If Today You Hear His Voice…

Already this morning I have read two articles and watched a video via 3 different facebook friend’s status on the church and what is wrong with Christians and how we need to fix the problem, as if it’s really that easy? Yes, actually it is, but we aren’t willing to really pay the price. We aren’t really willing to fully surrender to the will of God like Jesus did. We can talk about taking up your cross, making disciples, or just jump on the next leadership bandwagon that is rolling by our churches, but they will all be temporary fixes, like trying to put a band-aid on a gushing wound. It may last for a moment but then it loses its effect and purpose that it was created for.

The basics is this, and I’m gonna do this without quoting any scripture, because I’ll end up tripping over my own best efforts. If you really are hungry for getting this, than you will go start digging in the Word and let it speak to you by asking the Holy Spirit to give you revelation. Jesus taught on the Kingdom of God. It was radically different from what everyone was looking for. The same principle applies today. Jesus came humbled, riding on a donkey, and so must we. I believe that some of the greatest moves of God happen when no one is looking, and a person is totally willing to die to self and let God do whatever He wants to do. That is radical obedience and what I believe God wants and is desperately looking for in His people. Surrender All, means Surrender All. PERIOD. This is a lifelong process, and as we live surrendered, God will draw closer and begin to place His kingdom in our hearts.

Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. You may want to say, well, what was the Father doing? None of us have a bird’s eye view into heaven, but if God Is Love, then I think it is safe to say He was doing what He is; He was loving Jesus and pouring that into Jesus so that Jesus could then pour that out onto others on earth. Jesus’ relationship with the Father was based out of love and then in
humble obedience in fulfilling His will. He could not humble himself and fulfill the will of God on earth unless he fully trusted God out of experiencing God’s love. The same is true for us today.

Not only did He know who he belonged to, but that relationship was so deep and intimate that the only option that flowed out of his heart was to want to obey what his father told him and asked of him because he knew Him, he knew through experience with God that God’s love doesn’t fail, He knew by experience that God doesn’t lie, He knew by experience, without any doubt that He was truly loved, and He knew by experience that anything the Father asked of him was going to all work out in the end somehow, (remember how he asked for the cup to be taken in the garden?). We are shown a very human Jesus here, but He pressed in with obedience because once again, He knew God’s love out of experiencing God’s love. He trusted God by experiencing that Trust. He was able to be obedient because he had confident assurance that God would always be with Him no matter what. That my friend is radical obedience, and what God is calling us to.

If we look at the first two commandments, which Jesus said are the greatest, we may begin to see why. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” What did Jesus do? He loved God with all his heart. Without arguing the point, He was fully human, and the power and love that he displayed came out of his obedience to the Father. He was so filled with who He was, He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was not going to let him down, he trusted in God’s goodness because He experienced it fully. Because He had the right perception of God, and fully knew who He was, He was then able to allow that love to fill him and to then walk in obedience and pour it out, but it was poured out in love, in compassion, in humility.

I think I have been redundant in making this point of Jesus knowing who He was, but it cannot be underestimated. If we inside the church and even as individuals on a daily basis cannot come to God in full trust that stems out of an intimate love with Him than there lies our initial problem. Before we can walk out and be disciples, we must be filled by His great love. We must trust in the father the same way that Jesus trusted in the father. We must learn to abide and not strive.

For me recently, this has meant in learning to trust God’s timing, knowing that if I am walking in surrender, he is not going to allow me to miss something I may want to happen or experience. It sets me free to a new level of trusting him and his goodness, which then leads me to love him and want to share that same truth with others. Also, it is humbling in my obedience. An example of this is learning to be obedient in the small things. Even more, it is a dying to self. An example of this is putting my daughter’s needs before mine. If I see that I need to pour into her first, than I am going to do that not because I am a parent and it’s my job, (obligation), but I am going to do it because, a). I sense God or the Holy Spirit nudging me , and, b). I do it out of trust in the Father. I may have had to leave an event that I was enjoying early, but the bigger lesson is that God is calling me to die to self and to take care of my daughter. I stop and put my daughter’s needs above my own and expect the Lord to make it a teachable moment for me. This is humble obedience and daily cross bearing; being so tuned into the will of the father, because we have learned to love and trust him in complete abandonment, that we will humble our hearts to his, no matter what.

Unless we live out the love that Christ is filling us with, we are just going to do the same thing with the same results. We may find some new ways of spinning it, but it really will be the same thing in a different colored package. We cannot give away what we don’t have. If we aren’t abiding in His love, then we can’t expect to be filled by His love, and if we aren’t being filled by His love then we can’t learn to trust his heart for us, and allow Jesus to flow through us. So what’s the answer? We must return to our first love. Again,, the Bible is full of this theme of return to the Lord, I think it is probably its main theme. Jesus didn’t have to return, because God was His first love. He created us and calls us to that same relationship with the Father. This was the message of the Prophets; to turn and repent, and it was the same message of John the Baptist and Jesus, Turn and Repent. Over and over we hear the cry of the Father for relationship with His people.

So do you want to know how we change the World, our communities, or families, ourselves???? We turn from the things that have pulled us away from seeing the love of the Father, the great love that He wants to continually fill us with. We turn from the things that have fought for our attention, and had us believe that God’s love that He showed Jesus is unreachable. I know we all have different theologies; we all are wired for different church experiences, but as Christ’s Body we all have been told the same thing out of the mouth of Jesus. Commandment number 1 and Commandment number 2. Today, go spend some time with Jesus. Tell him you’re sorry for not trusting fully in Him, His love for you and His goodness and faithfulness. Surrender to His will and trust that He is changing you. He already knows, he’s just waiting for you to come to him. It’s OK to be vulnerable; He wants us to be like little children, coming to him in complete trust because we can rest in his goodness. He’s got our hearts, he formed them, and all He asks is that we give them back to him so that we can be forever changed by his great love. We must learn to be emptied of our own ways so that we can truly be filled by His great love and begin to have kingdom vision. So if today, you hear his voice, harden not your hearts, (Psalm 95:7-8, Hebrews 3:15). He is always speaking, are you listening? What does He want to talk to you about?

Deuteronomy Chapter 2

This chapter starts as the Israelites turn back toward the desert as the Lord commanded. Then God begins to give specific direction as to which way they should go, how long they should travel, and how to behave when they encounter certain groups of people. The Lord reminds them that he has blessed them and has been with them, but clearly instructs them and tells them three different times that He will not give the people that they are encountering into their hands. Finally in verse 24, the Lord tells then that He is giving Sihon, King of Hesbon into their hands. He begins to tell them to take possession of it, engaging in battle; and that this very day, He will begin to put terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. God made the Spirit of Sihon stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him over to their hands. The Lord reminds them what he has just done and tells them to go and take possession of the land. Verse 33 states “The Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down”; even after this victory, at the very end of this chapter, the Lord reminds them in v. 37 that in accordance with the command of the Lord our God, you did not encroach on any of the land of the Ammonites, neither the land along the course of the Jabbok not that round the towns of the hills”.

Application:

Well, putting the geography lesson aside, I think the basic message of this chapter is once again obedience. I can also see it as a possible test from God. After these people refused to listen to God in the first place that sent them back into the desert, He is checking to see if they are really ready to repent and put on their listening ears. It must have been frustrating for them to travel to all these different locations and not be able to take possession of them, even stating that he had given that right to others. I think that would have been a really hard pill to swallow; to have traveled and finally learn to obey, yet not reap any reward for it. I think at this point the lessons can be that obedience is primary, and that just because you are instructed to obey, don’t expect it to become like a magic wand for what you want to get. How many times do we go to God with this same attitude of “God if you just deliver me from this mess this time, I’ll never do it again”? And how many times, have you found yourself breaking that very promise? So perhaps God here is testing their true obedience to them? Perhaps when we think we are obeying and fail to see the fruit, we need to not give up, or get discouraged, but let it be a time of learning, and character building, and perseverance, and really showing God that our heart wants to obey for the right reasons, which is hopefully out of love and remembrance for all his has done for us; much like He reminded the Israelites in verse 7. I find it interesting too that God, in this verse not only reminds them that he has been with them, but also for the entire 40 years! I think that speaks volumes. I think God is trying to tell them “hey, I haven’t left you, and I provided all your needs, and watch over you, keeping you safe during this long period of time; so what’s the problem here?” And yet in Verse 9 God again does not let them take possession of the Land. He reminds them back in verse 7, chooses not to bless them in verse 9 and finally sees that perhaps they do trust and believe enough that He goes ahead and hands over the King, starting in verse 24, but even with that, and God hardening the Kings heart, at the end He still reminds them of their consequences; not being able to take over the land of the Amorites and the area of the Jabbok. Here, I think the application is that even though God may honor our obedience and bless us with victories in life, there are also root consequences of our prior actions that are still in place. I am sure we can all attest to this at some level. God is full of mercy and love, he is a God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 200000th, chances, but that doesn’t take away the consequences of our messes in the first place. This is a very humbling chapter for me, it helps me to remember the sovereignty of God, and yet be reminded that he will always come to our rescue and want to give us his good gifts. It also reminds me of going around the mountain, how many times do we have to keep re-learning our lessons for God to see that we are really serious about making a change in our lives?

My Story of God Moving me on…

Below is a letter that I wrote to my Prayer Team, Senior Pastor and other ministry leaders at my church as I have sought to follow and surrender to God and his will for  my life.  May it encourage you as you walk in surrender an obedience as well. 

Coming Full-Circle:  It Always Comes Back To Surrender and Obedience. As I listened to Pastor Jamie’s sermon this past Sunday, once again I heard those familiar words of Surrender; words that have carried me through, grown me, and shaped me in the last 6 years of sitting under Pastor Jim’s teachings.  I have learned, as Chad has sung so many times to embrace surrender, running to God in many different seasons.  I have been blessed to share with so many, all the miracles that God has bestowed on me, through good times and in bad.  It has been a blessing beyond words to be such an integrated part of this church and this prayer team.  Now, as I continue to walk in obedience and surrender, God is leading me on another adventure.  It’s taken close to a year to hear and make sure that I understood what was being asked of me.  At times I felt as though I was being tossed back and forth, not too sure where God wanted me to end up.  And the more I sought to understand, the more I would cry out in surrender, telling him that I just wanted his will and not mine over and over.  As I prayed and sought his voice, it would become clearer, to the point of unmistakable clarity that I could not ignore any longer.  I had to make a decision.  Even though God was using me in many ways here at Open Door, and could continue to do so, he wanted to increase my faith, he wanted to do some new things in and through me, he wanted me to experience him in new ways, and he was asking me if I would surrender, trust and obey.  So, very much like Peter, who got out of the boat, out of his comfort zone into the unknown waters to have a life-changing experience with Jesus on the water ( Matt.14:22-33), I too have been ask to step out in faith, trusting and remembering all that he has done and brought me through thus far.  For all the times that my heart felt torn and indecisive, his voice would remain and the peace of knowing that I was walking in his will finally would come. John Ortberg writes in his book “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have To Get Out of the Boat”,  that growth always takes faith, and faith takes risk, and risk is always scary! This too is what surrender is all about.  When we choose his will and his ways instead of ours, when our hearts become fully abandoned to him and all we want is what he wants for us, we give God room to move. Whether you are the 11 disciples in the boat watching what is going on, or a church member watching others move out of a pew, God is always wanting to do more with us.  What have you done with those sermon’s that convicted you?  What do you do with that inner nudge that never seems to go away?  I believe God puts those in all of us.  We are created for such great purposes.  We are saved and set apart for good works.  It is the thrill of a lifetime to be used of God!!!  Is scary, heck ya! But I know who’s driving my life, and that is all that matters.  Are there tons of unknowns? Yes, tons, but that’s part of the adventure!  I guess I have gotten to a point with God to say, “Lord, if you lead me to it, I have to trust and believe that you are going to lead me through it” I have to believe new relationships will come, I have to trust that all the small details and concerns of a single mom will be handled divinely.  He hasn’t failed me yet, and I know he’s not going to.  So, it is with bitter-sweet joy, excitement, and a good dose of Holy fear that I am being called out of Church of the Open Door and into the Church of the Nazarene.  I will be heading out to Wooster Church of the Nazarene at least two times a week for now for Mid-week and Sunday services.  I have been attending there on and off for the last 10 months, and God has met me in some really powerful ways that it was so clear without a shadow of a doubt that I am to be a part of this new congregation.  My hope and prayer is that I will be able to move down there so I can be more involved in the church; so I would ask your continued prayers for me and Olivia that God will keep us safe as we travel, and that relationships will begin with others at the church.  Here is the link, so you can see where I will be and pray for me as I journey on.  I look forward to sharing with you more as God moves in my life. As a member of Open Door and the Prayer Team, I have been blessed beyond words.  I have learned so much and experienced prayer on such new depths.  I have grown with all of you and I am so grateful that God has placed me in your lives for this season to learn so much from you.  Know that I will continue to pray for you as a team, and the body of Church of the Open Door, its Pastors and ministries, as well as fasting with you on the first Wed. of the month.  I look forward to keeping up with you and hearing of how God is moving in your lives and at Open Door.  I have learned so much and grown so much, it seems so hard to sum it up in words that always fall short of what is in my heart; but if I could encourage you out of the depths of my soul it would be this:  Live surrendered.  Learn to surrender in the everyday moments of life; it will help when the storms come.  It will grow you closer to God in ways you never imagined, and when God calls you out of the boat in your life circumstances, you will be ready to risk it all for Jesus.  Live in Holy fear of him.  Never lose your reverence for who he is; he is Holy, and Powerful, as well as loving and full of mercy and grace.  Strive to live in humility; it will keep your pride in check.  I have had to learn to pray often for humility, especially when God wants to use me.  Live in obedience to him.  He is good, and he knows the plans and purposes for all of our lives.  I have had to learn to trust him in that; looking back at all he has brought me through, knowing that the circumstances are life-lessons he wants me to learn from.  Seek comfort and direction in his Word, ask him to lead you and speak to you, and teach you as you seek him there.  Your relationship with him comes first above all else; above family and life demands.  Love him with total abandonment and watch him grow you in leaps and bounds and use you in mighty ways.  Give him your whole heart, because he gave his whole life for you!    Love each other and live united as a team and church body, this bring a huge smile on his face, just think, those of you who have kids, the great joy it brings you when everyone gets along and lives in harmony.  This too is God’s desire for his church.  My prayer and my hope is that as I continue to walk in surrender and obedience I would shine for Jesus; that people would see that he is so worth the risk of a life lived surrendered.  That too, is my prayer for each one of you, that you would live in such abandonment to God for all that he has done, that surrendering would be an out flowing of your heart to his.  I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support that have gotten me to this point, I am so grateful for all of you.  I want to also thank Pastor Jim, who has been somewhat of a spiritual mentor to me these last several years and whom I have the utmost respect for, I dare say he probably is my hero, next to Jesus.  When I see Pastor Jim, I see a life surrendered and it is that lifestyle of surrender that I have learned to seek and desire for myself and everyone at Church of the Open Door.  Let me close in prayer, as the page is getting shorter  J Father God, I am so grateful that you have placed me here at C.O.D. for this season.  I pray that all would truly desire a life lived for you alone.  I pray as I and others live lives of surrender and obedience that you be glorified and that others would desire to follow you in the same way.  Continue to rise up your people at Open Door, grow them in the mission and vision and help them live and serve as Jesus did.  We love you, and thank you for all you have done in our lives and we are so excited to see what you will continue to do as we live surrendered for you alone.  In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen!!                                         Love, your sister in Christ, Robin Richards

I knew these feelings would come

Well, this Sunday started my first regular set of Sunday’s at my new church.  I enjoyed the Sunday School class and the discussion on the 6th chapter of the book of John.  The service was good, and yet, I had that uneasy feeling when everyone started greeting each other, feeling a little insecure, yet knowing things are going to just have to take time.  I think it’s like this everywhere, in jobs, in families, in churches, it’s sometimes hard to be the new person.  You get a bit self conscious and wonder if everyone is looking at you, but then I find myself worshipping in total abandonment and know that is a  huge part of how I connect with God.  It was interesting in the Sunday school class when we discussed back in Matthew 16:7, about John The Baptist, where Jesus asked the people what did you come here to see…?  The thought was raised what do we come to church for?  What do we come to see?  Do we seek entertainment?  Do we seek fellowship or warm fuzzies?  I am sure there are many reasons we all come to church.  Now, I was once again faced with what was mine?  Never mind that fact that I drive an hour to go to this church, so to me this question is quite important indeed!!  I felt God called me here after several things took place over a long period of time. I felt that as a student in seminary, being a part of this denomination and church would help me to one day be able to fulfill the call that God has placed on my life, even if I don’t know what that all is supposed to look like, God does.  So as I went online today and listened to my previous pastor unveil new and exciting plans for his church, I had to trust and believe once again all the things that God has led me through to get me to this point.  I  remember too, how my former pastor said that I’d have feelings of questioning myself if I made the right decision, which I know I did, I just didn’t think it was going to hit me so soon, but God did, and perhaps it’s good that it did, before I had too much time go by to make me question even more.   It all  left me feeling a bit surreal; after all, I just returned home from my nieces high school graduation, and as the class was talked to and encouraged in their new life ahead, I sat there thinking on my new week  of seminary starting tomorrow, and how excited I was for all God is going to teach me this semester.  Then I got a message on facebook on how I was missed at my former church by a friend, then comes that grand sermon of the plans my former church is  unpacking.  Yes, I knew this was going to happen.  I may of not know the details, but I had mentally prepared myself for such a time as this.  I know that there will always be changes where ever I go, and as I told my friend on facebook, I have to trust and believe that I am walking in obedience.  Is it scary and uncertain?  Yes, but change always is.  I have to keep looking back at all that God has done to get me to this point and continue to trust that it’s all going to be O.K.  I don’t know what that looks like, but all I know is that today has enough worries for itself, and I will not get ahead of Jesus.  So, today was mixed with an array of emotions, some exciting, some uncertain, some scary, some sad, and some happy.  I guess it’s been somewhat of an emotional day, and isn’t that the beauty of humanity, that God has wired us with such detail! As I prepare now to drift into a sweet sleep, I know that tomorrow will come and God will have much for me to do to keep me busy and focused on him, reminding me that it’s all gonna be O.K. as I trust and obey.

My Call to Seminary and a Life Vocation of Ministry

I posted this on my seminary blog today, and figured I’d re-post it here too, since this is my main (busiest) blog. 

As I was clearing off piles of mess from my kitchen table, I pick up my entrace exam for seminary and began to re-read it.  It helped to remind me how far I have come, and to see the continued path that God is laying out for me.  It’s so exciting to be on this adventure, and I thought I’d share it with you all today.  May it bless you and encourage you to walk in surrender and obedience in every area of your life.  Like I said the other day, it’s so awesome to be used of God and it’s so exciting to see what he’s going to do next.  Come and join the adventure!  It’s so worth it!

     Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, one Bible verse has been at the core of every season of my life.  It is this verse that has grown me into the surrendered, obedient woman of God that I am today; and it has been a constant reminder in every thing that the Lord leads me to do; no matter how big or small.  God continually reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10  It is this verse that allows me to trust and obey God in every area of my life, and to desire Christ-likeness to flow out of every part of me for the glory of God.  It is through this act of obedience that I am applying to seminary.  It is through the surrender and stillness that I will be at peace during this application process;  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil. 1:6  So it is here, that I invite you to learn of my walk with Jesus and how he has formed my faith up to this point to live the adventure of becoming more like Christ as I take every step in faith and obedience to the will of The Father in my life.  May you be blessed and renewed in your faith as I share mine. 

      My spiritual walk with Christ began as a young child who was raised in the Catholic faith.  Early on, I knew that there was always more of God that I was trying to tap into; a relationship with Him; but the ritualistic traditions of the Catholic Church, along with its stricked catechism and doctrines seemed to keep me far from finding him.  I continually strived for more of him by becoming involved in a few different Catholic youth movements, where I not only was a participant, but where I began to serve in different areas of their yearly retreats.  It is here also, that I received my first Bible, and desired to know more of Gods word; but since the Catholic Church does not teach on the use of personal Bible study for communion with God, I was once again feeling as though I had to fend for my self when it came to my faith.    The time during my youth and into my early 20’s was very rebellious and filled with worldly cares, but God never left my side, and would continually nudge me to come back to him.  He finally led me to a local Christian outreach ministry, getting my attention through the music and worship style; and it was through this group of people God would work his miracle of salvation in my life.  It was here that the Bible finally became real to me.  Being along side other believers, I grew in my faith, learned and began to use my spiritual gifts, and truly embraced the community of people and pastors that I was growing along side of, and where I eventually got plugged into the church that I have been attending ever since; Church of the Open Door in Elyria, OH.  As I became an active member of the church, God would allow me one more hard fall away from his will, to bring me into true surrender and to finally experience the awesome presence of God in my life.  Today, my walk with God is filled to overflow with his presence, his peace, and my continued commitment to surrender and obedience to His will.  He is not just my savoir or my closest friend, but he is the very life blood and breath that keeps me alive in every way, and whose spirit keeps me humble and seeking to become a mirror image of the likeness in Christ in everything that I do. 

     From an early age; as noted above, I have always had a persistent desire to serve in some capacity in Christian ministry.  As I have grown in my walk, the spirit has continually burned a deep desire within me to do more of The Lord’s work here on earth; and  I have learned and understood ministry to be “simply loving, serving and healing people in the name of Jesus” (Jim Mindling; Senior Pastor of Church of the Open Door).  Put another way, we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  Our task is to be the most radiant image bearers for Christ that we can possible be, and to be his hands and feet, and go where he sends us.  As God continually calls us, he strengthens us and forms us into Christ-likeness; empowering us with His Spirit so that we can be sent out to serve and be holy representatives for the glory of God, sharing the good news of the gospel with the lost, meetings the needs of the less fortunate and building up the kingdom of God here on this earth.  In John 15:5 Jesus reminds us that apart from him and the work of the Holy Spirit in us we can do nothing.  It is this constant renew of our selves through abiding and remaining in Him that we live surrendered and accomplish His will in this world.     

     As a member of Church of the Open Door, I have consistently strived to serve and use my spiritual gifts of servant-hood in every way that I can.  I have attended and led Bible studies, participated in the Evangelism Explosion program, been involved in life groups over the years, and currently involved in the church’s prayer team and Women’s Advisory Board; as well as facilitating an online forum for single moms, volunteering when needed, and as the Spirit leads me to do so in different needs of the church and the local community  I understand that our changed lives in Christ, and our desire to do ministry must push through the brick and mortar walls of a physical building and overflow into our homes, community, nation and world.  This is no small task to move a congregation from the comfort of their pews, but it must be done if we are going to truly minister for the cause of Christ. 

     My motivation for preparing for ministry has and always will be to obey God and live out His will for my life.  The strength that I find to continue the call that God has placed on my life and in my heart is consistently renewed daily through prayer, time spend in His word and worshipping him in adoration through music and living a life that is pleasing to him in every way. When I think of obedience and a life of servant-hood toward God many scriptures come to mind.  1 Peter 9 states that “ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you would declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.  Being chosen, belonging to God, to declare his praises is what living out the glory of God in our world is all about.  It is this call that we all have, but again, as we find in scripture that “many are called but few are chosen” Mathew 22:14.  It is this call to sanctification of holiness that few truly grasp and proceed on in true Christ-likeness.  For those of us who do hear obey and are chosen; a new life, and a new adventure in Christ begins.  It does not take away the hardships that we face in a fallen world, but it empowers us with the Holy Spirit that we are more than conquerors for the cause of Christ in this world. 

     So with all of this being said, I hope that you will see that my hearts desire is to be used by God and to bring glory to his name here on earth.  I expect my preparation in seminary to not only be challenging but completely life changing, and I look forward to being able to represent your seminary in this world with the call God has placed on my heart.  Thank you for your consideration in my attendance to your seminary, and I prayerfully hope that I will soon be a part of your call to Christ’s’ obedience as well.

Do You Love Me? Then Feed My Sheep.

These were Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:15-17 It’s what he expected of him to show him that his love for Jesus was authentic. Jesus asked him 3 times. Why? I think he wanted to emphasize the importance of what he was asking Peter. I think Jesus wanted to make it crystal clear that this was not going to be an easy task. It’s easy for us to say “Sure Jesus, I can love your people, but then add our own disclaimer to it… (As long as they don’t mess with my comfort and way of doing things). Did you ever notice how smelly sheep are? I’ve been to plenty of county fairs to know that when I go into the sheep barn it is the one that smells the worst. No amount of clean bedding can take away the penetrating smell of sheep; it just lingers there. Have you ever touched a sheep? Their coat is wooly and coarse. People are wooly and coarse. I am learning to love on messy, smelly, coarse feeling sheep. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He didn’t go to the “safe” people in the synagogues and church gatherings; he went out to the messy sheep, the smelly sheep, and the sheep that nobody else wanted to touch. We have that same call. Christ does not call us to comfort, but to death. He calls us to walk in unselfish love, to have eyes, ears and hearts of compassion for one another. Just this morning God pointed out a very blatant truth to me. How often am I willing to “die to self” for the sake of the sheep? I found myself switching up my prayer to the point of praying “Lord, whatever it takes to get them to follow”. That means my ideas don’t need to be the ones chosen and used. This means having faith that God is moving in my prayers even when I can’t see. This week already, at church, I have seen and heard stories of very messy sheep. Sheep I serve along side of. Sheep God has called me to go to and love on and feed with words of encouragement and hope.
This means loving messy people when I don’t feel like it. WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT! Oh, yeh, he’s up to something. I have found myself more patient with others, I have found myself willing to step out of myself this week and come along side messy people. I have found myself learning to take more time for my daughter. I have found myself biting my tong and praying for wisdom and understanding of another’s point of view. I have found myself saturated in prayer and the word, and I know that is the only way that growth is going to not only happen but be deeply rooted. Jesus, I thank you for helping me to see and feel with people this week. I thank you for the ways in which you are growing me; it is amazing! I thank you that you never leave us or forsake us; and that you continue to mold us into your image. Father I repent of when I fall short and I thank you for your forgiveness. I thank you for everything in my life; the good, and the bad; and yes Lord; I thank you for the smelly sheep. We are all smelly sheep and you love us with such amazing grace. I pray right now for everyone that is reading this and for myself that you would continue to transform us in such amazing ways God that it just blows our little minds. I know you’re up to something God and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. Now may I go today, and be a good steward of everything that you put in front of me and may I lean on you alone for guidance and direction as you lead my every step. With a completely surrendered heart and desire to serve you I ask this all in Jesus Holy name. Amen.

God Making All Things New

I haven’t been on my blog for awhile, and after seeing a few new comments trickling in on some of my posts I knew I wanted to get back into it, but I just didn’t have anything that I felt led to share; until today.  Today was a really good day at church, but I didn’t realize it’s gravity until I was sitting at home hours later and looking back on how God orchestrated everything.  I’ve been trying to let go of allot of old hurts that haven’t seemed as though they would never heal.  I have prayed, I have surrendered, and made some pretty big deals with God if he’d just move me along to another place where it doesn’t seem like re-opening up wounds every week.  I really didn’t know how God was going to fix this; after all, some of them have been ongoing for a long time, and I was completely convinced that it was just this sick cycle that I had to get myself off of.  Well, today God brought me face to face with each of these people, and the funny thing is that I had a sense that these brief but critical interactions would take place just moments before they did; I now know that it was God saying “here’s you opportunity for healing, do you want’ to get healed today?”  To one person I apologized for an un-Christ-like attitude that I had when speaking to them earlier this week, after I ran into their spouse in the hallway and saw them in the next room.  The other I heard coming down the hall, and knew things had to be set right, and so I anxiously waited to see if they would turn the corner, which they did.  The next person was a bit unexpected and I must admit, I was not sure if I should approach them, but in this, God too, used someone else to say “go”.  Lastly, I have had some communication issues with another person, and even though things seemed to be getting ironed out, I was still lacking peace.  This person too, God put in my direct path, and I knew if anything needed to be said, it would have come out right then and there, but it didn’t.  The other part of this is each of these people, except the one who I had the attitude with, probably don’t even know that I had these deep rooted issues, but God did.  God knew that I had to say something to each of these people to get my peace back that the devil had taken.  There was no rehashing of my hurts, I knew that was left at the cross, but I knew I couldn’t run from my fears of facing these people again.   I’m not going to share what was said.  Some might seem small or insignificant, or you could say “well, that doesn’t apply” but God knows my heart, and I know that what He did today was way more than coincidence; as one person after another was placed in my path.  I also knew that God will not let me go where He wants me to go until I had made peace with all of this, even if it’s just between me and Him, really that’s all that matters in the end.  He knows my motives and what it would take to restore and make all things new.  I hope this blessed you somehow, and I hope that when you find yourself dealing with difficult circumstances that won’t seem to heal or get better, just remember if you take it to God, even it’s 100 times over, He will heal and restore, and he wants to.  I can sit here and say “well why did I have to put myself through all that?” and why does it sometimes seem to be a never-ending problem that we are dealing with?  All I know is that God uses it all to build Character and endurance in us; and perhaps I need a bit more of that than most…. God only knows.  All I know is that God set me free today from hurts and bitterness that I was holding onto, and I hope that the lessons that I have learned today will be remembered and help me the next time God  has me face my fears.

Being Busy-It’s the devil’s favorite tactic

The devil is out to seek, kill and destroy. He wants to steal our peace and fill us with anything that is not from God. As I pondered and reveled in my onw peace today, I was reminded of how the devil works in so many peoples lives to keep them busy and thus being able to get their focus off of God and onto other things that don’t matter. May it help you to re-focus on the things of God and take your eyes of the things of the world, which is not our home and is fleeting. Blessings and peace.

The Devil’s Convention: Author Unknown
Satan called a worldwide convention.

In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,’We can’t keep the Christians from going to church.’

‘We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.’

‘We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Jesus Christ.’

‘This is what I want you to do angels …

Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!’

‘How shall we do this?’ shouted his angels.

‘Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,’ he answered. ‘Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.’

‘Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep thern from spending time with their children.’

‘As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!’

‘Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.’

‘Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.’

‘Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly!’

‘Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week’.

‘Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.’

‘Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.’

‘Go ahead, let thern be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so rnany good causes they have no tirne to seek power frorn Jesus.’

‘Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.’

It will work! It will work!

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

I guess the question is has the devil been successful at his scherne? You be the judge!

Does ‘busy’ rnean: B-eing U-nder S-atan’s Y-oke?

Thankful Obedience

I have spent a good part of  the day trying to organize my thoughts; there are so many.  In doing so, I started to become a wee bit discouraged and had to place myself back at the feet of Jesus.  It’s really the only good place to be when I seem to have used up my own strength once again.  I talked to him about my hopes and fears and whatever ever he’d have me to do with my gifts, just to make sure that I am always doing it for his glory and not mine.  I tried to read my devotions to hear him speak, but it proved fruitless at the time.  As I was paging through my Bible, desperately seeking for a nugget of truth and hope, God landed me in a passage that I marked at the end of 2 Corinthians 12-15. It goes a little something like this: “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is the overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 “Because of the service by which you have proved  yourself; men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies  your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”   This verse helped me see that I am obeying right here, right now, in this season that God has me in.  I am blessing  others with my gifts, even if to me they seem small and insignificant, I must stop trying to view my spiritual successes in the light of the rest of the rebellious world around me that sees success in the bigger the better and the higher up the more successful.  God is trying to remind me here that when I share what He is doing in my life with others, when I use my time and writing to glorify Him by my obedience, He is using me.  He is blessing me and I know He is blessing others through it as well.  I don’t know what it is that always seems to pull me back when I start gaining some clarity on things, but I am so thankful that I have gotten to a place that I know when I need to be at his feet, because I know he will always meet me there.  Thank you Father, for once again showing me that I’m alright, and I need to just re-focus my vision sometimes because I think that I know which way I want to go, but it’s you who will direct my path and you who will form me into the person that you want me to be in this world.  Thank you  Jesus for meeting me, and Thank you Holy Spirit for guiding me to bring God glory once again in my own little way on  this blog.  To God be all the Glory, Amen!

Remember and Persevere

Hebrews 10:32-39 (New International Version)

 32Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while,
   “He who is coming will come and will not delay.
    38But my righteous one[a] will live by faith.
   And if he shrinks back,
      I will not be pleased with him.”[b] 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.Today as I read this, I was struck by its truth.  I thought back on how I had fallen away and become a single mom.  With it came many judgemental glares and comments, much suffering and I ultimately learned surrender at the feet of Jesus.  I have been in and out of the workforce, even with years of experience and education behind me; yet I know it is all working for the larger purposes God has for my life.  I now sit in seminary everyday, and am blessed to learn at the feet of Jesus as I surrender at his feet daily.  Verse 38 above says “But my righteous ones will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”   Having a very strong spiritual gift of faith, this verse speaks volumes to me.  Striving to live by the Spirit of God in every area of my life, I have longed to not let my God down.  Yes, I still sin, and always will, but I desire Holiness, I desire purity in every way, and I desire to live for God alone.  I may not have much, and I am grateful for everything that God has given and taken away.  It has made me rely on him completely in every area of my life, and to trust that he alone will meet every need.  As a single mom, I feel like a walking testimony to so many of his gifts!  Yet, I am constantly striving to keep a check on my humility in it all, because I know that my pride will try and creep in if I am not careful.  So I guess in all of this, what I want to say, is know that as Christians we are going to suffer hardships.  Jesus did, and so will we.  But, we can live in  victory!   Life will be hard, and challenging at times, but he has come to break the yolks of our bondage, he has come to set us free of our fears, he has ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, giving us supernatural power to live a God-centered, Holy life.  We can live in the fullness of Christ, even in  the storms of life.  We must remember to have childlike faith and trust, and walk in obedience and surrender to Him alone.  I know it’s easier said than done, but remember we’re all on a journey, and no one “arrives” until we get home to heaven.  Let us not shrink back! Let us press on in faith, because He paid it all at the cross. Amen!