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Pressing On

Philippians 3:10-14 (AMP) And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

These are some of my favorite verses to use in continuing with progress. If we are going to be truly like Jesus then we are going to have to bear some of His sufferings.  I have to press on and be the person that Jesus died for me to become.  We have been anointed for the hard stuff, we are not like the world (always wanting it easy).

John 10:10 (AMP) The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

Know who our real enemy is.  Yes our battles belong to God, but that does not mean that He does everything for us.  Remember faith without works is dead!  There is something that God is going to tell you to do. New wine cannot be put into old wine skins.  New power cannot be put into old ways.  God does give us grace, but grace does not mean that we are to sit back and let God do everything.  God wants us to partner with Him to see everything come to pass.  If you do the work, you will remember where things are. This is why it is important for you to read and study the Bible for yourselves.

1 Peter 1:3-7 (AMP) Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who are being protected and shielded by the power of God through your faith for salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time. In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

There is a difference between knowing about God and really knowing Him.  You have to make an EFFORT.  Start now doing the things that you struggle with, because you know you should be doing them (to have the life you really want).  We need to start loving people the way Jesus loved them. 

There is a difference between knowing about God and really knowing Him. 

Luke 6:30-36 (AMP) Give to everyone who asks of you. Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.  If you [only] love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend[money] to those from whom you expect to receive [it back], what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to receive back the same amount.  But love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; for your reward will be great (rich, abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High; because He Himself is kind and gracious and good to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful.

We do not do things for people with the expectation that they are going to do something for you.  If we keep a good attitude and stop holding people hostage (really your are only hurting yourself) there is no way the devil will keep you from being blessed.  We are anointed for hard!  Just because it is hard does not mean it is of the devil.  Remember Jesus sent us a helper.  If you do what God tells you to do, your reward will be exceedingly great!  Let’s start with working on our part time obedience and get into full time. 

Look back at the second part of John 10:10 . “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” Jesus said that you may have and enjoy your life.  When I lost my job a few years ago I immediately went out to look for another. I felt better about myself when I worked. When I made a contribution. Or that is what I thought.  It takes a lot for me not to have a “job.”  I am where God needs me to be right now.  I am in a season of rest, but that does not mean I am not putting my hands to anything.  I get to spend hours in the Word now. 

I know have the freedom to schedule trips to go on conferences to hear more of the Word. I can now meet people in the middle of the day to meet their needs in a practical way, How much do you think it pleases the Father that He sees his children desire to set aside their time, finances and other resources willingly.

God wants us to enjoy the life He has given us.  There is power in confessing the Word.  As long as I have human flesh I am not going to do everything right all of the time.  God looks at our hearts. I am loved by God.  I am anointed.  I am talented.  I am growing Spiritually every day.  I am walking in God’s will.  I am going to do something great with my life.

Everyone of us has an equal opportunity in God.  If you believe, Him he will do these things…He did not say how long we had to believe. Keep pressing on! Remember it is not on your own strength, He sent us a Helper!!

Why do I fast?

Galatians 5:22-24 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Fasting requires us to use one of the fruits of the spirit that we do not like to do so much…self-control. It is hard. We do not like to deny ourselves, especially in a culture that promotes “Do what makes you happy.” I have found doing what makes me happy only lasts for a moment. Living this way can also result in you feeling regret and shame. Which are not fruits of the spirit.

I wrote a blog not too long ago that talked about the perspective of only being one fruit of the spirit and that being love. It is out of His love that we have joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

It is impossible to walk in the spirit if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It is hard to walk in the spirit if you still have control and will not allow the Holy Spirit to lead. I know it is hard. I am a planner. My husband laughed because I broke out a folder with all of our reservations and tickets for the past trip we took. When we got married I had an entire three inch binder full of plans.

One of my favorite verses to remind myself of the self-control issue is 1 Corinthians 6:12 (TPT), It’s true that our freedom allows us to do anything, but that doesn’t mean that everything we do is good for us. I’m free to do as I choose, but I choose to never be enslaved to anything. The Amplified classic states, Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.

When I allow Him to speak to me about the things that do not benefit me, I take back self-control. I do not want the have to have or do anything mentality. I am one of those that will have a television show that I have watched a hundred times in the background because it brings comfort. I am not alone in this. I do not want to get to a place that it is a “have to” and cannot be where He wants me to be at any given moment.

When I allow Him to speak to me about the things that do not benefit me, I take back self-control.

Philippians 3:13-17 (AMPC) I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.

I am going to make mistakes. Jesus was so full of compassion that He does not hide from us. I wrote down this year that my goal was progress. Last year I made a goal of running a 5K. In March I hurt my right calf so much that I could not bend my knee. I still have issues with it, so I had to stop running. Just because I hurt does not mean that I will not keep moving though. I am starting to walk the track again. The same in true with maturing in Christ. I have to seek Him more and in turn reach out more. Without an outlet to serve I will not grow where He wants me to grow. I want to forget about what is behind me that made me stumble. I want to press toward the goal. I want to win my prize! I want to become more mature.

Philippians 3:18-19 (NKJV) For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

Food, hobbies, or anything we spend out time on can be so consuming that people find themselves ruled by it. Being ruled by something other than God can cause us not to hear His voice. It can cause us not to crave His voice. It can cause us not to desire to seek Him any longer. Being ruled by anything than God is something He takes very seriously. I do not want to live as an enemy of the cross. I know those are strong words, but they are true. I do not want to live resistant to the power of Christ’s death and resurrection because I cannot get self under control.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NKJV) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

I have often used the excuse to not have self-control over the foods I choose is because I will one day be given a glorious body. However, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and Christ did pay a high price for me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so I cannot use that as an excuse. I want His power to help me bring everything – everything – under His control. Last night I talked quite a bit about this with my youth group. Our church will be starting 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting this Sunday as a corporate body. I told them to not just restrict their fasting to food. It does not even have to be food. It could be how they have chosen to spend their time. Fasting without prayer is just you going on a diet or changing your habits. The point is to draw us closer to God. When you start to think on the thing that you have chosen to give up, pray. Last year’s time of prayer and fasting brought so much peace to me that I was not shaken by the things that happened in 2020. I have read more of my Bible, read more books inspired by the Bible and started to write because it drew my focus away from me.

As we were talking last night I had them write down three things: 1) what in your life has become an idol that you cannot live without? 2) what in your life has made you feel defeated in not following after God more? 3) what do you feel has control over you so that you cannot have a deeper relationship with God? We wrote them on dissolve able paper. As they placed the slips of paper in the bowl of water, it dissolved to being no trace of those reasons at all. Christ paid the price. He is our strength. the power over those excuses were washed away when He spilled His blood for us.

Why do I fast? I want to mature. In order to mature, I need to get some of Amanda out of the way. (Fasting is not acting lowly or miserable). Self-control out of balance can lead to fear. We have not room to make fear first place in our lives at this moment in history. There is an impact I can make when I walk in His love. If you need to fast the news, social media, YouTube, Netflix, sugars, pizza, etc. Do so knowing that He paid a high price for you. He do not want anything having control of us. We should not be enslaved to anything. Make this year a year of progression. You are not going back to how you use to be, you are not staying where you are, but you are making a step towards the goal!

Please let me know how I can be praying for you during this time. You can email me at amanda@desiringformore.org.

Available

2 Timothy 2: 1-7 (NKJV) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.  Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.

This was the verse the minister used at my grandfather’s funeral this past week. He grew up in Cooperstown, New York. His father was a farmer. His home was just blocks away from the Baseball Hall of Fame. My grandfather enlisted in the army and made his way to the rank of Command Sargent Major, the highest ranking of the enlisted soldiers. He also earned a spot in the elite, the Green Beret. I could see all of these qualities in why the minister would use this verse.

When my mom left my dad (it was what really needed to happen, no woman should stay in abuse out of fear), she had no where to go. She had three girls under the age of five. My grandparents took us in. My aunt was a teenager in high school at that time. My grandmother worked at a Family Dollar and my grandfather worked in the boiler room of the plant at night. Here they were giving my mom a new start.

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1

As I look back, my grandparents did not have a lot of money. They did not lavish us with gifts. They did lavish us with their time. I have so many wonderful memories of the time we spent with them. Yes, they disciplined us. No, they did not spoil us. They did spend time with us and help raise us. We were living there when I went for my first day of Kindergarten. My grandfather took me on my first date to see “Pinocchio” at the theater downtown.

Friends were always welcome to come over. The neighborhood kids knew who my grandparents were. My elementary school friends remember coming over and playing in their pool. It was a sad day for us when the house was sold a year ago. We can hold onto the memories though.

I am reading Bob Goff’s book Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It. There is a section in the book that says, “availability is your secret weapon.” He writes, “Being available isn’t about giving yourself away recklessly or wearing yourself down to the point where you have no energy to do your own work. It’s about keeping yourself open to the world around you so you don’t fall back asleep.” This was perfect for me to read because fighting the slumber is a real battle. I like routines. It is part of my comfort. However, having a routine can make some seem unavailable. I want to be more available to opportunities and to people this year. This book reminded me that Jesus did not hide from people. Rejection and insecurities have made it okay for me to hide. I do not want to hide anymore. Time is the most valuable gift you can give people. Be true during the time you give. Do not expect anything in return. Use it to build others up. Be bold and courageous, even when you make yourself available.

I want to make myself available to you. You can contact me on Facebook Messenger or via email. I would love to hear from you and pray for you this year.

Goal of Progress

It is New Year’s Eve, tomorrow starts a new decade. I just learned this year from my thirteen year old that decades do not start with the zero at the end of the year, it starts with the one. Fun fact, look it up, it is true. We will enter a new decade tomorrow. Many people will make new year’s resolutions and feel shame when they do not follow through.

Today I was scheduled to be at the Cincinnati Zoo, although it was forecast to rain. This was my Christmas present from my husband. I follow the animals at the zoo on Instagram, especially Fiona the baby hippopotamus. The zoo allowed us to change our zoo reservation, but I did not get to see Fiona. It was okay because I did not feel like being very joyous that day. My grandfather passed away suddenly that morning and I felt guilty for not leaving right then to drive the seven hours back home. I had to remind myself that guilt and shame were not places that I am suppose to reside. I have made lots of progress these past few years out of those areas and had to remind myself not to stay there.

Last week I was in Isaiah because it was Christmas week and I ran across these verses. First what stood out to me was a warning, Isaiah 6:9-10 (MSG) He said, “Go and tell this people: Listen hard, but you aren’t going to get it; look hard, but you won’t catch on. Make these people blockheads, with fingers in their ears and blindfolds on their eyes, so they won’t see a thing, won’t hear a word, so they won’t have a clue about what’s going on and, yes, so they won’t turn around and be made whole.

Then there was the promise, Isaiah 9: 2-7 (MSG) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! sunbursts of light! You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, They’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants – all their whips and cudgels and curses – is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian. The boots of those invading troops, along with their skirts soaked with innocent blood, will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days! For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going with fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always. The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

I never want to get to a place in my walk with God that I am satisfied and can live in such a way that I do not desire growth for myself. Jesus came so that I can be made whole, not to just survive. Survival is good for a moment. There are things that have happened that I am amazed that I am still standing. However, I do not want to get stagnant.

Jesus came so that I can be made whole, not to just survive.

John Bevere, in his new book X:Multiply Your God-Given Potential writes, “Unless we push ourselves beyond our level of comfort and skill, we’ll never grow. If we aren’t “purposeful,” the danger is that once we reach a level of “good enough,” we can easily become complacent. Then it’s only a matter of time before we become sloppy in our practice, which will ultimately have a negative effect on our performance and hinder further multiplication.”

I am not a fiction reader. I read nonfiction books (books that are inspired by the Word of God), devotionals, and my Bible. I have nearly completed reading through my Message Translation Bible this year. Next I plan on reading through the Chronological Bible. The first book I have picked out for the new year is Bob Goff’s Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want it, and What You’re Going to Do About It. My goal is not to make a resolution that I will quit within the first few months, but to continue in my growth towards wholeness. I want to surrender more of myself this year, and to worry less. Lord, I want to be made whole. I know it will be a process. I have already allowed Him to do so much in me these past few years that people would not even recognize me.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (AMP) And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image (one degree of) glory to (even more) glory, which comes form the Lord, (who is) the Spirit.

Let 2021 be a year of progress!

Catalyst for Multiplication

Joshua 1:9 (NKJV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

The word “go” has been a big part of my life since I accepted Christ. I have not traveled to the nations, but I have put my hands to whatever I could. I remember attending college for a degree in pre-law then going to my church and working as their secretary for a hundred dollars a week. That was all they could afford to pay someone. My husband and I were engaged at the time. I remember those who were in the church jealous of all that I was doing, saying it was only because I was going to marry the pastor’s son. Let me in on a little secret, it was not who I knew, it was because of the fire burning inside me that I was able to accomplish so much. It was my “yes” attitude that they called on me to do so much.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (MSG) I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate – I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it – and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is in response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

It was a new life for me when I accepted Christ. I got close to all those that I could to learn more from. I was at church for every service. If they needed someone in the nursery, I was there. If they needed a sound tech, teach me. They needed a bass play, I will learn. We had an assistant pastor that used the opportunities of those zealous, like myself, to go door to door or at concerts to hand out tracks with our church’s information on the back. I was not just serving during office hours, because that was what I was paid for, I looked for opportunities.

I got close to all those that I could to learn more from.

I am reading John Bevere’s new book X: Multiply Your God-Given Potential. There is a section titled “Catalyst” and on pages 166 and 167 he talks about the time that Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. Reading his account gave me insight to another biblical person that I identify with. I identify with Rebekah.

Genesis 24:10-21 (AMP) Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels, and set out, taking some of his master’s good things with him; so he got up and journeyed to Mesopotamia [between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers], to the city of Nahor [the home of Abraham’s brother]. He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of the evening when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show loving kindness (faithfulness) to my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here at the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now let it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please, let down your jar so that I may [have a] drink,’ and she replies, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels water to drink’—may she be the one whom You have selected [as a wife] for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown loving kindness (faithfulness) to my master.” Before Eliezer had finished speaking (praying), Rebekah came out with her [water] jar on her shoulder. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin and unmarried; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar.” And she said, “Drink, my lord”; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. When she had given Eliezer a drink, she said, “I will also draw water for your camels until they have finished drinking.”  So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran again to the well and drew water for all his camels. Meanwhile, the man stood gazing at Rebekah in [reverent] silence, [waiting] to know if the Lord had made his trip successful or not.

John Bevere writes, “A true servant doesn’t wait to be asked when a need is evident; he or she moves forward immediately. In all my years of experience, it’s become quite evident that when people consistently wait to be told, they don’t multiply. Those who are always first to go into action are the ones who increase.”

As I look back to why God called my husband and I to pastor our church, I remember our early moments serving in our church. The reason we are pastors is not because his dad was the pastor before him. The reason we are the pastors now is because we jumped into action. We never did it knowing that we would have this responsibility one day. We did it because we had a heart to serve. Serving with the expectation of one day to have a title or reward is not really serving, that is called working. Serving should be easy, not saying it should not make you uncomfortable. When we serve and get out of our comfort zones, that is where real growth happens. I am so thankful that I did not listen to those snide comments or take them to heart. I pray that you do not listen to anything that tries to distract you from serving where you are called. Keep focused!

I kept looking

Daniel 7:13-14 (AMP) I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, on the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him (the Messiah) was given dominion (supreme authority), glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language should serve and worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away;and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

This year is coming to a close and tomorrow we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! As I read this verse yesterday I began to thank God for redirecting my focus this year. I was able to read more of His Word than I had ever before. This completes my second year as a stay at home mom, to now teenagers. I started out strong in my first year, then I got lazy. I filled my days with binge watching shows on Netflix while my kids were at school. At the beginning of 2020 I did not allow the television to come on until sundown for the twenty one day Daniel Fast we did. Then Covid-19 shuts everything down in March. I had to make a choice. What should I fill all that time with?

Last night my youngest son and I sat down to watch Christmas movies. We watched “Santa Claus” with Tim Allen. It is one of our families favorites. There was a part of the movie when Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is reading his son the Twas the Night Before Christmas. It brought back the memories of my grandfather reading that to my sisters and I when we were little. He would read it to us every Christmas Eve. As I told my youngest about that memory, he asked why I never read it to them when they were little. I told him that as fond as those memories were, I wanted them to focus on Jesus at Christmas.

We do celebrate with gift giving at Christmas, but our children have never known Santa to bring those gifts. We all have a choice on how to celebrate this season and our choice has been the miracle of the birth of Jesus. Jesus came to this world as a man, born in a manger, to put us back in right standing with God and to restore our relationship. He is a God of grace and mercy. I can never be enough without Jesus.

We also take time to bake for our neighbors. We will go and serve in a local organizations as a family, not just in the four walls of our church building. We want to teach them that giving is what Jesus did and that is what we should do also. We will also take a trip every year, just the four of us. Many years we are not even home on Christmas Day. It is about making lasting memories with them. They will forget what gifts they got, but they will not forget the time we spent with them.

This Christmas and all throughout the year, all I want is a little more of Jesus.

Author Unknown

As I read Daniel 7 it started out with, “I kept looking….” That is the perfect statement for this year. A couple of nights ago we were all looking at the night sky to the Christmas Star. The world was focused on one part of the sky. This same star is said to be what led the wise men to find Jesus. This year has made us think and readjust many things, but one things cannot change, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away;and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

I do not know what you are focused on today, but I pray that you take time to focus on the miracle that we celebrate. Dr. Michelle Bengston posted this morning, “I don’t know what you are wishing for this Christmas, whether it is tangible, physical, relational, or emotional. But God wants to hear about your desires from you. What a joy to know there is a safe place to come and share our innermost desires.”

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas! Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and good will to all men!!

Do we know our impact?

Yesterday was the Christmas service at our church. My husband’s message was topical, titled “From: God, To: You.” His main point was that God gave us the gifts of love and forgiveness when He sent His Son. In do so, those are two things we should freely give, but it is a choice.

He started it off with Luke 2:7 (NKJV) And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. The King of the World was here. He was not born in a castle. He was born in a manger and wrapped with cloth that Mary had brought along with her. My husband reminded us to not despise the small beginnings. He reminded us that God celebrates when we begin, it is a step towards His promise.

The King of the World was here.

We ended the service with the song “Mary Did You Know.” We sung it by candlelit.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby
You kiss the face of God
Mary, did you know?
Mary, did you know?
Mary, did you know? Did you know?
Mary, did you know? Mary, did you know?
Mary, did you know? Mary, did you know?
Mary, did you know? Mary, did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear
The dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy
Is heaven's perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you're
Holding is the great, I Am
Mary, did you know? (Mary, did you know?)
Mary, did you know? (Mary, did you know?)
Mary, did you know? Oh

As we began to sing this song I gave this verse from Luke 2:19 (AMP), But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart. Does that answer our question that Mary would know the great impact her son would make on this world? That because of Him I can come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). That two thousand years later He is still changing lives. I felt the impact of that moment.

2 Corithians 3:2-3 (NKJV) You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men, clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

The Passion Translation states, For your very lives are our “letters of recommendation,” permanently engraved on our hearts, recognized and ready by everybody. As a result of our ministry, you are living letters written by Christ, not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God – not carved onto stone tablets but on the tablets of tender hearts.

We have a choice in taking this two ways. We can say that is too much pressure, I am not perfect, how dare God expect me to live a perfect life. We could also see it as a challenge to be better. That I took the command that Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19),” literally. Wherever I go I have the potential to make a disciple because I am a living epistle. When we allow Christ to do the work in us, the living epistle is written on our hearts. Do you know the impact you make when you allow people to see that transformation? My prayer is that I draw deeper in my relationship with God and encourage others to do the same.

Merry Christmas!

Nostalgia

My husband is on second shift this week. I will wake him up to eat breakfast with the boys and I. Then, we will do devotion with the boys, pray and take them to school. Afterwards, we will spend about thirty to forty five minutes in the gym riding the stationary bikes and then lifting weights. Finally, we will spend the rest of the morning running my daily errands together. One such morning we got to talking about cereal. He loves to eat cereal, but I do not buy it too much because it has a lot of sugar. We were talking about all the different kinds he likes (Captain Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Golden Grahams) and he had this twinkle in his eye.

Nostalgia is a great emotion to have. At this time of year there is quite a bit of it going around in my household. Something that I have grown in is not planning those events. I no longer say we have to do this activity on a certain night because of tradition, or that we have to do it at all. This is a time to not demand my way. This is a time to enjoy those around us. To not forget the reason to have this season in the first place.

This is a time to not demand my way. This is a time to enjoy those around us.

I was reading Romans last week in the Message Translation and the first chapter Paul is addressing the church in Rome in a letter. Verses 8-12: I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That’s first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son—the Message!—knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you.

Paul was a Roman citizen…he was a Jewish Pharisee, a Roman Citizen and an Apostle to the Gentiles. That is quite a resume. Although he longed to be with his people, he was focused on where he needed to be in the moment. Verses 13-17: Please don’t misinterpret my failure to visit you, friends. You have no idea how many times I’ve made plans for Rome. I’ve been determined to get some personal enjoyment out of God’s work among you, as I have in so many other non-Jewish towns and communities. But something has always come up and prevented it. Everyone I meet—it matters little whether they’re mannered or rude, smart or simple—deepens my sense of interdependence and obligation. And that’s why I can’t wait to get to you in Rome, preaching this wonderful good news of God. It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

I can hear the nostalgia in Paul’s voice as he talks about wanting to preach among them. Nostalgia has a way of making us comfortable and warm feeling. When a person talks about something that is nostalgic to them, they get a twinkle in their eye (like my husband about cereal).

Today I got a message about a young man in our church that sent money to Uganda to help with medical bills. It blessed me to know that he has such a giving heart. The nostalgia for me was remembering him in diapers. He was a ring bearer in our wedding with this cute head of red hair, thick hair too and cut in a bowl cut, with his big eyes. Him and his siblings going along to watch his daddy and my husband play in the rock band they were in. He is grown, married now and still in our church. I know he has a bright future to do so much for the Kingdom. He will always be a part of us. One day he will be texting us and writing to us like Paul did the Romans. Oh the nostalgia!

At this time, remember and celebrate the reason for this time. Remember whose you are. Make new memories with your families (no matter what your family looks like). This coming week we will be decorating ginger bread houses with our boys, our spiritual daughter and her friends. We decorated Christmas cookies with them a few weeks ago. Find practical ways to serve as a family. My husband, boys and I will be helping a local ministry send book bags to Guyana. These are nostalgia potential moments too. It does not have to be the same thing every year. I pray that you make new memories, share old ones and grow in your faith this Christmas!

Focus

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

To me this has been a year to readjust our focus. My focus has not only read my Word more so that I can grow deeper in my relationship with God, but also so that I can be more impactful in what God has called me to do.

As I was reading Acts this week I was hoping that it would bring me excitement in the fact that the Holy Spirit was in the forefront. All the demonstrations that happened. The unbelievable peace of Stephen. The call of Paul.  It was the focus of Paul that drew my attention.

Paul was a man that rubbed people the wrong way. I have even heard people refer to him as their least favorite because of how he held himself. In my battle of rejection and insecurities I often empathize with Paul. Paul claimed to be a Pharisee in his previous self. There were some character traits that were like no one else, and God could use that, just like He uses me.

Pharisee: a member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century b.c. and 1st century a.d. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.

He was all in when it came to the Jewish law…he was going to be all in when it came to spreading the word about Jesus.

I can imagine Paul as he was reading the text or hearing of how Jesus told this Parable of Talents we find in Matthew 25:14-30. I used that perspective in talking to my church yesterday.

In Acts 17 we see that Paul is starting on a journey. He is waiting on two others to join him (Silas and Timothy). Just because he was waiting on them did not mean he stopped ministering. What got my attention was that he traveled places like Athens and then Corinth (we see that he is tent making with fellow believers in Corinth, he was only going to teach on the Sabbath) but I want you to see this:

Acts 18: 5 (MSG) When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah.

Paul was willing to do so much to spread the message. My husband and I are the pastors of our church. We are a small church, but it is often hard for us to turn off the doing everything button. We were not always the pastors. We were the ones that were there every time the door was open saying, “give me something to do!” If they were building something, “let me go get you more nails…let me go get more paint.” We say a need, we immediately went to fill that need without even asking if we could. It is hard to turn that off.

Reading the rest of Acts we see that Paul is a prisoner for the rest of the book. He was perfectly fine in this state. Why? He saw a way for him to get an audience with Caesar (and any governing official that would be on that path). Did you know Paul in prison was probably more relaxed than we are when we binge watch something on Netflix?

What if he got to a place where he said I have been to this many countries…I have completed my bucket list of things to do and now I am just going to relax.

1 Corinthians 9:16-17 (NKJV) For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.

Woe is me if I do not use my gift to establish His Kingdom. Woe is me if I think my portion is unimportant. Woe is me that I think that my presence would not make a difference.

Luke 16:10 (NLT) If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.

The vision that we have for Connect Church is “We exist to touch the world through our community.” This is not a little vision God has put before us. Right now we help in service projects with different organizations in our city and surrounding cities. We join other organizations to help them succeed. We do not try to reinvent something that they are already doing.

“We exist to touch the world through our community.”

Vision Statement of Connect Church

At this moment Connect Church does not have its own building. We did the large overhead and enormous debt thing and found that we were not effectual in carrying out the vision that God gave us. We are in a building program. We are saving little by little, but sowing more and more. Our vision is to make Connect Church a place for the community, not a place for them to just have “church.” It is a place that if they need to get a hot meal, they can. If they need to wash their laundry at 2 in the morning, they can. If they need a place to connect on the basket ball court, they can.

It is by us being faithful in the small things. I think that when Paul read or heard the Parable of the Talents he got a key insight on Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

I do not know if I am the person given five thousand, two thousand or one thousand. That should not be my focus. My focus is that I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Could it be that I am given more talents, more resources, more responsibilities? All I want is more of Jesus!

You are gifted!

A year ago my husband was in a series called “Finishing the Race,” in this series he described the race we are in. The race is against time…time to complete what God has purposed for you to do on this earth.  Our purpose is Ministry. When I say ministry people automatically think that is pulpit ministry, evangelism or missions. Ministry is whatever helps further the kingdom message. The gift of knowing how to work a camera or do production for television can be used for ministry. The gift of getting a managing of finances is a vital ministry (lights and chairs are not free). I have taken from his notes to write this blog today. I thought it was important, as I put my hands to ministry this week. This week I noticed holes in what I was called to do. I noticed that there are those who are suppose to be linked up with us, that for whatever reason, are not. My prayer is that you see your importance. That ministry is bigger than one person, it takes a team to finish the race strong.

You were created for ministry. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What are we created with an ability to do…”to do Good Works!”

Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we also accept the responsibility of ministry. 2 Timothy 1:9 “It is He who saved us and chose us for his holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was his plan long before the world began.” Plain and simple a non-serving Christian is a contradiction.

Plain and simple a non-serving Christian is a contradiction.

We have been called into ministry. All of us have a purpose. Galatians 1:15, God, in his grace, chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve him. Ephesians 4:1, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 1 Peter 2:9-10, You have been chosen by God himself…God called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Every Christian, the moment you became a Christian, you were called into ministry.

We have been gifted for ministry. 1 Peter 4:10, God has given each of you some special abilities be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessing. This ability is to be used for Ministry purposes. Philippians 2:4, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Ministry Life does not revolve around self promotion, but rather promotes the development of others and their God given ability. If you succeed then I have succeeded.

If you succeed then I have succeeded.

I want to stop here an ponder on the wonderful Gift that Jesus left us especially during this time of year when we are so focused on giving/receiving gifts: John 14:15-31 (TPT) “Loving me empowers you to obey my commands. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Savior, the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like me—and he will never leave you. The world won’t receive him because they can’t see him or know him. But you will know him intimately, because he will make his home in you and will live inside you. I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans—I will come back to you! Soon I will leave this world and they will see me no longer, but you will see me, because I will live again, and you will come alive too.  So when that day comes, you will know that I am living in the Father and that you are one with me, for I will be living in you.  Those who truly love me are those who obey my commands. Whoever passionately loves me will be passionately loved by my Father. And I will passionately love you in return and will manifest my life within you.”  Then one of the disciples named Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “Lord, why is it you will only reveal your identity to us and not to everyone?” Jesus replied, “Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place.  But those who don’t love me will not obey my words. The Father did not send me to speak my own revelation, but the words of my Father.  I am telling you this while I am still with you.  But when the Father sends the Spirit of Holiness, the One like me who sets you free, he will teach you all things in my name. And he will inspire you to remember every word that I’ve told you.

There is so much that is available to us because of the Holy Spirit. The third part of the trinity that we should make ourselves familiar with. A spirit led life is more than a feeling, it is knowing where you are called to be, doing what you are called to do, with the people you are called to do it with. Galatians 5:25 (NIV) Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. There is always free will though.

Matthew 6:33 (GW) But first, be concerned about his kingdom and about his approval. The all these things will be provided for you. If this is what you want your legacy to be, then we have to leave the comfort of the smallness of what we think an impact our gift makes. There are churches, community ministries and world wide ministries with holes in them. They are getting by without you, but does not mean that they have to. Just think what an impact you would make with the gift that God gave you. I need leaders and helpers to complete the vision that God has given me for Connect Church.

In Acts, chapters 17 and 18, we see that Paul is doing ministry but he was waiting on someone. It tells us that he is waiting on Silas and Timothy. Their lack of presence did not cause him to stop ministry. Acts 18:5 (MSG) When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah. Here I read this as, now that he had ministry partners, Paul is able to do what he was called to do. He was not successful every time, but he was doing what he was called to do, because those with him were doing what they were called to do.

You are gifted. You are needed. You are more than staying in your room wanting to see this world change for Him. You are being called out of your room, or like me off of my couch. Let us turn this world upside down for his kingdom!