Can They See Jesus in You? Lesson 4 of 5

Speaking of lessons… I have learned mine… writing 5 blog posts in a week just isn’t my THANG! We’ve already jumped into the summer schedule here and that means I am taxi-Mom! This gives me about 30 min of unscheduled time a day! But, oh what fun we are having!!! So, onto the 5 biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 5 years of ministry.

Lesson 1: Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait for a big change in your life to start making positive changes, start now! You can read more here.

Lesson 2: Invite people to YOUR church! This is not only the Pastor’s responsibility. Help us grow the church! You can read more about this here.

Lesson 3: Follow God’s instructions. When someone does something hurtful against you, God has a specific way to handle that… if you want to know what that is, read here. (So far this post has quite the most feedback! I’m assuming because it happens to us all, and it can hurt us to the core! But there is a solution!)

Lesson 4: Understand the importance of pointing people to Jesus!

About 3 years ago I started really studying how Paul did ministry in the early churches. If you really want to change your outlook on the people around you, and all the PRE-believers you come in contact with, study how Paul loved, how he stretched himself in order to present the gospel to as many as he could. Then start implementing some of these ways into your ways… It’ll change your heart like no other.

One thing Paul did, and did well, was to give Jesus. He would meet people where they were without ever bending on his beliefs. He believed so strongly in Jesus and his life backed that up. Paul had such boldness because he so boldly believed in who he preached. He believed that Jesus was the answer for every problem we could ever face.

So I began to pray that. I prayed (and still pray, and hope to always pray) that everything I say and do will point others to Jesus. HE is the answer to every situation!

When I’m disciplining my kids, I should be doing it in a way that would never make them question things I’ve told them about Jesus. If I say that Jesus forgives, I should forgive. If I teach them that as we grow in Christ, we begin to produce good fruit, then I should show them what Jesus has produced in me and if I lack those, I now know where I need to grow! (Parents, we NEED Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL!!! but that’s another lesson altogether).

When I’m on facebook, I need my every status, my every comment, even my every page followed, to represent the Jesus in me. I can not invite people to church using “church jargon” and with the same mouth (typing hands) spew hate in a comment towards someone on facebook (or twitter, or instagram… or whatever other form you may use).

When my husband and are at the local restaurant, even when the conversation is just between the two of us, our conversation needs to be pointing others towards Jesus. How can my husband preach from the pulpit about grace and peace and wholesome teachings if when he is outside he pulpit he is cutting people down, stirring up strife, and carrying on unwholesome conversations at the restaurant table? He can’t! And neither can any of us!

Now I’m not talking about every single encounter I have talking strictly about Jesus. “Paper of plastic?” “Well… let me tell you about Jesus!!!” That would leave the grocery clerk annoyed… and probably all the people behind me waiting to get through annoyed, too.  No, I’m talking about our conduct, our words, our LOVE for one another. The way we interact with every single person we come in contact with (kids, husbands, parents, co-workers, grocery clerks, librarian, car mechanic… you see where I’m going) should not contradict the Jesus you say you serve.

Imagine this scenario: It’s Monday, the weekend was action packed, and instead of getting enough sleep, you accomplished a LONG to-do list. The alarm awakens you about 8 hours too soon. You grumpily get up, drag yourself to the shower and complain about how horrible work is going to be. You do this too long, making yourself run behind. By the time you race yourself into work (whether it be raising the kids for one more day, or a high pressure position in town), you are already ready for bed. You grumble and complain, even if just in your head, over every task you have to do that day! By the end of the work day, you’ve had it! You begin rushing to get home, already grumbling about dinner. Suddenly someone crosses your path, too close to comfort. You lash out. You yell. Maybe it’s your kid. You’ve told them one too many times to pick up his baseball glove. Maybe it’s your neighbor who borrowed your  hose without asking, maybe it’s a complete stranger who was in a hurry of their own. You lose it. You begin yelling, screaming, belittling, just throwing the perfect adult fit (which, by the way, looks just as ridiculous as the kids form of a fit… just sayin’!) In that instance, if God prompted you to, could you effectively witness to the person you just lashed out at? With a good conscience, could you tell them how great Jesus is, and what a difference He’s made in your life? And if you could… would they believe you?????

When I started thinking this way, I chose not to comment as often on facebook when I was upset. I chose not to respond to a negative situation until I had prayed. And sometimes I prayed for days… and then chose not to respond at all. When I started thinking, “What will THIS action say about the Jesus I’m trying to show?” I truly started to change the way I behave. Don’t get me wrong, we do not behave in such a way to please men… at all costs, we please God. But in that process, we need to be able to point others that direction as well.

Myth: As a Christian trying to point others towards Christ, we must come down to a level that no longer addresses sin. 

Paul never shied away from correcting sinful behavior. But he reminds Timothy (and ultimately us, as the Word of God is written for us as well) to be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim 4:2) You can approach sinful behavior in love. You can conduct yourself in a way that expresses love and patience instead of judgment and condemnation. But you must be prepared in season and out of season. You have to live with such a conduct that you can point someone to Jesus no matter what season you are in.

Pray for that idea to penetrate your heart. Ask yourself the hard question, “Am I living in such a way that others see the Jesus I serve?” Before you hit enter read your comment, ask yourself, “Does this show Jesus in me?” (***Even if you are responding to a complete stranger***). Before you let out a loud annoyed sigh at your child for spilling ANOTHER cup of water at the dinner table, ask yourself, “How can I show her Jesus right now in the midst of this mistake?” I’m telling you… this will change your life… and change your ministry!

Myth #2: You have to be perfect in order to point people to a perfect God!

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! NO! We will make mistakes, we will have bad days… we WILL inevitably scream at our kids with all the windows open so the entire neighborhood can hear (of course I’VE never done that… but…. ), or honk extra long at the car who wasn’t moving fast enough at the green light, or give someone at work an earful because we failed to get enough sleep the night before. It will happen, because, despite what we may think at times, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! Seek forgiveness (from God AND the person you’ve wronged) and start anew. Then do that again the next day, and the next… it won’t ever stop, we’ll mess up a lot. But the harder we try, the better we get, and sometimes, we even point people to Jesus through our mistakes (if we seek that forgiveness). Don’t give up, POINT up!

 

We aren’t perfect at Crossroads Church, but we definately strive to point people to Jesus. Please join us! Follow us on Facebook for more details!

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Follow the Instructions

Today is the exact day 5 years ago that our U-haul pulled up to our new home and new ministry. I know 5 years is just a drop in the bucket, but I’m already looking forward to my “top 10 lessons learned in the past 10 years” series where I can look back and see if these lessons need to be learned again. Things are still fresh here, but also feel like home. I’m celebrating one of the best 5 years of our lives in ministry, unsure of how the next 5 years will go. So, thank you for joining me on this journey. If you’ve missed, feel free to go back and catch up.

#1 Grow where you are planted (click here to read): Don’t wait for a big event in your life to happen to start implementing change.

#2 Who have YOU invited to church lately (click here to read): Don’t leave church growth solely up to your pastor. Invite your friends!

#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.

Some time after moving here and as we got to know people, we got to see people’s “real side” more and more. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but some people put their best faces on when they are around you, but let their ugly side-show when you are out of earshot. It’s unfortunate, really. If they could just choose to become their fake selves, the nice one, the one that shows restraint (see lesson #1) I think they’d actually be happier people. But, the fact of the matter is people really want their pastor to only see this fake happy facade and it isn’t until something really goes wrong that we get to see their true colors. So in our case that took about a year.

Sometimes it’s just small subtle things, and you think you’re just rubbed the wrong way, so you dismiss it and move on. But sooner or later the real person will come out. And when they do, a mess ensues.

I’ve heard of Pastors and their families being run out-of-town by one person’s meanness and to be honest, I’ve feared it in almost every church we’ve been in. So when we received a call from a trusted friend telling us of what was going on behind our backs, our hearts broke. I won’t go into detail, but it was far beyond gossip, and had potential of not only ruining our reputation in town, but my husband’s career.

The lesson I want to present to you today is the reason  this situation turned out as amazing as it did.

#3 When you do things God’s way, blessings follow.

First thing we did was pray. My husband didn’t stew over his hurt feelings, he came home, told me what had happened and led me to the couch to sit and pray.

Sub-lesson 1: ALWAYS pray first before you react, or let anger take control.

Next, we called this person for a meeting. Before we went to our friends with a huge tale of how we were wronged and how we felt about this other person, we went to the person.

Sub-lesson 2: Go to the person first, get their side. In our situation, we knew that the friend who had called us was telling the truth (he’s who you’d call to “go above the pastor’s head”). We had to confront the sin against us directly. This doesn’t always go well, but the Bible is very clear, this is how you do it. “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” (Matthew 18:15)

Once this step is done, we still spoke to no one. It doesn’t state that you can confront then turn around and speak bad about that person. Of course we talked among ourselves. We were shocked. We didn’t know what impact this lie would have on our town and the ministry we were trying to do here. But what we did know is that God knew the truth, and that the truth will prevail. Somehow, this kept the hurt at bay. I look back and see that this horrible situation, this attack against me, my family, my church, this ministry wasn’t hurting me. I contribute that to God and our following of sub-lesson 1 & 2.

About 3 or 4 months later people began coming to us about the awful things that were being said about us. They were concerned that we were unaware of the lies (praise God they didn’t believe them) that were being said, and felt we should know. Although the person still attended church most Sundays, their desire to hurt us had not diminished.

It was sad, but we had to take the issues further and bring this to our church board. “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:16).

I just wanted it to be over. I hated that we had to bring more people into such a bad situation. I dreaded it all day. But it was needed. The church would have hurt had we not followed through with this next step.

Sub-lesson 3: Stick with the plan God laid out for us. So many things went through my mind. Was this the right way to go about this? Exposing her might hurt her. Was it unloving? But as my godly, wonderful pastor pointed out… “It’s right there in the Bible!” You can never go wrong sticking with God’s plan book!

Although we never kicked the person out of the church, the person chose not to repent, and make things right. So they did, of their own choice, leave our church. The pastor felt he needed to protect the church from such slander and he felt he needed to protect me as this issue was mostly pointed at me. He followed up with a letter setting boundaries (no contact to me unless it was an apology, loss of church member rights… things like this). Nothing felt better than knowing my husband, with the church board’s backing, would protect me and my kids. NOTHING!

Sub-lesson for men: Have your wife’s back! Support her, trust her, protect her. Nothing will strengthen your marriage more than her knowing you love and support her and will go to huge lengths to protect her! 

Sub-lesson for Pastors: Protect your church. Confront those trying to spread nasty rumors and lies. Pray and seek counsel and act quickly. Cancer can kill your church. Be faithful to the Word, trust that its techniques will work, and fight hard to show your church that you will protect its members. 

This came at a time that we had others who were coming to pastor to “tattle” on a church member. So when Pastor advised that he go to the person first, he could say it with confidence that he lived this method as well. The pastor of Crossroads Church will never be party to a gossip fest in his office. He will stand up for you, direct the person your way, and will only take action when Matthew 18 is followed.

I don’t even want to imagine how this situation would have played out had we panicked, fought dirty, or backed away. As I look back at it, I’m amazed at how unphased we were by it all. It was horrible, but God blessed our obedience to His plan. Within 6 months of this incident we welcomed 16 new church members. These were not people who came because the person left (they didn’t even know this person). I don’t know exactly what drew them in (I don’t question those things!!!) But we saw great growth where death could have occurred. Our church is healthier because we dealt with the issues God’s way.

Pastor and I are not perfect. We can’t possibly run our ministry perfectly. But when it came to this situation, our desire was to please God in how we handled it, and to protect ourselves and our church. Looking back, I can’t imagine it going any better (well, aside from it never happening in the first place).

Now, to my final Sub-lesson (#4)– We have never once stopped praying for the parties involved in this incident. I pray daily for the person who went against my family. I feel I have forgiven, and if repentance were to take place and this person wanted to reconcile, that would be glorious in God’s eyes! I’ve often dreamed of how I would respond if they chose to come back to our church. I have to admit at first those dreams were nightmares. But now, it’s a dream of hope. I would love to share a pew with them knowing their heart has changed and that they are of one accord and of one mind with the church. I’m sure there’d be a time for building trust, but believe God would walk us through that together.

Sub-lesson #4: Don’t stay angry, hurt, or disconnected. Trust that God will heal your hurts and pray for love to take its place. Pray for those who sin against you. Pray they will come to a closer relationship with Jesus. Isn’t that the goal no matter what, anyway? Pray for reconciliation (but only when repentance has taken place).

Myth: Easy for a Pastor to say!

People are hurtful everywhere, not just inside the church. It stings a bit worse when believers hurt other believers, and our faith can be lost inside that hurt, if we let it. But, in every relational conflict of every person’s life, this strategy will work, God said it would. And mix that with every other scripture that talks about forgiveness, and what could have turned out  horrible, can actually bring honor to God, and speak life into your heart instead.

If you are the one spreading hate… STOP, and that’s all I have to say about that…

If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s sin towards you, read Matthew 18:15 & 16. Follow it, pray for that person to draw close to God, and believe in the plan God has set up.

If you’re hurting, can I pray for you? email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com.

Please join us at Crossroads Church this Sunday at 10am! I’ll save you a seat.

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Who Have YOU Invited to Church Lately? Lesson 2 of 5

We are getting closer to our 5th anniversary at our church ministry position. After 20 years of being in ministry (16 years married) this is our first 5 years in the role of lead pastor. It’s been an amazing 5 years and I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned so far. This would be lesson 2 of 5… You can read lesson 1 here

#1. Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait to change towns, jobs, or neighborhoods.

#2. Network! Network! Network!
Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!
Evangelize! Evangelize! Evangelize!

If you find yourself in a small town pastoring (or pastor wifing) a small church you will need to spend at the very LEAST 80% of your time meeting new people, introducing them to the church, and figuring out your new town. This comes in all kinds of forms. But after 5 years, and I’m so glad we learned this early… you basically need to fall in love with your town. 

We dove right in. It wasn’t hard, we were new so everyone knew we had to be “those people who moved into that one house” or “You’re not from around here, where do you live?” After a week of being here my kids were so used to hearing people approach us to meet the “newcomers” that my older son asked us if we were famous. HA!

We signed our kids up for sports right away, we introduced ourselves wherever we went, we friended as many as we could on facebook and we jumped right in serving our community. This was easier for me than it was my husband. But he’s doing much better. Now he has a part (very part) time job where he can meet even more in our community. Not just to grow our church, although we’d LOVE for everyone we meet to come to our church… but because we love our town. We are aware that there are other great churches in town, but we care more that people feel loved and can trust us and our church.

Coming into a small community where people remember every bad thing that has ever happened, means they remember previous pastors to churches… even if they are previous, previous, previous pastors. This can work against you, so it’s important to build your own relationships and try to build trust. Our desire isn’t just to get people to attend Crossroads Church, but our #1 goal is to reach out and introduce as many as possible to Jesus Christ. Once that became our #1 goal, relationships took on a new shape.

Networking the church is important… if you need anything, you need to know the church exists, where it is, and what to expect from us.

Advertising is beneficial. For those who still haven’t chosen a church (or for those who need a change), seeing what the church offers is a huge benefit.

But evangelizing… that’s the key. There are hurting people, and there are many people who need a church community to support them, and when you are loving, friendly, and genuine, you show them the Christ in you. No pastor is perfect. But when you decide to live a life of evangelism, you change the way you think. Everyone you come in contact with is a chance to share Jesus. As Jesus lives in us, He can overflow on to others as well. When you make it a goal to grow the Kingdom of God and not just your church, you stop pastoring the church, and start pastoring (or pastor wifing) the town. The more you love the town, the easier that becomes. And oh do we love the people of our town!

Myth: Only Pastors are called to evangelize

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Each and every believer is called to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” No believer is exempt from this. Sometimes you evangelize through the love you have for your co-workers, neighbors, family members. Sometimes you have to be bold and come out and tell them about the love of Jesus for them. How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14) It is not the sole responsibility of the pastor to grow the church.

In our experience, many that come to the church are actually invited by a friend who enjoys the church. I invite 3-5 people a week. Not that I’m trying to meet a quota, I just believe with everything within me that our church is amazing, and the importance of Church is huge! In 5 years, 3 people have come because of my invitation… that’s about 3 out of 1000 invitations… That’s .3% (do you see the decimal  point?) But if all the current church members invited their friends, we could double our influence in a fraction of the time (don’t make me do all the math… we’re on summer vacation over here!) People are more likely to come if you invite them to come sit by you. Sometimes getting an invite from the pastor or pastor’s wife is more intimidating, and comes across less authentic (although, I promise all my invites are authentic). You can make such an impact just by inviting, it’s a very small step in the evangelistic process.

Let’s work together. Let’s love them and show them the Jesus we serve! You don’t have to stand in the pulpit to do it, (or be married to the one that does). We can all evangelize (share the salvation given through Jesus Christ).

you're invited
Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave in St.James, MN

If you are reading this, I’d like to invite you to join us for Church THIS Sunday. I think it’s time you either come to meet us, or accept my invite! I’ll save you a seat!

Services at Crossroads are every Sunday at 10am.

If you are not in our area, I can find you a church where you are, just email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

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Grow Where Your Planted: Lesson 1 of 5

It was a Wednesday. We packed our moving van. Thursday we said goodbye to friends and family, cried for the first 50 miles… then again 100 miles into the trip, again 200 miles in, and probably again at the 400 mile mark as we pulled within a town over from our new home. It was a thrill, but stressful. It was what we felt God calling us to, but it was so full of anxiety as we moved our family of 6 to our new church.

That was 5 years ago. I’ve been in church ministry with my husband for 16 years (20 years total), but this past 5 years has been the first 5 years of being in the Lead pastor position, and boy oh boy is it different. 5 years go be VERY fast and we can either look back with regret of wasted time, or marvel in the lessons God has taught us. I’m a “glass half full” kinda gal… so you’re going to get the lessons I’ve learned. Plus, I can not look back with an ounce of regret… This has been such an amazing 5 years! It’s only been 5 years… but already we’ve learned so much (and I pray we just keep on learning and growing).

I can’t possibly put this vast amount of new-found knowledge into one post… no one would want to read that many words. So come back each day as we lead up to our 5th anniversary…

Let’s start here…

Starting over in a new town where no one knows you can set you on a path to a new you.

We were given 4 weeks to inform our employment, pack our home, and move to our new town and church. In that month I began to pray, “What kind of pastor’s wife do you want me to be?” I began to evaluate who I was, what I had to offer, and who I WANTED to be. I’m not saying we should be fake. I’m saying that sometimes we get stuck in our ways and changing isn’t easy. But when you move, and you are completely unknown, it’s easier to change. I may have started out struggling to be loving, to be patient, to be compassionate,  to be bold, but the more I prayed about the traits I wanted to have, the easier they became, and the more they became a part of me. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. And I like the new me.

Myth: You have to move in order to become the person God’s calling you to be. 

Nothing could be more WRONG! I allowed my concern of what people thought of me hold me back from being who I wanted to be… and more importantly, who GOD wanted me to be. I fell into bad habits, found friends who didn’t mind those bad habits, and never sought ways to change those habits. I underestimated my friends and family and figured they’d see me as fake if I made big changes in my personality.

Can I encourage you to begin seeking where you are, and begin making the changes necessary to be who God is calling you to be. Do you want to be nicer?… start acting that out until it’s really WHO you are. Do you want to be more compassionate? Look for ways to show compassion to people with whom you come in contact. Do you want to be more evangelistic? Start stepping out. Don’t delay, and don’t wait for God to call you to another town… that may not work. You may never move from where you are (whether that be physically or spiritually) if you’re unwilling to make those changes.

For me, I wanted to step out of my shell and be bolder, nicer, friendlier, more purposeful. I look back now, and wish I would have done all those things where God had me. I let idea rejections keep me from coming up with new ideas. I let myself get lost in “bigger cities” where my niceness and friendliness wouldn’t go as noticed (although it may have made a bigger personal impact one on one). I missed opportunities because I was too set in my ways.

Moving certainly allowed me to step out and be bold, more enthusiastic, more evangelistic. What could I lose? I’ve learned my lesson though… living this way is powerful, it’s life changing. I will not hold back again. If God wants me to change, nothing will hold me back from making that change for Him. I praise God for giving me this opportunity to be who He’s called me to be. I thank God for this new adventure, and for still working in me through it. I pray I’ll keep making changes as He calls me drawing me closer to Him.

Please don’t hesitate. Don’t wait for any reason, jump right in, start your new adventure, and draw close to God. He will guide you, change you, and create a more perfect you!

Check back tomorrow for lesson #2

If attending church is one of the changes you’d like to make, please find a church in your area. If you need help with finding one, please email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com and I will get to work on finding one in your area!

If you live in my area, Crossroads Church is right for you! Please join us this Sunday at 10am for amazing teaching straight from the Bible… I’ll save you a seat!

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Is Your Iron Sharp?

I recently noticed something. Something big. Something profound. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too… but are you willing to admit it? I recently noticed that it is REALLY easy to see the faults in others while being completely blind to my own faults! GASP!!! I know! I’m in my upper 30s, I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out! My guess is that you’re like me. That you’ve known this little fact for a while, but you haven’t really given it much thought.

I’m at home all day with the amazing task of teaching 4 children. Kindergarten, first, fifth, and sixth grade. I correct grammar, math problems, behavior and bad attitudes all.the.live.long.day! And sometimes, unfortunately sooner than it should, I become short, frustrated, and sometimes downright unloving. This goes on for some time before my husband comes home. Then my husband walks in, who knows what kind of day he’s had (I mean, I didn’t even ask) but he says one comment in a grumpier-than-I’d-like way and BOOM! I’m all over him! “Why are you short!?” “Why are you so frustrated!?” “Why can’t you be more loving!?” I promise, I don’t really shout this! But I am so quick to see it in him… why was I so unwilling to see it in myself?

I know I’m not alone. I’m a facebook user. I see the “advice-seeker” who posts an issue they’re having, asks advice, but then immediately turns angry when the advice doesn’t go their way. I even have a secret group of pastor’s wives that I’ll take my issues to. But as soon as one of them says something that requires me to look inward at my own bad behavior, I want to high tail it out of there! I’ve even deleted my posts so I don’t have to deal with it (I mean, let’s get real here, right?). It isn’t easy when we are faced with our own sins.

I googled “Why is it so hard to be held accountable?” You can’t even imagine how many responses I got to that question… NONE! Not one!  It’s rare to find someone who truly wants to be held accountable. We may SAY we want it. But our actions tell a completely different story. I tell my husband many times a year, “Honey, please talk me off this ledge! Please remind me of my goals of being a loving parent in the midst of my knit picking and nagging.” Then I wonder why he isn’t quick to do so after I bite his head off for not agreeing with me that whistling is the root of all evil. (Oh, have I never mentioned my hatred of whistling and how quickly it makes my blood boil in anger??? Maybe another blog post…). We say we want to be held accountable, but we actually hate correction. I believe this to be one of Satan’s most successful tools. If we can fight against correction, we can turn a blinds eye to the sin that is so easily visible to those close to us.

The word “accountability” isn’t found in the Bible. But the concept is all over the place.  In Hebrews the Author says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:23-25

The author knows that in order to hold on to our hope without wavering, we’re going to need each other to stir one another up. This is the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis. Our relationships are so important in this process. This is accountability!

To stir up can be translated urge, spur on, or motivate. It can also mean to provoke or irritate. Have you ever tried to cheer up a really grumpy person? It can be downright irritating! It’s not always easy, even when the accountability is coming in an encouraging way. However, this is needed for us to be at our best spiritually. Done right, accountability can be and should be encouraging. The word “encourage” means to call someone to your side in order to strengthen them with your words; it can refer to a variety of encouraging speech: instructing, comforting, admonishing, warning, urging, begging, and consoling. Whatever it takes to pull a friend from the dangers of sin.

I would expect my husband to remove a knife from my hand if I were about to harm myself with it. I would actually feel unloved if he sat back and did not act quickly when he could clearly see I was hurting myself. So why do I feel so attacked when he steps in to lovingly warn me about the sin I’m involving myself in? Done the correct way, accountability should encourage you to choose a more godly path in life. Galatians 6:1-2 says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If God is telling  a person to help restore a friend, He must expect that friend to receive the restoration. Just imagine the change that can come to your life if you’d receive the correction as a blessing instead of an offense. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Why not take some off yourself and let someone help you with it? Sometimes anger is too heavy of a burden to bear, Confess your sins, and let someone pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). Gossip is a hard habit to break. Ask some friends to stop you before you sin against another person, causing both them and you harm. Depression is a dark hole to get lost in, connect with a friend who won’t leave you alone even when you withdraw. Help a friend help you.

Being held accountable isn’t always easy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always painless. We are called to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Admonish isn’t a pleasant word. It means to warn or reprimand someone firmly. Firmly, not harshly. As grown adults (and I guess even as children), we don’t like to be told what to do. Somehow we thought that when we became adults we could do whatever we wanted and no one could tell us what to do! And yet… The Bible tells us that we should admonish one another. I’m sure many of us read that and allow it to give us permission to rebuke others. That’s easy. But what about when you’re the person who needs the rebuke?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17). Are you sharpened or do you live in a dull state with no desire to live up to your full potential? Try cutting a tomato with a dull knife. It’s a mess. And so is life when we refuse correction. Would you take this sharpening journey with me? Ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell them to be loving, but to correct you on the sin you’re struggling with. And then actually receive the correction. Pray over it, and make the necessary changes in your life. Don’t let your pride ruin your walk with God.

There is no need to be around toxic people who correct, rebuke, and admonish out of mean spirits and divisive intentions. There are people like this lurking behind every corner. They are not there to encourage you, but rather point out your faults, push you down, and walk away. Search for those with their hands outstretched in love pulling you up. Choose a person that loves you, and loves what God could do in your life. Ask someone to come along side you  in order to strengthen you with their words. And then pray for the humble spirit to take their encouragement and grow closer to God.

 

Church is a great place to find this kind of friend. I’d love to invite you to visit us on Sundays at 10a at Crossroads Church in St. James, MN. 721 Weston Ave. Make plans to visit with a friend, I’ll save you a seat!
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Slave to Busyness

In the first year of marriage, I ran circles around my husband. If he took the last drink out of his glass, I hopped up and put it away (whether he was hoping for more to drink or not). I mopped our hardwood floor EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. It was just the two of us. No shoes were worn in the house… but those floors NEEDED to be mopped. There were nights my husband would sit on the couch and say, “Honey! STOP! Come sit with me.” I had to stay busy all the time. Funny thing though, I got off work at 2p (went in at 6a) and cleaned the apartment and took a short nap because, well, I wanted to be completely available to my new husband once he got home from work. Yet, I spent most of the night running around doing… busy work.

We live in a society that glorifies being busy. We value one another based on our schedules and how much space we can fill in on that little hourly grid. We come home and sit just long enough to brag about our busy days on social media… or we do it from our phones on the go.

We see statuses like
– It may be 3am, but I’ve crossed off the 40th thing on my to-do list! #whoneedssleep
-Yep, that’s an empty 12-cup coffee carafe… and it’s only 7am #busyday
-Not sure how I’ll get this paper done, dinner made, house cleaned, dog walked, work completed! #notime
-Up at 6a, and still going strong at 1am #insertyourenergyboostingproducthere

It’s absurd! It isn’t how we were designed. The Bible says, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” -Psalms 127:2

All this running here, there, and everywhere (even if you stay in your own house) is useless. Sure, we have to prepare meals, we have to work (whether it be outside the home, or in the home caring for children), we have to maintain our living spaces. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for a sport or book club, or church choir. It’s not useless to volunteer, pursue further education, or train for a better job. Of course if we try to do them all at once, we have to eventually give up rest. And rest is a gift from God.

Busyness can soon become a disease in your life. It can destroy your happiness, your health, and your walk with God. Busyness may get you through life, but it will not BRING you life. John Ortberg says in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted ,”For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”

I often wonder if the reason we fill every minute of our day with activity after activity, and the reason we boast about all we can fill in to our 24 hours is because society has filled us with this idea that the more we do, the more value we have. And yet, the more we do, the more pressures and temptations we put in our life. We may think that the packed full schedule means success and security and comfort and happiness. But it only attempts to fill a void that only God can fill. Our success isn’t measured in how well we can function on a tiny amount of sleep. Our security isn’t secured in a life with little down time. Our comfort doesn’t seem very comforting when we fill our lives with activities over people, and our happiness will be shallow when we fail to step back, slow down, and find solitude in God.

Hey, I’m not saying I don’t fall into this trap. I do, too often and I’m sure that’s why this is laid on my heart so heavy lately (well, for the past few years really). I see it, I recognize it, and I want out of it. We live in a society where pulling out of the busyness of life isn’t encouraged. We live where fast-food isn’t fast enough, we have to go through the drive-thru and eat in the car. And if that isn’t bad enough, we have replaced our meals with pills and patches, and tiny little power bars. We’ve gotten too busy for simple MEALS… we are in trouble. We put our kids in so many activities that we not only cut into their healthy sleep time, but we have completely done away with family time. Our kids are in school 7 hours a day, given 3 hours of homework, and still encouraged to try for varsity in every season of sports (sometimes those sports even overlap). And this has become so important that church hasn’t found itself on our schedules in months.
We must do something! But what? It’s the world we live in, right?

Author Dallas Willard speaks of a study done where mice were given amphetamines. Some mice were in solitude, some were in a group. It took very high dosages to kill the mice in solitude. However, the mice in the group started hopping around and hyping each other so much that a dosage twenty times smaller was lethal to those mice. They even introduced mice that had not been given ANY drugs to the group and within 10 minutes, the crowd had gotten them so hopped up and hyper that the drug-free mice died. This is the great effect of this “World” that has been created around us. We look at all of our friends get all hyped up on busyness that we feel we need to as well. We begin to put a value on ourselves based on how much we can cram into one day. But, let’s just STOP.

Let’s stop over scheduling our kids. Let’s stop boasting about everything we’ve done that day. Let’s stop letting our to-do list define how great we are. Let’s stop neglecting the rest God has given us.

And let’s start…
1. Planning ahead. When we procrastinate, we find that we cram way too much into a 24 hour period, and we miss out on the abundant life God wants for us. So plan ahead, and be sure to plan some down time into your life.

2. Praying and seeking God first. Give time to solitude with God. If that means getting up before kids do, then go to bed earlier so you can get up after a healthy night’s rest. This also may mean you have to cut something out. *You can also choose to go have time late at night… but only on nights where you can still get healthy amounts of sleep to prepare for your next day.

3. Cutting things out. Yes, getting a degree would help you get a better job. Getting a better job would help your finances. Better finances will…. Well… can I stop here and say, “Not always”. I don’t make 6 figures. And I’m doing great. Money isn’t everything. Simpler living just may be happier living. If you are pushing to get a degree just to get a better job to make more money… stop and ask yourself if that also means more hours away from family and church. I’ve seen this way too many times. Dad goes back to school while working full-time. He tells his family it’s just 2 years, then I’ll have so much more time. But then the new job requires more time away… and the cycle never stops. Maybe this isn’t the time for the new degree. Maybe wait until kids are grown and there is more time to pursue it. (Moms, this goes for you, too). Sports are fun. But don’t allow your kids to fill their time so full that they aren’t learning about quiet times. Stop the cycle now.

4. Take time to do nothing. Don’t plan something in every single slot on your calendar. Leave room to life. Do not be afraid of boredom. Let the day get away from you. You will start to feel free. Probably not right away, since busyness has such a great hold on us. You will have to make this a discipline, or a training in your life. But I guarantee it will bring freedom soon.

5. Change the stigma. Let’s start changing the scene. Stop glorifying busyness. Encourage others to come and enjoy life.

It’s time to change things, to choose another way of living, and to eliminate busyness from our lives.

One last thing… God wants more of you. He values you. He longs to be with you, to be in your thoughts, to be king over all your activities. If rest was good enough for Him… it’s good enough for us.

Ok…so one more thing…
Please watch this funny clip…
And remember, not everything that “saves time” makes life better. 😀

Don’t Forget

My girls wake up with songs on their hearts. The sing them as they get ready in the morning, they sing them as they eat their breakfast, and they sing them as they begin their school work. This particular morning they had been singing King of the World by Natalie Grant (see the video below). Now, these girls do not merely hum the song, or pick lines from here or there… they sing the entire thing. And right in the middle my 10-year-old looks up and says, “Mom, how is it even possible to forget that God has always been the king of the world? I mean, do you really think there are people who have forgotten?” I wish I could tell her that no one has forgotten. But we all know that’d be a lie. Now you have to understand, my daughter isn’t making fun. She isn’t judging. She is still learning the world around her. Although she does know that not everyone believes in Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, she at least thought everyone was aware of Him each day. You see, this 10 year old hasn’t been in the world yet. She hasn’t seen how stress pulls you away. She hasn’t experienced politics (although she got a good taste through out the last 12 or so months), and how quickly our world is turning away from God. But to be completely open with her, I would have to tell her that even church-going-self-professed-Christians have too easily forgotten that God has always been the King of the world… and always will.

How does this happen? How do we walk through this world and forget about God? How do we face the issues this world brings and try every other “remedy” and forget about the King of the world?

I think it happens to many of us, and it isn’t until we’ve hit an all time low that we finally reach out to this long-lost God that we use to serve. We’ve grown so distant that we forget about the one who can pull us up, get us through, and help us triumph. We turn to friends, social media, drugs, sex, addictions, ourselves… and we only find ourselves further in the pit way worse than we were when we started. How did we forget? How COULD we forget?

1. We stop talking to God.

We allow our schedules to fill every minute of our day leaving no room for a prayer time. Imagine if you stopped talking to a friend. Eventually, we stop making time to get together with that friend. We grow apart. We eventually stop talking about them, and eventually they are no longer in our short-term memory… and barely in the long-term. On occasion when their name is brought up you may find yourself with a smile remembering the good times you’ve had, but you quickly move on to the next thing, and that friend has been forgotten again. It’s sad, but it happens with God, too. We look at our busy schedules and try to squeeze God in, and when we’ve made no room, we toss Him to the side. Instead, shouldn’t we work our other activities around our time with God? Without talking to Him, we will soon lose our closeness with him, and eventually, we’ll forget altogether.

2. We stop studying Him.

I took a Literature class in college. I attended the class (that I can’t even remember the real name… it wasn’t “Literature” but some specific kind of Lit). I may have even gotten a good grade. But sitting here right now, I can not for the life of me tell you what I learned in the class. I don’t even know one book I had to read for the class. So I have to tell you, I do not feel I’m some literature scholar. Once I stopped studying, I stopped learning, and I stopped caring. Sure I love to read, but I don’t study literature anymore. I’m FAR from a literature know-it-all. I’m not even a know-it-little! The same goes for us when we stop studying the word of God. It’s possible something triggers a faint memory of something that you’ve learned, but is that really enough to live on? And more times than not, when we go on distant memory, we get a LOT of things wrong. The Bible is our guidebook for Christian living. It is how we learn about the workings of this King of the World. Without reading it, trying to learn from it, and making that consistent in our lives, we’ll forget about the support He gives. We’ll forget about His love for us. We’ll forget about the sacrifice He made in order to make a way for us to live eternity with Him.  We’ll forget altogether and begin to live as if we don’t even know him.

3. We stop living in His world.

We have set up a routine in our home where God is as close to center as we can get. Please don’t see this as a brag, it’s not. I mess up in my attitudes, and I’m a sinner each and every day. But we’ve created a routine where we start our day off with the Word of God. We read it as a family. We then pray, committing our day to God. Our school curriculum is Christian, and it sparks a lot of talk about God through out our day. I do my Bible study at the table while they are working on their school work. We talk about the things we see on tv that may not line up with our walks with God. And we try to teach during those moments about the world around us. We attend Church. We value the lessons we learn there and try to get our kids to worship, and desire more of Him. So for my 10-year-old, it doesn’t seem possible that anyone could FORGET about God. I mean, we see His creation every day. We live in His will (at least we try) each day. We speak to Him, learn about Him, hear from Him on a regular basis.

I’m fully aware that we live life on this earth, and not in heaven. I’m fully aware that life happens and that we aren’t all sheltered in a “Christian” bubble. However, I haven’t suggested anything that God hasn’t asked of us.

Psalm 145:18- The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Colossians 4:2- Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Joshua 1:8- Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

2 Timothy 3:16-17– All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Psalm 16:11- You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Acts 17:28-  For in him we live and move and exist.

**There are SO many more… you should explore this on your own!**

And done for the sake of doing isn’t what I’m saying either. These aren’t things to check off a check list. Check. Check. Check… and poof! It doesn’t work this way. But to build a relationship you focus on that person. And we do the same with God.

I’m aware that in this world there is chaos. But it’s important that we not forget that He’s always been the King of the World… and even further that He CURRENTLY IS! We must take the time to make this King of the World a part of our lives. If we can live day in and day out remembering who we serve, why we serve Him, and what He has done for us, the chaos may still be there, but the way we manage it will change in drastic ways.

This theme has been in my adult Bible study at church, in my daily personal Bible study, and even at a convention my kids attended this past weekend. So I’m taking notice. What are ways I can REMEMBER!? For me, I’ll be living with the knowledge that God is big enough, loves me, died for me, and continues to bless His children. I’ll be actively pursing Him so I won’t forget. How about you?

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough
When you’re the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world

Oh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to me
And you’re holding on to me

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget you’ve always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world

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!

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.