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What Joseph taught me about forgiveness

Have you ever heard the statement, “It is always the closest to you that hurts you the most”? I never understood it, until I had to live through it. This past week I spent time in Genesis and I got to the story of Joseph. As I was reading I wept, because I knew what he was going through. Yes, Joseph probably should have kept his mouth closed when he told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him. However, when God gives us a revelation sometimes we are just so excited we cannot help but blurt it out!

When I read this statement: And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked (Genesis 37:8b MSG), it reminded me of how it felt about not being invited for family events. My husband and I pastor a church…it is the most amazing thing we have ever done and we love it. We have family that attend our church, and we also have family that no longer attend our church. It does not matter to me where any of my family attend. It matters to me that they have a relationship with God and His people, that they are serving where God tells them to. I want them to love Jesus! However, it does still hurt not to be included. Yes, I have made mistakes. I did push, when I should have been more compassionate. Like Joseph, I was over zealous and it was not received!

If you do not know the story of Joseph I encourage you to read Genesis 37-50. I will paraphrase this for you, it is very long but an important story.

Joseph is one of twelve brothers. He is the son of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel being the wife that Jacob wanted, but was tricked into marrying her sister, Leah, first. Jacob ended up having children by four different women (sibling rivalry is to blame). Joseph was his favorite. Joseph had a special gift and could interpret dreams. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and one day decided to do away with him. They sold him into slavery and Joseph ends up in Egypt. Jacob thinks that Joseph is dead.

Life is pretty good for Joseph in Egypt until one day he was falsely accused of rape and is put in prison. However, Joseph was a model prisoner is put in charge there. One day he meets two other prisoners, he interprets their dreams and they come true. Then, Pharaoh has two dreams that deeply trouble him. One of the prisoners, that he interpreted dreams for, remembered Joseph! Of all the people Pharaoh surrounded himself with, only Joseph was able to interpret these troubling dreams. The wisdom that was revealed in those dreams earned Joseph a position so high that only Pharaoh was above him. Joseph received the revelation that seven years of abundance was going to be followed by seven years of famine, and he had the wisdom to prepare.

Joseph was in charge of rations during the time of famine. All were affected, including his family in Canaan. Jacob, Joseph’s father, heard there was food in Egypt and sent his son’s (all but the youngest, who was Joseph’s brother by the same mother) to buy food for the family. What do you think Joseph thought when he saw his brother’s after so many years? The part that I thought was amazing was that they did not even recognize him, but he knew them!

This is the part of the story that I wept (the first time). God, can I change? Could I reflect your compassion so much that the old me becomes unrecognizable? Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh, that means he was near forty when he saw his brothers again.

Could I reflect your compassion so much that the old me becomes unrecognizable?

Initially, Joseph was not very compassionate. He spoke harshly to them, he accused them of being spies and threw them in jail. He was very inquisitive of their history, and they even divulged what they had done to Joseph (not knowing that was who they were talking to). Joseph sends them off with food, but keeps one brother in prison until they come back with all of Jacob’s sons. They return home and tell their dad that one of the brothers is in prison until they come back with the youngest too. Let me just say, they did not come back immediately. They waited until they were out of food again!

This time they show up with Joseph’s brother, Benjamin. He is doted on just the way Joseph had been done by his father. His brother’s are so very protective of him that Joseph sets up a little trap. He wants to see if they will save their own selves for Benjamin’s sake. They don’t by the way. They do not want to see their father broken again. Any one of them would take Benjamin’s place so that their father will not have to go through that heartbreak again.

All through this time Joseph kept the charade. He used an interpreter so that they would not know he spoke their language. He would leave the room at any given moment, looking like it was a power play when in reality he was sobbing uncontrollably in the next room. He was broken.

When it came time to reveal his true identity, he and his brothers embraced. Joseph cried so loudly that his servants went and told Pharaoh all that was transpiring. Joseph had gained so much favor that he was able to send for his father and all of his family (seventy in total) to live in a land that would provide during the famine. The moment Joseph saw his father, he threw himself on his neck and wept. He wept a long time. Every time that Joseph is recorded as weeping, I actually wept.

Jacob soon dies after they arrive in Goshen. Genesis 50:15-17 (MSG) After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?” So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin – all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?” When Joseph received their message, he wept.

See in chapter 41, before the famine comes, we read that Joseph has two sons. The first he names Manassaeh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity) saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.” I believe Joseph wept because they did not see that they did not have to make those statements. I wept.

When we lay our lives down and want to see the best for those that turn away from you, that is true forgiveness. Joseph responded to his brothers, “Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart. Oh, how I wept!

Father, allow me to walk in this type of forgiveness. Let me have the compassion to not hold onto the hurt, but want to do everything in my power to see that they are blessed, even more than they deserve!

Maybe, you find it easy to forgive and forget. I have to admit that I do struggle with it, but I do not want to be like that. It is a process. Joseph, like us, had to go through the process. We do not know his reason for weeping. We can weep out of sorrow, out of anger, in joy…there are a number of reasons. I weep desiring for a changed heart. A heart healed through forgiveness!

Could this be my real life or is it just a fantasy?

On Mother’s Day this year I preached a sermon titled “Could this be my real life or is it just a fantasy?” When God put that title in my mind it took me back to when I was pregnant with my oldest. I remembered being in the restroom at work and a coworker walked in and asked me what it was like to be pregnant. We were the same age and had been married roughly for the same amount of time. My response was that I told her that it felt “surreal.” It was a mix of fact and fantasy. Fact: My body was changing, there was life growing in me. Fantasy: What was my baby going to look like? Would I be a good mother? My baby would be a grown man in a short amount of time, would I be able to prepare him for his future?

When God asks us to take the next step in your life changing walk with Him, would you? Things are going to change. Child birth sure did not feel good while I was going through it, but the reward was so amazing!

What does a life look like that has come alive to God? It is not going to look the same. We all have a deep and earnest desire for something. The thing we desire was placed in us by God; and He has given us the choice to walk in it, but without His Son we cannot be full in it.

John 14:16 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What is it that of our heart’s desire? Could it be found in the first commandment? Matthew 22:37-38 tells us: Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

I like how it is stated in Deuteronomy especially. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your strength (Deut. 6:5 NIV). Very much like how it is stated in Matthew, but the next few verses gives us a deeper understanding of what it looks like. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deut. 6:6-9).

We do the first part, but lack confidence in the second part. What if that was not a dream? What would it look life if this was a reality in my life? It was not always like that for us. When we first accept Christ we could not wait to tell other’s about Him. This deep passionate love that God desires for us to have takes effort. It takes building within a relationship. That was why Jesus was not liked by the religious leaders of the time. These relationship that He modeled for us to have with His Father took us out of just doing a ritual into an ever growing, maturing relationship. The way I look at it is that religion is wrapped up in fear (refusing to move). Relationship takes faith, because relationships grow and change.

The way I look at it is that religion is wrapped up in fear (refusing to move). Relationship takes faith, because relationships grow and change.

Matthew 13:44 NLT The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

I am not telling you to sell your belongings, but what do we have that stands in the way of us going deeper into the relationship that Jesus desires for us.

Philippians 3:7-16 NKJV But what things were to gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed in His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid of me. Brethren, I do not count myself as apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God is Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if anything you thing otherwise, God will reveal this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

Like Paul, I have not gotten everything that God desires for me, but I press on! I know that I have said this before, but I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am not the same person I was five years ago. As I write this and by the time it will be published it will be nine years since I stood up in front of my church and spoke for the very first time. There have been discouragements along the way. Not everything that I speak or write about will be received with an open heart. However, I press on. There is a prize to be awarded. I cannot see it and I will not receive it until I pass from this life until the next. We cannot let the circumstances of this world to keep us from attaining such things.

My oldest is now sixteen years old. I have made some mistakes while raising him. My perspective had to change because of the way that God designed him. One thing he does understand is that his mom loves God with all of her heart, mind and soul. I have put His Word before him (not beat him with it), but built him up in it. At sixteen he still kisses me before he leaves the house. He will nuzzle me with his head at random parts of the day. It is far better than I could have ever imagined or dreamed. It is a relationship that will forever grow and change.

‘What if’ limits us

Over the years I have stepped out of my comfort zones and allowed God to take more parts of my life to mold it into how He wants it. I was not always like that. Why? Fear. Plain and simple. Fear will rob us of our potential because when we use the excuse of “what if,” I have now refused Him access to that part of my life.

God has had me on the word “refuse” for some time now. Refuse is the opposite of “willing to.” When it came time for me to speak in our church. I have to admit, I was so very scared. I had just attended a Joyce Meyer’s conference. She comes to the Atlanta area every other year and the conference is free to attend. This was my first trip that I had every organized for my church (my husband and I were still just the Associate Pastors at the time). Usually after events I would do all the prep work for the presentation to the church and someone else would talk about the event. I remember sitting in the auditorium listening to Joyce speak, I asked God right there to give me the strength to start teaching in our church. People always told me that I would, but I was so afraid, my voice would shake and I would cry. This time, I had a plan. I did not even tell my husband I was going to do it (just in case I backed out). I remember how proud he was of me. What made it even better was how I know how proud my Father of me. It wasn’t perfect, but I have gotten better over the years.

Joyce has a new book out called Do It Afraid. I am only on chapter twelve and can I tell you it has also revealed other areas that I have allowed fear to still have control in my life. One of those is using “crutches” as to why I do not have success in an area of my life. She made an eye opening statement: “My writing requires me to sit a lot, and a doctor recently told me that the medical profession now considers a sedentary lifestyle to be the new cancer. He wasn’t saying that sitting will cause cancer, but he was trying to impress on me that too much sitting is extremely detrimental to our health.” If that doesn’t make you take a couple of laps around your neighborhood!!

One of those is using “crutches” as to why I do not have success in an area of my life.

Often we will use our health, education, financial status, marital status, etc. as the “crutch” to why we do not see victory in areas of our lives. I am reminded of a parable that Jesus gave us found in Matthew 25:14-29, using the Message Translation: It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money. After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of the “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb.

Wow! This guy’s “what if’s” cost him a lot!! I do not want to be this guy. When I lost my job a couple of year’s ago, it was big hit to us financially. All the jobs I applied for would not have made up for the loss of income. So you know what I did? I used what we had…my vehicle. I took up driving for Uber. We live next to a college football town, Auburn, and there was a way for me to make that money. It was a stretch for me, but eventually I came to love it. I loved talking to the college kids as I drove them to classes. I would play the “Mama Mia Soundtrack” in my minivan and had all the kids singing along (the guys too). I was able to make what I had been missing to finish out our year. We did not go into lack. Do you know what happened after the football season stopped? Our need for that income changed. I no longer had to do that, but I had been willing to.

Last year I only drove a few times to buy my husband a really big Christmas gift. I bought him a Neo Geo. If you do not know what that it is you are probably not a 90s kid or you are not an old school gamer like he is. However, it was on his most wanted list and I made sure he got it. I have no idea what to get him this year though.

Our kids play sports. My oldest wrestles for the high school so the expense really is not that much. My youngest though! He does travel baseball and football. We spend a few thousand on him. When it came time for the fees for travel baseball, we just did not have it. So I used what I had. I am not ashamed to say that I sold plasma to pay for my son to do travel baseball. I had bruised arms for a few months, but I used what I had. This year when it came time to pay his travel fees, guess who had more than enough and did not have to sell plasma again? We did…but I was willing to.

Just because we were in a bind did not mean that we allowed the “what if’s” to keep us in lack. We used what we had, tithed off of the increase and God provided supernaturally! There is a time to use Be Still and Know (Psalm 46:10) and then there is a time to move. Sometimes we keep hold of the “be still” words that we refuse to move into what God has been telling us to do. If you are upset because you keep hearing that you need to move, but you want to stand on the “be still” promise, then maybe we need to search our hearts a little more. Do you think I enjoyed having bruised arms from selling plasma? Or driving in the heavy traffic to get people to the game on time (I even had to clean up vomit once)? I kept a thankful heart during those times. I used what I had and God’s provisions came in a way I cannot explain it. Do not let “what if” keep you in lack any longer. It might be a stretch and it might be scary, but as Joyce says, “do it anyway!”

Peace, Love and Jesus

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

As I read the first four books of the New Testament I saw a theme on what Jesus taught the disciples. He taught them about love and having faith. Peach and love go hand in hand. You cannot have faith and not love, and you cannot have peace without faith.

Lisa Bevere in Without Rival states: Fear is costly. It will steal your thoughts, your dreams, your relationships, your finances, your faith and your hope. Love is constant, it is supremely generous. It seeks to restore your relationships, your dreams and your hopes.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13, you know the verse we quote at each other when we talk about the love walk. Let us do a little something different. Let us replace love with fear.

Fear is impatient and unkind while it envies and boasts; it is arrogant and rude. Fear insists on it’s own way; it is irritable and resentful; rejoices in wrong doing, rather than in truth. Fear bears nothing, believes nothing, hopes nothing, endures nothing. Fear will end.

When I inserted fear here, I saw some attributes of my self that I did not like. So I started saying this over myself daily:

Amanda is patient (suffers long). Amanda is kind. Amanda does not envy. Amanda does not boast (or parade herself). Amanda is not proud (puffed up). Amanda does not dishonor others (behave rudely). Amanda is not self seeking. Amanda is not easily angered (provoked). Amanda keeps no records of wrongs (thinks evil). Amanda does not delight in evil (rejoice in iniquity). Amanda rejoices in truth. Amanda always protects (bears all things). Amanda always trusts (believes all things). Amanda always hopes. Amanda always perseveres (endures). Amanda never fails.

I did a study not to long ago with my youth. My study Bible expounded on this verse a little more for my group:

Love "suffers long" means that God's love has patience with imperfect people.
"Love does not envy" means that real love wants other people to get ahead.
"Love does not parade itself" means that Bible love doesn't put on a big show in order to impress others.
Love "is not puffed up" or "proud" refers to the fact that people who walk in God's love do not have big heads.
Love "does not seek it's own" means that it is not self-centered and selfish but instead looks out fo the needs of others.
Love "is not provoked"; it is not irritable under pressure. Still working on this one!!
Love "thinks no evil" means it doesn't keep a record of wrongs done to it and is constantly forgiving.
Love "does not rejoice in iniquity" and does not rejoice in the mistakes and failures of others. The "God don't like ugly" statement makes my skin crawl.
Love "rejoices in the truth" means that it believes in what is open and hones.
Love "bears all things" is the kind of love that defends and hold other people up.
Love "believes" the best about other people.
Love "hopes all things" means that it never gives up on people.
Love "endures all things" is love that perseveres and is loyal to the end.

When I read this, it made me think of Philippians 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

Have you had a hard time choosing to meditate on these types of things? You know it is a choice. When we choose not to meditate this way about our situation or about people then we choose fear, the opposite of peace. Which means we choose not to love.

Do you know how I know I am not walking in His perfect love? When I do not have His peace. The peace that you can have by taking a nap in a raging storm (Mark 4:37-38).

Do you know how I know I am not walking in His perfect love?

When I do not have His peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, with surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Your requests are made known to God, not Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Tik Tok, etc.

Then we do verse 8 (think only on the pure, lovely, virtuous), and verse 9 is our promise: The thing which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

I have to make a choice in my mind and heart to love. I can walk in peace during the storms. The storm is where my destiny will be revealed, and I want to walk in my destiny! How many, like myself, see an area of the love walk that we can work on? It is okay that we still have work to do. It means that we have a destiny. He created us for good things and He is preparing us just for that (Ephesians 2:10). This mess that I got into will be used one day to lead others to Jesus. Remember love endures all things and is loyal to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Bread tastes so good!

I love to bake. Preferably, I cook most of our meals in the oven. During the Covid-19 stay at home order in Alabama I learned how to make many new dishes. One specifically was a banana nut bread. I had a recipe I had used before, but I went on a search for the most moist and delicious one out there. Of course once I found it I had to share with all who were interested in my new recipe. It is called “Moist and Delicious Banana Bread.” I told a friend and she was like, is it really though? I said yes and let her sample a piece. I did mess up one batch by putting baking powder instead of baking soda.

Anyways the way I talk about my new found recipes was the way I think the apostles (Jesus’ disciples) were like when they came to tell them about their latest mission in Mark 6. I am going to start us off with verses 30-31 and use the Passion Translation: The apostles returned from their mission and gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal. So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where we can rest a while.”

Jesus was very hands on with training His disciples and then He would send them out to put into practice what He taught them. Jesus would often use every day situations to reveal the heart of His Father.

Mark 6:32-36 They slipped away and left by sailboat for a deserted spot. But many of the people saw them leaving and realized where they were headed, so they took off running along the shore. Then people from the surrounding towns joined them in the chase, and a large crowd got there ahead of them. By the time Jesus came ashore, a massive crowd was waiting. At the sight of them, his heart was filled with compassion, because they seemed like wandering sheep who had no shepherd. So he taught them many things. Late that afternoon, his disciples said, “It’s getting really late and we’re here in this remote place with nothing to eat. You should send the crowds away so they can go into the surrounding villages and buy food for themselves.”

How often do our bellies like to do the speaking for us? There have been days when I worked full-time at my church’s day care (well I was doing more than one job) that I did not break to eat or drink. I had the hunger pangs, but yet there was so much to still do. At the end of the day I would be irritable, it was because I was not taking the time to feed myself. Think about that as we see what Jesus’ response was.

Mark 6:37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” “Are you sure?” they replied. “You really want us to go buy them some supper? It will cost a small fortune to feed all of these thousands of hungry people.”

“You give them something to eat.”

Jesus was testing His disciples here. How much were they getting from His teachings. He told them to feed the people. The first thing they think of if money. Is that not just the way we are too? God tells us to support our church and other ministries and we say well I will just give money, or “all they want is my money.” There are times He tells us to sow financially, but there are times He tells us to do.

Mark 6:38-42 “How many loaves of bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” After they had looked around, they came back and said, “Five-plus a couple of fish.” Then he instructed them to organize the crowd and have them sit down in groups on the grass. So they had them sit in groups of hundreds and fifties. Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, gazed into heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the break and the two fish and distributed them to the disciples to serve the people – and the food was multiplied in front of their eyes! Everyone had plenty to eat and was fully satisfied.

Jesus told them to feed the people. Their first instinct was to look at the lack of money, but Jesus wanted them to look at what they had. This was not the first time we see a miracle of bread to feed. In 2 Kings 4:42-44 we see Elisha knew the heart of God: Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And he said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “What? Shall I set this before one hundred men?” He said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the Lord: ‘They shall eat and have some left over.'” So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord (NKJV).

When we feed on the nourishment that Jesus gives us we have more than enough to feed His people. Jesus said that He is the Bread of Life. Sometimes we lack confidence to do what He tells us to do because we have not been feeding enough. We have to make sure we do not get too fat on it, because we all know how good bread tastes!

John 14:12 says, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do….” My husband used this scripture right here this past Sunday. God has had me on the word “refuse” for a while. “Refuse” is the opposite of “will do”. When we say to Jesus, “I will do,” this is what He is expecting…“the works that I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” He has given us the ability to get revelation from the Word of who His Father is. He did everything His Father did on earth, so that means we can too. Miracles can happen. We can feed people! Look around with what you have and use it!!

In Oceans Deep

Psalms 61:1-2 TPT “O God, hear my prayer. Listen to my heart’s cry. For no matter where I am , even when I’m far from home, I will cry out to you for a father’s help. When I am feeble and overwhelmed by life, guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.”

There is a worship song that was really popular a few years ago titled "Oceans." Some of the lyrics: You call me out upon the waters 
The great unknown where feet may fall
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest on Your embrace

There is often the visual of Peter walking out on the water to meet Jesus. For me I have a different visual. If you have ever seen the show Grey’s Anatomy, there is an episode where Meredith gives up once she falls into the water, and drowns. I often think what a state of mind to be in, to just give up. Life and circumstances can feel like an ocean, with waves crashing over head sometimes.

If we are not grounded in Christ, life can become overwhelming. Measuring up to others can become overwhelming. Let downs and disappointments can become overwhelming. When we become overwhelmed, the place we look to is for comfort. We can seek comfort in may different ways.

For me comfort comes when I feel secure. I like a routine and order. There are certain days when I will do a task, and that is the day that task is done. My boys and I have a routine every morning before school. My oldest and I get up at 5:30 so that he can run four miles (he wrestles on the high school team so he has to maintain a certain weight), I have used that time to start walking in the mornings. Then at 6:30 I wake up the youngest and cook breakfast. After breakfast they finish getting ready for school and we sit down to do a devotion. Finally, we are out the door at 7:30 for me to drop them off at school. I take the same route every morning. Then I am off to the gym for whatever workout I have planned for that day. My day continues like this.

If I have in my mind that this is my not get out of pajamas day…I will put on my pajamas after my after-workout shower and I do not plan on leaving the house again that day. This causes a problem when my husband asks me to do something that requires me to leave the house. This is an area in my life that I know I have to work on. Now I have unsettled the balance of the peace in my house because the comfort of my routine has been messed up. Notice I said my routine. I have centered my comfort now on what I want to label as “comfort.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

When it becomes all about me, the comfort that I once sought after is really dysfunction. The devil wants us to run for comfort and cover in places outside of what God has called us to do. I silence the power of God in my life when I love my comfort more than compassion. Then the guilt tries to overwhelm you. God will disrupt my comfort to pull me out of my dysfunction.

God will disrupt my comfort to pull me out of my dysfunction.

This summer I spent a lot of time reading the Old Testament. When I got to first Samuel and read when Saul was anointed, I wept. I wept because I grieved for Saul. I knew his great potential. At the time that Samuel was announcing the king, Saul was no where to be found. Why?

1 Samuel 10: 22 MSG “Samuel went back to God: ‘Is he anywhere around?’ God said, ‘Yes, he’s right over there – hidden in that pile of baggage.'” Why was this such a prophetic statement? Let’s look at Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Saul let what other people thought of him weigh him down, the actions he took because of it cost him his anointing.

How does this fit in with me not wanting to get out of my pajamas? What if I missed an opportunity to share the love of Jesus because I wanted to remain “comfortable” all day. Yes, I spent time with Jesus in the Word that day. What if He wanted to do something more through me, but I refused to leave the house? What if Jesus wanted me to show His love to my husband, but I huffed because I had already planned in my mind that I did not want to leave the house. Of course when I start thinking this way, guilt wants to rise up, and I know that is not God. Then we become overwhelmed in our dysfunction all because we scream for comfort.

Like Paul, “I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight to the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus. So let all who are fully mature have this same passion, and if anyone is not yet gripped by these desires, God will reveal it to them.” Philippians 3:13-15 TPT

Thank you, Jesus, for correcting me and pulling out of my comfort zones, so that I can see more of You working in my life. Thank you for reminding me that I am valuable and I do make an impact in Your Kingdom. Every day is important. I thank you for quickening in me to have an expectation for more than I could ever imagine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In the Presence of the King

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

This is a verse that I like to cling to when I am often faced with days of being unsettled. Those are the days that I know I need to get in His Word more than any other.

For the past few months I have been reading from my Message Bible. It is a good translation to use when you want to read straight through (I use other translations when I do topical studies). Before I start reading I thank God for His Word and ask Him to reveal something new to me that day. A fresh revelation of His Word so that I can apply it to my life.

The Book of Esther was one such time. Let us look at it from the perspective of allowing God more access to our lives. Allow your relationship with Him to actually change the way you live.

Allow your relationship with Him to actually change the way you live.

The story starts out with talk of the King asking his wife, Queen Vashti, to come into his presence. He wanted to show her off. She was in the midst of her own event and stated that she could not come. The king had an “inner circle” with access to his ear (watch out who you have in your inner circle). While his emotions were not in check, they urged him to put her in her place…every woman needs to know her place.

I am going to take a little side bar right here. No where in the Word of God does it say for a husband to dominate over his wife. Submission is not domination, it is a way to honor. I honor my husband as the head of our home, the priest of our home; therefore, I submit myself to him willingly. He does not dominate me. When you have a group of friends that urge you to put their spouse in their place, that is not a friend. Anyone who does not build up that union needs to be out of your life.

Now back to the story of Esther…so the King has dismissed his queen, but his heart is troubled by this rash decision. Instead of admitting his error, he allows his “circle” to talk him into looking for a new bride. Long story short, we make way for Esther. However, Esther has a secret.

Haman one of the king’s top leaders is very high on himself. Even though he is not king, he wants to be honored by the people like one. He believes every one should bow to him when they are in his presence. Mordecai, a Jew, cannot bow to him because of his religious beliefs. He did not dishonor him, he just could not bow to him.

It turns out that Haman hates Jews. Actually, his lineage of peoples are mortal enemies of the Jews. Haman has devised a plan to get rid of Mordecai and rid the rest of his people that are in exile. Esther just so happens to be Mordecai’s niece…that means the king’s new bride is a Jew.

Esther’s quest: Morecai tells her “Don’t you think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Israelite who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at this time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else.”

Revelations 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Esther’s response: She asked for them to fast and pray, she would too for three days. “If you do this, I will go to the king, even though it is forbidden. If I die, I die.” Going into prayer, seeking His Word, fasting are all ways we can go into the cool refreshing streams that get us ready to do what God has called us to do. Then in boldness we can go to the throne room! Do you see the analogy of hot and cold verses lukewarm? Being lukewarm is like refusing to do nothing at all.

Esther won the favor of the king. Haman’s plans were thwarted and he lost his life. Mordecai was elevated to Haman’s station in the palace. Victory for the people of God!

Hear my heart! “Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (MSG) God is not fencing us in!!

1 John 4:4 NIV “You, dear children, are you from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

What is stopping you from stepping out into that thing that God is calling you to do? One thing I can say about myself, I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am not the same person I was five years ago and I sure am not the same person I was twenty-two years ago when I accepted Christ as My Lord and Savior. Allow Him access to your life. Open up! Go boldly to the throne room of His Grace.

What is your heart’s cry?

About a year ago I did this study called Worship and Witness: Becoming a Great Commission Worshiper. Evangelism is hard, when you try to do it on your own. However, Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. How can we do that if we do not have a personal relationship with Jesus?

As a believer and follower of Christ our hearts cry should be to share the Gospel of Jesus. We should know the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We should fall so much in love with Him that all of our actions glorify His name. How can we do this if we do not have a foundation to build on? This is why personal study of the Word is so very important, but not without ways to implement it.

1 Peter 4:7-10 NKJV: “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful with your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a give, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold of grace of God.” (emphasis added by me)

The statement “love will cover a multitude of sins.” I love this because it is calling us to see each other as He sees us. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our past should be our past and we should never know our brothers and sisters in Christ by their past mistakes. Our job is to encourage each other. When they are on the mountain top and I am in the wilderness, I am cheering them on, because I know I will not be far behind them. When they are in the valley and I am on the mountain top, I should not shame them but encourage them in the Word. Ultimately, it is our choice on how we perceive our current situations.

To continue on with what Peter is encouraging us to do I will continue in the Passion Translation: v. 11: “For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you, so that in everything God alone will be glorified through Jesus Christ. For to him belong the power and the glory forever throughout all ages! Amen.”

There is something that we could all be doing to serve in the Body of Christ. Without our willingness to serve we may be missing an opportunity to make disciples. If we look at it in that perspective, we may be more willing to step out in faith and put His Word into action.

Peter was not a perfect man, and sometimes I can relate to him. Most of the first four books of the New Testament verifies that. Peter was known and will forever be known as the man that denied Christ three times. However, he was still used by God. In John 21 we see that Jesus took special care to restore their relationship, then he opens his mouth again and wants to know what about John and what Jesus is going to do with him. Are we not like that sometimes?

Somewhere along the way, after Acts 1:8, Jesus tells them: “But I promise you this – the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and the distant provinces – even to the remotest places on earth! (TPT)” This is what had to happen in Peter for him to mature. This is what made the difference of Peter of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the Peter we see in Acts and First and Second Peter.

Peter urges us to serve, but do it without grumbling and complaining. Read what he writes in 1 Peter 5:1-3, ” I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. (MSG)” What a difference in this man! His heart’s cry was to live a life that glorified Christ. He wanted to make Him famous! It was no longer about Peter. He did not let his past mistakes dictate his desire for Christ.

He did not let his past mistakes dictate his desire for Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV) But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

There has been a spiritual shift going on. What we are seeing in the natural is only of tremor of what is going on in the spiritual realm. What is your heart crying out for during this time? Is it to draw closer to Christ? Is it for revival in the church? For me it has for both of these, but it is also for the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus to be taught. Do not let your love for Christ just be lip service. Seek after His heart. Seek His face. Tell others about Jesus, the man who knows all about you, and still paid the price for you. He did not give up on Peter when he made mistakes and he has not given up on you.

See a Victory

My husband I pastor a church in Opelika, Alabama. If you are not from the area, you probably mispronounced that city. It’s pretty funny that God brought us here, because my husband was born here, but never lived in this city until he turned thirty. When we took over the church from his parents we set out and wrote down what God was telling us the vision for the church would be.

The vision statement He gave us was, “We exist to touch the world through our community.” Habakkuk 2:2-3 in the Message translation says, “And then God answered: ‘Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. The vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming – it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.'”

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

Connect Church Vision Statement

We were so excited for what God was going to do in our church. This was not a starting from scratch church plant. That did not mean were were not faced with challenges. Our heart was to empower the church for ministry. This is how we were going to reach our world. Empower them to see the importance of their community, so that we could reach this world.

First book we read as a church was Greater by Steven Furtick. Our desire was to see the church get excited for the greater. One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “Most believers are not in imminent danger of ruining their lives. They’re facing a danger that’s greater: wasting them.” We envisioned a church that saw the importance of reaching the lost. We may have been a bit too pushy. Not six months into this leadership shift did we get push back. We were told that we could not expect them to love “our baby” the way that we do. The vision had not been received and it stung. It took my husband and I a few years, and the church too, to overcome such a blow. Did that mean that the vision God gave us was not for our church. No…it just meant we did not lay the foundation properly.

We have to watch our hearts in this season of vision casting. Do you know that you have the power to extinguish someone else’s dreams? It is not your job to judge if that persons dream will succeed; it is not your dream. You are however, not suppose to speak against it.

Ephesians 4:9 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

God put a vision for our church, but we knew that things had to change in order for us to see that promise. We decided to put our property up for sale. We were sitting on twenty acres, with almost fifty thousand square feet of building and that meant our overhead was between twelve to fourteen thousand dollars a month. We were not a church that could sustain that much overhead and sow into our community.

We walked away from the sale with no profit. Nothing to start fresh with. Did that mean God did not give us that vision still? No…it meant we had to trust Him more. For the past one and a half years, God had been healing our hearts from the words that stung us those five years ago. He has been building upon a foundation in His Word. Our church, and I believe churches around the world, are waking up! There is a fire and a hunger in the church like we have not seen in the past two decades.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He who watches the wind (waiting for all conditions to be perfect) will not sow (seed), and he who looks at the clouds will not reap (a harvest).” (AMP)

That vision for Connect Church is still there. God has given us a BIG DREAM! However, in order to see that come to pass we need to sow into other’s dreams. We are sowing into the construction of a church in Uganda. Right now we are not meeting in our own building. We are renting from another church and have a one thirty service. We could get comfortable here. Our church members are growing so much spiritually that we are loving this call of being their pastors. That discouragement is now a distant memory. There is life again! We are seeing victory in their lives. God is not done with us yet…there is still that vision.

We are also giving like never before into local organizations and ministries. Deep down there is still a desire to do and reach more. You may not be leading a church but you are called to ministry.

I have a vision for loved ones lifting up their hands in worship, completely surrendered to our Father. I envision our children worshiping whole-heartedly. A fire is burning in our young people (Jeremiah 20:9)! When people walk in the doors of our church I envision the chains of bondage breaking off of them, that they fall so in love with God they cannot walk out the doors the same.

Can you know see the victory? Can you envision the promise? I can. God gives you the dreams and He is intentional of what He puts in your heart to accomplish. Trust God. Remember He is an amazing architect. He created this world that you exist in. He is the “Everlasting to Everlasting.”

“I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 TPT

Be Strong and Courageous

I love reading the Old Testament and find myself referring back to it when I do my studies. There is so much meat in there for us to glean from, how to conduct and view our lives. Joshua, like Moses, is another favorite of mine. Right now I am taking my youth group through the lessons we can learn from reading Joshua. There have been days where we have verse by verse of the challenges and victories that the Israelites went through.

Before they stepped into the Promised Land they had to prepare themselves. Joshua was their appointed leader at the time. He was trained none other than Moses himself. Joshua would accompany Moses as he went up to the mountain top to be in the presence of God. Joshua saw the importance of that relationship and took it a step further. He knew the heart of his people and knew the challenge they would face.

Joshua 1:8-9 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read (and meditate on) it day and night, so that you may be careful to do (everything) in accordance with all that is written in it; for they you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (AMP)

This great people had a real challenge ahead of them, but they had a promise that God would be with them wherever they go. They just had to GO! However, before they went they had to consecrate and sanctify themselves. This is what we like to call today, “a heart check.” Before we just step out and do, even though He has promised us the victory, we must keep our heart aligned with His.

Each victory was going to be won in a different way. Some lessons they had to learn over and over again, just like us today. Forgiveness is one such lesson. What lessons have you had to grow in? For me it has been to keep my eyes on Him and not His people. People can let us down. People can discourage us, especially when you love them deeply. It hurts when they turn theirs backs on you.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms.” (TPT) I am not saying that when people turn their backs on you or disappoint you that they are operating in rebellion. We can be the ones operating in just that by the way we let that hurt affect us.

Let’s get back to the message of Joshua. Joshua in chapter ten has just led a victory against an alliance of many kingdoms. In fact they have just conquered half of the promised land. This land was enough to sustain the group of Israelites. In that view, they could have halted their conquests. Right here in verse 25 Joshua proclaims, “Do not fear or be dismayed (intimidated)! Be strong and courageous, for this is what the Lord will do to all your enemies whom you (are about to) fight.” (AMP)

Why after a great victory is Joshua proclaiming to his people to “Be Strong and Courageous?” He knows the nature of people. We define victory in that we have achieved comfort. We tell God that we just need to rest and then we will get back to it. Really what we are telling God is that we want to live for us. So what “intimidates” us…ourselves.

Our enemy is not against flesh and blood, but principalities in the spirit realm. The goal for the enemy that you are fighting is to get you not to finish, to put your life on pause, in the form of “rest.” Do not stop half way accomplished. Be strong and courageous, He is with us wherever we go.

The goal for the enemy that you are fighting is to get you not to finish, to put your life on pause, in the form of “rest.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young man shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

My dear friend do not give up. Do not fall into the trap of rest as this world defines. His rest comes when we accomplish what He has set us out to do, and He even said He would be there wherever we go. Never give up. Get your life off pause. Be strong and courageous!