Even Here

Genesis 39:20 (AMP) So Joseph’s master took him and put him in the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined; so he was there in the prison.

I love the story of Joseph. There is so much you can glean from someone who overcomes to a story of forgiveness. Today I want to look at how much favor was on Joseph. Joseph had a relationship with God that he did not fret when bad things happened to him. We do not know what faces he made. I am the type of person that if I have a little bit of frustration it shows. I do not have to put any actions to it, my brow furrows.

If you do not know this story, I encourage you to read Genesis 37-50. He is a very important person to the Israelite’s, second to Moses. First he is sold into slavery by his own brothers and now, in the above verse, he is imprisoned for something he did not even do. If anyone had a reason for self pity, it would have been Joseph.

The next verse:  But the Lord was with Joseph and extended loving kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the warden. Even in prison he still had purpose. It was not when he got out of the situation, it was right in the middle of it. It was while he was going through some of the hardest moments of his life favor was still there. These were the steps he had to go through to save a nation.

The Apostle Paul had something similar to say while he was in prison. If you did not know, he wrote most of the letters to other churches while in prison. He had favor there also.

Philippians 1:12 (AMP) Now I want you to know, believers, that what has happened to me [this imprisonment that was meant to stop me] has actually served to advance [the spread of] the good news [regarding salvation].

Philippians 1:14 (AMP) Because of my chains [seeing that I am doing well and that God is accomplishing great things], most of the brothers have renewed confidence in the Lord, and have far more courage to speak the word of God [concerning salvation] without fear [of the consequences, seeing that God can work His good in all circumstances].

Here is my question: Do you think these two men waited until the right circumstances to do anything for God? Did they have to get to a certain place? Paul was waiting to speak to Caesar. He was not the only one he was going to share his faith with. He shared the story of how he received Christ whenever he got the chance. He told of the change that Christ made in his life and how he cannot help but serve Him everywhere he goes.

Joseph as a slave and as a prisoner served. He did it to not get him out of a situation, but to glorify God while he was at any place. Those over him recognized the favor on his life and wanted to be a part of that.

Matthew 5:14-16 (AMP) You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I know life can throw some really tough things at us. If you need to write Matthew 5:14-16 on a mirror, or on your refrigerator door, and say it out loud to your self as often as you see it. Memorize it. So that every time the enemy tries to get you down on your self because of your situation you can tell him ‘even if’ and ‘even here’ “I am the light of Christ”. “I have purpose.” “I am going to continue to glorify my God with whatever I put my hands to.” ” I will continue to talk about his goodness.” “His mercy and goodness follows me wherever I go.”

Do not believe the lie that you are hidden for later use. You were created for now. You are needed now. You have purpose now. People may not recognize it until later, but who are we doing it for anyways. I choose to glorify His name today. I am actively looking for opportunities to tell about His goodness and show them through my good works. How about you?

Love Revolution

John 15:12 (AMP) “This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.”

This is smack in the middle of the part of Jesus telling us to abide in Him.

John 15:16-17 (AMP) You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you. This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another.

I am going to put this all together for us.

John 14:12-15 (AMP)  I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name [as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it. If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.

What were the commandments? See John 15:12.

Do not be afraid to do something kind for someone else. Give up a Saturday to help a stranger. Be willing to give away something in order to meet the needs of someone else.  

If you genuinely want to do something, you will find a way to do it.

Refuse to do nothing.

Do not let the fear of becoming overly involved keep you from being involved at all. Do not let the fear of falling into “works” salvation be the reason you do not aggressively want to serve. It is the intent of the heart.

After the early council deliberated on if the Gentiles had to be circumcised to show their salvation or to seal their salvation. It was deliberated that they did not. Actually they talked about the continuation of a lot of the Jewish rituals. The only thing they told Paul to do was:

Galatians 2:10 (AMP) They asked only (one thing), that we remember the poor, the very thing I was also eager to do.

There are literally thousands of ways you can give and spread love if you will search for them aggressively.

Jesus’ disciples saw Him daily helping people. He listened to them. His plans were interrupted so that they knew they were seen. Our words and prayers are important, but our actions carry the weight of our love. Let’s start a love revolution!!

That door is not closed…yet

Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP)  Let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

Yesterday was National Back to Church Sunday. I hope that you are plugged into a local body. The above scripture shows that even in the beginning of the early church some thought they could do it on their own. Yes, it is a personal relationship that we develop, but we still need each other.

Last week our church passed out one thousand door hangers in hopes that someone new would walk through our doors. I had been preparing for guests for months. I had gift bags printed, mugs printed, pens printed. We spent hundreds of dollars in hopes of us making a good first impression. I woke up in the morning thinking to myself, are we even prepared for new? Do we know how to walk through the door with fresh eyes? What would it be like to walk through those doors, with my kids? Were we prepared to walk along someone who had never entered our doors?

To my disappointment, no one new showed up. I was heart broken, still am. I had to think about the ones that were there. Just because they were not new, did not mean that I did not need to minister to and serve them.

It took me back to my fortieth birthday. My spiritual daughter tried to do a surprise party for me during the COVID stay at home order. It had been two months since we had to stop in person services. She had organized an outdoor, socially distanced, event. There were people who attended, but my focus after the fact, was on the ones that did not. I asked if they were invited. I had seen them out in stores (in groups), but they did not come. I was hurt. Since then I have altered my relationships. Did I have too high of expectations because I favored them more? Did I really favor them more? I had to make a change.

At the gym this morning I was listening to Elevation Church’s message while doing cardio (this is a routine of mine for Mondays). Today’s message really ministered to me. Paul was not without rejection or disappointments. The Corinthian church was one of the largest and most influential churches that he was the apostle over. They did not like his correction in some matters and had rejected him. He had to walk in forgiveness, but that did not mean he was not distract him for a moment. He had sent Titus to help mend things and while waiting for Titus’ report he just could not get his mind off the matter.

2 Corinthians 2:12-13 (AMP)  Now when I arrived at Troas to preach the good news of Christ, even though a door [of opportunity] opened for me in the Lord, my spirit could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there; so saying goodbye to them, I left for Macedonia.

Today I took a step and had a meeting with a director of a local non profit. It is an opportunity to present the gospel to the unchurched, ages 11-19. This is an open door. I could allow the disappointments of all other things to hinder what I am called to do. I am to present the gospel wherever an opportunity (open door) is given.

“Caution! The longer you are a Christian, the fewer opportunities you will have to be involved with unbelievers. Why? You become more involved in church life and activities. You are ‘lifted out’ of normal contact with unbelievers. Solution? Find practical and creative ways to build bridges back to unbelievers.” – Evangelism Explosion

I do not know about you, but I do get disappointed. I do have occasions that I am frustrated. That is okay, because those are signs of hope. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMP) Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. If I threw up my hands in disgust, the enemy wins. Love always hopes. Love knows that the door is opened, the enemy wants you to think that it is closed because it is difficult. Remain steadfast anyways. Do not allow your spirit to remain bothered (I am talking to myself) and go through the doors of opportunity.

That door has not closed…yet. Learn from Paul.

Love God, Love People

Matthew 22:36-40 (AMP)  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall 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.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’  The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

This struck me deep reading “the whole law depends on these commandments.” Now I know we are not under the law as born again believers. Jesus came to fulfill the law, but He did not do away with it. What do you see when you read these scriptures? Do you see a need to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ? What does it make you think about your neighbor? You may say, I do not hate, “I just love everybody.” Being nice to be people, to their face, is not really loving our neighbor.

I had an ‘AHA’ moment yesterday while reading this. We can be so concerned with serving that we forget the reason we serve (serving is loving your neighbor). Jesus illustrates this point with his encounter with Martha: Luke 10:38-42 (TPT) As Jesus and the disciples continued on their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated with finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions?  Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.

Martha was busy serving (which she did not get scolded for nor told to stop doing), she was told to change her perspective. Martha was distracted by all the things that needed to be done and not focused on the who it was all for. I could tell that Martha’s love language is acts of service and Mary’s is quality time. If you do not know what love languages are check out Gary Chapman’s books God Speaks Your Love Language and The Five Love Languages. Briefly there are five love languages: quality time, gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation and acts of service. The way I show love is acts of service and gifts, however, the way I receive love is words of affirmation and acts of service. My husband shows love by physical touch and gifts, but he receives love by quality time and physical touch. What does this have to do with the main scripture?

To really do this love thing right I need to do both. There is one more important than the other, that means I can get out of balance, but that does not mean I need to ignore the other all together. How do we ignore loving our neighbor? My husband said it best in one sermon, “A non-serving Christian is a contradiction.” As stated above, not all serving has to be “acts of service.” Learning people’s love languages means we start relationships. It is the outflow of our love for Christ that we desire to love our neighbor, and the amplified says unselfishly seeking the best for others.

It is not a bad thing to serve and love to serve, but do not let that distract you from loving God. How can we know when we are distracted? When we start comparing. When we start feeling jealousy or envy. When we start feeling rejection and bitterness. These are all distractions. Did you know you can be distracted like this and not serve? Our minds will get in the way with loving God completely and loving our neighbor. I have to put my focus back on Jesus when these feelings come up. I am not going to act like I do not get distracted, because I do.

Paul said it best, Philippians 3:13-14 (AMP) Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Spend time with the Father today. Not just to energize you for the day as we sometimes do. Spend time with Him because you love Him. Ask Him ways to show love to your neighbor today? Get to know their love language. God speaks yours, we speak ours back to Him…what if we used that in how we love our neighbor. It is not enough to just be “nice” to people. Remember, Jesus said our neighbor was anyone we came in direct contact with. That means the people in line at the grocery store, the gas station attendant, and for me the couple that does not like to cut their grass next door (I have to do better too).

Love God, Love People!

Closet Clean Out

Psalms 139:23-24 (AMP) Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Our hearts are the most important muscle in our bodies. We often focus on our outward appearance and our outward change that we lose focus on the most important things that need t be dealt with…our issues of the heart. The personal things we hide deep in our hearts.

Ephesians 4:22-25 (AMP) That, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]. Therefore, rejecting all falsehood [whether lying, defrauding, telling half-truths, spreading rumors, any such as these], speak truth each one with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one another [and we are all parts of the body of Christ].

So many of us put our faith in Christ as our Savior…but fail to allow Him to be redeemer, our healer, our restorer. Christ has done everything He needs to be done to be One with us. God lives in me, He sees me, He hears, me, He loves me and He understands me. People may not always understand you, but Jesus will always understand you.

When the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, there were promised a new land, a new life…the land of mile and honey! But along the way it was evident that even though they were physically delivered from the bondage of slavery…their hearts were still being held captive! Almost every time that things did not go the way they thought it should have they reverted back to Egypt, “we would have been better off back there.”

One of the enemies best weapons to stop your spiritual growth is to get you “back there.” Back to the place of regret, back to the place of hurt, back to the place where sins of the flesh ruled you. We will never live in a land of promise wishing you were “back there.”

This sounds a lot like the closets we keep in our homes. I have a size ten dress that I am very much trying to get back into. I succeeded a few years ago, then put the pounds on again. I did not get back to the size twenty I started with, but I did creep up a bit. That does not mean I have let that dress go. The closet, attic, garage are usually the places we hold everything from our past. We keep it there just in case. What are we holding onto that needs to go?

Realize this, we are in a process of progress! Daily we have to allow God to come in and deal with the issues we have in our heart.

Philippians 3:12-13 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christ like] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead… Paul is saying that he has not “arrived” yet. He has more to work on, there are areas he needs to decrease in so that God can increase. One thing he says for sure the he had to get a hold on…Forgetting the Past! You cannot live in the past and have a future. Stay focused on what lies ahead, and leave what was behind. Verses 14-16 (AMP),  I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us stay true to what we have already attained.

Keep on keeping on! You may have been put down. You may have been counted out. You may have been bruised. You may have been falsely accused. You may have been let down, trampled on, talked about and left to fend for yourself…but remember that you have been made a new creation. Old things have been passed away, behold all things have been made NEW!!! Each day you put on the renewed mind set, clean up the intimate areas we allow God to reside in, take out the trash and keep on going!!

The things that have been hidden away… the hurts and the let down that we try to keep to ourselves, the beat down that my mind tries to do to me daily… NO LONGER will I put up with it! That is not who I am any more. I am a child of God, made in His image, for HIS purpose. Get into our closets, get rid of the junk and live a new life in Christ!

Do like the otters do

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I got to bring the message to our church. I am a mother of two handsome teenage boys. I am married to their amazing father, and have been for going on twenty one years this month. However, I was raised by a single mother for most of my childhood (from the age of four to twelve). My mother took us out of an abusive home, to start over with nothing, and did not remarry until I was almost a teenager. In that time she was single she went to night school, we moved from living together in a bedroom at my grandparents (there were four of us), to moving into section eight housing and then she bought a home while I was still in elementary school. We took dance lessons and she was at our dance recitals. We played softball and she was one of the coaches. My academics did not suffer because I was in a home of a single parent.

According to The Life of a Single Mom Ministries founder, Jennifer Maggio, “There are approximately 23 million single moms in the United States. And with divorce rates at approximately 50% and 1 in every 2 babies being born outside marriage, these numbers are expected to rise. 67% of today’s single parents are not actively attending a local church.” There are many reasons, number one is that they do not think they will be accepted. The church will not understand or be compassionate of what they are going through. A third of my church is made of of women that have been or are currently single mothers.

Church it is time to do like the otters do. I googled otters and this is what came up, “To prevent themselves from floating away in the swirling sea while they sleep, sea otters often entangle themselves in forests of kelp or giant seaweed to provide anchorage. … This is also the reason why they hold hands. They do so in order to prevent themselves from drifting away from the group.

I was watching a show on Hulu, called Station 19, and in this episode some of the firefighters were on a dinner cruise. A couple of the guys go off to have a private conversation, one being the chief, he clutches his chest and falls over the rails. The other firefighter just jumps in after him. Another firefighter witnesses this and grabs a life vest to put on himself, a life preserver for some one to grab onto, then jumps in. He tried to alert the crew inside running the boat, but they were not responding, so no one else knows that they have all just jumped overboard and are floating at tight in the Pacific. The boat is gone from sight in minutes. The one with the life vest suggested they do like the otters do, hold hands so they do not drift apart and help each other stay afloat. The chief is dead and floating in the life preserver, the one without the vest refuses and says he will just hold onto the dead thing (which is going to eventually sink). This is where I got my message for Sunday. God said, this is the state of the church right now. They do not see the gift of the body that He put together to strengthen us. Yes, He gave us the Holy Spirit, but He did not create us to be alone separated from His body (the church).

We like to quote Philippians 4:13, I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace] (AMP). Check out what Paul says next, verse 14, Nevertheless , it was right of you to share [with me] in my difficulties. In Galatians 6:2, Paul writes, Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love] (AMP). He is writing to believers. He is writing to the churches. He goes on to write in Philippians 4:15-19, And you Philippians know that in the early days of preaching the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I do seek the profit which increases to your [heavenly] account [the blessing which is accumulating for you]. But I have received everything in full and more; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent me. They are the fragrant aroma of an offering, an acceptable sacrifice which God welcomes and in which He delights. And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (AMP).

By resisting the body, and the gifts that it has, we are missing out on this heavenly account. By looking at the body as a gift and receiving from each other, blessings can be accumulating for each other. We are called to be generous givers. This is not just talking about finances. This is talking about our talents, our spiritual gifts, our wisdom and knowledge. The early church gave everything to see the needs of each other met. We look at each other through the lens of hurt and do not see how they can or if they would want to be a part of their lives. A healthy church will see the value in each other and will want to see each other succeed, no matter their status in life.

It is time to do like the otters do!

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!