Let me just say I have one of the most loving and caring husbands on the planet. He spoils me rotten. As I began to write my second book he blessed me by sending me to a little fishing cabin out on a lake in Rising Fawn, Georgia for inspiration and time alone. For seven days it was just me, Jesus, and nature.
I was in awe of the perfection and beauty of the place. The cozy little cabin sits at the foothills of a majestic mountain. It was nicely appointed. Its decor was both rustic and luxurious. And a deck attached to the cabin extended out over the water for fishing. It surely provided the perfect place to cast a line in hopes of catching a prize-winning fish.
Before I traveled to this small piece of heaven in Georgia, I decided to look it up online to read the reviews. There were raving reviews about the fishing at the cabin. People boasted of catching Bass, Crappie, Catfish, and Sunfish right from the cabin’s deck. Even though I planned to spend most of my time writing, I decided to throw my fishing pole and tackle box into my Jeep before leaving home.
When I arrived at the cabin I looked down from the deck and saw fish of every size swimming below. So I decided to get up the next morning and try my luck. I awoke to an incredible view of the lake. Low clouds were drifting across the mountaintop, and as I viewed the beauty of nature I was in awe of God’s splendor in His creation. As soon as I had my morning coffee and prayer time I got my fishing tackle and anxiously baited a hook.
I expectantly cast my line out across the lake and waited patiently. Nothing happened— not a nibble, not a bite, nothing. I reeled in my line and cast again. Still nothing. I found myself casting repeatedly to no avail. I changed depth; I changed bait; I changed spots over and over again. I was having no luck at all. So I gave up and went back inside the cabin to write.
But a couple hours later I was drawn outside again by the beauty of the lake and the desire to catch a fish.
I cast again, waited, and still nothing. I continued the process so many times I lost count. However, even though I had no luck catching a fish, something compelled me to continue to cast my fishing line into the water and wait. It seemed that I was not going to catch a single fish.
“Why am I even trying?” I asked myself.
I read the reviews about the cabin. I read stories of the fish so many others had caught before me. And then when I myself came to the water’s edge I witnessed with my own two eyes multitudes of fish swimming in the lake. But I couldn’t catch a fish.
I was discouraged, but I know from experience that sometimes the fish just aren’t biting. And clearly that was one of those times. However, I also knew I had the all the right equipment, so I persisted. I continued to cast and reel hoping for the slightest tug at the end of the fishing line. And finally…I caught the fish in the picture above!
I wonder why it is so hard for us to persist in faith when it comes to spiritual things? We can be so determined in our dogged pursuit of earthly things; but when it comes to persisting in faith until we see God move in our lives and situations, many of us throw in the towel after sending up the first prayer.
Yet we have this assurance from the Bible:
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8 NLT
Why do we find it so hard to pray and believe we will receive what we ask for when God’s Word tells us to persist? We persist at far lesser things without any kind of assurance of receiving results. Let’s remember that our God is a loving Father, and He desires to answer us. But, sometimes He requires more than one little quick prayer. We must be persistent in our praying.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing!"
*This modified excerpt came from my second book, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous. Get your copy today!
Before I even begin this post, I want to make something very clear. I do not claim to be a prophet even though I do believe in the gift of prophecy.
What I do know is that this morning as I was spending time with God and praying in the Spirit, these words came to me with such an urgency I knew I had to write them down. I could hardly keep up as they were coming to me so fast.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 says this…
“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
That is what I’m asking you to do as you read this. Pray to see if it resonates with your Spirit.
Behold a darker day is coming. My people have forgotten Who I Am. They have abandoned their first love, and turned to idols, yet they cry out for revival. I say brace yourselves for more disaster is on the way. Until lukewarm Christians are broken and turn their hearts back to Me, there will be no great revival. You go to church, play your games, and leave Me on the shelf on Monday morning. You will see a time so destructive that you would dare not leave Me anywhere. You will need Me every second of every day.
When you finally realize your need for Me, then revival will come. Cold hearts will be set on fire. But repentance must come first to the house of the Lord. Pastors and leaders will repent or be replaced. I Am not playing games. Heed My warning and turn back to Me.
Revival will precede redemption, but My works cannot be done amidst a dead and dry people. Fall on your faces before Me. Seek Me like never before with brokenness, and a contrite heart. When I see you have turned your hearts back to Me, and only Me, I will begin to move in your midst.
Lift Me up, not yourselves, and I will draw all men unto Me. Prepare your hearts, I am coming soon. Brace yourselves for the days ahead, and surrender your whole heart to Me before it is too late.
1 Peter 5:10 ESV And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
I pray that our hearts will be prepared and ready. I believe God’s judgment is coming to this land. Something has got to happen to change the direction we are headed in and cause people to RUN to the house of the Lord. Revival cannot come to this nation until those who call themselves Christians have completely turned back to God.
What will it take to wake us up, and get our focus back on God? We want to see a great harvest, but are our own hearts prepared to minister to those who will be rescued? Think about it. Are we lukewarm, or fired up and ready to do all God needs us to do in these last days?
I’m asking God to start with me. God, pull me from my own complacency, and break my heart for what breaks Yours. Draw me closer to You than ever before, and help me to remove any idols I have put before You. I realize I can’t be a part of the answer if I’m still part of the problem. Change MY heart, Oh God, and renew a right Spirit within me.
Lord help us all to draw near to You, to seek Your face, and allow You to plow up the hardened ground of our hearts.
I know it has been awhile since I have written a blog. I apologize. At first I was really busy and just kept putting it off—no excuse I know. But, in recent days I have been so bewildered I dared not open my mouth for fear of what would come out. But now that I have opened my mouth, hang on, it’s going to be a long post.
I have always been very careful not to share my political views on social media. I try my best to be a peace maker. And, just to let you know in advance, this post is not about politics either. It’s also not about Covid-19, and it’s not about social distancing, wearing or not wearing masks, bad cops, good cops, protesters, white privilege, black lives matter, blue lives matter, racial issues, vandalism, looting, stealing, killing or any of the thousands of other topics flooding the media today.
To be honest I’m sick of it—all of it. But, I’m not blind to it and, I can’t run away from it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. So what can I do?
I can do exactly what I was called to do--love. Nothing more and nothing less will make any kind of lasting impact. Consider what Jesus said when asked this question by the Pharisees.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
(Matthew 22:36-39 NLT)
People have always wanted a quick and easy fix to problems. Everyone on planet earth has problems of some kind. However, there is not one single problem that can’t be solved by following these two commandments. Love God, and love people.
But, this is the overall problem. We all have a common enemy. Yes, you may call yourself an atheist and completely dismiss everything I’m about to say. That’s fine you have the right to reject Jesus and the wonderful plans He has for your life. Your unbelief will not make Him cease to exist.
And, it certainly won't change the fact that two forces are at work in this universe. Jesus is perfect and has laid down His very life to give us freedom from the grips of evil and destruction. Satan on the other hand spends every minute of his existence planning your destruction. To me the choice appears obvious.
If everyone followed those two commandments, I shared from the book of Matthew, there would be no division—no crime, no hate, no stealing, killing, or envy. Everyone would just love Jesus completely--therefore there would be no sin. And if we loved each other as ourselves, we would always be concerned with making the lives of others better than our own. Sounds like Heaven doesn’t it?
The sad truth is, Heaven is the only place we will ever experience that kind of perfect society. We live in an imperfect world where Satan’s one goal is to separate us from the One—Jesus—Who loves us with a love that cannot be matched or even compared to. Satan hates us because he will never be able to have what we will have with Jesus. He threw it all away for pride, and envy.
So--rhetorical question--if you wanted to destroy the whole world and prevent people from going to Heaven, what would you do?
IF I could even imagine being that evil…
First I would distract those Christians who do love God and put Him first. I would do everything within my power to get their eyes off Jesus, and I would flood their eyes and ears with the most negative, divisive propaganda I could possibly dream up.
I would use all media outlets, newspapers, Hollywood, and everything else I could find to spread my destructive agenda all over the world. I would use fear tactics to keep people upset and worried so they would continually turn on their TV’s and tune into everything the media has to say. I would make sure they opened their laptops, and closed their Bibles. I would convince them that what they saw in the media was the gospel!
I would keep them distracted and make them forget that God’s Word says:
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”
Psalm 112:7 “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”
Matthew 16:23 “But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’”
Next I would do everything I could to divide people. I would use all my evil lies to bring in all kinds of offenses. I would cause people to believe that they are such awesome beings—even greater than their Creator—so they DESERVE every good, and extravagant thing for themselves. I would keep them focused on their own wants and desires, and I would cause them to be competitive toward one another.
I would make sure people were easily offended and quick to hate. I would make sure they took everything personally, and considered no one else’s wellbeing but their own. I would cause people to be envious of others and speak evil of one another.
I would make sure they believed they are so perfect and so important, the Bible and the law of the land doesn’t apply to them. I would convince them they both are too restrictive and they deserve to have anything they feel would make their lives better. I would convince them that sin is all relative, and the Bible is hate speech. I would do my best to make them forget the sacrifice Jesus made for them and the prize He has promised to those who finish the race.
I would cause people to hate those who trust in God and, I would convince them that Christians are against them, and therefore, I would cause persecution against Christians to flourish. I would cause the voices of hate to become so loud and persuasive, that Christians would choose to be silent. I would make sure Christians ceased to read the Bible, so they wouldn’t see Scriptures like these:
Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
2 Timothy 2:24 (NLT) “The servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.”
Romans 12:17-21 NLT “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
‘I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,’
says the Lord.
If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Then when I finally had people distracted and divided against each other for every kind of reason, I would sit back and laugh as I continued to pour out even more deception than the world could imagine. I would introduce all kinds of false doctrines, and heresies. I would send false prophets into churches so that even the elect would be deceived.
I would do my best to twist every Biblical truth I could. I would cause people to disrespect God in every way. And as everyone was distracted by all my evil schemes, I would offer a myriad of empty promises as a cure for their problems. I would make sure people were turning to drugs, and alcohol, and sexual perversion as a means of escape from their pain. I would lie to them convincing them that every sinful distraction is a means to escape.
Then I would convince them that their lives were worthless and meaningless. I would make sure they felt that no one cared or even noticed them. That would be pretty easy because, very few would notice them—I’ve got them focused on themselves after all. I would convince them that they were completely hopeless with nowhere to turn, and I would make them think God had turned His back on them. Then I would bring their sudden destruction.
Through all this people would be so focused on the meaningless and temporary problems on earth--in this quickly vanishing vapor of life--they would have no expectation or anticipation of Heaven and an eternity with a loving God. They would not even notice the words of the Bible coming to life before their very eyes:
2 Timothy 3 :1-5 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
I would create a smoke screen ensuring they would forget to watch for Christ’s return, and I would keep them so upset over politics, and other issues that they would talk about nothing else. I would make them forget that God is still in control. They would be so consumed with their own affairs it would be just like it was in the days of Noah.
They wouldn’t dare bother to share the Gospel and attempt to rescue the lost and perishing. I would convince them that Jesus would not return in their lifetime, or ever. Then, when we all least expect it, Jesus would return. So many souls would be lost, and--by my logic--I would have won!
1 Peter 5:8 “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
Now, please forgive me, because I said I wasn’t going to mention Covid, or racial issues. But, I’m going there.
I felt this at the beginning of Covid-19, and I believe it even more strongly now. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT trying to predict the time or date of Jesus’ return. This is my own personal observation, and impression from Holy Spirit.
Because God is merciful, loving, faithful, and just; what if all these things have happened to prepare us? You see, most people see chaos and unrest. I see God sifting His people. When we were all ordered to stay home, most of us were locked in with our families. We spent more quality time together, and our busyness slowed down.
In my opinion, I felt as if we were given this time to get our houses in order. This was an opportunity to get closer to our kids and nourish their spiritual lives. It was an opportunity to examine ourselves and our kids to make sure we are all ready for Christ’s return.
I’m not saying God caused the Coronavirus, or the death of George Floyd. But, recently through the riots, and looting, and racial issues, the massive explosions of unrest, and the growing hatred between every race, color and creed. Maybe, just maybe God is shaking us up.
Perhaps He is bringing to the surface all of our thoughts concerning racism, division, resentment, and hatred toward our fellow man. We should take this time to examine our thoughts, and feelings toward all humankind. The Word of God says we must forgive, and LOVE one another, or we will not be able to enter Heaven. Think about that. Do we really love our neighbors as ourselves?
It doesn't matter who we feel is right or wrong. We must realize that not everyone is going to agree with us. Our way is not the only way. People can agree to disagree peacefully. But, we are required to love and forgive. Period.
I believe Jesus is coming soon. I believe we should examine our hearts and open our eyes. It’s not time to become frustrated and give up, but we should stand strong determined to thwart all the plans of the enemy of our souls.
1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Matthew 24:36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17 “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Luke 21:34-36 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Thessalonians 5:2 “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
I know this post was long, but if you have ever listened to ANY of my words, please hear this. We must love one another, we must confess our sins, we must forgive one another, and we must be ready for Jesus’ return. Let us not be distracted, divided, deceived and ultimately destroyed by Satan.
I love you my friends.
Dr. Jana Lovelace is a Jesus-chaser, wife, mom, & Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Dr. Lovelace & her husband, John, have three beautiful children, ages 23, 7, & 6. She enjoys spending time with family, fitness boot camp, traveling, football, coffee, & design. She believes all things are better with glitter.
I am thrilled to say, I have just finished the manuscript for my latest book. At this point, I have no question as to why God led me to write about deception in the last days. There are voices of deception all around us, and we must pray for discernment continually. The Holy Spirit is our friend, teacher and advocate. He is willing to lead, guide and direct us if we keep our feet firmly planted on the straight, and narrow path and keep our hearts tuned to the Word of God—the Holy Bible.
We must certainly be on guard against laziness and complacency and make sure we are studying the Bible for ourselves, and receiving instruction from wise and godly counsel. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many people have become complacent and rely solely on others to hear from God for them. This is how false prophets enter into our lives and cause confusion. At other times we might want a quick answer and become unwilling to wait for God to reveal the right answer to us. So, we go looking for a quick answer from whoever is willing to speak an answer to us.
For example, when God first called me into ministry He did it in a dramatic way. The first time, He revealed my calling through a visiting evangelist at my church. In that case I didn’t believe the man at all. I even told the evangelist that he was wrong!
However, even though I didn’t accept his words at the time, those words stuck. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. And, when I did think about them it was as if I had a flutter of butterflies in my tummy. But, I still resisted the word because I didn’t think God could use me in that way. My doubts were strong concerning myself and my inabilities.
Then a couple of years later God confirmed that same calling through a women’s minister who was speaking at a local women’s conference. She told me almost the exact same thing the evangelist told me. This time I accepted her word from God open heartedly. It was a confirmation to what had already been planted in my Spirit. I didn’t hesitate to believe it even for a second. I knew it was God!
But, since God had now spoken to me through two completely different ministers, I wanted Him to keep speaking to me through other ministers. I started attending every women’s conference I could find in the hopes that someone would give me a Word from God. But, it didn’t happen. Not. one. single. time.
I began to pray and beg God to speak to me through someone else. That’s when He stopped me in my tracks and said, “You do not need Me to speak to you through someone else. You can hear Me for yourself!” That’s when it dawned on me! I wasn’t listening to His still small voice before when He was trying to gently whisper to me about my calling. So, He had to use other voices to get my attention and confirm those things to me.
Now, that I had started drawing closer and closer to Him, I could hear His voice through His Holy Word in the Bible, and I could discern that small still voice of the Holy Spirit for myself. I didn’t need to chase others around asking them to tell me what God had to say to me. If we become caught up in thinking we can only hear from God through someone else’s lips, we can easily fall prey to false prophets.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that God does not still speak through prophecy, and He has done so many times in my life when I needed a confirmation about something. But, we must not seek to hear from God ONLY through the mouths of others. And we must use discernment in every case.
I have had people who have spoken things into my life that I knew were not of God. And for that reason I am extremely particular (or careful) of who I allow to speak into my life. In fact I had one self-proclaimed prophet who started calling me every week saying, “Woman of God, God told me to tell you….”
Some of the things he said were so bogus and off in left field that I had to block him. I also tested the words he spoke over me. Did any of them come to pass? No. Did any of them resonate with my Spirit? No. In fact most of his words were in direct opposition to what God was actually speaking to me. Use discernment. Pray for discernment.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 explains this.
“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”
Not only should we use discernment in what others speak over us, but we must also use discernment in our own understanding of what God is speaking to us personally. Sometimes our personal desires can become crisscrossed with what we think God is saying to us.
I have had desires in my own life that I have prayed for—like a faithful Christian husband—and when I fell in love, I BELIEVED God told me he was the one I had been praying for. It was not because God actually told me that, but because I desired that relationship for myself. I never had peace about it, because deep down I knew I was NOT truly hearing the voice of God, but I was hearing the voice of my own desires. It was no wonder that marriage ended in divorce.
Sometimes our own personal desires, wants, and wishes can become so powerful that we want to believe God is speaking those things to us. That is why we must make sure those things align with the Word of God. Is there anything that conflicts with His Holy Bible? Are we sure we are not assuming that everything we want is a word or confirmation from God? Does it bring peace? We have to be careful. The enemy also uses his influences to bring confusion to our minds, so we must make sure we recognize the voice of God.
For this reason, I’m also very cautious of people who continually say, “God told me,” at the start of every single sentence. Yes, God talks to us, but if we believe He is telling us every single move we, and others, should make we may be taking it to extremes.
Let us always be discerning, protecting ourselves from deception, distractions, and anything that would try to supersede the true Word of God in our lives. These are troubled times we are living in. We must have a sound and secure foundation, and we must be busy doing the things God has called us to do, not being distracted by words that would lead to confusion, or take us off the path God has called us to.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV)
It’s been a few years now since God called me into ministry. I can say it has certainly been an adventure, and I had no idea what it would look like back then. When I look back now, I can see so much naiveté in myself and I’m reminded a lot of Joseph.
When we talk about the story of Joseph in the Bible, we often refer to all his hardships and trials and how God used him for greatness taking him from the pit to the palace. But, one of the first things I think about when I think of Joseph was his inability to hold his tongue.
As I have read about the dreams God gave Joseph, I have often wondered why He didn’t also give him the common sense to keep it to himself. But, then I have to remember how I felt when God called me. I was so excited. Not only did God put the dream in my heart, but He confirmed it multiple times. Having the dream and the confirmations made me extra eager to share my excitement with everyone else.
I only wish God had dropped an instruction manual in my lap with the call He had given me. Take a little free advice from someone who has learned the hard way—hold onto that dream like precious treasure and only share it with a few. I found that many people didn’t care to know, others won’t see it in you, some will think you are bragging or gloating, and still others will be just plain jealous.
I’m not saying that is the case with everyone. We all have God appointed friends who are happy to share in our excitement, but we probably shouldn’t go announcing it on the seven o’clock news just yet! And always be considerate of the feelings of others.
Joseph’s dreams involved him ruling over his brothers. His brothers were already jealous of Joseph because he was their father, Jacob’s, favorite. So imagine how his news kindled their fiery hatred toward him. If you’ve read the story, you know it didn’t go well. (pun not intended)
Discovering God’s call on your life is wonderful. It’s exciting, scary, humbling, and definitely something we want to share. But we must remember, we don’t always get to wear the crown as soon as we get news about it. David was anointed as King, but it was many, many years later before he would actually wear the crown.
Jospeh went through years of troubles and trials before he stepped into his position. In both cases, God was preparing them. We don’t know it all when God calls us. Yes, we know He does equip the called, but we must follow His lead. If we try to get ahead of Him, things will not go well. But, when we remain humble and let Him take control—in other words stay out of His way—He will place the crown on our heads at just the right time.
We don’t have to tell others about our calling or attempt to prove it. God’s power will be on display through us as we seek to bring glory to Him alone. And in His perfect timing He will lift us up in honor.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 1 Peter 5:6 (NLT)
What if Hillary Got Saved?
You are probably wondering what on earth this blog could be about with a title like that. I was watching TV when an interview with Hillary Clinton came on. They were asking for her opinion on Bernie Sanders and his probability of becoming President. (You can probably imagine how that went.)
I have to admit I do not get warm fuzzy feelings when I see Hillary Clinton. I have never been a Hillary fan, and her stance on abortion and other issues are particularly upsetting to me. I can’t count how many times I have turned the TV channel when she has appeared on my screen, but not tonight. Why?
Tonight when I saw her, I couldn’t help but wonder what she looked like as a child. I admit it was a strange thought. But, my heart always melts when it comes to children. I can feel the deepest compassion for young children, and I especially hurt for those who are lost or missing. Seeing missing children posters really cause my heart to ache. I tried to imagine Hillary as a young girl.
There’s no doubt that Hillary is disliked by many people in the world. It’s really hard to love someone with her actions, and policies. But, Jesus loves her. When He sees her, He sees her as a small lost and helpless little girl that He would love to rescue. Well, I found an internet picture of a young Hillary and posted it above.
We often see only what people allow us to see. We may see the most undesirable qualities in a person, and that can cause us to dislike that person immensely.
But tonight I looked at Hillary and wondered what happened to that young child? I know the young and innocent Hillary is still inside her. What has life dealt her behind the scenes? We can see everything the media has displayed openly, marriage problems, failures, lost election, and everything else has been presented, often showing this woman with a tough brave face.
Some may say she volunteered for the publicity. But, we still haven’t seen the tears that have fallen in her private moments. What fears has she felt? What pressures has she struggled with to be what everyone thinks or wants her to be. Maybe she has always aspired to be and do exactly what she is doing now. But, is she happy? Has she ever truly known happiness? Has she ever truly known the love of a Savior?
What if there was someone in Hillary’s life that just chose to love her? What if someone explained to her that no matter what she accomplishes in this vapor of life we live here on earth—it will never be enough. What if someone told her she was worthy of love without her accomplishments? What if someone could make her understand that there is a love and a freedom that cannot be bought, but is far more priceless than treasures or wealth?
What if Hillary got truly and radically saved? What if she actually believed that she was created by a God who loves her, and longs to give her a life worth living? What if she was finally free from all guilt and shame, and was able to let go of all her failures because she was truly forgiven? What if she understood that eternity is much longer than this lifetime on earth?
BUT, what if we loved people who count us as deplorable or detestable? What if we just tried to see the unlovable people we meet as truly lost children? Maybe we would find it easier to love the lost and share with them the only hope of peace, freedom, and new life that only Jesus can give.
So, yes, I pray that Hillary gets saved. I pray that one day, someone somewhere will get through to her with the love of Jesus, and help her find real life, real love, and real happiness. After all, if Jesus could save me, He can certainly save Hillary.
I clearly remember the day I was sitting on my couch panicking and praying that God would give me a clever and eloquent sermon for an upcoming speaking engagement. I would be speaking to thousands of people—many of them pastors themselves. Fear began to creep in, and I was afraid I would not measure up.
As I sat there with my nerves frazzled and my mind going in every direction imaginable something wonderful happened. The sweet and precious voice of the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear something that would change my whole outlook. He simply asked, “Are you willing to look foolish for Me?” I hesitated for a moment wondering exactly what that would entail. It’s not a popular thing to look foolish.
As I looked down at the Bible laying open in my lap, these two highlighted passages leapt off the page at me.
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:25-29 NIV
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV
After reading those words a definitive “Yes,” arose in my heart! I declared, “Yes Jesus, I am willing to look foolish for You!” As I went on to prepare my sermon, God gave me one of the simplest messages I have ever received for that congregation. It certainly wasn’t clever or eloquent. But, the Holy Spirit moved in power like I had never witnessed before. I stood in awe as the Holy Spirit swept through the congregation and performed absolute miracles. Out of a simple message devoid of human wisdom—one that many would consider foolish—God’s power was displayed.
There are still times that I long to come up with an earth shattering intellectual sermon that will amaze the hearers. I have to battle with my flesh often. I have to realize that being obedient is far more important than sounding like a famous theologian. I have to remind myself to be obedient to speak what God wants me to speak no matter how simple I might think it sounds. I would much rather speak with the Holy Spirit’s anointing and see a demonstration of the Spirit’s power than to rely on my own human wisdom.
As we move into the New Year, I have one question for you. Are you willing to look foolish? Are you willing to speak Truth when it’s not popular? Are you willing to totally rely on the Holy Spirit and rest in His wisdom rather than trying to prove your own intellect? Are you willing to lunge out in faith when it would be much easier to play it safe and save face? Are you willing to look foolish for Jesus?
I’m ready to see God move in power like He longs to! I believe 2020 will be a year of miracles for those who dedicate themselves to studying the Word and praying like they never have before. I’m not making a New Year’s resolution, but I’m making a promise to God to seek His face more than ever before; to look foolish and to do whatever it takes to see the lost and broken come to Him. I’m ready for an end-time revival of epic proportions. Jesus is coming soon. It’s not time to merely step out in faith, its time to leap out in faith! What will your 2020 look like?
I’ve always heard about Christmas miracles, and after watching many Hallmark Christmas movies I’ve seen countless fictional Christmas miracles. But, what happens when you really experience a Christmas miracle of your own—like I did today. Let me explain.
Rev. David Wilkerson has always been one of my favorite Evangelists. I’ve listened to his recorded sermons, and read some of his books. I always aspired to be a powerful evangelist like him and to always speak the truth with boldness like he did. He passed away in 2011, and I never had the opportunity to meet him or hear him speak in person.
However, I was extremely blessed to meet and become friends with his niece Julie Wilkerson Klose. And his brother, Pastor Don Wilkerson Co-founder of Teen Challenge, blessed me tremendously by writing the Foreword for my last book.
But, today something incredibly unusual happened. I received a phone call from Des Moines, Iowa. I assumed it was a telemarketer and didn’t answer. A bit later I noticed the caller had left a voicemail message. I was shocked to hear these words on the other end of the line.
“Hi, this is Steven. I have a bit of an interesting story for you. I found a book on a park bench and didn’t realize the meaning of it until I opened it and realized it is signed over to you from David Wilkerson, who is a famous evangelist. God told me to pick this book up personally. I found it on a park bench in Des Moines, Iowa, and I’d love to give it back, and maybe talk to you about a few things. I thought this was just amazing that I was told to pick this book up by God, and I would like you to contact me back.”
I can’t begin to tell you how puzzled I was. I’ve never had a book signed to me by Rev. David Wilkerson. And, honestly, if it had been any other author I probably wouldn’t have even returned the call. But, curiosity got the best of me and it wasn't long until I realized God was doing something miraculous.
When I called Steven back, we discussed a few things. He told me that after he found the book he looked up David Wilkerson on the internet and listened to some of his sermons. Then he looked me up and listened to some of my sermons.
Seeing we were both evangelists he assumed Rev. David had just signed the book and presented it to me as a friend. Little did Steven know, I had never met Rev. David Wilkerson. As our conversation continued, it was obvious that Steven was looking for something more.
As the Holy Spirit led me, I asked Steven if he wanted to give his life to Jesus. In the next few moments Steven prayed and surrendered his life to Jesus, and re-dedicated his life to following Him as his Savior.
But that was just the beginning. As we continued to talk it became obvious that God had also placed the desire to be an evangelist in Steven’s heart. We rejoiced together in what we believe God is leading Steven into next. I know God is working all things together for Steven’s good!
Steven texted me a picture of the book (you can see it in the picture above) and it is indeed signed to Rev. Donna Sparks along with the date January 26, 2008. I know for sure I never met Rev. David, and he never signed a book for me.
I tried to figure out if there was any significance to the date Jan. 26, 2008. Well, the date is my mother’s birthday, but the year, 2008, was the year God called me to be an evangelist. I didn’t even become Reverend Donna Sparks until 2014. Coincidence? Maybe.
I also wondered who this other Rev. Donna Sparks could be. And the more I thought about it, the more puzzling it seemed to become. This was surely a miracle! I don’t think the miracle in this story is that Rev. David Wilkerson signed a book to a lady named Rev. Donna Sparks in 2008.
No, the miracle of this story is that God led a young man to a book on a park bench in Des Moines, Iowa to learn of two evangelists—one of whom he was able to contact. And when Jesus led him to me, I was able to lead Steven to Him in turn. Salvation is always the greatest miracle.
Steven offered to send me the book signed to me by David Wilkerson, and I’m sending him my two books in return. I’m anxious to see what God has in store for Steven. And, I never cease to be amazed at the lengths our God will go to when it comes to reaching those who need Him. There truly are no limits to His love and grace.
Steven got his Christmas miracle. He is a brand new creation with a call to share Jesus with the world. And I got a book signed to me by Rev. David Wilkerson (ha ha ha). I think we both have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas!
Being a minister, I have had conversations with people who have told me some pretty outrageous stories. Go into a room full of drug addicts and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I could write a book filled with some of the wildest tales you have ever heard from my jail ministry alone.
But, I’m amazed that there are so many other individuals who will tell complete lies thinking you have no discernment whatsoever. You can’t blame non-believers who have no understanding about Spiritual discernment. But, what about those who should know better?
Of course in this day and age I have found there is a great lack of discernment not only in the world, but also in our churches. This is why so many people are deceived. The book I’m currently writing deals with deception in the last days. There is absolutely no question as to why Jesus warns us repeatedly in the New Testament about deception.
We hate to think that our Christian friends, or leaders would ever tell us anything that is untrue, but it happens. It only takes one person to be led astray, and they can spread untruth faster than a wildfire. This is why we must read and know the Truth of the Holy Bible, and pray for discernment—so we are not led astray.
There are also those who like to embellish things—a lot. They see no harm in over exaggerating a move of God, or telling people a great miracle has happened when none has really happened. They think they are doing no harm. In fact they may even think they are doing God a favor by exaggerating His great power.
But, God doesn’t need our help. We serve a God who is still in the miracle working business. We do more harm than good when we speak falsely about what He has done. First we damage our own testimony. Other Christians often have the Spiritual discernment to know if we are being honest or not.
Secondly, if the miracle is disproven—and if it’s false it will be—there’s a world of skeptics out there just waiting to discredit anything God does. When we embellish, exaggerate or speak untruth we just fuel the non-believers fire, feeding their doubt and disbelief.
We must use discernment. There are some people who will chase so-called signs and wonders all over the globe. I was reading a post earlier today in a group for Credentialed ministers where someone was asking about the legitimacy of the Bible in Georgia that is supposedly leaking oil. I’m not saying God can’t make a Bible gush oil, but I don’t see a reason for it.
I say this with the utmost love and respect, but I’m not going to go chasing gold dust, feathers, or random gems. However, I do hope to always be found chasing Jesus! He is the Only One worth chasing. And, He’s not running from us. He’s waiting for us to wake up and experience the real miracles He has called us to do.
I have seen Him do miracles right before my eyes. I’m talking about real life, doctor proven healings. I know what God is capable of doing. I’m convinced that when we experience a real and proven miracle, we cannot be satisfied with anything less.
On the other hand when we become deceived by unimportant distractions posing as miracles, we cripple ourselves from experiencing REAL miracles! I don’t know about you, but I only want the real thing! I want to see the sick healed, the leper cleansed, the dead raised, and demons cast out. Let’s stop chasing distractions, and chase Jesus. He will provide the real miracles, and we will never be the same.
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:7,8 NIV
I recently spoke for a women’s retreat in Alabama. I had been looking forward to the event for a long time. One of the reasons I was so excited about it was because of how God orchestrated the whole thing.
I was in Rising Fawn, Georgia at my favorite little writing hideaway working on my second book, No Limits. During my time there I was also doing a book-signing for my first book Beauty From Ashes at a local shop. It was a great weekend, and I loved visiting with the friends God had strategically placed in my life from prior writing trips in Rising Fawn.
The next weekend while at home, Sheila—the owner of the cabin—texted me and told me about a group of church ladies who were currently staying at the cabin. She said she had told them that I stayed at the cabin the previous weekend, and a few of the ladies recognized my name. She said, “You really need to call the cabin. They would be tickled to death if you did.” I thought she was nuts!
There was no way I was going to call and disturb these ladies during their getaway. Sheila insisted that I call and sent me the phone number. I went to bed that night with no intention of calling them. But, as soon as my feet hit the floor the next morning the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart that I should call them.
Reluctantly, I went downstairs to my office and called the cabin. The first time I got no answer, so I assumed I was off the hook. Nope! The Holy Spirit insisted I try again. This time I got an answer. I shared a short greeting with them, a bit of my testimony, and then I prayed for them. Little did I know that God was doing something miraculous behind the scenes!
Two weeks later Jeannie—the group leader from the cabin—called and asked me to speak for their women’s retreat. She didn’t know when, or where, or how, but God had planted it in her heart and she knew I was supposed to be a keynote speaker. I said, “Ok, sounds good.” I didn’t know if they even had a clue what all this was going to entail, but I went with it.
As we were talking about what the retreat would be called, she asked if I had a suggestion? I said, “How about No Limits? That is the name of the book that I was writing while I was at the cabin.” She loved it. And, from that moment on, it was called the No Limits Retreat!
A host of other speakers were invited, worship leaders, musicians, panelists, a production crew and finally the gorgeous venue was picked—Shocco Springs in Talladega, AL. The No Limits Retreat was coming together.
Living three hundred miles away I wasn’t privy to all the things going on behind the scenes, but these ladies were working! I still had no idea what to expect when I arrived, but I was about to have my socks blown off! When I arrived at the resort I immediately felt the presence of God. This event had been bathed in prayer, and the Holy Spirit was definitely preparing the atmosphere.
Jeannie came to me before I took the platform and asked me if I was nervous. I replied, “Not one bit!” I knew without a doubt this day, this event, this moment had been 100% ordained, and orchestrated by the Creator of the Universe. He was here FOR US. I wasn’t worried about what to say, because I was only the mouthpiece. His was the voice that would be heard.
Over the weekend, I was tremendously blessed by each and every speaker. Only the Holy Spirit can arrange an event where each story miraculously and seamlessly dove tails into the next. It was absolutely beautiful. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit was so thick it was almost tangible.
As we stood in awe at the end of the last service, where Dawn Mason had just spoken, I felt as if the presence of God physically pushed me to my knees in adoration of Him. I knelt at the altar with tears running down my cheeks breathing in the goodness of all HE accomplished over the weekend. Only God can breathe life into an event of this magnitude.
Many women are comparing it to a Women of Faith™ Conference. But, I don’t. There was something very special about this retreat. Something sets it completely apart from any event I have attended or spoken for. There is a longing in my heart for next year.
There was a sweet camaraderie between ladies of all denominations whose hearts came together and experienced Jesus together as one sisterhood. This must be what Heaven will be like! Just reflecting on the event gives me a sense of homesickness. I am so glad that God knit my heart together with each and every lady involved in the No Limits Retreat. I love my sisters! We are the No Limits Tribe! Make plans to join us for No Limits 2020.
We recently watched the movie “Everest,” and one line from the movie really struck a chord with me! In one scene a man is talking about which one of them he thinks will make it to the top first. Another man says, “We don’t need competition between people! There is competition between us and the mountain!”
Sometimes even a secular movie can speak volumes to us on a spiritual level. They realized they had a common enemy—the mountain. Often there is competition between pastors, those in leadership, those involved in a particular ministry, or between denominations. What we often miss is the fact that we all have a common enemy! We don't need competition between people. There is competition between us and the enemy of this world—Satan!
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
We are on the same side. We are all a part of the same RESCUE TEAM.
It's hard not to have a competitive nature—we are human after all—and competition just seems to be part of our makeup. We enjoy a pat on the back, and we like to be told we are doing a great job. (And sometimes we need that encouragement.) But sometimes it can go to our heads and we can become more focused on the praises of men than pleasing our Heavenly Father.
However, if we seek to glorify Christ by reaching the lost and pointing them to the One and Only HOLY God, our focus must come into alignment with His heart and His desires. When we put Jesus first, our own goals and expectations give way to what God wants. We must understand that He is God, and we are not.
I believe John the Baptist said it best:
John 3:30 (ESV) “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Rejoice today in the fact that we as Christians are part of the most honorable and Spiritually empowered RESCUE TEAM on the planet! Ever seeking to bring glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we stand firm and stand together against our common enemy! We are on the same team, with the same goals, and serving the same God!
1 Peter 5:8-10 (NIV) 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
In this impatient, rude and easily provoked society that we live in, its often hard to have happy loving feelings for people we come in contact with throughout the day. Media of most any kind seems to rouse social, racial, and religious tensions. Let’s face it. Our society has become riddled with hate.
I try to hold my tongue when it comes to politics. I know that arguing generally escalates the situation, and rarely if ever, changes the views of the opposing side. As the tension in this world continues to rise, it is extremely hard be overflowing with love and compassion for those who arrogantly oppose us and especially our Christian values.
It’s easy to lose our temper (speaking of myself here) and have less than kind thoughts about people who openly seek to suppress the message of the cross, and Jesus’ redemptive work. When someone says something hateful or degrading about our Lord and Savior we typically want to spring to His defense.
But, He doesn’t need us to defend Him. He didn’t call ten thousand angels to come and save Him from the agony of the cross, and He doesn’t need us to display hateful attitudes in an attempt to defend Him now. He is God.
Instead He has called us to love. Some days its harder to love than other days. Sometimes I have really hateful and disruptive women in the jail church services. I have had to bite my tongue many times. We often expect so much more from the lost than they are capable of delivering--inside or outside prisons walls. We have to remember…they are lost and in need of a Savior.
I’ve been praying for God to give me more love and compassion for the lost lately. I asked God to show me how to be more kind and loving. He instantly reminded me of an occurrence several years ago. I was living in Iowa and had stopped by my local dollar store to grab a few items.
At the check-out there was a dirty faced little blonde haired girl standing in front of me. Her clothes were dirty and ragged, her hair was unkempt, and she was standing there barefoot. She was counting pennies in her little change purse and placing them one by one on the counter.
My heart broke for this precious little one. Having a daughter not much older than her at the time, I couldn’t imagine this being my own child, alone, dirty, and possibly hungry. I quickly stepped up and paid for her things and told her to keep her money.
She smiled a big beautiful smile and said, “Thank you!” I hurried to try to catch her outside to see if I could get a little more information that might allow me to help her more. But, as soon as I exited the store she was long gone. I cried all the way home as I thought about the little girl. I couldn’t rest well that night wondering if she was okay.
You see it’s easy to have compassion on children. I wanted to scoop that little girl into my arms and just tell her how loved she was. I wanted to make sure all her needs were met, feed her, and comfort her. My heart broke for her and she wasn’t even my daughter.
As I was reflecting on this encounter that’s when Jesus spoke to my heart. He gently whispered, “That is how I see each person I have created—as a child. I too, long to take them into my arms and comfort them and provide for them. Even when they grow up they are still my children. And, I do not want them to be lost and alone.”
That hit me right in the feels! If we could only see others—no matter what age, or no matter how hateful—as that little girl in the check out line. If we could see them as God sees them; lost, confused, hopeless and in need of a comforter. If we could only see past the facade and into the depths of their hurting hearts. Then maybe, we could learn to love a little more like Jesus.
I’m praying to see past the hard outer shell, past the rage and hate, past the ungodly language and attitudes; and see the lost, hurting, confused, broken little child that Jesus sees inside them. Lord please help me to love them like You do—as a child.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I inadvertently forget that God really is in control of every little thing in our lives. He knows what’s coming before we do, so He is much more capable of handling our situations than we are.
This past Memorial Day my daughters and I were driving to visit my mom and dad. It’s a nice scenic drive on a heavily wooded winding road with hills and valleys. I was driving and talking to Haley who was sitting in the passengers seat. She suddenly looked frightened, and I quickly turned to see one of the largest deer I have ever seen running into the road in front of us.
There was no way I could avoid hitting it. It just darted out right on top of us! Haley covered her eyes and let out a little scream. Hannah was in the back seat with her headphones on, completely oblivious. I hit the brakes as hard as I could while bracing for impact and waited to hear the bump, bump, bump sound!
I cannot explain it, but we must have missed that deer by a hair! When I realized we had cleared it, I shouted, “Thank you Jesus!” Haley uncovered her eyes and said, “How did we miss it?” Hannah took off her head phones and asked, “What happened?”
I can only say that the angels must have shoved that deer across the road, or Jesus turbo-charged it in a split second. Haley and I both were amazed. We could not figure out how we missed it.
But, I pray before any of us leave the house to drive anywhere. And, if I happen to forget, one of the girls usually covers it. I believe God was watching out for us. His hand of protection was on us. How often we forget that we serve a God who is capable of taking care of every little thing. He’s not too busy for us!
A couple of nights ago, Haley was looking for the hole punch. She was trying to get her school papers in a notebook and had searched the house over. As she sat in my office frustrated to no end, she simply whispered, “Jesus will you show me where it is?” No sooner than she had said it, she lowered her eyes and noticed it on the bottom shelf of my computer desk hidden by the shadows!
She came upstairs and told me how God showed it to her. I myself have had to ask God to reveal things to me such as lost car keys, a favorite purse, or a match to a shoe. He is faithful to answer our smallest prayers. James tells us we have not because we ask not.
How often do we forget to turn to Him, and trust Him to help us in everyday things? He is our friend, and yes He cares about every little thing!
It seems that many of the things we use today in our daily lives have a “reset” option. When something stops functioning the way it is supposed to, we can hit the reset button and—in most instances—it will return to normal. We get so accustomed to our devices just working as they as they should, that sometimes we are surprised that we need to reset them. We just assume they will continue to do what they're supposed to.
This past Sunday we had a powerful worship service. As Pastor Drew Hawkins led worship he began to talk about how we worship, what worship really is, and how our worship becomes a living sacrifice. He talked about how we must empty ourselves of ourselves, and seek to put Jesus first. He must increase, we must decrease.
You see, our worship should be an overflowing abundance of gratitude for all that God has done for us, but it should also come from our desire to know God, and desire more of Him and more of His presence in our lives. When we worship God intimately and from the depths of our hearts, He responds to us in powerful ways.
I sometimes feel like we can get into a rut when it comes to worship. Maybe we don’t care for the particular song the worship team chose, or maybe they sang it in a key that was too high or too low for us to sing with. Maybe they sang a song that we've have heard a hundred times or more, and we’re just tired of it. But, we have to realize worship is not about us. Are we just singing along because we like the melody or is our worship coming from a grateful heart that seeks more of God?
I remember when God called me into ministry. It was during a worship service, and we were singing a song by William McDowell called, I Give Myself Away. The chorus simply repeats, “I give myself away, I give myself away so You can use me.” I had never heard the song before in my life. But as I sang that song for the first time it became my prayer to God. More than anything else I wanted to draw closer to Him and do all the things He had called me to do.
At that point in my life I didn’t really think that was a lot. I was overwhelmed by the failures of my past, and even though I knew God had forgiven me, I was afraid He was still mad at me—or at the very least—disappointed in me. So, I really didn’t have any great expectations of being used by God for anything.
But as I began to empty myself of me, and I began to focus solely on Christ something began to happen. For the first time since I had rededicated my life to Christ, I began to realize that God was not mad at me. And even more exciting than that, He certainly did want to use me for His glory. And, He has not stopped amazing me since that day!
I’m certainly far from perfect though. I still have to check myself quite often. I have to ask myself if I’m just singing a pretty song, or if I’m truly giving all of myself away and lifting up Jesus above everything else. I have to evaluate whether I’m really worshiping, or if I’m stuck in a rut. Am I just singing along, or am I offering myself as a living sacrifice to the One who gave His all for me?
The words of that simple song—I Give Myself Away—all those years ago still serves as a great reminder for me. When I sing that song now, its like I’m hitting a reset button in my worship. When my worship isn’t functioning in the way it is supposed to I have found that I need to hit the reset button to wake me up and get my focus back to where it should be. How about you? Could you use a reset button to help you get your focus back?
Romans 12:1 NLT
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
Most of us have experienced the simple act of tossing a pebble into a lake or a pond to see what happens. I remember the amazement I experienced as a child when I would toss a stone into a lake and circles would appear on the glassy surface. One after another they would appear and extend farther and farther out across the lake. We refer to this as the “ripple effect.”
One tiny sudden impact on the surface of a small area of still water can send out ripples that eventually effect a much larger area. We may think that a tiny pebble tossed into a giant lake can’t have much of an impact, but it certainly does. And, the same thing happens when one life is touched by Jesus.
Recently as I was ministering in the jail, I met a young lady who gave her heart to Christ in one of our services. Her whole countenance changed. She seemed to just glow with the light and the love of Jesus. I see many ladies who make decisions to follow Jesus, but some fall by the wayside when they are released from jail. But I could tell that this young lady was different.
We will call her *Angel. She was hungry for more of God, and it was obvious that He had impacted her life in a powerful way. She never missed a service, and she always came up for prayer. I could sense a strong call to ministry on her life, and she wanted everything God had to offer her.
While Angel was in jail, her parents made a wise decision to move to another state to make a brand new start. I was happy with this decision because it is so good for these ladies to be able to start over in a new place away from former influences. She called me as soon as she got to her new home with her parents in the new state.
She was so excited as we talked about her long drive home with her father. She told me how she had told him about everything she learned in the jail services. She talked about all the lessons I had shared with them, and how my testimony had inspired her to follow Jesus and seek His will for her life. I was so thrilled to hear the excitement in her voice.
But, it continued to get even better. She said, “Miss Donna, when I got home I sat down with my family, and I read the Bible to them! But that’s not all! I also prayed with them, and they accepted Christ as their Savior.” I almost shouted right then and there! She continued, “And, Miss Donna, we have found an Assemblies of God church just seven miles from our house, and we are going Sunday!”
I could not have been smiling any wider at that moment! She shared the name of the church with me, and I told her I would give the pastor a call. I called him the following Monday, and he shared with me that she did attend and filled out a visitor card. He told me that their church had just started the new “Living Free” program for former addicts, and those fighting addictions. He assured me he would call and try to meet with her, and get her involved.
He did just that, and she called me back so excited as she told me how the pastor mentioned getting her involved in several areas of ministry in the church! Both of her parents are attending church with her, and she is absolutely thrilled to see what future plans God has for her.
She is determined to live out her calling and become a minister herself. And, she is already doing just that, by leading her parents to Christ. I believe her testimony will begin to make an even greater impact in the area she has moved to. It is obvious to see that God is preparing the way for her.
Sometimes we may feel that we are having little to no impact in what we are doing for Christ, but that is nothing more than a lie from the enemy. The smallest actions, can make the biggest impact. Just like a tiny pebble causing ripples across a lake, our testimony shared with another individual can change a life. When that changed individual shares their testimony, other lives are changed.
The ripples keep reaching outward. We can’t just look at the lives changed in our direct line of sight. We have to remember that the impact we make on others will extend farther than we can even imagine. Oh, the stories we will share in heaven when we meet those whose lives were changed as an indirect result of our ministry.
Small beginnings have immeasurable results for eternity! So, keep casting those small pebbles out into the lake. You are making an impact!
Zechariah 4:10 NLT
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
Proverbs 11:30 NIV
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.”
James 5:20 CEB
“Recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”
*Name changed to maintain privacy.
In a society that proudly shouts, “No Fear,”—I believe one could say that very phrase sums up our problems in a nutshell. People have lost the fear of God. Many in our current society have no fear of being held accountable for anything. We have walked away from the Holy Bible, and the truth contained in it. We swear upon it in our courtrooms, but that in itself has become a meaningless gesture for most people. People have ceased to fear God because they have stopped believing the Bible is true.
But there is no changing the absolute truth. And it is only found in the Holy Bible. We have got to get back to the Word of God and quit listening to false prophets. How well do we know the Word of God? It is easy to be misled when you don’t know what the Bible says. We must believe and hold onto what we have been taught, but we must also continue to teach truth lest we ourselves become false prophets. False prophets are full of rotten fruit. And instead of growing strong believers they only seek to dumb down the sheep.
How do we recognize false prophets?
Matthew tells us:
Matthew 7:15-20 (NLT)
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
Unfortunately many ministers have become more concerned with numbers in the pews rather than souls making it into heaven. If nothing else, the verse below should shake us all to the core—ministers or not!
Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
I understand. It’s not easy. People no longer want to hear truth. They would rather tell us we are being judgmental or bigots. But, we have a charge to keep. We have been chosen and set apart for a Holy calling, and we have been brought to this royal position to uphold righteousness and rescue the perishing. We were never called to make a name for ourselves, or win popularity contests. Paul understood that love does not equal acceptance of sin.
Look at what Paul says about ministry:
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (NLT)
"We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
And Paul endured all these things because of the truth he was preaching in sincere love. Sincere love is based on our future vision or eternal destinies—not on our acceptance or popularity. This was part of his message that caused many of his hardships:
2 Corithians 6:14-18, 7:1 (NLT)
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
'I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty.”
7:1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
Paul also struggled with speaking harshly to those in sin. But, he understood though it might be painful for a while, it would lead to their ultimate freedom from bondage and lead to the reward of eternal life instead of eternal torment.
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NLT)
“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
I pray that God would help us by the power of the Holy Spirit to be people who fully believe the Word of God, who are not afraid to speak the truth, and who love people enough to endure hardship or discomfort as we go about fulfilling our Holy calling and leading this royal charge to rescue the perishing. Do we truly realize who we are, and Whose we are?
Yes, we must speak the truth in love. But, we cannot stop speaking the truth all together. Let us be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves as we consider our call as ambassadors for Christ.
Romans 16:17-18 (NLT)
“And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.”
(*Bold emphasis mine)
Recently I was with some friends and we were talking about all the things we can get involved in that cause us to be busy. We were discussing how some busyness is good, but other things are little more than fancy distractions. I have known people who always seem to be busy but often have very little to show for it. It’s not that they are busy doing bad things, but in the long run are they truly beneficial?
Sometimes we can wear ourselves out with our busyness thinking we are doing great things but not really having an impact. When we do this we often find ourselves burned out, or we notice a loss of joy in our lives. As people living in the hustle and bustle of today’s society—where everything must move at a lightning fast pace—we often feel the pressure to stay busy.
So often we associate busyness with ambition or being successful. But, does God expect us to work at being busy every hour of the day? Let’s see what the Word has to say about that.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
If we want to know God’s will, we can’t allow this world to dictate whether or not we are busy day and night. We must not conform to the pattern of this world. It’s hard to renew your mind if you are overwhelmed with busyness. We need to slow down, quiet ourselves and seek God’s perfect will.
The problem is, as Christians we often tend to believe all busyness for God is totally acceptable. I know from my own personal experience that I can easily become busy working at doing godly things, but they might not be things that God has asked me to do. If we are not careful, we can overload our plates with good things, but not beneficial things.
For instance, at one point I felt it would be beneficial to start a women’s group in my church that would meet on a monthly basis to study God’s Word. How could that not be beneficial? I felt like I needed to be doing more in my extra time. The problem was that was not what God wanted me to be busy with.
The ladies in my church were already saved and on their way to heaven. God’s plan for me has always been to reach the lost. He called me to be an evangelist. It might have been a good thing to have an organized Bible study. But for me it was a form of busyness that distracted me from doing what God had called me to do first and foremost—rescue the lost.
When I removed that item from my plate and refocused on God’s perfect will for my life, I became a much happier and contented person. It’s not that I’m not busy now, but the things that keep me busy now bring peace, joy, and also benefit the Kingdom of God.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with being busy doing things we enjoy like planning and hosting programs, conferences, Bible studies, and secular activities. But if we are becoming too busy with distractions that serve only to benefit ourselves or magnify our own personal image, maybe we should take some time to renew our minds.
What is God’s good, pleasing and perfect will for your life?
Someone very near and dear to my heart told me of a recent church service she attended. When the altar call was given the pastor asked those to come forward who felt that God was calling them into ministry. My dear friend along with several other females lined up at the altar.
The pastor told everyone that God could use women to minister, but insisted that they were to support the men who were called to minister. He again pleaded for the men that were called by God to get out of their seats and come forward. When a few more men accepted the invitation he totally skipped over the ladies and prayed that God would help the men to fulfill their calling.
My friend said her heart sank as she stood there feeling as if God could only use her in a purely supportive position, or only as a default because so few men stepped forward. My heart broke for her, and I could relate to her feelings because of similar experiences I have had. In my visual mindset, it was akin to someone dangling candy in front of a child and jerking it back when the child reached for it, and the treat then being given to someone else.
I encouraged my friend by telling her that God knew what He was doing when He called her. He had destined to use her before the beginning of time. [Psalm 139:16] And, I assured her that she was not chosen by default. Our God is a God who acts intentionally, not carelessly. He is, He was, and He always will be God. He knows all things from the beginning to the end. As women ministers we are not His second choice.
Joel 2:28 tells us that God will pour out His Spirit on all people, sons and daughters. Peter reiterates this point as he addresses the crowd in Acts 2:17-18. God chooses whom He uses, and how He uses them. It’s not man’s choice or man’s opinion that matters, it’s God’s.
I’m not telling you to try to assert authority over men. My husband is and always will be the head of our household. But, God has not called Him to preach. He called me to preach. God uses Bryan in different ways. Bryan doesn’t have a desire to preach because that is not his calling.
On the other hand, I have an intense desire to preach and share the Gospel of Christ with those who are lost. Bryan sees the anointing that God has placed on my life for ministry, and He supports me 100%. He is not intimidated by me or my ministry, he is my support. I am so grateful for the many male pastors who have also been a support, and have invited me into their churches to speak. I believe they will be blessed because they followed the direction of the Holy Spirit, and not the influence of peoples opinions.
God used many women in the Old and New Testaments, and He is not done. I know all the verses people quote to prove that women are not allowed to speak in church, and maybe I will revisit this topic in a later post. I will just say that if you study the context of the Scriptures, the customs of the time period, and the audience being addressed in the Scriptures you will see that this did not apply to all women from then until Jesus comes.
There will always be those who disagree, and choose not to accept women as preachers, teachers, or evangelists and that’s fine. But, I have seen the Holy Spirit move in the lives of both the saved and the lost in response to sermons I have shared. People are being saved, delivered, healed, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and experiencing miracles in these services.
It’s certainly not due to any ability I possess, for in myself I am weak and worthless. But, God chose me, and I responded in obedience to the call when Jesus asked me to preach His Word. It’s not because I’m a female, and it’s not because of the lack of men in ministry. I wasn’t His second choice, and I wasn’t called to minister by default. It was God’s plan and His destiny for my life. I was destined to serve Him in this capacity, not defaulted to. And neither are you whether you are a male or female. Be obedient and answer the call.
I’m always amazed by how God moves and ministers in ways we can never fathom. He is a God of the unexpected. This past weekend I was invited to speak for a women’s luncheon and to stay and preach at the church on Sunday morning. God always has different messages for different congregations, and I always seek to hear exactly what He would have me share with each one.
This weekend was no different. I had prayed and prayed for direction on what He would have me to share with this particular congregation. I seemed to hear nothing but crickets! Then I finally felt impressed in my Spirit to share the same sermon I had preached at a service earlier in the week. I took out my notes from the previous service and looked over them in preparation for Sunday morning.
As I stepped onto the platform and began to preach, the Holy Spirit used the same bare bones structure for the sermon. But, then He stepped in and took me in a totally different direction than I had intended to go. As He led me, I found myself sharing things I had never planned on sharing, and things that were certainly not in my notes.
I love when the Holy Spirit does that. He knew exactly what He had planned for that congregation whether I expected it or not. I had envisioned a totally different outcome for that service that morning. But, He just wanted me to follow His lead. I wasn’t expecting what He did in the altar service either. He showed up in a powerful way, evidenced by signs and wonders.
His plans were totally unexpected, but they were absolutely perfect! I wonder how many times we miss amazing blessings because we are not expecting what He has planned? Do we get so caught up in our own plans that we don’t realize when He changes directions and begins to lead us in another direction?
I’m learning the importance of completely leaning on Him and allowing Him to upset my own plans and intentions more than ever before. I love seeing Him move in unexpected ways. I have heard report after report about how God spoke confirmations to people, and answered questions in the minds of different individuals this past weekend. Some were saved. Others experienced physical healing, and others were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
When we simply let the Holy Spirit have His way, He has the ability to minister to every need in the room. If we rely on our own knowledge we often stifle the work He is trying to do. We need to be willing to go in unexpected directions upon His leading. It might not look anything like what we are expecting. But, I would much rather see the outcome He brings about, than what I could witness through my own feeble attempts.
I’m embracing the unexpected leadership of the Holy Spirit.
What would happen if we raised our expectations, and allowed for His unexpected direction in every aspect of our lives? I think it would be nothing short of miraculous!
Last Tuesday was a super exciting day for me. It was my first day to minister to the ladies in the Carroll County jail. I had planned all day for it. I had just met the ladies the previous Tuesday and told them a little bit about myself and explained that I would be coming on Tuesday’s at 5:00pm to minister to them. They were thrilled and couldn’t wait for the day to arrive.
Three ladies told me they were sad that they would only get to be in the service one time because they were getting out next Wednesday. Knowing this made me even more excited to get there and share Jesus with them before they were released. Celebrate Recovery—which is also an amazing ministry—comes in on Tuesday nights at 6:30pm. But for some odd reason, I got it all mixed up and started thinking my time was 6:00pm. I knew it would take almost an hour to get there, so I left at 5:00pm thinking I had plenty of time.
I was halfway to the jail when I looked at my clock and saw that it was 5:35pm. All of a sudden it hit me! I was supposed to be at the jail at 5:00pm! I could not believe I had messed this up. What would the ladies think? They were sure to think I just decided I didn’t want to come. And, what about those ladies who were getting out this Wednesday? I wouldn’t get even one chance to share Jesus with them now!
I literally felt sick! How could I have made such a mistake? I was in tears at this point. I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to this for a whole week, and I had blown it! I thought, “I might as well turn around and go home. I’ll call the jail and tell them to apologize to the ladies and tell them I will be there next Tuesday.”
As I was looking for a place to turn around, I heard the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit. He simply whispered to me, “Do not turn the car around. Keep going! Celebrate Recovery is going to cancel.” I admit, I was taken by surprise. I also found it very unlikely that Celebrate Recovery would cancel. They are very structured, and very faithful. Still, I could not make myself turn my car around and go home.
As I continued driving, I reasoned the very least I could do was show up and personally tell the ladies I was sorry for mixing up the time. I walked into the jail at 6:00pm, apologized to the man at the desk for being late, only to find out that just minutes ago, Celebrate Recovery cancelled! I asked if I could have their spot just this once, and they agreed. I was totally amazed that God would amend my mistake and keep the door of opportunity open, until…
About forty ladies were saved in our service. All three ladies that were getting out on Wednesday were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues! The service lasted 2 and a half hours, and no one wanted to leave! I realized then, that God had this day planned from the beginning of time. Each of those ladies were and are precious to Him.
I am so thankful that when we make goofy mistakes, God’s will still prevails. He knew long before I did, that I would get the time wrong. He knew those three ladies needed a special touch from Him, and He made a way where there seemed to be no way. That’s the God we serve. Even when it looks impossible, we must keep going!
My family and I just enjoyed a quick vacation in the Smoky Mountains. It’s always great to spend time together as a family and take a break from everyday life. I’m still sore from hiking up the mountains, but I’ll eventually recover—-hopefully.
I love the Smoky Mountains. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. The beauty always inspires me to write something. This time, however, my inspiration didn’t come from the beautiful mountain setting, but from a touristy museum on the Gatlinburg strip.
Though we have visited it many times before, the museum had been completely remodeled. So we decided to check it out and see what was new.
Amongst all the shrunken heads and other oddities, we soon came upon a display of several different gods. There were ancient African gods, Buddha, and several others that I had no interest in. Later, one of my daughters and I were talking about the museum, and she sarcastically said, “I guess they couldn’t put anything about Our God in there, because He’s too offensive.”
I said, “You are right, many people are offended by Jesus--the One True God--but the biggest reason He’s not in there is because the museum is full of dead things. We serve the Living God, and you can’t place a Living God in a museum full of dead gods and other oddities. Only dead things belong there.”
I wonder how many times we tend to forget that we serve a Living God? We don’t have to rub a statue's belly for false promises of good luck or fortune, because the Living God cannot be carved out of wood or stone. He is ALIVE. He listens and speaks to us. He is with us and lives within us as Christians.
We don’t go to a museum to learn about Him, we have His Living Word—The Holy Bible—to teach us about Him. Even the Bible is alive and active! [Hebrews 4:12] His Word is unchanging, yet it still speaks into our modern everyday situations. Even the very absence of Our God in that museum attests to the fact that Our God is different. He is ALIVE. He is REAL.
I once heard the story of a man who told a preacher, “I don’t believe in your God, because I can’t go to his grave and find his body buried there. But, I can find Buddha’s grave and many other gods’ burial sites with their remains in them.”
The preacher looked at the man and said, “You will never find Jesus in a grave or a tomb because He AROSE. He is no longer dead, but RISEN and sits at the right hand of the Father!”
Some of you today might just need the reminder that we don’t serve a dead God. He is ALIVE. No matter what you are facing today He is listening. And He is fully able to do whatever we ask of Him. Nothing is impossible for Our Living God!
"But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and eternal King. The earth quakes at His wrath, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” Jeremiah 10:10
I’m not going to lie. The swing in the picture above scares me to death. I could never see myself doing that in a million years. I am not a fan of heights. I see no purpose in doing that sort of thing because I’m just not that kind of thrill seeker. My fear of heights keeps my feet planted firmly on the ground for the most part. (But I love to fly, imagine that?)
I have other fears as well. Fear isn’t always bad. Fear keeps us grounded. It prevents us from doing a lot of crazy things that might not turn out too well. Our job is to understand when fear is a good thing, and when it has been sent to keep us in our place when we should be doing the thing.
For instance, there are a lot of roller coasters that I will never take a ride on. I think there's a very good possibility of me having a heart attack if I did. I see no benefit in putting myself through that kind of stress. It would be much better for me to keep my feet on the ground.
But sometimes God asks us to do things that are scary. And, often when He asks something of us fear comes in like a flood. Why? One word—Satan. When God begins to ask us to step out of our comfort zone, the enemy is quick to point out all the reasons why we shouldn’t. He knows that whatever we do for God will mess up his pathetic plans.
God often asks us to do things that we would never dream of doing. We are usually quick to point out why we are a bad choice for the task. We are afraid we will fail, or—oddly enough—maybe we’re afraid we will succeed. Either way, when we are walking closely to God we can count on Him to ask bigger things of us than we could imagine for ourselves.
Just recently I have felt like God has been dealing with me about going into another type of ministry. It literally scares me silly. I would be so far outside of my comfort zone I might be prone to have a panic attack. But, where is the fear coming from? Is it fear of others opinions? Is it fear of failure? Is it fear for my own personal well-being?
Sometimes if we can identify the actual source of the fear, we are better situated to deal with it. We can answer many of our fear related questions by referring to God’s Word.
“Obviously I am not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10 NLT
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 ESV
So, today I ask you—what scares you? And, what are you going to do about it?
Everyone was watching the Super Bowl at my house last night…except for me. I don’t have much interest in football, so after making sure the Super Bowl snacks were prepared I retreated to my bedroom. Part of the reason I don’t enjoy football is because I didn’t grow up watching football, and I don’t understand all the rules.
Our small school didn’t have a football team. But, we did have an awesome basketball team. We were ranked #1 in the state for many years. I believe that was, in part, due to the fact that we didn’t have football. If we were going to be recognized athletically in anything, it was going to have to be basketball.
There was a concentrated effort on being the best in basketball and winning the state tournament. I could tell you all about how basketball is played even though I never played in school. But I attended the games in support of my school mates, and I learned all the rules.
There was no football team to distract us from basketball, and I believe that is one of the reasons we excelled. The deficit of having a football team, contributed to a heightened focus on basketball. That has always been my opinion anyway.
I have also considered the lives of people who are blind or have another kind of disability. Those who are blind seem to have heightened senses in other areas. If a person is blind they hear things more clearly. They focus more attention to what they hear because they can’t see what is happening around them, so they listen to hear what is happening.
They are more sensitive to touch. The only way they can know the shape of an object is by feeling it with their hands. Think about reading braille for a minute. I don’t think I could read braille by feeling it or seeing it. It just looks like a bunch of dots. But because that is all a blind people person has known, they have focused all their attention to reading that way. A deficit in the area of sight, has caused more focused attention in other areas.
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of how similar that is to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Many of us want to have Spiritual gifts, but do we realize the importance of neglecting other things in our lives, and focusing on our relationship with the Holy Spirit?
I believe that when we create a deficit by sacrificing other things that take up our time, and spend that time praying in the Holy Spirit our Spiritual senses are heightened, and our Spiritual gifts are revealed. This is what I believe Paul was referring to when he encouraged Timothy with these words.
Timothy1:6-7 (NLT) This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Notice he first tells Timothy to fan into flame the spiritual gift God gave him. But he also reminds Timothy that he has been given power, love, and self-discipline.
When we apply self-discipline in our own lives, and focus on fanning into flames the gifts God has given us, we can do what God has called us to do more effectively.
This is one example of how I’ve seen God do this in my own life. Last week before I went into the jail I found myself spending more time in God’s presence. I spent more time praying in tongues, and listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit. I turned off my radio in my car, and just talked with God. Sometimes I prayed in english, and at other times I was led to pray in tongues.
Before I went into the jail on Friday morning, I prayed in tongues all the way to the jail. When I went into the jail service, I felt a heaviness in the room. It was like I had a heightened sensitivity to what was going on in the lives of some of the ladies. We sang a few worship songs, and before we took our seats, the Holy Spirit began to lead me to address a few things.
I started by telling them that I knew there were struggles going on in many of their lives, and that the enemy had been attacking their minds this week. As the Holy Spirit led me, I turned to one lady in particular and the Holy Spirit revealed some very specific things that had happened in her life that week.
I said to her, “God is showing me that someone contacted you this week. They are a very bad influence on you, and the enemy is using them to distract you from what God has for you.” Tears began to roll down her cheeks as I continued, “I don’t know who it was, or what they said but you have been thinking about your past and the sinful lifestyle you were in before. You have been looking back at that lifestyle and longing for it again. The enemy is clever. He knows how to reach you even in this jail, and he is determined to steal, kill and destroy you, if you lose sight of what God has for you.”
She was crying very hard by this point. She told me that she knew God was speaking to her because there was no way I could have known that. She began to tell me who had contacted her, and how it had changed her thoughts during the week, and how she had been longing for her past lifestyle. She cried uncontrollably and promised me that she would never talk to that person again, and that she would never go back to her old sinful life.
Immediately I turned to another lady in the room, and God began to reveal to me her situation in full detail. As I spoke it to her, she began to weep uncontrollably as well. God did a major work in the lives of the ladies during that service. He showed them that He was real, and that He knew the details of their lives and their most private thoughts.
As, I reflected on the service I was reminded of the time and distractions I sacrificed during the week, and how I spent more time with the Holy Spirit, and praying in tongues. Just a few extra hours in His presence seemed to heighten my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in that service. He revealed specific details to me that I could not have known otherwise.
This is only one example. I could share hundreds more about how He has done this over the years. What are we willing to sacrifice to fan into flames the gifts God has given us? When we deny ourselves and sacrifice things that distract us from spending time with Him, we do ourselves a great disservice. He longs to use us in amazing ways. Will you create a deficit in your free time, to allow the Holy Spirit to fan into flame the gifts within you?
I often talk about the jail ministry I’m involved in. But I can’t help but tell about the greatness of God, and how He moves in the lives of the most broken. This particular instance was no exception. I was blessed beyond words as tears streamed down my face in one of our recent jail church services.
I’ve rarely had trouble with any of the ladies in the jail, but for the past few weeks I have had one inmate who was determined to make my life a nightmare. She came into the service cursing and being extremely disrespectful. She would not listen and was a tremendous distraction to everyone else.
The ladies would ask her to be quiet and stop cursing because she was being disrespectful. She shouted, “I don’t give a (expletive)!” I wanted to have her thrown out. I have the option to ask the jailers to come and get disruptive inmates and take them out at any time. If they are taken out of the service, they are not allowed to come back.
My patience was growing thin, and I was just before calling them to come and get her. But inside I knew the Holy Spirit was not releasing me to do so. I bit my tongue and tried to ignore her shenanigans. The following week I was filled with dread when I saw her walk into the room again. Once again, I endured her disruptions, and I allowed her to stay in the service even though I was dying to kick her out!
She repeated her performance again—disruptive, rude, obnoxious, argumentative, and using all manner of profanity. I was so close to calling the jailers, but once again I felt that I needed to endure. I’ll admit, I was finding it very hard to love this one. She was making ministry extremely difficult, but God was still obviously working in the lives of the other ladies.
On the third week I had determined that if she came to the service, I was going to set some strict boundaries. Well, here she was yelling loudly as she waltzed through the door. As all the ladies took their seats, I told them I needed to talk to them about something serious. I dreaded doing this because most of them would never dream of being disrespectful to me.
I explained that for the past few weeks I had put up with some behaviors that I refused to put up with any longer. I said, “Most of you would never dream of being rude or disrespectful, but there are some who have come into the service using profanity, being disruptive, and disrespectful.” I continued, “You don’t have to respect me. But I will not stand for you being disrespectful to God. This is a church service. You would not go into a church in your neighborhood and act this way, so you will not come in here and disrespect the God I love and live for in here.”
I explained, “I have never had to send anyone out of here, but I will if I am forced to. I will not let anyone be a disruption to others who have come in here to seek God.” The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I felt bad for having to speak to them in this way, but I knew it had to be done. We continued the service, and the lady for whom those words were intended did not make a sound or say a word the entire time.
The following week when I went into the jail, I still had the feeling of dread when I saw her come into the room. I felt like every word I had spoken for the past four weeks had gone in one ear and out the other as far as she was concerned. There were a few new ladies in the service so after I opened with prayer we went into the praise and worship service. Some of the ladies requested to sing Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave.
As we sang those words many of the ladies were crying, and others had their hands raised and were rejoicing. When the song was over, I said, “Some of you sang that song in honesty, but others are longing to be able to sing that song and mean it.” The Holy Spirit’s presence was so evident in the room at that moment. I continued to let the Holy Spirit speak through me and ended with an altar call. Four ladies gave their hearts to Christ!
I asked if they wanted to sing the song again now that they could all sing it truthfully and from the heart. They gave me a resounding, “Yes!” As we began to sing it again, I walked around the room hugging each one of them and telling them how proud I was of them.
When I approached little Miss Disruptive, I looked at her and was suddenly overwhelmed with compassion for her. Tears rolled down her face. When I neared her, she grabbed me and began to weep uncontrollably. She said, “I am so, so, so, sorry Miss Donna, will you please forgive me?” I was crying too as I said, “Yes dear, of course I forgive you. I come to this jail because I love you, and I believe in you. Yes, you frustrated me, but I still love you and want the best for you. I want to see you set free and living the life God has planned for you!”
She continued to weep as she hugged me and would not let go. She apologized over and over again. In the next few moments, I led her to Christ, and as we continued to sing Redeemed, she had the biggest most beautiful smile on her face. Both hands were raised to heaven as tears dripped onto her orange jumpsuit. The ladies who had seen the ugly side of her began to walk over and hug her as well. It was an incredible service. God’s love poured into that room in the most powerful way.
I was reminded of how quick we are to write someone off when they disappoint us or cause us frustration. I remembered something I have said to others so many times--hurting people hurt people.But I believe that freed people free people. We must sometimes pray for patience and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we can be people who help free hurting people. It’s not easy to love the unlovable, but when we allow Jesus to love them through us, He makes it possible, and we are blessed in the end!
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.