A call to prayer

There is a painfully large amount of heartbreaking events occurring all over the world right now. From senseless shootings in the heart of America, a life-threatening epidemic outbreak in Africa, to holocaust-like purge of minorities in the Middle East. My heart aches.

You know the verse talking about the earth moaning for the return of Christ? I believe that I understand that reaction now. While the earth has seen the perfection at the dawn of creation and was forced to suffer through every gut-wrenching atrocity that has disgraced the world. Creation knows its Creator. And it desperately longs to experience that absolute perfection once again.

The more I seek Jesus and learn to not only know about Him but to truly know Him, the more my heart yearns to experience that perfection. The closer I grow to God, the more my soul recognizes the pain that God feels each and every day for the brokenness of His greatest love.

But then, like I’m sure many of you, I become overwhelmed with this great sense of helplessness. What could I possibly do to help with any of it? I am only one person.

God has been speaking to me the importance of one’s identity, especially as it rests in Him. Part of my identity is as a mom. Within that, I find it difficult to do anything but personalize all of the pain that others are experiencing right now. I imagine the mothers of children who are killed whether from gun shot, disease, or worse (yes, worse). I imagine the mothers who are forced to watch their child suffer and my heart breaks and I can do nothing more than weep. But that is where I can find strength.

As I allow myself to hurt for mothers I know nothing about and have very little in common with, I take a step closer to knowing God’s heart. As I weep for the pain that I beg God that I never have to experience, I find myself in the company of thousands (millions) of Christian saints who are crying for them as well. Together, we cry out to God to move on this earth. We cry out for deliverance from this horrendous evil that has infiltrated every facet of society, across every country in the world.

God responds to the prayers of His people. The Bible proves this over and over again. And so I want to petition you, beg you really, to join with the saints and cry out to God. Even if you have no words, scripture tells us,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27, NIV)

Whether with words, tongues, or simply groans-cry out to God on behalf of all those around the world. I can’t implore you enough. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Deliverance will come by the grace of God alone.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of Godto be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i]have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstbornamong many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30, NIV )

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. (Biblegateway.com)

 

I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment any thoughts, prayers, or comments. I will post opposing views, however I retain the right to refuse to post negative, hurtful, or derogatory comments that only serve to attack and instigate. Thank you for respecting me and fellow readers in this.

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Sanctification does not equal sanitation

There are times that I believe that God is genuinely trying to wreck my little world that I am so content living within. The reality is that, well, He is.

When God gave us the direction to move eighteen hours away, we did it. When He told me to pursue my book further, I did it. Now He has given me this ideology that I just can’t seem to shake and know that it will lead me through a difficult, but ultimately honoring and humbling path.

As a believer in my late 20’s I’ve gained a little perspective. I have allowed myself to forgive my younger self for the (now) obvious mistakes I chose to make. I have grown in how I approach (and cherish) relationships with my friends and my family. I have learned to appreciate knowledge and wisdom, especially that which comes from God, whether revealed through spoken word or scripture or simply God whispering to the depths of my soul. It’s been a good journey thus far. But what if I’m missing the bigger picture of this thing called life? What if being a Christian is so much more that I ever imagined?

There is clearly a struggle in the post-modern society that America finds itself in today. The church is fighting to remain relevant and sometimes stumbles over its own systematic belief system that was created on different morals and values. What changes in light of the times and what do we stand firm on? Of course if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if the church was built solely on the principles of Jesus, there would be no need for change. It would transcend beyond a political infrastructure and the logistics of organizational necessities. It would stand out from society as a “light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden.” So where have we so gravely miss-stepped? Where has my own life been shaped by a temporal church platform rather than the rugged and grimy truth that composes the Gospel in all of its beauty and splendor?

In one single misconception: we have created an environment where we believe that being sanctified equates to living a life separated from everything “dirty” in the world.

Oh, you don’t believe in Jesus? Ok, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.

You don’t read the Bible in your classes? Ok, we need to find a new school.

You want me to do more than write a check to serve as my form of service? Ok, it’s time to find a new church.

Yes, I realize this might make some (read: many) of you uncomfortable. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable because it is forcing me to recognize the areas in my own life where my attempts at sanctification are more equitable to sanitation. Separating ourselves from the broken people of the world has created a false pedestal that we waiver upon, desperately trying to remain “holy,” all the while missing the point that down in the dirt and grime is where Jesus spent His life on earth.

Jesus said, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:33-40 NIV)

The more I read Matthew 25, the more I realize that I have so often missed the point. I go to church; I love Jesus; I even write a check to support missionaries serving and sharing the love of Jesus to others around the world. But I have missed so many opportunities to be the love of Jesus to others around me.

There is no way to misconstrue the fact that Jesus loves the broken and weary and down-right dirty. He cherishes them. And instead of loving and cherishing people, we sanitize ourselves from them, lest we become more like them.

Sanctification has nothing to do with separating ourselves from the broken. It has everything to do with allowing God to separate our heart from the desires of the world that it may be molded to love the broken as much as He does.

Simply because a person has money does not make them any more holy than those who have none. A person who sits in church every week is not more holy than the person who prays every night that they will simply survive another day on the street. Designer name clothes do not define status, a willing and serving heart does.

I long with my whole being to be sanctified before God. I long for Him to make me holy and set apart. I long to be more like Jesus, who is all of this and so much more.

In becoming more like Jesus, in becoming sanctified, my heart must break for that which Jesus’ broke for. His heart broke for all of us. It broke for the hurt and destitute. It broke for the ostracized and outcast. It broke for those who suffered at the hand of the unjust and self-righteous.

It wasn’t contingent on those people having the same beliefs or performing the correct rituals. It was a matter of the heart and even if they didn’t believe, Jesus still loved. He didn’t compromise who He was or what He did, but He still loved them right where they were at, in the midst of their dirty and unholy brokenness.

There is a way to remain steadfast and sanctified and still love as Jesus loved. There is a way to stand firm on our convictions and beliefs and still reach out genuinely to those around us who don’t share those same principles. It is through sanctification by service. It is through self-sacrificing our own preconceived notions and to hear the stories of those who live in the trenches of society.

Will we be known as a generation that left the church to die, or will we be the generation that allows our spirits to become sensitive to the leading of God to revitalize the church and create a new standard? Will we be the people set apart, never experiencing the wonder that comes from allowing God to “mess up” our life, or will we be the people set apart because we have allowed God to take over and guide into the mess that comes with loving people-all people, broken and all-the way that Jesus loves them?

It is a great challenge that has been issued, but I pray that we will be courageous enough to trust Jesus and dive in.

Sanctified–It’s Time to Break Out

Sanctify.

verb. to make holy, set apart as sacred, consecrate.

I’m trying to finish up some editing to submit my book to the publisher but have also begun to look towards my next project(s).  I currently have four ideas bouncing around.  One that fascinates me is this idea of being sanctified.

The whole idea of Israel being a people “set apart” is so incredible to me.  God chose them.  He was active in their lives (whether they were paying attention to him or not).  And he gave them incredible promises because they were his chosen people.

As Christians, we now have the privilege of claiming their history (including the amazing promises) as our own.  But this is where things get a little hairy.  I believe that most believers have yet to take claim to what is rightfully theirs.  I believe that most of us still live as though we are bound and chained to whatever burdens we carry and never adhere to the status that God Himself has given to each and every person who believes.

That’s what I’m hoping to explore.

  • What does it mean to be sanctified?
  • How can we break free from the burdens that enslave us?
  • How can we allow God to then change our status accordingly?

Am I living out a life as one “set apart” and “made holy?”  Are you?

—What does it mean to you to be sanctified?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Perception Part 2 (kinda)

What is perception?  Let’s just begin with that.  The dictionary definition of perception is:

the act of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding

immediate or intuitive recognition (insight) -dictionary.com

When we perceive something, we are discerning it, we are understanding it (at least at face value).  When we perceive the state of someone we have just met, we are making quick judgments that may or may not be accurate.  Simply because someone has a furrowed brow, haphazardly bumping into you as you walk by does not mean that they are a mean or selfish person.  Maybe they just received a phone call about their loved one being in an accident and is dealing with a flurry of emotions that they are just figuring out how to deal with and can barely see clearly enough to put one foot in front of the other.  Or just because that girl “always” seems to be smiling and “always” has people around her doesn’t mean that she is necessarily happy or doesn’t understand what it means to feel so lonely it aches.

Like I said before, perception is not the reality.  Perception is the assumed reality.  The problem isn’t based in how we want others to see us, but when we take this “reality” and try to play it off as real to ourselves, and more so, to God.

Depending on your background often times determines your perspective of God.  Whether he is distant or intimate, judgmental or merciful.  Our opinions are as feeble as we ourselves are.  We change our minds depending on our mood and assume that because we feel it, because we “perceived” it, it must be true.  That is of course until our circumstances change and we find our perception wavering once again.

But where we are finite and small minded, God’s perception on us is never misguided or shortsighted.  He sees who we were, who we are, and who we will be–all at once.  He is able to not only understand, but envision beyond the perception we have tried to create.

Last night, my 3-year-old donned her yellow tutu (her princess dress) and came to my husband asking him to dance.  He reaches for her hands, but she only takes one, then proceeds to hold the edge of her “gown” as she walks him into the living room “dance floor.”  He of course catches his oversight of the elegant nature of the situation, and bows before initiating the dance.  My daughter holds the edges of her skirt, curtsies, grabs one of her daddy’s hands and begins to dance…running around in circles, laughing and giggling to the point of silly hysterics.

The initial perception was of formality, way beyond the basic comprehension of a preschooler.  But the reality, to really know and understand my silly little girl, is to know that while she loves to dress up like a princess and dance with her prince (her daddy), she thrives in silliness and dancing and jumping around.

God knows that we like to present ourselves to others as pristine and spotless.  But he knows the truth in our hearts.  Whether it is as silly as a 3 year old or broken and bruised, pasting the smile on day in and day out just to get by, he knows.  We can not create a false cover when it comes to God and the longer we attempt to maintain the facade, the longer we have to bare the burden alone.

Jesus said,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In order to take the “yoke” of Jesus, we have to first lay ours down at his feet.  We have to be honest with ourselves on the reality, not simply the perception.

The past several weeks I have been seeking sanctification by God to be ready to do whatever he calls me to do.  During this time, I have also taken a greater focus on my writing (something which has taken the back burner more often than I would like to admit).  While I have written on here over the time, I haven’t focused on a book that God laid on my heart a couple years back.  I finally picked it back up and have been giving it some much needed focus.  While I am looking toward publishing it in the near future, the calling on my heart doesn’t end there.  I long for the opportunities to speak to students.  My desire to be an author and speaker has just continued to grow and develop in my heart and I pray that there will be opportunities in the future.  But to be successful in this arena (God success, not man’s success), I will have to be painfully honest.  No facades, no false perceptions.  It’s scary but something that I am greatly looking forward to whenever that dream comes to fruition.  I say this as a prayer request.  The “kinda” in my post title is because I did not take the time that I hoped to put this particular post together.  Partially because my mind was distracted by the above prayer and partially because I am distracted in the first of many re-writes of the book.  I hope to go into this particular subject in greater detail in the future, but for now I leave you with a challenge.

If your perception of Jesus is different than the Jesus of the Bible, take a step back and ask yourself why.  Read scripture, ask God to reveal himself to you, and be open to the possibility (likelihood) that your perception might change because Jesus is always who he says he is.

Then, if you are trying to give God a false perception of who you are, save yourself the hardship and know that he is trustworthy and already knows you to the depth of your soul.  Surrender your burden to him.

I AM recording

I actually have a post started but not completed.  One of those, trying to get it right kind of things.  But I want to be better about posting regularly, so, a while back I posted a written copy of a spoken word piece I had written (if you missed it, you can go read it here).  I kinda promised to post a recording when I got around to making one…and I just now got around to it.  I made a little video to accompany the recording and it’s all a little rudimentary, but I think it makes the point well, so here you go.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

I am…

Over the past few weeks, my church has been doing a series titled “Irreligious.”  It’s one of those series that I imagine in the hands of another pastor, another perspective, it could be incredibly “PC.”  But one of the many reasons I love and appreciate my church (and its leadership) is the wisdom that they are able to use in approaching a topic like this.  The reality is that Jesus was “irreligious” by the standards of the “religious leaders” of his day, but neither was he “PC.”

I am grateful for series like this because I find that it challenges me in how I have approached my own faith.  My beliefs aren’t going to change, but how I present them to others or how I understand the truths that I know can grow and adapt as I learn what it means to be more like Jesus.  I can know what Jesus said.  I can know what scriptures tell me are true.  But am I living in those truths.  Do my actions show those things that Jesus said as how I live my life?

With that in mind, and with the inspiration of the skills and talents of my wonderful husband’s work, I have found myself writing poetry/spoken word.  It focuses around the concept of “I am.”  Who I am, who the I AM is, and how to live the life that represents him.  Below is a piece that I wrote a little while back.  Because it is written as a spoken word, I’ll try to record how I read it and post it as soon as I get it, but for now…here it is:

I am broken.
a mass of bones pieced together in intricate detail and yet,
it is dying.
in the same way a flower sprouts from the ground, reaching toward the light of the sun only to wither in it’s heat.
you see I am broken.
continually failing to achieve
that
next great accomplishment to
achieve that next great accomplishment to
achieve nothing better than sounding like a broken record.
I am broken.
living in a broken world where
broken people break.
but where I am not able to put these broken pieces back together
I AM can.
I AM made me
not to be broken, but to
look to he that formed me
in the depths of my mother’s womb,
unseen by man,
knitting together bone and flesh,
for his glory.
I am broken,  but I AM created a way to unbreak all that has been broken.
for I AM became man to live among his broken creation.
He broke bread and healed broken bodies.
he allowed his perfect body to be broken
to heal souls.
but in the same way that I am not enough.  I AM is.
He overcame death to reclaim the pieces of his broken world
to piece it back together piece by piece
put together with two pieces of wood and three nails.
put together with a love so strong that even death could not hold him in the grave.
I am broken,
but I AM has made me whole.

An Interruptable Servant Leader {Romania Devotional 4}

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28, ESV, emphasis my own)

When the Israelis were looking for their Messiah, they would look to the old prophesies.  In reading them, they automatically assumed that their Messiah would be a warrior king, like King David (since he was to come from his lineage and save them all).  So when Jesus showed up saying that he was in fact the Messiah, they didn’t understand.  This man was not a king, he was a homeless wanderer.  He was a carpenter from Nazareth.  He couldn’t possibly be the one they had been waiting for.

And yet, he was and still is for all of us.

We have coined a lot of phrases in the Christian church.  Some good, some not so much.  One such phrase is “servant leader.”

1. What does it look like to be a “servant leader?” (descriptive/characteristics)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV)

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people (Ephesians 6:7, NIV)

One thing that I love about how Jesus served those around him is that he was interruptable.  What does that not quiet real word mean?  Well, look at Jesus’ first 3 miracles (I have them referenced from John simply because I like the format of that gospel).

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants,“Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)
love this story.  I can just imagine how Jesus might have replied to his mother’s request.  Can’t you just see the sarcasm dripping?  I mean, really, he called his mom “woman.” Ha!  The point is that he was simply there, a problem arose, and Jesus solved that problem.

The second miracle was the healing of the officer’s son.

When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him,“Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. (John 4:47-53, ESV)

This story is a man taking advantage of Jesus passing through town.  Again, there was a problem, someone asked Jesus and he solved the problem.

His third miracle was healing the lame man.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed  (John 5:1-9, ESV)

Jesus was passing by and offered his healing.  The man still had to want it and believe, but by taking a few minutes of his time in passing, he changed a man’s life for the kingdom.

Jesus served where the was a need.  It wasn’t a pre-planned affair.  He saw a need in the place he was at that moment.  Because he took the time to stop and see the need, miracles happened.

2. How can we change our mindset to be interruptable like Jesus was?

3. How does this change your understanding of servant leadership?

I am looking forward to serving with all of you this next week.  It sounds like Satan is attempting to attack several different people on our team so I am excited to see what he is trying to keep us from accomplishing for the kingdom of God.

To all my other readers, I hope these were still a blessing to you.  Already anticipating the blog post when I return!