Category Archives: Inspirational

Monday Morning Commentary

Today I am going to post my “Monday Morning Commentary”. Sure, it’s Tuesday, but the whole spirit of the “Monday Morning Commentary” is that of an armchair quarterback. It doesn’t really matter when you rehash the plays and tout the victories, as long as its done before the next big game. At the Bridge Church, we are in the middle of, and nearing the end, of our 2012 kickoff series “Defining Moments”. Since most of us spend at least one moment contemplating the end of one year and the beginning of the next, what better time for the church to help us outline a plan for our year? We want 2012 to include defining moments that we can look back on and know that our lives were forever altered in those moments. In the Bible we find many defining moments, most of which ended with altars to God being erected as monuments to the greatness of our God.

The Bridge Church is still in it’s infancy. In fact, we don’t celebrate our 1st birthday until Sunday, May 20, 2012,  but we have had many defining moments already. One thing that I want to start on my blog is a testimonial section. God has done so many things in and through people associated with and connected to the Bridge Church that it would be a shame not to shout it from my blog. We have seen healings, job miracles, financial miracles, and many salvation stories. Too often it is easy to let these moments slip by without identifying them as the defining moment that they are because we get too busy, or we chalk things up to coincidence, or we convince ourselves that we are so good and so spiritual and so full of awesome works that we deserve the miraculous. We feel that God owes us something big because we show up on Sunday mornings. We don’t want that to ever be said of the Bridge Church. We are a church that honors God and honors people and that means we celebrate the miraculous moments. We celebrate the moments that may seem like coincidences to others, but that we know to be God. I think 21st century Americans are so stinking spoiled by all the material goods and information up for immediate grabs at our fingertips that we need God to always move in the “thunder” and in the “lightening”. We have forgotten how to hear that still small voice. My personal stamp on the “Defining Moments” series is to learn to recognize when God is bringing you a defining moment. Don’t let it be drown in the noise of selfishness, pride, busyness, or covetousness. Recognize when God moves.

The major themes of our series have been defining connections and defining transitions. This past Sunday we discussed “A Defining Attitude”. In an era where a bad, in your face attitude is touted as some sort of badge of honor, we, as people of God, need to give a lot of thought as to the attitude that we put on everyday. I hear a lot more “Talk to the face, not the hand” than I do “I’m sorry’s”. This sermon really spoke to me. Pastor chose two passages of scripture. One was found in the book of Daniel where we find that Daniel’s excellent attitude led to him getting promoted in the kingdom. What we fail to realize a lot of times is that Daniel lived in Babylon because his people were held captive. Even in the face of slavery and captivity, his work ethic and attitude separated him from everyone else. He then chose  Psalm 40:9-10 for us to learn from David. David was a psalmist and if you have ever met any true and really good musicians and song writers, you will know that they generally are weird. True musicians, not people that just chord and sing nice, but people like Taylor Swift that write great ballads resulting from break ups and failed relationships, generally glean their work from a place of pain and oftentimes depression. David probably struggled a lot with his attitude for numerous reasons. He was the overlooked younger brother sent to the hillside to watch sheep while his better looking, stronger, older brothers were favored. David leaves for us some great words in Psalms to help us “sing” our way out of a bad attitude.

Psalm 40:9-10

New International Version (NIV)
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,
as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

The best way to be identified as someone with an “Excellent Spirit” would be to determine today that the defining attitude you want for your life is an attitude worthy of someone who has been redeemed. Actions do speak louder than words, but I guarantee you that if your words are words of praise and proclamation to Jesus, your actions will catch up to your words. Do as David said and proclaim the saving power of God. Don’t seal your mouth when good things happen. Don’t hide the goodness, righteousness, and faithfulness of God in your heart. Stop carrying a concealed weapon. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us which is the greatest tool in Spiritual warfare. Don’t conceal that weapon. Don’t hide his love and faithfulness. Proclaim them. Nothing will set your day up better for success than focusing on the goodness of God.

Too often we settle for boring lives and boring Christianity. Why would anyone want to become a Christian when they see Christians with bad attitudes? Live your life out. Live a good attitude. Live bold. Live audacious, not boring.

My favorite analogy Pastor used was the analogy of cappuccino versus lattes. Too many Christians are cappucino’s. They are a lot of foam and very little substance. They are asking people to pay a high price for what they have (deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Christ), but offering little in return. The Bridge Church, on the other hand, wants to be a latte. A latte still has espresso and froth, but there is a lot of substance to the cup.

So, my defining conclusion to the sermon this past Sunday is this:

Let your attitude be shaped by the faithfulness of God, not by the daily grind”.- Me. My original quote.

When I wake up, I’m not going to immediately hone in on all the things going wrong and all of the lists that need completed, but first I am going to speak of His faithfulness and saving help. The goal is not to ignore your circumstances and be oblivious to the problems in your life, but to learn how to let your attitude be shaped by the promises of God. This life is just the waiting room for the auditorium of eternity. Keep it in perspective.

In keeping with the Spirit of the “Armchair” Quarterback, I have to say that our Pastor has been throwing quite well.

I am Tim Tebow

It really never is too late to reinvent yourself. Every blog on this page is all about exploring the power that each of us has within us to go further, do more, push harder, and accomplish more than we ever could have dreamed. I also believe that if we have the Spirit of God in us, we can do things, even in our own physical bodies, that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. I guess you could call this the “Tim Tebow” theory of life. Sure, you don’t have to be a Christian or a Spiritual person to accomplish things in the business world or on the athletic field. We know this because the Bible tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust. That rain can be both the rain of blessing and the rain of sorrow. This just simply lets us know what we all already knew and that is that life isn’t always fair while we are in these mortal bodies. But, we do know that one of the key attributes of God is justice, so we can just let things slide and know that He will work it out someday. Sometimes things aren’t even worked out in our lifetime, but there is always a day of reckoning. The hope we have as believers is that when it is all worked out, and that day of reckoning comes, whether it is in this life or the next, it will be worked for our good. (Romans 8:28) The “Tim Tebow” theory of life is tied directly to that concept. We all know that even with all of his prayers and John 3:16’s, he still lost to the Patriots. However, he lives this scripture (to my knowledge and what I can see), and so should you.
 Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (NIV)

Whatever that we do in every area of our life from the athletic, to the mundane, to the necessary, to the exciting, we need to dedicate to God. That being said, becoming as healthy and strong in your body as you can is very glorifying to God. It is telling God that you value the flesh that He gave you when He formed you in your mother’s womb. The Bible tells us that He lives in temples not made by hands, meaning you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. At my church, the Bridge Church, we live by the thought that a church is not a building or a denomination or a social club, but it is a body of believers being the hands and feet of God on this earth.  A church is the people. By that definition, I better keep my body as healthy as I can because I am a representative of God. I am the temple that the Holy Spirit dwells in. I saw a shirt once that said ” I have the body of a God……….Buddah. 🙂 Too many Christians could rock that shirt well.

 I came across a passage of scripture today that really convicted me in regards to a healthy lifestyle. I still don’t like to see scriptures like this because I don’t have it all under control yet. Sometimes I still eat way too much junk or spend far too much time thinking about food. Pastor Jentezen  Franklin calls this being ruled by “King Stomach”. No man can serve two masters. If you obsess about anything in life, it can become an idol to you. Dethrone King Stomach and King anything that occupies too much of your thought life and time.

Proverbs 23:1-3: “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: 2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. 3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.”

The word of God says basically it is better to just die than be given over to your appetite. I think this is true of not only the literal physical appetite towards food, but all of the appetites that our flesh desires. The bible tells us that while almost everything is lawful, not everything is expedient. For example, while it isn’t a sin to read novels, if you read 8 novels a day and neglect your job, home, study of God’s word, and spiritual callings, it wouldn’t be expedient. Likewise, while it isn’t a sin to eat ice cream (Oh please tell me I’m right on this!!!!), it would be a sin to eat a gallon a day and steal, kill, and destroy for another ice cold milky fix.

Keep this in mind as you pursue the new you. Above and beyond anything else in this world, your spiritual health is the most important thing, and I feel that you can’t be spiritually healthy if you let yourself go physically. Therefore, spend some time this week finding balance in your mind, body, and spirit. Do everything you do for the glory of God and you will feel strength like you never have before. Be a little diet and fitness “Tim Tebow” this week. Let the world know that you are logging those running miles for the glory of God. You are strengthening your body like an athlete so you can better pursue His calling on your life. Don’t let your appetites rule you, and above all, every time you reach a milestone, give thanks to God. Daily when I run I can’t help but whisper “Thank you Jesus” for the strength I have in my body to run, for the breathe I have to breathe, and for the time to run outdoors and commune with the earth that He created. Everything we have and do is because of Him, so turn it around for His glory. If you have to, drop to your knees and “Tebow” as you exit the gym. It might be dramatic overkill, but at least you’ll remember who you belong to and why you do what you do.

What you pursue matters

Romans 9

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

        In keeping with my new pledge to blog things that I would’ve posted on Facebook, I wanted to share this scripture. God has really been dealing with me on some issues over the last couple of months. I mainly have a few themes echoing in my life and in my mind at the moment (some of which will be shared over the course of time) and one of them is based on the question asked to the apostles in the second chapter of Acts, “What meaneth this?” Basically it is saying that you can have all of your works of the Spirit and all of your demonstrations and you can say whatever eloquent words that you want to say(all of which was going on in Acts Chapter 2 like crazy), but the bottom line is, how in the world can I apply this to my life. I think that most people raised in evangelical Christianity have failed to ever sit and even ask themselves what it all means. Usually when you are raised “in church”, a majority of your relationships are with other “churched” people and you don’t rub shoulders much with those far from God or those who have never known God. You surround yourself with people that don’t ask questions about the meaning of God because asking questions is perceived as questioning faith. In fact, God wants you to ask questions because He wants to clarify for you how good He really is! He wants to empower you with His Spirit for a life you could never have imagined.
      As someone who was raised in the home of a Pentecostal preacher, I knew all the routines, rules, regulations, and rituals of Pentecostal Evangelical Christianity. I read my bible, indeed I even had and still have entire books of the Bible memorized, I prayed, and I was faithful to church. I even had the truths hidden in my own heart, however, until I bothered to ask what does this all mean, all I had was religion. Do most people that eat, chew, and digest whatever Biblical meal is being served up to them without seeking for themselves even realize all they have is religion? To that, I have to say no.
       Our LifeGroups are currently studying the book of Romans and these verses from Romans 9 are part of our study this week and my Observation/Application/ and Prayer (In keeping with our SOAP journal method) are that stumbling blocks are everywhere. Usually we like to blame people and circumstances on our trip ups, but in fact, our own attitudes, generally rooted in our pride, are what cause us to fall. Your view of God as a Grandfather punishing those who do wrong and so I’ll be the little girl in pigtails entertaining said granddaughter by following all the rules, is causing a major rift between you and experiencing all Christ has to offer. Those that are raw, real, honest, and relentless in their pursuit of the things of God and the mind of God are those that are attaining the goal. Take the pious mask off, quit looking at living for God merely as a list of rules and way to avoid hell, and, with the tenacity of a bull charge every good and perfect thing that he has for you. Live out your faith. Do not pursue rules, ritual, and religious tradition, but pursue Christ. The answer to the question of “What meaneth this” is Jesus. Everything that we say, do, and pursue should be to glorify and honor Jesus and point the way for others to find Him. When you are on the “Way” with Jesus, He will show you the truth and the Life. He is everything. Run this race with reckless abandon and as long as your faith is in His perfected work on the cross and nothing else, you’re not going to fall.

Don’t feed the animals

Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed the growth of a hidden monster that has always lurked in the closets of people’s hearts and minds. This monster, “have to know”, or HTK, has always existed, but his growth has been fueled by the ready availability of social networking. While I actively participate in social networking in all of its various forms (texting, Facebook, Twitter, iPhone apps, etc.), I am finding it increasingly difficult to distance myself from HTK. This monster pops up on my newsfeed in all variety of forms and I’m longing for the day that my friend “Need to Know” or NTK will knock him out. This monster infects both speaker and listener. For whatever reason, lots of people feel you HTK about all details of their existence, and other people are ready and willing to listen because they HTK all about you. Lately a phrase my dad passed down to me and reiterated numerous times in my formative years is “I’d rather be naïve than cynical.” What dad knew all along and that he wanted me to grasp was that while gossip and HTK are attractive in the moment, the end result is cynicism and negativity. It’s so refreshing when you don’t have to carry the burden of everyone else’s failures, shortcomings, speculations, and bad attitudes.

I’ve always said I’m the last to know everything. This used to frustrate me until I realized what a virtue that was. Why would I want to carry someone else’s heavy burden if I wasn’t intended to carry it? My Christian background teaches me to take my burdens, and everyone else’s, to the Lord and leave them there. There are enough issues plaguing society from poverty to hunger to spiritual anorexia and atheism that the last thing I need on my plate is a daily diet of someone “speaking their mind”. I find that the whole topic of self-control is on the bottom of everybody’s list. Just because something is true doesn’t mean that it has to be said. If you look fat in a shirt, I’m not going to tell you that voluntarily without provocation. People that feel the need to speak all things are very contrary.

What causes this stalker to come out in us that we feel that we “have to know” every detail of everyone’s life or share every little opinion that runs through our head? The HTK monster loves this obsession that we have been feeding every hour of every single day. This obsession doesn’t even require the internet. Lots of gossips and HTK monsters have been adequately fed throughout the years in the form of “prayer requests”, conference calls, and cups of coffee shared. My personal favorite is when someone is veiling gossip by calling it a prayer request. Oftentimes you can tell in the spirit of that moment that no request for prayer is actually being made, they just wanted to share juicy information.

At times I have been guilty of oversharing. My personality is such that I’m an open book. I really have no secrets to hide. In a day and age where authenticity is the buzz word, I feel that I was authentic before it was even popular. I’m horrible at putting up fronts. What you see is what you get. I have embraced this part of myself wholeheartedly and in the maturity of adulthood have honed in on the more positive aspects of this personality trait and learned to successfully set aside the more crass and off putting parts of this personality. Another thing my dad always told me was to put a guard on my mouth because it would get me in trouble. I’m the type of person that thinks something and says it before I have even had a chance to process the end result of my commentaries. Thankfully, something called maturity, wisdom, and growth haven’t eluded me and I have grown in this area of my life. I’m still very real, authentic, and transparent, but I’ve allowed my brain and God to aid me in what things need to be broadcast and what things don’t. Trust me, these weren’t the easiest of lessons for me, but I’m so thankful I have learned them. I groan when certain explicit things show up on Facebook and mourn for marital relationships that are publically sabotaged via social networking. My heart aches for children who are the source of their parent’s consistent and vicious complaints and my soul grows weary watching people so proudly and so publically cast off restraint on the internet. At times I feel guilty of feeding the HTK monster because even I get sucked into the reality soap opera show that is people’s very public personal life.

I have adopted the approach in my life that I will only feed information that is NTK or “need to know”. As a pastor’s wife and Family/Marriage Education professional, I all too often know intimate details of people’s lives. I cherish being a confidante, friend, and confidential counselor to people who have invited me into the deep part of their lives. I count it an honor and a blessing to carry their burdens to the Lord with them and for them. It is a sacred task to stand in the gap for people who are too weak to continue to hold their own banner high. I wouldn’t trade my role as a go to person for anything. God has given me a NTK, but with the God given NTK comes an outlet, prayer and fasting. I also have confidential accountability partners in my life. Too many people are letting the voices of negativity and cynicism invade the private parts of their hearts and mind with no outlet for escape. I’m convinced this is why depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and many other mental and physical problems weight heavily on the world today.

I encourage you to rid your life of HTK. You really don’t Have To Know everything about everyone else’s life. Social networking, the internet, cell phones, and email are amazing, especially when you have many loved ones and friends that live far distances away and sharing with them what you ate for lunch, that your child’s tooth is loose, and that your kid is potty training is loads of fun and laughter. Posting pictures of dates, exercise logs, and commentary on politics is engaging. I enjoy all of these things as you’ve noticed if you follow me on social networking. I love to post encouraging quotes and scriptures as well, but what I won’t burden you with are the emotional weights of spiritual struggles, marital struggles, or child rearing difficulties. If God has placed you in my life as my NTK, I’m going to call you, email you, or meet you for coffee. It is not good to live alone, but to live in relationship. I will not cease to be transparent or authentic, but I do pledge to not feed HTK. He is the strength of gossipers.

Philippians 4:8 (King James Version) 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Godly Heroes: A Hero is in You!

This blog is an excerpt from my talk at the Ohio District Ladies Day Service.

The word Hero conjures up a variety of mental images. If I did an opinion poll today, there would be a vast array of opinions as to what a hero is. To some of you, the word hero brings about the thoughts of a specific person or event, to others it is a set of characteristics and a specific type of person, and to others, sadly, some would say that heroes don’t exist in this life. As the mother of 2 small boys, I am well acquainted with society’s concept of a hero. Masked crusaders, caped avengers, and web spinning good guys are constantly on a collision course at my house. At any given moment, I can be spun into a web, wrestled to safety from a bad guy, and whisked away from danger to a castle. Any object can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary on these hero expeditions. A simple towel becomes a cape filled with mysterious, world changing super powers.

As women we are bombarded with another set of images from society on what it means for us to be a hero. We must be SuperMOM, SuperWife, and on a SuperCareerTrack. We have to have spotless homes, stylish, clean, polite children, Food Network worthy meals on the table, and we must do all of this with fit/trim/sexy bodies that will make us feel strong and make our husbands happy and proud. The quest to be a hero is daunting in 21st century America. A sports figure will be called hero in the news while living a self-indulgent and self-centered life and be paid 98 million dollars for their skills on a basketball court, while a volunteer firefighter quietly risks their life for the lives of others, dodging fire, flames, and unforeseen adversity, and does so with no financial renumeration.

As I sat down to think about what makes a Godly hero, I had scriptural examples flood into my mind.
• Jael proved to be a strong, determined woman who God used to defeat the enemy of Israel. The Bible praises her calling her most blessed for killing the enemy king
• Jocebed, Moses mother, nursed him and trained him in the knowledge and fear of the Lord and instilled enough in him by the age of 5 that when she had to give him up to Pharaoh’s daughter, she had already placed enough faith in her son that he was willing to suffer the afflictions of the righteous than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season
• Mary, the mother of Jesus, was willing to take on the shame and ridicule of an unwed pregnancy, knowing and pondering in her heart that she was birthing the messiah. She endured persecution for His namesake before He ever even was revealed as human flesh.

The bible is filled with examples of heroes of the faith, women worthy of honor, women whose children rise and call her blessed. Chances are in your life, you won’t be a Jael. God will not ask you to drive a literal spike through the head of an adversary. We, as New Testament believers wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spirits and principalities and powers in this world.
When thinking of modern day heroes of the faith and people that I look to as Godly examples, I immediately had a scripture come to mind. It isn’t a scripture that one would commonly go to in order to define heroism, but it is the set of scriptures from which we should derive the mission statement of our lives. If we want to be used of God and contend earnestly for the faith that was delivered to the saints, we need to pattern our lives after

Matthew 28:19-20. (NIV)
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This set of verses lays out for us the great commission. If we aren’t living the great commission, we really can’t even be called children of God much less heroes of the Faith.

A Hero is full of the GO: Therefore Go
A Hero of faith is willing to step out and do whatever God asks them to do. This doesn’t always mean you have to go to another country, another state, another city, or even another neighborhood. This means that you are just willing to have some of that Get up and Go. Ain’t no one gonna break your stride, aint’ no one gonna slow you down! Gotta keep on moving!!! Sometimes with the responsibilities and realities of life, it is difficult to always be “on your go”. A hero of the faith is always willing though and is there to listen to the voice of God and if that voice says to go to Giant Eagle instead of Kroger’s, it goes. Being a soul winner is not a one-time event. It usually doesn’t even really effectively happen at big crusades. Soul Winning is just always being ready to give an account for the power and the joy in you and your willingness to spread the seed of the gospel. Johnny Appleseed became an American Hero through his kind and generous ways by putting apple trees all throughout the mid-west and the United States. He simply did this by spreading seed everywhere that he went. He planted nurseries and put fences around them to keep the animals out. A hero of the Faith is simply a spiritual Johnny Appleseed. The tree and the fruit that comes forth isn’t your responsibility, but it is God’s. Just don’t be afraid to constantly be about your Fathers business and spreading hope and truth into your community. Be a GO saint. One day I felt an immense drawing to visit an area mall that I don’t normally go to and have my kids play in that play place. I really didn’t feel like doing it. I often feel that my life is as a full time entertainment and event planner with my 2 children as my CEO’s. I obeyed that urging though and happened on a single mother of a 4 year old daughter that started pouring herself out to me right there. I had never met this woman, but she was hungry for change in her life. At only 24 years old she has already been in AA for 5 years and has a laundry list of addictions and situations that she is working to overcome. I have since become acquainted with her and she stays in touch and desires to be part of the Bridge Church. I was blown away by God that day. After walking with him for 30 years you would think I wouldn’t be surprised by His ways but I am. I want that get up and Go for the kingdom.
Acts 1:8 But ye SHALL receive power after that the holy ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and all Judea and in Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the earth.

You don’t have to GO too far to make a full impact. Be on your Go in your Jerusalem and it will spread.

A Hero is full of the MAKE: make disciples of all nations
A true hero of faith is into building people up and making them all that God desires for them to be. We live in a broken world where people hear negative things every second of everyday. The last thing they want to do is meet a Christian or attend a church that makes them feel depressed! The Joy of the Lord is our Strength. A hero of the faith is into helping people, healing people, growing people, and discipling people. A hero of the faith is willing to share their knowledge of the things of God with somebody. A hero doesn’t desire to come across as the expert but is willing to share and grow others up to their level. The true Heroes of the Faith model themselves after Jesus. He poured of himself and mentored 12 disciples and those closest to him so they could work in harmony in one mind and one accord towards accomplishing the greater will of Christ.

A Hero is all about Baptism: A Hero leads people to the water: Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (And we know that name is Jesus)

A true hero of the faith is strong in doctrine. While Going and Making, they will not compromise.

Ephesians 4:14-15 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that, which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

To be a hero and grow the body of Christ, you do not have to compromise your message. Jesus said unless a man be born of water and of Spirit he shall not see the kingdom of God. When asked on the day of Pentecost what to do and how to respond to the message that was being preached, Peter brought us the foundational truth of the early church and of our movement

Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I’m thankful for heroes that believe the message of the cross. I’m thankful for heroes that preached the gospel even when it hurt, even when it brought persecution to them, even when it cost them something, even when it cost them everything, even in countries where it is illegal!!!
The gospel message is HIS death, burial, and resurrection. Oh that I may KNOW Him!!! When we know him in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his suffering, we are on our way to stardom!! If there was a Hollywood walk of fame where the heroes of the faith put their star, those who were not afraid to preach Christ and Him crucified, would be front and center on that walk.

A true Hero of the Faith is a Teacher: Teaching them everything that I commanded you

A Hero of the Faith is on their Go, Making and speaking into others, leading people to baptism and the knowledge of truth, and in the process does it with the heart of a teacher. A teacher is someone who leads, guides, and instructs. Jesus was the great teacher. A teacher does not spread knowledge through harshness and rebuke, but in love instructs. The heart of a teacher is not a heart of judgementalism and phariseeism but someone who speaks the truth in love. A teacher knows that the greatest commandment and the greatest law is love! Because of love, a hero of the faith takes people under their wings and mentors and guides them. The biggest job of a parent is to teach your children all things. We instruct them in life, academics, love, and spirituality. A Hero of the Faith is a Spiritual Parent. A Hero of the faith knows that they need to be in the word of God for growth so they have something to share with others.

NIV 1 Peter 2: 1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

The best part of being a hero of the faith is that we all have the tools in our arsenal to be a HERO. It doesn’t require superhuman strength or supernatural powers, it only requires that we are submissive to the plan and will of God and that we striving to walk in the great commission. Being a hero for God is filled with all kinds of promises that we can stand on. Matthew 28:19-20 didn’t end with imploring us to GO, MAKE, BAPTIZE, and TEACH, but it ended with a promise that we can stand on.

Matthew 28:20
(The Message) I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age (NIV)
(KJV) and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
So all you Hero’s out there, be encouraged!! God has equipped and empowered you for his service. With his supernatural powers and our natural giftings and abilities, nothing can stop the move of God that is destined to happen. He has already overcome the world!

Fasting

I am not afraid to admit that fasting is my least favorite spiritual discipline. With all of the decadence that surrounds me every time I leave the house, a simple trip to the post office can make my best fasting aspirations falter. Who even knew that Smokey Bones, Famous Dave’s, and even Burger King really smelled that good in the air wafting from restaurant to enclosed car with lightening speed? Smells, sounds, and environmental factors that I don’t even notice on an average day, call out to me when I choose to fast. For a few years I justified my struggle with fasting declaring to myself that fasting is a spiritual gift that some people are just better at than others. While to a degree this may be true, this logic was as faulty as saying exercise isn’t good for everyone, just some. We know that people with health issues, pregnant ladies, and diabetics have to streamline their fasting and use wisdom, but for the rest of us average saints, we really don’t have very many excuses to offer up to God that are legitimate.

I was decent at fasting as a teenager and in my early twenties. In fact, every week I went a minimum of one 24 hour period without food and liquid except water and embarked on my first prolonged fast without food and liquid except water in my very early twenties. I was shocked to find that going 3 plus days with nothing but water really wasn’t as hard as I had imagined. Sure, it was no picnic in the park and sure I wasn’t the most energetic human during these time periods, but I discovered I could do it! Jonathan and I began a tradition of beginning our new years with a prolonged fast, a tradition that we continue and lead our church to do, and I was excited. When I turned 24, I got pregnant with my first child and fasting took a back seat. I do not think it is wise for pregnant women to abstain from food. This may just be my opinion, but I think that God had no problems with that. I went straight from pregnancy to nursing and anyone that has nursed can attest to the fact that your appetite could beat out any Olympic athlete’s appetite. After this period of 2 years of pregnancy and nursing, I found that fasting became the unwanted friend again in my life. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I began to incorporate the weekly 24 hour fast into my life again, but I just couldn’t get back in the swing of extended fasting. Thankfully for me and my flesh, I got pregnant again. Whew!! I was justified. Another two year period of pregnancy and nursing had saved me from this spiritual discipline.

While this blog was not intended to be a confessional, I guess it has become one. I just want to encourage people that it is normal and even okay to struggle sometimes. We are human!!! I was inspired for this blog by my Bible reading this morning. While reading in Genesis, I was struck with a series of verses that I have read numerous times before and that had not stood out to me like they did today. Hagar, Sarah’s maid and Abraham’s mistress was able to say to God, “You see me and I see you”!! She called the spring where she had cried out to God “the God who sees me spring”. This simple revelation by a lowly member of society, a mere maid, who was not only a maid but a fornicator and the incubator for an illegitimate child made me realize that God sees me and all of my randomness. He knows all my insecurities, he knows all my struggles and yet, He sees me! He cares!

I am convinced that this scripture stood out to me because this confessional has a happy ending. The word of God becomes alive and organic in your life and heart when you’re dedicated to spiritual disciplines. I decided at the end of 2009 that I was tired of my excuses and I was tired of just fasting one day a week and that in 2010 I was going to reinstitute a strict fasting discipline in my life. My goal this year is to fast 3-5 day stretches at a time every single month in addition to my day a week. You don’t have to be Moses or Jesus and go 40 day stretches. Fasts like those have to be divinely and spiritually inspired and led and really ought to be under a Doctor’s supervision. I’m happy to say that God has proved himself in these time periods of 3-5 days. It has been unreal to me the doors He has opened, the scriptures He has shown me, and the way my spirit has been overwhelmed. I have had more spontaneous Bible studies with strangers in random places than I have had in years. This, as a side note, works out quite well in my favor since we are starting a church. I have been amazed at the doors to the unchurched that have been opened to me. Certainly giving up that Chipotle Burrito Bowl a few days a month has been worth the God encounters I have had.

I can’t explain to you in the physical why fasting works. It really makes no sense except that studies have proven that people that incorporate fasting into their lives live longer, healthier, and happier. God has a really funny way of proving things in the physical that we should already know in the spiritual. The key to fasting is simple, you must read your bible, pray, and be constantly meditating. If you don’t do these things, fasting is nothing but a way to be really hungry, tired, and crabby. It seems simple, but trust me; I’ve tried a three day fast in which I didn’t pray anymore than I do on a normal day. It was crazy. I justified it because my two toddlers are constantly harassing me and if you think prolonged periods of intercessory prayer are easy when you’re alone with 2 little boys 24/7, you’ve got something else coming! I made a pact with God in addition to my fasting pact in 2010 that my bible reading and prayer life would also improve. They have! God is addicting. The Bible is addicting. Prayer is addicting. Fasting is addicting. I promise. I didn’t believe it either until I had tried. That is why in the book of Acts they said they were “addicted” to the ministry of the saints. I believe it! It is like crack. Go several days having the power of God manifest in your life and prove my point. You’ll never go back to ordinary. I’m 25% of the way through reading my bible cover to cover for the 2nd time this year. From now on, I’m never just going to read my bible through once a year. I use to find this acceptable in my life. No more.

Ministering to and loving others is amazingly easy when it is an overflow of a well of joy that you have dug up in your own life. I challenge you to go beyond ordinary. Really become radical and God will show you, He really is the God who sees! He sees you, now go out and make it a point in your life to really see Him.

As a side note: The book “Fasting” by Jentzen Franklin is a great read explaining reasons for, types of, and ways to fast.

Don’t Go for Gold

Weeping as she clutched the cold gold medal, Olympian Lindsay Vonn, the USA women’s champion downhill skier in the 2010 Vancouver Winter games, was quoted as saying “I gave up everything for this.” At the age of 25, she has achieved everything she worked for. In a very similar story, eight time consecutive gold medalist in the 2008 Summer Olympic games, Michael Phelps, America’s swimming hero and Olympic great, was quoted as saying, “This is everything I’ve ever wanted to do, everything I’ve dreamed of.” Shortly following, in an interview he gave to Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, Michael fumbled when asked about his future; he was at a loss on what to do. He knew that his focus was his body and told Matt that at the next Olympics, his body will be older and he could probably never replicate his hero status again. At the age of 23, Michael Phelps had achieved everything he desired. Following his rise to fame and his status as history’s greatest Olympian, we saw his very public fall from grace when photos of him doing drugs surfaced.

History tells us that Alexander the great, King of Greece in the times before Christ, had conquered his known world by the age of 28 and wept bitterly because achieving his goals and dreams didn’t give him whatever it was that he was looking for. Repeatedly both in pop culture and throughout history, we view icons of sports, fashion, government, and music with awe and wonder, never realizing the sorrow that many of them feel once they have achieved everything they set out within themselves to achieve. The demons of self have the ability to torture both the great achievers and the under reachers. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and depression run rampant in the lives of those striving to achieve great things in this life. Countless examples could be shared of those with great wealth and fame who have not found happiness, and sadly, have taken their own lives through suicide or drug overdose when they discover that the glittery pull of self centered, pleasure seeking lives bring with them no earthly reward.

The Bible tells us that life is a race. This race isn’t about who crosses the finish line first, but rather about who is able to endure to the end. Our goal is not to pick up a gold medal and put it across our necks, but rather to take up a wooden, rugged cross, and put it on our backs. The apostle Paul tells us that bodily exercise profits little. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to have healthy, physically fit bodies, but instead to not let the goals and achievements of this life overshadow our eternal purpose. Through our human eyes, the gold is much more attractive than splintered wood, but we are called to serve. Matthew 10:39(NIV) tells us “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” There is no life without Christ. Sure, you breathe oxygen in and expel Carbon dioxide out, but that isn’t truly living.

Are you willing to be an Olympian for Christ? Are you willing to stand in the ranks of Saints, who like Lindsay Vonn in the physical, stood up in the spiritual with a cross instead of a medal and say “I gave up everything for this”? No one ever won a gold medal without intense dedication and the constant denial of self. The same can be said for winning the ultimate prize, eternal life. Purpose in your heart today to take up your cross, follow Jesus, and get some endurance in your spirit. You will not be disappointed if this is the path you take!

Behold I Make All Things New

Rev 21:3-6 (KJV)
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

As we embarked on a new year a couple of weeks ago, and even better, a new decade, it is human nature to assess where we’ve been and where we are going. The beauty and very nature of the gospel was to make all things new. To take darkness and make it light. To take a sin stained life of scarlet and make it white as snow. You are playing a key role in ensuring that the the people that you come into contact with can move forward spiritually. The only direction that we should be following Christ is forward. If we are going backward, then surely Christ isn’t our guide. Although not a very deep thought when pondered, it is oftentimes difficult to truly grasp and believe that your past is over. Yesterday is gone. Today and this moment is what counts.

With the promises of change echoing in the halls of parliament and demands for revolution in our government structure, what better time is there to share with the world change that they can really believe in? No other product can promise beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and dancing in the place of sorrows. If you have fallen behind in your commitments, now is the time to make all things new and begin fresh again. If you have been faithful in your commitments, keep standing. You are God’s hands and feet to share the gospel. Let it be your resolution from this point onward to be an active participant in the great commission!

Choose Encouragement

The lyrics of an all time Christian classic filled my head as I stared out the window. “Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come?” “His eye is on the sparrow” is a favorite at churches of all denominations across the country for a reason. We all go through seasons of life that bring hardship and trials. Nobody has it easy.
In the book of Numbers, God became downright angry at those that discouraged the children of Israel. They were at a crossroads upon encountering Kadesh-Barnea. It was time to seize the land of promise. I noticed that God didn’t chastise the spies that went into the land who were timid of the giants, but he brought judgment to those who used those giants to discourage others from the promises of God. I’m sure that Joshua and Caleb felt their throats tighten and their heart rates increase at the sight of the obstacles ahead. They were human after all. God has not asked us to be superhero’s, but to simply trust. The children of Israel were more inclined to follow the path of fear and discouragement than to follow the men of God and the promises of God. Gods anger was so kindled at those sowing seeds of doubt that nobody 20 and over was able to enter the promised land. How many of us are wandering through dry, desert seasons in our life because we believed the naysayers and allowed life situations and gossips to discourage us?

Num 32:6-14
“Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? 7 Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? 8 Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. 9 For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, so that they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them. 10 So the Lord’s anger was aroused on that day, and He swore an oath, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me, 12 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’ 13 So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.

Later in Ezra the people of the land were working over time to discourage the people of Judah. They tried to frustrate their purpose and block their “building program”. We are faced with a choice everyday to build up or tear down, to encourage or discourage, to feel frustrated, or to be an overcomer. What choice will you make today? We are faced with the daunting task of sharing the Apostolic truth with a metro area that is home to 2.9 million souls. Many of them have no idea what it means to be “spirit filled”. They are locked in traditions of religion and traditions of men. Thank you for choosing to encourage us and support us and not focus on the giants we have to face and the battles to be fought. People do not need reminded of the difficulty of their task, but of the greatness of their redeemer.

What are you plugged into?

Recently I was amazed yet again at the strides that we are making in technology. While shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I stumbled upon a product that I didn’t know existed. Not that this is surprising considering I am not an exercise guru or fitness Goddess, but I thought that as a consumer of music I would’ve heard of this product. Upon my return home I began to research the product and was thoroughly intrigued. The next time I purpose to become a gold medal Olympian, I am most assuredly purchasing this to guide me through my fitness routines. Until then, I am going to apply secular principles to my spiritual life.

The product I discovered is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and yet big enough to push, train, and inspire you. It is simply a partnership of the genius of Nike with the technology of Apple. It takes two cultural icons and marries them. Now your shoes and your iPod team up and take on your run. To quote from the Nike website, “See the minutes tick by. Watch the miles unfold. Hear real-time voice feedback. All to your favorite music — including the one song that always gets you through the home stretch.”

Ready, Set, Go. No longer do you need a personal trainer, you have technology to guide you. The concept is simple. Purchase the Nike + shoes and the Nike + iPod sport kit and sensor. You put the sensor in your + shoe where there is a built in pocket for it. You connect your receiver to your iPod, or if you are really cool and have the iPod touch and don’t need a connector. The senor tracks your run and sends the data to your I-pod. Your workout is customized for you. You also program songs for instant motivation. At the end of your run, your iPod gives you feedback and details of your accomplishments.

Why did this inspire me so much? The fact of the matter is that we are all in a race. Whether you are conditioned and prepared or not, we are all participating in the marathon of life. More of us than we like to admit are completely out of shape in the race. We are sluggish in our spirits, fat in our lusts, and broken in our hearts. The great theologian Gloria Estefan already told us that “there’s no place that you can hide, oh no, the rhythm is gonna get’cha”. You can refuse to admit that we are all on a path towards a goal and pretend like things don’t affect you or concern you, but the “rhythm is gonna get’cha”.

1 Cor 9:24(NASU) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Heb 12:1-2 (NASU) 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, 2 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.

If Nike and Apple can have a marriage of comfort and genius to inspire and encourage runners, certainly we can plug spiritually into the source of life that can inspire, chart, and motivate us on the race we are on. God has given us a fitness program in His word. If we daily ingest the milk and meat of the word, we will be spiritually healthy for the race that is set before us. If we lay aside all of the extra weights that get us down, we will run lighter. If we praise and rejoice and worship, we will have the tunes in our hearts that we need for the home stretch. Turn on your spiritual receivers and let your sensors be in tune with heaven. God will give you real time voice feedback and guide you if you let him. There is no need to be a speed demon to win the race of life, the only pre-requisite is that you keep your eye on the prize and endure. His grace is sufficient for all else.