Power in Hope

It has been a struggle to decide about what to write about today. In my personal time I have been reading through Psalms in the Message Translation. I wrote about the inward reflection that David took earlier this week (Psalms 42). Last night in youth, one of my leaders led a discussion on Psalms. I had to admit to them, that David is probably someone I would struggle to look up to in leadership, or even to be around. I enjoy him when He is leading them into battle, when he is leading them into worship and when he is talking about all the great things of God. Then he gets to this lamenting, not just complaining and whining, but deep down in the dumps kind of talk.

Psalms 13:1-2 (MSG) Long enough, God— you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.

Then I remember, God said that this was a man after His own heart. In this I am reminded that I have to have some of these kinds of people in my life. There are going to be leaders in my life that I have to honor even if I do not like their personality. Then it made me think, how do I come off on others? Most of the time I am quiet because I feel like I can come off harsh. I was told in one work place (a Christian nonprofit) that I did not speak in love and that they did not receive me as a person that lived 1 Corinthians 13. This hurt me deeply because I try to live 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].” I try to live this towards God’s creation. I sometimes have to realign my thinking to this, but that is truly my goal. I asked them about this verse and they quickly informed me that they could not apply that to me. Ouch! So I rub people the wrong way sometimes too. Paul did, Peter did, even Hannah did with Eli the prophet. My heart is for other’s to feel that love of Christ to come through me, this truly is what I want to be rooted in.

There are going to be leaders in my life that I have to honor even if I do not like their personality.

I do understand that this is probably not who David was to everyone. Only those closest to him saw this side of him. What we are reading are his words pouring out to God. Why does God want us to see this? It’s okay that we are not okay sometimes. We need to cry out in our deep grief and anger. He knows our heart anyways!

I told the group last night that David reminded me of He-Man from the cartoon series in the 1980s. In his writings, David, does seem like he has two very distinct personalities. Prince Adam had all the feelings, he cooked, he goofed off and seemed not all that together. He wore a pink vest and purple leggings! Then when he got the “power” he transformed into this warrior.

The power I think is when David remembers his position, that God is for him and not against him. The “power” for David is always underlying there because even in the lament of Psalms 13 we see verse 15-16 (MSG), “I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.” David was never without hope. There is power in hope. It was the root of who David really was. May we never let go of hope.

Hope is one of the ingredients Paul talks about at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, verse 13 (TPT), “Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.” I did not forget about love. It is the most important, I know. I am running for that beautiful prize (I may not be athletic, but I am competitive).

If you need prayer please message me at amanda@desiringformore.org.

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!

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!

Imperfect is not failure

As I was reading this week I came across in my studies stories of people that Jesus had a personal relationship with. We read of the twelve disciples, of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and of the countless people He fellowshipped with over meals. What would it be like to have that ability to have that close contact with Jesus? That is what I look for when I read my Word.

What really stood out to me what that none of them were perfect people. They all had some sort of flaw. There are some very notable flaws that we refer to like ‘Doubting Thomas’, ‘Workaholic Martha’, ‘Peter the Denier’, ‘Saul the Persecutor’…kind of sounds like the labels we put on people that have flaws. Why do we label people with their flaws? I talk out of someone who has done the same thing. I have labeled people as ‘Negative Nellie’ or ‘Mouth of the South’. I am not proud of it and had to come this week with a repentive heart.

Doubting Thomas was a man that loved Jesus. He asked questions, that Jesus happily answered. Thomas received deep revelation from the mouth of Jesus. John 14:5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” The response of Jesus is what we have laid much our of Christian foundation on, the importance of Jesus being the only way… (verse 6) Jesus said to him, “I am the the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We might refer to him as ‘Doubting Thomas’, but Jesus thought He was the perfect person to reveal this revelation to personally.

What about Martha? Martha is the sister of Mary and Lazarus. This was a very dear family to Jesus. He showed great love to them as revealed in the writings of John (John 11:5). We read the story of when Jesus comes to the house, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and Martha wants Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus tells her that Mary is do the most important thing (Luke 10:38-42). Could you just feel pride swell up inside of you if you were corrected instead of getting your way? I know I have that flaw myself. Then we get to Lazarus dying. Jesus knew he was sick but did not come right away (John 11:6), but He did come.

John 11:20-27 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would have died.” A lot of people like to stop here and take this conversation out of context to prove the heart of Martha, that she liked to scold, but read further. “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is it to come into the world.”

Another amazing foundational statement made to someone so very ordinary, someone we have seen have flaws. She received such a revelation that we stand on to this day. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. She received this because she knew who Jesus was personally. Although she knew Him in a way we could never know. She did not just know Him as a person, she knew Him as Lord, and that is how we know Him.

Why is this so important? Let’s look at Peter. Remember, he was the one who denied Jesus three times. He had flaws, but that did not mean he did not have revelation knowledge. Jesus would often test his disciples knowledge in forms of questions or in actions. There was the time He fed the 5000, when He walked on water, when He slept during the storm, when He healed, etc. Here is a time He wanted to know what they knew about Him personally. Matthew 16:13-15 When Jesus came into the region of Caesara Philippi, He asked the disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I , the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said t them, “But who do you said that I am?” Some great answers right? None of which were true, but they sounded good.

Matthew 16:16-18 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” On this revelation knowledge, Jesus the Son of the living God, is the foundation for the church. There is a difference between head knowledge and revelation knowledge. Until we seek Jesus on a personal level, all we will have is head knowledge. Things we say can sound good, but we really do not take it to heart to transform us.

There is grace in our flaws. Now I want to be clear that grace does not give us permission to stay in our flaws. Grace is not a free pass to do as we please, to not have consequences and not to be disciplined. Grace is there for when I need Him most. I have used these verses before with the words of Paul: Romans 7:18-24 (MSG) But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I ca will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in the delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Have you ever felt that way? I know I do sometimes. I mess up and say harsh words. I watch a movie that I should not have watched with my kids. I put off an assignment until the last minute (like this blog, I just could not bring myself to write yesterday). Paul is not saying that we should surrender to living in constant defeat of our flaws. The enemy wants us to look at our imperfections as failures. What he is doing is expressing frustration. His words demonstrate that he longs to be free from those imperfections. Let’s look at the next verse (verse 25 in the Message translation), The answer, that God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

The enemy wants us to look at our imperfections as failures.

This is grace. Jesus can and does. Through this revelation knowledge Paul (as we do) has the energy to keep going. He did not just give into his sin, the influence of sin, he stood on the revelation knowledge of who Jesus is. Paul wanted to serve God with all of his heart and mind. He desired it. I believe that Martha, Thomas and Peter desired that as well. We may know them by their flaws, but He does not. People may remember you by your flaws, you may still be labeled by them. Do not give up hope. Jesus knows, but Jesus does. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the way, truth and the life. He is the Son of the living God. Nothing can separate us from that knowledge. Ground yourself in those words. Do not give up. You are not a failure just because of your imperfections. It just means we have a greater opportunity to have deeper revelation knowledge. To have more of a personal relationship with Jesus.

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.

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.

Draining Days

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8 AMPC)

There are days where we allow our thoughts to get control of us. Then what becomes even more draining is when we allow others to tell us their thoughts.

It is so very important to surround yourself with people that will build you up. Job was a cheerleader to many, but those who he surrounded himself were not the same for him.

In Job 4 taken from the Message Translation, “You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit. Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse. But now you’re the one in trouble – you’re hurting!”

Negative people drain me.

Job allowed himself to be surrounded with those that were speaking the problem. Those kind of people drain us. Find a way to get back to your Hiding Place. Negative people drain me. I have to get myself around some faith talkers. How can you spot a faith talker? When they are going through a hard time they have not stopped praising!

We have to do whatever it takes to get us to a place where we do not stop praising Him. My problems no longer are the biggest thing in my life. I no longer see those areas of lack. All I see is Jesus!

Job’s friends (and I have been guilty of this too) tried to explain God. There is no explaining God. There is no reason that we go through what we go through, other than the devil hates us. If he can get you off track, put you on pause, get you distracted, then he has done what he has set out to do.

Paul even says it himself, “But I need something more! For I know that law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in the delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?” (Romans 7:18-24 MSG)

For a moment he sounds a lot like Job. The thing we miss here, is that we want to stop reading. We are like, see, I cannot do this! Paul is not saying we should not surrender to living in constant defeat. What he is doing is expressing anger…he has not received the victory yet. This is a normal reaction.

He continues, “The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but I am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different” (Romans 7:25 MSG).

We are going to have those draining, I do not know if I can make it kind of days. Put your thoughts on Him. It is a choice and it is your choice!