Step of Faith
Today I’m writing from snowy Texas, where a historic storm has left many people housebound. Thankfully, I have electricity and am surrounded by good friends, but it’s just another reminder of the unexpected challenges that have met so many people in the last year or so.
With the closing or minimizing of church attendance and various restrictions, it’s easy to wonder what’s ahead for the Body of Christ in the western world. Many people have talked about a “shift” taking place in the church and ponder what could unfold in the future. Unfortunately, transitions are not always the easiest things in life! We’d love for new things to happen seamlessly, but often transitions push us to grow in new ways, until we find ourselves stronger on the other side. The church is not exempt from this process!
Even in the early church, the disciples had a hard time keeping up with God’s program and the “shift” that was happening. They thought they knew how things would turn out, but Jesus had another idea… a much better one. After Christ’s resurrection, the disciples asked him:
“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
The disciples were still hoping for a political move to fix their problems, yet Jesus said that wasn’t his plan for this season. However, he kept speaking to reveal what he DID plan on doing.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
I love that simple word “But...”
It seems to me that Jesus is saying, Sorry guys, your idea isn’t going to work just now. BUT, I’ll tell you what will happen! His plan included the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the birth of the church, which was far bigger than any earthly kingdom could ever be. While Christ didn’t answer their prayers in their way, he was working on something much better.
In the midst of all the struggles in our world today, I find myself asking the same question as the disciples: Lord, are you going to fix this? Isn’t it about time? Sometimes I’m stilled by his sovereign hand when things don’t go the way I always want them to. Yet, there’s always something better going on.
God is always moving. Planning. Dreaming with purpose. He’s never late. When he redirects… shifts our thinking… or even says “your prayer won’t be granted that way,” we can do what the disciples did: we keep listening for the BUT. It’s the BUT that changes history. Shifts nations. Releases his plans and purposes that bring forth good fruit. Even in the redirected moments, we can find him, as long as we keep listening.
I encourage you to keep listening to Christ. In this season of frustration for so many, remember that God is still on the move. Look to him and keep praying, knowing that he has never stopped moving. He’s not about to stop now.
This week I'll share a photo with you called "Mantle." The warrior has come through a battle... there's dirt on the face and armor. Yet, on the other side of the battle, the gift is given: an irreplaceable mantle from the Father. Let's keep trusting the Lord and pressing through this season! There's goodness and glory on the other side.
Last I had a dream. I saw a woman who came to stay at my house; she had sparkling brown eyes and a foreign accent, like she was from a far away country. She loved worship and was a lot of fun.
Her name was “Holy.”
As I took her to the bedroom reserved for guests, I was slightly annoyed to discover that there were clothes and suitcases left behind by the last guest.
“I’ll make sure that’s cleaned up,” I told her. She must have been pleased, because she decided to stay a while. I think she was excited... I caught her sliding down an outdoor slide and having fun like a little girl!
When I woke up, I realized that God was sending me a personal call to holiness -- not that I was doing anything wrong, but because he wanted to prepare my home for a deeper kind of worship that comes when Holiness is invited into my house. This wasn't the kind of holiness that was legalistic or brought bondage, but rather, it paved the way for a new season by getting rid of the old things. It brought freedom and fun!
During this time of unrest, its easy to point fingers at the world and how things are being handled. However, God often deals with the world and His people in two different manners. For instance, in the book of Exodus, Egypt was being plagued while the children of Israel were being prepared for freedom. God's call to Egypt was "Let my people go," while his call to Israel was "Get ready to move forward." This is a great time to prepare ourselves to move forward with God, and one way we can do this is by preparing our homes for a greater measure of His Holy Spirit.
To do this, we can ask ourselves, “If ‘Holy’ were a guest, would she be comfortable in my home? Or am I entertaining things that really have no business being in the space of God’s Child?” When clear our lives of old clutter, we make room for the freedom and beauty God has prepared for our next season.
The Psalmist speaks of putting his house in order while waiting on God to reveal his plan.
I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:2 NKJV
The New Living Translation phrases it this way:
I will be careful to live a blameless life--
when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
in my own home.
While we are waiting for God to move in our nation, this is a great time to set our homes in order. Here’s a few questions we can ask ourselves:
-If I walk through my house, are there old items that simply need to go? Magazines or books that don’t please the Lord, or even photographs and items that really don’t reflect who I am as God’s child?
-When was the last time I prayed through my home, anointing it with oil and consecrating it for the Lord’s service?
-Are there any places of darkness in my home, that just don’t “feel” right? Maybe this is a good time to play worship music and saturate the atmosphere with God’s Presence.
-What attitudes are in my home that need to be altered, in order to host God’s peace and rest?
There’s nothing like the peace and freedom that comes from a home consecrated to God. He may even send some surprise house guests our way!
Laying on of Hands
Laying on of Hands Have you ever wanted to go deeper on a journey of healing and closeness with Christ? Recently I wrote a simple prayer that helps us do this!
The practice of laying on of hands for healing and impartation is a basic Christian teaching. But sometimes we need prayer, and the church isn't available... maybe we're social distancing during a pandemic, or another believer isn't close by. Maybe it's a good time to lay hands on ourselves and begin to call upon the Lord, asking for his hand to be placed on our lives. Just as King David called on his soul to bless the Lord, we can ask the Father to heal and strengthen our bodies and souls.
Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Recently I felt led to pray in a creative way, literally laying hands on myself and praying Biblical attributes. God is so creative, and he's offered so many metaphors of relationship. For instance, some of us resonate with God as Father, while others may connect more with him as the Creator. He calls us children, clay, sheep, servants, bride, branch, and priests, and more.
While praying this week, I started laying hands on my heart and speaking out loud. Just as David in the psalms spoke to his soul, commanding it to bless the Lord, I started thinking of Biblical themes to speak over myself. Grabbing a piece of copy paper and a pen, I wrote this prayer:
Temple- be filled with the Holy Spirit
Child- receive the Father's love
Sheep- hear the Shepherd's voice
Branch- be connected to the vine
Disciple- be taught of Christ
Beloved- receive the King's love
Servant- be yoked with the Master
Clay- yield to the Potter's touch
Creation- be fully redeemed by Christ and connected to the Creator
Mind- be renewed
Warrior- be clothed with the armor of God
Priest- offer spiritual sacrifices of praise
King/Queen: release the Kingdom, on earth as in heaven
At each phrase, I paused to identify with the Lord in this way. What does it look like to invite him into my life in this manner? How do I receive his love? How do I partner with him and give back? It became a deep exercise in prayer, identifying with the Lord in ways that he himself has introduced in his Word. As I did, I sensed the hand of the Lord strengthening and filling me.
If you feel a little disconnected from the Body of Christ, remember that God is still with you. Maybe you need to lay hands on yourself today! Feel free to use this prayer, or create your own this week, as you call your heart to healing and worship.
Trust: a deeper look
You know the world is a bit chaotic when you walk into the health food store and the lady behind the counter says,
“Everyone should be taking vitamin B right now. It’s good for stress.”
I smiled, thinking she was being ironic. But she wasn’t. I guess it's pretty obvious that stress is in the air!
With uncertainties abounding in our nation and communities, it’s easy to feel a bit apprehensive and stressed about the future. But while taking vitamins is a good thing, building our trust in God is even better. Here’s a verse that helps us to do it well -- let's unpack it together:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5, 6
After pondering these words for a while, I realized that my idea of this verse was somewhere along the lines of:
Trust that God has everything taken care of,
don’t think about it too much,
be a good person,
and He’ll make everything happen like he wants to.
That all changed when I started looking at the deeper meaning of some of the Hebrew words, and I discovered a far more pro-active way of taking this verse to heart. Take a look:
Trust: to run quickly for refuge.
Heart: the center of everything.
Lean: to support oneself.
Understanding: wisdom, knowledge.
Ways: a road, course of life.
Acknowledge: to know deeply, by seeing.
Direct: to be straight or even, make prosperous.
The idea behind trust is not to avoid an issue or hope that it works out for the best, but to run to Jesus with your heart, leaning on Him. This proactive move counters our own understanding or intellect about a situation, instead, using it as a means to get to know God more. From that place, he’s able to go before us and create a path for us to follow.
According to “Rebecca’s loose paraphrase,” this passage could read:
Run quickly to God
He is your refuge in difficulty
Bring him your heart, the center of your being
Refuse to lean on or support yourself
Based on your own intellect or wisdom
On every road you walk in life,
Choose to know Him deeply, intimately
He will go ahead of you
Clearing the path for you to walk on
Sometimes when we want clarity, God wants intimacy. We want answers, but God wants us. Our journey, the challenges and blessings, is all one great call to knowing Christ deeply and doing life with him. Choosing to run to him with our hearts. Listening to his voice. Believing that he is going ahead of us to work things for our good, even when the world is a bit chaotic.
May you sense his call in each season, no matter how messy or unpredictable. Your heart is valuable… bring it to Christ, and let him prepare the path ahead as you seek to know him more.
Jesus, I run to you
You are my refuge in difficulty
I bring you my heart, the center of my being
and all its concerns
I refuse to lean on, or support myself
Based on my own intellect or wisdom
On every road I walk in life,
I choose to know you deeply, intimately
Trusting You to go ahead of me
Clearing the path for me to walk on.
Transitioning with Grace
A year ago, we would have no way of knowing that our world would look the way it does! As we move with the changing times in global and personal ways, do you ever feel like you're going through season of transition? I sure do! It’s such an encouragement to know that God is ready to walk with us through every bend in the road, even when we aren’t sure what’s around the next corner.
For me, this year has offered a handful of massive, hair-pin curves in the road that I never saw coming. After my father passed away in January, I moved across the country, planted a ministry in Texas, restored a log home... new relationships begun and old ones resurrected. I’m sure you have a story for this season too… and the COVID-19 pandemic has added a whole new measure of challenge to the mix, right?!
Here's a few tips on how to walk through seasons of transition with confidence and faith. It’s not always easy to navigate the future, but God is with us in the PRESENT to supply everything we need to travel ahead with him.
-Be honest. It’s easy to smooth things over when we’re feeling a little ruffled. Sometimes we just need to be honest with ourselves and God that life is a little harder than normal. In those moments, it helps to find a safe friend to talk through the challenges of the season with. A listening ear and a heartfelt prayer can make all the difference.
-Be aware. Sometimes the enemy of our soul tries to take advantage of our vulnerability during transition. Realize that if you are feeling especially anxious, frustrated, or if your relationships are a bit crazy, there may be spiritual warfare involved. Pray Psalm 91 and Ephesians 6:10-19 out loud, even daily when needed.
-Be connected. When one area of “normal” is in transition, recognize the safe relationships in your life that are strong and are not changing. Spend extra time being thankful for those people in your life, and take a few moments to tell those people you appreciate them.
-Be fluid. Chances are, you’ll need to do a little growing in the season ahead. Recognizing the need for tools, ideas, and priorities will help leverage your ability to succeed. Stay teachable and coach-able, knowing that the Holy Spirit will offer new opportunities for you to grow in fresh ways.
-Be thankful. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama of the moment – remember to pause and thank God for all of his goodness in your life! Make a list of a few things you’re thankful for, helping you stay in a position of gratefulness during life’s unavoidable changes. It’s a good time to practice this verse:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble, whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--
meditate on these things.
No matter how the season changes, God is faithful! When we draw near to him, he is able to lead us through life, each step of the way.
Prayer: Father, thank you for being with me during this season. Help me to focus on you, trusting you to lead me each step of the way!
During this season of cultural pressure and concerns, many people find themselves in a “holding pattern” in life, as they wait for travel, work, and schools open after the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, social distancing has made the practice of healthy community very challenging. It's a difficult season, right?
Through it all, God still moves. He weaves his threads through the warp and woof of our lives, undaunted by the chaos of our broken world.
waiting for His whisper
to rise above
the clamor of every other voice.
We shut our ears
to the noise,
stilling our souls,
'til his words
drop like stones into a still pond:
filling our world
with ripples of his goodness.
As we listen, our ears become acutely attuned to the one-on-one counsel he gives. For many of you, he may not be giving a life outline for the next five years, but does bring counsel for the week... day... moment.
Sometimes discovering God's next step for our lives means listening for his heart moment by moment during the day. Its both uncomfortable... and very intimate.
He pulls us close to hear his voice. And each day, we follow -- aligning our heart with his, as he provides each step we need.
Just as Christ draws near to offer hope during difficult times, I encourage you to find ways to reach out to others. I've heard many sad stories from my single friends about how they haven't received a hug in months or how no one from their community is checking on them.
Obviously, each one of us should respect the medical authorities and personal convictions of ourselves and others. However, there are so many ways to show the care and love of Christ, especially in this difficult season. While the world is self-isolating, maybe it's time to practice "social nearness" in healthy ways.
Recently I chatted with an elderly couple who felt very isolated, yet they were experiencing incredible kindness from others even while social distancing. A man who is a public entertainer reached out -- they had been instrumental in leading him to the Lord several decades ago. When he learned that the husband had recently been diagnosed with dementia and the wife had become his full time care giver, he began driving an hour across town twice a month to bring fresh groceries to their front door. No health or safety boundaries have been violated, and this dear couple receives the comforting care they need during their especially trying time.
Maybe you have a neighbor who could use checking up on. Or perhaps there's a single person in your neighborhood who needs a helping hand or just a friendly word. Finding creative, healthy ways to love can be an incredible way to share the heart of Jesus during these times!
Prayer: Father, please help me to silence my soul and listen for Your still, small voice. Tune my heart to hear your guidance for each step of the journey. Give me creative ways to love others, even during this time of isolation and fear, knowing that your light shines brightly when the darkness is thick. Thank you for being close to me, even during these tumultuous times!
Last night I was leading worship when a thought struck me. Immediately my heart recognized that it was more than just a random brainwave… I sensed it was a directional word from the Lord for this season.
I was about to teach our weekly meeting on the topic of the Laver. This was a bronze structure in the Old Testament Tabernacle of Moses that carries special meaning in worship for both then and now. It offered a place of transition for the Levite priests: each day they carried out ceremonies in the Outer Court, ministering to the needs of people and helping with practical service. When they were ready to transition to the Inner Court of deeper worship, they crossed the courtyard to the Laver. This was a large wash basin of bronze that had been polished until they could see their reflection in the mirrored image. They washed their hands and feet, changed into white linen garments, and then stepped into the Holy Place where their focus was turned completely toward God and worshiping him.
I sensed that the Lord was signifying that we are in “transitional times,” and just as the priests cleansed themselves and prepared for the next steps, God is calling us into times of personal cleansing as well. For a people who desire to move forward in his plan with their eyes wholly on him, it’s a good time for a “Laver” moment: a time of pulling away with the Holy Spirit, self-examination, healing, and cleansing that prepares us for the new season ahead.
This picture is called Laver. Created to capture the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, it represents the metaphor of the Old Testament Laver: a holy mirror that washes and prepares us for the next season.
God desires us to be free, without carrying around a lot of stress and baggage from one season to the next! One way we embrace a Laver place is by setting time aside to meet with him, playing soft worship music, bringing a journal and pen, and asking the Holy Spirit to bring to mind anything that we need to be cleansed of. I suggest writing a list of things that might include:
-People we need to forgive.
-People we need to ask forgiveness from.
-Traumatic situations that we don't care to repeat.
-Toxic moments or relationships.
-Even good times that can involve stress or frustration.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:6, 7
As you write these things down, ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind anything that he wants to address. Then ask him to wash you with his forgiveness, love, and healing as you let things go, and to give you his proper perspective. Choose to forgive... receive forgiveness... and pray over situations that are out of your control. This Laver moment not only creates an opportunity for God to move in your life, but also prepares you to feel lighter and carry a fresh perspective for the next season!
Prayer: Lord, please refresh me by your Spirit, cleansing anything I need to let go of, and choosing to embrace your healing and forgiveness. I look forward to following you into the next season with freedom and wholeness!
Preparing for Kings
Have you ever had a dream that you didn't quite know how to make happen? Maybe the dream is bigger than your skill set and budget, and you're not sure how to invite others on board or if anyone will take you seriously. I've been there SO many times! Over the years, I've discovered that if my dream is written down and a strategy is determined, God often brings people across my path who provide what's needed for the next step. Here's an exciting key that unpacks this process...
My new book Launch Your Vision elaborates on this concept extensively. Here's a quote:
Nehemiah is a great example of a man who had a vision and brought it to pass. When he heard that his home city of Jerusalem had been burned and destroyed, he went into the secret place of prayer and began to cry out to God. Moved with a vision to rebuild the walls, he did more than pray-- he became a man of strategy.
The king of Babylon sensed that something was on Nehemiah's heart, and asked him to tell his vision. Boldly sharing his idea, Nehemiah's heart must have skipped a beat when the king responded,
“What is your request?”
Inwardly, Nehemiah whispered a quick prayer for wisdom.
“If it seems good to you, send me to Jerusalem.” he responded, “Write a letter of safe conduct that will secure safe passage through the territories and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the lumber to give me all the wood needed to rebuild.”
Graciously, the king granted every request.
God has “kings” waiting to help you build, but you need more than vision: you need a strategy. When a person of influence asks you, “What do you need for your vision?” they're not going to listen to thirty minutes of a visionary expressing their hopes and dreams. Like the king, if you have a specific, itemized list of what you need to accomplish the work, there's a good chance they'll help you get there.
In every season, we have the option to keep our ideas in the "dream" phase, or be intentional about walking them out. Not every idea needs to happen, but some dreams may be placed inside of us by God Himself, and He desires to partner with us in making them come alive. May you discover His dreams for your life and have the courage to strategize with God!
Read more in my book!
My pastor talked about Advent this week. Later I faked ignorance and told him, "I always thought Advent was short for Adventure!" We laughed, but it was a great moment to remember that the Christmas season marks a huge, God-ordained adventure in history... how a young woman said yes to God and become mother to the Messiah... her fiance was moved by an angelic messenger to marry a pregnant woman and raise the Son of God... shepherds were interrupted by angels and left their herds to find a child... wise men traveled hundreds of miles based on a coded message in the stars... and God Himself left heaven to dwell with men. The whole story is so typical of the God who calls us away from our comfort zone to join Him on adventures, both big and small.
This week I have a video to share with you. (Insert mental image of the Snoopy Dance of celebration!) I've spent countless hours crafting costumes, filming, editing, and choosing/licensing music tracks to create it. I believe it's a call to adventure... the kind that resonates with all who long for a life that outlasts their short time on earth and leaves an ongoing legacy. If you push "pause" on the business of life and take just a moment to watch this short film, you'll hear the Father's invitation to run with your part in His story. Enjoy!
This film concept started when I asked pastors Craig and Karlet Muster and Brae Wycoff of Awakening International, if they would dress up in armor and sit around a campfire. Courageous people -- they said yes. They had been talking about King David's mighty men in church, so I asked them to share with a group of warriors as if they were David a cave speaking to their tribe, and using that metaphor to release visionaries today. I opted for costumes with a medieval/fantasy themed and designed them myself, inviting people from my church, ministry, and community to be involved. I wanted to capture the power of leaders who speak life over the people the Lord has entrusted them with; then I filmed myself and the kids in several other shoots and fleshed out the ideas by filming all of the story line in slow motion at 4x normal speed, and chose music from indie artists in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
You can see bloopers, behind the scenes concepts, the fuller message that my pastors shared, and a DIY video showing how I created my faux leather armor from craft foam on a special YouTube playlist. Check it out! I'd love to hear your comments on my social media pages, so feel free to visit and share the links to help spread the message.
This Advent season, may you dream and be inspired to run with God's adventure for your life!
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