Category Archives: Music

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

Advertisements

Daddy’s Shoulders

Special thanks to Pedroni Photography for this lovely picture.
Special thanks to Pedroni Photography for sharing this beautiful picture with us.

Take a moment.  Breathe.  Look at the picture above.  Imagine that you’re that tiny person on the shoulders of your Dad.  His strong arms have a firm grip on you and you’re heading out along the path.  The road ahead is blurry from your perspective, but your Dad knows what’s around every curve.  From your vantage point, you can choose to be a nervous wreck, or you can choose to relax and trust your Dad.  Relax and thank him every step of the way, knowing that this life is a beautiful adventure with your Dad who loves you more than you could ever imagine.  You’re a lovely little princess (or a strong, handsome prince) on the shoulders of the King.

You see, this is how I feel about God, my Heavenly Father.  I’m up on His shoulders, His strong arms have a firm grip on me, and we’re heading out along the path.  The road ahead is blurry from my perspective, but He knows what’s around every curve.  From my vantage point, I can choose to be a nervous wreck, or I can relax and trust Him.  Relax and thank Him every step of the way, knowing that this life is a beautiful adventure with my Dad, Who loves me more than I could ever imagine.  I’m a lovely little princess on the shoulders of the King.  I hope you can picture yourself up on those shoulders too.  Your Heavenly Father hopes you can too.

He wants us to relax.  Trust Him.  Thank Him.  Moment by moment, every day.  Let Him guide you.  Take the next step.  This is not about trying harder.  This is about trusting and thanking our Heavenly Father.

Yoda says, “There is no try.  There is do or do not.”

I say, “There is no try.  There is Trust God and Thank God.  And then take the next step.”

Trust & Thank.  T&T.  TNT.

TNT is the abbreviation for the explosive compound used in dynamite: Tri Nitro Toluene.

But the root word of dynamite is from the the Greek “dunamis”, which is used 120 times in the New Testament and is loosely translated as “strength, power, or ability.”

GotQuestions.org put together a quick, easy read about “dunamis” and I highly encourage you to check it out:  What is the meaning of the Greek word dunamis in the Bible?  In that post, they reference several verses where “dunamis” is used.  Here’s my favorite:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

So, what does this “dunamis power” have to do with that path we’re heading down?  The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans (paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in “The Message” version of the Bible):

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”
-Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

It’s true.  The path of life isn’t easy.  It isn’t all roses and sunshine.  It can be incredibly difficult, discouraging and frightening.  But it can also be really good.  And I believe that God wants every moment.  The good, the bad, the exhilarating, the terrifying.  Every little thing.  Every little decision.  Turn to God and say, “Daddy, what’s next?  What’s the next step in our adventure together?”  In my experience, He doesn’t show me everything that’s coming.  He just gives me the next step. The Psalmist said it this way:

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  -Psalm 11:105 (NLT)

A lamp only lights the next step or two, not the whole pathway.  If you want to see more of the path, you need to take another step.  God wants to guide every one of those steps.  And He gives us the power to take each step, as we trust Him and thank Him.  He doesn’t shine a light down the road so that we can see the destination.  He’s much more interested in the journey, guiding us step by step, walking with us, calming our fears, enjoying our presence.

Think back to that picture above.  We’re up on His shoulders.  He’s got us.  We have no need to fear.  We are His dear children, safe and secure in the arms of the Father.  Bethel Music wrote about this so beautifully in their song “No Longer Slaves”.  Listen and let the words sink in.  Trust Him, Thank Him and live in the Dunamis Power that He provides.  May our fears be drowned in His perfect love as we live this adventure called life.

“You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…”

-Bethel Music, “No Longer Slaves”

Money without Meaning

It’s official.  Our $1.5 Billion PowerBall lottery dreams are gone.  All of the hopes and plans for that money, or even just a small part of it, are no longer.  But it sure created a buzz while it lasted.  What would you do with all of that money?

Did you know that Jesus taught more on money than on any other subject?  There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible about money.  That’s more than prayer, more than faith, more than forgiveness, heaven, hell and the Kingdom of God.  Check out some of the “financial” words that God uses to describe His relationship with us:

1) we are redeemed (Is. 44:22, Lam. 3:58, Gal. 3:13),
2) we are reconciled (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:18-20, Col. 1:22),
3) our debt is cancelled (Luke 7:41-43, Col. 2:14),
4) Jesus became poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 6:10 & 8:9),
5) we cannot serve two masters, both God and money (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13).

And that’s just a small sampling.

There’s a hymn that describes the gospel of Jesus this way:

“He paid a debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay”
He Paid a Debt by Ellis J. Crum

Let’s take that a step further.  What if Jesus is more powerful than PowerBall?  What if He died so that all of our debts would be forgiven, literally?  What if our mortgage was paid, our cars were paid, we had no credit card debt, no student loan debt, or any debt at all, and all of the food, clothing and shelter we would ever need were provided for us?

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24 about not serving two masters and goes on to say:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”
-Matt. 6:25-26 (ESV)

Our heavenly Father knows that we need food and clothing, and He provides them for the birds and flowers.  Why wouldn’t He provide them for us?  We’re so caught up in making money, saving money, spending money, moving money around, worrying that there won’t be enough money, trying to figure out how to get things without money (lotteries, loans, credit cards, getting you to give me something), anxious and distracted.

What if we never had to think about money again?  What if wealth and power and greed had no meaning?  What if I didn’t need to be concerned about what you had (envy, jealously, keeping up with the Jones’s), because I had everything I needed?  What if I were content down to my bones?  What would my life be about?  Would I go to work?  Would I strive?  Would I do anything?  What would define me?

The Apostle Paul says this in his letter to the Romans:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
-Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

What if Jesus is the one who takes away the debt of the world?  What if believing in Him and receiving Him means that we get to see the world through His eyes?  Would our entire focus change?  Would we no longer be slaves to the “stuff that makes the world go round”?  Would we instead be free to love one other, because that’s what Jesus does and that’s what He wants to do through us?  Would that be Heaven on Earth?

The Eastside Vineyard Church started a new series on Heaven a few weeks back.  In Dan Kopp’s 1-17-16 message called Looking (and Praying) Down from Above, he asked two questions:

1) If someone from Heaven could talk to you, what do you think they would say?

2) If someone in Heaven was praying for you, what do you hope they’d be praying for?

Do you think they’d tell us that we should focus on accumulating more while we’re here (“whoever dies with the most stuff wins”?) or do you think they would pray that we would focus on what really matters?  PowerBall or the Power of God?  It’s only by His power that we can truly love one another.  We don’t have it in us.  But if He is in us, we have all we need.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matt. 6:33 (ESV)

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
All sufficient sacrifice
So freely given
Such a price
Bought our redemption
Heaven’s gates swing wide
Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

I wanted to share with you a video that we recorded at our new building a couple nights ago.  It’s a “thank you” video to all of our customers at Sportsmen’s Direct, but it applies equally to our employees, founding ProStaffers, suppliers, friends, family, really everyone who has supported us over the last 6 years.  It’s been a crazy ride and we wouldn’t have made it without all of your support and prayers.

I also wanted to wish all of my blog supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Thank you for supporting me and my blog over the last 18 months.

Here’s our annual Christmas collage card:

2015 Christmas

If you see me live and in person, please ask – I have a hard copy version for you. 🙂

If you’re in the Metro Detroit area (or the Orlando, Florida area), please join us for one of 46 Christmas Eve services at Kensington Church (your choice of 7 different campuses). Free tickets are available by clicking here.  If you’re not in the area, I believe Troy will be live-streaming their services: click here to live-stream.

And, lastly, I wanted to pass along several blog posts that have meant a lot to me over the past year.  Feel free to check them out if they sound like they apply to you:

1) What in the world was God thinking when he created us?  Worth It

2) Does life feel like one problem after another?  Life That Really Matters

3) Ever feel like you’re too much and too little all at the same time?  Won’t You Be My Love?

4) What does true love look like?  Grace, Truth and Audacious Dreams

5) What does God see when He looks at us?  Through Heaven’s Eyes

6) How can we really “let go and let God”?  Moment by Moment

7) Can I brag on my kids?  My Kids (including K-Rock’s 2015 Star Wars production)

Merry Christmas to you and your families!
-Beth, John, Joshua, Jordan Rose & the Charlie dog

2016 Update:

Here’s a link to the 12-30-15 C&G News article on Sportsmen’s Direct: C&G News article

Here’s a link to the 1-14-16 Michigan Out of Doors episode, ice fishing on Lake St Clair with a visit to Sportsmen’s Direct and an interview with Justin Clark:  Michigan Out of Doors

Through Heaven’s Eyes

“If you looked in the mirror and saw yourself through God’s eyes, what are some things you can imagine He’d say about what He sees?”

That was Dan Kopp’s sneak preview to his 9-6-15 message at The Eastside Vineyard Church called “The Lying Mirror“.  In that message, Dan quoted Leif Hetland’s book, “Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes“:

“We all have a need for significance.  Besides survival, it is the strongest drive we have.  We need to know that our life matters, that who we are and why we are here counts for something.  So… who are you?  And why are you here?

You are God’s crowning achievement, His masterpiece.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made.  You were also purposefully made.  You are here for a reason – to bear God’s image and to establish His heavenly Kingdom on earth.  You are a co-creator with Him, a co-ruler with Him, and a co-lover with Him.  He has chosen you to dance in step with the Trinity . . . In this vast and expansive universe, you matter.  You!  You are loved beyond comprehension.  You are precious beyond words.  You are valued beyond measure.”

Then Dan did something beautiful.  He took that quote, line by line, and gave us God’s Word for each part (click on the red references to go to each verse at Biblegateway.com):

You are God’s crowning achievement (He saved the best for last):  Genesis 1:26-27
You are God’s masterpiece:  Ephesians 2:10
You were fearfully and wonderfully made:  Psalm 139: 13-14
You were purposefully made:  Ephesians 2:10
You were made in the image of God:  Colossians 3:10
You are here to establish God’s heavenly Kingdom on earth:  John 14:12
You are a co-creator with Him (He has given you gifts):  Exodus 35:30-31
You are a co-ruler with Him:  Genesis 1:26
You are a co-lover with Him:  Galatians 5:6
You get to join the dance with the Triune God:  John 17:1-5 **(see below)
You matter!  You are crowned with glory and honor:  Psalm 8:5-6
You are loved beyond comprehension:   Ephesians 3:17-18
You are precious beyond words:  Psalm 116:15
You are valued beyond measure:  Matthew 6:26

God is not mad at us.  He’s not disappointed in us.  He loves us.  He likes us.  He delights in us.  He longs to see us blossom into who He sees we can become.  If we could look in the mirror and see what God sees, would it change the way we live?  Would we stop wasting energy beating ourselves up and instead put that energy into receiving God’s love and passing it along to those around us?

“When you need comfort, I love to enfold you in My arms.  I enable you not only to feel comforted but also to be a channel through whom I comfort others.  Thus you are doubly blessed, because a living channel absorbs some of whatever flows through it.”
– Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence“, October 16th

I want to be that living channel.  I want to absorb God’s love as it flows through me to other people.  But in my own strength, I can’t do it.  And it’s not a matter of trying harder.  It’s a matter of trusting Jesus.  I need to turn to Him, thank Him, and breathe in His gift of life, moment by moment, day by day.  Rest, receive and pass it on.

“My calling is outside of my ability to fulfill it.  Only Jesus living through me can do it.”
– Beth Moore’s 2015 Living Proof Live Simulcast

“Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You”

– Matt Maher, “Lord, I Need You

**If you’ve ever wondered why God created us and why He is Three Persons in One (the “Triune God” or the “Trinity”), check out Dan Kopp’s message from 8-30-15 called “Dancing with the Triune God“.  Dan paints an incredible picture that you need to see with your own eyes.  Take 30 minutes to watch.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Branches, Vines and Grapes

Jordan Rose was unpacking her lunch box the other day and showed me the empty branch from the grapes she had eaten that day.  She said, “It’s gotten all dried out because the grapes are gone.”

Was she right?  Is that why the branch was dried out?  Of course her logic was faulty, but I know I’ve made the same assumption.  When I’m not being productive, my life feels “dried out”.  But my logic is backwards.  My life isn’t dried out because of my lack of productivity, it’s dried out because I’m no longer connected to the Vine.  Jesus said it this way:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia, said it this way:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Dr Bill and Anabel Gillham built a whole ministry in response to that one statement.  Here’s what they had to say about “dried up lives”:

“The Christian life is not difficult to live; it is impossible. Jesus Christ is the only one who has ever really lived the Christian life.  He is the only one who can live it today, and that is exactly what He wants to do – through you.”

When Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago, was He expecting us to “try harder” to make this life work?  Does a grapevine have to try really, really hard to produce grapes?

Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Luke 11:1-13.  He packs so much into those 13 verses.  First, he teaches the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, Who art in Heaven…” you know that one).  Then he teaches us to be shamelessly persistent in asking for what we need:

“Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.”  Luke 11:5-8 (NLT)

Then he continues with the following:

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10 (NLT)

And if you’re someone who doesn’t know if Jesus is real, if God is real, I believe those words were spoken especially for you.  Ask for what you need and keep on asking.  Be shamelessly persistent.  Ask Him if He’s real.  Ask Him to show you evidence that, not only did He come to this planet 2000 years ago, but that He is alive today.  Ask Him to show you how much He loves you.  Ask Him to show you what it means to be a branch connected to the Vine.  Ask Him to show you the fruit He wants to produce in your life.  Ask Him to overwhelm you with His presence.  He will.

Not sure how?  Here’s how Plumb asked:

“I can’t do this by myself
I can’t do this,
I can’t do this,
Oh God I need Your help”

-Plumb “I Can’t Do This”

Inspired by “The Cure”

Two days ago, I received an email asking if I was still writing blogs because she hadn’t seen any lately.  How sweet of her to ask.  She was right.  I haven’t written since April 11th (Won’t You Be My Love).

I realized yesterday that my blog’s one year anniversary is today, July 16th.  “If they asked me, I could write a book…” was that first post where I said, “I keep writing and writing, waiting for a book to pop out, but it never does.”  But now, looking back, I know that it finally did “pop out”.  If you’d like to read it, this is My Story.

It even had a sequel, a series of posts that expanded on that story:  Moment By Moment.

So, what have I been doing since that last post on April 11th?  Well, another interesting story has begun.  It all started on March 28th, when I realized that I wasn’t going to have something written in time for Maggie’s birthday party.

You remember Maggie.  She’s the young songwriter featured in the original Moment By Moment post.  If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve most likely received that post as my birthday present to you (written on my birthday last October).

You see, Maggie’s amazing parents were putting together a one-of-a-kind birthday party for a one-of-a-kind 16 year old girl.  They wanted to tell the story of Maggie’s life, honoring the God who made that life possible, and share the day with friends and family who had impacted Maggie’s first 16 years.  I was honored to be on the guest list.  And those on the guest list were asked to write something to bring to the party to share with Maggie.

But my brain wouldn’t cooperate.  I wanted to encourage Maggie with words of wisdom, something akin to Bart Millard’s “Dear Younger Me“.  I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but it just wouldn’t come together.  I always say that I need a lot of “space” in my brain to write, and I was seriously lacking in space.  I sobbed as I told my dear husband that I couldn’t do it.  And I almost decided not to go to the party.  Thankfully, John encouraged me to go anyway, even without something written.  I’m so glad I did.

The party was incredible.  I would have gone if only to be able to watch Maggie’s mom tell the story of her life.  It was beautiful.  And then friends and family shared and their stories added to the beauty of the day.  We all joined hands and prayed over Maggie.  I prayed that Maggie and her friends would never cancel their plans because they felt inadequate.

I cried as I prayed those words, because I knew that God wanted me there and I knew He wanted me to pass along that message.  I didn’t want them to ever miss an opportunity like that because, in engaging with others, we are in fact engaging with God.

Here’s how God engaged with me that day.  I sat with two friends who I hadn’t seen in years.  We spent some time catching up on each other’s lives.  I shared with them about my blog and about the miracle that God performed on September 13 & 14, 2014.  That was the beginning of my story: Redeemed – Part 1.  In that post, I wrote about seeing MercyMe in concert.  Bart Millard, MercyMe’s lead singer, had “been on an amazing road to transformation over the last couple years and it was exciting to hear his story.”

What if God isn't who you think He is and neither are you
The Cure: What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you

One of my friends said, “Do you know what started all of that?  He read a book by John Lynch called The Cure“.  She and her husband “just happened” to have been on the “MercyMe at Sea” cruise in January 2015 where they got to hear first-hand from Bart Millard about the book and why it was so impactful to him.  In fact, you can hear about it, right from the authors themselves, in this 11 minute podcast:  Sailing in the Dark.  MercyMe’s Welcome to the New album was directly inspired by this book.

Well, I went home from Maggie’s party and ordered the book.  And when it arrived, I devoured it.  Many times throughout the book, I literally laughed out loud as I read.  I could not believe what I was reading.  So many of the concepts I’ve written about in this blog are IN THIS BOOK.  Bart Millard never mentioned “The Cure” at the concert last September.  How huge is God that He was able to communicate all of this to me through MercyMe’s album, never having read the book that the album was based on?

If it was that important to God that I find this book, then I needed to know more.  I’ve since bought several other books by the same authors and listened to many podcasts on their website, TrueFaced.com:

Bo’s Cafe:  “The Cure” for marriage (devoured that one too)
The Ascent of a Leader:  “The Cure” for leaders (currently devouring this one)
On My Worst Day:  John Lynch’s story (this one is next on my list to devour)
Podcasts:  “Bo’s Cafe” informal chats with the authors, each only about 10-15 minutes long

And I’m blessed to be working through “The Cure” Small Group Study with two dear friends this summer.  We’re about half way through and it’s been wonderful.

But, first and foremost, if you’re intrigued, get The Cure.  And if you’re inspired too, please share.

And what ever happened with Maggie’s birthday present?  That 50th post, Won’t You Be My Love, was for her.  And this 51st post?  This one is for everyone.  After all, when you find the cure, don’t you want to share it with the world?

Won’t You Be My Love?

“Every woman I’ve ever met feels it — something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does.  An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is.  I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time.  Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough.  But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy.  The result is Shame, the universal companion of women.  It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.” – Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, by John and Stasi Eldredge

Wow.  I just finished reading this powerful book.  This is not a “do these 10 things and you’ll be a Proverbs 31 woman” book.  The subtitle really sums it up:  “Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul”.  Sounds pretty, doesn’t it?  Boy, I’d like to think that I’m “mysterious”, because most days I just feel “messed up”.  John and Stasi nailed it.  I am too much and too little all rolled into one.

Beth Moore said something at her 2009 Living Proof Live conference that has always stuck with me:  “Repression will make you sick, rebellion will make you stupid.  We gotta be real.”

The Apostle James says it this way:  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)  

Sharing our hurts is healing and I believe that positive life change only happens with other people.  Keeping it to ourselves only makes it worse, or in 12 Step language, “we’re as sick as our secrets”.  I spent most of 2013 in a Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Study and I learned that genuine confession leads to genuine change.  Telling our story is freeing, on so many levels.

Think of it this way.  If we keep it between us and God, there is no accountability.  We might say, “Hey, He forgives me, we’ll just keep this between us.  No need to get anyone else involved.  It’s a private matter.”  Just one problem with that.  No change happens.  We keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, the very definition of “insanity”.   But when the pain of changing finally feels less than the pain of staying the same, it’s time to change.

So, here I am with you, my trusted friends, confessing my sin to you.  I am a mess.  I am too much; I am too little.  I am up; I am down.  I am happy; I am sad.  I am carefree; I am frustrated.  I am optimistic; I am pessimistic.  I am kind; I am harsh.  I am manic; I am depressive.  I am intelligent; I am hopelessly stupid.  I am encouraging; I am discouraged.  I am on top of the world; I am in the lowest pit.  I am an eagle soaring high above the clouds; I am Eeyore beneath the rain cloud.  I am free to dream the grandest of dreams; I am tied up in knots.  I am a woman of faith; I am a woman of fear.  I am filled with the love of Jesus; I am bound by the lies of the evil one.  I have it all together; I am completely overwhelmed. 

So much of it comes down to expectations.  Am I expecting too much?  Am I expecting too little?  Do I expect everything to fall apart?  Do I expect that I will be left “abandoned and alone”?  Or do I expect that God will come through?  Do I expect that He will take care of me?  Do I expect that He will never leave me, never forsake me, and that He has amazing people waiting to help me at just the right moment?  If I give in to despair, if I give up, will I miss out on seeing God come through for me?  Yep, I will.  I’ll miss out.  And something will be missing in the world that could have been there if I hadn’t given up.

Toward the end of Captivating, in a chapter called “An Irreplaceable Role”, John and Stasi remind us that we were each made with a unique purpose in mind.  No one else can live the life that we alone were created to live.  You are the only person on earth who can fulfill your purpose.  I love this beautiful reminder of who we truly are:

“You are a woman.  An image bearer of God.  The Crown of Creation.  You were chosen before time and space, and you are wholly and dearly loved.  You are sought after, pursued, romanced, the passionate desire of your Fiancé, Jesus.  You are dangerous in your beauty and your life-giving power.  And you are needed.”

Oh, there’s so much more.  Read the book (check your library).  We are needed.  We all have something to contribute.  Expectations can kill us, but hope frees us.  Hope of today, hope of tomorrow and hope of eternity.  Hope lives with Jesus.  And when we live with Jesus, we get to experience that hope.  And if we don’t feel it, we need to ask him to help us feel it.  But don’t wait on feelings.  They’re so fleeting.  One minute everything is amazing and the next minute everything has gone wrong.  But God is still working.  And He still loves us immeasurably.  And He’s fighting for us, as a groom fights for his bride.  I wrote about that in December when I started reading Captivating.  Check out The Beautiful Adventure if you’d like to read more.

I heard MercyMe’s “Won’t You Be My Love?” this morning and it stirred something in me that made me want to write for the first time in a month.  I hope it stirs something in you too.  And if you love it, the whole album is only $9.99 on iTunes.

“My friends are broke and lost
Looking for someone to lead them to my cross
I need your help, I need your help

Won’t you be My voice calling
Won’t you be My hands healing
Won’t you be My feet walking into a broken world
Won’t you be My chain-breaker
Won’t you be My peacemaker
Won’t you be My hope and joy
Won’t you be My Love”

We may be broke and lost, but even in our brokenness, we have something to give.  We are needed.  Our prayers are needed.  They are powerful and effective.  Our lives are powerful and effective.  God is powerful and effective and He wants His power to flow through us out into this broken world.  Our expectations may be unrealistic.  Let’s place all of those expectations on Him.  He can handle it.  His shoulders are big enough.  And, in that freedom, let’s go out and live the lives that we were created to live.

Bless You (“Christian Redefined” part 2)

“They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began”

What is Hawk Nelson talking about?  Sounds like a riddle between Gollum and Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit“.  The first several times I heard this song, I didn’t listen close enough to hear the words.  Then I found out that’s exactly what it’s about:  “Words“:

“Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out”

Yep, our words are packed with power.  Deuteronomy 30:19 says that we have a choice to make: we can bless or we can curse.   I think that, next to saying “Thank you” (click on the red words to read that post), the next best habit we can develop is that of blessing.   This post is about saying bless you:

Proverbs 18:21 says that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (check out Speak Life for more on that).  Joyce Meyer spoke about this in her broadcast on 2-4-15 called “The Power of Words“.  She said, “Your words can carry your faith to the Kingdom of God and release angels to help you, or your words can carry your fears to the Kingdom of Darkness and release more trouble in your life.”

I remember taking Jordan Rose to a service project in a questionable neighborhood a few years back.  I parked my car and we walked to the house where we were working that morning.  My mind kept going back to my car, worrying that someone might break in.  I believe that God spoke to me through His Holy Spirit and said, “Do you want your worries to strengthen the power of darkness or do you want your prayers to strengthen the power of God?”  A switch went off in my brain and I started praying that God would bless the whole area.  Everyone was safe that day and our cars were untouched.  Was that a coincidence?  Or did prayer make a difference?  I may never know, but I know I wouldn’t give up the peace I felt in offering prayers and blessings instead of being wrapped up in a bundle of nerves.

You might call me a “blessing fanatic”, as I’ve spent many years training myself to bless everything I can think of.  I bless the house when I leave; I bless the dog and the basement; I bless the people walking down the street as I see them; I bless the car that’s tailgating me and the one that cut me off (hey, that could have been me and I pray that the person I cut off would bless me too); I bless the people I’ve met and the people I’ve yet to meet; I bless the people who can see the gorgeous sunrise and the people who can’t see the gorgeous sunrise because they’re stuck in a building at work (boy, I guess that covers just about everyone!).  If you’re reading this, I’ve probably blessed you too.  I believe that living a life of blessing is not only good for those being blessed, but it’s also good medicine for my brain.  The more I can focus on blessing you, the more I get my mind off of myself.

Joshua just said the other day, “Dad yells at the traffic. Mom just blesses everyone.”  I loved that.  It was beautiful confirmation that it’s not all talk, but that I’m actually practicing what I’m preaching.  And God bless my husband.  May he learn to bless the traffic as well.  🙂

Garbage Truck Confession (part 3)

A few weeks ago, Pastor Chris Zarbaugh gave what was, in my opinion, the best message on confession that I had ever heard.  Here’s the link to that message: Get Rid of Your Baggage.  Chris taught on 1 John 1:9, which says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (ESV)

After hearing that message, I was inspired to write about forgiveness, reconciliation and repentance.  I wrote about them from a person to person point of view and from what I believe is God’s point of view.  Last year, I wrote on repenting (turning to God) but I had yet to address the subject of confession.  What does confession have to do with all of this?

In that message a few weeks back, Chris said that to “confess” means “to agree with”.   When we go to God in confession, we are agreeing with God.  The verse above from the 1st Book of John (1 John 1:9) talks about the very first time that we went to God to ask His forgiveness.  That was the time that we decided to follow Jesus.  That only happened once.

Every other time that we confess to God, it has nothing to do with forgiveness, but we think it does.  We mistakenly think that there is a transaction occurring when we confess.  We think we’re bringing our “bucket of sin” to God, which He empties and hands back to us.  We live our lives and the bucket fills up again, so we go back to God in confession.  And the cycle continues, as if God is a Heavenly Garbage Man, taking our junk week after week after week, right on schedule.

But that’s not what’s happening at all.  Chris stressed the fact that no transaction is taking place in confession.  There is no bucket to empty.  God forgave us 2000 years ago when Jesus died and was resurrected.  That “bucket of sin” was emptied and thrown away long before we were born.  In confession, we are simply agreeing with God that we turned away from Him and thanking Him for having already forgiven us.  In thankfulness, we can turn back to God, knowing that we are in good standing with Him.

All Sons & Daughters say it so beautifully in their song, “Brokenness Aside“:

Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

Don’t like that word “sinner”?  I didn’t either, but here’s what I found out:  A Forgiven Atheist?