Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Secret to Being Brave

There are five words that I believe will revolutionize your life and mine if they become an indwelling truth anchoring deep into our heart.

The Lord is with you.

This is a truth Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew when against all reason and logic, she was told she was pregnant with the Son of God.  She was a teenager.  She wasn’t married.  She lived in a society where her outward circumstances would have caused a scandal, shunning, and possibly even death by stoning.  Yet, she was brave.  How?  How does a teenage girl face such adversity?  How was she brave? 

“The angel went to her [Mary] and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.’” Luke 1:28

Throughout the Bible we find these words.  They are spoken by prophets, angels, and even the Lord Himself to encourage His people to fulfill His plan and purpose in their lives. 

“Nathan replied to the king, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.’”  2 Samuel 7:3

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’” Judges 6:12

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” Joshua 1:5-6

If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31). 

Is there something the Lord is asking you to do that scares the begeebies out of you? Perhaps it is to step out into His calling this year.  Or go deeper in healing.  Or confront that person in love whom you have been avoiding. Or reach out to the neighbor down the street. 

Each one of our assignments looks different.  Seek the Lord and ask Him what He would have you do.  If it scares you, it is probably the Lord.  When you step out when afraid the most amazing thing happens, fear loses and courage wins.

The Lord is with you.  He won’t leave you nor forsake you.  He will be right there with you.  Knowing this truth is the secret to being brave.  I need this truth.  Let’s pray for this truth to soak into our souls and become solidified in the center of our core identity.

Father, thank you that You make us brave.  Lord, thank you for Your truth that You never leave us nor forsake us.  Lord, help us grasp a knowing that You are with us, that You are for us. And in that knowing, may we step out courageously into the great unknown and into our calling, to fulfill Your plan and purpose.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  






















Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stepping Out

"His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of Passover.  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem.  And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So, when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they say Him, they were amazed; and his mother said to Him, 'Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously.' And He said to them, 'Why did you seek Me? 

Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?

But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them."  Luke 2:41-49 (emphasis added) 

These seven little words, "I must be about my Father's business." have been ringing in my ear ever since we toasted in the New Year.

The time is getting shorter and daily we edge closer to the day of Christ's return.  It is not a time for slumber or complacency.  It is a time to get busy, but not just busy doing anything...it is time to be about our Father's business.

The Lord usually gives me a word for the New Year.  (If you haven't asked Him for a word, I greatly encourage it!)  The word I felt the Lord gave me was "Step Out".

The end of last year was a time of stepping back.  It was a time for the Lord to have me step back so He could do some work in my heart He needed to accomplish.

As the new year began, I felt like the time of stepping back was ending and a new season of stepping out was beginning.

When I read this story in Luke about Jesus staying in the temple to be about His Father's business, I'm reminded that in order for Jesus to be about His Father's business, He had to step out.  He had to step away from the crowd.  He couldn't just follow where everyone else was going.  He had to stop... step... and stay.

First, He had to stop.  He had to stop following the crowd.

Second, He had to step.  He had to step out of the crowd in faith.

Thirdly, He had to stay. The scriptures say, "Jesus lingered".  The Greek word for "lingered" is hypomeno and it means "to remain".

Jesus lingered.  Jesus remained.  He stayed.

To "be about my Father's business" is to remain, or stay with the Father. Sitting with Him, listening and learning.  He listened and learned in order to prepare Himself for the divine work He was put here to do.

All three of these components are needed to follow God's business.

Stop. Step. Stay.

2016 is the time to be about our Father's business.

That might mean some changes for you this year.  It might mean giving up some things that distract from God's best.  It could mean changing where you go, stopping an old habit, or stepping out in faith and saying yes to something that scares you but you know it is the Lord.

If we continue along the path with the crowd, we will miss the assignment the Lord has designed specifically for us to do.

If you want 2016 to be the year you stop, step and stay to be about your Father's business, will you pray with me...

Dear Lord, we want to step out into everything you have for us.  We want to be about Your Kingdom business Lord.  Father, we ask for you to show us where we need to stop, if there is something specific we need to stop.  We ask you to show us where to step and lead us and guide us as we step out into the unknown with You.  And Lord, we want to remain with you. We want to stay tightly with you learning and listening and growing in You.  We know the stopping and stepping means nothing if we aren't staying with You.  Lord, we only want your Kingdom to advance, increase, and multiply. Oh Lord, let us be about Your business.  In Jesus' Name, Amen. 



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lord, Why Don't You Fix This?


We have entered into a new year.  For some, there are high expectations and hope for what is coming in 2016.  For others, there is a lingering issue from 2015 still hanging like a thread that keeps unraveling a beautifully constructed tapestry.  If only the thread could be cut and the tapestry remain intact. 

Perhaps it is marriage that is teetering on divorce.  Or a health issue of a loved one. It could be a child that has wondered and lost his way.  There are daily news reports of catastrophes around the world. There is so much darkness.   You have prayed and yet the tapestry still is unraveling and you question…

“Lord, why?  Why don’t you fix this?!”

This past summer, I was discussing an ongoing issue I was having with a dear friend.  She encouraged me to change my question, to stop asking “Why?” and ask “What?”. 

Lord, What are You doing in this?

It is ok to ask the Lord questions.  It is ok to question. 

Tucked away in the Old Testament, we find the book Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was a prophet who saw his world around him crumbling.  Not only did he pray, he asked the Lord questions. And He was “real” with the Lord.  When he was afraid, he told God.  When he was mad, he told God.  What he didn’t understand, he told the Lord and questioned Him. 

I want you to know it is ok to be afraid.  It is ok to be mad.  It is ok to question and not understand.  God already knows.  Tell him.  He won’t get mad.  He wants you to tell Him these things and talk to Him.  You don't have to pray a certain way to be heard. 

 And He wants to answer you. 

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and You will not hear? Or cry out to You of violence and You will not save? Why do You show me iniquity and wrong, and Yourself look upon or cause me to see perverseness and trouble?  For destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention arises.”  Hab 2:2-3

Perhaps you have wondered the same as Habakkuk.  O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and You will not hear?  Or cry out to You and You will not save? 

The Lord answered his question.  He answered with a "what" answer. 

“Look around [you, Habakkuk, replied the Lord] among the nations and see!  And be astonished! Astounded! For I am putting into effect a work in your days [such] that you would not believe it if it were told you. “  Hab 2:5

What then Lord revealed about the impending judgement of Israel is difficult to hear but Habakkuk understood that God’s ways are always good and just even in the middle of calamity. 

Then the Lord encouraged Habakkuk:

“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time; it will not deceive or disappoint.  Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. “ Hab 2:2-3

From Habakkuk, we can learn that when all hope seems lost, that God has a bigger plan than we can see and it is for good.  There is encouragement.  There is a Light.  God longs for his people’s hearts to be turned towards Him.  He knows lasting joy and peace only comes from being in right relationship with Him.
  
There are plans in progress we cannot understand.  God sees the big picture.  What I want to be clear about is that the Israelites had brought this judgement on themselves after MUCH mercy and grace from God.  I don’t believe the Lord brings disaster into our lives to “teach us something”.  We do have a very real enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy.  And the Lord and he are NOT partners. 
Because of these variables, it is even more so important to ask the Lord “what” is going on here when we are faced with things we don’t understand. If it is the enemy, then our mission will be to engage in spiritual battle through prayer. But we need to ask.  
 
The good news here is that after we ask, He will answer

Although you may have been walking through this thing for a while, I believe the Lord will astound you as you see that He is working out a plan you would not believe if it were told to you! 

Write your vision.  What vision [outcome] has the Lord given you in your heart?  Write out the promise and daily read it, pray it.  And go on in faith knowing that it will come at God’s perfect time. It will not deceive or disappoint.  God doesn’t lie.  God says it will “SURELY” come at the appointed time and it will not be late!

God is already at work and I believe you will be astounded.      






Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Gift of Opportunity

"But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing."  James 1:4

Many of you may have seen the movie War Room that was released in theaters this summer.  It is now out on DVD and Blue-Ray.  This movie was more than a theatric performance, it was a gift wrapped in truth.  Since this movie, I have been more intentional on writing out prayers based on scriptures to address specific needs and concerns regarding myself and others.

Before I share more, I want to clarify that my marriage is good and my husband is incredible.  I love him dearly.  At the time the movie came out, I was struggling with insecurity and perceiving my husband's words in ways he didn't intend.  I was constantly anxious, afraid he would reject me.  These fears were based solely on insecurity and lies from the enemy and not based in truth or reality in any way. A friend suggested I begin praying 1 Corinthians 13.

In my struggling, I decided to write a prayer, like suggested in War Room, that I will share with you today in hopes that it might help someone else.

Lord, may I be patient and kind, not envious, that I would not boast, nor be proud or rude.  I pray I would not dishonor others, seek my own and would not easily get angry.  I pray I would not only seek out my own interests, but also the interests the others.  I pray I would not keep a record of wrongs, not delight in evil but rejoice in truth.  I pray I would protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere knowing your love never fails (1 Cor 13).  Lord, I pray I would joyfully submit to my husband.  I pray Chris would always love me as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her.  Lord, help me respect Chris at all times and communicate my respect for him effectively (Ephesians 5:25,33).  I pray our marriage would be rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17).  That our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so we can discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Phil 1:9-10).  Father, I pray we would love each other deeply and that love would cover a multitude of sins.  I pray we would love one another with 1 Cor 13 love, your love.  I pray we would remain in your love (John 15:9) and I pray Chris and I would not love the world or anything in the world (1John 2:15).  Help us honor one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10).  We pray for our love to increase and overflow for each other.  May our home be full of your grace, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In Jesus' Name, Amen.  

What happened as a result of this prayer?  Have you seen the movie Evan Almighty? It is no War Room and perhaps theologically off a bit, but still had a good message and one line perfectly illustrates my point:

"Let me ask you something.  If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?  If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?  If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?" 

The Lord answered my prayer above by giving me the gift of opportunity.  My husband ended up partially tearing his Achilles tendon.  Did the Lord cause that?  I don't believe so.   Did the Lord use it?  Yes.

Suddenly I was in a place were I had to put my husband's needs before my own.  I had to look out for his interests above my own.  I had to serve my husband in new ways such as driving him to appointments and doing the daily things he normally would have done independently.  I was given the opportunity to convey my love for him in new ways.  I was given opportunity to lay down my life for his.  It wasn't the way I expected the Lord to answer my prayer.  Did the Lord answer my prayer?  Absolutely.  Our marriage is better than ever.  Our love is greater than before.

People will warn you not to pray for patience.  My dear friends, pray for patience and all the other good things of the Lord.  He is faithful and gentle.  The results may not come in a nicely decorated package, but the gift of opportunity will be worth any effort needed to unwrap the beauty inside (that is inside of you).  


Merry Christmas!  May the Joy of Jesus fill you this Christmas season!

With Love,


 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Season of Misses

Logging into my blog just now, I couldn't help but notice the date of October 23rd being the last post written.  Sweet friends, that is too long to go without saying hello.  My deepest apologies.  

This post has been stirring in my heart for a month or so.  A Season of Misses.  

And now it is the Christmas season, and I believe under all the decking of halls and silver bells, our hearts are ringing with: 


"Lord, don't let me miss this.  Don't let me miss You this season.


Business is a word that would have defined my life a few months ago. That is until the Lord gave me a "season of misses."  Below are a few things scheduled until the Lord changed all my plans.  These are some of my "misses":

A weekend away at a women's conference.  Spending sweet time with dear friends at the conference. A weekend away ministering at the Deeper Still Ministry retreat.  A weekend women's conference in my home city.  Going to my aunt's funeral,  Speaking at a women's event.  Going to visit my family in Illinois.  Hearing a good friend speak at a women's conference.  Going to the mom's group at my church.  Going with my family to visit dear friends who moved away.  

This list is just some of the "misses" in the past two months.  I am sure I cannot remember all of them.   Why did I miss them?  Life.  A husband with a torn Achilles and sickness in our family the whole month of October.   

At first my heart was heavy with misses.  But Lord, I really wanted to go to that ministry event.  But Lord, I love Deeper Still.  But Lord, I really miss my family.  But Lord. I really wanted to go to my aunt's funeral.  And hear my friend speak, and spend time with the ladies at church.  But Lord...

Then, my perspective changed.  Perhaps my misses were not misses at all but rather the Lord redirecting my call.  

Sue, where is your heart?  Do you hold up any of these as idols in place of Me?  Let's take a pause and step back so you can realign yourself with my best for you.  

"Look here, you people who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there for a year.  We will do business there and make a profit.'  How do you know what will happen tomorrow?  For your life is like a morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone.  What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'  Otherwise, you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil."  James 4:13-16

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and he will direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

This season of misses turned out to be one of the best things that has happened for me.  He has been teaching me to pause, to ask for His direction and turn my eyes towards Him.  

This Christmas season, I pray we will set aside time to reflect on and cherish the true Gift of this season.  All the tinsel and parties and holiday events are fun, but too much business will cause this season to pass and we'll miss the One thing we need the most.  Let's not miss the Person for the sake of celebration.  Fully embracing Him and His glory is worth any misses.  I'll gladly miss if it means gaining Christ.    



Friday, October 23, 2015

The Skin of Jesus

"'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.  And the second one, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29

In a conversation with a friend recently, she shared a profound statement someone advanced in years had relayed to her.  It was simple.  It was pure.

"I have found that only two things really matter.  That we love Jesus and that we take care of each other." 

The statement stuck.  It basically is the two commandments summarized.

Yet, in church,in life, we have so many programs and busyness grasping for our time that often these two things, the most important things according to Jesus, get pushed aside unintentionally.

Our busyness feeds ourselves until literally "our plates are full", as we so often say.  What we have left to give our neighbors is quite often crumbs to nothing at all.

I'm not here to point fingers.  I am guilty as well.

This past week, however, the Lord has been showing me the importance in this commandment.  The importance of this action.

I have been very sick.  Finally, at midweek, I was rightly diagnosed with pneumonia and possibly mono and placed on stronger antiobiotics.  I am just now beginning to feel slightly normal, but still coughing and weak.  While sick, the importance and truth of the statement above hit home.

Very often, people need not only the words of Jesus, but also the skin of Jesus.  Jesus cared for people.  Jesus stopped.  Jesus interrupted His plans to help.  Jesus loved.  Jesus loves.

In the body of Christ, we often talk about what part of the "body" we are.  Are we a mouth that speaks truth with boldness and proclaims the gospel?  Are we a foot that goes to spread the ministry of the gospel across lands?  Are we a hand that serves in the local church or at a local ministry? All of these are good and needed.  All parts are needed  (1 Cor 12:14-26).  And all the parts should care for the other parts as it says in 1 Cor 12:25-26.  No matter what our callings or giftings are, we are all called to be the skin of Jesus.

Being the skin of Jesus is acting, is going and loving and showing care to one another. It is my prayer for the Lord to help me do this, this very important commandment well.

The first step might be to get our plates not nearly as full so we have more than crumbs to give to our neighbors.  Just a thought.  For you, loving your neighbor might begin with being more present with your own family or it might mean literally getting to know a neighbor.  It could mean reaching out to a friend and seeing how they are doing (not on the surface, but really how they're doing.)

For me, I know it means being more intentional about listening to what people are going through and sincerely seeking how I can help.  Brining a meal can speaks volumes of love to someone hurting or sick.  Texting a friend to say, "I love you and I'm praying for you" can be a powerful testimony of Christ's love.  We just need each other.  My friend's friend rephrased the two commandments so simply...

"I have found that only two things really matter.  That we love Jesus and that we take care of each other." 

This really sums up all that matters.  How can you be the skin of Jesus to someone today?

Dear Lord, I want to follow you.  Lord, help me love you with all my heart, soul and mind and then help me truly and sincerely love my neighbor as myself.  Lord, forgive me for being selfish and filling my plate to the point of having no more room left to give to those in need.  Father, help me love others well.  Help me be the Your skin to someone today.   In Jesus' Name, Amen.





Friday, October 9, 2015

A Closer Look at Our Fear


"He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in Him." Daniel 2:22

My son nervously asked me to come into his room.  He hesitantly directed me to look at his window and asked, "Mom, do you see those two lights through the window that look like eyes?"  Immediately I saw what he was referring to and went over to the window.

One thing I have found through the years is to dispel a fear, you have to face it.

Admittedly, the two lights did appear a little freaky.  However, upon a closer examination, I discovered the source of the illuminated illusion.  Somehow the reflection off a shiny black object in his room had hit the window at just the right angle to appear to be two eyes on the other side.

Many of the fears we hold are similar to that of my ten year old son. His fear was only an illusion of something real.  His fear was not based on truth, but rather a lie held in his mind.  There were no eyes in the window, but rather just a reflection.

There are fears we hold which have no physical substance but rather are merely a reflection of a lie we have held onto from something in our past.

Busyness or being too fearful of what we might find by taking a closer look into the window of our souls may keep us from the window. Instead we just pull down the shades and pretend we have no fear of what is on the other side.   Whatever the reason for our lack of pursuit of extinguishing our fear, we are walking around in bondage as a result.

Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at our fears.

What I am starting to discover is that if we will just take a closer look into the dark window, we will find the root of the issue.  We can uncover the truth of what lies in the dark and bring it into the light of God's Word.  When fear is brought into the light of God's Word, His truth will shatter the darkness and fear will lose its hold.

My son is no longer afraid of his window or what is outside in the dark.  Just as I led my son to take a closer look into the darkness to dispel his fear, I want to encourage you today to ask the Lord to reveal the hidden things in the dark that are causing you fear.  Ask Him to show you what lies you are believing and seek His truth.  Fear will disappear in the light of His truth.

Revelant Scriptures:

Isaiah 41:10  "Fear not, for I am with you;  Be not dismayed, for I am your god.  I will strengthen you.  Yes, I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  


 
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