I’m waiting, God. Where are you?

My church is currently revisiting the book of Psalms, with a different pastor preaching each Sunday. It is so refreshing! Isn’t that the beauty of God’s Word? It is alive and each time we read it, we gain new insight and a fresh perspective on how to apply it to our lives.

Recently, pastor Michael spoke on Psalm 13 – God in our waiting. He reminded us that we all are in a place of waiting at some point in our lives. What do we do when we don’t know where God is, we don’t know what God is doing, or our life looks nothing like we thought it would?

What then?

I remember years ago when I had been severely hurt by someone I thought was a friend. It was painful. It was confusing. And quite frankly, it was depressing.

What did I do?

First, in my tears I turned to the Psalms. The Psalms of lament comforted me somehow. Knowing there were others who had endured such pain and made it to the other side reassured me that I would, too. Seeing that God is okay with me asking WHY? was comforting.

Then, God asked me to pray for that former friend. I began to go on prayer walks every day. As I rounded the corner by her house I made sure to cover her in prayer. God had me do this for a full year. I don’t know the effect it had on her, but I can see now that this was the key to healing my broken heart.

Finally, I lifted up praise to God. Even if I didn’t know what would come of this break in our friendship, I knew God was still good and in praising Him, I allowed the Holy Spirit to take over my mind – renew my mind and change my heart. Do you know what? It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you have abandoned yourself to worship. IMPOSSIBLE.

Without even knowing it, I was following the example that is laid out in Psalm 13 –

So, what should we do?

First, we LAMENT

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Then, we PETITION, or PRAY

3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Finally, we PRAISE

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Yes. He has been good to me.

Even if.

Even though.

God is still good.

Amen.

(If you’d like to hear the sermon mentioned above, you can click here to find it.)

Lessons in Understanding

Written by Gladys Johnson

The voice of the questioner seemed to come from over my shoulder as I was kneeling in prayer asking for the will of the Lord at a troubling time in our pastoral ministry. In fact, I was kneeling behind the pulpit. 

I answered the voice, “My vision.” 

The voice said in a sticky, sweet way, “Give it up, and you can go free.”

I stood to my feet. “Of course,” I said, “that’s all I have to do.”

I was a lady minister, called to the ministry at the age of 14 years. Looking back, I don’t think anyone, including my parents, pastors, or youth leaders, took my calling too seriously.

My husband, Lloyd, and I began to date at 17 years of age. Awfully young, but these were pre-war depression days. He was a young man who had to work because of family problems, and his mother had died when he was 9 years of age, leaving him and his sister to be cared for by the father who was not equal to the task.

I came from a large, loving family, but poor. I knew I had a call from God on my life, but had no idea how to fulfill that calling. Lloyd and I were in love. But God was not through dealing with me. One Sunday morning, as we sat together in our church in Portland, Oregon, the pastor began a Missionary sermon, and told the story of a young lady who had given her life to ministry in China. Before he told the entire story, my heart told me the lady’s name would be Gladys (Gladys Aylyard). I began to cry. Lloyd and I left the service early, got into his car, and drove a few blocks away. Lloyd stopped the car and asked me why I was so upset. I told him about my calling to the ministry.

“I know all about that,” he said, “and I will never stand in the way of you fulfilling your calling.”

On the strength of that statement, we married when we were both 19. We were happy. But God did exact that promise from Lloyd in years ahead. 

When I stood to my feet after hearing the suggestion that I give up my vision, I felt a certain finality. When I began preaching, I felt no opposition to a woman in ministry, for this was the way I grew up. My pastor and his wife both preached. This was now the late 70’s. We were in the strong Jesus movement, which allowed for no women in the pulpit. I felt that opposition many times. It seemed to me now that all I had to do was give up my vision, and I could be free. It sounded so good to me, even though I knew that voice came from Satan himself. For a full week, I wrestled with the suggestion. Then, one day in my home, I began to repent for entertaining a suggestion from Satan. I thought about Jesus in the wilderness, and how He met Satan’s suggestion with the power of scripture. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “And how did Jesus come out of the wilderness?”

“Full of the Holy Spirit,” I replied. And received a fresh overflow of His Spirit and determination to go on.

I had heard the voice of Satan before. Again, I was kneeling behind the pulpit in prayer, a favorite spot of mine. A voice said to me, “I’m going to empty this church just like I did the Baptists.”

We had purchased the church from a Baptist group a few years before, and they had sold because the body of the church had gotten down to 9 members, due to unfortunate circumstances. They had dealt very fairly and kindly with us.

My first thought was, “Oh, those poor people. They never knew what hit them.” And I said out loud, “You’re a liar, Satan…get out.”

We had experienced a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit in the church, with many healings; body, soul, and spirit, and the Lord had knit together a body of believers who loved each other greatly.

Satan was over-confident, and bragged too much. He openly displayed his tactics. I stood on Luke 10:19

“Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

(At the end of this writing from my Grandma she wrote this,

“In this book I would like to share with you some of the lessons the Lord taught me in our pastoral ministry.”

She wanted to write a book, but never finished. Now I am living out her legacy by writing a book myself with some of her stories and some of my own.)

(Baby Nikki with Sweet Grandma)

Spiritual Battle

We cannot underestimate Satan. I recently experienced what it was like going into battle without armor. There was a particular time a couple of my friends had some very heavy things they were working through and I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to often my support and care and fight with them through their struggle. I didn’t want to take on the burden, but be a sounding board and someone to offer advice from an outside perspective and pray with them and for them. This is exactly what I was doing. However, after two days of fighting I felt off. I felt a heaviness upon me and I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t know what was going on with me. I knew my friends possibly may feel this way because this was their struggle, not mine, so what was going on with me? I felt as though I had been hit by a truck! I was exhausted! I don’t remember the last time I was this exhausted without physical activity involved.

I was fighting a battle unprepared. I came to realize I walked into this battle without armor on; without protection for myself. I was praying for protection for my friends, but I didn’t have anyone praying protection over me. And as I was praying for others, I stepped onto the battlefield and was exposed to the flaming arrows of Satan. This is like going snowboarding without any of the proper gear – jacket, pants, goggles, gloves, helmet, board, boots. I would never go on the mountain without any of these items, which is how I need to view each day as we battle against Satan.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, never start a day without putting on the armor of God because you never know what your day will bring and you must always be prepared. As my alarm goes off each morning, I pray and put on the armor of God before I even get out of my bed.  Pray, because prayer is a spiritual weapon against Satan. There is nothing he can do against prayer. It’s powerful and it ushers in the presence of God which he cannot defeat. Pray for others, but don’t forget to pray protection for yourself.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17

If the Door is Open, Walk Through It

I am drawn to doors.

I notice them when I look at a home.

I photograph them when I am on vacation.

I envision in my mind the most lovely doors whenever there is a reference to them in someone’s speech. Sometimes they are polished and perfect.

Other times they are a bit rough, but beautiful in their own way.

The Bible uses DOORs as a reference, too. I counted 235 this morning. Of course, most of those are referring to a physical door. Building the temple. You can’t come in, the door is shut. etc.

But many are talking about doorways into our soul or opportunities.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.   (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

If you are like me, this is the image that came to mind when you read that verse –

Yes, doors are everywhere in scripture. Where are the doors in your life? Are you facing doors of opportunity? Do you see many doors to choose from and have to make a decision?

I’ve always thought this was such a difficult process – then just the other day I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers, Havilah Cunnington, say this:

I think we spend too much time in doorways and we never walk through the door.” 

I was agreeing, yes, YES!

She went on to say that God is really good at shutting doors to places where we are not supposed to go. If the door is just too hard to open, pass it up. (And I would add, DO NOT, as the old song goes, “look for a window.” No! That room is off limits.)

But if a door is open to you and you are standing in the doorway, pondering, crying, wondering, whether you should walk through it. The answer is YES. Remember, God is really good at shutting doors to things you are not supposed to be involved with. Ask Him to show you.

Your opportunity is on the other side of that open door. Take that step of faith and believe that God will direct your next steps.

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

Reflection

As I sat and reflected on 2017, there was one common theme. I went all the way back to the beginning of the year. I found myself writing down every significant moment that happened. I was writing out details I didn’t want to revisit. I was writing out moments that were hard for me. But as I was writing I realized why God was having me do it. He wanted to show me where He was through it all. As I was writing I saw God in the middle of it. He was with me the whole time. This was the theme. Over and over again throughout the year God would tell me He would never leave me. And now reflecting back I see that to be true.

God is faithful and true to His word. If you are unsure if God was in the hard times maybe you need to sit and write them out as hard as it may be. Allow yourself to see where God was in the midst of it all. It may surprise you. And you will find healing in revisiting those moments and seeing Jesus. It was for me. Now I can let it all go and leave it in 2017. I am a new creation. I am transformed by the blood and love of Jesus. And I am stronger than ever before!

We look at new years as a fresh start. I can see the significance, but something God reminded me as I reflected was that life is a continued process. We will forever be growing and changing if we choose to.

Do you want to change? Do you want to continue in this growing process of life with your Savior and Father in Heaven?

Take what you have gained and learned from 2017, continue and increase it in 2018.

With God the impossible is possible. He has given you promises that have not happened yet. Let me tell you, he will follow through. They will happen. Some of them in this lifetime and others in the lifetime of generations to come. I think of Abraham and how God showed him the stars and told him he would be the father to many nations. Yet Abraham is not alive to see it all happen.

Don’t lose hope. And certainly do not give up on God. He is with you. Go into this next year with a renewed sense of HOPE. God your father in heaven is with you and sees you. He is in the pain, the struggle, the heartache. He is in the joyful moments, and the celebrations.

He loves you very much!

Make 2018 a year with God! This is going to be your best year yet!

May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 1 Kings 8:57

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

I’m Being Pruned!

In the beginning of 2017, God told me this was going to be a year of growth and preparation. I did not know what kind of “growth and preparation” he was going to put me through. I am in the start up phase of my business so at first I pictured the growth of my business. I had dreams of what this year would look like with many clients, creating courses, and such. However, that is not the kind of growth God had for me.

This growth was more of an internal growth and preparation. Let me give you a picture. Think of plants and how they grow. If you let them grow and grow and grow without ever pruning them, they would get out of control. There is a hibiscus bush outside my front door. I get so excited when I see blooming red flowers! But then when the bush is overgrown the landscaper trims it and the flowers are gone. It’s a sad day when I come home and see the flowers have been pruned. However, when the flowers grow back they are more vibrant than ever before!

I see this as the life God has for us. He is the vine and we are the branches that continually get pruned. It hurts and it’s painful, but it’s for the best. I am in a pruning season. Pains I have avoided in the past are coming to the surface and I have a chose to either deal with them and uproot them, or to avoid them. Avoiding has not done me any good so I am choosing to deal with them. And let me tell you, it is not easy. I have been seeking outside help, which has been hard but so good at the same time.

I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that need pruning. We cannot be all God has called us to be if you do not deal with our pains, and our struggles, and our sins. We are not perfect which is why we go through these seasons of pruning. Let me tell you, even when you feel as though you are in the thick of it, God will never leave you. He has told me over and over that he is never leaving me and let me tell you, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even in my darkest moments. Trust the process and let God do the work he needs to in you. He will NEVER leave you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

It’s Time to Love Like Jesus Loves

Here we are again.

The ugliness of impending evil has reared its head and spewed hatred across the country that I love. The events over the weekend in Charlottesville are horrific, and quite frankly,  I don’t have the eloquence nor the bandwidth to break down the reasons for it and the solutions to it. There are countless others who do, and I’ve heard a lot about it over the weekend.

Churches around the country on Sunday opened their doors to grieve and lament. I have the privilege of attending an intergenerational, multi-ethnic & racially integrated church in California called Fellowship Monrovia. We are grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the pillar of reconciliation. Our Center for Racial Reconciliation regularly hosts workshops led by people of every race so we can learn what life is like for those who are different from us. We are one body, and one thing I noticed today is that black, white, hispanic, asian, middle-eastern – we all gathered together like always and were steadfast in our love for one another.

The heartfelt lament of our worship leader today spoke for so many as she read Psalm 13:

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
3Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
And then we sang praise to the Lord. Because even though evil runs rampant through the world, he is still good, and he has the victory.

When events like this unfold, we are shaken but not destroyed. We grieve but we are not moved to despair. If anything, it makes us more resolute in our commitment to spreading love to the world.

It’s so easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the wake of such obvious evil, especially when the evildoers look like me. The important thing for me to remember is the solution starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with each of us. If we are to show the world a glimpse of Jesus, we must carry his attributes in our daily living.

 But there is still much work to be done by the church. The fact that people still have the slightest notion that those who spew hatred at another human being are a representation of christians is the biggest travesty. Why would they think that? The Bible says to love, not hate. Let’s not get into the ridiculousness of anyone thinking they are acting on behalf of God when they spew such horrible hatred. Why does the world believe them and in turn scoff at christians and lump us all together with the evil doers? It’s been such a mystery to me, but now I think perhaps it’s because we have been silent against injustice for far too long.
No, we have not joined our voices with theirs, but we have remained far too silent. We have watched in horror and done nothing. Our sin is one of omission.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8
In his message today the preacher said a visitor to his church once asked him, “if I come to your church, will I actually meet people who are like Jesus?”
I ask you, “if I came to your church, would I meet people who are like Jesus?”
My prayer today is that God will embolden Christians to reach beyond ourselves and love people like they’ve never been loved before. To show others what Jesus looks like.
It’s time.

A Heavenly Language

Speaking in tongues was something that once terrified me, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I experienced people speaking in tongues in a disordered way, and I know this happens a lot in the church. People will speak out loud in different tongues when it should be a precious moment between you and God speaking to him in a heavenly language. Only and only if there is someone to interpret should you speak louder. This is clearly stated in the Bible and we need to obey and not scare people away. I know I am not the only one who was turned away from the ways of the Spirit because of people making a scene. It’s not about you. It’s about God. Don’t put yourself on this platform because you can make strange sounds with your mouth. These gifts should not be used to edify yourself, but used to glorify God. Too many people abuse the gifts and do not use them properly to build up the church. Here is what Paul says about speaking in tongues:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.” 1 Cor 14:2,4

I experienced an orderly way of someone speaking in tongues. I was sitting on a bed in between two of my friends. The friend on my left was praying in tongues and the friend on my right was praying in English. In that moment I felt as though one was interpreting what the other was praying. And I felt the presence of Holy Spirit in that moment. I was not afraid of the unfamiliar language I was hearing because one, it was coming from a trusted source, and two I was also hearing someone in a similar breathe praying in my native language.

A friend of mine and her mom both speak in tongues and at one point they were telling me to just start saying random words, and make up sounds and it would happen. Deep in my spirit I knew it wouldn’t. I felt God telling me it would happen but not in that moment. We can ask God for things and he will give it to us, but our hearts need to be in the right place and ready to receive and in that moment I was not ready. 

6 months later I was lying on the floor in Thailand in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had used me to pour out his spirit and baptize others in the Holy Spirit and then he flattened me on my back. As I was laying there I was praying and it happened. Unfamiliar words were coming out of my mouth and I started laughing and crying! It was happening. This occurred after I had obeyed him by praying over his children and showing them a God they had never met, introducing them to Holy Spirit and then God gave me a gift, the gift of tongues. And I wasn’t speaking loudly, no one else could hear me. I was having a conversation with God in a different tongue. It was a precious moment between me and my heavenly Father.

(This is an excerpt from my book “A God You’ve Never Met” which is still in the process of being written.)

(In Thailand worshiping with the Thai and Burmese Refugees.)

Make Room for Abundance

When you’ve lived in the same house as long as I have, it’s so easy to be overrun with STUFF. Add to that my penchant for being super sentimental, and we have a recipe for getting bogged down with STUFF MAINTENANCE.

Do you do this? When I see something that truly no longer serves a purpose, I rationalize keeping it by saying

This thing meant something to me at one time.

I might be able to fit into this skirt/top/pants again someday.

I can wear these shoes (that are SO CUTE but kill my feet) to a wedding someday.

I’ll save and give this thing to _______________ because she loves the color ________________.

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

Lately, God has been sending me the message to simplify from the craziest places!

Purge.

LET IT GO.

In fact, as I’m typing this, my mailman left this magazine in my mailbox today:

Yep. God even enlisted the help of Oprah herself to get His point across. I always chuckle at His timing and creativity. Daily I get a message from somewhere or someone that confirms this area where I need to focus.

I’m telling you, if you ask God for confirmation on something you are struggling with or mulling over, HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU.

He’ll even use Oprah to do it.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered the purging process, Lord knows it will be a lifelong endeavor… but I am recently invested in seeing things with new eyes. I’m still sentimental and there are many things that once belonged to my mom that will stay with me – but do I really need that set of vintage dishes I bought on eBay ten years ago?

No.

No. I don’t – and hanging on to it makes me unable to take on fun, new items I might get more joy from using.

But it’s not just physical stuff that needs purging – our minds are overrun by input that holds us back from our purpose of living in God’s abundance.

What are you filling your mind with?

What are you reading, watching, talking about?

Who are you spending time with?

The Bible is LOADED with verses that tell us to renew our minds.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.      Romans 12:2

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

A quick Google search came up with pages and pages on this topic – you can see one list by clicking here.

What am I doing to renew my mind to make room for God’s abundance and blessings? More importantly, what am I doing to prepare my mind for action and what He has planned for my future?

I’m learning to focus on the joy. I’m reading about the physics of the brain and how God created in us an amazing capacity for change. I’m learning to meditate on His word and His promises and I’m taking a good look at how to take action to change those thought patterns that only serve to agitate me. I’m going deep, and bumping into God all along the way.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 is my new motto, because I know that what we think about and focus on grows. Do you want resentment, negativity, hurt feelings and pain to grow, or do you  want truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence and worth to be magnified?

I’m finding that simplifying life physically and spiritually comes slowly – but it’s something that holds great rewards if you consistently keep at it.

Here’s my pondering on Facebook from the other night – let me know in the comments if you can relate…