Beautiful Hardships

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.14.29 AMToday as I sit trying to get a good picture of our year as a church… I begin to take inventory of some of our music. August to August… I start marking the recent service dates by the hardship that was occurring when we chose these songs together.

Sadness filled me as I thought, “Oh this song was picked through many tears…”, “This one happened when, _______…”.

But these times of hardship as church- marked in the annals of our software- have taught me something about God’s love.

He was there then… and we got through it. One foot in front of the other, as a church. He is here now as I write and reflect.

As I gaze over these dates, songs, prayers, lighting and audio notes… I realize that back then, something amazing happened. People on differing sides of arguments agreed to disagree. We ALL held hands during “the Lord’s Prayer”… and even hugged and cried together.

We all bowed the knee at the altar together.

Why can’t our software depict these moments?

As I make my list…. I just had to stop and remember this major monument to God’s grace and goodness in our lives. FBC… I treasure this year with you. I treasure the things God has done, the times we hit the ground in prayer together, shaken by hardships. These are beautiful hardships… because God is found there.

God never said we would always agree. He never said the entire Bible is black and white… our theology may sometimes not line up, leaving frustrations and questions. Relationships were never easy in Bible times, and they’re not now.

But we know in our future, we never have to go it alone…. God will be there in the future just like He is now.

The only difference will be that our FAITH will be bigger next time around.

We can smile and have joy, through tears, knowing God never changes.

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Dream Big, Sustain that Joy.

I think that joy is different than happiness because happiness is circumstantial.

Joy is hard to sustain. It just plain is.

I want to encourage you today that when surrounded by negativity… don’t miss a beat. Don’t fixate on the negative you hear. Just keep personifying joy through trials. {Tweet}

Focus your efforts on who God says you are; because, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Draw Near to God, He is already Near to You

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Recently I thought I had too much on my plate. I exercised my ability to say “no”, and took my day off seriously. Looking to the future: I tossed the idea of cutting down my hours at work. I wanted to work on future details of our family, make our house a home, and visit my family back home more.

None of that was the plan, for now.

In a recent turn of events I was asked to take on more of a leadership role at the Church, with more responsibility, with pay cuts and budget cuts all across the board for our church.

So. I dropped my plans and fell on my face before Jesus. He has been my Rock. I have peace. I have joy. I am brave.

I know God will make it possible for me to plan our future as a family, cook, clean, plan visits, have people over, take care of our pets, enjoy life… all while taking on this important calling. I just need to listen to His voice.

I’m ashamed to say in these times of turmoil… they are the sweetest times of worship for me.

Why can’t I seem to be this close to my Lord during the good times?

I realized today that I find the most peace and joy in the trials– not because God has changed, but because I have. Tweet this.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you {HE IS already close by}. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

God Is For You (Just ask Samuel)

Samuel

I always identified with Samuel as a child. Not that my mom dropped me off to live in a temple… or that I was a boy… or that my name was Sam… but just the “called by God” part.

I loved his boldness! He didn’t CHOOSE grow up literally in the church– God and his mother had an amazing relationship and that’s just how he ended up there.

But as I said a while back, I have been reading through the Bible this year, yesterday was the book of 1 Samuel.

I love how God brings out new things each time we seek Him through His word. God speaks in the book of Deuteronomy that prophets’ words had to come true, or else they were considered a false prophet.

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. Deuteronomy 18:22

God also said that not many people heard directly from God after Moses and Joshua, unless the Spirit of the Lord came upon them. Pretty cool stuff.

In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 1 Samuel 3:1

So I’ve always wondered why God allowed Samuel to get up three times before Eli realized God was asking him to converse with him.

To me, if Eli hadn’t witnessed Samuel directly hearing from God… then he wouldn’t have taken the upcoming bad news as God’s words. He would’ve probably been angry with Samuel and called him a false prophet (poor kid… right?!).

So God has a conversation with Samuel that night. He tells Samuel that Eli’s sons’ sin was noticed and since Eli turned a blind eye, they would all pay the price.

The next morning, Samuel was afraid (rightfully so) to tell Eli. But because Eli witnessed that it was the Lord speaking the night before, he is eager to hear what the word from God was.

But God protects his righteous. Eli urges Samuel not to lie to him.. to tell him everything God said. So Samuel delivers Eli the terrible news, and Eli says, “Well… He IS God.” (pretty much.)

I love verse 19 and on.

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. 1 Samuel 3:19-21

All we need to do in tough situations is do exactly what God tells us to do… no more, no less. He will take care of the details!

Try Something with me…

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This time of year for worship leaders… and all people in general… is so hectic it seems insane.

And to boot, combatting anxiety is a pain in the rear and I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit.

Here’s a little tactic I felt the Holy Spirit tell me. He told me when I cried out for help in the midst of a season that takes away peace; when it should be our time to let the Prince of Peace rule our hearts. The tactic goes like this:

Reflect over your busy-ness. What is making you busy?

Now – can you remember a time when you didn’t have that thing? Maybe you’re a young mom or dad, who prayed for children, and now your home is full of coos and cries and food splatters and noise.

Or maybe you begged God for a calling and a ministry in the form of a full-time job. Major change happened. God delivered you, provided for you, and now you’re working your tush off for the kingdom.

Insert your own scenario if you like.

I just sit here, this busy holiday season, learning new things I never dreamed I’d have the chance to do, along with new coworkers, a new wonderful boss and mentor, a loving Savior who died for me, sympathizes with me, and I have a roof over my head, a loving, smoking-hot husband to spend my life with… yeah, I’d say I’m pretty thankful.

Sure, among the busy-ness I forget an obligation or two, flub up an announcement in front of church, play a wrong chord (or 5…), double-book myself, quit cooking or cleaning for several nights in a row (who am I kidding.. weeks..) but I’m so thankful for a God who loved me enough to die in my place.

That is all :).

Receive this advent blessing from Christ, into your hearts:

Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,

    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12-13

The Kind of Request God Answers Immediately

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I got thinking about this: when we pray for the Holy Spirit to convict us of areas we need to change or habits we can’t seem to shake- God answers and delivers right away.
There are silly flaws and habits I can’t seem to shake, like talking or rambling too long, biting my nails, whatever. But at the root of a lot of them for me is low confidence & longing to be heard. Which in turn means low confidence in God’s work in my life and how He hears and loves me as His child.
I told him this, and as I was asking, I realized He was about to change me, and help me. I told him I can’t do it on my own anymore. I told Him I acknowledge His goodness in the past is still the goodness He will give in the future. I told Him I recognize and acknowledge His power and mercy. I told Him I want to stop trying to kick these habits and hangups on my own and become the woman He intended for me to be.
I love how David asks God to take everything away that’s of him and allow God to work in His life in Psalm 51:10-17;
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
{Oh Lord my testimony can be so much for you if I let you work and have BIG fatih!}
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
{That’s right! I can’t do this on my own willpower, an offering of hard-headed behavioral modifications! I must allow you to work!}
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Amen!
God bless you today.

 

Poverty isn’t what we think it is…

Have you ever heard that the persecuted believers of other nations pity us?

The ones who have to hide to worship Jesus underground or in a tar-paper shack pity us, in our multi-million dollar homes and church facilities.

Why?

I think that although a lot of the countries where persecution is real  are poorer, they are really the wealthy ones. We are the poor ones. 

I think true poverty falls on the ones who can’t seem to let go of the American dream, climbing that ladder, clambering to be heard and to sit at the head table. {Tweet this!}

The wealthy in spirit are those who have nothing. Their very faith in God could put them in prison but still trust in God like it’s all up to Him.

We should commit to boldly and persistently pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters! We should ask God how we Americans need to wake up and humble ourselves as the collective. How we need to seek His face like never before.

2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Luke 14, “When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Philippians 2, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”