Don’t Give Up

screenshot-2017-02-20-at-11-20-32-amWe’ve been struck by Influenza A. It wasn’t so bad, fevers, sleepy. But then it turned into coughs and runny noses. Friday night I took our 5-year-old in with a temp of 105! He has double ear infection and bronchitis. His 3 hour stretch in the ER kept me from my pre-overnight shift nap. Oh well. So after working my overnight, I stayed up to wait for the pharmacy to open and get him his med. Then slept about 3 hours and got up for our day. By 11 that night I was struggling to stay away and finally fell asleep on the couch. About an hour later I woke up to my husband clutching and rubbing his chest. He was having pretty bad chest pains. I ran to the cupboards and found one measly little baby aspirin. A whole 81mg! made him chew it, and woke my 12-year-old up gave him Dad’s phone and then headed to the ER. Praise God he had pneumonia, not a heart attack. So we leave the ER with the instructions “NO WORK TOMORROW, PASTOR!”. On our 3 minute drive home I convince my husband that I had a sermon tucked away that I could write out and that we could do CD for worship and all would be fine. 3:30 and I started writing out my notes, bed at 5:30, up to preach at 7:30. I LOVED what God did! I love that  God equips those He calls. So I put that to the test when God gives mamas babies, he lowers her need for sleep! haha (don’t get me wrong, we NEED sleep, but God helps us function on little sleep a lot!). So I preached. One of my favorite things to do… and so you may not get Pastor’s notes this week… but you’ll get mine!

The Book of Hebrews was written to a people who were about 40 years removed from Christ’s life. And as we’ve been learning through Pastor’s sermons, the Israelites have a hard time remaining faithful even for a short time.  However, these Jewish Christians are only a living generation from walking with Jesus, and already the writer is encouraging them to run the race, stay the course, and not fall away. They are slipping, and in a very dangerous way.

Who among us needs encouragement? I’m raising both hands here! When the world’s messes are delivered on our doorsteps each morning, on our computer screens, or scrolling across the bottom of a newscast, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to join in with the world’s anger and hatred and get discouraged… maybe even begin to turn away. We need some encouragement.

With little time to prepare the message, it’s great to open the Word of God and have a sermon right in front of you. So although I won’t have the notes on the screens like Pastor does, you’ll have my sermon notes right in front of you if you open to Hebrews 3 and 4.

Let’s start by reading Hebrews 3:1-2

Because Jesus is our High Priest, we actually can learn something about ourselves here. To know that we belong to such an amazing God reminds us that there’s hope! We’re put on the most amazing team, our partner is Jesus… THE SON OF GOD!

Think carefully about that. When you’re discouraged and weary, think about this Jesus we declare as God!
When a spouse isn’t a believer and we don’t have Christian support at home– Think of who your partner is!
When sickness keeps us from feeling ourselves– Think about the healer you’ve partnered with!
When you work hard but feel undervalued– Remember that God sent you a high priest as your PARTNER! The highest of high has chosen YOU!

Now, that is meant to encourage you, but this knowledge also is a challenge. We must give honor to this high priest we’ve been given, And we need to submit to Him, something not so easy to do.

The Jewish Christians were beginning to stray just as the Israelites did so many times as they wandered their way through to the promise land. The writer here brings Moses up. Maybe the pastor of their time was also walking through the scriptures and was right about where we are in Pastor’s sermons… He mentions Moses. Hebrews 3:3-7

One of the worst compliments you can give a photographer is, “Wow! You’re camera takes amazing photos! What model is that, if I had a good camera and photoshop, I could save tons of money!”
Heaven forbid it has anything to do with the good shot the photographer craned her neck to get. I mean, it couldn’t be that the photographer who is laying on the ground to get the perfect lighting of your grumpy baby smiling for that very split second actually has an eye for things. No, definitely, photoshop that does that. (Enter eye-roll and sarcasm). These Jewish Christians were upholding Moses, but missing the lighting behind him– GOD! God was the reason Moses was who he was. Yes, Moses was great but he pointed to the Master.

When we, like the early Christians here, lose sight of that Master, the builder of our lives, we’re going to get discouraged. When we focus on whether or not our candidate won the election or whether our neighbor loves the candidate that did win and we take our eyes off the Supreme Authority– Anger will begin to take the place of contentment and our standing with God will become shaky. When our focus is more on the job that we weren’t offered and less on the One who gives security– We’ll begin to doubt God’s provision for us, and unbelief sets in.  When we take our eyes off the builder of our faith and sift it to ANYTHING else, we will lose our courage and confidence and our overall hope in Christ. That is why the holy Spirit says… Hebrews 3:7-12

“BE CAREFUL!!! Make sure that your OWN hearts are not evil and unbelieving TURNING YOU AWAY FROM THE LIVING GOD!

Sin is all around. We brush elbows with it each and every day… we aren’t perfect, we sin, too. You’d be hard pressed to find a T.V. show that isn’t compromising to some degree. The news can lean so far in one direction that sometimes it’s not good for our spiritual walk to even watch it! Relationships can pull us in directions that aren’t always glorifying to God. We’re pulled away on social media, magazines, top selling novels… but none of those are excuses for the fact that we are in charge of our own hearts. It’s OUR hearts that we allow to grow evil and unbelieving, and if we don’t get it under control, we’ll slowly turn away from God.

Unbelief and sin is deceitful. When we are unbelieving, when we fail to trust God at his word, and/or we fail to act in a way that shows God is who He says He is, we don’t simply stop believing. We actually start believing something else. We start believing lies.

  • God can’t help me pay this mound of bills!
  • God will never fix this broken relationship!
  • My addiction is bigger than God!
  • God is not who he says He is!

Lie, lie, lie, LIE! So… we must be warned– While it is still today. Keep reading Hebrews 3:13-19

If those walking to the Promise Land, with daily reminders of God’s provision through manna, and could hear God’s voice and rebel… We can, too! We can let our discouragement turn to disbelief and our disbelief turn to sin and we can let our sin keep us from God.

Unbelief kept an entire generation that escaped Egypt and wandered the desert out of Canaan. It’ll do the same for us if we keep it up! We’ll wander this Earth all for nothing… worse… all for Hell!

But there’s Good news. Hebrews 4:1-3
God’s rest, Heaven, is our rest! Oh how Great! A place to rest from sorrow, from pain, from disappointment, from ridicule. A.place.to.rest! I don’t know about you, but I could use some rest (read my first paragraph!!!)

Hebrews 4:6-11

Ok, GREAT! We’ve established that life is exhausting, discouraging, weighs us down. We’ve acknowledged that all this in life causes us to lose faith, live in sin and come close to missing out on heaven (if not completely)– GREAT! What a great message, Stevie! When’s Pastor coming back!? This is pretty dreary! I mean, I want that rest…
But wait… you have the sermon notes… read on. Hebrews 4:12-13

Oh! Good… much bett…. wait, what? What does the Word of God have to do with my discouragement and wavering faith!? I want to know how to keep my faith strong, how do we stay out of discouragement and sin? The answer is simple… to realize HOW POWERFUL the Word of God is!

My kids (almost) 12, 10, 7, and 5 have read through the Bible a least twice (the older ones maybe more). Front to back! A couple of weeks ago we finished reading Revelations and so the next day when I called them all down, “Bible reading!” my 5-year-old says, “But mom! We finished that yesterday!!!” Oh my little bambino! One does not simply FINISH the Bible! That’s like saying no thanks to dinner, “I ate last week, I’m good!”

The Word of God is POWERFUL! It digs down to our innermost thoughts and desires. Want to stop getting discouraged, let the living word of God cut between your soul and spirit, and expose you to God and hold you accountable!
Want to trust God to provide? Read about the woman who only had enough flour and oil for one last meal, shared it with Elijah and her jar never went empty.
Want to feel like an overcomer? Read about Moses defeating the Amalekites simply by raising his hands up to the Lord (then try that in your own battles!)
Feeling alone? Read how God himself goes before you, never leaving or forsaking you!
Feeling bound in chains? Read how a little praise and worship SET PRISONERS FREE!!!!!
Want to replace anger with joy? Read about the Love Jesus had for those who plotted to kill Him.. He gives His life up for them, he Loved them (and YOU) so!
Want to feel valued? Finish this life-giving chapter with me! Hebrews 4:14-16

A preacher can not make the Bible come alive! The Bible makes the preacher come alive! I praise God we attend a church that preaches the Word of God. I am so thankful that we have a pastor who pours over the Word. He preaches with such gusto… not because he’s bringing life to the Word, but because we have a pastor who LOVES the Word of God and that Word brings Pastor ALIVE (*** When preaching this the congregation was almost in a standing ovation… I wish my hubs could have seen the love these people have for the Word and for a preacher who preaches it!)
The Word of God will bring YOU alive, as well… as long as you’ll receive it!

Because God has given us a High Priest in Jesus we CAN RECEIVE IT! Let’s hold firmly to what we believe and we believe that He understands, he’s been in our shoes, and he still offers. It’s up to us to receive it. Praise God we can come boldly, We can come get renewed, encouraged, and cleansed.

We open the alters for prayer after the sermons for the church to respond to the message God has given. You may be reading on your break, or before bed… still I invite you to reflect, to begin praying and find the mercy and grace to help you where you need it most.

I’m believing in God’s healing touch and believe pastor will be behind the pulpit again next week. Please join us. The Israelites are getting so close to that promise land… I can’t wait for that sermon!!! If you are in the St. James area, please join us at Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave at 10 am each Sunday. I’ll save you a seat!

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The Distracted Worshiper

It happened on Sunday. I could feel myself in deep deep worship. I knew from practice that we were going to sing one of my favorite songs and I had already made a commitment to press in. The first song was in full swing but as I tried to read along with the words on the screen (that I actually don’t NEED to read, I know the song) I notice that the words are lagging, or missing, and I gently leave my seat and head back to my lovely 11-year-old who is eagerly serving in church as the computer guy. He shrugs (whatever that means) and the words miraculously seem to be on time and correct.

Then the 2nd song comes on. I close my eyes, focus on God, and BAM… I can hear my 7 and 5 year olds singing with all their hearts. I keep my eyes close but I stop singing, I HAD to listen to their sweet sweet voices. Seriously, ya’all… there is nothing so near to a mama’s heart than when you hear your kids worshiping! NOTHING!

Then my song was on. I was determined to be zoned out focusing on nothing but my God. I was planning on entering into the holy of holies singing my heart out. “Singing as one.. Hallelujah… holy holy, God almighty, the GREAT I AM”… I was belting it! I didn’t care that my friend was standing next to me. I didn’t care if the front row could hear me although I was sitting in the back row. I just sang. At times I just laughed, I smiled so big there was no room for words. I let my emotions go and I WORSHIPED!

I’m a mom of 4. Worship hasn’t come easily to me since having my first child almost 12 years ago. I was raised in a church that valued worship. We served in churches that exalted worship to amazing levels. Then I had children. There’s something built into a mother that doesn’t allow her to close both eyes at once unless her children are sleeping safe in their beds. Since our kids have always been in the worship (songs) portion of the service with us, worship changed for me. *side note… I’m a HUGE advocate of families worshiping together in the same room at church. Kids can go for their own lesson, but if they can stay with their parents during worship… ohh, mama… amazing things can happen!*

Worship with a baby can be touching, but that baby may not feel as into the atmosphere as you are, and may just mess their pants right as you try to enter in. And sometimes the smell overrides your desire for uninterrupted worship. Sometimes a 2-year-old HAS to go potty just at the perfect song. Sometimes the 3 and 4-year-old who chose to dance (awww, how sweet) are now rolling down the aisle in an all out WWF Wrestling match. And sometimes, right when you think your kids are at the right age (almost 12, 10, 7, and 5) you can close your eyes and experience an amazing time of corporate worship.

Here’s the thing: during my amazing time of corporate worship, my mama eye would not stay closed, so I peeked to make sure my 5-year-old was still standing close by. He was, and his eyes were closed and he was worshiping… I think. His little eyes were squeezed shut, his head was swaying from side to side, his hands were waving… oh, it was so adorable… then… then… HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! Yes, HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! I don’t know about your church, but this is not a normal worship practice at our church.

But I had a choice. Would I let that take me completely out of my time of worship. It was quite the struggle, but I just closed my eyes, lifted my hands said, “Lord protect him from whatever disease could be resting there” and continued singing “Who is worthy, none beside Thee…God Almighty, the great I am”

You see the only perfect worship atmosphere is the one in which hearts are willing to shut out all around them and truly decide to enter in. I’m going through a learning process right now where my key word is “Choice”. I’m learning that if I want it (and God wants it) I must make choices to get me that thing that I want (IF God wants it). A lot depends on our choices, more than we want to admit.

If we want to draw near, we must say yes to Him, and that means that we say no to everything else. Even if that does mean we let our 5-year-old lick germ-infested pews in an effort to get more from God.

Happy Worshiping, Friends!

Fix Your Eyes Upon

I just finished a personal study of the book of Hebrews. Although SO many lessons can be learned from this chapter, one I’ve been mulling over was presented to me again in my husband’s sermon yesterday (Of course, you can find that awesome sermon here).

Although the book of Hebrews was later broken up into different chapters and verses for our study purposes, it wasn’t originally written that way. So the book can and does flow from topic to topic but with many connections throughout. Fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one who initiates and perfects your faith, is one of those topics.

It’s amazing what can happen when we do such a thing. When we decide to take our eyes away from our current circumstance and give things over to God.

There are times kids are fighting, babies are crying, husbands are sick, jobs are draining, life is HARD. Those times seem to take over. They weigh us down. They cloud our minds, they steal our joy. One after another and our positive visibility is at an all time low.

Herbrews 12 starts out by saying Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith {This was presented in Hebrews 11}, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Do we think those mentioned in Hebrews 11 (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ mother, MOSES, Rahab, Gideon… David… and a few more) didn’t deal with issues that seemed to weigh down, cloud their minds, try to steal their joy? Yet, their examples are there to show us we don’t have to succumb to the pressure to give up. Instead, we can use their examples of how to overcome! Their faithfulness makes our faith a little easier to live out. So now, we can throw off all the things that are holding us back.

It’s obvious to most that sin will hold us back… it so easily ensnares and all, but what about that earlier phrase… “Every weight that slows us down” Of course sins do that… but the word “especially” shows us that there are things that maybe aren’t sins that are weighing us down. These things may be part of what is stealing our joy.

Please know that kids will fight, babies will cry, husbands will get sick (some even can become VERY sick), and jobs can be draining. And we can’t just ditch them. That’s not the answer. So since we know that we can’t get rid of those things, we have to look for things we can get rid of. Can we implement a new rule for our family? Can we nap with baby? Can we look for a better job? Maybe? But we CAN get a new attitude. We can fix our eyes on Jesus, know that He pulled the heroes of the Old Testament through, and bank on the fact that He’ll pull us through as well. We know that God considered those mentioned in Hebrews 11 triumphant, and he wants us to be, too. He wants us to run the race with endurance.

We all have a race to run. But it’s our OWN race. God calls us to finish it with joy. We will have to deal with the things of life, but we are responsible for our own joy. (Even when we fall into trials of all kinds…) We have to choose the joy in the midst of… well… LIFE. A race isn’t a race if you sit in the starting blocks and refuse to run. You can’t just sit in your unhappiness with your eyes fixed on every joy sucking event that occurs (and seriously, some struggles are much larger than others). Are you only focusing on the current discomfort, and not looking at the future victory in God? If so, look at the finish line… and start running! This race will only be won with endurance.

Endurance is determination,  unhurrying  yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.

HOW? I mean, how do we refuse to let misery set in? Sometimes life is just THAT hard. And, I think Jesus understands that… actually I KNOW He does… Read further.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Jesus faced a much bigger “joy killer”. He faced death… on a cross… in front of everyone… naked! He faced mockery, hatered from people around him… a hostile work place if you will. And if you can realize this, you can keep from becoming weary and giving up. You’ve made it this far!

Can I ask that you look just a tiny bit further in this passage…  “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?”  Much difficulty in our Christian life can be traced back to those 3 words: “Have you forgotten”. Perhaps it is some principle we remember in our minds, but our hearts have FORGOTTEN. Have you forgotten that you are a child of God? That he WILL bring you through? Let your joy focus on THAT! On Jesus and what He has already done for you and what he is surely going to do as you endure this race ahead of you.

*I’d be wrong if I took that first part of the verse out of it’s full context… it does go on to talk about God disciplining those He loves, and to be honest, although this isn’t the point of my writing today, it is possible you are experiencing hardships and misery because of the sin that you’ve gotten yourself entangled in. And if that’s the case, my point still stands… FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS, who initiated your faith, and perfects it. He will walk you out of it.

We go through difficult times, and we can get discouraged, but we need to turn our eyes to God! Do not get bogged down by the troubles of today, know that there is victory and salvation from these difficult times in the future! (From pastor’s sermon)

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This song ran through my head the entire time I typed… I HAD to go look it up and let this repeat through and through.

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.