Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thankful Heart

I have had a bad attitude lately and I think the only way to counter that is a thankful heart. So today, I will take the time to be thankful and remind myself that my God is still faithful...

-My parents have been a huge blessing in letting me move back home to save money while I figure out my next step. They have also been very patient, supportive, and encouraging through my frustration and discouragement.

-My brother and sister have been supportive and encouraging and are both doing well in college...another huge answer to prayer. I strongly believe both of them are pursuing exactly what God has called them to do with how He has gifted them.

-Several of my friends that I grew up with have moved back home and are working and getting plugged in to church. I am thankful for the renewed friendships and sweet times of catching up and being with people who have known and walked through all the changes in my life the last few years. In this season of change, it is comforting to see familiar faces.

-I am very thankful for my phone and skype right now! They have been amazing things allowing me to keep in touch with some of my best friends all over both Texas and the country. Their encouragement has been priceless. Talking to them always makes my day and I love to encourage and pray for them as well.

-My extended family has been very supportive, both encouraging me with my dreams and trying to offer solutions.

-There are some amazing churches in Dallas and some cool opportunities to plug in with some people my own age. Though I have not identified where I want to go yet, I am thankful for the ministries of these churches and the blessing of options.

-As frustrated as I am with not having a job, I am thankful for this time of rest and time to spend with my family. The last few years of my life have been a whirlwind, crazy but fun, but I desperately needed the rest.

-A few people have walked into my life and helped encourage me to start writing again. I am thankful for the direction there and for the sweet assurance of the Lord when I write that that is exactly what He created me to do.

So much to be thankful for. Can't wait to see what the Lord does next...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Man Your Battle Stations

Over the last year, the Lord has really been working on my heart in regards to what love looks like, and He has best demonstrated that through the love that should be present in the Body of Christ. The specific commands to love one another and how to do so in the Bible have astounded me. I knew they were there, but never had I really understood their practical application. I especially love that everyone in the Body of Christ is wired with different gifts, abilities, personalities, interests, talents, and passions...but all of them work together to: proclaim the name of Jesus to those who don't know Him, bring Him glory, and encourage one another.

I have really been a wreck the last few weeks and have been apathetic about much regarding my relationship with the Lord. It amazes me how much my own walk of faith echoes that of the Israelites. Many times the Lord would come to their aid...opening up the Red Sea for the them to cross, rescuing them from Egypt, providing manna and quail and water in the desert. And yet so many times, the tables would turn back a few verses later and the Israelites would be worshipping a golden idol that they made or marrying the people of a Gentile clan that the Lord told them specifically to avoid. Bottom line...THEY FORGOT THE LORD THEIR GOD. I am exactly like that. How quickly do I forget the lessons of being still, waiting on Him, and believing He wants to do big things through me, that He has a plan? Lord, forgive my apathy. But in all of this, the Lord laid a passage on my heart that I think beautifully portrays the Body of Christ and the role of others when one is too tired to go on.

The story is found in Exodus 17:8-15. Let me break it down for you. Moses and Joshua are leading the Israelites in the desert. Moses tells Joshua to get some men together to go fight the Amalekites (one of those Gentile nations I was talking about). So Joshua does what Moses said and goes to fight the Amalekites and Moses stands on top of a hill overlooking the battle. As long as Moses had his hand raised, the Israelites won, but whenever he lowered them the Amalekites began to win. Well, Moses grew too tired to hold his hands up so his buddies, Aaron and Hur, sat him down and stood on either side of him holding his hands in the air "so that his hands remained steady." And Joshua beat the Amalekites. Then the Lord tells Moses to write this story on a scroll and to make sure Joshua sees it. The Moses made an altar to the Lord and called it the "Lord is my Banner" because hands had been lifted up to the Lord and the Lord had promised to erase the memory of the Amalekites.

So here is what I think is so cool about this story. How many of us have felt like Moses? We want to encourage, be a part, but we have reached a point where we are just too tired and drained to do so. I imagine Moses drooping into the dirt, his head hanging down, his body and muscles fighting to keep his arms elevated in the air. Thank goodness for people in our life like Aaron and Hur who know when we have reached our limit and show us that we are not alone in fighting the battles. I also want you to see the significance of different roles in the Body of Christ. Joshua's job was to fight, be out in the open, in the spotlight leading the people to victory. Moses' job was equally important. Think of him as the prayer guardian or intercessor for the Israelites. Aaron and Hur play the roles of encouragers. When Moses was to weak to go on, they were intercessors for him and the people, ensuring victory because they were willing to step in and help Moses by acting on the people's behalf. What a cool picture! Can you imagine this battle raging below and another one raging on the hill, not of swords and blood, but of weakness and spiritual warfare? Friends, we were never meant to fight our battles alone. Look at the beautiful picture of the Body helping one another, each with different callings, gifts, and responsibilities. I also want to point out that the Lord tells Moses to make sure Joshua knows the whole story. The victory wasn't won on the battlefield; it was won on the hill. Joshua needed to understand that the roles of Moses, Aaron, and Hur were just as important if not more so than his. In other words, those serving on the stage should never forget the strength and roles of those serving behind the scenes.

My prayer is that you become someone who takes an active role in the community of faith. That is my prayer as I continue to look for a place to serve and get involved here in Texas for as long as the Lord keeps me here. That way when I feel to weak to go on, there are others ready to hold my arms up and point me back to Jesus. We were never meant to be bench warmers. Each of us has a specific job and if you aren't doing it, if I'm not doing it, the whole Body suffers because it takes ALL of us.

1 Corinthians 12:12 says, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ."

Last summer, Dr. Del Tackett, one of my professors at Focus on the Family Institute, named my class "The Many who became One." What if the world looking into our churches saw many people with one goal and one heart? Oh, how our world, how our nation would change for Jesus. That is my prayer for the Body of Christ.

May we show the world a united front as we point them to Jesus,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Properties of Open Doors

My life has a been a crazy mess of opened and closed doors lately. Thankfully, I serve a God who specializes in making beauty come from the ugliest messes. Isn't that good news? These doors have rarely stayed open long enough for me to walk through. So I started to ask the Lord, "Why even open them in the first place? I mean, what's the point?"

Then, I realized that there was something to be learned by these open doors (I will probably refer to them as swinging doors, because they seem to swing shut just as quickly as they opened). Here are some properties of open doors....

- YOU CAN'T OPEN THEM!! When you pry them open, the results are not pretty.

- Sometimes they open to teach us something...how to pray, how to interview,how to trust He has a good plan when they fall through, how to see His movement even if the outcome isn't what we want.

- Sometimes they exist to encourage others. This idea is a little tough for me. I understand that I exist to encourage others, to show others Jesus, to be a light. But doesn't that kind of pale to me having a job where I could have an impact on a daily basis? You would think. But His ways are not ours. I have found through my last couple interviews when I have been asked to tell my story I have been emailed after being turned down from the job only to learn that what the Lord had led me through really encouraged the people interviewing me. I'll take that.

-When we wait, we need to be focused on where He has currently placed us, and make the most of every opportunity. It may be He hasn't moved us because He is wanting to develop us and equip us more in the meantime.

So, are you ready for the one word answer on how to understand which open doors to go through and what you are supposed to do while the door keeps swinging? It's a divine word. Frustrating. Simplistic. You ready?


Yep, that's it. You can stop reading now, but I hope you won't. Even more important than the properties that the Lord is teaching me about these swinging doors are the properties the Lord puts in Scripture. You want to hear something cool? Many of these verses talk about the Lord's desires to enlarge your territory (your area of influence) when you wait for Him. Pretty cool promises. You ready for that list? They all have one word in common and three guesses what word that is.

1)For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. Psalm 37:9

2)Wait for the LORD and keep his way.He will exalt you to inherit the land;when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. Psalm 37:34

3)My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. Psalm 62:5

4)I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

5)These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. Psalm 104:27

6)Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts. Isaiah 26:8

7)O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. Isaiah 33:2

8) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 43:31

9) Since ancient times no one has heard,no ear has perceived,no eye has seen any God besides you,who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. Isaiah 64:4

10) The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. Lamentations 3:25

11) Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

There were so many other cool verses about waiting, but I just picked a few. This is not a fun concept, but I find that after reading those verses, Jesus knew exactly how frustrating it would be to wait and He is asking us to trust in Him. He has our backs. As my friend told me today, it's His timing, not ours.

Here is my last fun tidbit for the night. Did you know that Jesus actually called Himself THE DOOR? If you do not know Jesus, if you are curious about these open doors or don't understand why you can't open them yourself, I pray that you will understand that they only way to find true success and direction is through a personal relationship with The Door....Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9).

There is hope and peace and rest and success in waiting for Jesus and walking through Him to life everlasting. My prayer is that you will find peace in your waiting and that you will trust Him for your tomorrows. Believe me, I am with you. I am not promising that it is easy. But I know He has good plans for you and for me. Why? Because He promised that!

Trusting Him in my waiting,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bold as a Lion

One of my favorite people in the whole Bible is a man who very few people would recognize. He was a Jew from Alexandria and named after the Greek sun god, Apollo. There are actually only 5 verses about him. That's it. Not much to go on, is it? But I really want you to check out the character of this guy, specifically his boldness.

Apollos is a man found in Acts 18:24-28. He was a man trained in the Scriptures, so most likely he grew up in a traditional Jewish home, learning the scriptures and memorizing the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) from his earliest days. He would have learned the Sh'ma that I wrote about earlier and, like every good Jew, would have said it morning and night as a prayer to the Lord.

Now here are some character qualities that I love about this guy:

-he was eloquent and competent in the Scriptures (vs 24)
-fervent in spirit (passionate) (vs 25)
-taught accurately what he knew about Jesus even though he didn't know very much (vs 25)
-spoke boldly in the synagogues (probably to Pharisees and leading religious leaders who did not believe Jesus was the King and Messiah they had been waiting for since the time of Abraham.) (vs26)
-when he was more informed about Jesus from Aquila and Priscilla, friends of the Apostle Paul,he left his home and went and aided his brothers in Christ "greatly helping those who by faith had believed" (vs 26-27)
-he powerfully and publicly spoke out against Jews, showing through the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for and who had been foretold to them- the Lion of the tribe of Judah(vs 28)

OK, so this guy knows his Bible and uses the scriptures to prove Christ's deity. Even when he doesn't know the whole story, he preaches boldly of what he does know. And then when he does know the whole story, he leaves everything familiar to go help his brothers and sisters in Christ and speak publicly and boldly about Jesus as Messiah. Wow!! My kind of guy. This guy had no fear, he was passionate about Jesus, and even as an eloquent guy, he didn't use his own words - he spoke only the Scriptures. What a testimony in only a few verses! This was one mighty man of God.

So how does this relate to lions? Well, Proverbs 28:1 says this, "The wicked flees when no one pursues, but the righteous are as BOLD AS A LION." Does that sound like Apollos to you? It does to me. It also humbles my excuses that I need to know more before I tell others about Jesus. Well here is a news flash - you aren't EVER going to know everything about the One who called himself the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. If you did, He wouldn't be God. He is beyond our complete understanding. But, he has called us to share about Him. We actually have more knowledge and information at our fingertips than Apollos ever had. He would have died to have a complete Bible, a love letter from the Christ he so boldly championed and shared. This man had a passionate relationship with Jesus. I truly believe he was righteous and because of that, the Lord equipped and enabled him to be as bold as a lion. So, we have no excuse not to share. Tough pill to swallow, huh? For me, too.

Will you claim the title of "righteous" and be like Apollos, no matter how little your knowledge base about Jesus? Will you boldly share of His love and mercy and grace to a culture that is cutting Him out of every facet? Will you go head to head with the religious and political leaders of our day who try to make Him an icon instead of Lord of Lords? Boldness comes from the Messiah who first claimed to be a Lion, and He alone has the power to make you as bold as a lion - mighty, stately, and strong for Him. Will you let Him? That is my prayer for the body of Christ. It is time to rise up, Church of God, and be as bold as lions.

One of my favorite fiction authors, Linda Chaikin, writes in her Arabian Winds series that upon getting up every morning Jews would say, "Rise up like a lion, in service of our Lord." Whether or not it is culturally true to the Jewish people, it is a mighty call. Will you rise up like a lion in service of our Lord?

Praying for boldness,