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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Serving Him



Our youth pastor tells the youth "You are never more like Jesus than when you are serving".  I love that.  In this day and age, its all about ME.  What can Jesus do to make my life better?  What can I ASK for when I pray so I can have what I want?  

The last few years I've really felt God calling me to pray not for ME and my wants, but to pray "Lord, what can I do for YOU today?"  Use me.   Telling God you are willing to be used for His kingdom purpose is scary.  Why?  Because you have NO IDEA what he may ask you to do!!  God will never ask you to do something that He won't equip you to do.  

God says "I want you tell your best friend at school today about Me".  God, really?  It could ruin my friendship...he or she may think I'm a Jesus freak and run away and not be my friend anymore.  

God says "I want you to feed the hungry today".  You say "But God, I don't have time to go today, I have plans", or "God, I have never done that before and it will make me uncomfortable.  Ask me another day".

God says "I want you to stand up to that Bully and help that kid that no one else is helping".  Oh God, really?  No one talks to that kid, my friends will make fun of me.

How about when God says "I want you to give money away today"...oh that one really hurts doesn't it?  We work hard for our money and we give just enough to get by with saying we gave....yet we don't go above and beyond.  We don't get uncomfortable in our giving.  We don't' give enough that we must now trust God to provide for OUR needs while we meet someone else's need.

Jesus called us to be disciples.  

He didn't die on the cross so we could sit in our homes and be comfortable and rake in as many blessings as we can acquire.  He died so that we could live for Him.  We are all called to be disciples.  We are all called to be Jesus to those around us.  We are called to a life of service.  We are meant for more than what we doing.  And when we serve, we should do it humbly and quietly - not in a boasting or prideful way.  We are doing it to further Christ's kingdom, not to bring attention to ourselves.  Its not about us.  When are the Christian's of today going to get that??  Its not about us! Its about HIM!  

This week I challenged the youth to serve.  To find a need this week that they can meet.  We can't change everyone, but we can change the life of just one.  So, I submit this challenge to you as well.  Who can you serve this week?  What change can you affect in someones life?    It could be as simple as a kind word to someone who needs it.  It could be meeting a financial need - anonymously.  Yes, that's one is hard because we want the glory don't we?  Do it anonymously and see how they realize God just moved in their life.  There are needs all around us that we can meet, but we just assume someone else will do it.  Today and the rest of this week, I challenge you to meet that need.  Do it for HIM, because HE died for YOU.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Spirit-filled or self-empowered?



I think that sometimes Christians get scared when we talk about the Holy Spirit and being spirit filled.  We may not have been told much about the Holy Spirit so we are uneducated, or maybe its because being Spirit Filled means we will now be convicted for our sins, therefore moving us to stop doing what it is we love to do.  What do you think?  Do you know if you are spirit filled or just self-empowered on your journey with the Lord?

In Acts 1:8 Jesus says to the apostles "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth".

Notice Jesus said we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes.  How do we know we are filled with the Holy Spirit?  When we try to follow Jesus without being filled daily with the Spirit we find ourselves frustrated by our failures and exhausted by our efforts.   We think it would be better to have God WITH us as the disciples did, than God IN us, as we do.

 John 16:7 I tell you the truth; it is for your own good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Sometimes we will say "when I get to heaven, I'm going to ask Moses what it was like to follow a cloud by day and a fire by night? What was it like to meet God on that mountain?  You know what I think.  I think Moses will say "What was it like having God IN you?"..."What was it like not having to climb a mountain to meet with him since he was in you and beside you the whole time?"  We have  power at our disposal and we ignore it.  We dismiss it as the 3rd part of God's trinity because we don't really know who the Holy Spirit is.  We have untold power and victory at our fingertips and its unused and under-utilized.  The Holy spirit was given to us to aid us in having power over the sin in our life.  He gives us joy when depressed, he gives us direction when we are lost.  That voice you hear in your head when you sin or are about to sin, that's the Holy Spirit prompting you.  Listen to that voice and know that its God giving you direction when you need it most.

The apostles were untrained men.  They weren't schooled like the religious leaders of the time. Yet they affected change in the Christian church.  They were ordinary men doing extraordinary things.  The spiritual leaders of the time were scratching their heads trying to figure it out.  They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this? Acts 4:7   Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them...  These unschooled FOLLOWERS of Jesus changed the world. 

We can't live the christian life on our power.  Its impossible.  Why would you even try?  When you have the power of the Holy Spirit at your fingertips?  Yet so many try.  They do good works, they serve (sometimes with a grumble), they give their money and they show up.  Everything they do is on human effort alone...and then they get worn out from doing so much.  They cover up their weaknesses so no one sees them.  Many of us go to great lengths to cover up our weaknesses.  Yet in 2 Cor.12:9-10 Paul speaks about how acknowledging our weaknesses makes room for Christ's power:
"I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong".

We must shine a light on our weaknesses in order for the Holy Spirit to work through us.  The only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to empty myself of ME.  When you are aware of a sin in your life, EXHALE and repent.  Exhaling empties yourself of you and allows the Holy Spirit to come in and fill that space in your heart.  So the moment Pride, jealousy, lust, impatience, harshness, selfishness fill your heart, EXHALE and repent of your sin.  Then INHALE the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and let it fill your heart and take the place of that sin. Inhale and pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit and surrender your control over to Him.  Eventually that sin will become less and less in your life as the Holy Spirit takes over and fills you up. 

Fans foolishly think that with enough hard work they can follow Jesus.  They get burned out trying to live the Christian life on their own efforts.  FOLLOWERS of Jesus understand that it's a journey they were never to make on their own.  Instead, we keep in step with the Holy Spirit and he supernaturally gives us the strength and the power we need.

Living the Christian life is hard.  If you dont' think so, then you are walking the walk Jesus set before us.  Abstaining from sexual sin in a culture that glorifies sex, living a life of purity, doing good to those who hate you, loving your neighbor as yourself, giving up everything to follow Jesus, getting freedom from addictions, marriages healed, children coming home...the list goes on and on of the things we try to fix and handle on our own.  That's hard stuff!  We can't do it alone, on our own power.  If we even try we will fail miserably.  Its the Holy Spirit that gives us power to overcome the struggles and temptations of this world. 

Are you spirit filled?  Do you try to do this Christian walk on your own or are you empowered by the Holy Spirit?  Its a question that I challenge you to think about and answer honestly.  Empty yourself of you....and allow God to work through you. It will change your life!  I promise.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Authenticity


Obedience to God comes from the Inside.  Many of us grew up in Christian households, being taught what being a Christian LOOKS like, but we were never taught what living IN Christ is about.  We learned how to wear the right masks so everything looked good to those around us, but never learned who we were or are in Christ underneath the mask.

Jesus doesn't expect followers to be perfect but he does call them to be authentic.  When asked to share our testimonies there are some of us who know what stories to tell and what stories to leave out.  We know what to say and how to say it - we wear a mask.  Then there are new Christians who are willing to share it all!  They lay all the crap out there for everyone to see so that God's redemptive grace is shown in their life.  They don't know any better and it can't get any more authentic than that.  Christ wants a follower - someone who isn't pretending on the outside to have it all together.

Fans of Jesus eventually find themselves exhausted.  Following all the rules and trying to maintain an outward appearance that doesn't match an inner passion can be tiring.  It all comes down to this - do you want to look the part, or be the part?  Do you want to say all the right things or lay it all out for Jesus to wash clean?  Do you want to risk doing good in hopes of redemption or do you want to authentically follow Jesus to ensure your redemption? 

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Are you tired and worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me.  I'll show you how to do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything or ill-fitting on your.  Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly.

Jesus just wants us to be real with Him.  Its in that authenticity we will find true freedom in Christ.   I don't want to just say the right things to look good to those watching.  I want to DO the right things so that those watching can see who Jesus really is and what following Him means.  Following won't always be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Intimacy



Do you KNOW God?  or do you know about God?  There is a difference and I'm afraid too many of us don't know what that difference is.   We tend to think if we know a lot about God - we could totally win a game of  Bible Trivia - then we know God.  But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Knowing God is an intimacy that many Christians today lack.  They can find scriptures, quote verses, tell you lists of miracles that Jesus performed. They can quote the stats of Jesus like they can quote the stats of their favorite Actor or Athlete.  All of these things are good - Jesus studied the scriptures and had a knowledge of them - but knowledge without knowing isn't necessarily intimacy.

What does intimacy mean?  -a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.  Did you catch that?  PERSONAL relationship.  How do we obtain a personal relationship?  We spend time with a person to get personal.  We talk to them about their dreams, their desires, their wants.  We ask questions and get personal.  Do you do that with God?  Do you spend time with Him?  Do you talk to Him and get to know Him?  Do you ask questions and listen for answers?  Or do you just give him a few minutes each day and check a box saying "prayed today"?

In Psalm 139 David prays "O Lord, you have examined my heart and KNOW everything about me.  You KNOW when I sit down or stand up.  You KNOW my thoughts even when I'm far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You KNOW everything I do.  You KNOW what I am going to say even before I say it." 

The same word used to describe a man and a wife is used to describe how God KNOWS you and how he wants to be KNOWN by you.   That is the intimacy he wants.  As a bride is known by her husband so God wants to know you.  




 Consider the person you are married to or dating....how do you know you love that person? Is it because you know things ABOUT that person, or is it because you have spent time getting to KNOW that person?  Every important relationship in our lives requires time and commitment.  The most important relationship is your relationship with Jesus, yet we as Christians give him the least amount of time out of our day, and then we wonder why bad things happen, or why we are struggling, or why our faith seems so weak.  Consider today your intimacy with God.  If its weak, what can you do to make it stronger?  God wants to KNOW you.  Do you want to know about him or KNOW him today?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No more Apathy - Warning: This is not a feel good post!!! I hope you read on


This isn't going to be a fluffy, love filled post today.  I have something on my heart and I need to share it and I won't apologize for what I'm about to say.  Its a fire, a passion burning inside.  My son called me last night and his heart is feeling the same as mine and as we talked about God's word and God's will, it really did something to me.

I started reading Romans today.  The first chapter is all I concentrated on.  I'm humbled, and I'm floored, because I've never sat down and truly READ what Paul is saying.  We as a church tend to pick out the verses from the Bible that give us hope and strength, that make us feel better about ourselves, yet we gloss over the verses that command us to do something for God.  We want him to do for us and hope he doesn't call us to do for him.

We have become a depraved and wicked generation.  Knowing who God is and what He has done - his infinite power and divine nature - and yet we still JUSTIFY our sin - the satisfaction of our flesh - our wants.  We not only do these things: envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, slander, gossip, practice arrogance, are boastful, disobey, are senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless - we not only do these things but we justify it!! 

Paul says in Rom 1:25 "We exchanged the truth of God for a lie".

Oh how this grieves my heart.  Too often we applaud the sin instead of regretting it.  When will the church wake up?  When will we quit preaching feel good sermons but instead dig deeper into God's word?  We need our eyes opened!  We need to be shaken to our core and we need to quit justifying our sins.  God deserves more from us than what we are giving Him.  We want to be comfortable - sit back and do what we want while others take the message of Jesus to the world.  We want to sit in our comfortable churches or home and be told how to make our lives better or easier or richer, yet others in this world don't even know Jesus.  Wake up church!  The time is short and we are called to spread God's message.

Romans 1:5  "Through Him and for HIS names sake WE RECEIVED GRACE, and apostleship to call people from among ALL the gentiles to obedience that comes from faith".

WE are called - all of us.  God didn't say only a few are to be apostles but all have been called.  Its time, people of the church, to quit doing what we know we shouldn't do and then justifying it - and start doing what God has called us to do.  We are CALLED to make disciples of all nations.  The church is just too comfortable in my opinion, and it makes me sad.  It grieves my heart.  We go to church each Sunday wondering what WE will get out of it.  If WE will be fed.  We sing the words of the songs with no passion or feeling.  We don't raise our hands in worship for fear people behind us will think we are weird.  We aren't there for US - we are there for Him!  To worship Him!  To lift Him up!  He deserves it don't you think?  WE are there to be equipped to go out and spread his word, not to just hear something to make us feel better about ourselves.  We need to be uncomfortable for Jesus.

Its time to wake up and get passionate about Jesus.  He was passionate about us.  He DIED for us. What are you willing to do for HIM today? Tomorrow?  Next week? 

I leave you with this from "Not a Fan" by Kyle Idleman:  "The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ.  They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.". and "Fans often confuse their admiration for devotion.  They mistake their knowledge of Jesus for intimacy with Jesus.  Fans assume their good intentions make up for the apathetic faith"...

I hope that today this sparks something in your hearts.  That Jesus is worth more than what we are giving Him.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Experience



This weekend I was given the opportunity to spend quality time with a woman I hold in high esteem.  A role model.  A woman of faith.  I had my mind challenged and my creative side was explored.  I learned that inside of me is a story - a very unique story.  My story.  Only I can tell it.  Only I can describe it.  Only I have lived it.

At one point in the day I was told to take my camera and walk through her house.  I was given cart blanche to her home and was instructed to take 3 pictures of anything in her home that spoke to me. 
I roamed around and tried to really focus on what I was looking at.  I saw a photo on her wall of her two grandsons, so I snapped a picture of them.  I saw an inviting porch swing and a comforting warm fireplace and hearth.  I was then asked to write about one of the three pictures.  How it fit into my life, how it spoke to me.  I chose the two boys.  Below I will share what I wrote this weekend - 

2 Boys

2 boys.  My world.  My life.  The first one came - much anticipated.  I wanted a baby.  Someone who would love me unconditionally. Someone who wouldn't abandon me.  I prayed for a son - blonde hair and blue eyes.  The day came and he arrived.  My joy.  My heart. I would never be the same.   The more he grew the more I saw God gave me what I asked for.  Blonde hair, bright blue eyes that sparkled when he smiled.  A disposition like no other.  How could I ever love another child as much as I love my first one?, I thought the day I learned I was having another baby.  There isn't room in my heart for another.  Kaden has taken it all.  But the day came when Kelland was born.  Surprise, my heart grew!  There was room for another. My boys.  The joy of my life.  I lived a life alone.  Abandoned, defeated.  Now I had purpose.  I had love.  I have meaning.  I was their mom.  They have grown to be fine young me.  Leaders on their team, in their school, in their youth room.  They have learned a lot from me, but they have taught me so much more.
They have taught me unconditional love.  They have taught me protection.  They have taught me sacrifice.  And they have taught me that my once hardened heart does feel.  My 2 boys.   My life.  My love.

I learned this weekend how to look at the world through a different lens.  To see things in a different light.  To open my heart to feeling and my eyes to seeing the world around me.  Everything I touch and see and smell is a part of my journey.  My story.  My life.  Only I have lived it and only I can tell it...and I want to share it so God can use it for his glory!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Molded in His Image



We've heard the bible verse.  We've heard sermons preached on it.  Seen pictures like the one above and recognized it.  But have you ever really  thought about what is really happening?

Jeremiah 18: 5-6  "O Stacie, can I not do with you what a potter does?, declares the Lord.  Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand."

I inserted my name in place of O Israel.  You do the same.  He wants your name there.  He wants to be personal.

O Stacie, can I not do with you what a potter does?  God is speaking to me.  Asking me a very important question.  Am I willing to let him mold me?  Work out those lumps in my life that are keeping me from being balanced in him?  Those are tough questions.  We live in a world that justifies everything.  People make excuses for their behavior instead of trying to change it.  

That lump there Lord.  That's from years of legalism in the church.  Being told what I had to do for your love and grace.  God, don't touch that.  It will shatter everything I learned.  God says no, Stacie, I'm not here to instill rules, but to build relationship.  Stacie, I want to know you.  I want to be intimate with your heart.  Let me show you my love

That lump there Lord, oh I've had that for a long time.  Its my self-esteem.  Its pretty bad and it was formed by all the name calling growing up.  I've learned to live with it.  You can leave that one alone.  God says no, let me smooth that one out for you too Stacie.  You are more than the words tossed at you.  You are my child.  I love you.  You are beautiful to me.  You are strong and courageous.  Let me show you my love.

That lump, oh why do you have to press on that one God?  That one hurts.  Its the pain I felt when my parents divorced.  Now I live a life of divorce.  Its just the way it is - its what I grew up learning.  God, please don't touch that one.  Its hurts too much.  God says Stacie, you aren't defined by your past.  Look at the ancient ruins and learn from them, but put them behind you.  There is new life in me.  Let me show you my love.

Each lump, each crack in me God wants to smooth out with His love.  His hands, molding me, shaping me into the beautiful masterpiece He has always known I can be.  But I have to be willing to cooperate with Him.  I need to let him heal me from my hurts so I can grow a deeper relationship with Him.   

Are you willing to let him shape you?  I am.  Today God's hands are on me, shaping me into who He KNOWS I can be.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Godly Jealousy


2 Cor 11:2-3  "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.   But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

God is jealous for us.   Jealousy is usually seen in a negative light.  We are jealous OF someone else.  We are jealous OF their looks, their car, their house, their popularity, etc.  The list can go on and on.  When we are jealous OF someone, its not usually in a positive manner. 

So, when we read God is jealous, we need to realize he is jealous FOR us.  He wants our hearts.  He wants our devotion.  He wants the best for us.  

In Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."  Why?  Because God wants our focus.  He wants us to worhsip Him and Him alone.  

What idols do you have in your life that take your eyes off of Jesus?  Your body perhaps?  Having the next new game system?  Spending hours playing those games instead of spending time reading Gods word, or doing His work?  What about a person?  Is there someone in your life that you hold higher than God?  There are so many things in our lives that can be idols.  God is jealous FOR us. He wants to set us free from the bondage that keeps us from freely worshiping Him.  He isn't jealous of us.  He isn't jealous because we have a lot of stuff.  He's jealous because that stuff takes our time and our eyes off of Him.  I tell my kids in youth group and also my own sons that God deserves just a fraction of the time they spend texting their friends.  A fraction of the time they spend playing video games or whatever it is they waste their time on.  He would LOVE to hear from them.  He is the most important relationship in our life. 

This is a lesson for all of us.  God is jealous FOR us, He wants to spend time with us and hear from us.  He wants to bless us and give us the good life.  But, if we tune him out, if we put other things and other people ahead of Him, we aren't open to his blessings.  Sometimes God will do something drastic in your life to get your attention.  Those are the moments when you say "Why God? Why did this happen?"  and he responds "Because I want your attention.  Its my turn". In the good times and the bad, God should be your #1!

He is jealous FOR ME!  Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.  Oh how he loves us, Oh, how he loves us, how he loves us all!!!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Promises you may not keep






Have you heard the story of Hannah??  Its a wonderful story in the bible of the mother of Samuel.  I read it recently and it has stuck with me. Questions formed in my mind.  Would I do what she did?  Would I make promises I may not be able to keep?

Hannah was brave. She was obedient.  As a mother I'm not sure I could do what she ultimately did.
Hannah was married to Elkanah. She was one of two wives.  Penninah was his other wife and she had children.  Hannah did not. Penninah and her children would provoke Hannah in order to irritate her.  You've had people like that in your life, haven't you?  They find that sore spot in your heart and keep at it day in and day out, never letting it heal because they keep poking that spot till it bleeds more and more.

Hannah was so distraught she would cry and Elkanah would say "Why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"  Men - sometimes they are clueless and just don't get it!!  First of all, the man had 2 wives.  His first mistake.   One wife was berating the other one and he just didn't get it!  Men, get involved at home.  Take time to understand your wife.  Listen to her and know her.  Don't be Elkanah - CLUELESS!  

The biggest mistake Elkanah made was having two wives.  He was unable to understand or meet his wife's needs.  God says in Gen. 2:24 "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh".  Hard to be one flesh when there are three or more getting involved.  Although polygamy was prevalent, it doesn't mean it was acceptable to God.  So true in today's world.  Just because sex before marriage is prevalent, doesn't mean its acceptable to God. And the same is true with other "acceptable" sins.  Too often we succumb to the ways of the world because its "socially acceptable".  Standing on God's word and living life His way can be hard, but as we see with Hannah and Elkanah, it would have saved Hannah alot of heartache had her husband been able to focus on her needs alone.

Back to Hannah and her story - and the promise she made.  She wept bitterly to the Lord and basically bargained with God.  If you give me a son, I will never shave his head (this meant he would be a Nazarite) and I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.   Who doesn't bargain with God?  Have you ever done that?  God if you do such and such, I will promise....

God heard Hannah and he decided to respond to her prayer.  Why? Two reasons.  First, he is gracious.  He wanted to pour his love on her.  Second, He knew her heart and knew she would do what she said she would do.  Hmmm?  Would God be able to say the same about you?  When you make promises to God in return for something from Him, will you hold true to those promises?  Or are they like leaves tossed by the winds - here one minute, gone the next?  

Hannah's prayers were answered and she conceived a son - Samuel.   For three years she nursed him and loved him. How deeply this woman wanted a child yet she made a promise to give him up.  She did not voice empty words.  After he was weened, she took him to the Prophet Eli.  I couldn't do it...taking a child who is three, young enough to still be a baby, old enough to ask questions. But, Samuel went and worshiped the Lord.  At age 3!!  Why? Because his mother had taught him from the beginning. She had prepared him as she raised him.  She talked to him as she nursed him of Gods faithfulness. She told him of the promise and that he was appointed to grow up in the house of the Lord.  Isn't this what we, as mothers, should be doing for our children?  Preparing them.  Teaching them, guiding them in God's word?  I have such respect and honor for Hannah.  What a strong woman.  Samuel learned faith from his mother - a woman whose faithfulness evidenced her faith.  She walked what she talked.  

Do you?  That's my question to you today?  Are you like Hannah?  Faithful in your promises to God.  Do  you make promises you may not keep to get what you want today?  Can God look at your heart and KNOW you will be faithful to Him, no matter the cost?  I pray that today I learn a mighty lesson from this woman.  To be faithful in all things.  To love God more than I love anything or anyone on this earth.  To follow His commands and live a life wholly devoted to Him.  When I do, I will be blessed with the desires of my heart, just as Hannah was blessed with hers.