Delayed Gifts

Excitement was in the air.  A new Christmas “schedule” was in place this year for the Grubbies – as Kevin is a staff member at church and would be at Gateway all day on Christmas Eve.  The kiddos and I attended the later services and afterward we. were. hungry!  I had prepared a few Christmas Eve snacks and we picked up some boneless wings on the way home to round out our Christmas Dinner. Doesn’t everyone eat wings for Christmas dinner?? 🙂

After dinner we got into “gift mode.”  Starting with stockings we each opened our decorative “sock” filled with goodies, gift cards, and other fun stuff… Then, it was PRESENT time.  I mean, who doesn’t love presents???  Julia opened her gift and although she knew what it was, she was thrilled and started digging in to the box so she could start using it.  Joey, who didn’t know what he was getting, opened his gift and squealed with gratitude, thankful to receive what he asked for.  Then, it was Emma’s turn.  There was a wrapped box and it was rather light.  She hurriedly opened it only to find there was not a gift inside.  There was a paper with a picture, drawn by her no-so-artist-mama, of her gift.  It hadn’t arrived yet – so all she had to hold onto was this paper.

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Her delayed gift arrived yesterday and it was even more wonderful than the amateur artist drawing foreshadowed ;). Emma was gracious throughout the delay, waiting in “faith” of the gift that was promised.

And it made me think.  We have the hope of a delayed gift.  We have the written promise(s) in the Bible.  Of course we know it’s not just a paper (or booklet of papers), it is the Word of Life and we have the Holy Spirit with us as we journey through this lifetime – but it is just a foretaste of what is to come.

Psalm 16:11You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Titus 2:13We look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” 

Romans 8:23And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.  We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” 

This paper, this book, holds the HOPE of the PROMISE. The promise of an eternity in heaven, with Jesus, in paradise. Even though the Word of God is beautiful and full and WONDERFUL – it will seem an amateur drawing compared to the GIFT that awaits those of us who have trusted in Him.  Christmas excitement doesn’t hold a candle my anticipation and excitement of the hope of heaven. Glorious Day!

That Wasn’t In The Plan

That wasn’t in the plan. She had her eye on Joseph for a while, and well, he had his eye on her. Next thing they knew, things were coming together for the BIG DAY. The engagement was progressing right along and anticipation was building. Soon they would be husband and wife. I mean, it was almost as if they were married already, except for, well, you know. Engagement was a pretty big deal back then. Then the angel showed up. What the wha? That was freaky. And unexpected. And a little inconvenient. It could mess everything up. What would Joseph think?

That wasn’t in the plan. Things have finally settled down after the pregnancy scandal. Joseph was a rock for her – after the angel cleared things up for him. Ha! The “big day” took a back burner and baby-prep was in full swing. She was having a baby. Not just any baby, God’s Son. Jesus. Savior of the world. That was a lot to take in. But God’s Spirit gave her peace. And THEN they got the call. They had to go to Bethlehem! What the wha? Um, this wasn’t exactly very good timing!! Didn’t they know she was about to pop any day?!?

That wasn’t in the plan. Rolling with the punches, they finally made it to Bethlehem when she felt something. No. Certainly not what she thought it was. Yup, there was another one. Um, Joseph, “It’s time.” What the wha? The place was a madhouse, like New York City on New Year’s Eve! You couldn’t even book a room through Priceline if you wanted to. In desperation, Joseph relentlessly asked around for a place to stay. A place for his wife to rest… er, uh, give birth.

That wasn’t in the plan. Jesus was born. Such a sweet, perfect baby boy. They had lots of visitors. It all felt a little surreal. Time passed and word on the street, (or in dreams…) was it was time to hightail it outta there. Jesus was in danger. What the wha? Wasn’t He the King? Savior of the world? So off they went. To Egypt of all places. And finally back to Nazareth. What a ride!

Individually each circumstance seemed like it was throwing things off course, messing things up… that it wasn’t in the plan, or was it? Before He was ever born… This was all part of the plan.

*He was supposed to be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14

*He was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:1-2

*He was supposed to go to Egypt. Hosea 11:1

*He was supposed to be a Nazarene. Isaiah 11:1

Have you ever thought, “This wasn’t in the plan!”? Things were progressing along and then you got the call. Lost your job. A relationship went sour. Lost a child. An illness. An accident. Relocation. Major financial disruption. Fill in the blank. What the wha? It just doesn’t seem right. The Grubbies certainly thought that before… This wasn’t in the plan, or was it? Could what seems like bumps in the road, two steps back, hard blows actually be a part of a greater plan? Mary certainly didn’t anticipate the twists and turns her life took, but it was a part of the great plan. The redemptive plan. For His glory.  While it seems wrong at the time, so often you can look back and see, OH YEAH! God was up to something there!

When God says “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” (Rom. 8:28) we can trust that He has a plan. Just like Mary’s life was a part of the great redemptive plan since the beginning of the world. God has a plan and a purpose for where you are, your circumstances and life’s twists and turns. Trust. Have hope. Believe.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment — to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory. When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 HCSB)

The Hard Stuff

Sugar-coating is not my thing… especially when it comes to my kiddos and teaching them about some of the “hard” realities of life. For example, when they were toddlers and prone to wander off at the grocery store, I would tell them in a firm voice that if they wander, someone (who even looks nice) could “steal you away and you would never see Mama or Daddy again and they could hurt you and give you “boo boos”.   Or when they were given some freedom to ride their bikes throughout the neighborhood, if they didn’t look both ways when crossing the street a car could come and “squish. you. like. a. bug.”

Now they’re older (almost all teenagers) and the hard stuff has changed due to their ages and what’s happening around the world… This weekend, after several recent ISIS beheadings in the Middle East and the beheading that happened in Oklahoma on Thursday, our “hard stuff” conversation with our kiddos shifted to what would you do if you were threatened with death over your faith? If there was a gun to your head or a knife to your throat? What would you do? Would you deny Christ and live, or would you stand firm in Christ Jesus (and LIVE!)?

Interestingly this Sunday at church, the message was on RESOLVE and the message opened with a clip from the movie “God’s Not Dead” where the Muslim father finds out his daughter is a Christian, listens to Christian teaching etc. and proceeds to throw her out of his house.  This happens across the world every day. And in America, where the word “persecution” has meant getting mocked/made fun of/discriminated against, we may be about to find out what persecution really means.

Have you thought about what you would do? Have you thought about what your kids would do? Do they have a personal relationship with Christ that they would stand up and say, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I will NOT deny Him”? Do they know why they believe what they believe? What your family believes? Do you?

The scariness is not that we could be entering a season where we may begin to see real persecution. The scariness is that we’ve brought our kiddos to church on Sunday and feel that we’ve done our job to “get them to be Christians”. We say a quick prayer before dinner and consider that leading our families. We spend hours and hours and hundreds (thousands) of dollars to make sure our kids get the best lessons to improve their swing, strength training to be stronger than the next kid, have practice several times a week, join the best travel teams and inundate them with activities that they are busy every. single. minute. of their lives. We involve them in the arts, music, youth group, school activities etc. so they will be well rounded. And with all of that ~ how can we possibly prepare our children for the question, “What would you do if…”? There are only 24 hours in a day… How can we expect them to have any resolve if time has not been taken to teach them the bible, disciple them in the word and show them how to go to the Father in prayer?

Listen, we are just as guilty as the next family in all of this. Because our lives are in transition, we are not over-committed right now with all sorts of kids’ activities and it has given me a glimpse that we may have had it all wrong. Well, maybe not all, but what if we had been more diligent to protect family bible time as we did the sports schedule on the fridge?   What if we would spend hours teaching the Bible to our children, or better yet, teaching our children to read and hear from God’s word for themselves? What if we discipled our kids to know why they believe what they believe (if they believe)?   What if we were as disciplined about discipleship as we were about producing the world’s next Michael Jordan, Jenny Finch, MichaelAngelo or Liberace?

We must prepare this next generation with the word of God and the shield of faith. Parents, we must disciple our children and it must take precedence over all the other stuff. CHURCH, we must be intentional about discipling new or young or never-been-taught believers to prepare them for battle on a one-on-one or very small group oriented basis. We must TEACH, not only the word of GOD, but HOW to study the WORD OF GOD on your own, not just in a “Bible Study.”

This post is breaking all the rules (word count, not touchy feely), but this is a message burning in my spirit. We have only scratched the surface of what persecution could look like in the United States of America, but the Bible is clear that it’s-a-coming.  If you’re a believer, and you can’t answer why you believe what you believe or why someone should be a Christian and not another religion – then you need to be discipled. Seek someone out, an older (in the faith) believer. Shoot, if you’re local, message me. I’d love to meet with you regularly. Double shoot, if you’re not local, we can meet with technology. Find a church leader to point you in the right direction. Ask your neighbor who’s always sharing wisdom from God’s word if they would meet with you.   And believer, if you know why you believe what you believe and could disciple someone ~ pray for God to show you who and then do it. We are called/commanded to. Let’s link arm and arm in this battle strengthened in FAITH, prepared through the WORD and filled with RESOLVE from the Holy Spirit.

That is all. Amen.

Broken Surrender

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.” Gal. 2:19-20

Have you ever faced any resistance when taking a step to do something in obedience to the Lord? Maybe when you committed to be baptized, to join a Bible study group to grow in your relationship with Christ, or even to begin tithing? Ever experience any opposition when you are preparing to take a mission trip/planning an outreach event/or committing to disciple someone?

Any time we step out in faith to do what God has called us to, there is sacrifice. There is inconvenience. There is opposition. There is heartache, pain, blood/sweat/tears. Anytime you invest in the kingdom, there is a juxtaposition (one comes with the other) of Gal. 2:19-20 in our lives. Anything we surrender comes at a cost ~ just like Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption came at a cost. He was crucified so we could live, so we could have a bridge to the Father, so we could be saved. So we would have hope.

And it is worth it.

Something beautiful is born because of something being broken.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book, “Interrupted,” she put it this way: “Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say, “That fed me, that nourished me,” someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment.”

Funny, the same day our fam read/studied Galatians 2, I read this section from Jen’s book… and this quote from my YouVersion devotional plan, “My Utmost For His Highest” based on Gal. 2:19-20: “If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

Surrender. Be broken. See Christ alive and working (in you, in others, for His kingdom, for His glory).

I can honestly tell you that over the 13 years of full-time ministry, I have repeatedly cried out to the Lord and asked if it was worth it.   And every time, in His precious mercy, He faithfully showed me how He was working ~ through the brokenness, through the heartache, through the difficulties, through the inconveniences, through the impossibilities.  That somehow through surrender and brokenness, Christ’s mission is accomplished. Someone comes to know Him. Someone is encouraged and strengthened by His word. Someone moves from darkness into the light. Someone is physically helped or blessed. Someone surrenders his or her life to Him.  Someone has hope. 

And that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what keeps us going.   And that’s what makes it worth it.

Crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in/through me. Christ’s sacrifice/brokenness for my redemption. My surrender for Christ’s purpose/mission.   God will equip. He gives the strength. He will bless.

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.” Gal. 2:19-20

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

Knees and Toes.  And ankles and wrists and fingers and back!  Wait… That’s not how the song goes?  Well, that’s how my song goes this week as the Caribbean’s latest victim of the notorious Chikungunya.

Oh. My. Land.  Thursday night as I went to bed, I mentioned to Kevin that my middle finger hurt (no middle finger jokes… 🙂 ).  Then, I woke up about 2am and my ankles and knees were a little achy.  I was trying to talk myself out of the fact that I may have the Chik, thinking I worked with a group this week, was on the go a lot, my old body is probably just tired from the long week.  But no, as the night went on it started to become clear that I did, in fact, have the beginnings of Chikungunya.  Blerg.

So, Friday I began the ritual of alternating Tylonel and Ibuprofen throughout the day.  I was achy and had a mild fever, but it was manageable.  I thought, “Hmmmm, I don’t seem to have it as bad as some of the others that have had it.”  Then Saturday came.  Saturday I couldn’t get my fever below 101, even with the alternating pain-killers/fever-reducers.  And the pain… YIKES.  My knees felt like they were going to buckle and my ankles ~ oooo-eeeee.  You never realize how much you use different body parts until they are unusable.  Like the middle finger.  Try opening a water bottle without touching the middle finger or any of its tendons etc.  Who knew I took “tall man” (middle finger) for granted?

anklepain2And it got me thinking.  The Bible actually talks about this.  Like we may think the middle finger is just another one of the fingers, or the ankles, they’re a nice bodily feature to connect the feet to the legs.  Check out this passage from 1 Cor. 12:12-31.  “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”  One body part can’t say to the other, “I don’t need you”.  God places us in “bodies”, whether in our churches, communities, ministries and maybe even businesses. And each person in the “body” plays a role.  And that role is a vital part of the operation of the whole body.  Whether you take out the garbage or make a multi-million business deal ~ your role is important.  In ministry, maybe you’re not the “one out front” but the stuff you do in the background helps the body function as a whole.  The body is not one person, but a group of people that God brings together, with different gifts and abilities, different interests and desires, different ways to add value and productivity to the body.  If the middle finger is out of commission it affects the hand and the arm and the whole body.  If the ankle is stricken with pain, the body walks with a limp, is slower, less effective.

Two things we can pull from this:

1) Do not think what you do or can contribute doesn’t matter to the body.  “God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” “…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”  You matter.  God has gifted you in a very specific way for you to serve at your church/ministry, in your community and maybe even at your job. You are valued and needed.

2) Do not think that you don’t need the rest of the body. “And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?” If we were a bunch of elbows walking around, all that would get accomplished is a bunch of rib nudging. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”  Work together, with all the parts of the body, to function (in the case of ministry) for God’s glory.

Jesus is Not an App

There’s an app for that. I just love how in the span of 90 seconds you can read the headlines for top news stories, check the weather in 2-3 locations for 5-10 days, glance at your to-do list or even your calendar and browse over a couple of emails. Ahhhhh, technology is our friend.   Well, it’s my friend anyways. 😉

On my iDevice there are also apps for music, videos, games, social media, pictures, travel, recipes, sports, reading and yes, for the Bible (or other devotionals). You open the app, do your thang, and when you’re done (if you’re anal about closing apps like Emma and I are) you double click and swipe and it’s on to the next thing.

Speaking of devotionals, our family loves Jesus Calling. It was a book before it was an app, but we loved it so much we bought the app and have it on our iDevices.   So to start our day we may open the app, read the day’s devotional, then double-click/swipe to close it and on about our day. Or perhaps it’s a YouVersion devotional. Open up the Bible app. Read the day’s selection. Maybe even tweet a verse. Double click, swipe. Next.

And that’s ok for a quick pick-me-up, a little snack of God’s word throughout the day. But ladies and gentlemen, Jesus is not an app. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a device or an actual (paper) Bible, God’s word is not meant to be rushed. It’s not just something to check off our to-do list for the day or just to be used to fill in the blanks of a Bible study book. It’s to spend time with Him. Be still before Him. To get to know Him. Focus. It’s a time to let His words comfort; let the truth of His Word convict us, challenge us, change us. Because it won’t if it’s just an app.

I was so blessed and challenged by Micha Boyett’s blog post on Margaret Feinberg’s blog Tuesday on prayer. In an attempt to reconnect with God, she retreated to a monastery because “the Benedictines believe God has actually given us enough time in each day for work and study and rest and prayer”. God has given us enough time.

I don’t know about you, but my to-do list bangs loudly on the doors of my head. It’s almost impossible to turn it off.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 The HCSB says, “Stop your fighting… and know that I am God.” Remember what Jesus said about Mary and Martha? He said Mary got it right.  Chill out. Take a seat.  Let’s hang.

We’re all in a hurry. We’re all busy. Technology is awesome in a lot of ways, but it has trained us that we can get things now, get things quickly and move on without batting an eye. Next. It has increased distractions and lessened our ability to focus (at least for me).

So whether you spend time with Jesus via a screen or a page, slow down. Breathe. Pray. Listen. Hear. Because Jesus is not an app.

I close with May 30th’s Jesus Calling. Find a cubby of space and time, spend it with Jesus. And let that time transform the rest of your day(s).IMG_9825

When You Can’t Hear His Voice

If you’re a believer, you’ve probably had times where you hear a slight whisper in your spirit and you know that was God. Or every message you hear, every song on the radio, every circumstance in your life and/or every time you open your Bible God is SHOUTING something to you or pointing you to something. Or maybe you’re worshiping Him (privately or in Church) and you just feel His comfort. His presence. His peace.

But what happens when you don’t? When His presence seems a million miles away. When you’re desperate for answers but you don’t hear His voice. His whisper.

First of all, know that you. are. not. alone. Yes, God is always with you, but that is not what I’m talking about. You are not alone in feeling this way.

I have felt this way. Other Christians I know have felt this way at one time or another. David felt this way (recorded many times throughout scripture). Yes, King David. Check out his plea in Psalm 13:

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?

How long will you look the other way?

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,

With sorrow in my heart every day?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!

Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.

Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”

Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.

I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

~ David

There are many reasons we may not be hearing from God.  It could be because of sin in our lives, a busy schedule and no time to be still, chaotic circumstances or times of crisis. But sometimes, there’s no particular reason. So what do you do when you can’t hear Him?

Trust His Word: Even if we don’t hear God’s whispers or clear SHOUTS in our lives, we can trust His Word. It is His unfailing, continual and everlasting message. It is the MAIN way that He speaks regardless if we can feel Him or not.  His word is TRUTH. He is faithful and trustworthy so His word is faithful and trustworthy. Make a list of some promises of God you know off the top of your head. Memorize (keep 3×5 cards of) scripture with the TRUTH of God’s Word for this season of your life. This IS Him speaking to you. The word of the Lord holds true. Psalm 33:4

Pray His Word: The same truths from scripture that you are trusting, pray them. Put them in 1st person and cry out to God with His word. Write them. Speak them. Pray them.

Praise Him Anyway: The last line in Psalm 13 is David declaring He will continue to sing to the Lord because He is good. Praise Him. Praising God takes the focus off of us (our problems, our lack of hearing from him, our whatever) and puts it on Him ~ His love, His faithfulness, His righteousness, His greatness.

When you can’t hear His voice, Trust His word, Pray His word and Praise Him anyway.