Archive | March 2013

Chasing After Your God-Sized Dreams (Pt. 2: Defying the Odds)

With God, we can defy the odds. What appears impossible to us as three-dimensional beings is very possible for God who has no dimensional limitations whatsoever. In fact, our impossibilities are the soil in which God performs miracles. To experience God in this way, however, we must get the right perspective about God, who He is, how big He is, that nothing is too difficult for Him, that He is sovereign, that He wants the best for us, and that He is always at work in the unseen realm setting us up for success. In other words, it is our view of God that determines what we have faith for, what we speak, what we ask God for, what we do and what we become.

On the other hand, our irrational fears and misconceptions can prevent us from being who God has designed us to be, living the life He has called us to live, and experiencing all the good He has for us. After weighing the consequences, our fears can prevent us from doing what is right. We should pray for courage to do what is right even in the midst of our fears. We can pray that we recognize and seize the opportunities God has laid before us that can catapult us into our destiny. To do this, however, we need to unlearn our paralyzing fears and misconceptions and replace them with God’s Word, aligning our thoughts with His. To do this, we need to spend time with God and grow in our love relationship with Him. As we are perfected in His love, our faith is energized, and enables us to face our fears and we begin to experience the liberty, fulfillment, and fruitfulness God has intended for us. We begin to walk on the offense instead of the defense and we begin to storm the gates of hell.

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Chasing After Your God-Sized Dreams (Pt.1)

I recently read a book called, “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. In the book, he encourages Christians to trust God and realize that the future God wants for them is hiding in their biggest problem, worst failures and greatest fears! He emphasizes, as does the Bible, that God is glorified as His people step into the seemingly impossible opportunities that stand between them and their dreams because these are the places where God’s involvement can be the only explanation for success.  Even if the outcome is not that which was hoped for according to our definition of success, we are still ahead because we will have the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God, thus, find ourselves changed. Besides, we can trust that God doesn’t waste anything. The efforts made will certainly be used for God’s purposes to bring forth the planned outcome of God.

For instance, a number of years ago, Jon (my husband) and I answered the call to plant a church in Lumberton, NC. With little financial support and no previous pastoral experience; with statistics saying small towns that are no longer growing are not the place to plant a new church especially by an outsider; with the knowledge that it was an area with more than significant spiritual warfare and that a previous attempt to plant there by our sending church had failed just two years prior; with some reluctance of this area being expressed by our sending pastor who at first suggested we consider a different town; and with a support team made up of individuals who barely knew us and therefore had little faith in our call but had more faith in their own call, we went in full obedience and faith that God would take care of us and accomplish His purpose. Although there were many struggles, there were many great things that happened through the plant to include salvations, water baptisms, new commitments to the Lord, divine relationships established through the fellowship, and the redirection of the life of a young man (I’ll call him “E”). This young man was talking about going off to New York and training to become a fireman. A worship pastor from our sending church told us about him and told us he felt he might have a call to lead worship, but that he could not see that “E” would ever have the chance to discover it at that church. Besides he was making other plans and the pastor was afraid the young man was about to miss his destiny. Jon and I were already acquainted with him so Jon (my husband) met with “E” and asked him to lead our worship team for six months while the man he promised that position to was called away to serve in Afghanistan.  He ended up leading for a year or so and even for awhile after the original leader returned, and in that time came to realize his calling as did we. I remember clearly the day Jon told him he felt he had a pastoral gifting and he encouraged him to take classes at the Bible college. This experience with us turned this young man’s life in a different direction than he was headed. This became his initial training and preparation for becoming ordained as an associate pastor just this week at an existing church in a growing area. Besides that, this young man met his wife while in fellowship with us in Lumberton. All of this was God’s plan and this is just one example of what came out of our obedience to “go” even in the midst of defying odds.

As for the church plant, it fell apart in its sixth year and we have moved on. But you see, nothing was wasted! God was glorified in our obedience in many ways as He worked out His plan for so many people through our obedience; and Jon and I are that much closer to our own destiny of becoming like Christ as well. Our relationship grew with Christ through the experience of obedience and in the experience of letting go of God’s people for Him to do as He pleased. We are not even close to being the same today as we were when we set out on that journey. You can only WIN in being obedient to God. As Batterson says, “I wish I could tell you that every lion chase ends with a lion skin hanging on the wall, but it doesn’t…the dot.com dreamer is successful beyond his wildest dreams, but the guy with political aspirations lost the election. However, both of them are LION CHASERS in my book. What sets lion chasers apart ISN’T THE OUTCOME. It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams. Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do.

So, we are called to run after these opportunities as God puts the desire on our hearts. Or, as Batterson puts it, “chase lions” and lay hold of God’s best by not allowing our past experiences, present circumstances, fears, doubts, bad decisions, or habits keep us from stepping into what God has called us to do. Instead, chase these opportunities and with God’s help defy the odds, face our fears and re-frame our problems, embrace uncertainty, take risks, and seize opportunities – all at the risk of looking FOOLISH. As our trust grows in God’s sovereign timing and positioning us for His purpose in our life’s circumstances, and as we learn to recognize and lay hold of our God-ordained opportunities, we are transformed from glory to glory. And, that is God’s best no matter what the exterior circumstances look like. Next time around, the outcome may be just what one expects! So continue on chasing lions knowing God is with you. It’s all good! It’s all in God’s hands to be used for HIS eternal purposes!

Satisfaction – Dissatisfaction: The Choice is Yours

As we pursue God as first priority in our lives, His love satisfies our restless souls. On the other hand, ignoring God results in a loss of awareness of His amazing, unconditional love leaving us empty and dissatisfied. Therefore, you can choose to be satisfied or dissatisfied by choosing to pursue God or to ignore Him. What will it be?

Resisting Worry

“Worry is a form of atheism, for it betrays a lack of faith and trust in God” (attributed to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen). In this fallen world we live in, we are often faced with challenges that, if we are not careful, can overtake us with anxiety and distract us away from the very Source that can supply our need. We or our loved ones may be facing illness, living in a strained marriage, struggling through a stressed work environment, experiencing a loss of income and the list goes on and on. Worrying about things we have no control over is a waste of our time and energy and can result in “killer” stress in our lives.Keys to Freedom & Transformation

The Apostle Paul instructs us as we face our life challenges: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil 4:6). The truth is, we are not created in such a way to successfully carry the kind of burdens we are faced with that come our way as a result of the fallen world and fallen nature of humans. Therefore, Paul is telling us to take our concerns and anxieties to Christ and let Him handle them for us. Christ Himself implores us to do the same: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The Apostle Paul who suffered persecution in all forms and levels, from false allegations to beatings, walked out his journey without stressing these matters. His attitude was: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21). What was it about Paul that he could maintain contentment and hold this noble attitude in the midst of all his afflictions? To answer this question, consider the following habits we clearly see in Paul’s life as we read his New Testament letters. These habits give us insight into his worry-less lifestyle:

  1. Paul was totally surrendered to God’s purpose for his life. He knew His purpose was greater than his human mind was able to comprehend. Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. When we accept this truth as did Paul, we can quit trying to figure out what God’s reasoning is, and instead rest in God and His plan for our lives.
  2. Paul trust God’s love and lordship over His life. He knew that no man or circumstance could take his reputation or his life unless God allowed it. It was his steadfast belief that God was sovereignly involved in the affairs of his life that gave purpose to every situation Paul faced. His attitude was like that of Jesus as seen in John 19:10-11 when Christ stood in front of Pilate. Pilate said: Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? Christ responded: You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above…

  3. Paul focused on the reality of eternity and his rewards in Christ. We are able to remain content and at peace in every situation as we view it from the perspective of eternity. Matthew 6:25-40 informs us that as the righteousness of God in Christ, we are the partakers of divine riches. We must do as did Paul and remind ourselves of this. One of those riches is strength for every situation (Phil 4:13). Knowing you have God’s power on your side and that He will meet all your needs, gives you reason to rest. Psalm 1:3 describes the righteous who trust in God as being…like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
  4. Paul prayed and maintained a grateful heart. When we pray, we are releasing our fears and worries to God. As we do this, His peace floods our souls, as He guides us as to what we should do, if anything. There is no situation we cannot take to the throne room of grace, whether it is a situation existing because of our own sin, failure, or poor choice; or, a situation that exists due to something or someone outside of ourselves. We are told to bring it all to God with prayer, supplication (intense fervor) and thanksgiving. We can have such confidence that we thank God in advance for taking care of it. As we do this, we exchange our burdens for God’s supernatural yoke of peace and we discover His yoke is light, indeed.
  5. Paul looked at his present circumstances in light of the promises of God for his future. Search the Scriptures and know God’s promises. Put them on your lips and in your heart by meditating on them. When you are tempted to think contrary to what God has said, take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5) and take authority in the name of Jesus over your thought life insisting on thinking thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). When you are going through a difficult season, you may want to carry some Scripture cards with you and place them in handy places to remind you of God’s faithfulness to bring you through.

    To close, I do want to point out that there are times we can reduce the opportunity for anxiety in our lives by making changes that may be needed. If fretting over the bills, ask God to help you implement a change in your budget and lifestyle. If concerned about your health, take steps to improve it through diet and exercise and your doctor’s suggestions. Taking steps to improve the particular area of life that is giving you concern can help bridge the gap between worry and faith. Still, even in this, your first step is to go to God and allow Him to give you His guidance on the situation. Then, follow His guidance and refuse to be anxious, but instead continue to give all things in and outside of your control to God as you pray with supplication and thanksgiving. He will keep you at peace as you put your trust in Him.

How & Why the Joy of the Lord Strengthens Us

Is living the Christian life a joy-stealer for you? If so, something is wrong! As Christians we should experience enjoyment in our relationship with God as we walk through both the valleys and mountain top experiences of life. We can also have joy whether we are suffering as a  result from our own failures and sins or as a result of sins done against us.

Joy means delight. In Nehemiah 8:20 we read that the joy of the Lord is our strength. The narrative surrounding this verse tells us that the people were convicted of their sin while hearing the law read. They began to mourn and weep. Nehemiah tells them to stop weeping and to celebrate what the Lord has done for them, for within the law was the provision for their sin. He encouraged them to celebrate the provision God made for their sins, through sacrifices, and to be joyful about their redemption.

How many times do Christians today focus on their sin and their sorrow for it and its consequences instead of Christ and His provision? I am not suggesting that we don’t call our sin, sin. But once we have done that, we must turn our focus immediately to the provision God has made for it. Continued focus on one’s sin and keeping one’s mind in a state of sorrow for it only leads to feelings of guilt, depression, and hopelessness. And, it prevents that person from changing.

Just as Nehemiah told the Israelites to change their focus from the words of God concerning their sin to God’s provision for their sin, even more we as Christians are to do the same. It is by focusing on the Lord’s Glory that we are changed, not by thinking about our sin (2 Corinthians 3:18). Focusing on sin and sorrow, only keeps one in it. Scripture tells us to refocus and celebrate what Jesus has done for us! So, be joyful about your redemption! Not only has Jesus paid the legal debt required by God in order for you to receive forgiveness, but He made provision for your sin on a continual basis (1 John 1:9). As we stay our focus on Christ, He works in us breaking us free from the strangleholds that bind us. As we celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins, rejoicing and delighting in it, we are strengthened to live in the holy liberty Christ makes available to us. We have peace because we are forgiven and have a sure redemption in Christ and we are able to stop striving to be good, instead rest in Christ and allow Him to change us.worship_cross-e1279852598141

In addition to the joy we possess due to our clear conscience and celebration of Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are able to maintain joy in the midst of suffering. You see, the joy of the Lord that was set before Christ and gave Him strength to endure the suffering of the cross, was you and me, and our joy. Now we receive strength for our trials as we find our joy in Christ who is set before us and who Himself is our reward for any suffering we may endure, suffering that many times comes to us on our journey as Christians simply because we belong to Christ. Philippians 3:10-11 tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings knowing that we are sharing in His sufferings, and as we share in His sufferings on earth, we will also share in His glory in eternity. We must remind ourselves that this life is temporary – like smoke, it vanishes away. But those who belong to Christ live with the eternal hope they have in Him – the promise of a glorious future without pain or suffering or end.  Luke 10:20: …rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

We have reason to celebrate God no matter what we experience in this life. And, as we rejoice in Him, recognizing Him as our forgiveness for sins – our salvation and our hope for all eternity, we are strengthened to overcome sin, and we are strengthened to persevere through suffering! It is our rejoicing, our delight, our joy and focus being on Christ as our provision for sin and hope for the future that strengthens us to walk through this life. So get your mind off of your sin and your circumstances and onto Christ and His provision and eternal hope. This focus is what brings to pass the reality of Nehemiah 8:20, the joy of the Lord is our strength.