Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Dark Tunnel of the Unknown

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1221520
This time of year I always feel like I’m standing on the brink . . .

The New Year stretches out before me as a blank canvas.  The great dark tunnel of the UNKNOWN . . .
What will my world be like in the coming months?  What does this year hold?  Is it pregnant with joy or heartache, pain or blessing, health or illness?  What will it give birth to, I wonder?
I watch as everyone cheers as the ball drops in Times Square, welcoming a New Year and I am apprehensive . . .  wondering what will be.
Fear like a knife cuts deep into my gut.  Honestly, the “what if” . . .  has always frightened me.  What if this is the year I lose someone I love?  What if we face another “great depression”?  What if I gain twenty pounds?  What if my husband loses his job?  What if cancer decides to invade my life?  What if all my hair falls out?  Paralyzing fear.  Heart-stopping terror.  Mind-numbing dread.
In the midst of my fear, God whispers His truth . . . “You don’t know what the future holds but you hold the hand of the ONE who does!"
 
If we knew our future, I wonder, how would we live?  Would we be in constant dread and despair, focused on what was to come and missing what is now?  


God wants us to LIVE in the present.  Embracing each day as it comes.  Grabbing hold of every moment, knowing that He will be there with us in every minute of every day. 

He calls us to live a life of TRUST rather than fear.  Trusting that He holds our future in the palm of His hands.  Trusting that His plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29.11)  Trusting in the Hope of an Eternity yet to come. (Romans 5.4-5)

Did God give His life for me so that I could live in dread of the future? NEVER.  He died so that I can laugh at the future, embrace what He has for me and never have to live this life on my own again.

And so this year, I set my fears aside and lay claim to these words that the Apostle Paul penned so long ago, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate me from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate me from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate me from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Romans 8.38-39)

 As you face this New Year, I don’t know where this finds you, maybe many of the fears I named are your reality.  Remember this, my friend:  You don’t know what the future holds but you hold the hand of the ONE who does.  He loves you and will never let you go! 
 
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Where's Jesus?


www.amazon.com
Are you familiar with the books entitled, Where’s Waldo?  These books have no words just pictures.  What makes them unique is that this no-word-book-with-only-pictures is designed for big kids and even adults!  Each page has a quirky little guy wearing a red and white striped hat but the tricky part is finding him.  There are so many things jammed onto each page that it’s difficult to see him and there begins the hunt . . . finding Waldo on pages that are crammed full of stuff.  

As I was thinking of Christmas this year and remembering years past . . . the constant hustle and bustle, gifts to purchase, goodies to make, cards to send, traditions to uphold, decorating, partying, planning, caroling and on and on the list goes. 

I couldn’t help but wonder, does my life look a lot like a Where’s Waldo book, only it’s not Waldo I’m looking for, it’s JESUS! 

 
Is my world is so crammed, jammed and packed with stuff, there’s no room for Him?  (Can I just say, I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem! ) 

How ironic it is.  The ONE who is at the center of our celebration is so pushed into the background that we struggle to find Him anywhere.   

We leave no space for Him. 

So often even the “good things” we do cause Him to fade into the background.   

You know how I can tell this?  By what’s on my to-do list.  I have on my list, serving at Church, making gifts for my neighbors, caroling to a nursing home, preparing great meals for my returning kids . . . but nowhere on my list is spending time only with Jesus, being still and knowing Him.   

I rush, rush, rush, everywhere doing good things for Him but never spending time WITH Him.  

What would it look like for us to take everything off the page . . . all the traditions, present-wrapping, card-writing, meal-cooking . . . EVERYTHING and sit down with God and ask Him what He wants us to do?    

What if we re-evaluated why we’re doing all the things we do?  Is it to impress?  Because it’s expected?  Because we’re worried what people will think? 

What would we look like, if putting Christ in the CENTER became what was most important in our lives?  

 
John’s final words in his book of 1John are so poignant . . .  Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.  (1 John 5.21 NLT)  

Are you willing to do the hard work of stripping away the busyness, the superficial and the expected to ensure that nothing takes His place in your heart? 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Helen Lemmel

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Thankful Heart

 
When I was growing up, my parents drilled into me the importance of saying, “Thank you” and  I turned around and did the same thing with my children.

As I sit and reflect on this Thanksgiving week, I am reminded that saying thank you and having a heart of thankfulness can be and often are so vastly different from one another.  

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, it is a shipwrecked-whipped-stoned-imprisoned Paul who reminds us to, Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  This isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command.  

It’s the way of life . . . for someone who follows Jesus. 

In the very same breath, Paul instructs us to, “ALWAYS be joyful.  NEVER stop praying. 

Did Paul really expect a person who’s just been devastated by the loss of a spouse and then discovers the money's gone, to be joyful and thankful in the circumstances they've been dealt? 

How do you give thanks when the refrigerator blows, you can’t find your car keys and you’ve just been told that an outstanding hospital bill is being sent to the collectors? 

Where do you find joy and thankfulness in the catastrophic and the mundane? 
 
Jesus said, "For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. " (Matthew 12.34-35) 

So what are you treasuring?   

What have you been caching away?  Trust or doubt? 
  
Joy and thankfulness come from a heart that trusts!  Trusts that God is good.  Trusts that He is for you.  Trusts that when He says, “ALL things work together for good” . . . , He means it.  You can’t expect to have joy and thankfulness, if you haven’t forged a life of trust. 
 
It’s a choice, not a feeling!  

What do you get from a heart that has stockpiled doubt?  Discouragement.  Hopelessness.   Despair.  There’s no room for joy and no room for thankfulness where doubt reigns. 


Trusting in a God we can’t see doesn’t come naturally.  Our propensity is to control, to carry the burden and say we trust God when we really don’t.  Then we wonder why we struggle to find joy.  We question how it is possible to be thankful in ALL circumstances.   

What does the treasury of your heart look like?  Do you have a storehouse of trust or a cache of doubt?  Choose to trust!  And joy and thankfulness will follow. 
 
 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Love Stalker

Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.  Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” John 4.5-7 (NLT)

She brushed the windblown hair out of her eyes, to get a better look.  Did she see right?  Was there someone sitting there at the well?  She had deliberately chosen this time of day to come – she wanted to be alone.  She was so weary of the gossip, the innuendos, and the unguarded looks when they thought she wasn’t looking. 
This emptiness inside her was a dark whirling vortex, sucking everything she ever was or hoped to be into its depths.  She had tried to fill the emptiness five time over but it just never seemed to work out.  Why didn’t anyone want her? 
She’d given in to the worthlessness, knowing that any hope she had ever had was long gone.
She didn’t know the man sitting at the well but He knew her.
She was why He was there.  He’d come for her . . . to use her like all the others?  Never!
He’d come to save her.  Rescue her.  Give her worth.
Jesus was stalking her . . .
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He was on the hunt for her.  He went out of his way to meet with, what many in that day perceived to be, the scum of the scum.  She didn’t just have one strike against her, she had three.  She was a Samaritan. (Jews wanted nothing to do with them and would go out of their way to walk around Samaria rather than go through it.)  She was a woman. (Women were not held in high regard in any society.)  And she was a woman sleeping around.  In the eyes of the world she was a nothing but Jesus loved her.  He came to give her worth.  He came to give her value.  He came to rescue her.
 
Why?  Why would the God of the Universe, the Messiah, the Holy One go out of his way to meet with this lonely, desperate, used up woman? 
For that matter, why would this God desire us?
In a word . . . L-O-V-E
Undeserved, unrequited, unexplainable LOVE.
This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his Son, His ONE and ONLY Son.  And this is why: so that no one need to be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. John 3.16 (MSG)
Unlike a lion seeking it prey to devour, the Lion of Judah stalks not to take life but to GIVE life!

What will you do in the face of this incredible love?  Will you fall to your knees and let it overwhelm you or will you turn tail and run?
He is on the hunt for you . . .

                       Not to take life from you . . .  but to give YOU life. 

 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Plugging In


I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.  Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.  Ephesians 1.19-21

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1088641

My neighbor got up one morning, only to discover that the light in his refrigerator had burned out.  He jumped in his car drove twenty minutes to Lowes to get a replacement bulb.  He returned home after being gone more than an hour and replaced the light bulb.  But this bulb didn’t work either!  That’s when he noticed that the power was out in his entire house.  He’d spent more than an hour trying to replace a bulb that wasn’t broken!  It wouldn’t have mattered how many bulbs he changed in the house none of them would’ve worked because the power was missing.  It’s easy for us to get this concept with electricity but do we understand this in our spiritual lives?
In Ephesians 1, Paul reminds us of the power source we have living inside of us.  This isn’t a gimpy sort of power, this is the power that RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD! 
But how many of us live our lives, replacing bulbs and forgetting to plug into the power source?
We try to fix ourselves by reading self-help books and checking boxes.  We Try. Try. Try. And wonder why it never really sticks.  We end up ensnared.  Trapped. Broken.  We wonder why we’re stuck, why we’re so desperate and never experience change. 
We’ve been changing the light bulbs and forgetting the Power Source.
We’ve got to plug into the Power. 
“Okay, I get that,” you say, “But what does that really look like?”
In a word . . . SURRENDER.
Climb off your throne and let God take control.  Go to God.  Spend time with Him.  Quit trying. Quit fixing.  Quit doing.   
Does this seem impossible?  Is your stronghold too strong, too powerful for you to let go of?  Have you struggled with it for too long?
Remember what God says about His own power . . . God’s Power is Mighty. (There is no power like His in all the earth.) God’s Power is Faithful. (It isn’t fickle, it’s dependable, ready and waiting for you to tap into.)  God’s Power accomplishes the impossible! (It raised Jesus from the dead!). 
This power resides in all those who are His children.  You’ve got the power, you just have to use it! 
Will you continue to change your own bulbs or plug into the Power Source?
  

Monday, October 20, 2014

God's Mark


Do I have the mark of God on my heart?
In the Old Testament of the Bible God asked the children of Israel to be circumcised as a way to identify them as His covenant people.   “All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. (Exodus 17.9-13 NLT)  But frequently throughout the Bible, God constantly had to remind them that it wasn’t enough to just have this outward sign, their hearts needed to reflect this covenant relationship as well.
In Romans we see Paul admonishing the Jewish Christians for taking pride in their position and in their knowledge and yet having hearts that were far from God.  (Romans 2.17-24)  We would say they were self-righteous.  In other words, they were in the business of making themselves right in the eyes of God.  Ouch!
What had happened to move them in this direction?  These were followers of Jesus.  Jews, who at one point had acknowledged that the only way to eternal life was through Jesus Christ, not the law they had grown up with.  But they fell back into their list of rules and superiority and neglected their own hearts.  Their place of safety became their knowledge and their rules.
It’s easy to point the finger at these Jewish believers and wonder how they could be so blind.  And yet . . . we do the same thing.  We find safety in rules and regulations.  And we embrace the visible, material and superficial. 
John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted says this, The great danger that arises when we don’t experience authentic transformation is that we will settle for what might be called pseudo-transformation.  We know that as Christians we are called to “come out and be separate,” that our faith and spiritual commitment should make us different somehow.  But if we are not marked by greater and greater amounts of love and joy, we will inevitably look for substitute ways of distinguishing ourselves from those who are not Christians.  This deep pattern is almost inescapable for religious people:  If we do not become changed from the inside-out we will be tempted to find external methods to satisfy our need to feel that we’re different from those outside the faith.  If we cannot be transformed, we will settle for being informed or conformed.”
Paul says in Romans 2.29, “A true Jew is one whose heart is right with God.  And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not people.

I love how The Messsage says this, “It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, which makes a Jew.
Do we have God’s mark on our hearts or are we settling for outward conformity to appease our guilt and help us fit into the religious community?
Is our life marked by more and more love, more and more patience,  and more and more joy or do we gravitate to the list of things we can check off to feel okay about ourselves?  Are we trying to make ourselves right or allowing God to do it?
Self-producing righteousness causes us to become infatuated with what other people think.  Consumed with desire for people’s praise.  Obsessed with how we are being perceived.
Are you settling for outside conformity or inside transformation? 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Rabbit Hole

In the book Alice in Wonderland, we watch as Alice follows a rabbit down his hole into a make believe world. 

This fairy tale isn’t just for kids . . . we adults often chase "bunnies" down their hole into an imaginary world.  Let me explain . . .
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This winter I was standing in the middle of the Atrium at our church and glimpsed my husband sitting on a couch over in the corner.  As I looked more closely, I noticed his ear pressed to his phone and the look on his face told me it wasn’t good. 

I felt my heart rise into my throat and my thoughts raced to a very dark place . . . MY SON IS DEAD!  He’s been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  In the space of seconds, I went from wondering what we were going to eat that night to planning a funeral right there in the middle of the atrium. 



As I started to charge over to where my husband sat, I felt the Lord say, “STOP!  Don’t go down that rabbit hole.  You have no idea what the call is about, why are you going to the worst place possible?  Why are you panicking over something you don’t even know has happened?”
In a blink, I dived down the hole into an imaginary world of my own making.
As I stood there, rooted to the floor, a verse came rushing into my mind,  “. . . we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10.5 (NIV)   

The challenge:  to refuse to go down into the abyss, to reject the inherent desire to get sucked into the whirling vortex of dark thoughts. 
We always have a choice regarding our thoughts . . . 
Will we take them captive or will they take us captive?
But HOW do we take them captive when they feel like a force of nature we can’t control?  Seriously, how do we keep our fears from taking us captive when they are overwhelming and all-consuming?
By camping out on TRUTH. 
Philippians 4.8 in the Message says it like this . . . Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things TRUE, NOBLE, REPUTABLE, AUTHENTIC, COMPELLING GRACIOUS – The BEST, not the worst; the BEAUTIFUL, not the ugly; things to PRAISE, not things to curse. 
We take our thoughts captive by turning to Truth and filling our minds with what is good and right. 
2 Corinthians 10.4-6 (MSG)  says, We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.  Our tools are at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 
Are we fitting our loose thoughts and emotions into the structure of a life shaped by Christ or are we allowing them to run rampant in our lives? 
It’s our choice, to take them captive or allow them to take us captive.  We will never experience true, victorious freedom in Christ until we learn to imprison in our thoughts and surrender them to Him.

Oh Lord, we need your help!  We cannot stop the thoughts from coming but we can take them captive.  Give us Your power and strength to refuse to journey down the hole into our make believe world.  Teach us to follow You, the Author of Truth. Amen.
 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

when rewards become gods

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/942138
It’s been incredible journey this summer. . .  I put on my running shoes and have been traversing my neighborhood with God by my side. 

I took up running as an act of obedience and wow! have I learned a lot on this trip.  I’m not running to lose weight.  I’m not running to be healthy.  I’m not running to feel better. I’m not running for people’s praise. BUT all of those things have happened since I strapped these shoes on my feet and took to the road.
And I must confess, I’m finding the rewards mighty fine! 
While they are a beautiful result of obedience, it has now become a struggle to keep my heart focused on the REAL reason I’m running.  I find myself getting sidetracked by the benefits. Instead of following God I start following the rewards.  I want to run more and more so I’ll lose the weight even faster.  I like that people are noticing and I spend my time thinking about how nice that is.  I log on to Facebook and see all the wonderful accomplishments of my friends and I want to add mine to the list.  And on and on it goes . . .
Why does this happen?
 We start out with all the right motivations and then something turns in us.  In a New York minute we’re in a place we never thought we would be with a heart set on things we had originally set out to avoid.
We worship the rewards and forget the Giver.
This is nothing new.  It’s an age old struggle.
They traded the truth about God for a lie.  So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!  Romans 1.25 (NLT) 
What truth are you trading for a lie?
It’s so easy.  It happens in a heartbeat.  So how do we keep from believing the lie and worshiping the rewards?
I’ve discovered on this journey that it takes INTENTIONALITY.  We won’t fall into this.  It won’t just happen naturally, we have to be purposeful!  You see we have this bent . . . it draws us away, rather than towards.  So unless we continually allow God to right us . . . we will always be moving away.
Here’s what I’m doing to stay focused on the right motivation:
I refuse to put any of my accomplishments in weight loss or running on FB.  Because I know as soon as I do I will be focused on how many people LIKE my achievement.  I constantly remind myself why I’m running.  When someone gives me a compliment about how I’m looking I turn around and give it to God.  That’s how I’m choosing to worship the Giver and not the gift.  How are you?
Have you been way too focused on the blessings and neglected the Giver?  What steps do you need to take to realign?

Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?  Who may stand in His holy place?  Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.  They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their Savior.  Psalm 24.3-5
  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Embracing the Journey


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/875452
Mid-summer I broke out with a rash.  It wasn’t much but it WAS on my face.  So I immediately made an appointment to see the doctor the following day.  He called it “contact dermatitis” (what they call a rash when they don't know what it is) and sent me home with a dose of steroids. 
Then the itching began . . .
And the rash continued to spread.  Down my neck to regions beyond. 
I won’t bore you with the details, except to say the itching was driving me CRAZY!!!!! 
Couldn’t sleep.  ITCH, ITCH, ITCH . . . !! 
Struggled to focus. SCRATCH, SCRATCH, SCRATCH . . . !!
Restless endless nights.  ITCH, ITCH, ITCH . . . !!
Two weeks later, four more visits to the doctor, higher doses of steroids, shots, Benadryl, my regular allergy medicines, and every home remedy solution on the planet and I still wasn’t any better.  One consolation . . . (not that it was any consolation) I did know what I had . . . a bad case of poison ivy!
The day after my last doctor visit, I was out for a run . . . (Side note:  I have found my runs to be very clarifying and my listening skills much more in tune with God) . . . and I felt God say to me, “You’re D-O-N-E.  You’ve tried EVERYTHING!  You’ve exhausted all your resources and now it’s time to embrace the journey I have for you.”
What!  Embrace the itching?  Are you kidding me??  How can I live like this?
“My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12.9 NLT)
Could God be asking me not to just endure this journey, to put up with the itching (which would be a feat in itself) BUT (and it was a big but) to welcome and embrace it?
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55.8-9 NLT)
He was asking the IMPOSSIBLE of me!
How could I do it?  Embrace the sleepless nights?  Restless days?  Unendurable misery? Intolerable pain?
I knew I couldn’t but He COULD! 
God wanted me to Trust Him.  To jump off the cliff into His waiting arms and KNOW His power in my weakness.  He had a better way for me.  A journey of faith, beyond my comprehension.  A journey I would NEVER have chosen for myself. 
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 29.11-14 NLT)
Have you been fighting the journey God has for you?  Questioning His goodness?
What is God calling you to embrace? 
The more you wrestle and fight the journey God has for you, the more blessings you will miss . . .  
Your faith will be shallow, your joy insignificant and your love trivial.  God desires so much more for you.  Will you TRUST Him and EMBRACE the journey?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Worship and Obedience . . . Can't Have One Without the Other

I’ve been learning a lot about obedience and worship this summer.  It’s been a remarkable journey.

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1381436
There’s been an area of my life that I have been stiff arming God.  I’ve surrendered so many other areas of my life, it's been easy to rationalize keeping this one to myself. 
But there’s this thing about surrender . . . it’s not really surrender unless it’s complete. 

If only half of an army’s troops surrenders in battle, is it really a surrender?


This wrestling with God has been going on for quite some time. 
God patiently asking and me . . .  defiantly refusing.
 I’ve been miserable, tormented and harassed by my own thoughts.  I’ve rationalized, justified and defended my stance.  And where has it got me?  Stalled out.  Ineffective.  Unproductive.
Finally, late this spring . . . I dropped to my knees and waved the white flag of surrender.  Feeling like I was stepping into a place of bondage but knowing I couldn’t live like this any longer. 
And what a surprise God had waiting for me in the letting go!
My object of surrender was with eating better and exercising.
As I released the grip and began to ask God what it would look like for me to exercise,  I came to the conclusion that running was the best option for me.  Can I just say, I HATE RUNNING!  But I was ALL IN and I wasn’t looking back.
I bought an app for my phone which helps an individual work up to running a 3K and so began my journey . . .   The app had me running for two minutes straight – something I never thought I could do.  I got winded just running to the mailbox and back but remember, I was all in, so I thought I would give it a try.

I ran my first two minutes and made it!  Never thought I could but the surprises weren’t over yet.  The plan had me running two minutes and walking three minutes, four times over.  While I was running the first two minutes, I thought . . . I’ll never be able to run two more minutes.  But I walked for three minutes, caught my breath and started again.  It was on my third two minute run that it happened . . .
Every step - excruciating, each breath – agonizing.  I knew I wasn’t going to make it.   I cried out to God, “Lord, You’ve got to help me.  Give me strength for each step.  Because I’m doing this for You . . .”
I’m doing this for You!  It echoed in my head.  I’m doing this for You. 
I’m being obedient and in my obedience I’m worshipping You.  My running is worship!
That was a new concept.  I’d never thought that my actual running could be worship.  Previously my thinking had gone kind of like this:   I worship God by listening to music or praying while I run.  It never dawned on me, until that moment that my obedience was worship!  My running was worship! 
It changed everything for me.  I’m not running to lose weight.  I’m not running to look better or feel healthier.  I’m running to worship my God.  To bring glory and honor to Him through my obedience. 
Clarifying.  Purposeful.  Satisfying.
What about you?  Is there an area in your life where you’re stiff arming God? 
For me it was exercise and eating right but maybe for you it’s the things you’re allowing to fill your mind.  Or maybe you’re refusing to forgive someone.  Or you’re holding tightly to material things.  Whatever it is, I challenge you to surrender it to God.  Pry your fingers off and let go!
2 Kings 17:36-38 (NLT) says, “But worship only the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt with great strength and a powerful arm. Bow down to him alone, and offer sacrifices only to him. Be careful at all times to obey the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands that he wrote for you.” 
 
God doesn’t want your worship without obedience. They go hand in hand – you can’t have one without the other. 
 
(Note:  This weekend I will be running my first ever 5K race and I'm now running thirty minutes straight -  it's a miracle!  Truly a miracle – only by God’s grace am I able to do this.  God is good.  May He receive all the glory and honor and praise.)
 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dare to Believe!

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.  Psalm 46.7 (NLT)

In first Samuel, chapter one we are introduced to Hannah, a woman unable to bare children.  While she is at her yearly visit to the temple she makes a vow to Jehovah Sabaoth that if He will give her a child, she will give him back to God for all of his days. (1 Samuel 1.11)
It’s interesting that she doesn’t use the name Jehovah Jireh (The LORD provides) or Jehovah Rapha (The LORD heals).  Instead she chooses to use a name that proclaims the might and power of God.  Jehovah Sabaoth; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
Hannah called on the LORD of Heaven’s Armies in her time of great need because she understood through His might and power, nothing was impossible with God.  By calling on Jehovah Sabaoth she was reminding God of His superiority over all things and declaring her faith in His almighty power to open her womb.
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/946930

Do we dare to believe in the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of the Impossible, the Supreme Ruler over EVERYTHING, like Hannah did?  Or are we secretly afraid He can’t or won’t come through for us? 
Do we dare pray like Hannah, asking God for the seemingly impossible? 

This past year a group of ladies from our church decided to take God at His Word and pray the impossible.  At the end of the eighth month period we had twenty-eight “impossible” prayers answered!
What insurmountable burden are you carrying?  Will you choose to believe like Hannah and pray the impossible?

Oh LORD of Heaven’s Armies, teach me to trust; not just say that I believe but readily and wholeheartedly take You at Your Word and pray the impossible.  Give me eyes to see how you will answer.  Amen.
Action Point:  Begin today to pray for the “impossible” request in your life that you have doubted would ever get answered.  Pray daily and look expectantly.  Don’t limit God.  You just might be amazed at how He will answer your prayer.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Letting Go of the Trash


On our last full day in the Dominican Republic we parked our bus and ventured out into the blistering summer sun.  We made our way down a narrow foot path with small hovels on either side. 

There were women sitting on the ground pulling fabric scraps through a plastic matt – the final product would be a rug for them to sell in order to put food on their table.  A little naked baby sat in a bath tub next to his mother as she worked. 

We continued our journey until we came upon a large garbage dump.  The smell was . . . beyond explanation.  More hovels surrounded the garbage. 


Women and children had joined our group and we bowed our heads and prayed for the people who eked out a living here in this horrible place. 

It was more than this American born, middle class girl could take in.  I was numb.  How could people live day in and day out in a place like this? 

We turned to leave and I saw a tiny little girl walking barefoot in the trash.  My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I couldn’t hold  it together in any longer.  Tears poured down my face.  

 

Since returning home, the scenario of that little girl walking barefoot in the trash has been running over and over in my mind.  And as I thought on that vivid picture . . . 

I felt God say to me, “Kristi, you’re like that little girl wandering in the trash.” 
 “Long ago, I picked you up out of the garbage of your own making and called you My own but you continue to return to the trash looking for satisfaction and fulfillment instead of looking to me.  You pick through the rubbish of other people’s opinions and values hoping to find lasting love, acceptance and peace.”

Unlike that little girl, I have a choice. 
And. So. Do. You.

Psalm 113.5-7 says, "Who can be compared with the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high?  He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.  He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump." 

If you’re a follower of Jesus, God has lifted you out of the garbage dump.  He set you free.  He calls you to sit at His banquet table feasting on food that gives life to your soul.
And yet, how easy it is to return to the garbage dump of what is comfortable and familiar.  We choose to believe that the next relationship will meet our need for love.  The next promotion will give us the value we are searching for and the next piece of clothing we purchase will give us the approval we hunger for.  We choose to eat the filth and desperation of the trash.
Psalm 40.2-3 says, "The Lord lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what He has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord."
That day we spent with the children of the trash has forever changed me. A song those beautiful children sang at the top of their lungs keeps playing over and over in my mind. 

 I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord


I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord 
-Darrell Evans

God wants to trade your sorrow for His joy, your shame for His forgiveness and your desperation for His all consuming LOVE. 

Will you let go of the trash you’ve been clinging to, and grab hold of the ABUNDANT LIFE He offers?