Friday, May 27, 2011

Be Still & Get Moving!

What on earth does it mean to be still?  You hear the verse often: Be still and know that I am God.  But does being still mean playing a game of freeze tag with God?  Does it mean we do nothing and make Him do everything?  This question has been on my mind for a long time.  Until I ran across some really good stuff in Exodus a couple of weeks ago.

I was in Exodus, chapter 14 reading about the Israelite's Exodus out of Egypt with Moses as their leader.  The Israelites were approaching the Red Sea and the Egyptians were hot on their trail.  There seemed no way out!  They were panicked and crying out to the Lord, saying to Moses, "Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren't there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn't we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt?  It's better to be a slave to the Egyptians than a corpse in this wilderness!"

Poor Moses.  He was only following what God told him to do.  He calmly told the people, "Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today...the Lord Himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm."  

Just for the record...I can totally relate to this.  Everything seems fine until things look impossible when we are walking with the Lord.  That's when we begin to question everything.  Not only do we question everything, but we question God Himself.  Why does He allow such things?  It's easy to just go back to Egypt. Our Egypt is wherever it is that we came from before we began a relationship with God through Jesus.  It's tempting to just want to go back there and live.  Goodness...things seemed simpler then.  The enemy didn't bother us because we weren't a threat!  How quickly we forget the bondgage, the slavery, the horrific way of living back in our Egypt.  I wish it was as easy to get Egypt out of me as it was for me to get out of Egypt! the next verse, God told Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!"  Wait a minute.  Didn't Moses just tell them to be still and let God fight for them?  What was God doing?  Why was He telling them to move when they were just told to be still?  Which should we do when we are facing our own "Red Sea" moment?

The answer is simple.  We need to be still and get moving!  See, being still doesn't mean just standing there and doing nothing.  In Joshua we read how God told the people to be still and let the Lord fight for them.  But did they just sit there?  No.  Being still isn't always an outward retraction.  It's more often an inward reaction. 

The original Hebrew word used for "still" in Exodus 14 is yatsab which means to place, set, stand, present oneself or station oneself.  It also means to station oneself, take one's stand, stand, present oneself, or stand with someone.  God wants us to take a "stand" when we are being still.  That means we are steadfast in believing in our heart that God is going to fulfill His promises.  We will trust Him.  We have peace in our hearts, but we are not just sitting there doing nothing!  It's an inward reaction brought on by our total dependence on Him to use us as we go forward in obedience.

What is it that God is asking you to do right now?  Is He asking you to be still and wait on Him?  Please...obey Him in this.  Be still and get moving!  
  • That means if you have a dream you feel God has placed in your heart, continue in what you have before you right now.  Prove your obedience in the small things, knowing and having peace in your heart that God has it all under control.  He put that dream in your heart for a reason. 
  • It means that if you are waiting on God for physical healing, do all you can to be healthy, make good choices, go to your appointments and pray without ceasing, knowing in your heart and having peace that God has it all under control.  Healing and deliverance will come.
  • It means that if you are waiting for one of your children to give their life to Jesus, you continue to pray, fulfill your duties as a wife and mother (or husband and father) and have quiet trust in your heart that God has it all under control.  He hears you and He has a plan.

But it doesn't mean to just sit there and do nothing.  There is still life to be lived.  There are still responsibilities that need to be met.  There are still others who can learn and grow from your example of having peace in the midst of your "Red Sea" moment.

Blessing always follows obedience.  According to what I've learned on this little biblical "treasure hunt", being still is one of the most action-filled things God asks us to do!  It is one of the hardest things, too, because we always feel like we must control everything around us.  Being still is relinquishing that control to Him and trusting Him to get us through.  It is when we are willing to allow Him to fight the battles while we walk forward in confident trust that He has it all under control.  It is rarely sitting there, doing nothing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm in the Weeds!

For many years, I was a waitress. If you've ever been a waitress or a waiter you know it can be a really crazy job sometimes. There are times when every table is full, the pace is light speed, your heart is racing and the buzz of a busy Friday or Saturday night at the restaurant can make you feel like you are in over your head! When these times would come, we would say "I'm in the weeds!", which, translated means "I'm super busy and don't know if I can take any more!"

There's a story Jesus told about the wheat and the weeds in the Bible.  It's found in Matthew 13. In the parable, Jesus talks about the wheat and the weeds - the wheat representing the believers (Christians) and the weeds representing non-believers. The type of weed that is described in this parable is probably darnel, a type of weed that can hardly be distinguished from wheat until the head matures.  The workers of the field go to the farmer and say "Should we pull up the weeds?" and the farmer says, "No, let the weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest. If you pull the weeds, you will uproot some of the wheat." He goes on to say that the weeds will be "weeded out" by the harvesters during the harvest (which represents judgment) but until that time, let them grow together.

My pastor once pointed out that the farmer tells the workers to "let them grow together" since tearing them apart can be detrimental. The Bible is clear that we are to be in the world, just not of the world. We are told time and time again to love others, serve them and show them the love of Christ in our lives as we build relationships. Also, the weeds could represent people who claim to be believers but have no heart change. It's hard to know the difference sometimes! Only God can tell the difference most often. We will waste valuable time and energy if all we do is try to figure out who is genuine and who is not. God clearly tells us to leave that to Him. Our job is to love and serve others, not judge their motives.

All of this makes me think of my "in the weeds" waitressing days. Yeah, those busy days were very difficult at times. But they were also very invigorating and challenging. I was most laser-focused when I was in the weeds. I was most productive when I was in the weeds. It was a testing of my skills, too, and those days when I would come out of the weeds with victory, it really built my confidence. The days when I would fail, I would realize where I needed to grow more. I look back and realize that one of the things I miss most about my waitressing days is that invigorating feeling of being in the weeds!

Something else cool happens when we are in the weeds - we all end up helping one another more. My fellow servers would come alongside of me or I'd come alongside of them and offer help and encouragement during those crazy times. These times really helped us learn to lean on one another and realize that often we needed to ask for help - no one person can do it all.

Have you been in the weeds lately?

Colossians 4:5-6 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Exalt! Talent Show Coming to Charlotte, NC

Halton Arena
Hey friends, I just wanted to let you know about an opportunity for vocalists in the Charlotte, NC area to not only perform but also to give glory to God with your talents and gifts through music!  Exalt! Talent Show live auditions begin in June (taped auditions have been going on for awhile) and the finale is August 5 at the beautiful Halton Arena.  It doesn't matter if you sing Gospel, Contemporary, in a group or as a soloist - they are just looking for people who love to worship through song for the show!  If you are interested in learning more, please click here for a link to their website.

Proceeds from Exalt! will go to benefit those who have suffered financially because of catastrophic medical bills due to major illness in the family.   Their facebook page has a lot more information, along with how you can purchase tickets to the event, how you can volunteer and how you can audition to be a contestant! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dear Friend,

This is a poem I wrote back in 2009 that I felt I wanted to share with you again today.  So many people judge Jesus by looking at Christians, and unfortunately we often fall woefully short of representing Him the way we should.  So this poem is a letter I wrote to anyone who has decided to walk away from Jesus as a result of something they have experienced with someone who claimed to represent Him as a Christian.  I hope you will take a few moments to read it before you continue walking away from the purest and most beautiful Treasure you could ever find....

Dear Friend,

I've heard of your decision to turn away from Jesus Christ
and I understand the reason is some folks you've met in life.

Apparently some Christians that you've come across before
have much to say of the wrong you do, but your needs, they just ignore.

Many who claim to know Jesus don't really know Him very well
(At least the way we live our lives, it can be very hard to tell)

Our lives should always reflect Him, but they don't and that's a shame.
We judge, we point, we criticize - all in Jesus' Name.

I think we believe it's easier to point at others when they sin
than to look into the mirror at the person who's within.

We often quote the Bible to prove to you that we're right
instead of loving and praying for you, we'd rather win a fight.

Although we read in scripture that quarreling is not effective,
instead we should show grace and love while listening to your perspective.

We often say that we know God and that He tells us what to do
but we live a life that's contrary to what we've shared with you.

God tells us in His word that for the world His life He gave
But we judge and avoid the "sinners" - the very ones He wants to save.

Sometimes I think we just forget that we are sinners, too.
Our broken lives, healed by His love - the same love He has for you.

He's the only One you can fully trust - the rest of us are frail
we're in a process - just like you - and often we do fail.

In the pages of the scriptures, though, we see a better way
We must live out what we believe if it's Truth we want to convey.

I beg of you to look to Christ - He's the only One who is perfect
He saves us, though we aren't deserving - He believes we're worth it.

My deepest apologies, dear friend, for the treatment you receive.
I pray you'll look past our many faults and in Christ, by faith, believe.

Matthew 7:1

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live... 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Choosing to Love

I remember it like yesterday, even though it happened in fourth grade.  She was a year ahead of me and she was the "cool girl".  She was so mean to me.  She made fun of me, stole my friends and even convinced the boy I liked that I had cooties so he ran away from me.  That was my first taste of utter rejection and bullying and I can honestly say I didn't like her much.  It may have been my first taste of that kind of rejection and humiliation, but it certainly was not my last.

Unfortunately, there are people in our lives that just irritate us, berate us or make us feel like we are not lovable.  These people are easy to hate.  But they are hard to love.  And yet, Jesus tells us clearly that we are to "love our enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:44-45).  I remember thinking that was impossible the first time I read it. 

This morning, I read another verse that blew me away about this subject.  See, I never took revenge on my fourth grade bully, mostly because I was inexperienced, but in my life I have tried taking matters into my own hands with people who were ugly to me and it was never a favorable outcome.  Now I think I see why...

"Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn His anger away from them."  Proverbs 24:17-18

I know I've read this verse before but for some reason it just screamed at me this morning.  The part that got me was where it implies that when I find sadistic joy in someone who I don't like falling (or failing) that God actually turns His anger from them and is displeased with me.  It's like this invisible force-field of protection that I put up around my enemy!  How crazy is that?

I know it's tempting to want to get even.  I know people can be downright difficult to live with.  I know there are times when it seems appropriate to be the avenger.  But the next time I feel like I need to get even, I need to remember that when I try to do it myself, I'm in essence telling God "No thanks, I've got this one" and He then protects that person from me. question for you is... whom are you praying for today? I know the list is probably a long one of the people you love, the people on your prayer list from church or bible study.  But what about those who are under your skin, irritating you to the point of frustration?  What about those who laugh when you fail?  Or try to take your job?  Or make fun of the way you look?  Or talk behind your back?  Or maybe this person broke your heart? 

The challenge for today is to pray for someone you don't necessarily feel like loving.  I know that God can change your heart for this person because His Word says so.  It's pretty hard to be mad at someone you are praying for!  God has a way of softening our hard hearts when we trust His ways and go against the flow.  There's a reason this person is in your life - maybe it's to help shape you into a better person by learning to love the difficult-to-love people or maybe it's because that unlovable person needs to encounter the beautiful love of Jesus and He has chosen you to be the vessel through which He will pour it out onto them.

Matthew 5:38-39 You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say, do not resist an evil person!  If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Broken Vessel

The Survivor: Redemption Island finale was Sunday night and I was one of the ones up until 11pm watching it, of course.  I still get the question, "Do you still watch the show?"  Um...yes!  I was a fan way before I was a contestant and I'll continue to be a fan of the show. 

This season was especially interesting to me.  I knew from the moment I saw Matt Elrod on the show that he was going to have a tough time staying in the game because the first thing he mentioned was his faith.  To people who don't understand what faith in Jesus Christ is all about, it can seem very unsettling and it's easy to be misunderstood - especially in a game like this.  In the scriptures (2 Corinthians 2:15-17) it clearly says that to some, we are like the fragrance of death and doom - but to God and to those who are being saved, we are the pleasing aroma of Christ.  You can see that play out in the game of Survivor when you throw a believer in the mix.

In all the previous seasons of the show, believers are usually one of the very first people voted off and I believe it's for that very reason.  It's hard to be around what Jeff Probst calls "morality" when you're in a game that is usually played without morals to a certain degree.  Also, it's very difficult for a believer to play this game and maintain their witness and morality without compromising. can imagine how excited I was to see Matt make it all the way to the finale in this game!

Matt was voted off very early in the game.  But this season was different - they had a new twist in it where the person voted off gets to go to "Redemption Island" and duel it out with the next person voted off for a chance to stay in the game.  It was amazing to see Matt win every single duel and then find himself back in the game a few weeks ago.  Of course, he was voted out right away again but then continued to win the duels again until the very last one where he had to balance a clay vase on a board with his foot.  The vase tipped over and shattered into pieces, leaving him on the jury and not in the running for a million dollars.  It was not lost on me that Matt, God's vessel used to bring Him glory, was taken out of the game by a broken vessel.  Isn't that what we all are?  Broken - but put back together as a beautiful, priceless mosaic by the loving hands of our God!

I get the feeling he could have cared less about the million dollar prize.  Matt wasn't motivated by that money - he was motivated by bringing glory to God and he did just that.  God used him to show the world the amazing impact a true believer who is sold out to Jesus Christ can have on others when given the chance to stay in the game.  God protected Matt from playing the game and allowed him to spend about a month on Redemption Island, where he was able to spend hours in the scriptures and in prayer with God.  (On a side note...I often wish someone would strand me on a "redemption island" where I could spend hours alone with the Lord, reading His word and praying...but I digress!)

The other contestants were able to spend one on one time with Matt and his Bible as they were voted out of the game and onto Redemption Island and many lives were changed as a result of this.  Matt wasn't perfect (um...who is but Jesus?) he was human, but he was real and his faith was inspiring.  To me, that is what makes this game so intriguing.  It's a social experiment, of sorts.  And this season, I believe God used Matt in a very mighty way.  There were moments of tremendous heart-wrenching honesty when Matt described how God was carrying him through the long, difficult days out there.  He was broken, but God definitely put him back to together, piece by piece and even though his "broken vase" is what lost the game for him, this "broken vessel" won way more than a million dollars. 

Congratulations, Matt!  I'm proud to be your sister in Christ and I look forward to seeing how God uses you, a beautiful mosaic vessel for Him, to pour out more of His truth and light onto the lives of others in even bigger ways in the future!  You may not have won the title of "Sole Survivor" but you definitely won the privilege of being used by God as a "Soul Reviver".  God bless you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where Was His Mother?

I've heard it told from many angles and it never gets old.  It's the story from Luke 15 about the prodigal son - the son who wanders away from his father, takes his inheritance (basically cashes in on it before his dad is even dead), lives a wild and crazy life for awhile before he crashes and burns and then finally comes back to his senses.  When he comes home, his father is there waiting for him with open arms.  The brother, who never left, is not as happy to see him but is angry because he feels the mercy and grace his father shows his wayward brother is unwarranted and undeserved. 

The angles I've heard recently on this story have been fascinating.  One missionary pointed out a few months back that the eldest brother was responsible for running after the wayward son - but he never went after him.  Apparently, that was the tradition with the Jewish people then - the eldest brother was responsible for the younger siblings in that way.  His point was - why didn't he go after him?  And...why aren't we going after our prodigal brothers and sisters?  I thought that was so powerful.

I also remember reading about how the story should not be called "The Prodigal Son" but instead should be called "The Faithful Father".  I couldn't agree more.  The picture of the father running toward his son with open arms as he came home after being gone for so long and being so ungrateful and selfish is just overwhelming to me.

In talking with my mentor yesterday, we discussed how the wayward son had to hit rock-bottom (the story describes him eating with pigs) before he would ever be able to come to his senses and come back home.  How often does this happen in our lives?  When we are stripped of everything and left with nothing - that is often what it takes to wake us up. We can be so complex and hard-headed sometimes.

But one angle I've never heard in all the years I've heard this story shared is what keeps coming back to me.  Where was the mother in this story?  I talked with my mentor about this before - we both wondered the same thing.  As mothers, our hearts break as we think about how devastated she must have been.  Why on earth would God leave her out of this story?  If it were my son, I would be pacing the floor, praying non-stop and would be completely devastated.  I wondered if she was doing the same thing?  Not even a mention of her, though.  Nothing.  I wondered why.

Until yesterday.  I prayed and asked the Lord for some insight into why He didn't give her any face-time in this story.  As a mother, it almost upset me that she was not mentioned and I was honest with Him about that.  I think God appreciates when we are honest with Him and He definitely doesn't shy away from the tough questions. I wanted to know how she handled it!  I wanted to know if she was as desperate and scared for her son as I would be!  I wanted to know if she begged her husband to do more, prayed the same prayer over and over again or if she ran after him at all.  What did she do?

Then the answer came to me so gently during prayer.  Perhaps the mother was not mentioned because she was doing exactly what God told her to do in this devastating situation?  She kept quiet, surrendered her son to the Lord and submitted to her husband's leadership in this matter.  You see...we moms can't take this kind of pain.  It's just unthinkable.  It's devastating and it's more than we can bear.  The good news is, we don't have to take this pain on ourselves.  God tells us to give Him our burdens.  He tells us to submit to our husbands.  And He doesn't do that so we will be a doormat or so we will be lazy and not handle things; He does this so we will be protected. 

Perhaps in quiet strength, the mother continued to look after her home and her children.  She probably stayed busy and continued to run her errands.  I'm sure she prayed for her son - probably constantly.  I'm sure she had her moments of weakness and tears.  But perhaps her strength was in her submission and her trust in her God to bring her son home.

And we all know the end of the story.  Her wayward son did come home.  And as the father in the story was preparing the feast, I can't help but wonder if the mother was on her knees in the background - thanking God for bringing her wayward son home and giving Him glory for this precious reunion. 

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24 (Message)

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,  when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3:1-4 (NIV)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

He Loves You

I was listening to a preacher on the radio talk about his story of how he found out about Jesus.  He said that he was at a church service and the pastor told him that God loved him.  It was the first time anyone  ever told him that before!  I sat there, almost sick in my gut because I realized that often I forget that some people don't realize this truth.  We hear it and read about it so often that we forget that some people never hear it at all.  How heart breaking.  But God loves us all.  He loves you! 

As I thought about this, I thought about the lies that the enemy will send as soon as someone tells you that God loves you.  I know that's what he did to me.  He reminded me of all the "stuff" in my life and asked me questions like "Why would God love you anyway?" and "Do you really think God could ever use you after the sinful life you've lived?" and I really struggled with believing.

God's voice is always so gentle and kind.  I remember once I told my daughter about the verse in 1 Kings 19 where it says that Elijah heard God's voice in the gentle wind, like a whisper - not in the strong, violent wind, the earthquake or the roaring fire.  She really must have listened because later that night as she read her Bible story to me, when she would speak the words that God spoke, she whispered.  I was so moved.

I wrote this poem as I reflected back on what it's like to come to terms with realizing that God really does love you.  I hope you will enjoy it.   And today - let's remember to tell people how much God loves them!  Better yet - let's show them. They may have never heard this before.

I love you.

Those were the words I heard as I ran away in fright
I ran because I didn't have the courage left to fight

I love you.

Though His words were true, I did not comprehend
That His love is unconditional and on it I could depend 

I love you.

There He goes again!  I cannot run away
His voice was getting stronger now - my knees were giving way

I love you.

Even though I didn't love Him like I should?
Why would He love me anyway?  I'd never do Him any good.

I love you.

Oh, His voice was sweet and gentle and so clear!
So why was I afraid to trust a love that was sincere?

You're worthless.

The other voice is loud - the one that tells me lies.
I'm weary from this battle now, my tired spirit cries.

He's mad at you.

See, I knew that it was too good to be true
After all I've done to hurt Him, after all I've put Him through

You're a fraud.

This couldn't be truer - I've pretended and deceived
I based my faith on religious acts, but I never truly believed.

I love you.

Oh that Voice again!  I feel more safe and sure
That this Voice is speaking Truth to me, it is so gentle and so pure.

You're priceless.

Could it be the Truth - that Jesus died for me?
A price that no one else could pay - to set my spirit free!

I'm not mad at you.

He reminded me that His wrath was satisfied
On the day that Jesus gave His life and was brutally crucified

I love you.

I couldn't live this life of pretending it wasn't so
That lying voice was silenced now! It was time for it to go

I'm sorry.

Please forgive me Lord! I've sinned and gone astray!
Would you forgive me for my sin and live in me today?

I love you.

I believe Him now, and I receive this truth for me
I feel the chains are lifted and I'm finally living free!

I love Him.

So my life has changed, I'm not living like before
His Holy Spirit's presence in me has given me hope for what's in store! 

Jeremiah 31:3
..."I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness."

Got Questions?