My Jerusalem

My Jerusalem April 2, 2022

Romans 12:9-13 (MSG) Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

For most parts of the country this week, the temperature dropped, but not gradually. It dropped like we just saw a patrol car and we were going fifty miles over the speed limit! If you are like me, you still refuse to turn on the heat, because it is just going to be hot again by the weekend. My kids and I have been walking around the house in hoodies. My husband is sleeping during the day (he is on third shift) so he does not get to enjoy the crisp fall weather during the day. By my request he has taken the weekend off. Why? So that we can serve as a family, with our church, in our community.

My city has an ministry that is called Way 2 Serve. Twice a year they hold an event called My Jerusalem, taken from the book of Nehemiah. Churches, small groups and individuals gather and are sent out to do home repairs in our city. I have been doing it with who ever I could get to go with me for a few years now. The past few times we have been getting together to do it with our church. It is a wonderful way to put in to practice the above scripture.

The Amplified Bible says this, “Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

When my husband and I sat down to write the vision for Connect Church we knew people got excited about missions. My husband grew up on the mission field. He lived in Belize for ten years. He saw what it was like for those who came and did short term missions and the expense it was for them to make that trip. It is an opportunity to go into all the world. However, we wanted to make the biggest impact. We needed to start here. So we came up with, “We exist to touch the world through our community.” As a church we do not have to start up programs when great ones are already going on in our city. We joined up with Way 2 Serve.

We are looking forward to repairing a home so that someone can get their home back. We are looking forward to showing genuine love. We do that by taking time off, by getting up early on a Saturday, by braving this cold snap and putting our hands to the needs of people. People need to know that they are seen. They need to know that they are loved. There have been times that we did not get to meet the home owner. There have been times when I spent all day with them because they had to tear down to the jousts to get the rot out. Every project is different. The heart is the same. We are honoring each other. Enthusiastically serving and practicing hospitality. We get to do this! How can you get burned out by making the biggest impact in someone’s life?!

Father, I thank you for the love that you have shown us by sending your only Son to die for us. Let us continue to show love for others in doing good to those who are in need. Thank you for gifting us with the ability to do it with a glad heart. Let this weekend glorify You. Our heart is to bring people closer to you. Let us be the hands and feet that shows your love and mercy. Lead us. We rejoice in hope because of our confident trust in Christ Jesus. We thank you for the impact that we will make this weekend. Let your love flow through us. We thank you for the leading of the Holy Spirit and wisdom on how to accomplish the tasks before us. We praise you for giving each one of us and small part to do something big together. Thank you for the church body that you have planted us into. We strengthen each other to do the work of the ministry. Let us walk boldly as ministers of reconciliation this weekend. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Just the way you are

Philippians 4:8 (AMP)  Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

This week I had a discussion with a friend and they were talking about how they desired to speak in a way that people would receive them. Like me, they feel like people do not receive them because they come off too harsh (just blunt). Their heart (and mine) is to say these things out of love and to point others towards Christ. There is no ill intent, just to make it plain.

Here is what I stated, and what I have to put in front of myself, we are all responsible for how we receive. Why is Paul making these statements on how to think? Paul has sent harsh letters of rebuke. He has sent letters of encouragement. He wrote the most quoted verses on love. Preceding the verses above he talks to the church about being anxious and worrying. He encourages them to live a life of thanksgiving to God. He tells us that we need to guard our hearts.

God created us with the personality that we have. When we draw close to Him we should grow in integrity and character. My character (moral nature) will align with His. My personality, the parts that make me unique to me, He loves. I do not need to try to be like someone else.

A few years ago I was going through a hard time with someone in the work place. I had led a meeting with our group about seeing value in each other, using the above verse. A couple of weeks later tension rose up again and one of the employees confronted me that she just did not like me. I asked her if she could see me through Philippians 4:8 and her response was that she could not. Being a Christians non-profit, this was not a good environment and I should have put in my notice, but I loved the organization. At that moment I realized that because of my personality she did not like me. Nothing I did was wrong. Now I could have done one of two things, I could beat myself up and sulk about not being a likable person or I could walk in confidence and knowing who I am in Christ and that the love walk means that although they may not like me I have value and so do they. I would like to say that I did the later, but the next six months were miserable there.

This is what I told my friend the other day, and what I wish someone would have said to me, are you speaking out of genuine love and and a desire to see them grow? If yes, then it is up to the one receiving to think on what is true, what is of value and what brings peace (especially if they are a brother and sister in Christ). We should be thinking of each other with the expectation that we want to see each other grow. We should challenge and encourage each other. It is the challenging part that we may not like, but we really do need.

Paul was not always liked, but he was what the people needed. You are too. You make an impact because of Christ in you. I am thankful for you and that God created you just the way you are.

Father, I thank you for creating me just the way that I am. I thank you that you put people in my life to challenge me and to encourage me to grow. I am rooted and grounded in the love of your Son, Jesus. I choose today to see the statements made to me, that encourage me to grow, as true, as honorable and worthy of respect I choose to confirm them by your word. I choose to see my bothers and sisters in Christ as pure and wholesome I choose to think on whatever is lovely and brings peace. Those that you have placed in my life are admirable and of good repute. There is excellence, there are areas worthy of praise and I will think continually on these things. You have implanted love in my heart and I thank you for opportunities to implant them into others.

A willing offering

Philippians 2:14-17 (AMP) Do everything without murmuring or questioning [the providence of God], so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish in the midst of a [morally] crooked and [spiritually] perverted generation, among whom you are seen as bright lights [beacons shining out clearly] in the world [of darkness],  holding out and offering to everyone the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to rejoice greatly because I did not run [my race] in vain nor labor without result.  But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith [for preaching the message of salvation], still I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

Colossians 3:17 (AMP) Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (AMP) Let everything you do be done in love [motivated and inspired by God’s love for us].

Providence is the protective nature of God, trusting that I have a future. Can we just do everything He tells us in His Word without questioning if He has our best interest in mind? It gets more challenging, we are not promised that it will not be hard. We are anointed for the hard stuff. Paul is telling us to do EVEN IF your life is the offering. The race I run, the labor it brings forth, is not in vain. The sacrifice and service of my faith is for the salvation of others (the real prize)!

When God speaks to you to do something, do not be concerned with why not someone else. I have learned that when He calls you to it, He will equip you for it. When I started speaking, I was not great at it. It was actually very painful to watch. I had to trust that the words He gave me were impactful. My heart motive was not to make a name for myself, but to make Him famous.

I am not waiting on the situation to be right so that I can shine. I have never been into that “it’s my time to shine” when it comes to serving. Why do we need to feel like if we are not elevated then we really are not doing anything. Paul said even if I am being poured out as a drink offering. Pour all of me out Lord. Use everything that you have placed within me.

In the first part of 2 Kings 4, Elisha comes across a widow and her sons. She had a great debt and man she owed the debt to was coming to take her sons and make them bond servants. Elisha asked what she had. She replied only one jar of oil. He instructed her to get all her jars and even borrow from friends and neighbors. As she began to pour out of the single jar into the other, per his instruction, every jar was filled. She poured until the last jar that had been gathered was filled. Then she was instructed to first pay off her debt and then live off of the rest.

What if we applied that same principle to Matthew 6:33? But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. This is exactly what Paul was telling us in pouring out our lives as a drink offering. The anointing you have needs to be poured out. You are not called to this alone. Notice the widow needed the help of her friends and neighbors. Paul even refers to himself as a bond servant to Christ. Does not mean I have a debt to pay off? No, Christ paid that debt. My hearts desire should want to pour my life out because of His great love sacrifice. However, when I think of my needs first am I really trusting in the providence of God?

Colossians 3:14 (AMP) Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others].

I want the best for you. I hope you feel the same way about me. If it takes me pouring myself out to be a drink offering for Him, so be it! Now, do not take me to the extreme. I do believe in rest. If you do not allow Him to pour back into you, then you will be pouring out of self. We cannot grow glory to glory without taking time with the Holy Spirit and the body that He called me to (for equipping). Pouring out has to be healthy. There is a fullness to this Gospel. I pray you dig more into your Word today to find out just how full your life can really be!!

What is success?

1 Chronicles 28: 2, 3, 6 (AMP) I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and as a footstool for our God, and I prepared materials for the building. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My Name (Presence)…He said to me, ‘Solomon your son shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be a son to Me, and I will be a father to him.

I am in the process of reading the Bible Chronologically using the Amplified Version in the You Version App. It is different from reading a complete book at a time, because it puts you in the perspective of what was going on during the time it was written. Reading Psalms out of context before had me feeling like David was a big whiner sometimes. It reminded me that we can make judgments about people because we do not know the whole story.

I just finished reading where David is at the end of his life and his heart’s desire was to build the permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. He has spent years studying the texts and his heart was to see it completed. In 1 Chronicles 23-29 David is making preparations for his son, Solomon, to become king and to build the temple.

1 Chronicles 28:11 (AMP) Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan… This had me thinking. When was the last time you helped someone with their success knowing that you would not reap the benefits of it? I gained a new respect for David when I saw his heart for his son to succeed. David had been talking about and dreaming about building this temple for years. What would you have done if God told you that you would not be the one to build what you dreamed? Would you still gather the materials? Would you still do the research? Would you still buy that plot of land?

We live in a culture where offense is the norm. I actually think some people do not know how to function without someone being the villain in their lives. David did not look at his son as his successor, nor as his competition. He looked at Solomon as the one who was going to succeed him, and he was excited about it.

My husband and I are pastors of a church in Opelika, Alabama. We were not the ones who started the ministry, his parents were. I often look back as to when were did not have a title, or considered the “assistants,” and how our hearts were to see the church succeed. We had no intentions nor was it on our minds that one day we would lead. Every event was planned and executed by us, yet we did not take the lead role during the event (to include baby and bridal showers). If there was a need to reach a certain demographic with a small group or a type of fellowship, we started and led it, willingly! We were excited to be at the church early and doing whatever needed to be done way before service started. If they needed someone in nursery, I was there. They needed a pre-teen class for an age group to be ministered to, I will teach it!! They just needed to state the need, not ask me to meet the need.

When was the last time you looked around and saw a need and did not just say “someone needs to,” but instead said “there is a need and I am going to make sure it is met”? Instead of being offended with your church or pastors for not meeting your needs (or expectations), ask yourself what you can do to help that area succeed. When others succeed, you will succeed. Do you need the recognition here or is it enough that the Father sees your heart and has a reward for you in heaven? Instead of taking on offense at the leader, what can we do to make sure they succeed?

I do not know if you are a leader or if you look to your leader to meet all of your needs. Only he Father can meet all of our needs. I want to be a light to this world. I want to make an impact that brings glory to God. If that means that I do all the work in the background to make sure there is a good foundation laid for the next generation, then so be it. If they succeed, then I succeed!

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!

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!