God is in the Details

There are some crazy stories in the Bible, aren’t there?

If you grew up in church like me, you were puzzled about many of them. One in particular I remember was found in 2 Kings chapter 6 about an ax head breaking off the handle and sinking to the bottom of the river. It was borrowed, which made no hope of retrieval even worse, I suppose. But when the man who lost the ax head went to the prophet Elisha and told him about it…

The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed Elisha the place, Elisha cut off a piece of wood. He threw it into the water at that place and made the ax head float. Elisha said, “Pick it up.” The disciple reached for it and picked it up. (2 Kings 6:6-7)

End of story.

Cue my mother, Gladys. Great preacher that she was, and confused child that I was, I have a beautiful understanding of this passage these days. It wasn’t because of a sermon she preached, but a real life incident where God showed himself to be the same God today as back in the days of the great Kings of Israel. Many, many years of hearing the story told over and over again has solidified my belief that God cares about the details of our lives.

I remember her being so excited about planning a series of outdoor meetings one summer in the church parking lot, calling it “Brush Arbor Days.” This was in the early 1970’s – the beginning years of the Jesus Movement, and since we were in Southern California and had access to these things, she booked a few bands out of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, along with some gospel singers from Los Angeles, set up a stage and chairs in the church parking lot, and planned several nights of summer revival for the community.

As you can imagine, this involved needing a lot of sound equipment our little church didn’t own, so it was borrowed. One night, as things were being set up, the crew noticed a box of microphones missing. Without missing a beat, my mama recalled the scripture in 2 Kings 6 where God floated a borrowed ax head and got a group together to begin praying to float the ax head. They prayed fervently for those stolen microphones to float back to our little church before it was time to return them, or have to pay a big price. And you know what? That box was left at the church steps with an “I’m sorry” note. I can only imagine the story from the other side – how did the thief know that box must be returned?

For the rest of my life, I have remembered this story about the time God floated the microphones. God cares about the details.

Just last week a friend sent me a text asking me to pray for her daughter whose laptop had been stolen at school. Her request was that her daughter would learn through this experience how God works in the details of our lives. As I prayed for this situation, my mind returned to those microphones so many years ago, and the story in the Bible about the ax head floating to the top of the river.

And you know what? God floated that laptop. He cares about the details.

 

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Where’s Your War Room?

I’ve been doing it wrong.

Prayer, I mean.

Don’t misunderstand. I pray. Life’s bumps and bruises have taught me to pray without ceasing at times, that’s for sure. There’s a place for whispering prayers constantly as you go through your day. But I had neglected to remember there’s more. So much more.

In her book, Fervent, Priscilla Shirer explains, “If all we’re doing is flinging words and emotions in all directions without any real consideration for the specific ways the enemy is targeting us and the promises of God that apply to us, we’re mostly just wasting our time.”

Ouch.

She continues, “Prayer is the portal that brings the power of heaven down to earth. It is kryptonite to the enemy and to all his ploys against you.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some ploys aimed against me lately. Big ones. I found myself feeling the need to pray harder, but not really knowing HOW. Then I was at a Propel Women conference and heard some talk about a movie called War Room. Huh. It stayed at the back of my mind until I noticed it was playing at a local theater recently. And I did something I’ve never done: I took myself to the movies. Alone. On a Tuesday afternoon.

I went with an open mind and a willing heart. And God met me there. He used a movie to teach me an important lesson: big needs require big prayer, and big prayer requires intentional strategy. I grew up in the church and I’ve never heard this concept presented in this way before, with detailed specifics and ideas. We are doing battle with unseen forces. Powerful forces, yes. But they are defeatable forces… if we are smart about it.

 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

Photo credit: David Whitlow, courtesy of AFFIRM Films/Provident Films

Photo credit: David Whitlow, courtesy of AFFIRM Films/Provident Films

We are often blindsided by this kind of opponent. We just don’t see the attack coming. And when we are in the midst of the battle, too often we just fling little prayer arrows here and there in a feeble attempt to get some traction and keep the enemy at bay. It’s what I did.

I was doing it wrong.

When I picked up that copy of Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, the subtitle made me steel in anticipation: “A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer.” I’m studying. I’m preparing for battle.

The enemy better watch his back. I’m coming for him.

(Guys, don’t take this the wrong way, but sometimes a woman needs specifics about how to pray for our unique situations… you should check out The Battle Plan for Prayer: From Basic Training to Targeted Strategies by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, producers of the War Room movie.)

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THE BIG PICTURE

Sometimes when we get photos sent to us on Facebook, Instagram, cell phones, etc. the images are not clear——-it’s like, you had to be there to really see and experience in person what was really going on, whether it be good or bad. If there is more to the photo that is cut off or not complete, or what’s going on in the background is blurry, then the viewer is deceived as to where the photo was taken for whatever reason.

But God sees THE BIG PICTURE of our lives, not a blurry distorted image of today, but a complete picture from our conception to death and beyond. In fact the scripture tells us God has always known us!!!  He knows what is going on in your life right now for your good, but also what could be for your demise down the road.

We must trust God with the discipline that comes upon us from Him. God knows us better than we know ourselves. When we are going through a difficult time and we are asking God for direction or deliverance we remember God has promised to do what is best for us. Because He knows us, our personalities, our weaknesses, our strengths, He promised that He would not allow more trials on us than we can bear. (I Corinthians 10:13)

God knows when His answer to your prayers, whether yes or no, will have the greatest impact on your life and those around you. That’s where faith comes in. I have to know that “He is perfecting that which concerns me.” (kjv Psalm 138:8)

If God doesn’t do what I want, when I want it, I think He doesn’t love me, or that He is so busy with the major problems of people all over the world He can’t possibly care about my frustrations and needs.

REPEAT……THAT’S WHERE FAITH COMES IN !!!

God allows trials in our lives so that what surfaces are those things that He is pruning in us…..things called to our attention we need to deal with. (I Peter 1:3-9)

Don’t let the limits of your understanding limit your faith. Nowhere in scripture does it say we understand God’s ways. He is Sovereign. But, His ultimate goal is to conform us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus the Christ, and your disobedience of that equals consequences. You won’t be sinless, there was only One who was without sin but in all ways was tempted like us.

As the scripture in James 1:13-15 states, “each one is tempted by his own desires and enticed, then when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

So….how do we get that strong faith that God really sees the BIG PICTURE of our lives and everything will turn out for our good? By studying and knowing His Word. Faith is practical. Desire is not sin, but the seeking of it is. Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it……..and that will bring victory!  We all have inclinations to sinful thoughts and  behaviors. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Expose your mind to the truth of God’s Word. God has never changed…..His Word has never changed, nor will it ever!!!  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”(Romans 10:17) And be careful not to listen to wrong voices, false doctrines and modern philosophies.

Stand on this Word in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Yay……I trust God with what He sees in the BIG PICTURE of my entire life, knowing that He only allows what is best for me!!!   PERIOD!

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Comfort Zone, it was nice knowing you.

In this season of my life, God has been challenging me to be obedient and walk in boldness; two things that do not come naturally to me. It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone and saying yes to anything God has for me. And some of those things are not easy.

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“How do I do that?” you may ask. First it’s about having INTIMACY with the Lord so you are able to hear his voice and do what he says. He wants us to take time out of our “busy” lives to sit and be still with him. I feel like I write about this often, but that’s because it is SO IMPORTANT! Having intimacy enables us to hear his voice, and when we hear his voice we know what direction he wants us to go in.

 

Obedience means compliance with someone’s wishes or orders or acknowledgment of their authority. If we love God we will want to be obedient to him. I want to please him. I want to show him love in return. However, no matter what I do or what I say, God loves me anyway! I am a sinner and God still loves me. I mess up every day and God still loves me. The least I could do is be my best for him.

 

John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father in heaven will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

 

Boldness means showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous. This is how I want to live my life every day. And I feel obedience and boldness go together. I have a recent example, and I don’t give this example to prove what I did, it’s about what Jesus did.

 

Last week in the evening I went to look out at the ocean. I sat on a short wall and stared off into the endless blue ocean thinking about God and his love for me. A group of 4 people came up and stood to the left of me speaking another language. They were Asian and I could tell they were visiting. I felt God tell me to go over and talk with them. I sat for a few minutes more and then got up and headed over to the group. I said hello to them and asked them where they were from. They seemed shocked that I came up to talk with them. They were a group of friends from China visiting for 6 months. I introduced myself and told them to enjoy themselves here in beautiful San Diego with the wonderful ocean. They smiled and nodded at me and said thank you. Then I said good-bye and was on my way.

 

I didn’t mention Jesus. I didn’t force anything upon them. I was obedient to the voice of God to talk with them. Who knows the impact that made, but I know I brought the light of Jesus to them simply by saying hi and engaging in short conversation.

 

God wants me, he wants us, to be a vessel for him to spread HIS love to HIS children. It doesn’t matter what people think of you. All that matters is that you are doing what your father in heaven is telling you to do. He wants us to be obedient, step out in boldness, and love his children. We are the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. We are a light in the darkness. We are vessels of God’s love to the world!

 

Are you taking that responsibility lightly? Or are you using what God has given you and sharing it with the world? His children are all around you. Love them one person at a time.

 

1 John 6 “And this is love; that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

 

Psalm 138:3 “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.”

 

Bold as Lions

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Dig It Out By The Roots

Spring is here! North Carolina is blossoming with all kinds of beautiful plants and trees!

This is when we start tuning up our lawn-mowers and equipment because we will be out there a couple times a week for months trying to keep our lawns looking spiffy.

Along with the lovely green grass, we have about 871403982704398 types of weeds. When everything starts growing, we see all shades of green, and a lot of different tiny flowers in our yards.

My yard looks like a patchwork quilt. Ha.

I have discovered why.

All those cute little flowers are attached to weeds. Weeds grow and choke out the grass. We mow over the weeds and their seeds spread, hence MORE weeds.

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We can spray weed killer, and that does control some of the madness. However, they always come back.

Apparently the only way to actually get RID of the weeds is to pull them out by the root and dispose of them. Otherwise, they keep spreading!

Does this require a lot more effort? YES.

Can you just mow over all those weeds and make your lawn look nice? Yes, you can. At a glance, when it is freshly cut, it looks just fine. Green. Lawn-like.

However, the weeds are still there. Deeply rooted amongst the nice green grass and choking it out. Then it starts growing again at a different rate from the grass, making the yard look uneven again. Usually, we just cut it back off. It appears to be green and even again, for a time.

This reminds me of our spiritual lives, our habits, our unhealthy relationships.

We can gloss over any of these situations, and for a time we can make everything look “green” and healthy. However, the more we continue to do that, the more those unhealthy things will spread through our spirit, our emotional state, and even our physical wellness.

Then, suddenly one day, rather than having a pin-pointed issue or two to work out, we wake up and find how deeply rooted and wide-spread that issue has become. If we had just made the proper choice early and pulled that mess up from the root, we would not have the long road of recovery ahead to dig out and heal a whole field of issues.

This illustration can represent an infinite number of things in our lives, so I am leaving it vague. Ponder it. See what weeds with “pretty flowers” come to mind and dig that stuff up!

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In Over My Head

I am WAY in over my head. What am I doing?

There is so much to do for the kingdom. So many people to reach. So many hearts to be transformed. What am I doing?

I think of the ways God has used me, and the divine appointments he has set up, and think, “Wow, God used someone like me to touch the heart of his child. There is so much more to do!”

It becomes overwhelming when you think about the big picture. But God is telling me to focus on the person in front of me. Take one step at a time.

When I was in South Africa, I went to the gym with 2 other teammates, Zach and Kyle. We went every Monday- Friday morning at 5:30 to get a workout in and be done in time to shower and be ready for the rest of the day with our team. There was a personal trainer at this gym who took a liking to me and my friends. Every morning this man greeted me, and as the mornings progressed we shared more and more. I told him I was a missionary here in South Africa, and he told me of the many other jobs he had. Zach, Kyle, and I smiled at him, said hi to him, talked with him, and our last day at the gym we prayed with and for him.

Two months later I received a message from this personal trainer that he had accepted Jesus into his heart and it was because of us that he saw Jesus and wanted what we had!

Praise Jesus! God used me, Zach and Kyle to meet this man where he was, give him our time, which lead him to Jesus.

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I think about all the millions of people who don’t know Jesus yet and I ask myself, how am I going to reach all of them? I am in over my head. There is so much to do and only God can help us accomplish it. What does he ask from us? To be a vessel. To say “Yes God, use me!”

But it takes boldness. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone. It takes being uncomfortable.

Smile at the next person you pass. Take time out of the busyness to talk with someone you may not normally talk to. You never know how God can use you. He could use you to plant a seed of Jesus in someone.

I love Jesus so much and I want everyone to experience him and love him too! I want to tell the world who Jesus is and what he has done for me and for the world. I want to scream it from the rooftop, however that may not go over well so… every person I come into contact with I need to smile at them, ask them their name, take time out of my day to talk with them.

The truth is my days are not mine, they are the Lord’s.

What are you going to do with your gifted day?

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Unlock God’s Blessing

I’m notoriously unorganized. Something I’m always working on to correct, to be sure. To reign in the random pieces of paper floating around the house, I’ve found taking a small journal with me to church or various meetings for note taking has been a good thing. A very good thing.

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Recently I was thumbing through my sermon notes journal. For the past several months, I’ve written sentences like

Obedience always unlocks God’s blessing!

When we are broken we are the most available and the most effective.

WE are God’s delivery system.

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to beg for it. You have to trust ME.

Be unleashed to live out God’s glory in your life.

He lavishes grace on us to overflowing, let it spill over to everyone around you.

Come to the end of yourself.

The pattern of these truths is not lost on me. Different preachers. Similar ideas. One calling.

So now what? When God is knocking gently at your heart to take that next step of faith, what would you do?

If you’re like me, you overthink it. You analyze it. You question it. And in doing so, you shrink back from what God is asking of you because

It’s too big.

I’m not qualified.

I’m afraid. 

Is this really you, God?

I don’t know how to accomplish this.

But God is not asking you to see the big picture. He’s asking you to simply take that next step with him. The one you can see. The one that makes sense. The one that takes you on a wildly exciting adventure with him.

One day at a time.

Are you game? He’s waiting.

“Oh, how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them. For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.”             Psalm 31:19

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Are You Willing to Take a Risk?

Are you living a life of audacious faith?

Hold up what does audacious mean? Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.

YES!

 What does it mean to live life with boldness?

What does it mean to live a spirit-led life?

 

I am trying to answer these questions myself.

Last year I lived a life of audacity. I was listening to the Holy Spirit, going where he told me to go, saying what he told me to say, and that year was the best year of my life to date. It wasn’t easy. I would be lying to you if I told you it was easy. But it was so rewarding and worth every last challenge and struggle.

 

The world may look at you and think you are crazy if you live your life this way, but who cares?!? Is that what it’s all about?

NO.

It’s about living a life for Jesus. It’s about listening to him and no one else.

According to the world’s standards, I am not going anywhere fast in life. I currently don’t have a job (I’m doing odd jobs here and there), I’m living at my parents, they are providing me with money (thank you!), BUT according to God I am exactly where he wants me to be (I know, he told me). I am in a period of waiting, learning many lessons, one being obedience. God wants me to listen to his voice and no one else’s.

He is our good shepherd.

In John 10:4-5 Jesus talks about the good Shepherd (God) and his sheep (us),

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

 

Do you know the voice of your shepherd?

 

I am God’s sheep and I am listening to his voice and doing what he says. When I do it causes me to step out in boldness saying things I don’t particularly want to say, being financially dependent on someone else (for the time being), being the first to apologize, biting my tongue when I want to say something, loving when it’s hard, and extending grace when it’s not easy. BUT with all of this there is nothing like experiencing the JOY OF THE LORD and HIS LOVE and being BLESSED by him in ways you cannot even fathom. For example, I absolutely love the ocean! And this week God has blessed me with a week of enjoying the ocean and getting paid to do it! He is a good, good Father. He loves me and when I am obedient, living in boldness, living audaciously, living a spirit-led life, he will bless me! It’s a good way to live! The heavenly Father knows you better than you know yourself and he will give you the desires of your heart if you do what he tells you to do!

 

“Live a life that can be explained only by the existence of a God who is infinitely great.” (Sun Stand Still, Steven Furtick)

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The Sifting Days

 

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Photo: Heather Durnin, Flickr Creative Commons

I watched a farmer in the field as he threshed the stalks so heavy with wheat. The huge machinery was working; grinding, sifting; and as the stalk went through the machinery, I noticed that there was a great separating process that took place, until from one side there came a beautiful, golden flow of wheat, but the chaff was cast aside as useless and it flew away with the four winds until I could scarcely see where it had been. But the wheat, so yellow and ripe, came forth, a delight to the farmer who had planted it.

As I watched, I could almost hear the words of Jesus to Peter before He faced His persecutors: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:31-32)

These are sifting days… these are days when the strongest among us are being tried, and sometimes questioned … when the weak often are blown about by the winds of trial and persecution.

The refining fire of God is like a thresher’s machinery; purging, tearing us away from the mold that once held us so tightly in its grasp; separating us from the world unto holiness. And after the threshing, the wheat flows forth, golden and useful, and beautiful to the eye of Him who planted it!

But the chaff? On every hand I see those who once walked near their Lord, now looking for a flimsy excuse to loiter on the way – dabbling here and there. And Satan uses, I think, the very element of time to erase the memory of the closeness they knew with God, and they do not feel their need of walking as before. And it isn’t long until they, like the chaff, are gone with the four winds – no longer of service to the Lord; scarcely leaving an imprint of the place where they have been. And, like Demas, they forsake God’s work, having loved this present evil world.

You and I can be counted as wheat if we want to be!

In my heart there is a determination not to be sifted as wheat – not to become the chaff that is no longer counted as useful.

Is that your determination, too?

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Be an Overcomer………

Of what?

Of my bad habits? Of unhealthy relationships? Of financial chaos? Of a debilitating illness? Of sin in my life?

We say we want to be an “overcomer,” but we don’t want to experience anything so difficult that we have to overcome!!!

Easy to say…hard to do.

What does it mean to overcome anything? I can overcome my poor eating habits for a day or two…then it’s back to the Lay’s potato chip bag! My hand just goes into the bag without thinking? Is that the key? Think about the consequences; too much salt and oil!

Websters dictionary says….overcome: to get the better of; surmount difficulties; overpower; overwhelm; to gain the superiority; win.

I like that….win! But it’s not just winning a game or competition. IT’S A LIFE OR DEATH THING.

Jesus says “….in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So, if we are believers in Christ and are becoming more like Him as we study His word so that we know Him, then we can overcome the world’s influence on us.

And, at the end of days WE WIN!

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 4:4&5

And, the ultimate goal is….”He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and l will be his God and he shall be My son.” Revelation 21:7

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Yay….I win, and I am rich!!!

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