Monday, December 31, 2018

Infusion

In January 2008 Matthew West released the song, The Motions. Little did he know when he wrote that song that it would change the course of my life and become a bookmark in my story. From the very first time I heard the words my heart was convicted and my prayers changed.

The song began with....

"This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change

I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life
I don't wanna go through the motions

I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?"
Quickly this song became the rhythm of my heart. I woke up each day and as I drove my kids to school it played on repeat. The words became a prayer that I repeatedly prayed. I wanted God to do something in me. I wanted a work done in my life because I wasn’t content with the complacent life I was living. 
At this particular stage in my life I was dealing with a lot of different things. I had been in an unhealthy and unsafe marriage for 13 years. I was surrounded by a lot of superficial relationships. My life was lacking true community and a safe place to go for help. I was at a place where I knew something had to be different.  I knew God wanted His best for me and I knew that my current situation had to change and so I began to pray. 
I was uncertain as to what would come next but I knew it was going to be hard. I recognized then that by asking God to do a work in my life meant there would be a battle ahead. Nothing could have prepared me for what was in store. I had no clue the roller coaster ride I was about to embark on but as I sit back today on this New Year’s Eve and look at the road that I traveled I am ever so thankful God heard my prayer.  He knew I no longer wanted to live a restless life. And I prayed hard to get out of that complacent state I found myself. And as I prayed i added that my life going forward never become complacent again.  
Unfortunately life takes turns and things happen and we fall into situations that we don’t see coming. I had prayed and prayed that my life not become complacent but I am sad to say that I let it happen again.
Now deep down I don’t think I recognized my life had become complacent.  Instead, I think that after a few years of some severe storms I finally found myself on top of the mountain experiencing peace and victory.  The problem is that I became too comfortable on top of that mountain. I liked my life the way that it was. My kids were good. My marriage was good. I had a good community and a safe place to land. I was involved in my church and life was moving at a leisurely pace.  I was so comfortable. But though life was good, something within me had become restless again. I felt unsettled. Maybe I knew I had settled into a rut. I wasn’t being challenged. My faith wasn’t growing. I needed an awakening.  But I didn't know I needed an Awakening.
Now I can tell you that I did not ask for an awakening like I had done 10 years earlier but it happened. I think this was one of those moments where my restlessness was my own doing because I was standing in the way of myself. As I now look back I know that God knew it was time for me to wake up. He knew I didn’t want to stay in the place of complacency.  He created me, and because He created me He knows the deepest desires of my heart. And He knows that my desire is to follow  Him and to live a life that is consumed by Him. But in those days that’s not how I was living. And so tragedy entered and the waves began to move. 
Almost 10 years ago I specifically cried out to God and said, “Move in me. Do what needs to be done to draw me closer to you.” However 2 1/2 years ago I wasn’t asking for that. But God knew that I was in the way of myself. My complacency had allowed me to settle in and get comfortable with life. I no longer focused solely on Him because I had become less reliant on Him to get through my day.  But God knew that if I stayed settled and bunkered down that I would truly suffer later from a lack of His touch in my life. This meant that He allowed suffering to enter so that devastation wouldn’t drown me because a false sense of security that can come from living a comfortable life is leaps and bounds worse than going through the process of suffering.  
Because God loves us and wants our best He knows we have to go through the fire.  This fire looks different for everyone but it means moments of disappointment and hurt. It means pain and unmet expectations. God allows these moments of suffering so that we learn how to be fully reliant on Him and draw closer to Him. 
And because I had forgotten how to be fully reliant on Him and life had gotten too easy, He knew I needed a wake up call.
It’s much like training for a marathon. If we want to win the race we can’t lay on the couch all day. We have to get up and move. We half to exercise as a way to gain physical strength. And it is much the same way spiritually. We have to be poured into circumstances that might be difficult so that we can gain spiritual strength. Because it’s in the moments of our disappointments and difficult times that transformation occurs where our minds begin to think more biblically, we process those things around us through Truth more instinctively,  and we learn to trust God more completely.  During this process we have to get rid of things such as fear, complacency, weakness and hopelessness because those things lead to the thinking as the world thinks. Scripture tells us that to think like the world will lead to death. It will lead to the death of hope, the death of peace and the death of joy. But if we think like Jesus then new life is breathed into us and His peace will flow through us (Roman's 8:5-6).
Making that first move off the couch is not always fun nor is it at the top of our list of things to do. Much like moments of disappointment and pain are not something we would willingly ask for.  But being uncomfortable and allowing life to become chaotic for a time may be the only hope we have in truly knowing what God wants us to see and His way of teaching us to solely trust in Him no matter what we face. We are called to be like Jesus. And through His suffering He became more and more aligned with God and less and less with the ways in which humanity dealt with circumstances and suffering. 
If you want to know God’s will, God’s perspective and the good God has in store for you then you simply have to ask. And when you ask and invite Him into your circumstances He is faithful to answer. He will pour into your circumstances things such as strength, peace, courage and the ability to overcome. He will pour into your circumstances whatever is needed to help you grow in those areas and He will infuse you with the very things you have asked of Him. And it is good to desire these things because they cause maturity within us and though the process that must be completed in order to acquire these attributes may not always feel good at the time they will lead to good things because you’ll be living out the very best of what God has planned for you. 
So as we enter into a new year ask yourself, "What is my life missing? What would God have of me in 2019?"
As you start off the new year invite God into your story. The ride may be bumpy and a little bit scary but it will forever change your life and the way you walk ith Jesus!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Pivot

On May 28th 2016 we had an incredible plot twist. We went from being the happy and madly in love couple who rarely fought to a couple who began a journey that would take us on a path where we truly began to think that separation was the only option. It has been maddening and crazy and exciting all at the same time. It has taken me 923 days to get to a place where I am beginning to see that day as a blessing and not a curse. God has been up to a lot in our lives. He's been opening doors and giving us the opportunity to share our story with others and to help point them to Jesus. And through that He has been using these moments to grow our faith, to grow our marriage and to draw us closer to Him and to one another.

You see God knows Matthew and I better than anyone else. He knows our hearts. He knows our faith. He knows our desire to serve Him. He's known that from the beginning. He's known what He could do with us. He knows that we're moldable. He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. Which means He knows what we're capable of. He knows what ways He can use us even when we may be clueless. And even when we may not see ourselves as sufficient vessels to carry out His message and mission. But He knows and He's offered us this opportunity to be a part of this journey with Him. To be a part of His story in sharing His story of redemption and hope. He knew Matthew and I would struggle. He knew that we would hanging by a thread and on the brink of divorce. But He also knew the enemy wouldn't get the best of us. Even though at times it felt like the enemy was going to be victorious. God knew differently.  He knew our love for one another. He knew our commitment to one another and He knew our strong desire to please Him!

So through a journey of ups and downs, of sin and selfishness and many bad decisions and wrong turns, God is redeeming our story. He's taken what I viewed as a no good horrible bad day and turning it into a day that now I see as a pivotal moment in my journey of faith. That day has now become the day God extended His hand and invited us both to be a part of His story. He invited us that day to be on mission though we didn't realize then what was happening. Or what we were in for. It has taken 923 days to recognize that total surrender will be the only way that this story (our part of the story) is successful. It took breaking us both down completely and stripping away all that we thought we needed so that He could replace it all with what we truly need....Him!

Yesterday I spent the day writing out the many names of God. Searching the scriptures and meditating on His many different names.  I filled up pages and pages of my notebook and as I thought of each name and read about each one,  I recognized that over the past 923 days we've experienced God in these different ways. I think I could  fill my notebook with different stories from the last 923 days that would align with each different name of God.  Throughout our journey so far, God has shown up in all of those ways.

God’s faithfulness and goodness through the most difficult challenges of our life becomes so evident when we stop and step away from the world. When we disconnect from the chaos and noise around us and just focus on His voice. He's always there. Always waiting to be allowed in to work. He's wanting to show us which way to go but sometimes we’re  too stubborn or too deaf or too blind or too angry or too afraid to recognize it which means that sometimes it takes almost a thousand days for Him to get our attention. But man, when we finally sit still and just listen... He will blow our minds with the way He shows up and makes Himself clearly known!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Battlefield Ready

I can't. I cannot deal with any more of these posts where the gospel is trampled and Truth is shuffled around so as to fit someone's agenda. Each time I see another post I get knots in my stomach and become physically sick. I understand that we are living in a time that the Bible clearly talks about (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Peter 3:3-7, Matthew 24:12). When people will call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). I get that we are living in a time where people have walked so far away from God that they can't even see the Truth before them anymore (2 Corinthians 4:4). I know this is what is supposed to be happening but it is still heartbreaking.

It is so hard to watch people being led astray. It's even harder to watch people who profess to follow Jesus speak against the Bible as if their words are truth which then leads people astray (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is so hard to know that the hearts of people are becoming hardened and that an eternity spent in a devastating place is a real destination.

I know that there are those who will disagree with me. Who do not believe what I believe. And that's okay. I'm not here to argue with anyone. But instead, I'm speaking up and speaking out the same way those who believe opposite of what I believe do daily by instead calling out those of us who profess to follow Jesus but choose to sit back and stay silent. I'm calling us out because we are failing miserably at the mission.

Scripture tells us that none of us are good. Not one (Romans 3:10-12). That we all are sinful (Romans 3:23). But not just that that pretty much everything we do is sinful. Our lying, jealousy, foul language, selfishness, abuse, gossip, slander,  pride, gluttony, divorces, homosexuality, abortion, adultery, infidelity, hatred, murder, discrimination, racism...the list goes on and on and it's all sin. Because it all goes back to pride and the selfish desires of our own flesh and for many the unwillingness to acknowledge sin (1 John 2:15-17). The truth is that sin is what causes us to "miss the mark." And the mark is the standard of perfection which God established and which was lived out by Jesus. Our inability or unwillingness to acknowledge our sin is where the issue lies. God wants us to recognize our sin because sin is what will distance us from Him and He loves us too much for there to be distance so He sent Jesus (John 3:16).

How do we combat all this? Scripture tells us that if we love God we will keep His Commandments (John 14:15). The simplest summary of the Commandments given by Jesus say that we are to love God and love our neighbor. And when we do that, when we love God first and above all other things including ourself and our own desires, we will obey God and be less likely to be taken captive by our sin and finally be able to acknowledge our sin.

God tells us what we need to be holy. Unfortunately because of Adam and Eve and the sin that entered the world through them...we are incapable of righteousness on our own and being in the presence of God because He alone is holy. This means that we need Jesus. This means that only Jesus and the blood He shed for us is what makes us acceptable and righteous to God who is holy. Who is our Creator. Who is our Heavenly Daddy. Once we recognize ourselves as sinners, Jesus will forgive once we repent and turn from our sinful desires and actions. It doesn't mean that suddenly we are perfect and will never fall into sin again but instead that we will now become aware of our sin and our need for Jesus.

I'm terrified for what this world will look like for my grandchildren. And as much as I don't want to take away from my own children and their future... I spend a lot of mornings praying that Jesus will come back soon. Very soon. I know that would mean there would be a lot of people who wouldn't come to know Jesus and I know that means I'm being incredibly selfish (sinful) but to see this amazing world that God created and all the amazing people in it continually reject Him and spit in His face breaks my heart. To see people mock the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. The death that He died for every single person so that all might know Him and spend eternity with Him often leaves me speechles. I ache for what this world has become and I believe that God has raised up a generation of people who will reflect His glory and not just their own. A group of people who will walk in His character and be vessels who bear His image.

For those who follow Jesus, it is time to stand up and speak out. It is time for Truth to be spoken with both love and grace. It is time to stop being afraid of who may hate us or call us intolerant. It's time to stop allowing darkness to keep us cowered in the shadows. A spiritual battle is taking place every single day in front of us and we are expected to be soldiers on that battlefield (Ephesians 6:12). We are fighting for the very souls of those people we work with, those we call friends and family, those who live next door to us and for some, spouses and children. We can't afford to be passive any longer. We're talking about the difference between an eternity spent with a loving Father or an eternity spent in a place of eternal damnation. How much do you really love those people around you? Lack of action and complacency speaks to our true loyalties and beliefs. And I'm just as guilty. It's time I check myself and start seeing the battlefield around me as one where I should be fighting. What about you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pursue Righteousness: Calling Evil Good

Society has become so gifted at confusing evil with good. It all started in the garden with Adam and Eve and it continues today. 

Our present-day social righteousness is a complete contradiction from the righteousness talked about in the Bible. It has been said, “A wrong deed is right if the majority of people declare it not to be wrong.”  This very principal has set in motion the shifting of our standards over the generations. The Bible says, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter (Isaiah 5:20). The standard God sets for us has not changed and the Bible tells us that one day we will be held accountable for our sins (Romans 14:12). 

Evil makes its way into our lives each day. It presents itself as harmless.  We often wrap it up in a pretty little bow but sin is divisive and dirty. And it often leaves us to lie to ourselves as we call it tolerance and confuse it with love. 

We have to step back and ask ourselves how we have become so deceived. How have we fallen into the trap set for us by the enemy?  A lot of it boils down to our sinful desires. The need for immediate pleasure instead of God‘s desires that lead us to believe that evil is good.

 It is so easy to make excuses for what God blatantly calls sin. A lot of that comes from people choosing to say that morals are relative. It has been said that, “As the occasion, so the behavior.” We’ve reached a place where our morality has been modified to fit our sinful behaviors instead of our sinful behaviors being determined by our morality. Today nothing is solid. People will shift from one extreme to the other because they lack Truth. The present-day ideology is twisted and distorted so badly that it is near impossible to know Truth from lies. 

Self-centeredness is also a factor in this idea that evil is good. It makes us more prone to call evil good because we tend to think that if sin or immorality brings a profit or gives pleasure it has to be good. Even if we know it’s wrong. 

However, if we were really listening to the voice of Jesus we would hear him say, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (Matthew 6:33).  And what does living righteously look like? Second Timothy says, “To run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22).  And in James we read, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly except the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God‘s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves" (James 1:19-22).

Sadly we look at Christianity like we look at everything else in they world…by asking what’s in it for me? We think that God wants to do what we want of Him and that His plan is to give us the desires of our heart. We have basically turned God into a genie. We also rationalize. We make excuses for the sin in our life or we try to blame it on other people or other things. Even Adam, in the garden, tried to blame Eve for the choice he made. So this issue has been around for a long time. 

The question becomes how do we correct our warped sense of thinking?  How do we remove the blinders that the enemy has so cleverly placed upon our eyes? 

The only answer out there is the Bible. The Bible is the only thing that we have to tell us what God considers good. Evil exists within everyone of us yet it disguises itself as good while controlling and deceiving us (Romans 3:10). But it is only by the death of Jesus on the cross that we are good.  That we are made righteous. His death was necessary because man without God is a contradiction and an atrocity.  This very thing is why some people love evil and then hate what is good because they are still so attached to their own sin. 

It can be difficult to make our way back to Truth when the enemy has placed such blinders over our eyes. However, Scripture is very clear to those things that God hates. You don’t have to look too hard in the Bible to find them.  God hates pride, He hates a lying tongue, He hates hands that shed innocent blood, He hates hearts that devise evil plans, He hates evil thoughts that eventually lead to sinful actions, and He hates those who create discord among their community. (Proverbs 6:16-19). 

I think we would each do well to sit down and carefully think about the things that God hates. The hypocrisy we create by believing that it is always someone else that is evil gets us into this whole vicious cycle of calling evil good.   Because at the end of the day I believe it all begins with pride and our own sinful desires to be right and to do as we please. 

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

2 Corinthians 13:5

His Ways Before My Own

If you know me at all you know that one of my greatest fears is to not be where God would have me. To be walking the path of my own choosing instead of walking out His will for my life. Twenty-three years ago I made that choice to do my own thing and I am painstakingly still living out the consequences of what came from doing what I wanted to do instead of being where God wanted me to be. You can say I’ve learned from those choices and because I have felt the pain of the consequences of those choices, I am constantly looking for God’s direction in my life.

Right now I am entering into a new season of life. I graduated in May and was ready to take on a full-time job. I just knew that’s what was next for me. So I applied for positions thinking that doors would open because that was what God wanted for me. But I think that’s what I wanted for me.

Twenty years as a stay at home mom can sometimes take a toll on the way you see yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than being a mom. Especially one who got to stay home with her kids. I poured myself into to my kids and soaked up every minute but now I’ve entered a new season and it’s a season where I want to work outside of my home. But it’s also a season of trying to figure out exactly what that looks like.

Right now I have one of the greatest jobs in the world for me. I am doing something I am passionate about by working at a domestic violence organization and loving on women every day. It was like God hand-picked this position for me because I get up every day wanting to go to work and excited to see how God will use me that day. However, it’s only a part-time job. And so there are days when I don’t feel like that’s enough. And I’ve beat myself up over it. Because I feel like I should be doing more.

Over the last couple of weeks God has really been showing me the importance of being still.  To take the time to separate the noise of the world from His voice.  He’s been reminding me of how I came into this job in the first place. What to some would seem like a fluke to others would be evidence of His providential hand. He’s been reminding me this week that He gave me this opportunity to work this job in the morning which then allows me the afternoons to minister or serve or write or to invest in the lives of those around me. And what a reminder that has been as I recognize that for the past six months as I’ve wrestled with wanting to work more… I’ve wasted six months of missing out on the opportunities to do these things because my focus was on the wrong things.  I wasn’t content with what He had for me. I felt like I needed more but He has shown me that what I have is enough.

Being able to trust God‘s plan for your life means that you have to be content and find joy in Him and not your circumstances. So as He becomes your everything, and where your hope and happiness comes from then His will for your life becomes much more evident. Because instead of looking for things that make you happy, you’re seeking out things that bring Him glory. And ultimately that is the purpose of your life and what He has planned. What a revelation!

Once you finally wrap your head around that truth… His voice becomes much more clear. You certainly start to recognize when He is speaking and when He is leading. The nudging of the Spirit within you becomes much more recognizable and suddenly you find yourself taking steps that you were once afraid to take. It becomes all about trusting His plan all the time even when it might not make sense or might not exactly be what you think you need.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. 

Proverbs 3:5-6