“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16.33
As I read this familiar verse this morning, these three words pierced my soul. PEACE IN ME . . . Not peace in family, peace in circumstances, peace in finances, peace in physical health, peace in marital stability, peace in military might BUT . . .
PEACE. IN. ME.
Jesus never promised us a bed of roses when we chose to follow Him. He never promised us the right to be happy. But He did promise us PEACE when we remain in Him . . . JOY in the middle of our sorrow (John 16.22) . . . and a LOVE that will not let us go (Romans 8.38-39).
As we look at this New Year stretching out before us, this new decade dawning, Jesus tells us we will have trials and sorrows – it’s a given. The real question is . . . will we find our Peace in Him or hunt for it in the temporary things that promise peace but never really deliver?
None of us knows what is up ahead but we do KNOW the ONE who holds our future. He is OUR OVERCOMER and in Him we find our PEACE.
May you experience true PEACE that is only found in Jesus in this . . .
Construction workers arm themselves with a tool belt on the worksite.
Women arm themselves with a purse for their “worksite” (also known as SHOPPING!).
When ministering to women all over the world, I carry a bag as well. It’s an invisible bag full of ministry tools. Over the past two years, I’ve been working hard to fill this bag with “instruments” I can use in the different environments and cultures I step into. I’ve taken different trainings, read books and listened, all with purpose of filling this ministry bag I carry, so I might better serve the women God brings across my path.
All of these tools are valuable, but I’ve discovered in this past season of travel, that it’s not the trainings or the books that are my greatest tool.
The greatest thing I carry is Love . Real. Genuine. Present. Love .
Stepping into different cultures, is often a lot like walking blindfolded in your home when the furniture has been moved. You’re constantly bumping into things and having to adjust your perspective. You never quite know, if what you’re going to say or do, will be offensive to those around you.
But LOVE covers a multitude of sins . . . I have found that if you genuinely love the people you are with, if you are present and attentive than the offensive things you might do or say are easily overlooked because they know you sincerely love them.
Because LOVE does what nothing else can do . . . it transcends cultures and crosses the barrier of languages!
Paul speaks of this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13 . . . If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
I have watched contemporary counterparts attempting to learn about other people’s cultures but in their effort to understand they have forgotten to love. Without love, we become clanging cymbals. It jars the ears of listeners and pushes away those, we have come to serve.
Love is more than just trying to understand another’s culture. Love says, “I value you. I want to know you. I respect your differences and I want to understand who you are. You are important.”
After reflecting on the kind of love Paul is speaking about, I wrote what this looks like in my own context . . .
If I could speak the language of each country I visited and yet didn’t love them, I would just be another loud obnoxious American. If I could discern the feelings of others and was able to explain God’s Word for all to understand and if I had a faith that could do the impossible but didn’t love others, I would accomplish nothing. If I traveled to the ends of the earth, sacrificed time with family and my own comfort but didn’t have love for others, it would all be for nothing.
Even though I only speak one earthly language, English. I speak another more important language . . . the language of love. A language everyone, everywhere understands. It requires no special translator, no detailed explanation, no unique skill, just a heart that genuinely loves without expecting anything in return.
And what God can do when we love like He loves us – well the possibilities are endless!
As we reflect on God’s amazing blessings in our lives and give Him THANKS. Let’s not forget the BIGGEST, MOST INCREDIBLE gift we were given . . .
The Three gathered in the grand hall for one final time. It was a closed door meeting. Just three. Three who would change the course of time. Three who would determine the path of destiny. Three who devised a plan to triumph over all other plans.
Tension snapped in the air like a downed wire, as they gathered around the table. This was a plan for the ages!
It had all the makings of a good movie; a reckless rescue mission, drama, death, abandonment, resurrection, life. But this wasn’t a movie, this WAS life. Eternal Life.
Each one turned to the other . . .
“You will watch Your only Son live in a broken world, die a horrible death on a cross. You will have to turn Your back on Him. Are you okay with this? Are you sure you want to do this for a people who hate you?”
“You will be a vulnerable baby in a broken world, you will be misunderstood, hated, bruised and afflicted and hung on a cross to die a brutal death? Are you willing to do this?”
“You will be called to power this venture, to expend yourself for a people who are unworthy of such love. Do you want to do this?”
There is no hesitancy, no doubt, no faltering. A resounding “Yes” echoes down the ages of time. The pain, sorrow and the difficulty of the plan would make the ENDING even that much more intoxicating.
They could hardly contain their joy. Unbridled pleasure rippled in the room like waves rushing to shore. A roar of laughter burst from the room like a rushing torrent of water and made its way throughout the heavens, pouring into every nook and cranny. The angels paused in their activities as the merriment washed over them. They found themselves giggling uncontrollably! What was happening? What were they be planning that would cause such contagious beautiful joy?
The time was finally here! Could they even wait a moment more to see their elaborate audacious plan carried out?
All of this . . . this adoption, redemption plan . . . was for their CHILD. The one they LOVED! Their masterpiece. Their creation. The one they have been waiting for, all this time!
This grand design of theirs would be at great personal cost to each one of them. But it was of little consequence. They were ready. Let it begin . . .
Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do and it gave Him great pleasure. Ephesians 1.4-5
Father, You adopted me and made me Your child. Jesus, You found me in the depravity of my own making and bought me with Your precious blood. Spirit, You marked me as, Forever Yours. There are no words. No language that can ever express the depth of my gratitude. May my life demonstrate in ways my words cannot, the thankfulness and the depth of my appreciation for what You have done for me! Amen.
you ever felt clearly called by God to go to a certain place to do a certain
thing, only to discover when you got there it wasn’t anything like what you
had planned? You couldn’t do what you thought God had led you to
This was my recent trip to Southeast Asia.
I’m still not clear as to why God called me to go but I believe He did and just because things didn’t go as I expected them, I’m choosing to trust God had a better plan. An unknown purpose, I can’t see.
After four airplane flights, totalling almost 24 hours in the air (not counting layovers), I finally arrived in Southeast Asia.
We had a beautiful day with church planters’ wives; encouraging them in the battle, listening to their struggles, sharing a meal and loving on them. Each one of these beautiful ladies, is making sacrifices beyond our Western imagination, so that they might carry the gospel to the unreached of Southeast Asia. What a privilege to sit in their midst and hear their hearts. Soul-sisters united by love for our Savior.
Monday morning, we awoke at the crack of dawn to begin our travel to a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, where we were preparing to minister to students at a training center.
I traveled with two other co-workers. Our day included: A two-hour traffic-jammed journey to the airport, a two-hour wait at the airport, a forty minute flight to our Island, lunch at a way-side restaurant near the ocean, a two-hour car ride on very narrow, curvy, up and down, mud-filled primitive roads that seemed to last a life-time.
A hotel room with no sink or shower just a faucet, bucket and toilet and three single beds crammed into our tiny room (one mattress was on the floor).
at the training center and games with the students and then back to our hotel
room where we all fell into bed.
through Thursday, I was to be doing Community Health Education training with
the students but after the first lesson, we realized these students weren’t
ready for this type of training.
oldest student was twenty-three with the majority of the seventy students being
around twenty. So basically, I pitched most everything I had planned on
teaching and leaned into the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. I’m
trusting He did. I felt His presence and clear direction as I spoke. But
I have to say, this was one of the most challenging, enemy-fighting,
faith-building, Holy Spirit-seeking training times I’ve ever had.
The western area of this Island is a primitive place. Poverty is rampant. Education is minimal. Electricity comes and goes. WiFi is patchy and life is hard.
Because it is mainly Christian on this part of the Island the government takes no notice of their difficulties and offers very little help. Nominal Christianity is the order of the day. Practicing a religion rather than developing a relationship with God defines most Christians in this place. My heart was saddened and I came away burdened with how Satan is deceiving the nations, because this isn’t just true of this tiny island in Southeast Asia . . .
I wish I could tell you it was a fantastic trip, where we saw God work in profound ways but honestly, I can’t. I believe God was at work but I’m not sure how much the students’ hearts were open to receive it.
I don’t know what God was doing behind the scenes and in hearts but I take hope in the words of Hebrews 4.12-13 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
There is no power in my words, BUT God’s Word is active, alive and powerfuland His truth can penetrate the darkest of places and the dirtiest of hearts!
It is evident that Satan is hard at work . . . the potential, in seventy students whose hearts have been transformed by God and are sent out all throughout Southeast Asia to share the gospel, is HUGE! This is what Satan fears, so he is pulling out all the stops and throwing everything he’s got to destroy this ministry in whatever way possible. Please pray!!!
This battle is not just in Southeast Asia, it is here. We have an enemy prowling around seeking out the vulnerable, the confused, those life-shattered souls who have lost their way and he is hard at work waging war using confusion and disillusionment as his weapons of choice.
BUT God is greater. He is our LIVING HOPE! In Him we find refuge from the storm.
God desires a relationship with you. It’s what Jesus died for – to restore what man once experienced long ago in the Garden of Eden – friendship with God! It’s nothing we DO, it’s all been DONE for us, we just need to receive this free gift He offers.
Will you take a moment today and accept this free gift? Jesus did all the work for you when He gave His own life on the cross for you. No amount of good works you can do will accomplish what Jesus did for you on the cross. He made it possible for you to have eternal life and be with God forever! And He did it because He loves you! He wants you with Him.
You might want to say something like this: Jesus I believe you died for me. You paid the penalty for my sins when you died on the cross and I invite you to come into my life and be the Master of my soul. Thank you for forgiving me, loving me and welcoming me into relationship with You!
In my preparation for a global ministry, I have had lots of
training on cultural sensitivity. Our
culture is our culture and because of it we are often unaware of how it
influences how we see the world around us; how we live life and the choices we
make. It’s easy to go into a new culture
with a judgmental heart because they do things so differently and through our
lens it seems weird, foreign and sometimes just wrong.
Being culturally sensitive when stepping into new cultures
is a vital part of my ministry. Entering
with a heart of love and not judgement is vital. Bringing a learning spirit, rather than a
know-it-all spirit or my world-is-so-much-better-than-yours spirit opens the
doors to understanding and seeing the good in the different culture I’m in.
I have worked really hard at setting aside my need to be right and to have my ideas and ways of doing things validated. It’s harder than you might think! Pride always likes to raise it’s ugly head.
Stepping into a new culture in a culturally sensitive way is
the way Jesus lived. Think about it, He
came from the splendor of heaven to this broken and messed up planet. He chose to enter as a baby, not as a
righteous King ready to bring justice down on the heads of those He had
created. Instead of wrath and justice,
He brought humility and sacrifice. He
lived in the culture and became one of us, while still remaining God!
But Jesus didn’t let the “norms” of the day dictate how He would live and love the Father. He went against culture when it was wrong. He went out of his way to meet and sit with a Samaritan woman. He stopped where He was going to acknowledge the faith of the bleeding woman (someone in the eyes of the culture who would’ve made Jesus unclean). As a Rabbi, He washed His disciples’ feet. He was humble, when humble wasn’t even a word in their dictionary. He reached out to Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector and brought hope to his life. He threw over the tables of the men conducting business in the Synagogue. Jesus often went against the cultural norms when those norms clashed with what was right and He calls all those who follow Him to do the same.
Our culture must not be our authority. It is
God’s Word and it alone that should guide our lives and behaviors. And when culture and God’s Word clash, God’s
Word should always win!
In recent months, I have seen this clashing so clearly.
Southeast Asia: Church planters adamantly declaring they
couldn’t look their wives in the eye and say they were sorry. That just wasn’t acceptable in their culture.
pastors saying they beat their wives and their wives beat them and that is just
how their culture is.
But when does God’s Word trump culture? When do we let go of allowing the culture to
define our behaviors and life?
When it runs head long into God’s Word.
So if culture is culture and hard for us to see how it
influences us, how are we ever to get out from underneath it? How are we ever to stop it from having power
What is your measuring stick?
Is it God’s Word or the opinions of people around you? Or your own performance? Or what is culturally acceptable?
It’s not just Southeast Asia church planters and Ethiopian
pastors who struggle with allowing the culture to dictate their lives, we too,
have the same problem.
We let the fear of what others might think over-ride our true authority, God’s Word.
Jesus always went against culture when culture went against the Truth and we must do the same!
It’s how we show the world we’re different. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5.14-15)
have been reading through the gospels this summer and asking one question . . .
What does this passage
teach me about Jesus?
been an eye opening and thought-provoking study. Once again, I’m reminded
of how active and alive God’s Word is; because of the new things I’m learning
and seeing through very old and familiar passages of Scripture.
of these truths, that has jumped out at me in this study is the value Jesus
places on “the least of these”. Time and time again, I see his love and
passion for the marginalized, the destitute, the simple, the outcasts in
society, and the ones with no status or position. It was women and children and those who were
handicapped. It was greedy tax-collectors,
exhausted fishermen, shame-filled prostitutes, and lowly shepherds . . .
this morning I read this passage that again speaks regarding “the least of
was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who
think themselves wise andclever, and for revealing them to the
childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. (Luke 10.21)
As I travel around the world, I’m constantly bumping into “the least of these” and I’m incredibly humbled by their UNWAVERING faith, by their willingness to turn down status and position to obey the call, by their daily sacrifices of which my brain struggles to even comprehend and makes make passing up a Starbucks seem puny and insignificant.
American standards, these people have nothing and are nothing. It’s easy to discount and overlook them. But in
God’s Kingdom, the reality is I am walking among GREATNESS.
rubbing shoulders with greatness has changed me. It compels me to
love Jesus more completely, sacrifice more fully, and follow unreservedly!
Least of These” aren’t just overseas, they’re also right here in our backyards,
our neighborhoods, our communities. How will we love them? How will
we “wash their feet”? How will we learn from them?
we let the busyness of life or our own pursuit of happiness keep us from these
precious souls who have so much to teach us? Will we continue to see them
through our American eyes, or will we step out of our comfort zones and love
like Jesus loved?
when you rub shoulders with “the least of these”, it will change you!
This is God’s crazy UPSIDE down Kingdom; the last will be first and the first last, the childlike are really the wise and those who are wise in the world’s eyes are foolish. It’s the Island of misfit toys; where unlikely fisherman are transformed into preachers, where prostitutes pour perfume on the feet of the Savior they love, and where each unlikely follower discovers they have finally found a place to BELONG.
We were in a large city in Southeast Asia and it was a beautiful Air B & B! White tiled floors, granite counter tops, a fun swing out on the balcony, two large tiled bathrooms. It was to be our home away from home for a few days and we were excited. What a fun place to be . . .
But what we didn’t know was that this beautiful pristine
apartment had a dirty little secret.
I went in to use the shower and a HUGUNDOUS cockroach was resting in the corner of the shower. I know these bugs are pretty common where it’s warm and humid but this baby was BIG! Because there was no one else around to kill the thing, it fell to me. I’m learning as I travel, that I’ve got to suck it up and just do some things I never thought I would ever have to do. This was one of those times. I grabbed my Chaco sandal, thankfully it’s nice and heavy and able to kill a VERY LARGE cockroach in a single whack! But the first time I went to kill the thing I was pretty tentative and it began to scurry all over the shower floor. There might have been some dancing and screaming going on as I attempted to keep it from running over my feet while still trying to kill it. After that first attempt, I got pretty good at killing them with one good blow. Because there wasn’t just one big cockroach, the place was infested with them. We woke up the next morning to find droppings all over the counter. At first, we thought it might be mice, because the droppings were pretty big BUT NO, it was just the CR’s.
Needless to say, the beautiful Air B & B wasn’t so
beautiful any more. I resorted to
putting a towel under my door to make sure they wouldn’t get into my room while
As I sat out on our balcony the next morning, in the fun swing, spending time with my Abba Father, I couldn’t help but think . . . It’s not just Air B & B’s that can have a false front; a beautiful outside exterior and a dirty little secret hiding inside. We, who are followers of Jesus, have the potential to be this way as well.
It’s so easy to look like we’re truly following Jesus
when we do all the right things, have the right lingo, follow a list of rules
and yet our inner life looks anything BUT a follower. It might be a pornography issue, a root of
bitterness that has buried itself deep inside, a dishonest heart, or a desperation
that causes us to compromise all that we have stood for.
We might be faithful churchgoers, committed Bible study
leaders, sacrificial volunteers at church or in the community, donating to some
wonderful causes and yet harboring a darkness in our soul that holds us in
bondage and keeps us far from our Savior.
Jesus described the hearts of the Pharisees in much the same way in Matthew 23.27, “For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” And in Matthew 15.8 Jesus quoted from a passage of scripture in Isaiah when describing the them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
It’s so easy to fall into this trap, of thinking we’re okay because we look good on the outside, when we’re really rotting on the inside. It’s easy to think we’re a follower of Jesus because we’re checking the boxes and doing all the right things, but we’ve never acknowledged that our hearts are desperately wicked and in need of rescue. We’ve never invited Him in to wash us clean. We’ve never fully given up control.
This can happen to any of us. It happened to the leading religious men of the day!
We can be tracking with God, engaged, in relationship
with Him and it only takes a second for our hearts to flip. It’s the little things that pull us
away. The tiny compromises, the little “white-lies”,
the small indiscretions, the subtle doubts and before we know it, we’re harboring
a darkness deep in our souls.
The beautiful thing about our Savior is that when we turn to Him in all our mess and filth, He doesn’t run away, instead He washes us clean with His blood and calls us His own! How amazing is that?
Lord, I want to be an authentic follower of You. One who is right with You on the inside and the out. Make this to be true in my heart today and every day, as I seek after You.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4.23-24 (Message)
When I was a teenager, I read about Adoniram Judson and his missionary exploits in faraway Burma but never in a million years did I ever think I would be there ministering to the same precious people!
This trip wasn’t
without its challenges; a lost and then found I-phone (a story all its own in
which I continue to Praise God for!!), eleven different plane flights,
sleepless nights and jet-lag, the unknown, a fall in the river (while trying to
get a good picture 😊),
power outages (the norm), wondering if what we had prepared was what the women
needed to hear, working with new partners, a team member who had to drop out at
the last minute because she contracted shingles.
challenges were nothing compared to what we saw God do!
There are moments in our lives when we know, without a shadow of doubt, we’re exactly in the right place at just the right time. This trip was one of those moments for me. God confirmed again in my heart the calling He gave me three years ago while on my first trip to Southeast Asia. I remembered so clearly how I felt after leading that first women’s retreat. I told God that day . . . “I know this is what you made me for and I love it! There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing in all the world than this. I will go anywhere, do anything, put up with anything to be able to do this for the rest of my life!!!!” God again renewed that desire in my life as I watched these women grab hold of the teaching from God’s word.
Even as I was preparing for these messages, I clearly felt God’s direction and illumination. I have used a train to illustrate what we put our faith in here in the states with many women but as I have begun to travel, I’ve realized this illustration doesn’t translate well in other cultures. Since February last year I’ve been praying that God would provide a new way to explain this truth and He not only gave me the illustration but it’s something that is easily transferrable around the world! I am in awe!! And it’s things like this where God is continuing to deepen my faith and trust in Him.
This past week, as these women learned, I was challenged as well:
Faith isn’t just something we say, we must live
it! Our actions show whether we truly
believe or not. They show what we are
putting our faith in. If I say, “I trust
God.” But then turn around and worry, worry, worry. I’m not trusting.
We all carry around invisible burdens, like
fear, shame, finding our identity in other things/people instead of claiming
who God says we are. These burdens weigh
us down and trip us up, mire us in the mess and keep us from running the race
God has set for us.
Shame can be one of our biggest unseen
burden. It causes us to cover-up, to
wear masks, and keep us walled in from God and those around us.
These simple ordinary women have the power to change their worlds for Christ. Many of them live with daily hardships we can barely begin to imagine. And yet God sees them, knows them and loves them dearly. What sacred space it was to come alongside them and walk with them for a short time. I will treasure these moments and hold them close to my heart even as I pray for more opportunities to walk alongside God’s precious women.
It’s been a wild, wonderful and amazing year! I’ve traveled to ten countries, took just about every mode of transportation known to man – a motorcycle, a boat, tuc tucs, trains, planes, subways, cars, vans, and taxis. I gazed upon the Adriatic Sea, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific.
The breathtaking beauty of God’s creation is awe-inspiring but even more than this is the real true beauty I have seen in the people I have met along the way. People who have recklessly abandoned their own comfort and said YES to God. People who are following with their whole hearts. Men and women totally sold-out to Jesus Christ. And I have been wrecked and humbled by their obedience, their willingness to sacrifice ALL for the gospel.
As I step into this New Year, I want to be ALL-IN. I’ve increasingly discovered over this past year that my battle to be ALL-IN lies within my all-consuming desire for comfort. And so this year, I have chosen as my Word-for-the-Year: Unsettled. I feel much the same way I did when I chose the word DARE in 2016. Sheer terror. But I’m pushing past the fear because I know this is where God will do His purifying work in my heart. This is where He wants me to be.
Jesus told His followers in Luke 9. 23-24, “If you truly desire to be my disciple, you must disown your life completely, embrace my ‘cross’ as your own, and surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your lives for my glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more of true life. But if you choose to keep your lives for yourselves, you will lose what you try to keep.” (The Passion Translation)
And in verse fifty-eight of that same chapter Jesus again talks about the cost of following Him when He says, “remember this: even animals in the field have holes in the ground to sleep in and birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place here to lay down his head.” And in verse 62, “Why do you keep looking backward to your past and have second thoughts about following me? When you turn back you are useless to God’s kingdom realm.”
Our love of comfort makes it easier to trust ourselves rather than God. Our need for comfort keeps us safe and mediocre. Our desire for comfort above-all-else pushes us to settle for less than what God intends.
I refuse to let comfort be my God.
So with more than a little trepidation, I reach out my hand and take the Hand of my Father knowing He loves me as far as the East is from the West, and I embrace the UNSETTLED place because this is where LIFE is found!
Are you familiar with the books entitled, Where’s Waldo? These books have no words just pictures. What makes them unique is that this no-word-book-with-only-pictures is designed for big kids and even adults! Each page has a quirky little guy wearing a red and white striped hat but the tricky part is finding him. There are so many things jammed onto each page that it’s difficult to see him and there begins the hunt . . . finding Waldo on pages that are crammed full of stuff.
As I was thinking of Christmas this year and remembering years past . . . the constant hustle and bustle, gifts to purchase, goodies to make, cards to send, traditions to uphold, decorating, partying, planning, caroling and on and on the list goes. I couldn’t help but wonder, does my life look a lot like a Where’s Waldo book, only it’s not Waldo I’m looking for, it’s JESUS!
Is my world is so crammed, jammed and packed with stuff, there’s no room for Him?
How ironic it is. The ONE who is at the center of our celebration is so pushed into the background that we struggle to find Him anywhere.
We leave no space for Him.
So often even the “good things” we do cause Him to fade into the background.
You know how I can tell this? By what’s on my to-do list. I have on my list, serving at Church, making gifts for my neighbors, caroling to a nursing home, preparing great meals for my returning kids . . . but nowhere on my list is spending time only with Jesus, being still and knowing Him.
I rush, rush, rush, everywhere doing good things for Him but never spending time WITH Him.
What would it look like for us to take everything off the page . . . all the traditions, present-wrapping, card-writing, meal-cooking . . . EVERYTHING and sit down with God and ask Him what He wants us to do?
What if we re-evaluated why we’re doing all the things we do? Is it to impress? Because it’s expected? Because we’re worried what people will think?
What would we look like, if putting Christ in the CENTER became what was most important in our lives?
John’s final words in his book of 1John are so poignant . . . Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5.21 NLT)
Are you willing to do the hard work of stripping away the busyness, the superficial and the expected to ensure that nothingtakes His place in your heart?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim,
We had just cleared the gate in our safari vehicle and had gotten our first glimpse of the huge savannah stretching out before us, when the radio beeped. Someone had spotted the lions! We jolted and bumped our way down the narrow dirt road in our quest to see these illusive beasts.
As we pulled up and joined a caravan of safari vans, jeeps and cars, I saw one lion head off to our right, and then I looked to my left and another lion slunk right past me.
The lions were hunting!
A pack of zebras were contentedly grazing just a measly hundred yards away. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Would we see a lion take down a zebra today, I wondered? Part of me was excited about witnessing this real-life drama and the other half wondered if I would be traumatized for the rest of my life, from the experience.
I continued to watch this lean and muscular mama lion as she patiently watched the zebras and waited for her hunting partner to come around the other side. She was just yards from where I stood in our open-aired van. She would crouch down and crawl on her belly trying to get a better view of the zebras. The color of her fur was a perfect match to the savannah grass and I could easily see how camouflaged she was. The zebras continued to eat undisturbed just yards away while DEATH watched and waited!
As I stood in the van that morning, watching this drama play out, I clearly saw the parallels to my own spiritual life.
I am like the zebra . . . Contented. Comfortable. Complacent. Focused on my own satisfaction. Completely oblivious to the danger.
Death waiting for me to get separated from the pack. Death watching for any signs of weakness or vulnerability.
When life overwhelms us, it’s easy to pretend the danger isn’t really there. When all we can see is our need for comfort, it’s so easy to forget! When we’re distracted by busyness, it’s easy to let ourselves become isolated and alone.
And there we are, a prime target for his attack!
It’s why the apostle Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5.8:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
We have an enemy who hungers for our souls.
And he is patient . . .
Just like the lion, he is watching and waiting for just the right time to attack.
And he is patient . . .
He prowls around the edges of our lives, waiting for the time when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable and weak.
And he is patient . . .
Never have I seen more clearly how susceptible I am and how patient the enemy is.
How do we fight this enemy? By being on guard. By staying alert. By banding together; warning of the danger, encouraging the discouraged and standing in the gap for each other. This is what the body of Christ is for. This is what it means to be in community. This is how we keep the enemy from winning!
Jesus said to the people standing around Lazarus after He had commanded him to come out of the grave, “Unwrap him and let him go.” John 11.44 (NLT)
Isn’t this what Jesus says to us when we invite Him into our lives and He raises us to new life in Him. “I have unwrapped your chains, now be free!”
But how many of us continue to be wrapped up in our chains?
Chains of fear. Chains of shame. Chains of caring more what other people think than what God thinks. Chains of pride. Chains of guilt. Chains of bitterness. Chains of anger. Chains of disappointment. Chains of disillusionment. Chains of worry. Chains of control. Chains of unforgiveness.
And we wonder why we’re stuck. Why we continue to fail. Why we feel trapped in our old life when Christ promised us NEW life.
In my own struggle, I’ve realized something. Something I hate to admit . . .
I like my chains. They’re my security blanket, where I feel safe and comfortable. Without them, I feel naked and vulnerable. I know it sounds oxymoronic but it’s true.
Unwrapping is often so much harder than we think it will be. It sounds so simple but it’s just way to easy to return to the known rather than to step into the unknown. It feels much safer to stay where we are, curled up in the “security” of our chains. Never choosing to face . . . Our “demons”. Our strongholds. Our chains. Instead we believe the lies Satan feeds us . . . “You deserve this. What kind of God would ask you to give this up – you need it. This is so much easier. You should stay where you’re comfortable.”
This was never the life Jesus wanted for us. It isn’t the life He died for.
What if Lazarus had chosen to remain in his graveclothes instead of letting someone unwrap him? What if he said, “If you unwrap me I’ll be naked. Let me live with them?”
I can hear you saying, “That’s ridiculous no one would ever do that!”
And yet that’s the way many of us are living . . .
We are dead men walking. Weighed down by our chains. Existing but not really living.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8.36
The truth is . . . Jesus died to set us free. Free from the shackles that have held us captive for far too long. Free to be all that He intended us to be. Free to say “Yes” to Jesus.
Why did Adam and Eve get kicked out of the garden? You might be thinking, well duh, it’s because they sinned. But is that why they were thrown out of the garden? Look what it says in Genesis 3.
Then the LORD God said, ‘Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!’ So the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden . . . The LORD God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And He placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3.22-24)
So let me ask the question again, why were Adam and Eve thrown out of the Garden of Eden?
Because they had become like God knowing both good and evil. They had sinned and if they ate of the tree of life they would live forever. I don’t understand all the implications of sinful people eating of the tree of life but I do know it was enough to banish all humanity from the Garden of Eden, so there would never be even a remote chance any of us would eat from the tree.
But the beautiful thing about this banishment is that it isn’t forever! For those who are victorious, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we will one day be able to eat the fruit of the tree of life! Check out Revelation 2.7, “To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
At the beginning of the Bible we see the banishment and at the end we see the final restoration. Full circle.
God loves to bring things full circle. He loves to take what was broken and make it new. He loves to take what sin has made ugly and turn it into something beautiful! He loves turning ashes into beauty. He is a restoring kind of God.
We see it all throughout Scripture in the lives of His people – Job, Joseph, Paul (just to name a few).
And I’ve seen this in my own life (maybe you have too) . . . I was born to missionary parents in Alaska. I loved it there, it was my home, my safe place. When I was around nine years old we moved from Alaska to California and my world fell apart. All I wanted to do was to go back “home”. As a young girl, I decided the best way to go back would be to become a missionary. I grew up with that hope in my heart until God brought me face to face with my true motivation and called me to surrender to His will and His way. I let go of my dream and began to pursue Him. And now forty years later, I’m finally carrying the love of Jesus to women all over the world. God has brought this hope in my heart full-circle.
Being in the middle of the circle is the hard part. Trusting God when things don’t make sense. When He calls us to wait in the uncertainty. When it doesn’t look like He will restore. When it seems He will never bring healing. When it feels impossible.
But it’s in the middle where God does His most refining work.
There’s a vast space of time between Genesis and Revelation and so it often is, in our circles.
Don’t let go, don’t give up. God is at work, maybe you can’t see it but He is. Trust that He will bring your pain, your sorrow, your brokenness, into His full-circle restoration!
We haven’t reached the promise. We haven’t tasted of the tree of life, but it is there waiting for us and one day . . . One day, for those who allow God to do His refining work and are victorious, we will eat of that tree and finally come full-circle!
She almost fit under my arm, when standing side by side for a photograph. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but this tiny petite woman is a giant. She laughs and cries, struggles with insecurity and rejection, and worries about the safety of her family. But this simple ordinary woman has dared to say YES to God. She has said yes to living in a hostile environment, constantly on guard, so she can carry God’s light to Muslim women.
She and her husband have sacrificed everything to follow the call. She lives in a poverty-stricken area, with little to no comfort. Dressing like those around her means she must cover her head and wear long sleeves in a very hot and humid climate.
But her smallness didn’t keep me from looking up at her.
And it wasn’t just one giant but many that I spent time with on this trip to Southeast Asia.
It was an opportunity for these beautiful women to get away from the pressure cooker of life. To enjoy a little piece of heaven on earth. To set aside the cares and concerns of life, to uncover in more ways than one for a few short days. To experience a breath of fresh air.
We laughed, we cried, we opened our hearts to one another and shared our struggles. They invited me into their circle, a stranger who just wanted to love on them, hold their hand and listen, pray with them and remind them of God’s passionate love for them.
I walked among giants. Giants of the faith. Are they perfect – no! Do they struggle with sin? Yes! Does busyness tend to distract them? Always! But they are giants just the same. These spiritual giants have sacrificed ALL to walk in obedience with God. They carry the light into extreme darkness. Often, they are isolated and alone, in a community that rejects them and what they represent. They walk with care, never knowing if someone will report them. They worry for the safety of their children. And yet they continue on . . .
They are real life Indiana Jones’ not looking for treasure but bringing THE TREASURE to broken and lost people.
I felt humbled to be among them.
Watching them so carefree; laughing, bantering with one another, dancing, worshipping God with their whole hearts – it was hard to imagine the oppression they live under day after day.
My heart aches for them. And I can’t help but ask, “God, what am I willing to give for the cause of the gospel?”
Radically following Jesus looks different for each of us. It doesn’t always mean we must sell everything, uproot our families and move to the other side of the world. But it does mean saying YES to God, whatever that might be.
I learned this week you don’t have to be physically tall to be a giant! Because I walked among five-foot giants and it brought me to my knees.
I want to love God like they love God. I want to worship Him like they worship Him. I want to be a giant.
I’ve recently been reading Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson. (By the way, I highly recommend the book.) In chapter five of the book, there is a paragraph that deeply resonated with me.
The Bible was written over a span of fifteen hundred years by more than forty writers. God inspired kings and poets and prophets and shepherds. They wrote out of very different personalities in very different circumstances. Some wrote in the plush setting of a palace, while others etched their words during an island exile. Some wrote out of the agony of personal tragedy, while others wrote in the ecstasy of an epiphany. Written in three different languages on three different continents, there is no other book like the Bible. Despite the fact that it touches on thousands of complex subjects and controversial topics, it possesses a supernatural harmony from beginning to end. And it is omnirelevant to every person on the planet. -Mark Batterson
As I’ve studied books and articles on cultural relevance and the importance of understanding cultural nuances and differences, it has deepened my Awe and Wonder at this amazing book God has given us.
There is no other book ever written that can cross all cultures, all times and speaks so intimately to our human needs, like the Bible.
This excites me and gives me the confidence that when I teach women how to study the Bible, it will speak to them in ways I never could. It will meet them where they are at and will speak as deeply to them as it has to me.
A friend of mine, sent me this note: I feel like one of my best friends is the Christian, Indiana Jones! The amazing thing is that you are not searching for treasure, you are bringing the treasure.
I don’t know about the Indiana Jones part, most of the time I don’t feel very brave or intrepid. It often seems like this mission is WAY-TO-BIG-FOR-ME and it is! But the beautiful part is I don’t carry my message but God’s. I don’t go alone, I go with Him. It’s His mission, His vision, His work! I just get to join with Him and carry this amazing treasure to the lost, the broken, the hurting.
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver. Seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD and you will gain knowledge of God. Proverbs 2.1-5
God has given each one of us this incredible treasure!
In this world of changing values and ideas, of brokenness and pain, of varying cultures and unsettling thoughts, the Bible remains strong and true. We can stand on its wisdom, rely on its truth and carry it with confidence into our changing times. It uplifts, challenges, corrects, meets us right where we’re at; whether we’re rich or poor, literate or illiterate, from Dubai or the slums of Nairobi and has the power to transform lives!
What other book do you know that can do that?!
It is an unending treasure to be explored and a road map to guide us in navigating this ever-changing world.
Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver. Psalm 119.72
May we never take for granted this treasure we hold. May we handle it with care and step confidently into this broken world as we carry His Truth!
Her arm, shoulder and hand had tattoos. Her hair had this crazy bleached out streak in it, her style was definitely different than my own.
And because of her differences, it was easy to assume she didn’t love Jesus like I loved Jesus.
But that was just not so. Ashley loved Jesus with all her heart! And her love for Him spilled out onto those God brought across her path. The tattoos covering her body were Scripture she clung to. And in her short twenty-eight years she impacted the world for Christ in ways we probably will never know until we get to heaven.
God called Ashley home just a few short weeks ago. Her absence leaves a gaping hole in our lives and we grieve because of our great loss. We grieve for the husband and daughter she left behind. We grieve for the experiences lost and the incredible way she served so many. How can we ever replace that? Our loss was heaven’s gain!
But I refuse to call Ashley’s death a tragic accident. It’s easy to see it that way. One so young with so much living yet to do, suddenly gone. A family left behind. A daughter who will never have her mom pick out a prom dress with her. A husband with an empty space in his bed. Questions that seem to go unanswered.
But it’s not tragic for Ashley! She is now living in the presence of the Savior she loved so dearly; more ALIVE than she has ever been. Dancing with Him, singing with Him and gazing on His face. She is HOME.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control. Philippians 3.20
It’s so easy to live like this life is all there is. To grab and cling to the here and now and forget that we don’t really belong here. This is just a stopping ground, a place to camp out until we reach our real home.
Ashley lived in the knowledge that eternity was coming! She knew her hope was not in this life, that slips through our fingers like sand, but in the life to come. She lived with a confident hope that her last breath here would be her first breath in heaven. And it was!!
I want to live this way! Totally sold out to Jesus. Holding nothing back. Making every moment count. I want to live. I want to laugh. And I want love like she did. Like Jesus calls me too. I want to remember this world is not my home, I’m just passing through . . .
The story is told of a Spanish sailor named Cortez, who landed in the Americas. After landing, he ordered the ships to be burned. There was no going back. They were there to stay.
How often do we make a decision to let go but still find ourselves clinging to the old way. Holding onto things “just in case” it doesn’t work out. Never fully committing. Never completely letting go.
It’s the woman on a diet who holds onto her “fat pants” just in case.
It’s the newly married man who keeps the number of an old girlfriend in his phone, just because.
It’s the teenager who gets the answers to the test. She doesn’t intend to use it but just in case she hasn’t had time to study . . .
It’s the betrayed friend who hangs onto the bitterness, justifying her right to hold onto it. It’s the father who refuses to forgive a wayward son because he’s done it one to many times before. . .
Never really ALL IN.
Recently I have found myself on this journey of letting go of a stronghold in my own life. And I’ve realized I can’t cling to the old if I truly want to move on. I’ve got to “Burn my Ships!”
There’s no going back. No secret out. No straddling the fence. It has to be ALL or nothing.
And then the fear sets in and the lies become louder than the truth. What if I fail? What if it really isn’t possible. If I “burn my ship” what will I have to fall back on if this doesn’t work?
But in the fear, when we choose to trust, when we choose to listen to truth and let the lies fade into the background, we realize God is greater. God is bigger. God is enough.
And He gives us the courage to “Burn our Ships” and live in the land of the free!
Because this land of freedom is where you intend to STAY, what “ships” do you need to burn in your life today?
Don’t wait. Burn your ship. Step out in faith. Make a clean break. God promises to meet you there.
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2.8-9
As Easter approaches, my soul has never been more aware of the freedom I have in Christ because of His great sacrifice for me!
For years I have had a stronghold in my life that has held me captive. I knew Jesus set me free, but I refused to step out of my chains and live free. I liked the security my chains gave me. I was comfortable with them. I was like a woman who refuses to leave her abusive husband because the unknown is just too scary. I know it sounds crazy. Oxymoronic even. Why would someone ever opt for chains when they could live a life of liberty?
But that’s exactly what I have done for far too long.
A few months ago, things came to a head and I knew I could no longer live the way I had been living. And so I began this journey of repentance and freedom. I didn’t know it would bring freedom at the time, I just knew I couldn’t live like I had been living. I was broken and undone.
I was hesitant. I had been down this road before and it wasn’t pretty. I had failed. I was a failure at least that’s how I saw it. But God spoke deep into my heart and reminded me that I was made for more! He died to set me free from sin, not to wallow in it and remain in my mess. With Him ALL things are possible!
One ordinary day, in this journey, I was challenged to come into God’s presence and sit with Him; with my fear, with my anger, with my frustration. Just to be. And while being, to picture Him sitting there next to me.
The house was quiet. I sat at the end of my couch and pictured Christ sitting next to me. Sitting there I began to wonder what He looked like. Was He the Jesus of the Sunday School pictures I brought home each week as a kid? Did He have long hair? I realized I had no idea what He looked like but instead of staying there I began to think about what I would do if He were truly next to me.
I knew immediately – I would hold His hand.
So I held out my hand and pictured Jesus putting His hand in mine and when I did, I saw His nail-scarred hand! This visible reminder of His sacrifice for me! This sacrifice, at such great personal cost to Him, purchased my FREEDOM. And yet, I have continued to live in captivity. I have continued to dwell in my chains. I have continued to circle my mountain, instead of climbing to the heights!
Once again I was broken and undone! How frivolous I have treated His lavish and costly gift. It was a sacred and holy moment as I felt God whisper gently into my brokenness.
Jesus said in John 8.35, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” I heard it loud and clear that day, “You are free Kristi, so be free!!”
I no longer want to cheapen the sacrifice Jesus made for me by choosing to live bound up in my chains. I am free! And I am choosing to live free!
“I want to live for the applause of those precious nail-scarred hands.” (Mark Batterson – The Lion Chaser Manifesto) Because nothing else matters more than Him.
Thank You, Jesus – Hillsong
Grace that flows like a river, washing over me.
Fount of Heaven, love of Christ, overflow in me.
Thank you, Jesus! You set me FREE. Christ my Savior, You rescued me.
Take this life delivered, a vessel of Your love,
Wholly now devoted, to see Your Kingdom come.
Thank you, Jesus! You set me FREE. Christ my Savior, You rescued me.
You’ve given me life. You’ve opened my eyes.
I love You, Lord. I love you, Lord. You’ve entered my heart.
You’ve set me apart. I love You, Lord. I love you, Lord.
Thank you, Jesus. You set me free! Christ my Savior, You rescued me.
Spilling His grace and LIVING for the applause of nail-scarred hands,
Friday morning bright and early, my husband and I arrived at the airport ready to head to Honduras for our first missions trip together. We checked in and dropped off our bags and turned to head towards security. It was then we saw a tiny little boy and his family walk through the sliding entrance doors. All but the little boy, had on bright blue t-shirts that said, “Make A Wish”. As this little boy walked in, a cheer rose up from a crowd of people all wearing Mickey Mouse ears and holding a banner. There must have been thirty to forty people, each one having braved the cold and crawled out of bed at an ungodly hour to greet this little boy and his family.
As I watched the joy on that little boy’s face, the tears began to pour. I had to turn away or I would’ve been a blubbering mess.
Later as I sat on the plane reflecting on what I had just had the privilege of witnessing, I couldn’t help but think of another welcome party that had happened just a day before this. I didn’t get to see it but I couldn’t help wondering what it must have been like when Billy Graham stepped into heaven.
When the Lord welcomed him Home and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Oh, what a beautiful moment that must have been. I wonder, were Moses and Daniel holding the banner? Were the angels singing? Was there a line of people waiting to greet him, anxious to tell him that they were there in part because of His obedience and servanthood? Were people dancing and praising God for this surrendered servant who had finally come HOME! Because I know for sure, it wouldn’t have been about Billy Graham. It would’ve been about God and his miraculous work in the heart and life of a man totally sold out to Jesus!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1.10-11
Oh, how I want to live a life of faithfulness to the end, like Billy Graham. To step into heaven and have Jesus meet me there with open arms and say, “Welcome home, my faithful servant, well done!”
Mark Batterson says it well in the Lion Chaser Manifesto:
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
Run to the roar.
Set God-sized goals.
Pursue God-given passions.
Go after a dream that is destined to fail, without divine intervention.
Stop pointing out problems, become part of the solution.
Stop repeating the past. Start creating the future. Face your fears. Fight for your dreams.
Grab opportunity by the mane and don’t let go!
Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.
Burn sinful bridges.
Blaze new trails. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.
Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.
Dare to fail.
Dare to be different. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.
Chase the Lion.
Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small.
There is a saying in sports, “Leave it all on the field.” In other words put everything you have into the game and hold nothing back. That’s what I want to do with this life. To step into heaven, totally used up, having laid it all on the line with no regrets!
It was a day of contrasts in a city in Southeast Asia. Of good versus evil. Of light and darkness. Of beauty and desperation. It was an afternoon spent with beautiful women living in abject poverty and yet finding life and love and hope in Jesus. It was an evening walking the narrow walled in streets of a red-light district, feeling the darkness swirling around us and witnessing the hopelessness, despair and depravity of life without God.
We were unable to bring cameras, so I will attempt to paint a picture of all that I saw and experienced that evening.
Venders were selling everything from street food to sticks of wood. The streets were filled with pedestrians, motorcycles, vintage yellow taxi’s and rickshaws powered by running men. We made our way gingerly around it all and paused to split our group up into threes to pray and walk the red-light district. It’s not a very safe place to be and my heart skipped a beat as our little group turned the corner and headed into the narrow walled in street. Incense from the many temples, the odor of many unwashed bodies and other smells accosted our senses.
To say I was uncomfortable bordering on terrified, would be an understatement. I have never ever experienced anything like this before. But if I’ve learned anything from this new journey I’m on it is that God calls His children to carry His light into the pit of darkness. To face the enemy knowing HE has won the war.
Knowing this doesn’t remove the pain of it. Knowing this doesn’t make it more comfortable or any easier. It feels like it is more than I can bare. It is more than I can take in and it shakes me to my core.
Walking those streets, I was confronted with my apathy in regards to human trafficking. Honestly, I haven’t wanted to really expose myself to what is being done day after day to these precious souls. After all what can one human being really do? And what do I do with what I’ve seen? I can’t bear to think about what might be happening to young innocent girls in places like this. My selfish heart tells me life is so much more comfortable when I don’t expose myself to such evil.
But God hasn’t called us, His children, to shy away from sin and darkness but to step into it bravely as we carry the torch of His brilliant light.
And so we did.
We walked the dirty, narrow streets with our inadequate prayers. Because really how do you pray for this dark overwhelming place of sin and degradation? Yes, I know there are no inadequate prayers but honestly that is how it felt in that moment. In that moment I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t think of anything because I was so overwhelmed with the enormity of the depravity and darkness that coiled around us.
So I cried and prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His.
Why do I pray prayers like that? Because once again, I felt my heart crack into a thousand pieces as I looked on woman upon woman standing in doorway after doorway plying their wares. Heavily made up, robed in brilliant clothes hoping to attract a customer. They were like dolls in a shop – objects to be used and discarded at the owner’s convenience. This is the life these women have always known. They don’t know they’re loved and treasured by God. They don’t know they can be something more than an object in a window. They don’t know there is a better way. And the really heartbreaking part is most would never choose the better way, even if it were offered to them.
It left me reeling and unsettled, uncomfortable and troubled. It was a restless night as I prayed and cried and brought this burden to my Father. How brokenhearted He must be to see what humankind has done to His beautiful gift of sex. How angry He must be that our beautiful sisters are treated as objects to be discarded never knowing His great love for them. How saddened He is that we the church have stuck our heads in the sand and pretended this doesn’t happen in our city. That we hesitate to step into the darkness to carry His light. That we choose to walk in apathy because it’s easier than facing into the darkness.
I’m convicted and wrecked.
I know I can no longer live with blinders on, no longer sit on the sidelines, no longer live uninformed. What this will look like, I truly have no idea but I do know He will be with me. He will be my shield and my rock in whom I can trust as I carry His light into the darkness.
My heart can be so fickle. My attention span, short. My purpose of mind, capricious. I have a tendency to get side-tracked, to be unfocused, and am prone to giving in when my comfort is threatened.
I hate admitting this but it’s true, especially in a specific area of my life that has been a stronghold for far too long. I have rationalized, justified and flat out refused to surrender this area of my life to God. Oh, I’ve tried! I’ve prayed! I’ve begged God to just wave His magic wand and set me free. After all isn’t that what He died for?
But truthfully, I haven’t wanted to do the hard work of rooting this idol out of my life. I haven’t wanted to look deep into my heart and see the ugly. I haven’t wanted to surrender to the pain of the Surgeon’s knife. I can’t tell you how many times I have started with such good intentions and how quickly I’ve failed and given up. It’s just too hard. I love my comfort more. Sadly, “I want the warmth of the womb and not a new birth.” (Wilbur Rees, I’d Like to Buy $3 Worth of God Please)
BUT, recently God has once again revisited this issue (let’s be honest, it’s SIN) in my life and I believe my heart is ready to look deep into the abyss and see the ugly.
So we (God and I) have begun to explore this room in my heart that I have barred God from entering for years upon years . . .
I have begun to see how this idol has enslaved me and how it’s kept me from living FREE. How it’s holding me back in my ministry. How it is affecting other areas of my life. And I have come to understand; I can’t do this without God!! Doing this without His strength and power is why I’ve tried and failed so many times in the past.
As we have journeyed down into the dungeon of my soul I’ve found God so ever present. As we have looked at the darkness of my sin, I have found Him not condemning but illuminating. Whispering, “There’s a better way to live, Kristi. It’s what I died for . . . you’re no longer a slave but my daughter and you are FREE.
Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. John 8.35-36 (MSG)
Hebrews 12.2, says, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of our faith . . . “
I love this! Jesus started this work in me and He will perfect it. What do I need to do? FIX my eyes on Him.
It’s what will bring . . . Freedom. Victory. Fortitude.
Yes, this is just the beginning, and yes there will be more difficult roads ahead but sticking with Jesus like glue, centering my heart and mind on Him, will set me FREE and allow God to shape my heart into His design instead of mine.
This is my word for the year; FIXED! I’m stripping off the weights and sins that have held me captive (Hebrews 12.1) and fixing my eyes on Jesus who promises to do His good work in me and give me an Undivided Heart!
As I reflected on the Christmas story this past week, my heart was drawn to the lowly shepherds. It was these lowest of the low, forgotten, marginalized and unseen shepherds whom God chose to share the greatest news the world had ever heard! God sent his messenger to these herdsman on the hillside to announce the birth of the Savior of the world and it wasn’t just one but many angels that joined with the messenger to praise God and bring hope to the world!
I couldn’t help but see the parallel of this story to my story! No, I’m not saying I’m an angel. Just talk to my husband and kids and you’ll know that’s not true. But I am God’s messenger, chosen by Him to go to the cast-outs, the marginalized, the forgotten and unseen women of the world and the beautiful thing is . . . I’m not alone in this journey! I have a whole host of people who have joined with me in serving these desperate women.
This message, brought by one angel would’ve been enough for the shepherds but when the host of angels joined him it added emphasis and power to the message. That’s what each of these members do when they pray for me, contribute financially and join with me. We are the Grace Tribe, spilling God’s grace and hope on the hurting and broken.
We tell these marginalized women, they are valued, they are important, and they are loved! They are worth our prayers, our finances and whatever hardships there might be to share with them the Good News of a Savior!
As we reflect on the greatest gift to mankind, let’s not forget that God first chose to share the Good News of Jesus’ birth with the ordinaries of this world!
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14.12-14
This past week this verse grabbed hold of my thought process and wouldn’t let go. I’ve read this verse plenty of times before but for the first time, I took time to pause and reflect on what Jesus was saying.
All throughout the book of John is this simple phrase Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” And it’s always followed by a very profound TRUTH. You get the feeling every time He says it that He’s really saying, “Stop, pay attention this is really important! This is Truth. Truth you can count on, Truth you can live by.”
This “I tell you the truth” statement is followed by an incredible statement!
ANYONE, who believes in me WILL DO the same works I have done and EVEN GREATER WORKS.
What? We will do even greater works than Jesus? How can that be?
Remember Jesus said, “I tell you the truth!”
Do we believe this? Do we live like this is possible? Do we pray this way?
I think Paul did. Paul traveled sharing the Good News of Jesus with people all over the known world. Jesus didn’t go beyond Israel. Paul healed, cast out demons, raised people from the dead and constantly remembered this power wasn’t from him but from the One who had died for him. He gave Jesus glory and counted it a blessing to suffer for Him.
It’s not a competition, it never was and it never will be.
What it is . . . is refusing to keep the joy and life we have experienced in Christ to ourselves. It’s choosing to share Jesus with our friends, our families, our community, and the world. It’s making a difference, living outside our comfort zone, and radically following.
Jesus isn’t saying we will BE greater than Him, only we will do greater things than Him. Why? He knew that we would be able to do greater things when He went back to His Father. Think about it. The Holy Spirit would come to dwell within us. The power that raised Jesus from the dead would reside in us! Immanuel – God with us!
Believers would be unleashed to spread the Good News throughout the world, touching hearts Jesus never could and the Kingdom would expand exponentially!
As I consider this new journey, what would happen if I began to pray that I might do greater things? Could it really be possible? Think what God could do with a nobody who is totally sold out to Him! Not in our own strength but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Not to bring us glory but to give God glory. To expand HIs Kingdom.
What if you and I were to take Jesus at His Word and live like this?
What would our communities, our country and the world look like if those who truly believed in Jesus really believed this was true?
“Jesus will you enable us to do Greater Things not for our glory but for YOURS, because You are with the Father and You say to ask anything in Your name and You will do it! I believe and trust in You. I desire to proclaim Your truth and see Your Kingdom expanded! Amen.”
A year ago this month (November 2016), I visited the home office of the EFCA ReachGlobal for the very first time. It’s crazy to think about all that has transpired since that time and how faithful God has been. He deserves all the praise and glory . . .
December – was officially accepted as a full-time, long-term missionary with EFCA ReachGlobal.
January – wrapped up my time as women’s ministry director for my church and celebrated the nine years of ministry God gave me with these beautiful amazing women. Reflected where I was just one short January (2016) ago when I chose the word DARE for my Word-of-the-Year, knowing without a doubt that my life was going to be completely different come January 2017 but not really knowing how.
February – Resigned my position and had my first exposure to ReachGlobal missionaries in Thailand at the Asia Conference. Was profoundly impacted by these simple unassuming missionaries- their sacrificial living and commitment to following Jesus; forsaking home, family and all that is comfortable to follow!
March – Returned to EFCA headquarters for Ministry Partner Development training. Something in this new job I was dreading. I had never had to raise money before in my life – not for a mission’s trip, not for camp, nothing. Was encouraged and challenged through the training but still overwhelmed!
April – Despite my apprehension I hit the ground running raising support and developing ministry partners. And in the process God totally flipped the tables on me! One day while meeting with a single mom, newly divorced and struggling, she asked me to share with her about my new ministry. I shared with her some of the details and how excited I was to be ministering to women all over the world. When I finished, she exclaimed, “So how can I help?”
Normally, I would’ve said, knowing her situation, “would you pray for me?” But I felt God prompting me to say something else. So I looked at her and asked, “Could you give $5 a month?” She replied, “Umm, that’s a coffee.” “Yep” (We were at Starbucks and had just spent $5 on a coffee.). Then she got this big grin on her face and said, “I can do that!” She was so excited. She never dreamed she would be able to be a part of something like this and now she could!
That’s when I felt God whisper to me, “This is way bigger than you, Kristi! This is what I’m doing. You’re just offering people the opportunity to be a part of what I am doing around the world.”
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of April Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for April.
May – Dinners. Lunches. Coffees. Sharing the dream.
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of May. Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for May.
June – change for CHANGE, a young family’s dream to invest in this ministry to women around the world and to encourage others to join. Visiting Greenville Missionary Church in Greenville, Ohio and deeply touched by their generosity and willingness to join with me in ministry.
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of June. Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for June.
July – Honduras, a time of encouragement, experiencing a new culture, engaging with believers young and old and ministering to women. God confirming in my heart – this is what I was made for!
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of July. Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for July.
August – meeting with old friends and new, sharing the vision and watching God build the Grace Tribe!
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of June. Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for June.
September – Kenya, vision trip and CHE (Community Health Evangelism) Training in Women’s Cycle of Life in Nairobi. Life changing two and half days with the Maasai women of Namanga. Connection with a young woman doing ministry in Kenya that I hope to partner with in the future.
Prayer: God would provide $1,000.00 per month for month of September. Prayer Answered: $1000.00 per month for September.
October – Biblical Worldview Conference and CHE training – where God expanded my horizons and opened doors for future ministry!
Prayer: God would provide the last of my funding $700 per month for October Prayer answered: $567 per month (Just $133 left to be FULLY FUNDED!)
My heart is so full of all I have seen and experienced in this incredible year of change.
God is GOOD.
God is FAITHFUL.
God is AWE-MAZING.
May He be Praised!!!
For Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth. Psalm 57.10-11
My heart cries out, “Will this be what it is like everywhere I go, Lord? Will my heart be torn into a thousand pieces and left in different parts of the globe? What will I have left? Will there even be a me?”
As I sit amongst these beautiful, engaging Maasai women, I can’t believe how dear they have become to me in such a short time! Was it only just two days ago, that we had tumbled out of bed at the crack of dawn, crammed into our tiny van and traveled three hours to this place?
It seems like I’ve lived a lifetime in just this short space of time.
I will never forget my first glimpse of these warrior-like women dressed in brilliant colors with many beaded necklaces and bracelets walking across the arid plain to the aluminum-sided church building. The mountains stand tall in the distance. Dry brush and acacia trees cover the landscape. Beautiful blue and orange birds chirp and flutter from one tree to another. Termite hills dot the countryside, an antelope grazes nearby and a dog wanders aimlessly looking for food. The absence of city sounds is striking, I only hear the laughing and chatting of women and birds. No car motors, no honking sounds, no airplanes flying overhead.
And now, it’s time to leave. How can you feel like you’ve lived a lifetime and yet not lived even one hour?
How precious and how beautiful these Maasai women are! My heart is so connected to them in ways I never thought imaginable. So much as transpired in these few short days . . .
I witnessed the pain that their culture inflicts upon them. I heard the trembling voice of a young woman unveiling her heart to me about the pain she endured in her home. I laughed with them, sang with them and tried to mimic their amazing dancing. I listened to them arguing, discussing and singing in a language that wasn’t my own. I drank Maasai smoke tea and was given a window into their hidden world of giving birth. I experienced the darkness and evil of the vain traditions that hold them captive and powerless. I witnessed the spark of light brought through God’s truth. This tiny remnant, of powerless women, now awake to the power of God’s Holy Spirit ready to bring about change in their culture!
Jesus said in John 10.10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
And for a long time, the thief has had his way amongst the Maasai but NO LONGER! It has begun and my heart is so hopeful for them!
As we drive away, I know I have left a piece of my heart there and the pain is excruciating.
I wonder . . . Is this even a little hint of what Jesus felt for me? Was His heart torn into a thousand pieces when He saw the brokenness and pain of this world?
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9.23-25)
This is the beauty and mystery of grace. It is the backwards, upside down way of living in God’s kingdom . . . giving to receive, denying ourselves to find our true self, dying to find life!
What excruciating pain and yet what joy! What sorrow and yet what beauty! As I give my heart away, I trust God will patch up this broken heart with His love – a love that knows no bounds and has no limits!
And in this process of patching and refining I find LIFE, LOVE and new STRENGTH to give my heart away again.
I am a lover of Jesus first, a mom to four grown men and married to my best friend. A writer, speaker and amateur photographer armed with an i-phone, a travel geek, and a confessed tea snob. Crazy about finding kindred spirits in unlikely places and watching God transform a life. On staff with ReachGlobal and traveling the world empowering women with the gospel of Jesus.