed, pleading voice, he confided, “I know he’s not perfect, but you know, he’s human, they’re only human.”

Immediately, the contradiction in his treatment of these two politicians accosted me.  In his eyes, only one of the two men he talked about was a human who could be empathized with, admired, and forgiven for his faults; the other one was too hopelessly evil to be portrayed as a human or something the speaker shared any features with.  Mr. Draplin had unknowingly and perhaps unintentionally turned his enemy into a non-human, a simply evil “other,” exempt from redemption of any kind. 

I was piqued, not by his political views but by his contradiction.  

Genesis 1:26-2 tells us that the Lord crafted humankind in His image – “in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them.” 

This is what separates us from animals and the rest of God’s hand-made creation; this is what truly gives us our identity as humans.  Further, the Bible does not say, “He created the Israelites in His image” or “Men only were created in His image” or “In His image, He created designers and pastors, but not bank tellers or musicians.” 

Strip away all the things that we think make up our identity, and at the core of you and everybody else, there is this beautiful, reflective piece of Eternity that should tell us something about our capacity for goodness and redemption. 

You can probably tell where I’m going with this – if the words of Genesis are true, then you and I and Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Aaron Draplin all share this holy, significant identity. 

C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses” (The Weight of Glory).  This should absolutely cause us to reconsider our relationships with the individuals around us as well as with those distant, high profile figures such as celebrities and world leaders. 

How would our perspectives and conceptions of others change if we remembered that they, too, are human – and if we picked apart exactly what that means?

Not only this, but you and I and Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Aaron Draplin are all in the same group of people (i.e. the world, i.e. EVERYONE) that Jesus talks about in John 3:16: “’For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  The Lord loves you; He also loves the people you don’t love.  Do you need a better reason to love them?

Processing Mr. Draplin’s words has made me think about the people I love and admire as well as those I resent and encouraged me to reconsider my posture towards people in both categories.  We are all the same at our core, and in spite of all of the stuff we pile on top of that, God loves ALL of us. 

I have this apocalyptic mental picture of the implications of these two facts: One day, when the Lord comes back and all is revealed, I will be kneeling beside both my friends and my enemies, turning that God-shard in me to reflect its Maker, and finally, finally seeing everyone around me the way Jesus has seen each of us all along.  Everyone will be humbled before the King of Kings, but most importantly, I will be humbled, and this obliges me to act with humility towards my neighbor NOW.  

Please don’t mistake me – this is not a call for you to change your political opinion or compromise your values; this is a plea to you and to me to be every so careful with how we think about, talk about, and treat each other.

You Have Everything You Need To Change the World

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 MSG)

Did you read it?

The very fist line of this passage…“Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.” It goes on to say, “God created human beings; he created them godlike.”

WOW!!! In the beginning, humankind was gifted with life from the Creator. In chapter 2 of Genesis it says how “God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” In that one moment God breathed and man inhaled the breath of God giving him life, purpose, and all he would need to succeed.

A lot happens after the creation of Adam and Eve and it frustrates the mess out of me…this is how it went down

“Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’”
The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”
(Genesis 3:1-5 MSG)

Genesis chapter 1 says that God created human beings godlike! But, in the first few verses of chapter 3 the serpent tells Eve, "if you eat this fruit only then can you be like God." For a brief moment, Adam and Eve didn’t understand how special they really were. God’s actual, literal breath was flowing through their lungs. They had a relationship with the Creator that no other creature had. They were blessed to prosper, reproduce and take charge over all God’s creation. So, why in the world would they choose to listen to the serpent’s nonsense? At what point did God’s voice take a back seat to the deceit and twisted words of the serpent?

Maybe Adam and Eve felt they didn’t measure up to the tasks God had given them to do?
Maybe they questioned whether or not they were good enough?
Maybe they felt inadequate and needed that extra something to make up for their weaknesses?

Look at what the writer of Psalm 139: 13-15 says,

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.”

God knows you better than anyone. You were created exactly the way God wanted you to be. He's laid out every moment of your life. Because of that everything you need to advance God’s kingdom lies within you.

It’s there. Your talents. Your passions. Your unique gifts. They're waiting to be developed and released bit by bit as you live out your days following God. The enemy would have you believe you're a mistake. He wants to bring doubt and confusion to why you're here. Because he knows if you believe in the words found in Psalm 139 you'll know the truth about how much God is for you. Resist the temptation to listen to the enemy's voice. Make the daily choice to follow after God.

So as you go through out the week remember this...
God created you wonderful and complex.
Jesus saves so you can live a life free from sin and find purpose.

The Holy Spirit empowers your life to bring witness to the life of Jesus.
You have everything you need to change the world. 
Go!

Stop Striving

I’ve spent many years of my adult life knowing exactly what I wanted and going after it 110%.  I love dreaming big and figuring out all of the steps to accomplish whatever that dream might be.  I work hard and I always have.  There are times my brain never stops.  I have rabbit-trail ideas that lead to so much discussion within my own head and heart.  I see the potential of what could be and I determine that it is what should be as well.

I was meeting with a colleague; he saw something in me and brought it to the surface and I have spent the past few months trying to figure out if it is a part of me that needs to stay or leave.  I was sharing a project with him that I had been working on.  I had given several months of effort and revisions to it and I knew that it was at its best but as I was sharing page after page, he made the comment, “You are someone that always produces a 10 and yet you always seem to need a 12.”  It caught me off guard.  It has completely been my pattern throughout life to do my very best and then to take it a part, evaluate it, and improve it for whenever the next time I will need to use it. 

Everything as simple as a making a list for groceries, to living a healthy lifestyle, to the tasks within my home and workplace…everything I do and have always done, it never seems to be good enough for me.  Sure, I’ve titled it pursuing excellence, a great work ethic, just my personality, but after months of looking deep within, I realize the pattern and the pursuit I live day in and day out. I realize it has so much to do with my motivation.  I often find myself needing to produce more than 10s not just for the standard of excellence but truthfully so that I feel that I have done or been enough.

 As a follower of Christ, I know that I am enough.  It’s in this pursuit of more that I find myself striving in my own strength rather than allowing God to work through me for His glory.  It’s not the end result or the amount of effort, but it is truly a weakness to not be able to rest fully in giving my burdens over to the Father.

God desires for us to use our gifts and abilities for His Kingdom work.  He has placed within us everything we need to accomplish His purposes.  He wants us to find rest and peace in using those gifts to bring Him glory; not striving and stressing carrying the burdens of a life pursuing perfection.  Take a moment with me this week to meditate on Matthew 11:28-30.  Let’s allow ourselves to find the freedom that comes as we live a life of surrender rather than a constant pursuit of perfection.

 

Laboring for Death: A homily before Easter

Nothing about leaving this life is appealing to most.  Bodily death is arguably one of the most terrifying things to think about.  It feels like finality.  It strikes fear into even the greatest of warriors.  In contrast, this type of death though for Christians reminds us of the hope on the other side: the hope of glory; the stepping out of one and into another; the reward. 

It is the opposite of finality. 

This is why Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians can quote Isaiah 25 by saying, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" This fear of death was taken from us by Jesus Christ, the One who made a way for the sting of death to be swallowed up forever.

We must understand the way in which Jesus died.  The mystery of Christianity is that Jesus didn’t just die in our place, but that we died with him that day.  We, with Christ, suffered on the cross with him, went into the grave with him, and were resurrected again on the third day with him.  We were with him because he wanted us to be there.  This is why Paul tells the Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” 

The death that he died IS the death that we died, not just the death that He died for us. 

So what sense then do we make concerning the death that Christians are called to in the lives that they live in the flesh?  What sense does it make for Scripture to say in Romans 8:17 and 2 Timothy 2:12 that we must “suffer?”  Or why does it seem in Philippians 3 that our resurrection is tied to this kind of suffering in a death like Jesus’?  I thought Jesus took our suffering?  What does it mean to take up my cross and follow Him?  Didn’t Jesus already do that?  This is the dilemma of Christianity, the very reason Jesus’ parable of counting the cost in Luke 14 cuts to the core of our very souls.  This death is what many in the faith struggle to understand and participate in. 

Recently, I heard a story from a friend who described something that too many families have had to go through, the heartbreaking and devastating situation of giving birth to a still-born baby.  She said that as she walked into the room during the labor, there laid her sister-in-law.  She and the father were waiting for the delivery of their child that they would sadly never get to meet.  But as the mother labored with the father at her side, they were singing songs of praise to the Lord.  They were worshiping the God of the universe, praising and thanking Him for all the wonderful things that they had experienced in their lives.  They were suffering, and yet loving Jesus.   

This was faithfulness. 

This was Truth.

In the face of such a tragedy, this couple still recognized the beauty of Christ and that God was in their midst.  As my friend described the scene she used the phrase “laboring for death.”  I realized in that moment that this was a description of the Christian life.  This is what Christians are called to do and be.

NO ONE likes this idea though!  No one “labors for death” on purpose. 

What sense does it make to knowingly labor for something that you know will end in death?  

What if you had to work every day knowing your wouldn’t get a paycheck?  Or what if you studied for a test all night but knew you were going to fail? Or even worse, what if you knew that every time you tried to have a child it would be still-born, but you had go through the entire process anyway?  Laboring without a reward is absurd, but laboring for death is completely nonsensical.

Although this is true, it is this kind of death that the Spirit of God calls us to.  Chris Green states it rightly: “He is our life because he is the resurrection; in other words, God does not save us from death but through it.” 

We die every day to our flesh in the same way that Christ died on the cross. It is a mysterious foolishness to the world and even to those of the Christian tradition.  We suffer in ourselves against our instincts. We are called to silence instead of lashing out, patience instead of indolence, turning the other check instead of striking the striker, giving all instead of hoarding, loving our neighbors that hate us instead of hating back, and so on. 

It is difficult and painful to hold our tongue.  It is not easy to love those that want to destroy you.  But isn’t this really what Easter is all about?  Isn’t this why we take communion, in order that we might taste Christ’s sacrifice and suffering?  That when we accept Jesus as our own, we accept our own death?  That we now have no right to anything other than death so that Christ might live in us and also raise us?  

Can God be in a place where death is being labored for?  Jesus, the Son of God who IS God, labored his entire life for death.  But it was a death that created a place for us to live.  Now we labor for death in a way that creates a place for Jesus to live, and in a way that the Spirit draws all men unto himself. 

 

Stay Where You Are

My youngest daughter, Bianca, was very frustrated the other day, and, because of that, her attitude, words, and actions began to deteriorate. At an appropriate moment I stopped and asked her what was bugging her so badly. She exclaimed, “My Sister!” I asked “What happened? Was she mean to you?” She said “No, it’s just that she is always the bigger sister. When will it be my turn?!?”

Boy, that’s a tough one to answer. The truth is that we all go through circumstances that we wish were very different. Maybe it is the loss of a loved one. It could be the loss of a job, or financial troubles. Maybe for you it’s conflict in the family or among friends. It could be betrayal or misunderstanding. Maybe we are going through health struggles, or we could be stuck in deep confusion or depression, looking for answers. Whatever “it” is, one thing is for sure, we don’t like it!

So, What do we do with negative circumstances?

I was thinking about this the other day while reading the bible and I came across a verse that gave me pause to think. It is located in 1st Corinthians 7:24.

“So, dear brothers, whatever situation a person is in when he becomes a Christian, let him stay there, for now the Lord is there to help him.” (The Living Bible)

This is one weird verse. First of all, it seems to be telling me that I need to stay inside of my circumstances even if they are negative. That is one strange command! If you don’t believe that is what it is saying then go and read the context! Paul is talking to slave and free, rich and poor, married and unmarried, and he repeats this command in verses 17 and 20.

I would like to share with you why I believe this is some of the best advice Paul could ever give to anybody going through negative circumstances.

Let’s just make sure that we are clear. I believe that the best thing you could ever do with your current circumstances is to stay where you are, even if they are negative. Please don’t stop reading. Let me explain! First of all, this is a general principle, and with almost all principles, there are exceptions. However, that being said, one of the biggest problems that Christians face is that we don’t really know what to do with negative circumstances. The truth is, God wants us to stand our ground and become more than conquerors.

So why is this such good advice? Why should we stay put in our current circumstances. I’ll tell you why, God had a plan. Notice I did not say God has a plan (he does), I said God HAD a plan. You are not where you are by accident, but you are where you are because an amazing, incredibly loving, extremely intelligent, and clever God has created a custom made plan specifically for your life. This custom made plan has two major motives.

1. You! God wants to give you many spiritual gifts, like faith and a pure heart. To accomplish this goal, God has arranged for you to go through various trials that are meant to be a fire of purification. He is taking the awful things that the enemy threw at you, and that others did to you, and he is using them to help you. He wants to make you more beautiful, and he wants to work on the issues that you are facing in your heart and attitude.

He has worked long and hard to orchestrate your situation, not for your comfort, but for your good. So, why should you be in such a big hurry to run away from this refiners fire. It’s not going to hurt you, and no matter where you go, you will eventually have to go through something else of a similar nature. God will not relent and until he has your entire heart safe in his kingdom. That is why Paul says to stay where you are.

2. Others! One of the biggest reasons God has you where you are is because he is trying to use you to reach the others involved in your circumstances. No matter what you are going through, there are others who are also impacted, and YOU are actually God’s plan to accomplish his will in their lives. God is looking for faithful believers who will be willing to suffer through pain and loss so that others can get to know Jesus through them. When you jump ship because you don’t like what is going on then you run the risk of missing God’s will for your life and for the lives of those around you.

Quiet your heart and you may hear God saying “Who will stand in the gap for me? Who can I depend on; who can I send?” You may not like your circumstances, but is it possible that God has an amazing plan for the people around you.

Is it possible that your negative circumstances is actually the mission field and calling that God has hand picked just for you?

If you will take Paul’s advice, then stay where you are and watch what miracles God is about to accomplish! After all, the Lord is with you!!

The Secret To Bearing Fruit

If I had to choose several words to describe the world in 2016, I would choose between urgent, agitation, frustration, insecurity, warning, and attention! For some, with all that is going on, it is hard to find a sense of direction and motivation. With all that is happening, it is difficult to disconnect and rest. With all the urgency, it is nearly impossible to hold on to clarity and priorities! And, in the end, it leaves us feeling busy and getting nowhere.

For those following Jesus, there is an increased sense that we must do something! To use Jesus's words, we must bear fruit. In other words, we are ambassadors of Jesus, representing his love, nature, and power to a lost and hurting world. We cannot just watch the world go down the drain without somehow getting involved and helping. We shouldn’t stand idly by as hurting people suffer and perish. The problems are visible and everywhere. There is increased stress in the hearts and minds of our friends and family, and we are left with a growing sense that we should have a solution.

However, most of us are also struggling with the same burdens we see around us. We are pressed and overwhelmed, and the more we try to help the more helpless we feel. Instead of jumping in and saving the day, we are hoping the next guy comes along and rescues us! So, how in the world are we going to bear fruit in this condition?

There is a biblical secret to bearing fruit, and I am going to share it with you! First, let me hit you with a few verses. See if you can spot the similarities.

John 12:24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

John 15:4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." But you were unwilling,

Did you see it? Did you notice? The secret to bearing fruit is rest. A seed can’t grow unless it stays in the soil, and a branch can’t produce fruit unless it stays connected to the vine. In the same way, unless we rest in the Lord, we will never bear fruit. Just look at the verse from Isaiah! Returning, rest, quietness and trust produces strength and salvation! If we wait upon the Lord, we will renew our strength. That is what we desperately need.

So... the big point... What is this "Rest" (with a capital R), and how do we do it?

It is not sleeping, vacations or entertainment. It is not avoiding issues and hiding. We must look at Jesus’s life to see it. He often got alone with the Father, re-establishing himself in his identity and source. He would skip sleep for a whole night just to be sure he had entered into Rest with Father, God. Think about that for a moment.

The problem we have is that too many of us are so busy with life, we don’t take the time to sink our roots deep in God and nourish our famished souls. And the busier we get, the more we justify the fact that we are neglecting the single most important aspect of our life; our relationship with God. No wonder we are overwhelmed by the problems that face us.

To enter the rest of God means that we are saying there is no higher priority than drawing near to father God in personal prayer, worship, and bible study. We have many responsibilities, but entering God’s rest and staying connected with Jesus is a higher responsibility. I’m a husband, a father, a pastor, a brother, and a friend, but what is more important than all that is the fact that I belong to Christ and he is calling me to quiet myself and spend time with him.

Don’t let anything hinder your rest. I am sure you feel the call of God on your heart to stop what you are doing, pick up your bible, and seek him. All you have to do is act on that call. Make reconnecting with Christ on a regular basis your #1 goal, no matter what you lose in the process. For once you enter your rest, you will begin to bear more fruit than you ever thought possible.

Worship Series: Miracles (Jesus Culture)

I firmly believe that worship songs are not simply music, lyrics, or mere entertainment. They are powerful reminders and weapons that we can use in spiritual battle! Worship is powerful – the book of Psalms is full of songs and prayers to God! Acts 16:25-26 demonstrates the power of prayer and worship! Incredible things happen when we choose to worship Him despite what we see, feel, or hear. With this in mind, let’s explore the song ‘Miracles‘ together. Fair warning…This song is powerful!!

Verse 1:

The One who made the blind to see
Is moving here in front of me, moving here in front of me
The One who made the deaf to hear
Is silencing my every fear, silencing my every fear

[Chorus:]
I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles
I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles

I have to share up front that Chris Quilala was in the midst of a very tough battle where he was facing the choice to trust God is who He says He is even in the midst of heartache and disappointment.With the first few words of the song, Chris begins immediately declaring Who God is: He is the ONE who made the blind to see and the ONE who made the deaf to hear. Then, he proclaims who God is to him in the moment: He’s present (moving here in front of me) and is silencing his every fear! The song boldly declares: “I believe in You. You’re the God of miracles.

Chris sang these words after he and his wife earnestly prayed for a miracle, a miracle that God did not perform. You see, Chris penned and sang this song after losing his newborn son.

I cannot fathom the depth of his pain. I cannot wrap my mind around the brokenness his wife must’ve felt as she held her lifeless son, after pleading for a miracle on his behalf. Despite this broken and desolate place they found themselves in, the Quilala’s knew that this was a critical time to remind their minds, hearts, and spirits of who God is and to not allow themselves to stray from the life-giving relationship they have with Him.

With verse 2, Chris dives right back into declaring who God is again, and who He is to him:

The One who does impossible
Is reaching out to make me whole
Reaching out to make me whole
The One who put death in its place
His life is flowing through my veins
His life is flowing through my veins

I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles
I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles

While my heart grieves with their loss, my soul leaps with their praise!! YES!! God is the ONE who does impossible! And that ONE is the ONE that is reaching out to make us whole! It is HIS life that flows through our veins! And we declare: I believe in YOU! I believe in YOU! You’re the GOD of miracles!!

As my spirit stirs and fills with adoration of who God is, the song boldly proclaims:

The God who was and is to come
The power of the Risen One
The God who brings the dead to life
You’re the God of miracles!
You’re the God of miracles!

I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles
I believe in You, I believe in You
You’re the God of miracles

Read Chris’s thoughts in this Jesus Culture Facebook post:

“Miracles is a song about choosing to believe the truth that God is who He says He is. In December of 2014, my wife and I lost our baby boy, Jethro Dylan Quilala. As my wife labored in the hospital room we were praying and believing for God to do a miracle. We did not see our son Jethro come back to life, and as we held him in our arms we had a choice, to believe God is good all the time and no matter the outcome He is and will always be the God of miracles. Often times as believers we allow our circumstances to change our perceptions of God. The truth is that He is the same, yesterday today and forever. The journey of faith is full of mystery. My wife and I could be stuck going around in circles asking God why we didn’t see the miracle we had hoped for. Instead of doubting God in the face of contrary circumstances we chose to move towards Him, to trust Him and to hold on to Him even more tightly. If you need a miracle in your life don’t lose hope! Continue to believe and have faith to see impossibilities bow at His name. Our God is the God of miracles.”- Chris Quill [Miracles – Live From Outcry Tour. Watch more >> http://smarturl.it/JCMiracles%5D

 I love this song so much!! What an incredible reminder to be still in the Lord regardless of what I am facing. (Exodus 14:14, Psalm 46:10.) Be it on the mountain, or in the valley – my perception may change but God never has and never will. He is the God of miracles. While I may not know or understand His choices in how and when He performs miracles I know from the restoration in my own life that He is still the God of miracles (Psalm 77:11-14.)

No matter what we may find ourselves facing, may we have spent time in the Word and prayer, getting to know the character of God so much that we too can declare:

I believe in YOU! I believe in YOU! YOU’RE the GOD of miracles!! 

 

Please note: This blog was re-posted with permission from Amy Eaton.  Her original blog post can be found here.

Reboot

John 17:3
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The other day I decided to head out into the forest for a walk. Not just a hike, but it was one of those journeys that I go on when I need to settle my spirit. I won't call it a prayer-walk, but more of a desperate search for a right now, right here experience with God: an escape from the daily grind.

It's kind of like a spiritual reboot.

Sometimes, in this crazy adventure called life, we need a moment to disconnect. Even Jesus had to escape from it all to seek the father and to pray. He would often step away from all the ministry and the miracles to find a quiet moment alone with his heavenly Father.

Do we somehow think we are better than Jesus, maybe stronger than him? Do we imagine that we have found a better way, a short cut of sorts? Sometimes we discover that a small, errant pride has deceived us into thinking that the rules don't apply to us. Thus, we begin an unpleasant downward spiral toward exhaustion, frustration, burn-out, and disobedience.

Now, I need to add something here. I'm not advocating a break from doing God's will so that we can catch up on Facebook, e-mails, and binge-watch something on Netflix. I'm talking about a real search for God that puts him back on the throne of our heart and makes him the number one priority in our lives again.

As for my trip into the forest that day, I was seeking God with a heavy heart. For some weird reason, I was second-guessing all of the decisions I had made in the last month. (Am I the only one who does that?) There I was sitting on a dry log in a clearing of the forest, trying to ignore the random bugs flying around. I was laying all of my cares on God, all of my doubts, fears, and regrets. I could feel his presence, but I knew I wanted something more. I longed for a breakthrough, answers, and comfort from his heart to mine.

At that moment, God began to speak to me.
“Michael, what is it that you think I want from you?”

I thought about it, but before I could finish, He answered His own question. “I want to know you and for you to know me”.

In an instant, all of the problems faded. My perspective took a turn, and I remembered again that the most important goal I could ever have is to grow closer to God through every step of my journey. In other words, this was the measure of success or failure. Not how much I have done for God, but how well I know him and how well he knows me.

Ministries come and go. Opportunities come and go. People come and go. God wants us to build our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. So that on the last day when we are called home, we will look up at Jesus with a smile knowing that our mutual friendship is already deeply established!

Here are some verses for you to study, read, and memorize. (read the context as well.) They will help you on the journey of knowing Jesus Christ, and loving him with all your heart, soul, and strength! There are five passages, and you can study one a day for the next week. Let's make it a week dedicated to knowing God!


Take a week to reboot!

Phillippians 3:7-11-Nothing compares to knowing Christ.

2nd Peter 1:2-3-Knowing God brings amazing benefits!

John 10:14-15,27-Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. They know his voice and follow him.

Luke 10:38-42-This is the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus visited their house. Martha wanted to make everything perfect for him, but Mary just wanted to sit at his feet. Jesus declared that Mary had chosen the better way! This shows us God's priorities.

Matthew 7:21-23-Here, Jesus tells people that his criteria for judgment is not the miracles and ministries they accomplish, but rather did they truly have a relationship with Jesus or not. And, the relationship demands obedience to the word of God.

May God richly bless you with a growing relationship with your Lord and King, Jesus Christ!

The Perfect Family

One of my favorite moments is when the whole family is gathered together. Ana and I have formed a beautiful family and we enjoy it very much. It is not a perfect family. We have problems and differences, but that doesn’t stop us from loving each other or growing together.

Many pastors and believers want their churches to be a perfect family. They get frustrated and discouraged when problems occur. No one is perfect and a community of imperfect people cannot create an ideal church.

Making a congregation into a perfect family is a disproportionate aspiration. One of the greatest dangers for a church that pretends to function that way is that it tends to enclose itself in its own circle. It is difficult to enter into an environment of strong bonds and family culture.

The second danger is that when a problem occurs or there is a clash in relationships and the impact on the rest of the group can be harmful. The third danger is that the pastor of a family church would invest a great part of his efforts and abilities on maintaining the harmony and the coexistence of a group that is varied in age and background.

The church of the New Testament had many problems. The letters from the apostle Paul reflected the conflicts, mistakes and the complexities of the churches of the first century.  The meaning of the mission of the church is not to form a tight-knit community that’s trapped in strong bonds among its members. Wanting to be like a family can lead us to end up like a sect.

In many family churches, the demands of its members for attention, especially the older members, is sometimes greater than their desire to fulfill the mission. This causes pastors to become trapped in a closed circle. The church stops growing and other conflicts arise. These people criticize the big churches because no one knows each other.

The mission of the church is not to be a perfect family.
It is to be a community of acceptance, love and forgiveness.

In order to achieve this, it is necessary to be an open community. Imperfect in its composition, but perfect in its mission. This means being clear on the objective to be salt and light, a refuge and hospital for the brokenhearted, and a training school for life and for the mission.

Trying to have a perfect church like a country club will consume all our energy and we will not be able to win those who are lost.

Ultimately people have to be attracted by Christ, not by our friendliness.

The After Story of Haiti

It was very life changing being in Haiti with the leaders and students from our church. Many life changing events happened to and through me when we were there. It was my first trip on a plane, and when we flew in over Haiti the first thing I remember seeing was a small motorbike and burning trash across the roads.  This was at 8:30 at night there.

I came in expecting Haiti to be a very deep and hopeless place where people didn’t care for anyone around them.

What I got was completely different. I’ve never experienced something that was in such a bad situation, but still found a sense of hope and a sense of peace in what they were in. I saw smiling faces through faces that had been beaten. I saw feet running with heels that had been cut and bruised by rocks and glass.

I had to see past the devastation and see the beauty of what God had placed in Haiti.

I had to reach through all the burning trash to grab the diamond so I could see the beauty.

A verse that was laid on my heart while we were in Haiti was Psalms 68:5-6. It says,

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows- this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

In this verse I found that everyone has a father, even those who do not have parents. They will always have father that will never leave them. God is always with them. And He will always do His best for us. He does nothing less. He does better than perfect. He always does more than we can ask for.

He will change your life, if you allow him to be in it.

Something I was so amazed by was how much people were striving to do everyday in Haiti to change how people live their lives. Cathy and Beaver from 2nd Story Goods are two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. What they’re doing in Haiti is unreal.

They believe that providing people with opportunities instead of giving them things is more important. They look at the skills of these men and women and see what they can make that will sell to other people so that they can make money. They are trying to not put people out of business. So they said if they do buy anything to give to someone, they’re going to buy it from someone in Haiti so their business will keep going.

I didn’t just see hope in adults, I saw hope in all the kids. They lived in trash. Literally, trash was burning outside of their houses. But they didn’t care. They were focused on the things they had and the things they could do rather than the things they don’t have and the things they wish they could do.

They quickly learned our names and by day two they knew who we were with our backs facing them and ran up and hugged us. I’ve never seen so much joy and happiness in something that looks so dark and devastated. It was the real definitions of beauty.

This was my first mission trip and I’ve got many more to go. My work is not done in Haiti.  But it’s also not done in Chattanooga. I don’t understand why people can make a difference in another country on the other side of the world but can’t do it in their own town.

This trip taught me that the world is not dark. There is so much good that towers over evil in the world. You just have to get past the devastation to see it.

A friend, Nikki Hicks, which was on our team, said something that will always stick with me and what I want you to remember from my time in Haiti.  She said, “Sometimes you just have to explore the ugly to find the beauty.”

A Thread of Grace: Uncle Tommy

For those of us who have endured childhood trauma, we may find ourselves still struggling in regard to identity and purpose, regardless of age or gender.  Parental observances on the calendar and emotionally warm familial posts on Facebook can be a trigger for painful memories that exacerbate our struggles. 

In times like these, it is helpful and Biblical to turn our thoughts and to focus on good and lovely things as Philippians 4:8 instructs us to do.  However, as my husband shared with me upon his recent return from a trip to Haiti, it is sometimes necessary to come face-to-face with the dirty and ugly things of life in order to discover the good and lovely fingerprints of God.

Recent transitions in my own life have forced me to revisit some ugly and traumatic events in my childhood and young adult years.  Much of the emotional pain I suffered emerged from a profound desire for parental love.  In fact, I actually allowed my desire for parental love and affirmation to become a god that proved to be a deep, empty well in my life that only God can fill. 

On some days, especially when I’m tired, stressed or suffering disappointment, I still struggle.  However, the older I get, the more clearly I see God’s beautiful threads of grace that have been woven into the tapestry of my less-than-perfect life.  One of those threads was my adoptive father, Tommy Bohannon.

Uncle Tommy was married to my biological mother’s sister, and he became my father by adoption when he was sixty-four and I was six.  He had raised six children on his own and had just entered his retirement years when he and my aunt adopted me; a little scraggly, thirty-four pound project kid.  Though at one time, my biological parents had served in ministry in the Nazarene church, the enemy of all families devised a plan of destruction, and my parents fell prey to it with divorce and multiple dilemmas following. 

My parents signed the adoption papers on me, the youngest of four children, after more than twenty years of marriage, when they were both well into their forties. 

I remember the day of my adoption upon which I wondered if I was suppose to begin calling my adoptive parents Mom and Dad.  However, Uncle Tommy clearly explained to me that he was forever Uncle Tommy to me because my parents still loved me in their own way and that they did what they felt was best for me at that particular time in their lives.  He further stated that it would be wrong to take the title of parents away from them because the whole process had already been painful enough for them.  Uncle Tommy was always the voice of understanding and reason because he cared deeply for hurting people.

Because Uncle Tommy taught me to respect my parents, I maintained a relationship with them throughout the years.  Though my mother could never quite bring herself to talk about the adoption, she strove to show love to me in other ways.  And hours before her death, I was able to pray with her and tell her that the adoption had all worked out for good.  And my dad did express his regret on more than one occasion.  Between the years of 1989 - 1991, my dad was a servant of empathy and encouragement to me as I dealt with a very painful divorce and the death of my sixteen-month-old daughter.  During this season, I got to hear my dad preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Nazarene church once again.

God, the Restorer, was truly at work in his life.  I got to experience my parents in affirmative ways because Uncle Tommy taught me to respect them, no matter what.     

Uncle Tommy was the hands of Jesus on me in more ways than I can ever recount.  Though he was a small man in weight and stature, he stood confident and bold when he needed to.  Once after I had been physically whipped by someone within the family, he noticed that my demeanor was off, and he called me aside to discover my badly beaten back. 

He said nothing except, “Stay here, Neka”, and he came back and gently rubbed Vaseline into each wound and just held me close. 

To this day, I remember the feel of his little bony chest and the faint scent of Old Spice within his embrace.  And then he faced my abuser and told them that if it ever happened again,  he would call the police. 

Never again did I suffer physical abuse of that magnitude.

Uncle Tommy instilled within me a love of learning and encouraged me to read.  We would sit in front of a little gas heater in our project home on cold winter evenings and read the newspaper together, though I didn’t understand much of what I read. 

In the summer months, we mowed grass together for hire in order to supplement his Social Security earnings so that I could have new school clothes in the fall.  Upon returning home, we would often eat a boiled-egg and tomato sandwich and look at library books while sitting under the shade of a big sycamore tree. 

Uncle Tommy was a music man.  He wrote music, taught Stamps Baxter music schools, and began teaching me to play the piano in the first grade.  Music was important to him and not to be trifled with.  If a song was to be played publicly; it was to be practiced privately.  And for thirty-seven years as a church pianist, his admonition drove me to do the best I could possibly do.  And if I ever became sloppy, the guilt drove me nuts!

Uncle Tommy loved to garden, and upon harvest, he would give at least half of his vegetables away.  The garden was a sacred place for him just like music.  The tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting were to be regarded as honorable work for the Lord. 

He taught me to embrace a strong work ethic which sometimes drives my husband crazy when he wants to pamper me!

Uncle Tommy was a thread of grace. 

He was beauty even in the ugliness of a difficult childhood.  I challenge each reader of this blog to look for beauty among the ashes.  Despite any trauma that has visited your life, God’s fingerprints are spread over the pages of your life.  Don’t be afraid to revisit the dark places, for therein you are bound to discover Jesus, the Light of the world. 

Something to think about…

           

Adding Value to Others

We all have opportunities to be a leader!  We can be a leader at a board room table, a work place conference table, a dinner table, a picnic table or a playroom table for tea.  We all have opportunities to influence others.

Step away for a moment from your daily routine and even from the fast-paced culture in which we live.  Slow your mind and thoughts.  Listen to a worship song to connect you to the Lord.  Then read this scripture, Mark 10:42-45.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’  

At first thought it seems up-side-down, even counter-intuitive, nothing like the life of a ruler or someone elevated to the high ranks of President, CEO or parent. 

Yet, the scripture is clear.

By serving we add value to others!

I recently heard John Maxwell, a world renowned leadership expert; say to his eager audience of growing leaders, If I could ask for one thing in your life, I would ask that you become a person who is intentional about adding value to the people around you.

Let that soak in for a moment.  Our culture, movies, television and media in general would portray a leader directly opposite.  Yet Jesus tells us to let go of the ego, to humble ourselves, and serve.  Here, Maxwell is using his influence to urge top leaders to add value to OTHERS!

What did Jesus ask?  Luke 10:25-37 (Parable of the Good Samaritan) We are to show mercy to others.  We are to show mercy on those who are culturally alienated.  Remember, Grace is giving them what they don’t deserve.  Mercy is not giving them what they do deserve.  Jesus gives mercy and grace.

 

What does it mean to add value?

Adding value is shown in verbal and non-verbal ways!  It can be as simple as a smile, a nod of the head, or a quick hug---to as complicated as an empathetic conversation with someone about their current situation or even helping someone find their place or role in our church or small group.  Adding value can be an attitude or a deed.

 

Adding Value has to be intentional!

In John 13, Jesus illustrated adding value when he intentionally washed the disciple’s feet.  The big idea here is to funnel our thoughts down to our behaviors! 

If I’m to be intentional about adding value to people…how do I do that?

Maxwell gives four ways to add value to people:

            1.  You have to value people.
            2.  You have to value yourself.
            3.  You have to know and relate to what people value.
                (Be a listener, then a learner, then a leader.)
              4.  You have to do the things that God values.

 

Grow our Church

To grow our church and win others to Christ, we must gain respect of those we aim to influence.  Respect is the key that opens a relationship!  In a relationship we have to LISTEN and really LISTEN.  Then we can LEARN…LEARN what is important to them.  You can learn where they are, so you can help them to the process of transformation.  Soon you will lead them to the only one who can truly transform and give value to their lives…Jesus Christ!

 

So here is my challenge to you...

Are you adding value to others?  It’s only through Christ’s love that we can show love to others.  When we lay our head on our pillow at night, we have to ask ourselves, what did I do today to show value to people…to your family, your spouse, your kids, your neighbors.  We don’t show value naturally.  So, if you cannot remember doing something, then guess what, you unintentionally did NOT show value that day.

Sunday at Church
When we leave church on Sunday ask yourself, did I show value to someone today?  Did I exceed their expectations?  It can’t just be the responsibility of the host team—it’s expected from them.  It has to be the culture of our church body.  It has to be in our DNA.  It starts wit us!  We are all leaders in our church! 
Great leaders must be great servants!
If we add value, we get respect.  If we get respect we get relationship.  If we get relationship we get commitment.  We have to love all people as Jesus loved ALL!  If we add value to people, they will be drawn to us and we grow the kingdom.  If we add value to people we have shown them Christ.  If we show value we have loved as Jesus loved!  If we value what God values we have honored the Father.

Let All the Other Names Fade Away

A powerful move of God came over us during worship this past Sunday at church as we sang the lyrics to Spirit Break Out (Click here for a Kim-Walker Smith version.) I had been praying through the lines while singing, praying the lyrics over our church. Over our city. Over our hearts. I already felt a stirring deep within and could not help but drop my head and lift my arms in worship considering how precious Jesus is and how unworthy I am. As often is the case for my heart that is so prone to worship my King, the song became a prayer:

Spirit break out!

Break our walls down!

Spirit break out!

Heaven come down!

 King Jesus! You’re the name we’re lifting high!

Your glory – shaking up the Earth and skies!

Revival, we want to see Your kingdom here. Jesus!

Toward the end of the song we sang lines from a Matt Redman song (Wide as the Sky)

Let all the other names fade away

Until there’s only You

Let all the other names fade away

Jesus take Your place

I know I am not alone when I say it was a heart’s cry lifting up from many of our souls to the One Who saves. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong. A bold word came through tongues and interpretation and God spoke to us. He said many things, but He also asked “Do you know what you are asking for?”

It is still resonating with me and I respond: no and yes, God.

No, I don’t think we know the magnitude of what that plea is truly asking for. No, because I do think some are simply singing or standing in the presence but not feeling moved or shaken. But also YES! Some of us do know (within our human capacity) we are asking for You to break out and do mighty things. We want revival, God. Not the temporary thing but the kind that radically changes us for Your kingdom & glory’s sake. We are not satisfied with the rat race. We are not satisfied with handshakes and “I’m fine” answers. We are not satisfied with simply living for ourselves or to build a nest egg. WE WANT TO SEE JESUS.

Our pastor Mike Chapman, sensing the presence, called us to stay in the moment and pray. We began to sing those words again:

It was in this moment that I began to weep uncontrollably. I had no words. I couldn’t even formulate a prayer. The only thing that could pour out of me were prayers in tongues. I’m weeping again as I type this blog. I’m talking the screen is fuzzy because of the tears blurring my eyes and streaming down my face.

Something big is happening in our church. It is starting in the hearts of a few, and I pray it becomes the cry of many.

Jesus is placing a holy unrest within us.

I just know that I am not alone in this. He is stirring us. Beckoning us. Will you come to Him? Will you let all the other names fade away? Even your own – until there’s only Him? Will you say yes?

 

Yes, God. Yes. I know what I am asking for. Yes, I want you to take Your rightful place. Yes, I know what I say when I ask that Your spirit break out.

 

And as I ask that Your spirit break out…I ask that it penetrate every place of our lives.

Change us, God. Help us to live like we believe what we sing, read, and pray.

Help us to live generously because what we have is already Yours.

Lead us to love lavishly because none are worthy and we are not judge-material. We are called to love and to serve. To speak with life on our tongues, not death. To speak with faith, not fear.

Help us to serve with sincerity that you may be glorified and honored.

When we are confused, afraid, overwhelmed or lonely, help us to go to Your Holy Word before we go to Google. May You be our first source we seek. May we make time in Your Word and in prayer a priority of our days. May we desire You and seek You like the songs that we sing declare.

Help us to listen and meditate on the words of the songs we sing to You. May our spirits be renewed and encouraged and live out what we are singing. May worship flow from deep places within us where we behold a glimpse of your majesty. May the songs become more than a melody – may they be proclamations and dedications of our souls.

May we live what we sing, read, and believe.

Yes, God. We know what we are asking for – and we declare boldly and humbly again –

Jesus take your place, In our homes, in our families, in our jobs, in our friendships, in our interactions, in our commute, in our spending, in our desires, in our leisure, in our dreams, in our communities – in everything:

Jesus take Your place.


Please note: This blog was re-posted with permission from Amy Eaton.  Her original blog post can be found here.

 

Beautiful are the Feet

Very soon 14 others and I will be boarding a plan to head on a mission trip to Haiti.  I am super excited about this trip because my oldest son will be with me.  He is going to have many first time experiences on this trip.  First time to be on a plane, first time to travel internationally, and the first time to let his heart be touched by the calling of missions. 

Here at City Church we say we want to take mission opportunities that:

1.     Go Support our mission partners
2.     Go where the need is great
3.     Go where the gospel has never been before

We are going to Haiti because there is a great need.  They actually say that Haiti is a fourth world country.  We will be working at many orphanages with kids that that need to feel the love of Jesus.  Each day we will be asking the Lord to lead us to the right opportunities to share His love with others.

One of the things I love about going on a mission trip is what happens to the person headed to serve others.  You see, many fail to understand that mission trips are not just about what you get to do for others in a country but what God does in your heart as you serve others.  I would say that every mission trip I have ever been on has changed my heart for the better.

Isaiah 52:7, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

I want to represent the beautiful feet of Jesus.  I want to take the Gospel to the least of these in our world.  I want to serve in the name of Jesus.  And the most beautiful thing is as you serve you are being transformed from the inside out. 

So, let me ask you to help me out on something.  Would you to pray for the team?  Pray for the following:

·      Good and safe travel

·      For open doors to serve people

·      That we would carry the name of Jesus with compassion to those we meet

·      Our hearts would be touched deeply by God’s love for humanity

·      That every step of the way we would be led by the Spirit.

We can’t wait to be back and tell the amazing stories what took place on this trip.  As Christians we are not called to sit in neutral we are called to Go! 

You Are A Treasure

Deuteronomy 14:2, Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth,
the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

I think this bears repeating – the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.  The Lord CHOSE YOU and you are his TREASURED POSSESSION!  Just think about that for a moment.  A treasured possession is something of great value. 

Therefore, you are VALUABLE to your Heavenly Father.  He chose you!  He values you!  He loves you!  Do you believe that?

Picture this:  a one dollar bill.  If I write “Gwen was here!” on it with a sharpie, what is the value of it?  It is worth $1.  If I wad it up and throw it on the ground and step on it, what is the value of it?  It is worth $1.  If I rip it and tape it back together, what is the value of it?  It is worth $1.  Nothing I did to the dollar bill changed it’s value. 

The same it true for us. 

No matter what has been done to you in your life…no matter what you have done in your life…your value has never changed.  You are, have always been and always will be a valuable treasure to your Heavenly Father.  One that he adores and loves dearly…with a love that is sometimes hard for us to comprehend.

If we can really believe He loves us and experience His deep love for us, then we can take God’s love and share it with others.  Ephesians 3:17-21 says, And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love and my you have the power to understand as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love really is. 

May you experience the love of Christ, through it is so great you will never fully understand it, then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Knowing God’s love and living in the fullness of God’s love will make us more effective as the church.  After all, how can we convince someone that God loves them if we don’t believe it for ourselves?

Please know that God loves you.  You are the apple of His eye.  You are adored by your Heavenly Father.  You are God’s treasure!

 

Selah: The Art of Pause

God has always used art and the creative process to teach me.  In college, I took a bunch of ceramics classes.  I spent hours hand-building these large bulbous bowls with clay coils.

I had to wait for the long strands to be the right consistency to connect them to the previous coil.  If I used them too early, the pot wouldn't take shape and would fall in on itself.  If I waited too long, the coils would become brittle and crumble.

Then, came the scoring between the coil pieces so they would be sure to stay together leaving no possibility of an air pocket which would cause an unwanted explosion in the kiln.  After all of that, I would burnish the pot with a back of a spoon, or a smooth stone to get the right finish I wanted. 

Then, the firing process.

The pot is fired once.

Then glazed.

Then fired in the kiln again.

At the end of it all, we see the product of an arduous process and get to delight in its beauty and functionality.  The process of a single piece of pottery isn't fast, or tidy, or easy.  It's messy work with many considerations.


Over the past few months the Lord has been gently teaching me a few things.  He put this word in my thoughts:  

Selah.

Selah is found 74 times in the Bible.  71 times in 39 of the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. The true meaning of the word is unknown.  Speculation provides us with several interpretations including, but not limited to: a musical interlude, pause, and something similar to amen.  Most of the time we find Selah at the end of a verse.  However, there are several instances where it's not found at the end.  Here's an example:

He will send from heaven and save me;
    He will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
Psalm 57:3

This particular placement of Selah, interests me.  It's in the middle of the verse-almost like an interruption for the reader. 

Right now, you're in a moment in the process of a work being done in your life.  Maybe you feel like you're inching your way with your head down and your eyes focused on your failed attempts.  Things aren't turning out like you planned in your mind.  At all.

Or perhaps, you're in a full-on sprint, going way too fast, never stopping, in fear that if you do stop you may never begin again. You're skipping steps hoping to get to the finished piece quicker, just to be done.

Either way, your focus is on your own strength or lack of it.

If that's you, I want to encourage you to pause, reflect, and give thanks.

Take a breather.  God's got you. 

Remember, this work that's being done in your life-it's a process and it isn't fast, or tidy, or easy.  It's messy work with many considerations. 

The process is just as important as the finished product.  It's in the process that we are stretched and challenged to grow and produce beauty.  It's where we fine-tune the skills God has given us.  It's where we learn about the Creator.  It's in the waiting that we continue to trust God.  He's at work even if we can't see it.

Like a Selah in the middle of a verse, sometimes we need to pause in the moment. And in that stillness we turn our eyes to God and breathe.

Knowing Your Worth

I grew up in a loving environment surrounded by relatives and friends that would always tell me, "Kristen you are beautiful!" When they would tell me that, I began to question if that statement was true because I didn't believe it myself.

This is something I've found myself struggling with for many years. I'd use things like tanning, wearing lots of makeup or even dating the right guy to cover up my pain, thinking it would make me feel beautiful.

A lot of times, I would compare myself to other women wishing I could look like them. I would continually beat myself up on a daily basis, struggling to take my thoughts captive.

I found myself wanting to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to look like and not who Christ had created me to be.

When my husband and I first started dating, I had a lot of baggage that I had carried into our relationship. I was able to open up and share the struggles I had been dealing with my whole life with him. He challenged me to take some time to fast and seek the Lord about my true identity and knowing who I am in Christ. Through that time, the Lord opened up my eyes to see that I am a beautiful daughter of Christ and that He created me to be more than what I was identifying myself as.

For those of you who are reading this and find yourself relating to my story, Christ wants you to know that you are beautiful even though the world may tell you otherwise. He wants you to stand with confidence in front of the mirror and see yourself the way that He sees you! The Lord made each one us unique and with a purpose.

The most beautiful thing to the Lord is our obedience and willingness to please him in all that we do.

As a daughter, wife and mother I want to show my family, friends and everyone else around me to find more value in Godliness than things that are temporary.

1 Peter 3:3-4 says: "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

Proverbs 31:30 says: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Remember to take each thought captive and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into the image of Christ.

You are beautiful.