I am a sentimental person. I cherish memories from years gone by. I look back at pictures of my children when they were just tiny babies, and I’m usually smiling and biting back tears at the same time. How did they grow up so fast? Where did the time go? It breaks my heart to know that I will never hold them in my arms as infants or toddlers again, but I smile because of the beautiful young women they have become today. It’s definitely bittersweet.
Many of us reflect on days gone by with warm hearts longing for sweet family members who have since passed on. We look back longingly on days from our youth when we felt like we could take on the world, and our only care in the world was how high we could swing before the swing set legs began to lift off the ground. There are many reasons to look back at sweet memories, and cherish those precious moments.
But, there are some things that just need to be left in the past. If we spend too much time in the past, it can not only be discouraging, but it can hinder our future. That’s especially true when it comes to our spiritual lives. I can look back at times when I wasn’t a Christian, and if I dwell on those mistakes from my past, I can start to re-live the guilt and shame. If I spend too much time looking back, I can be so consumed with the past that I fail to see what God is trying to do with my future.
I think we can all be hindered to an extent if we are not willing to plunge forward without looking back. I don’t enjoy sharing many parts of my testimony because I despise the sins of my past. But, I choose to share the story because it demonstrates God’s mercy and grace in my life, and what He can do in the lives of others. I certainly don’t look back longingly to my past life and all my failures. I choose to look ahead to all the adventures with Christ I have not yet experienced.
There are examples in the Bible about not looking back. If we look at Genesis 19, we can see a very specific case where looking back rendered a disastrous outcome. When the angels of the Lord came to rescue Lot and his family from the destruction that would soon come upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of God's punishment for their sin; the angels told Lot and his family to not look back.
Genesis 19:15-17 & 26 NIV
5 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
When I first studied this passage, I began to think about what a harsh punishment that would be for just looking back at a city. I would hate to be turned into a pillar of salt! But, as I continued to study the passage I realized, first of all, Lot’s wife disobeyed. She was told not to look back, but she did so willingly. I still don’t believe God’s punishment was based entirely upon her just looking back at the city, but I feel that it was the way she looked back. I think she must have looked back longingly at the city.
Though we know that Sodom and Gomorrah was overcome with sin and evil, I wonder if Lot’s wife looked back thinking of the home where she raised her children? Or, maybe she longed for the comfort of being in a place where she was comfortable and familiar with everyone around her. Leaving would mean starting all over in a brand new area, building a new home, and making new friends and new memories. I’m sure she didn’t long for the sin of the city, but she had grown comfortable there.
Ouch! This is where it starts to hit home. Do we find ourselves looking back at our old sinful lifestyles because of what we hate to leave behind? Do we hate to leave behind friends who are bad influences in our lives? Do we hate to leave the comfort of the familiar? When we come to Christ and surrender our lives to Him, the old man is gone. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says we become a brand new creation. If we put the brand new, clean creation back into the same old sinful environment we will continue to be comfortable with sin.
If we are going to move into the future God has for us, we have to take hold of His hand and follow His leading. Don’t look back at what the enemy would tell you, you are missing out on. If the enemy of our souls can get us to look longingly back to our sinful past, or sinful influences from our past, he has accomplished his goal. He wants us to miss all that God has for us. He wants us to become immobile like Lot’s wife. We are as useless as a pillar of salt if we are stuck in the past.
If we continue to look back, we will never realize the power and anointing God has for us in our present or future. There’s nothing in my past I would ever trade for what God has given me, or done in me. Nothing can compare to all the wonderful things He has done and is doing. God has so much more to offer you than this world could ever give. Joy, lasting peace, and eternal life with Jesus is worth more than anything your past could ever offer you. Press forward, and leave your past behind. You don't belong there anymore. You are a new creation, and God wants to use you in miraculous ways. Don't Look Back!
When I was attending the Christian Book Association Conference in Nashville a few weeks ago, I had an experience that inspired the direction for this blog. The conference was held in the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It was quite crowded on the main conference floors, but up in the media areas of the hotel, it was pretty quiet. In fact, it seemed that I was the only one there!
I was scheduled for an interview with Donna Feyen from “More Than A Review.” I was a little early, so I was taking my time and walking at a leisurely pace. I happened to notice a man softly playing the grand piano at the far end of the media mezzanine. As I got closer I decided to pause and listen for a little while. He played so beautifully, and I kept my distance not wanting to disturb him in this private moment. I just soaked it all in, and quietly prayed for God to be with me, and help me during my interview.
After a few moments, I continued on to the room where my interview was to be held. Donna Feyen was amazing, and it was a really fun interview. When it was over and I came back through the area, the man was no longer playing the piano. I really never gave him a second thought. Until…
Later that night, I was looking through the conference magazine, and I noticed that Michael W. Smith was also attending the conference. He was there to do a book signing for his new book. Suddenly the lights went on! I was standing on that mezzanine listening to Michael W. Smith playing the piano! How could I not have known it was him? Why didn’t I recognize him? Maybe I should have paid more attention. My mind was just not open to the possibility that it could be Michael W. Smith!
Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting to see him there. It wasn’t a normal every day occurrence to just walk up on Michael W. Smith playing the piano. Since I wasn’t looking for him, and didn’t expect him to be there, it was as if he was out of context to me in that moment. I’m sure you have experiences of your own where you may have overlooked someone, or something because it just didn’t seem to fit the situation. We all do it.
As I reflected on this impromptu secret concert, it made me think of other things we tend to take out of context. One in particular is God’s Holy Word—The Bible. Maybe you have seen people who pick and choose a verse here, or a verse there and use it in the wrong context. They might pick a sentence here or there, and make it fit their own view, even though their view is wrong.
Context is the key to good Biblical interpretation. Sometimes it helps to think of the Bible as a series of letters written between different people that we are to read and learn from. This is especially the case when we are reading the Epistles—or letters—of the New Testament. Rather than being addressed to us, the readers, individually, each letter has an intended audience, and a certain cultural, temporal, and geographical context in which it is set.
For instance, let’s look at a verse that is so often taken out of context. Paul wrote to Timothy: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent" (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
If we look at the whole picture including who the letter was intended for, the cultural norms at the time of writing, and the geographical context (the church of Ephesus) we can see this was not meant to apply to every instance of women in ministry. Paul encourages the women to learn. This was not common in the traditional Jewish culture. In fact women were very restricted in religious education.
So, why would Paul have women to study and learn at all, if he never intended for them to teach? Paul commends women for their leadership in house churches, so he is not making a contradictory blanket statement here about women teaching or leading in the churches. Instead, he is addressing the issue of certain women who were being disruptive and domineering in the worship services at Ephesus.
In Romans 16:1–6, Paul sends greetings to many friends and fellow workers in the faith. He mentions many women who have been involved in leadership and service to his apostolic work, including Junia, who is listed as an apostle. In Philippians 4:2–3, Paul references two women who have contended by his side for the cause of the gospel, an obvious testament to their work and leadership within the church.
These Scriptures attest to the fact that 1 Timothy 2:9–15 should not be interpreted as a universal rule for all women to be silent in the church nor does it imply that women should be exempt from teaching or having authority. This interpretation would be in direct conflict with the close context of 1 and 2 Timothy, as well as other writings of Paul, and the testimony about women in leadership in the early church in the book of Acts.
There are many other instances, and Scriptures I could share that are commonly taken out of context. It’s important to study the Word of God. We have to go all in, and see who the passages are speaking to, the cultural norms and customs of the time period, and the geographical context. It's as simple as who, when, and where.
It’s so easy to take things out of context, if we don’t pay attention. Study God’s Word, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. He will do it.
2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
How would you rate yourself as a listener? I admit, when I have a lot going on—like I have lately—I find myself going a little A.D.D., and seem to have trouble listening. It seems my brain just overloads from time to time, and I simply lose my focus. Anyone else, or is it just me?
It’s not always easy to be a good listener. I can think of a few lectures I’ve had to sit through when I thought I might fall asleep if I had to listen for another fifteen minutes! Listening is just hard sometimes.
But, when God starts talking we must do our best to listen. It can certainly save us a lot of trouble if we do. This past week as I was going to do my weekly jail ministry I was praying and asking God what He wanted to do in the service. I seemed to get no reply. I tried so hard to be still and just listen. I still didn’t hear anything—not even a whisper!
The ladies came into the room with me, and we briefly talked about what had happened since the meeting last week. I opened with prayer, and we all stood to sing a few worship songs. As we were worshipping, I was still praying and asking God which direction He wanted me to go in?
Finally, He gently whispered, “I haven’t given you anything because I want you to ask Anna (not her real name) to speak today.” Anna is one of my sweet ladies in the jail. She has been saved, baptized with the Holy Spirit, and is on FIRE for God. I’m blessed every time I see her with hands raised worshipping God, and tears rolling down her face.
I asked God, “Are You sure You want me to ask her?” In His sweet gentle way, He assured me. After we finished singing, we all sat down at the table. I looked at the ladies and said, “Well, things are going to go a little differently today.” They looked at me with puzzled faces. I continued, “Things are going to be different because Anna is going to bring the message today.”
Of course Anna looked at me like I had lost my mind at first, but then she quickly said, “Ok, I can do that!” I told her to come and sit at the front, so she could minister to us, and she did. I was totally unprepared for what was about to happen in the next few moments.
Anna had us to turn in our Bibles to Ruth, and she began to share with us about the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. Then she began to share her testimony with us, and how she had always been afraid to let others get too close to her, because they always left. As she continued to share the importance of sisterhood, and how we as women all need each other, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
I think we were all in tears as she poured out her heart, and spoke to us with such beautiful transparency about the friends, and others who had abandoned her in her life. My heart broke for her. Then she began to share how she knew beyond a doubt that God had brought her into the jail at this very time because of the close friendships she had made with all of us, and how our relationships with Christ have bound us all together as friends, and sisters. She told us she was no longer afraid to let others get close to her, because God had delivered her from the fear of abandonment.
She did an excellent job, even though she was certainly put on the spot. I was so proud of her. We all prayed together, and she told me that she would likely be gone the next time I came because she was getting out. When the other ladies left the room, she came to me and said, “Miss Donna, thank you for giving me the opportunity to minister!” I told her that God had told me to ask her to minister, and that I was honored to do it, because I had complete confidence in her.
She said, “I have to tell you something! Last night I was reading Luke 12, and I remember stopping on this one Scripture. I couldn’t stop reading it, and though it’s not the exact same circumstance, I believe God was preparing me for the very moment you asked me to minister in the service this morning.” She said, “The verse was: Luke 12:11 When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
She continued, “The first thing that popped into my head when you asked me to speak was, ‘the Holy Spirit will teach you what to say at that time.’ And, now I know why I stopped and re-read that verse several times. I believe God was preparing me even then!”
I agreed with her. I’m glad we were both listening. All of the ladies were blessed because we quieted ourselves long enough to listen to the Father’s instructions. Sometimes I wish He would let me know His plans a little sooner so I wouldn’t have to panic as much, but I know I can trust Him. He is always on time, He may be last minute, but He’s never late!
Are you listening? We certainly don’t want to miss the blessings He has in store. Take some time to just be still in His presence, and listen. He loves to speak to His children.
“I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
“God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you;”
I love how God goes to great lengths to get our attention, even in our busyness! He is never too busy for us. Let me give an example.
Last week I had the great honor of attending the Christian Book Association’s Unite Conference & International Christian Retail Show, with my sweet and beautiful publisher Suzi Wooldridge. I also enjoyed a wonderful few days with some other amazing Bridge Logos authors and dear friends—Angela Donadio, Heather DeJesus Yates, Julie Wilkerson Klose, and our super creative publicist Danielle Stoltz. I was fortunate to be in such great company, and the whole experience was just overwhelming to say the least.
I was thrilled to do my very first ICRS book signing on Monday, and I met so many amazing people through that experience. I was informed on Tuesday night that my book had been picked up by a Korean publisher, and would be translated to the Korean language, and distributed throughout Korea! I was also blessed to be interviewed on four amazing broadcasts. The whole event was simply breathtaking. God has certainly been busy pouring out blessings over me, and I am so thankful to Him!
But, as blessings are being poured out upon us, we must not be too busy or too distracted to do what we were first called to do. The thrill of everything happening so quickly, and all the attention can cause us to lose focus if we are not careful. We must remember, God has not called us to be successful. He has called us to be obedient. When we are obedient children, we can expect blessing to naturally follow us.
When I arrived at the show on Sunday, I met my publisher and we ran some errands, and put together gift bags for my book distributors. We had fun just hanging out together working on the bags! But, in all the excitement, I left my purse in one of the halls in the Opryland Hotel. It was an hour or more before I realized I had left it somewhere. I left Suzi, and hurriedly went back to the last place I could remember having my purse—right outside the Fed-Ex office in the hotel.
Praise God, when I got back there I saw it sitting on the counter in the Fed-Ex office. Someone had picked it up for me, and nothing was taken from it. Hallelujah! I was walking back to my room when a frantic looking couple stopped me and asked where to go to register for CBA Unite. I told them I was sorry, but I didn’t know. The lady looked at my tag hanging from the lanyard around my neck, and said, “But you are registered.” I explained that my publisher had picked it up for me. I apologized for not being able to help, and continued the hike back to my room. (If you’ve been to the Opryland Hotel, you understand why I said,"hike")!
With literally thousands of people attending CBA Unite, I didn’t expect to see the couple again. Later that night we walked back to the CBA show floor, so I could show Bryan and the girls where to meet me the next day for my book signing. Oddly enough, we met that same couple again. The lady stopped walking, so I approached her and pointing to her lanyard and tag I said, “I see you found the registration area.” She laughed and said, “Yes.” And that was that.
The next day as I was walking around the enormous showroom floor, I happened to see the couple again. They were talking to some distributors, and I kept walking. For some reason, I had an odd feeling upon seeing them again. I certainly wasn’t continuously running into my own friends at the show this often, and there were more of them than just this one couple.
The next day, Danielle helped me pass out the gift bags, and introduced me to our distributors. I had a few bags left so I took them back to the room. On the final day, I decided to go to the floor and give away the final couple of bags. I didn’t know who I should give the final bag to, so I prayed and asked God to lead me. Immediately the couple that I kept bumping into came to mind. So, I prayed again and said, “Ok God, if something is going on here, and you would like for me to talk to these people, let me just see them here one more time.”
I promise you with all my heart, I turned around and they were right behind me. I approached them, gave them the last gift bag, and introduced myself. They asked what my book was about, so I shared a little of my testimony with them. The gentleman looked at me and said, “Can I ask your advice about something?” I humbly agreed. Now, I’m not going to reveal the situation, for their privacy, but it was obvious that God had set up this entire meeting! As the Holy Spirit began to speak through me, the lady’s mouth dropped wide open, and tears came to her eyes. I had no idea what their situation was, but God DID. We continued to talk for quite awhile, and then I prayed with them both right there on the show floor.
God knew exactly where they would be, and what they needed. I’m glad He was patient with me, as I ran marathons around the hotel to get from meeting to meeting. He never let me forget that couple. That divine encounter was set into motion before any of us even arrived at the show. As busy as I was, He kept reminding me in His sweet gentle way that there was ministry to be done. Yes, spreading the word about my book was important to me, because it carries His message of grace to all who read it. But this precious couple was just as important to Him. He's never too busy to leave the ninety-nine, for the one.
No matter how busy or exciting the things are that are happening around us, we must always be ready to listen and obey. Slow down, take a minute and ask God, “What is YOUR plan for this moment?” He will let you know. I pray that precious couple was as blessed as I was through that experience. What a loving, caring, and patient, God we serve! There’s never a need that is too small for Him to meet, and there’s never a need too great for Him to meet, and He's never too busy. He is ALL we need.
Psalm 139:16 NIV
“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Sometimes being the leader of the same ministry for 20 years is not a good thing! It could mean that you are holding tightly to a dead or dying ministry. So what makes us hold onto ministries that are perishing anyway?
Sometimes we have been doing something for so long, we feel it is the only thing we can do. We refuse to try to step out into a different calling because “this is what I’ve always done.” We may feel that God has equipped us to do one thing only. But God is more creative than that. He has so much to offer us, and He delights in promoting us, if we are striving to follow Him and listening to His voice.
Fear of losing our place can hold us back. We might feel like if we let go of the ministry we are currently leading, we will have to go back and sit on the pew with nothing to do. In other words our ministry becomes our identity. We may feel that if we are not recognized by the position we fill, we won’t be recognized at all. We have to remind ourselves that God is not in the business of demoting, but promoting.
God wants to see us grow, and in that process He wants us to train others to do what we have been doing. My Pastor/Mentor in Iowa always told me that I should be continually seeking to work myself out of a job. We are not supposed to hoard up all of our talents. We should train and mentor others to do what we are doing, and if possible to do it even better than we are!
We must train others to take our place. This lets others grow in their calling, and it allows us to move into the new areas of ministry God has planned for us. If you are not equipping others, you can be certain that you are leading a dying ministry. You will not be here forever!
How can we expect to receive greater things from God, if our hands are clenched tightly to a ministry that He has told us to let go of? Look at the picture above. If you will notice, when our hand is outstretched to release something, it remains in the perfect position to receive from God our next assignment. Do we doubt God’s ability to continue to use us, and lead us into greater ministries?
We only hinder ourselves and our own growth when we adopt the attitude that we are the only capable leaders. Instead we should be seeking to invest in the lives of others. This is how churches and ministries grow. If you can’t love your people and appreciate the gifts of those under your care, why would God lead other people to your ministry? If you know someone within your ministry or church that has a gift such as singing, speaking, teaching, preaching, praying with others, etc., and you are not willing to let them use that gift from time to time; they can become stagnant, and so will your ministry.
However, God often uses those He has gifted by opening other doors to them if we ignore them. He doesn’t neglect, or forget His chosen. And if we do, it is only our ministry that suffers. God uses variety. If He didn’t, He would have made everyone JUST LIKE YOU. But, guess what…He didn’t. Remember, if you close doors to those God is trying to use, He WILL open other doors to them, and it is often in another church.
Another thing that gets in our way is jealousy. The enemy loves to use this destructive tool between God’s people. We might start to think that someone will do a better job than we did. Or perhaps people will like them better than they liked us. Well, if that’s the case it’s a good thing! People will not forget you, and you can believe they will love you even more if they see your heart is for the betterment of the ministry as a whole. Hoarding a ministry because of jealousy is a major sign of spiritual immaturity.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to refresh and revive a ministry. If your heart is sincerely in the ministry because you love and want to serve people, then you want the best for them. I sent my daughters to school because I wanted them to get a great education. I would have loved to have kept them home with mommy. But, I realized my scholastic teaching skills were not the best—algebra comes to mind—so I entrusted them to the care and teaching skills of other teachers. Why? Because I love my girls and want the very best for them.
As leaders it is our job to see that those entrusted to us are taken care of Spiritually, and emotionally, and used in the way God chooses to use them. I’m often amazed by all the attempts and lengths some ministers go to in order to get more people in the pews. How many of the people in the pews do you know already? Do you know their needs? Do you genuinely care about their wellbeing? What are their personalities like? Do you have relationships with them, or, if they walked out today would you even notice or care? People know if they are cared for.
Do you really think God will entrust more people to your care, if you are not willing to love the ones He has already entrusted to you? We must LOVE people. All kinds of people. There will always be those we don’t particularly like. Everyone has their own different quirks and hang ups, but God has called us as leaders to love and care for His flock. If we can’t care for the flock He has entrusted to us, we shouldn’t think He will lead more sheep into our fold.
Time is running out. We want to reach the lost at any cost, but it requires caring for those God has entrusted to us already. Lead, teach, train up leaders. This is not a one man, or one woman show. God uses us in different ways. Think about this. Who believed in you? Who mentored you, and trained you? Where would you be without people who were willing to invest in you? Are you willing to do the same for others?
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
1 Peter 5:1-5 ESV
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Acts 20:28 NLT
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
When I was a young girl growing up in Tennessee, it seemed like nothing ever really changed. My home, and the landscape was seemingly much the same for many years. Even after I was grown I never really noticed a lot of obvious changes in my familiar environment. I grew up, time passed, life happened, and God moved my family and I, to Iowa for nine years.
When we moved back to Tennessee I began to visit some of the places that I frequented when I lived here nine years earlier. I was amazed by how drastically things had changed. Trees and vegetation seemed to be so much taller than before. Everything looked so different. Nothing looked the same as it had before I left. I was shocked by how much things had changed.
It seemed to be so much like the old frog story. We’ve all heard it. The premise is that if a frog is suddenly put into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in cool water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. Though the story has been passed on for years and years, it is not true. A frog will jump out of the pot when the water becomes uncomfortable. (But, please don’t try it. The frogs and I both would appreciate you skipping that experiment.)
But, the point the story was attempting to make is that we don’t always notice things changing in our immediate situations, especially when change occurs gradually. We get used to our surroundings, our habits, our way of doing things without taking a lot of notice of the subtle changes that are taking place. Just like as a young girl I didn’t notice how much my environment was changing daily. But, coming home after several years I was shocked to see so much change.
We live in a world that is changing on a daily basis, and unfortunately, most of it is not for the good. Some of the change has happened gradually over many years but it seems to be picking up momentum. The enemy of our souls is continually trying to lull us to sleep by making sin appear ordinary.
He would love to convince us that nothing is really changing. He uses so many different tactics to try to get us into a common routine, or a comfortable level of complacency. He causes us to be self-absorbed and focused on ourselves, our families and nothing more. As we get comfortable, we pay less and less attention to the changes happening around us.
Things that used to shock us seem to have become commonplace. How many of us can see a rainbow now without feeling uneasy, or having a sense of grief? We now see it so commonly associated with homosexuality, that we rarely appreciate what it was originally created for.
“I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures: Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.…”
The sin of homosexuality used to be hidden. Now you can’t get through a single TV program without one of the characters proudly announcing they are homosexual. Society has accepted it as the norm, and so it is fed to us through every outlet available. This is only one of many sins that has become normalized in today’s society. If you don’t like your gender, you can change it.
Don’t misunderstand me, certainly not all change is bad, and certainly not all change is good. But how do we know how to accept the good, and reject the bad?
There is a standard. We must hold tightly to the Standard, or the Truth of God’s Word. One thing that will never change is God and His Word. We can count on Him to be the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Sometimes the methods of sharing The Word have to change, but the Truth—The Holy Bible—never changes!
God’s opinion of sin does not change. He is a just God, and He will never condone sin. It doesn’t matter how widely accepted sin becomes by people of the earth, God has the final word, and authority. He demands justice, and He follows the standard He gave us. We can try to rationalize or make excuses for why we reject God, and His ways, but one day each of us will stand before Him. We will be accountable for ourselves and only ourselves. Excuses will not work. Why? We all have been given the same standard to live by. It is the Holy Bible.
No matter how much times change, God does not change. We must be aware of the changes taking place around us. We must be alert. Sometimes we have to return home to notice change. We have to look back at our lives, and how we desperately wanted to serve God when we first believed and accepted Him as Savior.
Our home should be the Bible. We must go there to see, and know the standard—the Truth— and then look at the changes that have taken place in our own lives. We may be shocked when we “go home,” and see the changes that have happened while we were away, or lulled into complacency.
We are often tempted to compare ourselves to others. “Well at least I’m not doing what Sis Snobby is doing. I’m not as bad as her.” Sound familiar? God isn’t going to compare you to Sis Snobby. Her life is not the standard. He will compare you to His Word. He will compare you to Jesus, His Perfect Son who died in your place to make atonement for your sins. He will compare you to the real standard—His Holy Word—the Bible. Have you changed, or do you need to make some changes?
This past weekend, I had the honor of wearing my “photographer’s hat” for a dear friend’s wedding in Iowa. The photo above of the groom and his father helping him attach his timepiece seemed so relevant to this blog, I just had to include it. I love photographing weddings. Each one is beautiful in its own way, and I’m always excited to see the new ideas and traditions that come together by the combining of families.
I love that moment when the groom looks upon his bride for the first time in her beautiful white gown. Times and traditions have certainly changed. It used to be taboo for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding, until the moment she walked down the aisle. Now, most weddings that I have photographed have what we call “first look” pictures done before the actual wedding. The groom waits in a designated location, and the bride arrives. On my cue, he turns to see her for the first time in her wedding dress, and I start snapping photos to capture the look on their faces. Traditions always change, and this is how its done these days.
If we go way back and look at the Jewish wedding traditions in Biblical times, we can really see some interesting things. Nothing at all like our weddings today, the Jewish wedding included a number of steps over a period of time.
First, the father of the groom made the arrangements for the marriage. At this point the groom would travel from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride. He would pay the purchase price for the bride, thus establishing the marriage covenant.
Second, the groom would return to his father’s house, remaining separate from his bride for 12 months or longer, during which time he prepared the living accommodations for his wife in his father’s house.
Third, the father would release the groom to go back and get his bride at a time completely unknown to her. Because no one knew when the groom was coming, he would announce his arrival with a shout!
And fourth, the groom would return with his bride to his father’s house where he had prepared a place for her. The marriage would take place, and there would be a celebration with a great wedding feast.
Sound familiar? It really makes Matthew chapter 25 a lot more clear, doesn’t it?
Let’s read Matthew 25:1-13 NIV
25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
We are all waiting for a grand wedding. Jesus is coming to take His bride—the church—back to His Father’s house to a place He has prepared for us.
John 14:2-3 NIV says:
“My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
We must be prepared. We must be sure that we have oil in our lamps, and are prepared to meet Jesus! We must keep watch because we do not know the day or the hour when He will return. But we do know that God cannot lie. Jesus will come to take us home one day. The groom is coming! Will you be ready?
If you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, and you want to know Him, please let me know so I can pray with you and for you. It’s the best decision you could ever make. Just click the "Contact Me" button below.
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
I have been blessed with some amazing people who have been incredible encouragers in my life. I wish I could list them all by name, but I’m sure to forget a name, and I would never want to leave one of these precious ones out. Besides, you know who you are!
Life as a minister is not always easy. I’m certainly not complaining, because there is nothing I would rather do or be. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing lost and broken people come to Christ, and find Hope in Jesus. It is beautiful sight, and it is worth every second of discomfort or trial that could ever come my way. Nothing could stop me from talking about how wonderful my Jesus is!
But, at times ministry can be so discouraging I find myself wondering if I’ll even survive. Ministers rarely talk about the trials and burdens they carry, and the huge amount of discouragement that comes along with the assignments, but these things do exist. A big part of our job in ministry is to encourage, and lift up others. We often have a smile on our face when we are dealing with our own worries, frustrations, and feelings of just not measuring up. The enemy knows exactly how to hit us where it hurts the most, and he is relentless if he thinks he can discourage us in the least.
We sometimes deal with depression, and feelings of rejection. We often doubt our abilities, and we feel like our best efforts just don’t make a difference at times. We are human. But, most of the time we feel like we must be super strong for those we lead. Sometimes we pour out our hearts preaching on a Sunday morning, being careful to share exactly what the Holy Spirit has given us and no one responds to the altar call.
We then leave church wondering what we should have said, or what we shouldn’t have said, or what we said wrong. We feel that we were unsuccessful, and we spend the rest of the next few days critiquing and mentally replaying every word we said, looking for where it could have gone wrong.
We lead people to Christ, and are thrilled to see them growing and beginning to find their purpose and calling, and then they backslide and quit church altogether. We wonder if there was something more we could have done to prevent it. We deal with hundreds of issues, and counsel many, many people behind the scenes. And though we pray for God to take care of them, we still worry about their problems and their wellbeing, as well as our own.
Many times we are criticized about what God has called us to do, and how He has led us to do it. We hear about unkind words that others have spoken about us from people who call themselves our friends. Many times they don’t realize that what they are sharing with us is indeed hurting us. Sometimes it’s just better not to know.
It’s not always easy. But, then there are those times when out of the blue, I get an email or message from an encourager! They might tell me that something I said in a sermon really impacted them or was right on time. They might simply tell me that they are lifting me up in prayer, and thinking of me. They might tell me that what I’m doing is indeed making a difference.
I’ve been blessed by individuals who have contacted me to tell me that God has called them to intercede and pray for myself, my family, and my ministry. Just knowing that I have prayer warriors fighting on their knees on my behalf thrills my heart, and gives me strength! I’ve had friends who have shown up for out of town events just to show their support for me when I speak. Just seeing them sitting in the congregation has been an encouragement to me, and has strengthened me more than they could ever know.
I have a few ladies who are older and wiser than I am who have lifted my arms in the heat of battle more times than they could even imagine. I treasure these dear ones, and I know that their reward is going to be amazing in heaven. If God has called you to be an encourager, do NOT take it lightly. Yours is a huge job, and one of tremendous importance. You may feel that your words don’t make a big difference, but I’m telling you they do! We ministers depend on you, your prayers, and your words of encouragement.
In the New Testament Barnabas’ given name was Joses, or Joseph, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement!” He left a legacy of being an encourager. Can you imagine having these things said of you?
Acts 11:23-24 says of Barnabas, “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
I am so grateful for all of my friends and encouragers. I hope you never feel insignificant or unnoticed. Your prayers, faith, and wonderful words of encouragement help me to remain true to the Lord, and continue to do what He has called me to do, with all my heart! You are so important to the Kingdom of God, and you are so important to me. I pray that God blesses you abundantly for being obedient to His call of being an encourager! I love you.
Isaiah 61:1-“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”
To be honest, I hesitated to write this blog because a lot of people don’t believe, or understand how destructive the power of darkness can be in the lives of some individuals. I also hesitated because I have heard others share these kind of things, and I thought they might be, well, a little flaky if you know what I mean.
But, just like Peter and John in Acts 4:20, I cannot help speaking about what I have seen and heard my Jesus do! As I have stated before, jail ministry has proven to be the perfect atmosphere for miracles. I believe there are many reasons for that, but I feel the biggest reason is because there is a silent cry of desperation coming from the hearts of the inmates. They feel hopeless, and we all know where true HOPE is found—only in Jesus. Also Romans 5:20 tells us, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
So, if we are going into an atmosphere where sin and evil abounds, we can count on God’s grace to be there in great abundance. We can also count on the Holy Spirit to empower us for what we will face, or to teach us what to do when we are faced with spiritual forces. This is why I always encourage others to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues.
But Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
As I was driving to the jail on this particular Friday morning, I was just listening to my praise and worship music. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit just filled the car with me, and I began to pray in the Spirit. It flowed and flowed out of me with such an urgency, I was a little surprised. I arrived at the jail and went inside.
Once inside, twelve ladies joined me for the service. I prayed, and we began to sing worship songs. As we continued to worship, I noticed an older lady with her arms raised. I’m always blessed to see these ladies with their arms raised, tears streaming down their faces in worship to our God. But this lady seemed a little different. I felt I should continue to watch her.
As the music continued to play and the other ladies continued to sing, I made my way toward the lady. When I approached her, she turned to face the wall, mouthing something that I could not decipher. I placed my hand on her shoulder to pray for her, and it was if the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “That is NOT my Spirit.” She immediately fell to the floor, and started trying to bang her head on the concrete.
Realizing now what I was facing, I whispered, “Help me Holy Spirit.” I then turned to the eleven other ladies and told them what was going on. I asked them to check their hearts and ask Jesus to forgive them of any sin in their lives, and ask Him to be Lord of their lives. I explained, “This lady has a demon, and when I cast it out, it will look for the next available vessel. Don’t be that vessel. Make things right with God right now.”
By this time, the lady was starting to foam at the mouth and her arms were curved in toward her body and stiff as if she couldn’t unfold them. I tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t. I was holding her head to keep her from banging it into the wall and floor. She still wouldn’t look at me, so I physically turned her head toward me. Her eyes glazed over right before my eyes with what appeared to be thick cataracts.
The whole time I was thinking, “Is this really happening?” Still, I was amazed by the total absence of fear or doubt in me. I knew the Holy Spirit was empowering me. I am certain I would not have had the boldness or faith to do what I did next. I turned around and noticed that three jailers had come into the room with us. All three stood back and did not come near us. That in itself was a miracle because they are supposed to remove inmates that get in the floor for any reason.
In the next moment, I looked straight into the lady’s eyes, and said, “You have to come out of her in The Name of Jesus!” She continued to try to mouth something, but it was as if her jaw was totally locked, and she continued to foam at the mouth. Once again, holding her head in my hands to prevent her from hurting herself, I commanded the unclean spirit to come out.
She still seemed to writhe, and foam at the mouth, so once more I said, “You have no power or authority here, and you MUST come out now in The Name of Jesus!” She looked at me, and her eyes became clear. She sat up, and I asked her if she was ok. She said she was. I immediately prayed with her and led her to Christ.
She told me and the other ladies at the table that this was the first time in years that she had felt like she was in control of her own body. The other ladies began to comment that she looked so different, and even her voice sounded different. She thanked me and thanked me. I told her to thank Jesus, He did it!
The jailers had left the room, and I continued the service using the opportunity to point out the importance of staying sober. Because when we alter our unconscious with drugs or alcohol or other destructive behaviors, we open ourselves up to demonic possession, or oppression.
When the ladies left the room, one of the jailers told me to wait at the desk because the head CO wanted to talk to me. I was thinking, “Oh boy, this is it. They are never going to let me come back.” The CO approached me and said, “I just want to ask you ONE question. Are you SURE you got them all?” I assured her that I felt they were gone.
She continued to tell me that the ladies had been having nightmares, and seeing strange dark shadows when no one was there, and they all just felt an evil presence. She told me it all started when this particular lady came into the jail. She thanked me, and I left.
Driving away, I thought back to my drive to the jail, and I remembered how the Holy Spirit had flooded the car with me that morning. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was preparing me for what I was about to face. We must be prepared to release prisoners from darkness. I’m not just talking about the people inside the jail, I’m talking about anyone who is bound by the powers of darkness.
We must have the spiritual discernment to recognize what is happening in situations like this. That lady had been bound for years by this demon. She told me of the horrible things it had spoken to her, and it had physically thrown her out of a moving car at one point. This isn’t surprising. The enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)
Let’s be ready to face the enemy head on, no matter what he presents us with. Satan has no authority or power when we stand in faith, and trust in the Name of Jesus. Greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4)
There are so many things in this world that can bring fear into our lives. We live in a world of uncertainty. Unexpected circumstances are a normal occurrence. If we are believers, we build our lives on faith, and the Word of God—the Holy Bible. But, that doesn’t mean we are exempt from feeling fear.
The enemy loves to use fear and doubt in our lives. Like I’ve said before, his tactics seldom change. He knows how to push our buttons, and bringing fear into our hearts and minds is one of his favorite weapons. I know and recognize many of his tactics, but at times even when I know he is at the source, fear can creep in and try to steal my joy.
Things have been going great over the past few months. I have been extremely busy, but I love it! It thrills my heart to be able to travel and share the Word of God and watch Him move in the lives of His people. He has been doing so many amazing things; saving people, healing people, delivering lives from the powers of darkness, rescuing lives from addiction, and breaking chains in a myriad of situations. There is nothing better than giving God the opportunity to display His glory! It is my hearts utmost desire.
But, when things seem to be going extremely well, and God is moving you can be sure that the enemy of our souls also takes notice. It shakes him up. It makes him nervous, and it makes him mad that our God is receiving honor and glory. He becomes furious when he realizes that souls are being brought into the Kingdom of God. That’s when he begins to use his influences to attack us with weapons from his underhanded arsenal.
After a wonderful weekend of ministry in Iowa, I went in to see my doctor yesterday just for a run of the mill check-up. They did blood work, and today I received a phone call to tell me that some of the levels in my blood panel came back elevated, and now I will have to undergo more tests including an ultrasound.
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear the word abnormal levels, or abnormal tests, is “Oh no! What is wrong with me?” The second thing that comes to mind is, “I don’t have time for this!” And of course all kinds of scenarios begin to run through my mind about what could be wrong, and what the outcome will look like. We all do it. Health matters often have the greatest potential to make us fearful. So, what do we do?
I am currently going through a Bible Study with my ladies at church on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore. Having done this study a few years earlier, I was impacted greatly by one point she makes concerning fear for our lives and wellbeing. I was reminded of it today, and as I looked through my homework for tomorrow night, I was surprised to find it there on the pages for this very week. Coincidence? I think not.
Beth discusses three scenarios when we face trials, and their potential outcomes. In reflecting on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s situation when they were faced with being thrown into the fiery furnace, we can draw some conclusions that can be helpful to us in our own situations.
Scenario A: We can be delivered from the fire. In other words, God could have stepped in, and prevented the king from even throwing them into the furnace. In our personal lives God could completely heal us, or instantly resolve the situation. The outcome—their faith (or our faith) would be built.
Scenario B: We can be delivered through the fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We might have to go through the fiery trial, but God uses other means to deliver us. It could be a doctors or surgeons hands, or another situation resolved by the hands of a person God chooses to use. Either way, Jesus goes through the trial with us, just as He went into the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The outcome—our faith is refined.
Scenario C: We can be delivered by the fire into His arms. In other words, we get to go see Jesus! The outcome—our faith is perfected!
No matter how the scenario plays out, we win! We are often frightened by the unknown, but we can have the confidence in knowing that no matter what our situation looks like, if we are trusting in Jesus—WE STILL WIN.
Even though it may be frightening, and we may initially face tremendous fear, we will ultimately have the victory if we are living our lives for God. The words of the song “In Christ Alone” sums it up so well when it says:
“No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.”
This is the POWER of Christ in us. We have nothing to fear. We have the blessed hope. No matter what you may be facing today, whether it is the fear of a relational outcome, a broken marriage, a financial crisis, or even a health issue. We have not been given a spirit of fear! God is working all things together for our good, despite how things may appear in the natural.
God is faithful, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He gives us perfect peace in every situation if we will give it all over to Jesus. Nothing is impossible for God. We can overcome fear because we are overcomers though the power of the cross! In the end WE STILL WIN.
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11(NLT)
I love happy endings. I love the feeling of anticipation as a movie or book reaches the end. You feel the tension rising. You see where the story line is headed. You may not know all the details, but you know “The End” is drawing near.
Don’t you wish life was like that? Wouldn’t it be great if there was always a nice, neat ‘happily ever after’ for every part of your life story? But there’s not a guaranteed happy ending. We don’t always know how things will turn out. We know that whatever happens God will work it for our good. We know from reading scripture that the ultimate end is good. God wins. The enemy loses. We live with God forever in a beautiful place. But between now and then? We know a few things to look for to know the time is getting close. We have some apocalyptic prophecies laid out in the book of Revelation. But exactly how it is going to play out? That’s a bit hazy.
We can’t see the ‘whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end’. We don’t know how things are going to work out. We don’t know how God is going to solve our financial problems. We can’t see a logical way to work out the mess we’ve made of our lives. It seems impossible for God to change the heart of our wayward child. We can’t see the happy ending.
Sometimes, we read the Word of God and we see the amazing stories of the lives of the men and women that God saw fit to put within the pages of Holy Scripture. I stand in awe and wonder at how God moved in their lives. But something hit me one day as I was reading about the life of Abraham in Romans 4:20. It was the phrase that said Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. It says in God’s Word that Abraham did not waver. But if you read the story back in Genesis, it seemed like he did waver. Sarah wavered and gave Abraham her maid Hagar to bear the son. Abraham wavered when he took Hagar and bore a son with her. God clearly said to him that Sarah would bear the covenant son. This looked a lot like wavering to me.
Now I know and fully believe that God’s Word is inerrant. I know that God does not lie. I know that He does not make mistakes. But here it was right in front of me. I knew there had to be an explanation and I knew that I was going to have to seek if I was to find the answer. I pondered. I meditated. And one day, when I was thinking and reading about something completely different, the verse out of Ecclesiastes popped out at me. “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
God has planted eternity in our hearts and we don’t know His work from beginning to end, but HE does! He is the great I AM! He is timeless. He is beyond and above the limits of time. When he looks at us, He sees us through the eyes of eternity! He sees us completed in His Son! He sees us covered by the Blood of Jesus. He sees His Righteousness! He saw Abraham’s end from the beginning. And He sees our end from the beginning. He sees the end of our story! He sees our ‘happily ever after!'
God looks at us through the eyes of eternity! He also chose to do a unique thing: He planted eternity in our hearts. Whether we choose to believe in eternity or not, it is real. It is part of who we are. I think those that say that we just cease to exist when we die aren’t really being honest with themselves. Why do I believe that? Because God planted eternity in their heart. There’s a seed of eternity there. It may be hidden deep down. It may not have been watered and nurtured. They may have tried to ‘pull it up’ and throw it out. But what God plants, man cannot destroy. Eternity is there.
And since eternity is in our heart, it influences how we perceive things. God looked at Abraham and saw his end from the beginning. All God saw was Abraham’s faithfulness!
When we look at situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity we see them differently. An eternal perspective helps us see past the here and now to the potential of what God can do! We see, through the eyes of faith, that God has a plan for our situations and circumstances. We see, through the eyes of faith, a soul for which Jesus gave His Life. We see that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time."
An eternal perspective is a perspective of hope. It is a perspective that sees the potential. It is a perspective that sees the best. It changes how we see everything!
What if we chose to see the best in people instead of the worst? What if we chose to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of doubting they are of any benefit? What if instead of jumping to conclusions we jump to their defense? Or better yet, we jump in to help? Or jump into the gap in prayer. What if we chose to see situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity? We just might see more ‘happy endings’ and ‘happily ever afters’.
Eight weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Bible study at Northside Assembly. I had no idea what I was in for. God brought some of the most beautiful, sweet and precious ladies into my life. I will forever cherish them. They may never know the extent of my gratitude for how they encouraged me, and lifted me up. I’m so grateful to have met each one of them.
The study was an eight week study and this was our final week. The book was about waiting. We all go through periods of waiting, and since we are not always the most patient, it’s usually frustrating to wait.
I myself have been in a waiting period in a couple of areas. I’ve been in this position of waiting, over and over again. You would think I would get used to it, but every season of waiting is different in its own way. Even though I travel and speak all over the nation, I still have a huge desire to minister in my local area. God has blessed me with a jail ministry (in a town other than my own) that has been such a huge blessing to me. I have been overwhelmed and amazed by all the things God has done behind prison doors.
But, I have been burdened for my hometown as well. At the beginning of February I started trying to get into the jail in my own town. It has been a long 3 months, and I finally decided it just was not going to happen. I contacted the jail chaplain, and he put me on the ministers list months ago, but nothing else happened. I called and left messages at the jail. No one would call me back. I thought I might have to rob a bank just to get in!
I was so frustrated. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has been with me in this ministry to inmates in the other jails. I believed with all my heart He would want me to go into my local jail to minister. So, why was this proving to be an impossibility?
You should have heard some of the conversations I had with God about it. I begged Him to open the doors so I could get in. I prayed and asked Him to lift the burden from my heart if it was not His will that I go there to minister. The burden never lifted. My frustration grew even more. I decided to give God an ultimatum. (Don’t act like you are holier than I am, and have never done it.) I prayed, “God, I’m going to call the jail one more time, and if I don’t get an answer today, I’m going to just accept that You don’t want me to go in there, and I’m going to forget it!”
I refused to accept the fact that God was just telling me to be patient and wait. I thought I had to have a “right now” answer. Isn’t that what frustrates us the most? We want right now answers, or right now results. If this is what You want me to do God, then make it happen right now! But, our demands do not move the hand of God—our patience and putting our trust in Him and His timing does.
As I went through this eight week study with these precious women of God, I was reminded of how faithful God is. He’s always ON TIME, even if it’s not the timing we are hoping for. So many times when we get tired of waiting, we start putting demands on God, or start giving Him ultimatums, when we should be giving Him praise, and thanking Him for the lessons He is teaching us in the meantime.
Of course waiting isn’t fun. But, when we offer our praise and do what we can during the wait, it becomes easier. This was the prayer I prayed at the end of April:
“Lord, I really don’t understand why it is so hard to get into this jail, but I trust in what You are doing. I know You have it all planned out. Even though I can’t see anyway to get in, I know that You have called me to this ministry, and no door is closed to You. Thank You for opening the right doors for me. I may not know what You are doing, but I trust in what You are saying. Amen.”
A few days later, I decided to contact the jail one more time. I went to their website to find their phone number, and a name and email address seemed to just leap off the page at me. It was like God led me right to it, and whispered into my heart, “Send her an email.” That is exactly what I did, and within an hour she had replied giving me the next steps to get into the jail. I would need to attend their orientation class. The class is only given once every six months, and it would be available in just a few days! Do you think that was coincidence? I don’t. God knew exactly what I needed to do to get in. He also knew exactly when the class would be available.
The whole time I thought He was ignoring my pleas to open the door, He knew exactly when it would be the right time. And when He was ready, He opened the door, and showed me exactly what I needed to do, who to contact, and when.
Waiting isn’t easy, but we can trust that our God knows what’s best, and His timing is perfect. We often feel like He is ignoring us, but He is continually working things in our favor. We don’t have to know what He is doing, but we can certainly trust what He is saying. If He tells us to wait, we need to wait. If He tells us to move, we need to move! And, if we feel He is saying nothing, keep doing what you are doing, and praise Him even more.
We’ve all experienced it—that one moment where someone has said something, or done something that has made us feel small, insignificant, or flat out rejected. It seems that all the blood in your body rushes to your face, as your hair seems to stand on end. You feel like you have been punched in the gut, and you wish you could disappear into thin air totally forgotten. Next, you start looking for a way to make a graceful exit.
The moment you are alone, your thoughts immediately return to the words that were spoken, the actions that were taken, or the body language shown by the one who made you FEEL the way you are feeling at this very moment; embarrassed, humiliated, insignificant or little. Your mind dwells on the hurtful event despite your best efforts to dismiss it.
Maya Angelou put it extremely well when she said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about the people in your life that you treasure. They may not have a list of great accomplishments under their belts, but I am fairly certain they have probably made you feel special at some point. Then there are those people we run into from time to time, and when we see them we immediately feel a tinge of despair, or discouragement. Most of the time, our thoughts rewind back to an incident (or more than one incident) where they made us feel, well, not so great!
It’s not like we haven’t forgiven them. They may have even come to us and apologized, and attempted to make amends with us. But, the feeling remains. We can completely forgive someone, but still remember how they made us feel. We then subconsciously, or consciously choose to “love them from a distance.” It’s a self-protective measure. We don’t want to feel the hurt, or insignificance they have showered upon us in the past.
I recently made a sweet friend in ministry that I can say, I truly would like to emulate. She inspires me. I haven’t been around her more than a handful of times, but I can tell you she has made me feel important not only to her, but especially to the Kingdom of Heaven! That has encouraged me tremendously.
In a society where women tend to be so competitive, and jealous of one another, it is so refreshing to see a woman of beautiful godly character rise up and show the love of Christ to her sisters. This precious lady is so humble, not at all self-seeking. She thinks of others first, and it shows. Her ministry is blessed not only because God is honoring her character and faithfulness, but because I believe she makes people feel significant and valued. She is genuine--the real deal!
In life and especially in ministry, we must be very careful about how we treat others. Everyone is significant, and cherished by Our Heavenly Father. How dare we treat one of HIS children like they are not just as loved and cherished by us? We might not think it matters, but you can believe it matters to Him.
Ladies, body language speaks volumes! If you think your body language doesn’t affect the way people react to you, take a look at the picture below. Which of the ladies in the picture looks most approachable?
You can almost tell by looking which ladies would welcome conversation, and who would rather be left alone. As women, we often carry our thoughts and emotions all over our bodies. Rolling our eyes can mean we are exasperated, or annoyed. Crossing our arms in front of us can mean we are unapproachable, and would rather not be bothered. Placing our hands on our hips with elbows extended can mean we are on the defensive.
We don’t need a class on body language to detect when someone thinks we are not worth their time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a short answer, and turning the head as if the conversation is over. There are so many subtle hints that can make people feel as if we don’t value them.
Now, I realize sometimes we do things unintentionally and that’s understandable. Other times we can be shy, and it could appear that we are not being friendly. But, as women of God we need to be very careful of how we intentionally treat our sisters. I’m not saying we have to run around and gush all over everyone we see. That can be just as bad. There’s nothing more distasteful than people who run around gushing all over everyone in the room, but are just about as phony as a three dollar bill. We don’t want to be fake.
Be loving. Be sincere, and be transparent. We often worry so much about our own appearances that we lose sight of how we make others feel. Why do people want to be your friend? Is it because you are popular or hold a high position, and being around you makes them look important? Or, do you have friends that genuinely want to be around you because you make everyone around you feel loved and valued?
I’ve always heard you will attract the kind of friend that you are to others. Let’s learn to love well. We are sisters, and we need one another. Build one another up. Encourage each other. We all have issues to face, and we are certainly stronger together. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
Romans 12:10-11 ESV - Love one another with brotherly (sisterly)* affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
* Emphasis mine.
Is it possible to be convicted by your own blog post? Yes, I believe it is. Last week was an extremely busy week for me. Touring colleges with my daughter, getting ready for District Council, and planning, decorating, and preparing food for a Secret Sisterhood Tea Party were just a few of the activities occupying my time and attention. Not to mention I was sick and trying to recover from a cold during all of the above.
So, after trying for a few hours to clear my mind of all these distractions long enough to write a blog, I finally gave up and went to the archived blogs that were published on “Her Green Room.” I found one I had written a couple of years ago and decided it would do. (That is the blog I posted last week if you read it.) Finally, another thing checked off my list. Back to work on all the other important things that needed to be done.
After touring Tennessee Tech with Haley, we stopped by a bookstore and I picked up a copy of Francine Rivers’ book, And the Shofar Blew. If you are a pastor or leader, I highly recommend it. There is no doubt in my mind that I picked that book because God led me to it. Of all her other books I could have chosen, I knew this was the one I just had to read.
After spending a day in Chattanooga, we were off to District Council. After starting Francine Rivers’ book, I could hardly put it down. I was appalled and disgusted by the main character in the book and his ideas about ministry! How could anyone be so blind? He had become completely absorbed in building a mega church. Soon he was ignoring his family, and doing his best to attract wealthy members. He overlooked the sins of his board members just to have a group of yes men.
As he became more and more focused on the success of his ministry, he began to slip away from preaching the Truth to be more seeker sensitive. When he reached 5,000 members, he decided to build an overwhelmingly huge building costing millions of dollars. When funds got tight, he cut out missions. I was thinking all kinds of bad things about this fictional pastor as I continued to read. He was so far removed from where he had started.
Though this is a shocking example of one leaving their First Love, (Rev. 2:4) it is so easy to fall into the same trap. The sad truth is, though the book is fictional the same thing is happening all around us. Even though I’m not a pastor of a mega-church, I’m still guilty. Reading last weeks blog, I had to stop and think about the last time I stopped someone in Wal-Mart to pray for them. I wrote that blog two years ago. In the last 6 months I can’t remember stopping a stranger to pray with them.
Why? Some of my excuses were, “I don’t have time, I’m usually just so busy,” or “I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit impressing upon my heart to approach anyone.” “I was in a hurry, I had to get back to work on…” You get the picture. Jesus never let ministry get in the way of loving people. We sing, “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, Oh it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” (Luke 15:4) He will leave the ninety-nine to rescue one lost soul. But, do we?
It all comes back to our first love. When we truly love Jesus the way we should, we recognize our real purpose. Above any ministry we attempt to do for Him, our first purpose—the reason we were created—is to love and worship Him. When we put Jesus above every thing else, and He has our whole heart, ministry becomes a by-product of that love. It overflows from a heart like His. We have more compassion for the lost. We are more sensitive to the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit, and we are more than willing to reach out to one who is hurting.
I had to take inventory, and do some soul searching this weekend. In a society where people are constantly competing, and everything is results driven, measured by numbers—whether that’s offerings, ratings, people following our ministries, or people in the pews—where is our first love? Have we become so focused on the success of our ministries that we have lost sight of our purpose?
Do we want to have a church full of numbers, or a church full of people? Do we recognize our members by the jingle in their pockets or the Jesus in their hearts? Are we seeking to save the lost, or being sensitive to the seekers? We are not called to get people into pews, but to get Jesus into hearts. And God help us, if we feel like it's dependent on our talents, or abilities to do either!
We must never lose sight of our purpose. We were created to glorify God, and to love Him with all our hearts. When we do that, ministry flows naturally from the love we have for Him. Any ministry that is not driven by our love for God and His people holds no benefit for us. Our reward is not on this earth. We can build 100 mega-churches, but if we have walked away from our first love, we have lost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mega-churches, and I’m certainly not saying they are all bad.
But we must choose carefully whom we put in the place of honor. The “look” of success can be deceiving. Don’t look down on small ministries, and don't feel less valued if you are in a small ministry. God loves the small churches who love Him wholeheartedly, just as much as the big ones. He doesn’t use the same measuring tools people use. God looks upon the heart. You are more than a number to Him.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
1 Samuel 12:24
Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
I don’t know about you, but I love ministry. There is nothing I enjoy more than pouring myself out for God’s glory, and seeing Him work in the lives of others. It’s humbling, and inspiring. Every day in my personal prayer time, I find myself asking God to open more doors for ministry and opportunities to share His love.
In my mind, I’m usually envisioning traveling to speak for a women’s event or an evangelistic service at a church. For so many of us actively involved in ministry, we can sometimes begin to get tunnel vision. At least, that seems to be my case. I often pray for God to use me, but then when He is trying His best to do that, I sometimes am distracted, busy, or just not listening.
The other day, I was grocery shopping. Let me just interject that I hate grocery shopping—no matter when it is—but when the store is packed full of people frantically trying to finish their holiday shopping, I really hate it.
So, here I was attempting this maddening scavenger hunt to find all the items on my list. I became frustrated and anxious to get out of the store. I stopped at the end of the aisle to check a couple of items off my list. When I looked up, I noticed a lady reaching for the nearest shelf to try and steady herself. She looked as if she might faint. People were scurrying past her, paying no attention, while others looked irritated because she had stopped in front of them.
I approached her, and taking her arm to steady her, I asked, “Ma’am, are you OK?” She looked at me, and said “Yes, I think so. I just have really bad back pain, and it is hurting so much right now, it’s almost making me sick.” Without a second thought, I asked, “Can I pray for you?”
She totally lit up. She looked at me with the most precious expression of love on her face, and said, “Yes, absolutely. That would be wonderful.” With her permission, I placed my hand on her back, and began to pray for God to touch her and heal her. As I continued to pray for her, I was no longer aware of the busy crowd around us. Everything and everyone just ceased to exist in that moment.
God had opened a door for ministry. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of grocery shopping, He had sent someone to pray for this sweet lady in her time of need. When I finished praying, she smiled at me, hugged me, and said, “Thank you so much!” I asked her if I could help her finish shopping, and with a big smile on her face, she said, “No, thank you. I am just fine now.”
She grabbed the items she had laid on the shelf, wished me a good day, and before I knew it she was halfway to the check-out. Pushing my cart down the next aisle, I began to thank God for the ability to do my shopping. I thanked Him for the opportunity to minister to someone in need, and I thanked Him for the open door.
All open doors do not look the same. Some open doors may be invitations to speak at big, grand venues in front of hundreds of people. That is great, and I love those opportunities! But some doors are seemingly small encounters, where He has put us in the right place at just the right time to be His hand extended to someone in need.
Personally, at times I have received bigger blessings, and a greater sense of His presence by just being obedient in the small things. We don’t have to view ministry as something that can only happen in a big church setting, or in a huge stadium. God longs to use us in big ways every day! We just have to be willing to look around us, listen for the Holy Spirit, and be obedient.
I can almost feel Him smiling down at me in these quiet little encounters. Every time I have one of these little “miracle moments,“ I’m reminded of something a beautiful friend, and popular women’s minister said to me years ago. She told me “Donna, God trusts you to be available for Him. He knows He can count on you, and that is no small honor!”
He trusts me! Wow, to think that the God of the entire universe trusts me to be there when He needs me! There could be no greater compliment or calling. Many times we tend to view our worth or value based on the invitations we receive to speak at large venues, or for large congregations. But, we have to look at the bigger picture. Does He trust us to be available when He needs us? If we can answer “yes,” that is a huge honor!
I’m sure you have heard the expression, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” Most of the time thats true. Sometimes it’s not true. But, one thing is almost always true. Most of us don’t like to be unpleasantly surprised, and many of us want to know how things are going to go before they go.
That seems to be my case most of the time. I have asked God countless times to reveal to me how a particular situation or event is going to unfold. There have been times when He has answered and did indeed reveal specific things. However, most of the time I have to wait and see!
A little while ago I was invited to speak for a church service. I had never been to this church, and didn’t know anything about the people attending. As an evangelist, I always give an altar call for salvation at the end of each service. On this Sunday, a few people responded and I began to pray with some of them. Some of the ladies in the church were praying with a lady that had responded to the altar call, so by the time I got to her, they had already led her to the Lord.
I asked her if she got everything worked out with God and if she felt brand new? She responded that she did. Before she could utter another word, I asked her if she would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. She gave me a half confused, half stunned look. I asked her if she knew what I was talking about, and she said she wasn’t sure.
I explained to her why we want the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I told her, “It’s not so we can speak in tongues, although tongues is the evidence that we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the main reason we want this precious gift is because of the boldness it gives us, and the power to witness.”
I asked her once again if she would like to receive this gift, and she said, “Yes!” I began to pray with her, and in less than a minute she was speaking in a beautiful prayer language. She was so thrilled to have received, and the ladies around her seemed to be even more excited than she was.
After the service had ended, the women’s leader began to tell me about this lady. This sweet lady had been coming to their church for a while, and then suddenly she just stopped coming altogether. She had been out of church for about four weeks, but the week before I got there one of the ladies from the church saw her in a store. She asked her where she had been. This precious lady told her that she had quit coming because she just wasn’t too sure about that speaking in tongues, Holy Ghost stuff!
I had to giggle a little. Isn’t that just like God? Little did I know, this lady had been a little confused about the Holy Spirit. Then, God sends me in to ask her—point blank—if she wanted to be baptized in the Holy Ghost? Looking back now, I’m so glad I didn’t know anything about her. I’m glad that I didn’t have a clue that this lady had quit coming because she was a little bit unsure of the speaking in tongues stuff.
If I had known the prior situation, I would probably never have asked her if she wanted to receive the gift. I would have been afraid that I might scare her off, or push her farther away. But, God knows the plans! He knew exactly when she would return to church. He knew I wouldn’t have a clue what the situation looked like, and He knew I was just bullheaded enough to ask her if she wanted the Holy Spirit!
So many times we think we would be so much better off if we could only see what God is planning to do. But, in my life I have seen repeatedly that I would have probably taken the wrong course of action if I had been given insight or hindsight about a situation. He knows best, and it’s much better for us if we don’t know the whole plan.
I think about the disciples, and how so many times they were absolutely clueless about what Jesus was about to do. We have one example after Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:9-10 “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.”
The disciples had no idea that Jesus their teacher and beloved friend would soon willingly go and die on an old rugged cross. Rising from the dead, He would become much more than just a friend and teacher but, He would become their Savior—the Savior of the world! We can see how much trouble the disciples might have unwittingly caused if they had known the whole plan. Just like we can get in God’s way if we know more than we need to.
We would like to know all the details, but God gives us just the information we need, at just the right time. If He showed us every detail, we would never learn to "walk by faith, not by sight." He knows what He is doing and exactly how He will accomplish it. He doesn’t need our help, He only needs us to listen for His voice, and be obedient when He speaks.
What you don’t know probably won’t hurt you. In fact, it could lead to the most amazing miracle you have seen Him do in and through you. Stop trying to figure out all the details, and just let the Holy Spirit lead you. Walk by faith!
I have found in my life, that most trials come with a lesson. Almost every struggle or inconvenient situation has something to teach us. I’ve been asking God to give me patience. I’m wondering if I can withdraw that prayer now. You see, at this very moment I’m on a camping trip, in the rain, with eight teenagers. Yes, you read that correctly. There are eight teenagers with me—and only me. It is Spring break, and we are certainly not experiencing Spring weather as it is only 30 degrees.
So, I’ve been trying not only to find a quiet place to sit and write a blog for this week, but I’ve been fighting really hard to find the sanity to do so. (If this weeks entry makes no sense, blame it on the teenagers. Hopefully I’ll be in the right frame of mind next week).
Camping in a pop-up tent trailer (and a tent outside for the boys) is not the most fun when everyone is confined to the camper during daylight hours, just to stay warm. We have every element of a dramatic teenage sitcom going on here. These high school best friends are all good until patience wears thin, and fuses get short. Me? I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what God is trying to teach me in this situation.
If its patience, I probably failed that test yesterday when I broke the camper sink while trying to get everything set up in the rain. So far we have dealt with wet sheets and mattresses, a hole in the camper canvas—reason for the wet mattresses—a broken door, slide outs that won’t slide out, a breaker that trips continually, a blanket shortage, a ketchup shortage, and drama, drama, drama. Did I mention freezing temperatures and rain?
Probably the biggest nightmare of all has been the fact that there is no cellular service here. No internet, no cellphones, no distractions from the drama, and I’m just talking about my own deficiencies now. So, I’ve been praying for more patience for sure. I keep telling myself I can survive just one more night.
I have heard these exact phrases, “I’m bored. I don’t like hot dogs. Do we not have ketchup? How can we not have ketchup? I don’t eat sandwiches. Can’t we just go to McDonalds? What are we going to do next? When are we going to start having fun?” That’s not even including the endless bickering and complaining about the weather. I feel like I’m stuck at Camp Granada! I’m seriously thinking about writing a letter to my parents and asking them to come get me!
But, with my oldest daughter Haley, graduating high school this year, and my youngest going into 10th grade next year, surely I can make it through this once yearly camping trip. I mean after all, we are here to have fun, but mostly its about making memories. And guess what? Some of the most interesting memories are made in less than perfect situations.
So, what can I do to make this trip more memorable, and —hopefully—survivable? Sometimes a change of scenery helps. We don’t have to be confined to this campground. So, I decided we would take a trip to the river. When I was a teenager, I loved going to the river to pick up drift wood, shells, and interesting rocks. So, I took the teens to Nathan Bedford State Forest and we drove up to Pilot Knob. Amazingly none of them had ever been here before.
My original intent was to let them peruse the museum. We could be inside, out of the cold and still have some fun. But, of all days, the museum was closed for training employees! Seriously? How many employees do they have on staff, three? So, no museum! But, we did enjoy a beautiful view of the river from that very high point. The sun finally came out, and other than the super chilly wind, it was turning out to be a semi-nice day.
Before I knew it, these crazy teens were entertaining themselves by challenging one another to roll down the steep hill, and see who could roll the farthest. It was one of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen, and I forgot to get video! I found myself laughing along with them. We drove down to the rivers edge, got out and walked around to look for driftwood, and other oddities that might have washed up onto shore. We explored a little and found some interesting items for sure.
In just a short time, the bad attitudes and short fuses had vanished and were replaced by silliness and laughter. Not a lot had changed really. We changed our location, and we changed our perspectives. But in the meantime, our attitudes were changed. I also gave them a job, or a distraction. Notice the photo for this blog? They helped me develop the title for the blog and even donated their artwork, and faces— although very reluctantly—to the effort. And, will they have memories from this trip? Oh, I’m sure they will.
The enemy wants us to focus on all the negatives. We then become frustrated, aggravated and ready to give up. With a shallow perspective we can take out our frustrations on others, and have bad attitudes toward each other. But a slight change of perspective, just looking at something through a different lens, a different location, or someone else’s point of view, can make all the difference in the world.
While we were at the river, one of the teens found a broken, blue glass bottle. Picking it up, she took out her cellphone and snapped a picture of that muddy old river through that blue glass bottle. The end result was beautiful. The brown muddy water was now an intense sea of blue, with a pretty pebble beach. It was completely transformed, just by viewing it in a different perspective.
When we change our perspectives, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the mundane everyday challenges become exciting adventures. We can go from being impatient to having a patient and loving attitude. Everyday we can choose to look at the trying times in our lives with a negative perspective and attitude, or we can choose to make the best of it. When we change our perspective it really can change our lives. Thanks Lord, for the lesson!
How many times has God asked you to do something, and you try your best to find a way to get out of it? *My hand is raised.* We don’t mind when He asks us to do something easy. But when He asks us to do something that we feel is beyond our capabilities, many of us try to find a way to reason or bargain our way out of it.
A few years ago, God impressed upon my heart to write a book. My first reply was, “God, I can’t write a book!” But, He didn’t relent. Over and over the thought came to mind, and before long I couldn’t quit thinking about it. I continually told God that I couldn’t do it, and I had plenty of legitimate excuses why it just wasn’t a good idea.
I said, “God, I’ve been out of high school for way too long. I have forgotten so much about writing!” I argued that no one would want to read anything I wrote. Then I checked into all the publishing routes and discovered that most anyone can self-publish a book, and there are countless companies out there who are willing to publish anything if you pay them enough money. But, self-publishing doesn’t offer much when it comes to marketing, especially when it comes to getting your book noticed by well-known book sellers.
I didn’t have an extra $10,000 laying around to spend on a self-publisher who would never try to sell my book either. I knew I did not want to go this route. However, I knew that the odds of being published by a traditional publisher were slim to none! And, I told God that I just didn’t have enough time because I travel and speak, etc., etc. I pointed out all these things to God— repeatedly.
But, still, God didn’t relent! So, what did I do next? I entered what I like to call the bargaining stage. I just knew this would work! I decided to tell God I would write the book if… Then I tried to drag out the most impossible obstacles thinking our God—the God of the entire universe—would give up and say, “No child, that’s too hard!”
So I said, “God if You will send me a professional editor and a literary agent that really knows what he/she is doing, AND if You will make sure that my book is accepted by a traditional publisher, AND if I have to pay little or no money out of pocket; then I’ll write the book!" That should do it, I thought. Surely now God would stop bugging me about a book.
About two weeks later, I got a Facebook message from a very distinguished, published author of several well-known books—L. Edward Hazelbaker. He asked me if I had ever considered writing a book. I looked toward Heaven and said, “God, are You kidding me?” Needless to say God was already putting the pieces into place. L. Edward Hazelbaker became my editor and literary agent and was unquestionably sent by God to make this work successful. God always sends the best! God also sent the traditional publisher I had prayed for, and my book was officially released on Feb. 1st.
However, the writing process was arduous, and many times I wanted to give up. I wanted things to happen fast. I didn’t want to wait. I became impatient, and I thought this should happen super quick because God wanted me to write this book! And, to be completely honest, at one point I just gave up. I started doubting myself. I doubted the worth of my message. I doubted that the book would ever be published, and I decided to put it aside and just focus on my ministry.
But, what if the thing God has asked us to do, is the ministry He wants us to focus on? I’ll tell you what happens. Everything around us comes to a screeching halt, or at least that was my experience. I stopped getting calls to come and speak. I had nothing on my calendar for at least six months! The other ministries I was actively involved in seemed to dry up and quit producing fruit. I was devastated.
I poured my heart out to God and asked Him why this was happening. He clearly whispered into my Spirit, “As soon as you finish writing the book I asked you to write, I will re-open the doors that have been closed. Stop running, and write!” As bad as I hated to admit it, I knew that He was doing this to make me focus on the one thing He had called me to do in that moment. And so, I started to write again.
I was so sick of waiting, but God was using that very thing—the waiting—to help me understand that we learn valuable lessons in the waiting process. One of the chapters in the book actually deals with the topic of waiting. If I hadn’t gone through that tough waiting period, I wouldn’t have learned what God wanted to teach me in that season. And, very likely, that chapter wouldn’t have been included in the book.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hold that first copy of “Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace” in my hands! I still catch my breath when it pops up in an advertisement from Christian Book online. I almost have to pinch myself. I’m continually humbled and amazed by the people who message me to tell me how the book has changed their lives, or inspired them—especially the chapter about waiting. It thrills my soul! And, you know what? As soon as I finished writing the book, those doors started opening again—even more doors than before!
When I think back to how I tried to bargain with God, and I tried to get out of doing what He asked me to do all because I thought I couldn’t do it; I am so grateful that He didn’t give up on me. Has God asked you to do something that you think would be impossible for you? Have you been trying to bargain your way out of it? I have found that there are no obstacles too big for our God. Nothing is impossible for Him, and He will send you the people, equipment, and empowerment to do what He has asked you to do. Stop bargaining, and do it.
Write Your Story: Live Your Calling - as Published on "Her Green Room."
I am a sucker for all things “stationery:” notebooks, writing instruments, personalized, embossed, plain—you name it. I don’t know how many journals, ink pens, and brightly colored mechanical pencils I own. If you take me into a bookstore with lots of beautiful stationery, be warned! We are going to be there for a while!
The sad thing is, I have stockpiled all of these different journals; colorful, elegant, whimsical, journals of all sizes. However, if you open them, you’d find the same thing—they’re all blank. Why? Because, every time I get a new journal or a delicate new piece of stationery, I’m afraid to mess it up with my writing! I just know I’ll make a mistake, and who wants to dab white-out on their pretty journal?
I’m not really a fan of my sloppy handwriting either. It’s messy and uneven—not elegant or graceful enough to commit to the pages of these delightfully charming books. So, yes, most of them are blank. Honestly, if I lost one of these pretty books it would be no loss at all. They’re just empty pages.
But then there are the notebooks; plain, cheap notebooks. They have been written in all over the place, pages all out of order, doodles in the margins, scratches and scribbles, words crossed out and written over, sermon notes scattered throughout, with Scripture references here, there, and everywhere.
These are the books that get tossed into my bag at the last minute, lost from time to time, and even stained with coffee rings occasionally (Okay, maybe a little more than occasionally). They have dented edges, dog-eared pages, missing pages, and torn pages. These notebooks are where my life happens. I fly into a panic over these books if I can’t find them! They may be full of messiness, but they are also full of the priceless information I need to do what He’s called me to do.
Our lives are like those blank journals. We have the opportunity to dive in with our pens and pencils, and boldly scribble them up with the gifts He has given us. Or, we can leave them sitting on the shelf, while we wonder what the pages could have held. He has plans and purposes for all of us. We may think our efforts are not good enough, so we clench that pen tightly, and never write the first word. We may feel like we have made so many messes in the past, our entries could never be valuable enough to put out there for anyone to see.
And you know what? We will make mistakes.
We will have to do some scribbling, and we will even need to apply the “white-out” of His precious blood to fix our mistakes. But, to God it’s all beautiful—every dent, scratch, and stain. He looks down and sees us, mistakes and all, and loves us just the same!
When I stand before God, I don’t want to be a book full of empty pages. I want to be the book that looks like the cat dragged it in from the rain, but is filled with the scribbling of a life that has recklessly pursued Him— sometimes made mistakes and had to start over—but never lost its value. I want to be that book.
I want to be the book that has every experience inscribed, each embossed with His Name, a book that tells the story of reaching the lost in a hopeless world. He cares about all of the scribbles, redo’s, and ripped out pages. To Him, our story is beautiful.
So, what are you writing?
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”
Revelation 21:5 (ESV)
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
Acts 3:19-20 (ESV)
I’ve always heard that the adult female body is made up of about 60% water. However, I think it is much more likely to be maybe 20% water and 80% emotions! Not to exclude the men, we all are emotional people. And, because we all have emotions, we are all susceptible to having hurt feelings.
I don’t care how far along you are in your walk with God, none of us are immune. This is a point I was reminded of through an experience this past week. In ministry, I’ve always been told you have to develop a tough skin. But, still it must be balanced with a tender heart. Do you know how difficult that is? I thought I had come a long way in developing a tough skin and a tender heart—until it happened last week—my feelings were hurt.
Have you ever received an invitation to an event, party, or activity only to arrive and feel as if your name was accidentally included on the guest list? I’m not saying this is what happened, but when we get our feelings hurt we often feel just that way. We can feel insignificant and small, like we are at fault for showing up even though we were invited. People can often say hurtful things to us, or about us. Sometimes they ignore us or reject us. At other times the actions of another person whether intentional, or only perceived can slash us right across the heart.
Last week I realized just how much more sensitive women are to these feelings, and how great we are at hurting one another. Men don’t see things the way we women do most of the time. I’m thankful for my husband Bryan. Other than the Holy Spirit, Bryan is very often the voice of reason in my emotional out of sorts world. Even though I would often like to strangle him when he uses this voice of reason, I have to admit many times he is right. (And Babe, if you are reading this, I do take payment in the form of diamonds…just saying)!
But there is another voice that also vies for our attention, and that is Satan—the enemy of our souls. He uses his influences to cause us to dwell on the things that hurt us. Our feelings are very real to us, and we often feel justified in having bad feelings toward those who hurt us. But are we?
Jesus knew rejection to a degree that most of us will never face. Being rejected by His own, (John 1:11) He willingly went to the cross and laid down His life. As He hung there dying, He exclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus demonstrated perfect love and forgiveness through the ultimate sacrifice—giving His own life to pay for our sins, and giving the opportunity to experience eternal life to those who believe and accept His forgiveness.
But before Jesus went to the cross, He taught exactly how we should respond to those who hurt, or mistreat us.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
We forgive because Jesus forgives, and He requires us to forgive if we are to be forgiven of our sins.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
We forgive so that God will not withhold His blessings from us.
1 Peter 3:9
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
We forgive because we love one another. Real love forgives others of wrongdoing. And God commands us to love others even as we love ourselves. If we cannot forgive others, we do not love.
1 John 4:7-8
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
And 1 Corinthians chapter 13 tells us what love is, and what it looks like.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
So, while we are all susceptible to having our feelings hurt, and though we are all tempted to hold grudges, we can see it is Biblical to love and forgive. The flesh would have us to give in to the temptation to get mad, and pout about how mistreated we are, but the Spirit encourages us to let it go, and be free.
That being said, we don’t have to accept the invitation to put ourselves in situations where we know we will feel “uninvited” or left out. Sometimes resisting temptation requires us to protect ourselves (and our hearts) from situations where we know we will be hurt. So just remember, we must love and forgive, but sometimes we can do that from a distance. We don’t have to accept every invitation!
As I sat down to begin my Bible study for the day, I noticed a small ladybug crawling across the top of my desk. Or, was it a ladybug? I would have assumed it was, but a few years ago I was introduced to the name “Asian Beetles.” They look exactly like ladybugs. The only real distinguishing quality they have, is the shape of their heads. These Asian beetles seem to have multiplied overnight, and are invading the homes of people everywhere.
Still they never were at the top of my list of unwanted pests until I took a closer look at the seemingly harmless insects. After a little investigation and reading various sources of reputable information, I have come to find that these pests are not completely unassuming. Though ladybugs, and asian beetles have many similarities, they are totally different.
Ladybugs are good to have around. They eat other soft bodied pests like aphids, mites, and white flies—all of these cause damage to plants. Ladybugs do not eat plants, bite people, or do other damage. In fact farmers and gardeners welcome them.
Asian beetles are a different story. They eat ladybugs, plants, and even bite people! When threatened they release a yellow substance that smells bad, and stains walls, windowsills, or anything else they come in contact with. They also cause allergic reactions in some people, resulting in swollen eyes, itching, or asthmatic symptoms. So, as you can see, they are not the best house guests.
I’ve never been a fan of having any kind of insect in my home, but I never really paid a lot of attention to the occasional ladybug. Now that I realize the pesky intruders are not really ladybugs but a cleverly disguised imitation, I’ve become more aggressive in ridding my home of them.
Thinking about these pests this morning, I had to ask myself what other kind of harmful intruders I have permitted to come into my home, or my life, disguised as innocent and unassuming? How quickly we can become de-sensitized by the things around us! Then its easy for an imitation to come in and take up residence with us.
As I was scrolling through the news feed on Facebook yesterday, I noticed a story about a couple of “devout Christian Swingers,” who were spreading the Gospel by swinging (spouse swapping)! Seriously? How absurd! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’m not sure what they are actually spreading, but it’s certainly not the Gospel that is recorded in my Bible! Jesus warned us about false teachers, false doctrines, and false prophets. Some are blatantly obvious—like I would think these two swingers are. But others are much more subtle. Jesus warns us about these things.
“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Paul warns the Corinthians about false prophets/apostles.
2 Corinthians 11:10
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
2 Peter 2:1-3 says:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
This is why now, more than ever before, we must know the Word of God. The enemy of our souls works his way in by introducing near truths that sound good. He has always twisted Scripture to make it more palatable. It may sound very similar, so if we do not have a solid foundation we can begin to accept wrong doctrines.
Peter says the false teachers will secretly introduce destructive heresies. They don’t make it obvious, they use deceptive tactics. And we know that Satan is the Father of Lies. (John 8:44) We must test everything to see if it is truly from God.
1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
We must always be on guard. We can’t become complacent, and blindly accept what sounds good. We must be observant, and make sure everything we see, or hear lines up with the Word of God—the Holy Bible.
I truly believe we are living in the last of the last days and the enemy is trying harder than ever to lead Christians astray. Let us not be easy targets. If he comes after me, I want him to regret it! Know the Word of God, and quote it. Saturate yourself in the Truth so you cannot be led astray. Even the seemingly innocent can bring destruction!
2 Peter 3:17-18
“Therefore, beloved, since you already know these things, be on your guard not to be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure standing. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
Flu season has hit and is in full swing here in Tennessee. Many schools are closed because of the high number of students who are already sick, and to minimize spreading the flu among those who are not. Scores of people are staying home to avoid the risk of contracting the flu virus. Some wear medical masks to keep from breathing in any potential germs when they go out in public.
Hundreds have received a flu vaccine that has had little to no benefit this year—some say it is less than 10% effective. All kinds of precautions are being taken to avoid the horrible sickness we call the flu. Anyone who has ever had the flu understands exactly why it is best to take precautions. In older individuals or those with compromised immune systems, it can even be life threatening sometimes resulting in death.
However, in most cases it proves to be a couple of weeks of misery. Bad to say the least, but not a permanent situation. It does come to an end, thankfully! I’ve had the flu a couple of times in my life, so I can attest to how miserable it can make a person feel. I also understand the reasons for taking precautions against it—of course no one wants to be sick. But, still I’m amazed at the measures we will take in an attempt to prevent something that is temporary.
I can’t help but think of how truly horrible it would be to experience eternal pain and suffering in Hell, and yet so many people choose to take no preventative measures to avoid it. Hell is real. It is not a myth we scare our children with to make them behave. Hell is a reality and it is not a couple of weeks of misery. It is eternal pain and suffering and total separation from God.
Matthew 5:29 ESV says:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
Matthew 13:49-50 ESV
“So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Revelation 20:15 ESV
“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:8 ESV
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
I don’t think there is a flu virus in the world that can compare to that kind of misery. The truth is, we don't have to be incredibly evil to go to hell. For all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The awesome news is there is a Perfect preventative measure we can take. It is 100% effective. It is only by applying the blood of Jesus Christ to our lives that we can totally avoid the eternal punishment of hell. When our names are recorded in the book of life, we have no fear of eternal damnation.
Jesus became the Perfect Sacrifice for our sins and mistakes, when He laid down His life for us. We simply need to repent and turn from our sins, ask Him to forgive us, believe that He IS the Son of God, and confess Him as our Lord and Savior. Then we must strive to follow Him and seek His will for our lives, with all of our hearts. Seems like a really simple preventative measure to escape the flames of hell if you ask me. Yet so many people refuse to acknowledge that they need a Savior.
You can believe the enemy of our souls is spreading his nasty germs and his viruses to trap us in torment and misery with him. Misery loves company, and he knows how the story ends. He will be thrown into the lake of fire. His only desire is to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus has come so that we might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
We must fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We must spend time talking to Jesus, just as we would talk to our best friend. He wants to be your best friend. We must be careful to avoid the deceptions of the enemy and do our best to stay away from the things we know will cause us to stray or be tempted; just like avoiding germs.
One of my sweet ladies in the jail has repented and given her life to Christ, but as a baby Christian, she struggles with using profanity from time to time. As we began to talk about it last week, she shared that when she was busy cleaning the jail she would put a Rap CD into the CD player. The rapper uses a lot of profanity in his lyrics. I asked her if she thought that might have any effect on her using profanity when she gets frustrated or upset?
Just like we can breathe in germs from a flu virus, we must be careful of other things we allow inside our heads, and in our lives. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “garbage in—garbage out.”
Luke 6:45 ESV:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Let’s be careful to take the right preventative measures in our lives. There’s nothing wrong with doing what we can to avoid temporary discomfort, but let us never forget that eternity is FOREVER. Let’s make every attempt to avoid eternal suffering, and plan for an exciting destiny with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our Heavenly home!
I love how God moves when we trust Him with the smallest details of our lives. And I love how sometimes when we pray simple prayers, God comes along and does something even bigger than we were expecting or even asking for. God positions, repositions, and meticulously places every piece of the puzzle until all the pieces fit exactly as they should. He never wastes opportunities to train, instruct and guide us until His will is accomplished.
The most amazing part is how He often answers our own prayers by answering someone else’s prayer in the process. This is something I have experienced a couple of times this week, and I love watching the way He works!
As most of you know, I travel and speak for women’s conferences, retreats, church services, and revivals. I also lead the Embrace Sisterhood (women’s group) at my home church, which meets the first Thursday night of each month. Next month I’m speaking in Arkansas for a women’s retreat, and Sunday service. I didn’t realize the next Sisterhood meeting was the night before I leave for Arkansas, so when I looked at my calendar last week I started to panic.
I didn't want to overextend myself so I started praying and asking God what I should do? Should I ask someone to fill in? If so, who? Needless to say, God was already working on it before I asked. In fact He had been working on it for over a month. As my hubby tuned into the Super Bowl on TV Sunday night with his dad and brother, I tuned out the Super Bowl and went to my room to pray. I began to ask God once again who I could get to fill in?
As clear as a bell, God spoke to my heart, “Jacqueline!” Jacqueline is on my Sisterhood leadership team, but I haven’t known her very long at all. She has always seemed really quiet. However, I knew God had spoken, so without hesitation I sent her a message and asked if she would pray about speaking for our March meeting. She immediately replied, “We need to do lunch!” I sent her another message and said, “God has already put it on your heart hasn’t He?” She said, “It has kept me up at night!”
God had already asked her to talk to me about speaking for a meeting. Then He also planted the thought into my head as well. I am thrilled to see what God is doing in Jacqueline’s life, and I have no doubt He is going to use her in wonderful ways! It is my desire to help others step into the calling God has placed on their lives, so this was especially thrilling to me.
I also do jail ministry every Thursday, and this was another area I had been praying for God to help me out with. I never want to just leave those ladies hanging when I have to go out of town to speak. They count on me to come and minister every week, and I don’t want to let them down. So, this was another matter I had taken to God. Sunday a week ago—Kelsey—another one of my ladies on the Sisterhood leadership team contacted me because God had put the jail ministry on her heart. She also said she hadn’t been able to get jail ministry off her mind. I took her in with me last week, and as the tears rolled down her face, I saw the love of Jesus and His compassion flowing from her eyes. This Thursday, she will be speaking to the ladies for the first time.
I am so excited to see these ladies stepping out in obedience to God, and I believe they are equally excited that God is providing opportunities (obviously answers to their own prayers) to do so. God is faithful to answer our prayers, and when we listen for His voice we sometimes find that He is answering multiple prayers at the same time! Without any of us three ladies knowing what God was doing; He was working out every detail for each us behind the scenes. Nothing is too difficult for Him! When I think about multi-tasking I start feeling like I need a nap. But God loves multi-tasking.
I’m continually amazed by how very little we can comprehend of the magnificent mind of God. Our human minds can never wrap around the complexity of who God is, and how He orchestrates even the smallest events of our lives. The world with billions of people, and billions of situations big or small, can never tire or exhaust the patience of our great God. He is on it—always. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to understand how, but I can trust that He will always have the answer when I pray, because He already knows my thoughts, and knows my need. You can be assured of that as well!
Psalm 139:1-10 NIV
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
As published by "Her Green Room."
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.