Home, sometimes the most inviting place is the place you are most familiar with and that is where I find myself now. With Spring Break behind me I look back and I see it was a week set aside for me to encounter God and refocus my priorities. Each day was an adventure, a refreshing break from routine, in which God met me right where I was. I was empowered to be who I was made to be like never before and I bring that home with me. That made all the difference to me; because of that I was able to boldly be me and it led to a week of watching God move.
Now, the adventures don’t have to end. In fact new ones have started and I am determined to look for those opportunities to recognize and enjoy them like never before! If I have learned anything is that everyday can be an adventure with God if we are open to it! I believe this a part of that abundant life that Jesus came to bring us (see John 10:10). Let’s greet this day as a day that is full of God-appointed adventures, intentionally, letting Him have His way and watch the difference it makes.
I don’t know about you but I am a creature of habit and change it not an easy thing. Yet, it seems life is constantly changing around me, good, bad and indifferent change is afoot and at work. In most of the times that I have been confronted with change its always been terrifying. It was scary when I realized my inadequacies to save myself and so I gave my life to Christ; it was scary when I had to get my first job and pay bills; it was scary when I quit one job for another and even worse when I was fired from a job. Fear tags alongside change but what most people miss in times of change is faith because fear chokes out faith.
Thankfully, God is constant (Hebrews 13:8), unchanging and undaunted by the circumstances we face in life. Nothing takes Him off guard. When change comes in fear will try to creep in but when we allow God to invade the spaces of our life…faith will always arise. Faith that our God has a great plan, faith that He is ever faithful, faith that He will finish the work He has started in us! Change is not always bad but the enemy will do everything he can to get your perspective of change off of God and onto the mess. Too easily we forget that God is the expert on taking our mess and turning it into a message. God makes all things new…but only if we can give it to Him. Today I challenge you to do that: embrace the change and the newness that God has and as Jon Acuff says, “PUNCH FEAR IN THE FACE!”
It’s always good to be reminded of things that we so easily forget in day to day life. Today I got my reminder on the power of depression and how to combat it. If you are facing depression I can guarantee you being around “church folk” (religious) does not work. Often the “church folk” will offer a kind scripture and send you on your way. However, you and I can know Scriptures like “the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)” but unless we learn and intentionally tap into the truth of them they will remain as empty words.
The past couple of days have been rough for me, as soon as I have come home, I got attacked out of nowhere with a depression funk. It was the oddest thing as I was fine at work and even had some great days at work. Yesterday, I slept the day away thinking it was just being worn out from returning to the routine but then tonight was far more brazen. While I was reading and praying, I noticed my thought suddenly turned deeply negative. It was an onslaught of depression that put me in the dumps for no reason at all.
I had the wisdom to text a good friend who then called me and prayed for me. Before we ended the brief call he told me God put in in his heart to tell me to put on praise music (not worship) and to dance before the Lord. Gotta love a timely word of knowledge to bring life to your situation! No sooner had I made a quick playlist on my iPhone and started dancing a fool the depression was gone and I celebrated in who God is! Depression can not inhabit the same place as praise; it’s like telling a sword and a ballon to share the same space. That ballon will pop as soon as the sword moves in place…depression in praise is much the same way.
It was this no hold crazy praise dancing that invited an awareness of who God is and who He is to be that forced any remnant of depression to flee. Joy is constant because it is not based on circumstances while happiness is flexible depending entirely on our circumstances. Praising, not worshipping, invites nothing but joy, that exists no matter the circumstances of life so next time you feel a bit low turn up some songs that praise Jesus and dance. You will quickly discover that the joy of the Lord truly is your strength.
Nothing can compare to the joy and celebration that this season of Easter brings! It’s amazing to be collectively reminded of the Resurrection while introducing many more to this life-changing event. Although we see people come to this truth all the time across the globe, sometimes we take this scandal of grace for granted. The truth of the matter is that it defines the heart of the Father God towards us and declares the way for us to personally know God is wide open.
Join with us as we remember the Lord’s death and celebrate His resurrection, the very defeat of death and the grave. It is by this glorious scandal that we can have the abundant life that God has for us to live with Him!
However, as we will celebrate over the next few days, wherever you are across the world, I encourage you to prayerful invite those around you (neighbors, coworkers & family members) to come to church with you. Studies show 80% of first time guests come to church simply because someone invited them. People who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to come twice a year, Easter and Christmas, so let’s not miss this opportunity to share what we have been so richly given!
Recently, a good friend posted this video on her Facebook page and it messed me up in a good way. Please take 10 minutes out of your day and listen to this snipet from Pastor Judah Smith be reminded of Barabbas.
As we have entered Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for Christians I often ask myself what would I have done if I was one of the 12 disciples? “The Bible” miniseries has been provoking the thought even more in me. We all would like to think that we would be like Peter, giving the sermon on the day of Pentecost, but few ever say we are more like Simon denying Christ. Pastor Quinton really pointed out the big difference between Simon/Peter in a recent sermon that you really should hear.
Honestly, as much as I would like to say I would be a Peter, a rock of faith, I believe I would’ve been the one to betray our Lord. If I was a disciple I would’ve been Judas. This isn’t a self-loathing thing, to appear more righteous, but it’s honestly after much thought how I feel. I pity Judas, he reminds me of how I was and at times I still am: insecure, fearful, weak and selfish etc. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, because he was all these things but I am no fool to think that I am better than he. In fact, on my own, I am worse than Judas ever was. That is the ugly side of this flesh we all live in.
I pity Judas, he lived life with Jesus for at least 3 years of ministry and saw the redemptive work of God first hand and yet betrayed it all for nothing. I believe it was because he never thought Jesus was doing everything for him; it was all for him. Personally, I believe he never truly believed God loved him for who he really was. Jesus came so that we all could know Him and in turn know the Father but I don’t believe Judas ever grasped this for himself. It’s one thing to see the truth (see miracles, prophecies), to know the truth (go to church, be religious), but its altogether different when you experience the power of truth for what it is (John 17:3). Had he grasped the truth of God’s love for him I believe he could’ve resisted the temptation of the 30 pieces of silver but either way God’s plan had to be carried out. Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, no changing the plan set in motion…had it not been Judas’ betrayal for the money it would’ve happened another way.
Now Jesus didn’t die just to hit the restart button on the tally of our sins. His purpose was so that we may know life with the Father just as He did! The wall between God and man…our sins…were wiped out because the perfect sacrifice, the lamb of God, “who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21).” Because of Jesus, we have been purchased at a great price (His life), we are redeemed and we are His. This reminds me, the great story of God’s grace, that Jesus came for the Judas in me…and His love far exceeds my faults/failures. Judas didn’t know His love but I am experiencing it and His love has changed and continues to change me.
Today, the world entered a time of waiting as the 1 billion Catholics and countless other spectators across the globe await to see who will elected to be the next Pope. This is done as 115 cardinals from 46 nations came together in the Vatican City in Rome, sequestered to the Sistine Chapel in complete secrecy. While it is no secret that I am not a Catholic, I admire the historical aspect and contributions of the Catholic Church. I am praying that God would guide the cardinals to elect a Pope who would bring life back to catholicism as a whole and point people to Jesus first and foremost rather than the dead traditions of man. It most likely will not happen but you never know…what if it did? Never limit God in your prayers…live in faith in every area and watch what happens!
Much of the Conclave in the Vatican is a centuries old process done completely in secrecy, that is the reason why many have a deep fascination for it. What hit me today is that many people think God is like this today…that everything is planned and done in secret. We often act like only He knows or can know the plan He has for us or what’s coming ahead. While that is partially true…God does know it all…every day of our lives were written in His book before they were started (Psalm 139:16). He is not one to keep everything in secret.
Our God is not a conclave God…He doesn’t meet in secret with just a select few. On the contrary, He loves to share His heart with us! This is primarily done through the Bible, which is His love letter to us; it reveals Jesus who is the Word (John 1:1-14a). The more and more I read His Word I am amazed at just how much He has given us in His Word and then on top of that, all that the Spirit reveals. He has given the Spirit to us to help guide us through this life (John 16:13) and He cares about the minute details of our lives (see Luke 12:6-7)!
Due to this, we can not say we have a God who is unknown or completely secretive. We have been given the Holy Spirit, & the Word (in written and physical form) God has revealed Himself and entrusted Himself to us! It’s now up to us to decide how well we get to know Him by spending time with Him. I thank God that He is not a mystery to us but someone to draw close to, to love and be loved! The door is wide open for us!
Recently, a friend of mine had invited a co-worker to check out our church. He was curious where the building was and came out Saturday night during our weekly time of prayer. Then what started as a good impression quickly turned sour when religion took over the love & grace we are called to walk in. A gentleman came up to my friend and the visitor who were in the back of the sanctuary towards the end of prayer talking about all that God was up to at the church telling them they needed to be quiet or that he was going to call the deputy to see them out. They stepped back into the foyer area where the same gentleman followed them out to finish stating his peace. What a great first impression this made of not only our church but our God!
I can’t help but be stunned at this encounter and I got mad…had I been the guest you would not have seen me again. Having watched this gone down I couldn’t help but wonder at what point does religion take over our memory of the grace that has been shown to us?
If we are not careful religion will rob us of the grace that God has shown us. Jesus showed this in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. This is what happens when we loose sight of the grace that has been shown to us from God. We must never forget that nothing is gained by obeying traditions/customs/works but it’s all by grace (Ephesians 2:4-9) that we live this blessed life God has given us!
With this being true, should we not show the same grace that has been shown to us? Will we be the unforgiving servant, one who has been forgiven much but refuses to show the same towards others? How much more should we show this grace towards those who are looking for God or more of Him? Will you let religion or grace be the rule of thumb in your life? Let’s be people who live in the grace that God has shown us and showing that to others! Are you with me
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been settling into a new job that really has been a testament to God’s faithfulness. It amazes me just how faithful He is to us, but especially when you discover it for yourself. I can’t escape His love for me, neither can you.
The awesome thing is I’m discovering first hand when you capture the realization of just how much He loves you it changes you like nothing else can. In this time of discovering this deeper depth to God I can’t help but to be astounded and speechless. For those who know me, the latter is much harder to come by.
It’s refreshing to simply say (with new meaning): I am loved.
Loved by God, not judged, criticized, reprimanded, or rejected. LOVED.
My prayer for you is that you will collide with the love that God has for you in a fresh and new way. Then watch Him change everything for you! You are Loved!
Romans 8:37-39, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
While in prayer the other day the Lord made a startling statement that has not left me. In fact through what I have seen lately it is all proving this word to be true! The Lord spoke simply saying, “While 2013 is going to be a year of tremendous revelation and blessing within My Body [the Church] it will be a season of making clear the distinction between the world and the Church. True Believers will walk in my favor and power and those who I do not know will be powerless against the lures and advances of the enemy. The line is drawn NOW.”
Now I am not here to strike up debate or anything else then to pass this amazing truth on to you. If you walk with the Lord, are led by the Spirit, then you will most likely get excited about this. If you find that fear is gripping you then I encourage you to go spend some time in the Secret Place (Matthew 6:6). The fact that the distinction where many Christians, especially in America, has been faded and blurred on the claim of relevance is being restored is joyous news. We were never told to be relevant to the culture around us…we are told that that we are “not of this world” (see John 15:18-20, 1 John 2:3-6, 15-17) Our culture should one of the Kingdom of God, if we are citizens of the Kingdom, not of the culture around us that blindly ignores God and anything with Him.
To clarify: Relevance is defined in my eyes as churches that ignore the Spirit for the approval of man because of the fear of man! For example, when I speak of relevance I talk of churches that will never give an altar call because it confronts people in their sin, churches that never press in in worship to let God have His way in the place to heal the broken, set free the captive but only says no we have 20 minutes of worship then the pastor…etc. No longer can/should the church use “relevance” as an excuse. Relevance is the devil’s greatest tool in the Church today; relevance communicates that what we have is not as good as what’s in the world when we are carriers of the Holy Spirit of God (see Ezekiel 36:26-27, 1 Corinthians 3:16)!
It’s time we let God restore the fear of God for then we will see His goodness for what it really is! For Scripture tells us, ”that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4).” He is drawing the line…on what side will you stand?