Monday, June 20, 2011

Fighting the Fight of Faith

The battle's pretty hot today,
Here on the front lines,
But I’ve got the higher ground today
So i know I’ll be just fine.

Its here i will take my stand,
Down on my knees,
I'm armed and protected
From my head to my feet.

This hand to hand combat
Is not fought with my ability,
But by god’s word, my sword and weapon,
I overcome and win victory.

I hear the enemy louder now,
As the battle intensifies.
He's a little more cunning than i gave him credit,
But I soon realize,

God knows his every move
And as his tactics are exposed,
All the enemy's best laid plans,
Are overcome and decomposed.

In Christ, I’m more than a conqueror.
In Christ, I’m more than i appear.
But I am what I am by the grace of God
I’m a soldier, bold and clear.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Evangelism: Determine to Finish What You Start

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17b

It’s interesting to note, that before Jesus began his ministry, he was led into the wilderness. You would think, after reading how the heavens opened and a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, descending upon Him and hearing the Father say, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17] dynamic, high volume tent crusades would follow, but that’s not what happened. Instead of hitting the road as an instant full time evangelist with an enormous following, He was led into the lonely, isolation of the wilderness.

It's important to understand that before Jesus would take this world by storm. He was about to transform twelve average men into powerhouse ministers, who would ultimately turn the world upside down. He would heal the sick, blind and lame, caste out demons and free all mankind from the cruel reign of sin. By subjecting His body to the rigorous conditions of the wilderness terrain and fasting forty days and nights, Jesus committed himself to the art of discipline, thus drawing a line in the sand in an outward confession that the ministry He would start, He would finish. He made his position known and His mind was made up, nothing Satan could do or would offer could ever deter or distract Him from His mission.

Today, we’re faced with a whirlwind of a challenge.  While some ministers move forward in their calling, some leave the ministry disgruntled and confused, but the mission is still very much before us. While the population multiplies and cultures change, our mission grows more evident and clear. We’re called and commissioned to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We are to teach the Word, as Jesus taught.  So why then are so many falling away? The answer is complex yet simple; many are losing their determination to finish what was started. 

Perhaps you’ve lost focus of the task God has given you. The enemy, like a tornado, has blown in and destroyed all that you’ve built and labored for.  You feel buried under the rubble, left with nothing but the debris of failed attempts and shattered dreams.  Go back to the wilderness! Go back to when God first validated you, when His Spirit first rested upon you and you knew without a doubt you were called to greatness. 

Oh how His passion fueled your ambitions and motivated you to look beyond the puzzled faces that stared in disbelief. When you breezed past the doubters that questioned how God could use someone like you. Remember? Remember when His anointing showered you, filling you until your cup spilled over into the hearts and lives of all who were around you? It started in the wilderness, where you drew the line in the sand and committed yourself to a life of discipline; determining within yourself that this was the point of no return, you wouldn’t leave like you entered; you wouldn’t come out the same. Return to the wilderness, the place where you got alone with God and engaged in hand to hand combat with Satan and made your position known. It’s time! It’s time to finish what you’ve started!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feeling the Heat: When God Reveals Himself

“… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

There it stood bold, yet lifeless, glistening in the sun. King Nebuchadnezzar beamed, no doubt proud of his golden accomplishment, as the herald announced, “To you the command is given, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the music, you are to bow and worship the golden image that our king has set up. If you do not, you will be cast into the firey furnace!” Fear grips every heart as the debate to stand firm or bow  begins. Sure we’d like to cough up the heroic theatrical experience and say, “I’d never bow!” but truth be told, once the realization of getting baked alive hits us, our first response quickly catapults us in the opposite direction.

For Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, however, the choice was clear. “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol... You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:3-5a], wasn't a quote sketched to decorate their homes; it was a command God inscribed in their hearts. And as they were quickly ushered into the king’s presence they boldly proclaimed, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [Daniel 3:17-18].  They knew God was fully capable of intervening in their situation and while I truly believe they felt they were ready to die if God so chose, I can’t help but wonder if, while on their way to the furnace, did any doubts surface?

“Oh God, our hope and trust is in You! Lord, I know you spoke the worlds into existence. I know you made the sun to shine and gave life to us all and right now, Oh God, I pray that you’ll put the fire out before we’re thrown in. Reveal yourself mighty and the king and all his subjects will see your hand at work and will bow to You and see You as the One True God!” How often have we prayed such a prayer? We’d love nothing more than to tell God how to reveal Himself, usually by saving our skin. Then who’s to say they didn’t either. We like to super spiritualize people in the Bible and give them extra credit, but they were just as human as you and me. The closer they got to the furnace, feeling its intense heat, I imagine the harder they prayed.

Then suddenly, as they were thrown into the blazing fire, their captors fell dead. Yet, to their amazement, they were still very much alive. What I wouldn’t give to hear their worship right then. God didn’t save them from the furnace, but He chose to reveal Himself by protecting them in the midst of its flames. Isaiah 55:8 and 11 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD…  My word which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Like the three Hebrew boys, when we stand upon God’s Word, our faith will be put to the test. Sometimes God may choose to intervene before we’re feeling the heat or in the midst of the fire, but either way, He will show up and reveal Himself in the most amazing ways. So today, I want to encourage you to trust Him and put your full confidence in His Word, because like Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego, you too will come out without even the stench of smoke!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Open Doors: Let the Search Begin

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season." 2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV

Have you ever experienced the gnawing feeling of hunger pains? How about that embarrassing growling sound your stomach makes when it announces to the world, "Hey everybody! She's hungry!" As humorous as this sounds, it's perhaps the best description I can give for what I've been feeling lately. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:16b, "...for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Barnes Notes expounds upon this verse saying, "I was called into the ministry in a miraculous manner; I was addressed personally by the Lord Jesus; I was arrested when I was a persecutor; I was commanded to go and preach; I had a direct commission from heaven." I couldn't say it better myself!

Growing up I heard my dad, on many occasions say, "If I ever get to the place I can't preach, I want God to take me." In 2006, God granted my dad's request. Though he loved us and he certainly loved life, there's no doubt in my mind, his greatest passion was fulfilling God's call upon His life. He deeply loved to study the Word of God and spent most of his time doing just that. He pastored for almost 30 years, preached many revivals, preached in adult daycare facilities, nursing homes and traveled far and wide with our family's Gospel music band. He gave himself completely to the call of God.

Lately, my hunger pains for ministry have intensified.  Like my dad, I too am fueled by an overwhelming passion for God and the understanding that the rapture could take place at anytime; therefore, I feel such an urgency to search for avenues to minister. I have prayed  for open doors and while those doors are opening, I've found that I've had other open doors this whole time.

Talking with a close friend the other day on this very subject, I said, "If we ever get to the place, where we feel the "stage" is the only place we can minister, we're sadly mistaken." We have this amazing stage called life! While our enormous venues may vary, such as our homes, schools, the places of employment, the grocery store, restaurants, etc., we have the same message to share, Jesus Saves!

So today, as you're praying for God to open doors for your ministry. Allow Him to show you every door He's already opened for you today. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, an open door is an opportunity to share Jesus!

FYI! Be sure to make a note of these open doors!

  • Nursing Home - It's sad to say, but there are many living in nursing homes who've been pretty much abandoned by their friends and family. With few or no visitors, you can really brighten someone's day by letting them know you care about them. Whether you sing and make music or just stop by to sit and visit. Your being there can mean so much to so many!

  • Adult Daycare Centers - Somewhat like child care facilities, Adult Daycare Centers are for our aging or handicapped loved ones who need constant care and/or supervision while we work. Perhaps you're not musically inclined, but love to scrap book, tell stories or paint, contact an Adult Daycare Center in your area and ask how you can become a volunteer. 

  • Your Church - Whether the church you attend is large or small, I guarantee you, there are areas to serve. Such areas like: mowing the grass (grounds keeper), cleaning toilets (church janitorial team), administration, hospitality/greeter, the music department, nursery, children's ministry volunteer (assistant or main teacher), senior ministry, young married ministry, etc. Ask your pastor. I'm sure he or she can point you where you're needed most.

  •  Youtube Video - Someone told me the other day that Youtube was the second most popular search engine, right behind google! Do you love to sing, preach, play music, minister through drama, etc? Set up a camera and let God use you!
  • Blog Sites - Do you love to write? Do you have a testimony to share? WordPress, Blogger and a few other places are available for you to freely voice/type your praise.

  • Social Sites - There are many social sites available, facebook probably being most popular right now. While some may abuse these with pointless gossip, you can make your profile page your open door to minister! 

Start brainstorming for ways to share the Gospel! You'll be amazed at all of your open doors!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sold Out!

A few years back, I wrote a song entitled "Sold Out to You". The first line reads, "Why do I do what I do. When I know you don't want me to. I make promises, full of sincerity but I fail to follow through, I always do what pleases me." Pulled from the tear stained pages of my very personal journal, it's anthem that echos on today with the chorus, "When I really just want to be everything You want me to be. Why do I fail? I just want to sell out completely to You. I want to be sold out to You."

Let me take you back a few years. Desperate to know God's will for my life, I was an eighteen year old singer, songwriter and musician traveling with my families gospel group when God laid it all out for me. He was to be first in my life and that the guy I was engaged to at the time wasn't the man he had for me. Talk about giving it to me straight! God did! His words hurt and my heart was crushed, but I already knew I had been trying to force my will for far too long. I had a choice to make and not an easy one at the time, but that Tuesday night, April 14th, at a little church in Clayton North Carolina, I decided to sell out completely to God. I chose to surrender my will, my life and my desires to be everything He created me and had called me to be.

Not quite as simple as it sounds now, the decision I made that night meant I had to make a lot of changes in my life. Was it worth it? DEFINITELY! Did it hurt? ABSOLUTELY! What did it accomplish? COUNTLESS SOULS COMING TO CHRIST AND SO MUCH MORE! I can't begin to count the benefits of that one conscious decision.

Now let me carry you to 2005, when I actually wrote "Sold Out to You". Once again, I found myself in a dark hour. See this choice of following Christ is a daily choice. There's a struggle, a battle, a warfare we're in with our flesh and the enemy of our soul. God was showing me more of His plans for my life and the dreams and visions felt impossible, unattainable, always just out of reach and I felt so inadequate. Sitting at a piano, in a room all alone, I prayed that verse and chorus, you just read, over and over until I realized it flowed with the music I was playing. Then I decided to begin writing it down. The second verse says, "Why do I feel the way I feel, so confused and condemned. In You there's liberty, God, I surrender all of me... just to be sold out to You".  By the time I got to what we'd call the bridge of the song, I like to refer to it as the climax, because it was like the dam broke and the tears were gushing out. I was wailing before the Lord. "Oh I'm tired of running to hide from the storms of this life. I want to be free, free to be, who I am in your eyes. So now I'm giving you my life."

God's plans for our lives is perfect. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) What powerful words God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, yet we too can take these words to heart. God knew us for he formed us in our mother's womb. He called and set us apart for His perfect plan. Nothing we do or face catches Him off guard or surprises Him, our poor choices or the choices made for us by others. His desires for our life does not change with what we do or don't do, He loves and desires us all to be like Him, with Him and to live for Him.

But before we can fully walk in His perfect plan, we must make that conscious decision to sell out completely to Him. To surrender our will, our control and our desires and allow Him to have full control of our outcome. He's trustworthy! He's our creator so of course He knows better!

Perhaps you're in that hour of decision. You want to be everything God created you to be. You're struggling within yourself to make the right choice, knowing it'll cost you everything. His plan is perfect! Nothing you give up was really ever yours to start with, but was a diversion, a temptation to move off your destined course. God has a plan for your life and as your creator, only He knows where He's designed you to be, who He's designed you to be and for what purpose. Let Him lead! Follow Him and those dreams and visions He's given you, that passion you feel for that calling can and will be realized by His power and might... just trust Him! Because before you can step out, you've got to sell out and believe me, He's worth it!

Shine the Brightest

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; “nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 NASB

This morning, as I pulled the blinds to begin looking for the school bus, my daughter said, "Mom, I don't want to go to school. I want to stay here." While this little spill may be common for many parents, it hasn't been for us. Faith has always loved school; that is until we moved here.

Life in the ministry has its many challenges... one being relocating. Faith will be nine years old next week. She's in the third grade at her third school. Her other two schools were relatively small compared to where she is now. Though her first school was made up of mostly military families and transplants from all over, it still had a home-town feel. Her second school she transitioned well to. It was smaller than the first and was totally "home-grown". It was Mayberry with perhaps a few more deputies than Barny Fife. Faith loved school. She had her own alarm clock set and was  usually dressed and eating breakfast before we were up. She's a morning person, yes, but she just really loved school.

As I stared out the window into the darkness, looking for at least a quick glimpse of school bus lights, it hit me. It's easier to spot the bus when it's the DARKEST! Immediately I felt a devotion coming on. You see, you don't need a flashlight in broad daylight. It's pretty useless there. No, where you need the flashlight, is in those dark, cramped spaces, under the bed and in those hidden places. The flash light is needed when there's no other light to be found. Those places where we don't like to go, where it can be scary, uncomfortable and our vision is impaired. Where we can only see as far as the light is caste, BUT that's where it's needed most!

Saints, we are the light of the world, ambassadors. God has made His light to shine upon us so we can reflect Him to a lost and dying world. He sends us out of our restful comfort zones into a world to seek and save. Though we can't always see the way as clearly as we'd like, our vision being impaired at times where we can only see each step we take, we trust Him to lead us, knowing He's already prepared the way. He leads us to places we'd never have chosen, at times to people we'd never have met, to fulfill one purpose and one purpose only... to GLORIFY THE LORD!

Jesus said, "... if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). Speaking of his death on the cross, he was making clear to His disciples that in His death, He could redeem all mankind and when Jesus commanded His disciples to GO into ALL the WORLD and make disciples (Mathew 28 19:20), he promised them He'd be with them. That promise and command was for YOU & ME as well. We're called and commissioned to reflect and shine His light to a darkened world, darkened by sin's corruption. We're called and commissioned to take His light into the world, that means leave the four walls of our comfortable homes and churches and search out that one that's lost in our community, our places of employment, our schools, our city, etc. We start at home, doing all we can to reach our families, but the search doesn't end there.

Today, let me encourage you. Perhaps you're struggling to make the necessary steps for where God is leading you. You're afraid and in desperate need of assurance. If God is leading you, that's all the confidence you need. Or perhaps, you're in the darkest storm you've ever faced. All hope seems to have escaped in the cracks of your life and now you're strength is fading fast. Call out to Jesus! He sees you, hears you and though you haven't realized it yet, He's already holding you. He's been carrying you this far, you just haven't realized it yet. Let Him have all that you're holding on to, trust Him and let Him lead you in what to do next.

To my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, I have one more plea mixed with exhortation. Time is quickly passing and our Lord's return is drawing near. My heart is grieved by so much of what I see in our church world today. Back biters, back stabbers, gossips, people sowing discord, jealousy, haters and the list goes on. We're quick to point fingers, but we're all guilty if we're not careful. It's imperative that we remain clean and set apart, in the world but not of the world, meaning simply this. It's imperative that we're recognizable! Though this has been disputed to death, the Word of God is clear so KNOW HIS WORD and DECLARE IT, LIVE IT and let HIS LIGHT SHINE! The darker the hour, the brighter we'll shine!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Value: We're Not Napkins

“But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9 NASB 

Recently, I was out with a group of friends when someone announced "Hey! There’s …!" Immediately, I began feeling rather anxious and curiously checked my pulse. Just as I had suspected, my heart rate had jumped sky high. What was wrong? I was letting someone else determine my value.  

Sure, I’d like to think I dance to the beat my own drum, but truth be told, many attempts to be different may in fact be stimulated by the need to feel less threatened. In other words, if I don't fit the mold, I can’t be compared to the mold. Either way, no matter how we deal with anxiety, we must understand that anxiety is often triggered by fear and in this case, the fear of how I was viewed by others. You see, “so and so” had hurt me deeply.  

The next day, I shared the experience with my husband and he looked me, eye ball to eye ball, and said, "When are you going to stop letting people determine your value?" My heart sank as I felt my daughter's eyes burning into my soul. I was exposed! Now she could see that I'm not this strong woman I'd like her to think I am, but rather this frail, scared little girl, full of extraordinary dreams and grand aspirations, yet haunted by "what if" and failed attempts. With tears filling my eyes and one single tear escaping down my face, I looked at her and said, "Mommy is such a hypocrite, huh? I tell you not to let what people think bother you, to just let what people say roll off, that as long as you know the truth, that's all that matters. Yeah, it sounds great, huh, but your daddy is right. I've let stuff like this hinder me all my life and it’s simply got to stop!"

I glanced down at the table and caught inspiration from a simple, little napkin and shared, "You see this napkin? Several stores sell these napkins, but for different prices. Walmart has their price and Dollar General has theirs. They each decide how much these napkins are worth and then sell them for that price. We're not napkins! People can't slap a price tag across our face and label our worth and we should never let them!  God created us and though corrupted by sin, when He could have discarded us as trash, sent His only Son, Jesus, whom He dearly loved. He knew Jesus was without sin and was our only hope for redemption, so He sent Him to die in our place, raised Him back to life, giving us new life in His death and resurrection. God has declared our value and He says we're royalty! We're more valuable than we can fathom and no one can change that." 

Today, perhaps you’ve been hurt by things people have said or done. We put on a mask and claim, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” When in fact, you’re completely shattered inside and unable to brush off what’s been said. Let me encourage you with these words. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”