A willing offering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restoration takes more than me

Philippians 3:12 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own.

There are many benefits of our Reconciliation through Christ besides just “going to Heaven” but they can remain dormant and non-beneficial until discovered and used. My husband posed this question to us a couple of Sunday’s ago: “Am I walking in the Freedom of Reconciliation today?”

Your relationship with God is as deep as you want it to be. Your freedom is to the level that you set it.

Luke 10:19 tells us that Jesus gave us the ability to exercise authority over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will harm us. I want to remind you that you cannot do this alone. You were not meant to do it alone.

Have you ever heard this? “I work out my own salvation!” That is taken from Philippians 2:12 and we use it as a defense mechanism because we do not like being corrected. We are taking it out of context. You see quoting this and stating “I work out my own salvation” is not the character and nature of God. Actually, in the original Greek it is not quite stated like this. The New American Standard Bible has the closest, because we all know from grammar classes, punctuation is important.

You should not quote verse 12 without 13: So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.

You cannot do this separate from the Holy Spirit. You are not alone to work out your own salvation. You need to know and read His Word, but if you do not have the Holy Spirit you are limited. You will quote verses out of context and live half free.

There was also something else that God gave us to help in our restoration. He gave us each other.

Ephesians 2:18, 22 (AMP) For it is through Him that we both have a [direct] way of approach in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens [outsiders without rights of citizenship], but you are fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household, In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The devil will try to tell you that since you are the only one like you in your family that you do not belong, that you are an alien, that you are an orphan. Even though you DO belong to a family, he will do everything he can to keep you from the full benefit of salvation. I know what it is like to feel like you are not included. My husband and I are the pastors. Do you know how hard that is to be the leader? Someone once said that if you want to please people sell ice cream. However,I cannot become all that He created me to be if I do not fellowship with my church. I am not talking about gathering to eat food. Am I being authentic in my growth with them so that they can encourage me? Not just one sided to where they are vulnerable and I just can’t because of my lack of trust in the very body of believers I am called to. I need to walk in fullness. I have to let the body do what it is suppose to, even if it hurts (just a little secret, growth is suppose to hurt).

Ephesians 4:12, 16 [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love.

The five fold ministry is essential in equipping the saints (the born again believer). Do you have a pastor? Do you allow them to correct you? There are good ones out there that want to see the best in you. The body of Christ is also essential to each other. We are no longer our own person. My restoration was for a bigger purpose than myself. I should be encouraging you to grow. You encourage me to seek the Holy Spirit in my growth!

Love is the unselfish concern for others, to see the best for them. This goes against the culture of “do what is best for you.” That shows a total lack of trust in the Father. Do you honestly think that if you did something that was better for someone else that He would not see to it that you go the best too? Let us grow past looking out for ourselves and serve one another.

Let us get back to the main question: “Am I walking in the Freedom of Reconciliation today?” We cannot do it apart from Jesus and the Father. We cannot do it apart from the Holy Spirit. We cannot do it fully without each other. You were not meant to work it out alone. God’s desire is for you to be whole. Let the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ do its work.

Love is in the seed

Mark 4:14 (AMP) The sower sows the word [of God, the good news regarding the way of salvation]. 

For the past week the nation has been glued to the news to see what has been transpiring across the world. Inflation is up…way up! One thing remains, the Word of God. If you are looking for something good right now, look no further than His Word.

I was reading over Mark 4, preparing for a youth camp to speak at. It was the first time I had done anything like that. I was not nervous until I got up in front on looked at all the faces. The weight of what I was about to say hit me. My story is not traumatizing. My heart goes out to those who are living in war torn countries, but to be honest, I do not know what that is like. I never grew up hungry, wondering where my next meal came from. I grew up desiring to be loved, without the love of my birth father. How traumatic, right?

The desire to be loved and to be accepted drove me to do things in my younger life that I probably would not have done if I had felt secure. When preparing for the youth camp, the passage in Mark 4 struck me in that my heart (soil) have met all stages of that passage.

When I first started attending the church we pastor now I was just sixteen years old. My husband was the pastor’s son. Even though he was not living for God he attended church as an honor for his parents. He served doing sound. He would pick me up in the morning and drive me home after lunch. I dressed for the times and my skirts were short, tops just covered my mid drift and my shoes were platform heels. Often my socks were mid thigh. I was young and had a cute figure. My husband’s mom only said anything to him about the way I dressed, of which his reply was that he liked it. They never said anything to me. When John did not have money for lunch that Sunday he would have me go to his dad and ask. His dad loved it and would hand me a twenty every time.

So here is what I learned: When the Word is sown and Satan immediately takes the Word away (Mark 4:15) keep sowing. I was there for all the wrong reasons, but love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7). Things and thoughts like poor self image, pride, rejection, blame shifting, self-justification, people pleasing can all be the rocks that cause the seed to be choked out in our lives (Mark 4:16). Keep sowing the Word, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17). What about thorns (Mark 4:18-19)? Thorns hurt! I know, being on the other side sowing, I have been cut a few times. Those I have cut in the past know that it was worth it when they see my growth now. 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] (1 Corinthians 13:7). Keep sowing.

Eventually, with love being the basis for sowing: And those [in the last group] are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word [of God, the good news regarding the way of salvation] and accept it and bear fruit—thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much [as was sown] (Mark 4:20). I have the capacity of loving more because of what He brought me through.

John 15: 4 (AMP) Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. 

I look back and see how much love was sown into me when I was in all different types of soil. Weeds do still grow, but I allow the Holy Spirit to remove them and see the good soil. Weeds do not mean they are hopeless, it means there is still potential. When a weed is pulled up, the ground is the softest. We all have to see each other as potential. Love always hopes. Now do not go out there beating each other with the Word. That is not what I am saying. The Word inside of you will cause you to love and seek the best for others. That was what Jesus commanded us to do John 15:12).

Never give up sowing the Word. Never give up showing love when you do not see the fruit of it right away. There is a change happening. Let it start with your love! We cannot effectively sow the Word without love.

He calls my name

Isaiah 45:4 (AMP) For the sake of Jacob My servant, and of Israel My chosen, I have also called you by your name; I have given you an honorable name though you have not known Me.

When we named our first born we had two choices picked out for the day of deliver. We went the old fashioned way and did not find out the gender of both of our children until they were born. We had the name ‘Lillian Michelle’ if a girl and ‘Ari Daniel’ if a boy. Lillian was the name of my great aunt that made an impact on me when I was a little girl. She was strong, independent and feisty. Ari was the name of my husband’s best friend. My husband grew up in Belize, Central America, and being the only white kid, friendships meant the world to him.

We have two sons. Ari Daniel and Eli Robert (Robert after my grandfather and my husband’s father). There is deep meaning in their names. Ari in Hebrew means lion. Eli in Hebrew means high, elevated or my God. I named him after the prophets Elijah and Elisha, I wanted him to have double the anointing.

Isaiah was the prophet during the reign of King Hezekiah. King Hezekiah was a good king and did right in the eyes of God (2 Kings 18:3). He was also the king that showed the Babylonians all the treasures of the storehouse (2 Kings 20:13), there was nothing that he did not show them. This was a big no-no, because they were suppose to remain a secret to the surrounding nation.

Isaiah prophesied, 2 Kings 20:16-18, “Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord. ‘Behold, the time is coming when everything that is in your house, and that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And some of your sons (descendants) who will be born to you will be taken away [as captives]; and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” 

Why is this significant? In Isaiah 45:3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness [the hoarded treasures] and the hidden riches of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you (Cyrus the Great) by your name.” Who is Cyrus the Great? Why did God call Him by name?

Ezra 1:2-4 (AMP) “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

King Cyrus was not even born yet when Isaiah prophesied this. King Cyrus, of Persia, was the reason that Nehemiah was able to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. He made sure that everything that Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon was returned to the temple. He made sure that temple was going to be rebuilt.

This gave me great courage during a time that I do not see enough people to do the work that God has called my husband and I to do. Those people have not even been born yet, and He has called them by name. I am not talking about a physical birth, I am talking about the new birth when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). I do not want some other church’s people, I want the ones that He is calling by name now. We are calling them out! We are inviting ALL!!

He has called you by name, even before you were conceived in your mother’s womb. If you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior message me at amanda@desiringformore.org. If you do and you want to know how you can share your faith, message me too!

I pray you have an amazing week!

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!

A mother’s heartbeat

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your strength. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Do you feel pressure that I need to ensure my child’s salvation? I know as a pastor, I do. I feel pressure to make sure my children do not mess up, especially in public, or let’s say I use to. As a pastor it can often seem that you are in a glass house, put on display for everyone to look into. However, just like everyone else we make mistakes and our lives are messy. I have learned to embrace that glass house. My husband and I decided when we were going to take on the lead pastor role that we were going to be transparent (there are things that we do keep private) but if God tells us to tell of our struggles, then we are. To put on airs that we do not have struggles would be a lie to what Jesus did on the cross for us.

John 6:44 says, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and the last day I will raise them up.” I cannot live out the salvation for my children. They have to come to Him by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. I am free from the pressure that we have to make all the right moves, but that does not mean I do not have a responsibility. Deuteronomy 6 says that He has to be Lord over my life. He is Lord! When I am moved by my mistakes as a mother, the behavior of my children, their mistakes, then that has become my Lord.

My kids will not come to Christ solely on their own initiative, and they certainly will not come to Christ solely on mine. It will be only through the Father giving them the desire to come to Christ. The Father must draw my children to His heart. I cannot push or plead them there. Rather, He pursues them and woos them to Himself. (From Mom Set Free by Jeannie Cunnion)

I have the honor and responsibility of guiding my children in truth and teaching them that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father (John 14:6) – but I cannot make them believe it. Only God can work in their hearts.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants not he one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Philippians 1:6, 9-11 I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns…I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

We are given the assurance that it is God – not us – who began a good work within our children. It is God, not us, who will continue that work in our lives. He will not give up on them, even when they deserve to be given up on (just like we were).

I am confident and trusting that God is already doing what He wants done in my children. He is not depending on me to be their Holy Spirit. He is the one helping them obey. In fact, His grace is what gives them the desire to obey Him.

I can model them the freedom and joy that comes from obeying God’s Word, but I cannot make them want it. It was when I allowed the changed to happen in my inwardly that it became to show outwardly. That is what drew my sister to follow Christ. I was eighteen when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. If I look back on how I had acted as a teenager, I would be so ashamed, if I did not know who I was in Christ now. I have to look at my children the same way. Christ, not me, is the one that will redeem them.

If I look back on how I had acted as a teenager I would be so ashamed, if I did not know who I was in Christ now.

If we go back just a little before the verse to Deuteronomy 5: 6 it says, ” I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Then He gave them the Ten Commandments. Before He commanded them to love and obey, He first reminds His people of His nature, of His character, and of His rescuing grace. In other words, He is showing how His redeeming love was not predicated on their love and obedience. He rescued them first.

Covid-19 has been hard on our world. It has made us look at our relationships, our circumstances, and our resources in a new way. I have two boys at home. I have the privilege of being a stay at home mom. My kids are older, twelve and sixteen, so they do not require a lot of supervision. That does not mean that they do not require my care. One of the struggles of raising a teenager in this day in age is getting them outside. Thankfully, both are athletes so they have to do certain cardiovascular routines to keep up with the positions they have.

My children see the importance in my getting in the Word on a daily basis. I model that behavior. When school started back this year I altered our morning routine to do a small devotion together and pray before they leave for school. My children can tell the difference in me when I do not make the time to get in the Word. I am transparent with my struggles so they can be transparent with theirs.

We went through a hard time with my oldest not too long ago. He did some things that we could have been ashamed of if we taught religion. Since we model a relationship we were able to model redemption. He was punished, but not shamed. We lifted him up and did not tear him down. In result, he became more loving and trusting of his parents. I am not trying to say we are perfect, because if it had happened a few years ago we would not have responded the same loving way. We have allowed God to be Lord over our lives and with that so much grace has poured out through us to our children. We did not hide him away. We encouraged him and he drew deeper in his relationship with God. He still makes mistakes. He does things that no I do not approve of, but like us he has free will. He honors us as we honor God. We model honor in our home.

This is my heartbeat as a mother: To know that my children do not have to be perfect to be loved. They do not have to meet my expectations on what their relationship with God should look like. They, like me, are growing. My Father is the one who will draw them closer. It is when they choose to make Him Lord (it is a choice). I have to be patient just as He was patient with me. We do not give up, it is never a set back, it is a reason for me to grow deeper in my own relationship. My children are a gift, but I have to choose to put my trust in Him to be the Lord of their lives. No matter their choices I will not lose hope. If they run, He will be there to redeem and restore them, I will be here to love them.

If your child is running from God, know that you should not feel ashamed. He is not. He is a God of compassion and grace. We are the ones who are flawed, He is not. If you made a mistake, it is okay, He can still redeem. Do not give up, do not grow weary, put your trust in Him. I know that I will probably have more heartaches ahead of me when it comes to my children. Take courage, know that we are not in this alone. He said He would always be with us. He will see that everything is completed.

Ari (my oldest) and me at the gym!