A Lot Can Happen in Three Years

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Three years ago when I stepped out of the radio studio I had no real clear goals other than the fact that I wanted to reach the lost with the Gospel, be involved in connecting with people, and help to build God’s Church all over the world. At the time, I knew what He had laid on my heart to do concerning the nations, and I’ve held Africa in the deepest recesses of my heart.

I didn’t know what the next step would involve, but God simply asked if I would trust Him in my next move.  Yes, I said move.  When that word first came to my awareness, I was a bit shocked.  I had been asking God to use me in a bigger way but was thinking (although very limited in my finite mind), I imagined a new plan would come to fruition someday.

I also believed that I would write books someday and several would be published for many to read. I never knew HOW or WHEN these dreams and trips would come to pass, but currently, as I sit here typing this, I see things unfold that I once could not even articulate.

Today on the fresh heels of Thanksgiving and returning from Africa, I am even more grateful and in awe of what has occurred in the past three years.  I have no magic formula, but over the years here is what I have learned:

Give yourself the space to dream again.

Get involved in your local church.

Do wholeheartedly whatever is before you.

Don’t have any agenda, but serve willingly.

Wait for God to open doors.

Submit to leadership.

Trust God because He is always in control when we are not.

There is no wasted experience; God uses everything.

God makes a way where there seems to be no way.

Have faith.

Be courageous.

Stay the course.

Be faithful.

Always remain part of something bigger than you.

Stay teachable.

Surround yourself with wise advisors.

Do nothing from selfish ambition.

Keep stretching and growing.

Continue gratitude.

Rally others to journey with you.

Bloom where God plants you.

Believe God for who He says He is.

Bonus: Obey God, He will not lead you astray.

Now I assume you are thinking, this makes a fancy pants list and all, but why should this work for you?  Or perhaps you have different goals than I.  Both could be true.  When you consider the infinite plans that God has for all of us, it’s easy to think small about what God can do through us.

The biggest truth I have realized over time is we rarely know the details of the journey when we start; like Abraham, we often go forth not knowing where we are going. But when you keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and the covenant promises, He will always take you to your destination.  Whether you come kickin’ and screamin’ or run willingly to Him, either way, God always knows what journey is best for each of us.  He is the only One who knows us better than we know ourselves and has gifted each person the uniqueness that makes us who we are.

He is good at being our Judge, our Father, and but also our Friend.  Some additional thoughts about following God are (and it’s important to remember these things too!)

God’s plans will…

Take longer than you think,

Cost more than you think,

Hurt more than you think,

BUT GOD AND you are…

Braver than you know,

Stronger than you seem,

Smarter than you think,

And loved more than you know.

Recently I was shopping with my husband and he purchased the above saying on a wooden sign. I asked him why he wanted to buy that for me and he said, “I will not always be with you, but I want you to remember these things.” The Lord also encourages believers in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  As if you are the only one, God steps into time, to author your story, and to develop you with a unique plan all your own but He loves it when you partner with Him in the grander scheme of His plans.

When you don’t know what to do, take the next step and trust God. Sometimes it looks like you are going in a different direction than you thought, but obedience is worth it. And when you grab ahold of the Father’s heart for you, then you will realize you are loved more than you know.  His heart will lead you no other way but the right way.  Follow, trust, and take heart.  Oh and hang on, it’s wild out here!

 

Oh go take a hike!

Going.  It seems that’s been on my mind lately.  I’m writing a devotional series for a non-profit that has to do with the Great Commission based on the words of Jesus and his last words to his disciples. As Jesus was surrounded by 11 devoted men,  I find it interesting that some of them were so quick to deny Jesus yet when he came back to say He was going to His Father in heaven, they all showed up to see Him off.  

“…but some doubted.” Matthew 28:17

Ever wonder how you doubt God?  When you don’t believe that He has a plan for you.

Jesus knew their doubt and charged them with their mission anyway.  “He came to them and said TO them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  ~ Matthew 28:18-20

There is something about Jesus words to me that gets me “going”.  It is as if when I read this passage I am hearing His “Go!” all over again.  In my mind this charge implies a movement  that is a bigger something than I can wrap my mind around.  There is something about going with like-minded companions.  I like to travel, but I enjoy traveling with someone who thinks like me.   Ask anyone of who has been missions.   They will tell you there is much to learn along the way, at the back of the bus, and then even more to learn once on unknown ground.  There is something about traveling with someone whose company you enjoy.

There is something about going to unknown places with people you trust.

Two days ago I experienced for the first time a 3 mile hike at 11,000 feet of elevation in the Rocky Mountains.  I wasn’t afraid to set out.  My guide had the trail all marked out.  I had a steady hand ahead of me and a steady rear guard behind me.  I had some supplies for water in my backpack, a small amount of trail mix in case I got the hungries for needed a shot of energy, and enough gumption to think I could do it.  I was all lathered up with sunscreen so my white skin wouldn’t scorch and I remembered my hiking boots.  I was as prepared as a first timer could be.

I left no room for doubt that would talk me out of going.

Even though I felt prepared, I didn’t worry about the trail itself.  It was well marked and cleared.  Many had gone before us and many will go after we had been there.  I was set up to succeed.  The point is, I had never been on a hike before nor knew the intensity of it.  But because I trusted my guide, I had no fear.  Because of my preparation for the hike, I wasn’t worried about how I was equipped to handle any unknowns.  I was prepared to a point that I knew that I could handle whatever came along, and I wasn’t hiking alone.  

In Matthew 25, when the disciples heard the “Go!” charge from Jesus, I find it interesting that the men set out immediately to do just that.  There was no hesitation in their action at least it seems from the outside.  It was if they were already prepared to dispense with a purpose.  Do you think Jesus told them step by step what they should do?  Do you think that they had a checklist about what missions looked like?  Do you think they spent hours wringing their hands pouring over a map trying to decide which way to go first?

No, I think they just “knew” where to go and what to do because of the trust they had in their Guide.  I think that there was no need for any committees to plan their agendas and decide who was bringing what.  I don’t think they stewed about whether they were ready or not.  I don’t think they worried about how they were going to eat or where they were going to lay their heads.  I think they just knew their purpose, who to talk to, and what to do when they got to their destination.    They had the comfort of knowing they could handle the journey.  

Even though some of them doubted, they didn’t leave room for it in their actions.

When you hear “Go!” what hits your mind first?  The disciples just went.  They reached, they preached, they influenced.  They  started.  And they didn’t go alone.  They were equipped along the way, and they trusted their Guide.   They had no fear in the going.  What they did hold on to kept them going for the long haul.  Their calling kept them reminded of the journey.  Their mission was their need and they kept ahold of the promise tucked inside of the charge.  

They had the promise of Jesus saying they wouldn’t be alone.

I find this compelling that they knew the presence of Jesus burning in their hearts as a passion for their “going”.  Their passion for sharing compelled them to “Go!”, they trusted the Leader that had equipped them so well.  That same Jesus that equipped a small band of brothers, is still alive today and ready to be your travel companion too.  Whether it’s your neighbor or international land that your Guide is leading you to, make sure you don’t “go” alone.  

And leave your doubt for the haters.  In building the kingdom, there’s no room for doubt when Jesus has already told you what to do.

The day I needed some big help

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I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were faithful to take me to church every Sunday and raise me in the Christian faith. So faithful that we were there every time the church doors were open. I grew up knowing the stories of Jesus. I never missed a day of Sunday school. I had been confirmed in the faith classes, memorized a lot of prayers and petitions. So I naturally assumed the faith of my parents. I didn’t have to question what I believed because it was what I always knew.

As a young mom, it was important to me to raise my little ones on a firm and right foundation. I was doing all the right things and repeating prayers like I was taught. I was taking my kids to church & Sunday School every Sunday. It looked like I had it all together and knew all the right answers, but in reality, I didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I only knew of Him. And honestly, what I knew I of Jesus, I couldn’t relate to.  He was just a holy image that I couldn’t get close to.

I had studied Him and acknowledged His existence, but there was something missing, a gap between my head’s understanding of who He was and my heart’s acceptance of His kind of love for me.  I was a good person, thought I was going to heaven, because I wasn’t horrible after all.  I was kind, giving and tried to love people.  Like everyone else around me though, I had fallen into some bad habits and behaviors. Just like any other young married mother with a couple of kids, I was trying to make the best of my life and keep my head above the stresses of every day. Little did I know, I was really running in the opposite direction…away from God.

I was going my own direction until I met Jesus.  The very place I lost my understanding of him became the very place I found new life in Jesus.

In a Good Friday service, the Holy Spirit had the details all arranged for our special meeting.  It started with a stripping away of things placed in the sanctuary.  The church committee started removing items one by one in silence.  The lights were dimmed in quiet solitude. One by one the candles were extinguished and the flowers disappeared. The room was practically empty except the few people who sang to themselves, softly in the pews.  A simple wooden cross hung over the center of the bare stone altar. I watched as the room was emptied of the familiar, leaving it practically void. My heart as tearing from an long, deep ache full of an emptiness I can’t describe. I sat alone in the cold, dark reality of my life.

I was a total mess, alone.  It was if a spotlight from heaven beamed down on my head.

In that quiet and holy moment, God bent down and touched my soul and spirit in ways that I could feel.  In those moments my confession of all life’s denials came to mind.  Heaven opened up and grace came down.  Suddenly , I felt the Spirit chip away at that hardened surface as it if were a block of ice readied for a masterpiece.

Whispers to my heart…”I sent my Son just for you, yes, He died for you. That’s how much I love you. And yes, even if you were the only one on this entire planet. I did that ….just for you.”   There were no trumpets blaring, no special lyrics, no confetti, party horns, no balloons, no compelling preacher, just Jesus bending down. 

My eyes were opened as they brimmed with tears. I received the love of my life that day 27 years ago.  My soul immediately spilled with His love and forgiveness.  I am a life that has been changed by the power of the Gospel. Jesus is my Savior, always and forever. And forever will I live with Heaven stamped on my heart. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Ephesians 2:8 – 9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God’s grace and forgiveness is a gift. You can’t earn it nor can you get it by osmosis from good people around you or raising you. Even if you have been in church all your life. Even if you think you are a good person. You have to choose to accept Christ’s death on the cross as payment for your sins. Jesus is the only connection that bridges the gap of your sin to God’s purity.
The best news is that your guilt and shame has been taken care of, no sin is too big that Jesus hasn’t died for.
The Gospel changes lives. It’s grace, it’s love, it’s forgiveness, and this Jesus changes…lives. Jesus bridges the gaps between heads and hearts, sins and righteousness, life and death. I can’t live life without Jesus, I tried that way for a while and I wasn’t headed in a good direction.  Certain death and destruction was imminent for me and my family.  Jesus offers life, love and hope.
That’s the reason I follow Jesus.  He’s got the best answer, best ideas, and best plan for me than I could ever imagine.  Best decision I will ever make that settled my today and my forever home secure.
Jesus is my Way, my Truth, and my Life.  Will you let Jesus be yours too?