Don’t Stop On Six (Message from March 22, 2015)

This was such an odd title for a sermon!  “Don’t stop on six!” he exclaimed.  What???

Hebrews 10:36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

Another translation uses the word “persevere” instead of “endure.”  God calls us to PERSEVERE.  He does not call us to an easy life.  He does not instantly grant all of our wishes and desires.  God’s work in our lives is that of a life time.  Covered by the blood of Jesus, our hearts and souls are made pure in a moment, but our human nature takes a life time to overcome.  In Isaiah 55, God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  We don’t understand the here and now, or the experiences we have.  We may never understand.  But in the midst of them, He whispers to us, “Press on, my child.  Persevere.  In your weakness, my power is made perfect.  I will be your strength.  Trust in ME.”

Pastor Steven Furtick takes us through the passage of scripture that brings us with Joshua to the fortified town of Jericho. (Joshua 6)  The Israelites had waited over 40 years to take this city and move into the promised land!  And God tells Joshua to walk around the city once a day for six days, then to walk around seven more times on the seventh day.  All the while, the priests are carrying the Ark of the Lord and blowing their trumpets.  I guess it took about an hour a day to walk around that city.  That’s it!  One hour.  Can you imagine what the Israelites were thinking?  How about the citizens of Jericho?  I picture the French Peas from Veggie Tales:  “You silly cucumber!  You’ll never knock down our walls!” (Josh and the Big Wall).  The laughter and mocking from those within the walls…the doubt spreading amongst the Israeli warriors…what was God going to do?

These thoughts and experiences lead to the three points as to why we tend to stop short of where God wants us to be:

1.  Our perspective gets blocked.  In the case of the Iraelites, the wall of Jericho blocked them from their goal of taking over the city.

2.  Our process isn’t always obvious.  Nothing happened after walking around the city!  Not even one brick or rock trembled to show that something was working!  Not until the army completed their instructions when they shouted with the trumpets after the end of the seventh lap on the seventh day did God show His mighty power to those who obeyed Him.  It took 13 laps around that wall!  I wonder how much doubt and fear fluttered through the hearts and minds of the soldiers, and what hope shone through to enable them to persevere?

3.  The process is open-ended.  We don’t always see the end.  Joshua knew how many times they would march around the town of Jericho.  But he did not share that with his soldiers.  He told them to march.  And they marched in faith.  Each day, they did it again.  And again.  And again…until Joshua finally told them to shout and the wall fell down!  We don’t understand the path we take.  Sometimes it takes years for us to be able to look back and see that God was and is present through even the darkest of moments in our lives.  The process prepares us for even greater perseverance down the road.  The process seems to break us, but God gives us His strength.  He alone increases our faith so that we may trust Him even though we don’t know or understand where He is leading us.

So don’t stop on six!  Press on.  Endure.  Follow Him.  His promises are true!  “What we see in our lives does not always match what God is telling us.  He is greater!  Revelation does not match reality,” is what Pastor Furtick tells us.  Remember that God’s truth transcends this society.  His treasures are greater than anything of this world.

You can watch Pastor Steven Furtick give his message here:  Don’t Stop.

Chasing Light, week 2

Week 2 of Chasing Light brings us through the issue of GREED.  The guest pastor defines greed as, “a preoccupation with possessions,” specifically MONEY.  Greed is not measured in possessions, but in infection.  Greed is a combination of envy and gluttony.  Greed destroys our ability to trust God. The speaker gives the example of the rich man in Luke 12:

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

So we ask the questions, “How much have I given to GOD, and how much have I given to THOSE IN NEED?”

1.  Giving to God:  the TITHE.  The Old Testament teaches that a true tithe is 10%.  10% of what?  In the culture, it was 10% of all earned in a year, be it wheat, corn, livestock, or money.  We can also tithe our TIME.  Sabbath may not be something we observe as a whole day anymore, but choosing to set aside 20-30 minutes a day to worship and praise God is an awesome way to tithe time. Serving at church or in ministry (homeless shelter, food pantry, volunteer work of any kind) is another way to tithe time.  Afraid of not having enough money, things, or time to give to God?  Then there may be a greed issue.  I know I have a greed issue.  I am always afraid of going without.  Without food, phone, clothes, medical supplies, movies, card-making supplies…I have begun to hoard things.  It is hard for me to let go, or hold back from purchasing that which I do not need.  I struggle to give my money to church because I am afraid I won’t have money to buy medical supplies (I am Type 1 Diabetic after all!).  I am afraid if I donate my money, I won’t be able to buy milk, eggs, and bread.  Yes, MY money.  Wait a minute…I KNOW that all I have is from the Lord.  It is HIS.  I am a vessel, a steward, of the gifts and blessings He has given.  Who am I to hold it back from Him?  So, instead of looking to tithe a month at a time, my husband and I have decided to tithe a paycheck at a time.  Looking at smaller chunks gives us better insight into our budgeting.  I am learning to let go, and give it all away.  We are in the process of decluttering (still, as I have been working on this for about 2 years now…), and have posted a ton on Craigslist and Freecycle.  When it comes to tithing, whether it be time or money or both, here is what God has to say about it, from Malachi 3:10:  “ Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”  This is the only place in scripture where He challenges us to TEST HIM!  Amazing, right?

We tithed 2 weeks ago.  A week later, we had to find money to pay our electric bill.  Would you believe that some wonderful women I met online took care of us?  It wasn’t much, but it was enough!  One told us to pay it forward, and another gave us a loan.  We’ll be repaying shortly.  God is good, He is faithful, and He provides!  With only one income right now and my husband searching for employment, and us wondering how on earth we are going to afford daycare for our two sons, we are constantly in a need to cling to His promises of provision.

2.  Giving to those in NEED:  1 John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  Now, we don’t have much money to give.  But neither did the widow who gave her last 2 coins.  Neither did the mother and son who took in Elijah.  Neither did David before he became King of Israel.  God can do MUCH with a LITTLE.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul writes, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

How do we get rid of greed?  We have to give it away!  Pastor Craig Groeschel calls this irrational giving.  We have to give and let go in order for the tentacles of greed to loosen and be released.  So I ask, “What is hindering my giving?”   Honestly, fear.  Uncertainty.  The unknown.  I hear myself saying the words of the father who falls before Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9)  Truly, faith is a spiritual gift that has been confirmed in me many times.  And yet, I doubt.  Greed is sneaky like that!  Margaret Feinberg writes in her book, Fight Back With Joy, “Stripped of my self-sufficiency, I found myself rediscovering God as Sustainer.  My next breath depended on him…Though my stubbornness often resisted, joy crept in.”  She is able to find joy in the darkest of times, because she recognizes that all she has comes from God alone.

So I challenge you to listen to this message.  The link is provided below.  Ask yourself what prevents you from giving.  Give yourself permission to ask God to break greed away from you, in Jesus’ name!  That is my prayer for me:  “Lord Jesus, break the spirit of greed from my soul.  Loosen the tentacles of greed and selfishness from my heart, by the precious blood of Jesus!  Fill that space left, Lord, with your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Chasing Light (Series message #2)

Chasing Light, week 1

This morning’s message at LifeChurch began a series called Chasing Light.

PRIDE.  Pride hinders our relationship with God.  We deny being proud, but Pride can manifest itself in many ways.  “I am the most humble man I know,” is a quote a friend shared with me a while back.  Funny, right?  We boast in our humility, in our wisdom, our knowledge, our acquisitions.  We become judgmental and critical.  We compare ourselves to others.  We deceive ourselves and become blind to our weaknesses.

James 4:6 reminds us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  It does take a lot of humility to fall before His throne and ask for forgiveness, to admit that we need grace, we NEED mercy!  It takes humility to admit that we are sinful, broken people.  It takes humility to submit to the authority of the Most High God.  (Matthew 7:3-5, Philippians 2:6-7, Micah 6:8)

Pride hides God’s light.  It boards up the windows, settles as dust and grime in our lives.  I am reminded of an episode of Curious George where he becomes a window washer for Mr. Glass.  There is a man in the apartment building who is so focused on reading his books, he doesn’t notice that his windows and eye glasses are filthy!  He complains about the lighting being poor until George cleaned the glass!  The light streamed in and the man could miraculously see!  He was amazed at George’s ability!  What would happen if we allowed the Spirit to help us clean the windows in our souls?  What would the Light reveal?  What else would we need to clear out so that we can let Christ in?  It is only the blood of Christ that can cleanse our souls enough to expose the sin within.  It is only Christ who can help us declutter the depths of our hearts and unite us with the Holy God!  Christ alone exposes the preoccupation we have with our own importance.

Take some time this week to reflect on Isaiah 55:8-9.  Let the Light shine in!

#GodNeverSaidThat

Brandon and I started attending a church here in town:  Grace Community.  In addition to coffee, fellowship, and worship music, we get to participate in the messages from Craig Groeschel through Life Church.  The last series of messages Pastor Craig shared had to do with how we misinterpret scripture.  We have a tendency to take things out of context and misconstrue them.  We twist the verses in order to make ourselves or others feel better.  Here are a few of the phrases we think God said that He never said at all:

1.  God wants you to be happy.

2.  God won’t give you more than you can handle.

3.  It doesn’t matter what you do.

4.  It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

So God really didn’t say these things???  It is true, these are half-truths from the enemy.  When we are not careful, it is very easy to fall into the enemy’s traps.  1 Peter 5:8-9 reminds us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 

So let’s break this down:

1.  The theology of Happiness:

  • Whatever makes me happy must be RIGHT.  Whatever makes me unhappy must be WRONG.
  • Discomfort, delay, risk, suffering, inconveniences, and obstacles can’t be God’s will.
  • Without knowing it, I begin to WORSHIP the false gods of comfort, money, pleasure, and things.

However, here is the TRUTH in God’s Word:  God does not want us happy…

  • When it causes us to do something wrong or unwise.
  • When it is only based on things of this world.

God calls us to holiness.  He does not call us into sin!  Happiness is not a necessity, as much as we would like it to be.  JOY and PEACE are fruits of the Spirit, but happiness is not even mentioned in that list of fruit!  Happiness is not a requirement for life.  What we do have is the fact that God wants us BLESSED.  We are blessed with His presence daily, in the dark and the bright moments of life.  In His presence, we can find the JOY and HOPE we need rather than the happiness we think we need.  Scripture references:  1 Peter 1:15, 1 John 2:15-17, Psalm 37:4, and Psalm 97:12

2.  What I have found about this half-truth is this:  God never gives us more than HE can handle.  Now a truth here is that God will never allow us to be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  However, life will at times seem like the thrashing waves in the most tempestuous storm over the ocean.  We may feel like we are drowning, and survival seems impossible.  We may feel crushed, but we are not defeated because Christ has won the battle and is victorious for us!  King David writes of this depression and crushing spirit in Psalm 38:4 and 8.  Jesus speaks of the burdens of life in Mark 14:33-34.  We are not immune from grief, depression, and despair.  It is in these darkest of moments that we DEPEND ON HIS PRESENCE and WE EXPERIENCE HIS POWER.  Check out these verses:  Jonah 2:2, 7; Psalm 145: 18; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Romans 8.

3.  It does matter what we do.  Yes, we can never earn our way into heaven.  Yes, we will sin.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  But choosing to sin when we know better can cause others to stumble and fall.  Our culture teaches these lies about sin:  A.  I am not a bad person.  B.  All sin is the same.  C.  Since I’ve already done it, I might as well keep doing it.

We all sin.  If we deny that, we are lying.  1 John 1:8 reveals that truth.  Romans 3:10 also demonstrates this.  All sin will lead to eternal death, but each sin provides us with different consequences and punishment in hell.  See Romans 6:23, Luke 20:47, John 19:11, and 1 Corinthians  6:18.  Now, since I have already “messed up,” should I keep messing up?  No!  Each day is an opportunity to try again.  Each day is an opportunity to let the Spirit move, to transform our minds.  Romans 6:1-2 reminds us that in Christ, we have died to sin!

God is faithful.  He does not want us to hinder others from finding Him, and our choices may include that as a consequence!

4.  It does matter what we believe!  Jesus himself tells us that He is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.  (John 14:6)  That’s the whole truth right there.  Narrow is the path to heaven, because we so do not want to live in such an exclusionary view!  The truth is, the only reason there is exclusion is because we first exclude Him.  When we turn to Him, He very mercifully and gracefully wraps us in His arms!  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.  No questions asked!  (James 4:8)

Watch Pastor Craig’s messages for yourself:  http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/god-never-said-that/

#GodNeverSaidThat

Fill in the blanks!

So my blogging hiatus is over!  So much has happened since my last post.  I now have two boys!  My 2-year old is an adventure!  Our latest gift will be three months on Saturday.

We are attending a new church here in town, and the messages are inspiring!  In fact, I have been thinking about a new blog post based on the latest series.  Stay tuned!

This past August, I started working as a T.A. at one of the high schools here in town.  I love it!  With two small children now, planning lessons is not something I can do, so this position is amazing!  I love the students we work with, and I love that I can come home and BE PRESENT with my family!

God has provided for our needs this past year.  I am so very thankful!

So stay tuned…next post coming soon!

Burn Bright–inspiration through the lyrics of Natalie Grant

You were made to shine
You were made for life
Even if you’ve lost your way
Turn and you will hear love say
You were made for more, so much more
Child of everlasting light
Made to blaze away the night
So baby burn bright
Burn bright

You can rise up from the ashes
Make something beautiful of all the broken pieces
And I’m believing you’ll come running
Into the arms of Jesus

These lyrics fell upon my ears in the perfect timing of God, as is His style!  As I interact with our youth (my son, my students, all of our children at church, and so many more), I see more and more how much hurt they carry!  So many of our young people are blinded to how precious they truly are!  They are broken by unrealistic expectations (even self-perceived expectations) of parents, family, friends and peers, and even our society as a whole.

How can we pour into this generation and those generations to come in a way that will break these lies the enemy feeds them?  We are so far from worthless that we are priceless!  Jesus showed us just how precious He views us when He chose to carry our sins and faults to the cross and into hell.  He showed us how much LOVE He has for each of us when He defeated death and broke the gates of hell!  He alone has paved the way to bring us into fellowship with the God of this universe!

It took me so long to learn and own that truth!  I claimed Jesus as my Savior when I was 12, but I was in my upper 20’s when I realized that I AM a creation of God!  That His works are WONDERFUL!  Therefore, since I am one of His works, He must view me as wonderful!  And you know what?  He views YOU as WONDERFUL as well!  When we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, we are clean from sin.  We are spotless and perfect in the eyes of God.  The filth of our sin is removed.  Jesus carried it away as far as the east is from the west!

Too often we try to earn affection and worth when in the kingdom of God, it is freely given!  We struggle so hard for something that is so simply attained through Faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Why?  The enemy blinds us to that truth. He whispers lies to us, just as he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden as she stared at the forbidden fruit.

So I pray for our youth.  May you see and experience God’s love for you, even through the pain and grief we find in this world.  May you know that you do not walk alone, and that we just simply turn to find our Savior by our side the whole time.

The Truth of God’s Word is so evident in this area!  James 4 shows us just how much we are battling against the lies, and just how close our God is to us in this battle.  We truly do not fight alone!

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:1-10)

So when we feel alone, lost, broken, and grieved, pray against the darkness!  Pick up God’s Armor (Ephesians 6:10-20).

And remember, in our darkest moments is when we are held, caught in God’s safety net, even when we don’t realize it until years later.

Journey…

…through life…through grief…through healing…

I have been reflecting on the journey through grief again.  It hits me every year!  Maybe this year especially, I am reflecting early because our second baby is due to be born in 6-7 weeks.  6 weeks from now is the anniversary date of my sister’s death.  Am I willing to share this momentously tragic day with one of the greatest joys of my life?  I don’t know if I am ready.

Thus I reflect on the journey through the land of grief.  Sometimes I feel like Grief’s borders gerrymander around the towns of Joy, Peace, Trust…you get the idea, right?  I can be in a place of Trusting my God, of being at Peace with where I am and how far I have come, and then BOOM!  Grief.  How did I end up back here??!!!?

Thankfully, it does not happen as frequently as it has in the past.  But the scars are real.  I know I have written before about the scars.  Not one of us is injury free, right?  Whether that injury is physical or emotional, we all have scars.  We all have experienced the annoyance of cuts and wounds as they heal.  They itch.  They get infected.  They eventually heal and fade, and yet the scar remains.  And then, years later, that scar is itchy, irritated, inflamed.  Why???  I thought this was healed!!!  We are reminded of that experience because of the irritation that is present.

The same is true for our emotional scars, especially those gained through grief.  We “feel” healed, those around us tell us we should be healed, and then the irritation/tears begin all over again.  Something as simple as a song, a memory, a phrase can trigger it.  Unless someone else has experienced this as well, others don’t seem to understand.  They get frustrated that we have entered back into the town of Grief.

Each time i find myself back there though, I learn and grow even more.  I don’t get lost on the streets like I used to.  The glow from Peace, Joy, and Trust do not fade like they did before.  So I can leave just as quickly as I came.  That is part of healing.  I am no longer stuck in Grief.  Yes, it sneaks up on me.  But it no longer owns me.  And in hindsight, it never did.  The journey of Grief, though unexpected many times, is an opportunity to reflect once the grips of Depression have been released.  When we find ourselves in Grief and can quickly walk back to the surrounding towns, that is when we know healing has taken place.  Yes, the triggers remain.  However, the intensity of that trigger does not have the power it once did.

Verses for reflection:  Psalm 401 Peter 5