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The Parable of the Rooster

Whoever would have thought I would be convicted and challenged by a rooster?

Yesterday during our prayer time as a team, our pastor showed a video entitled, “The Parable of the Rooster.”  The point of the video was that a rooster cries out and sings because that is what he was created to do.  He was created to wake people up.  He cries whether it is rainy or calm, whether he is well-sheltered or left out in the cold.  He cries even though no one thanks him for his good work and even when others are annoyed with him.  The conviction is so strong, that whether he is the only one or in good company, he cannot help but fulfill his purpose.  There are many things we can learn about the rooster.

I have a calling to write, and the conviction is so strong to do that.  I was created to use my gifts and talents for God’s glory.  I asked myself the question yesterday, “Is my conviction to fulfill my purpose so strong that I must do it no matter what circumstances I find myself in, whether people are thanking me or not, whether I am alone or not, whether I am annoying people or not?”  The phrase that stuck out to me so strongly was this:  “The rooster was created to wake people up.”  I realized that is exactly why I was created as well.  I was created to wake people up to the purposes of God and to their purpose as His church.  I was called to give God’s messages to His people and to inspire them to action.

I began reading Ezekiel this morning, and I was taken back by how powerful and direct his calling was from God.  Ezekiel was called when he was 13 years old, and at this young age he witnessed angels worshiping in heaven and saw God Almighty sitting on his throne.  Throughout the whole calling, Ezekiel was directed by the Spirit of God in every way, even to the point of whether he was sitting or standing.  Ezekiel 2:7a says, “You must give them my messages whether they listen or not.”  I realize that my calling to write does not depend on whether or not anyone is reading what I send or taking it to heart.  My calling does not depend on the response.  My calling depends on the Sender, and my focus must be entirely on Him.

Ezekiel 3:7-8 says, “But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.  But look, I have made you as obstinate and heart-hearted as they are.”  When I read this statement, a peace swept over me as I realized that my stubborn personality was given to me so that I would fulfill God’s purposes best.  The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:3 that we have been given everything we need to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.  Therefore, my challenge is to channel my personality well so that it will be an instrument to God and not an obstacle as it has so often been.

The most powerful thing to me about Ezekiel’s calling was said twice in very direct ways.  Ezekiel 3:16-21 says:

“After seven days the Lord gave me a message.  He said, ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel.  Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.  If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins.  And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.  If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins.  But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.

“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die.  And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins.  None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.  But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live and you will have saved yourself too.'”

Wake up.  The calling on our lives is not just “God’s best” for us as we often like to think about it.  It is not an option.  The calling on our lives is our responsibility before God.  If He reveals to us a task that we must do or a gift that we must use, we are responsible for that message.  If we do not fulfill that, there are eternal consequences for others and for us.  If we do fulfill that responsibility, we have simply done our duty; we don’t get extra credit for that.  What I read in this Scripture is that if I do not share the message that God has placed on my heart, and someone misses that particular message that they needed to hear, we are both condemned.  If I do share, then I will be saved.  The recipients are responsible for their own salvation by whether or not they decide to listen.  That is POWERFUL.  That makes me take my calling more seriously.  It makes me take a serious look at all the stupid excuses I have used in the past to not follow through on a word that I have received from God.

It is important to note here that the Word of God is not a message of doom, but a message of hope.  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the truth that we proclaim is a message of hope to the nations.  What greater message could we proclaim than the one that says, “There is abundant and eternal life being offered to you!  Take it!”  The truth remains that if people reject this message of hope, they will be condemned, and that is a serious matter.  God in His great mercy gave us the opportunity to choose or deny Him rather than making us mindless worshiping robots.  Because of that, there is a great responsibility for those of us who are called to proclaim this message of reconciliation.  If we want life for ourselves and for those to whom we are called, there is no option but to declare boldly the whole truth of Christ.

Lord, I pray for courage.  I thank You for the example of Ezekiel who answered the call faithfully, even at the young age of 13.  Would You give me the courage as well to boldly proclaim your message to those to whom I have been called?  Challenge me.  Awaken me.  Send me.

And like the rooster, give me such a strong conviction of my purpose that I can’t help but cry out.  Let me sing no matter where I am or what obstacles stand in the way.  For I am called to faithfully declare Your words to the world.

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Dear Friend

For the man or woman who struggles to believe that he or she is worth it.
 
 
Dear friend,
 
I talked to you the other day.  It had been so long since we had spoken, but no matter the distance or how much time has passed, our friendship remains just as special to me.
 
I remember all the great times we have shared together.  I remember how you journeyed with me through many difficult times.  I remember the midnight walks and the encouraging words you spoke over my life.  Recently when we talked, my mind wandered back to those days and how much I long to share those moments with you again.  However, the years have come and gone and we live so far away from each other.  It is not as simple anymore as a phone call and an, “I’ll meet you at the chapel in 15 minutes.”  You have your life and I have mine…yet what about our time is really ours anymore?  I guess that’s the thing about being grown-ups.
 
In our conversation, I listened to all that you had to say.  I heard your doubts, fears, and sadness.  My heart broke as you wrestled with questions about who you are.  I wanted to reach through the phone to where you were.  I wanted to somehow show you, though I have no idea how I could, how precious you are not only to me, but also to so many people.  I know that you feel alone.  I know that you are afraid that you will always be alone.
 
And I know that you have heard all the churchy talk before about how we always have God and His love, but I understand how that could be easy to dismiss as something that applies to everyone else but you.  I get those questions.  I get those doubts.  I’ve been there.  I walked that road for years.  I know what it is like to feel like I was so broken that it was hard to believe that God could ever fix it or make anything beautiful of my life.  I get it.
 
Probably the hardest thing for me when I was listening to your heart was knowing that God feels so differently about you than you feel about yourself.  As much as my heart was breaking, His heart was breaking so much more.  He literally died to show you that you were worth anything and everything to Him.  He has been dying every day of your life to show you how absolutely amazingly He made you.  He has a plan for your life that is unique to you.  He has given you gifts that are unique to you, and if you could only see yourself through His eyes, there wouldn’t be a doubt in your mind how much He delights in your beauty and in who you are.
 
Psalm 139 talks about how God knows everything about us.  There are no secrets that we can hide from Him.  Yet, you know what is so amazing?  Despite our history, our mess-ups, our selfishness, our addictions, our sin…HE LOVES US!  We didn’t have to go looking for Him; He found us in the awful place we were and won’t ever let us go.
 
However, the heart of God can’t stand to see you stay where you are.  Why would a prince still wear pauper’s clothes?  Why would a princess still dress in rags?  In the same way, you – a child of the King – cannot continue walking the streets of your life believing the lies you have always believed about yourself, that you are worthless and a failure.  You are priceless and God’s greatest delight.  It is an entirely different identity that we must clothe ourselves with.  It is true that in the beginning, these clothes feel uncomfortable because they are so different from the old ones.  However, -YOU- dress yourself in the dignity of God’s grace, hold your head high, and let God fill you with His peace and purpose.  Because of His great love, we are so much more than that.  You are so much more than the things that you believe about yourself.
 
The truth is, each of us has our own reality.  Each of us has our own point of view, but there is a truth that is greater still.  Just as the sky is blue no matter how much we want to believe that it is red, we are precious, valuable, and wonderfully created no matter how much we want to believe that we are nothing more than a mistake.  There is no life too broken to fix.  Read the Bible!  Some of the greatest world-changers that ever lived came from the lowest places and committed some of the greatest sins.  YOU are no worse than them.  YOU have not run out of time.  YOU are worth it.  There is a world that is out there waiting for YOU.
 
Dear friend, I love you so much.  My greatest hope is that you might allow God to heal your heart, because you have so much to offer this world.  You think that there are so many obstacles, but the truth is that this life is oh so short and change is not that far off.  YOU choose to let Love captivate your heart.  He is waiting for YOU.  This world has so much pain and is in desperate need of those who will bring healing and love.  You have known pain and sorrow, and I pray that you might know joy and peace.  I pray that God would send you out as His prince or as His princess to those who need the same healing that He longs to give you.  Stop fighting Him.  Stop believing the lies which say that you can’t trust Him.  If there is anyone in this world that you can trust, it is He.
 
If you hear nothing else, hear this:  YOU ARE LOVED.  You have infinite worth.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Your life and your story will be what makes all the difference in this world.  Dear friend, walk in victory today.
 
 
-Chelsea

The Daniel Way

I am absolutely fascinated by the Bible, and the more I study it, the more fascinated I become. The more I get to know the godly characters, the more I am challenged to be more godly myself. The more I see faithfulness in the midst of impossible circumstances, the more I long to be used by God and do great things for Him in spite of whatever obstacles might come.

I had the privilege of doing a 21-day Daniel fast this month, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. I feel that I was overwhelmed by lessons and challenges from God, yet I only received a taste of all that God wants to teach me during this season in my life. In the end I felt like many things were starting, but that the journey will lead to much deeper places. I am excited to put myself out there in much more radical faith and obedience than this short fast.

One of the dangerous things that I prayed was that God would develop His character in me and that He would show me ways that I still needed to grow. That has turned out to be a sometimes painful process, but I am trusting that in the end the result will be a pure heart and a much stronger love for others. One of the ways that God has truly challenged me in character development is through the story of Daniel.

I am by no means an expert on the book of Daniel, because it is definitely one of the more complicated books in the Bible in terms of prophecy and spiritual gifts. If we were to look at the big picture of his life, however, we could sum it up to say that it was quite abnormal and abstract in relation to the lives of…well…about everyone else that we read about. It is like Daniel lived in an entirely different dimension – a spiritual dimension – and the rest of society was pretty impacted by that. God placed Daniel in a position of great influence, and he used that influence to bring Himself glory and honor. Daniel was faithful to the maximum in whatever role he was placed. He sometimes stood in bold opposition to the rules of this world to defend the honor of his God. God gave him supernatural abilities to interpret dreams or signs and wonders and he boldly and confidently fulfilled his purpose in those moments. He was visited several times by angels sent by God in response to his prayers and fasting; these angels told him secrets about the heart of God and about the future. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to spend the night in a den full of lions, to watch an angel shut their mouths, and to sit in quiet peace as the midnight hours passed. What an incredible life! And it all came about because Daniel was a man that sought the heart of God and accepted with courage and wisdom every challenge that was brought his way. I want to live like that. I am sure that what we read about him is only a taste of what his life was really like. After all, who can sum up a lifetime in 12 chapters?

I want a supernatural relationship with God, and I am fully aware that there are worldly consequences to desiring and actively seeking that in prayer. However, as Kingdom people, we are called to the Daniel way. We are called to radical obedience. We are called to prayer. We are called to want God more than the very food we eat. What a small sacrifice it is to give up “pleasant foods” for 21 days to know Him more, to seek to be conformed to His character and His heart, and to ask for wisdom and direction during complicated situations. We are called to a lifetime of seeking His face and doing whatever it takes to bring His Kingdom and to allow His will to be done, as the Lord’s prayer says, on earth as it is in heaven. If there is anything that I have discovered about God recently, it is that He ALWAYS honors the heart that chooses to seek Him in an honest and pure way. He honors all that we give to Him and all that we give up for Him.

I am looking forward to the next few steps in the journey of discovering more about the Daniel way. Just like Daniel was truly a man of God, I want to truly be a woman conformed to the heart of God, living this life I have been given radically. May Christ find in me a willing instrument that He can use.

On the Other Side of Heaven

As a Christian, there are moments in this life that are clearly divine appointments. Today, I had the privilege of being invited to one.

Today was our day off, and my teammate and I went to the city of Baños (yes, that means bathroom), Ecuador, located about 45 minutes from our hometown. One of our favorite places to go is the thermal baths, which is natural mineral water that comes up from below the volcano. My friend left to swim, and as I pulled out my Bible to read, a lady began to talk to me.

Literally within the first sentence of talking with her, the Holy Spirit informed me that I would be giving her my Spanish Bible. She told me many things about her life: how she had been married for over 40 years to someone who has mistreated her the whole time, how she had been hurt by Christians in the past, and how she can see the devil so active in the world right now. However, she said something that captured my attention and wouldn’t let me go: “I have always known that I have the call to preach, but I just never did it. I never studied the Scriptures like I should have. How great it is that you are preaching. I did not do that.”

In this moment, I felt the authority of the Holy Spirit fill my mouth with a message for her to hear, and I spoke it as clearly as I could, “You have a calling from God. Until you are standing in His presence in that last day, it is never too late. It is not too late for you. Do whatever it takes to fulfill this calling in your life. God can work miracles in your family and He can work miracles in your life.” I pulled my Bible out of my backpack and handed it to her, “God told me at the beginning of this conversation that I was to give you my Bible. I want to ask you to make me a promise.” She responded, “What is the promise?” I said, “That you read the book of John.” I showed her where it was located, and with all the humility in her heart, she melted and said, “I will never forget you. I will never forget this. From this moment on I will read this Bible. I will never forget you.” I told her clearly once more, “Do not ignore your calling to preach. It is not too late for you. God has a purpose for your life, right now. Do not miss it.”

What an incredible privilege it was to be able to speak truth into the life of a precious daughter of God. I may not know the result of that conversation until we are both on the other side of heaven, but one thing is clear to me: I was given a message for someone who felt she had missed her opportunity to fulfill her calling. However, until the day when she is standing before her Maker, it is not too late.

What about you? Do you feel you have missed the boat? Do you have a calling from God that you have been neglecting? We can allow a million different excuses to keep us from being obedient. Maybe we are afraid; maybe we have made poor choices; maybe it is not convenient. However, whatever the excuse is, the fact remains: you have been chosen by God for a specific purpose. Stop running. Stop making excuses. Seek His heart, prepare yourself, and do it. Whatever it takes. Wherever it takes you.

And someday when we are on the other side of heaven, I want to hear your story. I want to celebrate with you the life you have lived in service to Christ.

Can I Have A Volunteer?

As we are preparing our lesson for VBS, we decided to do an activity that requires several volunteers. Just like in any children’s activity, the question is asked, “Can I have a volunteer?” The result is usually nearly every child raising his or her hand, anxious to take part in whatever it is that the teacher has for them.

Thinking back to my childhood, however, I remember that I was the child who never raised her hand. I hated the idea of the unknown. What if the teacher asked me to do something embarrassing? Or what if she asked me to do something that I didn’t know how to do or something that I wasn’t prepared for? How could I possibly say, “Pick me!” before knowing what my assignment was?

I remember it being ten times worse when the teacher would notice that I was the only one not raising my hand and would pick me for that very reason. I know it was done in an effort to include me, but for goodness sake, I wasn’t sitting on my hands because I had no idea what was going on. I was being very intentional in saying, “Don’t pick me!’ I knew exactly what I was doing. Watch me run and hide in a hole in the ground.

As I notice my tendency to desire a full report of my task before I commit to do it, I realize that Jesus was very clear about what serving Him could require. Speaking of the end times, Jesus said, “You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers…Even those closest to you – your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends – will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers (Luke 21:12, 16-17).” For many, it is the nomadic life: “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head (Luke 9:58).” Attractive lifestyle, huh? Makes me want to raise my hand and say, “Pick me!”

Even though I was the child in the back sitting on her hands, He saw me. He did not, however, choose me against my will. He chased me down to show me how deep His desire was for me to be a part of His grand redemption plan. He sent His Son to die for me to show His desperation for my role in the story. However, by my own decision, I committed to serve Christ. It was a decision that I made the day I heard His voice say, “Can I have a volunteer? Who will go for Me?” No one knows for sure what the future holds, and each individual story is different. However, we do not walk into the Christian life completely blind to the hardships that we might go through. Jesus said plainly many times and in may different ways that the cost of being a disciple is everything. He also talked about the wisdom of evaluating the cost before deciding: “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? (Luke 14:26-28)”

The cost is great, indeed. However, it is also worth it. Matthew 13:44-46 says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”

So what about the concern that I won’t be able to do the task that is allotted to me? What if I am asked to give something that I cannot give? In the same passage where Jesus discusses the persecutions that we could endure, He interrupts Himself with these words, “But this will be your opportunity to tell them about Me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! (Luke 21:13-15)”

The life lived serving Christ is the abundant life. It is the only true freedom. Not a day goes by when God does not lavish His love on me in a way that astounds me and leaves me in wonder. Every day holds a new adventure and a new miracle. The greatest miracle of all, however, is seeing how God took a scared and bashful little girl who wouldn’t even raise her hand in VBS for anything and made her a missionary in a foreign culture, standing in front of people and doing new and challenging things every day…and the story doesn’t stop there. His plans for me go so much farther. This is only the beginning! And you know what? I am actually excited about the unknown, because I know that it leaves room for anything to happen. God could change the world through me, and a vast set of onlookers will see what He did with that scared little girl and give Him all the glory.

Somewhere down the line, I may have to give my life. I may have to sacrifice my body. I may have to sacrifice my reputation. I may be called in front of people to do something that I do not want to do, demonstrating for the world that I love Christ more than I love my dignity. And what must my answer be? “Yes, Lord. Whatever the cost, I will serve You. Wherever I must go, whatever or whoever I must lose, I choose You. You are worth it. What I have in You is worth whatever I have to let go of. You are the pearl of great value that I sell everything I have to obtain. I love You more than anything, and I will follow You though it may cost me everything.”

Jesus is asking you the same question today, offering you an abundant and eternal life. It is worth any cost, and it is true that the cost is great. He is asking the question, “Can I have a volunteer?” What will be your response? Don’t be the child in the back, sitting on her hands. Go for it. Jump in the deep end and discover the adventure of a lifetime. Discover what it means to live for something worth dying for. Sell everything you have and buy that field. He is calling you today.

So Much More Beautiful

This afternoon we had the opportunity to go downtown and visit some friends of ours. They work as prostitutes on a street next to a fish market. Today, I can honestly say that my heart was broken. It was like my head was so full of things that their Father wanted to say to them, but I couldn’t figure out how to express it. One of the girls and I don’t usually have too much to say, but we deeply appreciate each other. Today as I looked into her eyes, I saw the deepest sadness that I have experienced in a while. We simply sat together in silence. As I watched her eyes dart around anxiously and with a level of dread for the next customer, I glanced around as well to see men walking by and gazing a little too long. They no longer see her as a woman, but rather as an object to satisfy their desire. What is this life that she is living? I just wanted to tell her, “You are so much more beautiful than this. You are worth so much more than this!”

Oh, if my friend could only know the love of God! I have shivers traveling up and down my spine every time I think about how much God loves her, how He cries for her, and how He longs for her to know how very special she is to Him. I met her children a couple weeks ago. She has a little baby. How I just want to to let the tears fall down.

I don’t know her whole story. I have no idea how she came to work on the streets. In fact, she has told me very little about herself, and I don’t push her to tell me much. I know that God knows her story and has been present in every moment. He saw her as a child when she fell and scraped her knee. He walked with her through every success and held her through the tears. When I leave her there on the side of the road, I have to trust that this God who has always kept her close will continue to protect her through all the dangers and risks that come with her job.

I have had a strong desire in my heart for a while to work with women in a variety of situations related to this one. I have read books on the subject, but until I met these ladies, this situation was just another horrible part of our society that needed fixing. Now I have a face and a name, and she knows my face and my name. Now I don’t even see the number, but I see a life that is so precious to God. I see a life that Jesus came to rescue; the very life that I am sent to rescue too. God has sent me to convey to her the depth of His love, though I can only imagine how skewed her idea of love is after all that she has been through.

When I close my eyes, I see a little girl dancing like a ballerina. The video plays silent in my mind, but this sweet child is free. She runs around and spins in circles with the biggest smile on her face. Then she turns around and runs straight into the arms of her Daddy. Oh how proud He is of her! Oh how His heart is so full as He watches her dance! Although when I look into the world behind the smile of my friend and see the hopelessness that pours out of tearless eyes, I know that little girl isn’t gone. I want to see her come alive. I want to see the little girl dance again.

I hear her Father say, “My love, how beautiful you are! You are so much more beautiful than this. My princess, you deserve the finest of food and the finest of suitors. I want to give you the best of me. I’m not angry, and I have not forgotten you. I have not missed a moment and I will never stop pursuing your heart, like a true lover should never give up on his beloved. You are my bride. I long to dress you in white! I long to restore your innocence and purify all that has been so brutally damaged. I long to bring you mercies that are new every morning. I long to chase away the darkness that has oppressed you for far too long. What you have been through is not fair, and this was not my desire for you. I have plans for you that are so good. It is not too late. You are not broken. You are not dirty. You are so much more beautiful than you know. You do not belong on display, seated on a stool by a fish stand. My love, you are so much more beautiful than this.”

And my friend, I love you so much. I love you too much to not tell you these words.

Because You Don’t Ask

I didn’t realize how little faith I had until God began to answer my prayers and I found myself completely astounded. That sounds like it would be anti-Biblical, and though I am still trying to understand it, I don’t believe it is. You are about to enter my brain and witness a theological battle. It is a little deep and may be confusing to everyone but me. Prepare yourself.

I was reading the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew chapter 8. The storm was raging wild. He pointed out the disciples lack of faith and then continued to calm the storm. He didn’t ask them, “Do you really believe that I can do this?” before calming the storm. He simply did it. Other times, like in the very next chapter in Matthew, before Jesus healed two blind men, He asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?” and then told them, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14 even though the disciples didn’t see how five loaves and two fish could ever be enough. He healed the woman crippled by an evil spirit for 18 years without a question or mention of her faith (Luke 13). He healed a lame man in John 5 even though when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well he responded, “I can’t, sir.” Then there are times when Jesus says plainly that it was their faith that caused them to experience the miracle. To say that faith is not important in experiencing a miracle is to clearly be anti-Biblical; however, it seems that God performed miracles despite a lack of faith as well. It often served to boost faith or to open doors for Jesus to prove a point to those looking on, such as the healing of man’s deformed hand in Matthew 12.

I know that I will never be able to understand everything about why God does what He does when He does it, but I guess that is not the point. I am not looking to justify a lack of faith, because the Bible clearly says that without faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). Matthew 21 says that if we have faith and do not doubt, we can order certain things to happen and they will happen. In John 16, Jesus talks about asking for things in His name and our requests being granted.

Jesus constantly talked about faith in various ways, including a mustard seed in Matthew 17 and Luke 17. Now that’s an interesting story. Jesus didn’t say that faith “as big as an apple tree” will cause the mountain to move, but rather faith “as small as a mustard seed”. It seems that God would honor the bigger faith, right? Why would He give any importance to the mustard seed faith?

I know that our relationships with God are not simple formulas where A+B=C, but it is rather about our response to God and His response to us. My relationship with God has not been a linear increase over the years, but rather a mess of ups, downs, circles and squares. What makes sense to our human minds, the Bible says is utter foolishness to God. God has an entirely different reality than we have come to understand. I wonder sometimes how much I have written my worldly wisdom into my philosophy of how things work in God’s reality.

We cannot earn grace, just like we cannot buy a miracle. God chooses when and where to do His work. However, it still matters how we seek God. Our prayers clearly have an impact. Jesus tells the story about an unjust judge granting mercy to the persistent widow because she wouldn’t leave him alone (Luke 18). In Daniel 10, God sends an angel out of response to prayer. In Mark 5, the woman was cured because she fought the crowds and reach out to touch the cloak of Jesus. Clearly our prayers matter. Clearly God responds. James 4:2 says that we don’t have because we don’t ask. I have discovered this past week that God answers prayer, and often much quicker than we anticipate, especially when we dare to pray in specifics. Other times, we can pray for something for years and still be waiting on an answer.

I am still learning what all of this is about. However, there are some conclusions that I can draw from the Bible about the kind of life that I am called to live. I am called to live a life of faith, and faith is a decision. When I pray over someone for healing, I am called to have complete faith that God will heal that person. Ultimately, it is God’s decision if He will do it or not. However, my ideas of whether He will or not should be completely irrelevant to the level of faith that I choose to have about what God will do.

This past week I have witnessed two healings. It was incredible. There was intense spiritual warfare present in both circumstances. It was incredible, but it’s not like God came down on the wings of angels. He just did it, like He does it every day. Well, actually He does. I believe that we are called to walk in faith to the point where we just come to expect miracles in our daily life. We do that here in Ambato, and we see miracles in various forms every single day. I can say without a doubt that my faith in God is a hundred times stronger now than it was in the past through witnessing His hand at work, though I am still learning how to walk in this confidence in every situation.

In the past I struggled to put all my faith in God’s will to heal someone or to do a certain action, because I thought that if I put all my faith in what God might do, I would have to give up my faith if God did not come through like I was expecting. However, that’s not true. My faith is not that childish. I can put all my faith into a prayer that God will heal the child with the tumor, knowing that God is just as powerful whether He heals the child or not. Here is the key: I do not put my faith in answers to prayer. I put my faith in God’s power, His goodness, and His love. I do no put my faith in my influence on God’s will in prayer. I put my faith in God’s power, His goodness, and His love.

This is such an abstract and difficult concept to understand, but we need to get there if we want to not be driven crazy by these questions about unanswered prayer and whether or not we have enough faith. I may have some angry comments after the words that I am about to say, but I ask you to truly take the time to think deeply about this before rushing to an answer or a conclusion. I don’t believe that God answers prayer based on the level of our faith, as if faith could be measured in teaspoons and cups. I believe that God answers prayer because He wants to, because we have the courage to ask, and because we have put our trust in Him, apart from the answer or our own pride about having a role in the process. This shouldn’t cause us to stop going to Him; rather it should cause us to run to Him more. If I truly understood how good God is and how much He desires to give us the Kingdom, I would spend all my time in prayer interceding for every need and every person that comes my way. How many miracles do we miss because we do not ask? How many answers to prayer do we miss because we ask half-heartedly without actually watching for the answer? I am convinced that God answers a lot more of our prayers than we realize, but we miss the answers.

We ask in total faith, but our faith does not depend on the answer. Our faith depends on God’s power, His goodness, and His love and these are things about God’s character that never change. Therefore, my faith has no reason to waver. I will never understand why God does the things He does or why He does not answer like I want Him to. His ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I don’t see the whole picture. I may be asking with every good intention and with complete faith, but I would hope that God would act in His supreme wisdom for the greater good even if it is contrary to the prayer that I am praying. My point of view is so limited and I often operate out of an egocentric place. Lord, please let Your will be done, not mine. My greatest prayer is that my heart would be like His heart, so that every day I can learn how to pray more and more conformed to His will.

I will continue to claim God’s promises. I will continue to intercede on behalf of those God places on my heart and in my path. May He never say of me, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” I will pray because it matters. I will have faith because it matters, and God’s unchanging character will guard that which I have entrusted to Him until the day when all mysteries will be revealed and everything hidden in darkness will come to light.

Joy Complete

Why would I ever live my life as a 25 year old thinking about heaven?

Last night, we had the opportunity to continue a study of the book of John with one of our contacts. One of the ways that eternal life is described in the Spanish versions of John 17 is “joy complete.” Of course, this is kind of an abstract concept, and our contacts always have questions on why the Bible puts it that way. My partner Nancy describes it as having a major goal such as a degree or I would say even marriage, and when that goal is accomplished, the joy they have is complete and full. Jesus talks about finally reaching the goal of heaven, and how our joy will be complete and full. What a concept!

Then I began to think, “What is the main goal of my life?” I can say that I want to please God with all my heart, and that I want to serve Him. However, being 25 years old, I can’t say that I think about heaven too much. Selfishly, I want to live for a lot longer. I want to accomplish many things. I want to do many things for God. If I were honest, I would probably say that I am avoiding heaven for as long as possible. I don’t want the story that has been written so far to be all that is written about my life!

God has been showing me how immature that is, because my life should truly be based in how much I desire heaven. It should be a part of my daily life. We pray in the Lord’s prayer that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, so if we are not thinking about heaven, are we really bringing the whole of God’s will to earth? It should be our life’s goal to make earth look as much like heaven as possible. Therefore, we do not have an earthly mindset, but a heavenly one as we live on the earth. That is why the Bible says that we are strangers in this land, however we are not simply passing through. We are transforming the land in which we live as ambassadors and soldiers for Christ. It is our heavenly mindset that causes us to do everything possible to make sure that no child goes hungry or lives without a family, that no woman lives any longer under the control of a pimp in a brothel, and no man is enslaved in a rice field, working the long hours of his life away in anguish. It is our heavenly mindset that causes us to invade our cities with a heavenly love that expels all domestic abuse, alcoholism, and drug use. It causes us to tell every person that we meet about this transformational grace that we carry in our lives and our testimonies, knowing that this same grace can transform each and every one of their lives too.

Our minds should always be consumed with this picture of heaven. I began to wonder last night what it will be like to live 50 or 60 years (or who really knows?) with this picture in my mind, working with everything I have to bring heaven to earth. If that is my only life’s goal, how incredible will that moment be when I am standing before the throne of God, joy complete? What will it be like to hear those words I have lived for spoken over me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?

I am thinking a lot about Daniel these days, and in Daniel 10:12 it talks about his prayers being heard in heaven and the angels being witnesses to them. Could it be that through the depth of my prayer life, I would already be known in heaven when I arrive? Is it possible to already have experienced heaven so much that arriving would be like finally coming home to stay? In all that I have read of the Scriptures, that is absolutely Biblical. So therefore, I don’t have to avoid heaven like the plague because I want to do more for God here. I can experience heaven through my relationship with God now, bring it here to earth, and someday stand before the throne of God, finally home. Joy complete. What a moment.

So what are you living for?

Answered and Unanswered Prayers

Probably one of the greatest mysteries to me is the idea of how God answers prayer. It often doesn’t make sense to me why He answers some and doesn’t answer others, or at least doesn’t answer them when or like I think He should. I have been working hard at incorporating the spiritual disciplines into my life, and I have seen an entirely different side of God than the one I thought I knew before. This week God is leading me through a challenging re-evaluation on how I view the purpose of prayer.

When reading the Bible, it is clear that prayer is important in aligning our hearts with God’s heart, that the activities in the spiritual realm are heavily affected by the prayers of the saints, and that prayer causes things to happen. Prayer moves the heart of God. This is, at least, how I read the Bible, though I do not claim to remotely be an expert on the subject of prayer. The more I learn, the more I find that I do not know. There are so many deep places in the heart of God that I have not yet discovered, however it is exactly that which I am seeking.

I am in the middle of a concentrated time of prayer for many things including our contacts, and God has been working miracles in some of their lives as a result of that. One person that I have been praying for has recently and literally overnight dedicated everything to God and has come to everything, including 4am prayer. We went with him today to buy a Bible so he can be reading it on his own. Another person we met with today is someone for whom we have been praying for a long time. She is caught in a difficult situation, and as we were talking, I went down the list of the specific things I have prayed for and checked them off. We walked away from that conversation rejoicing in how big and amazing God is.

For the first time in my life, I am really starting to see answers to my prayers. However, I can also say that for the first time in my life I have the guts to ask for specific things. Over the years, I constantly prayed, “Lord, help me with this decision or show me Your will,” and those are valid prayers, but not ones that, when answered, clearly point to Divine intervention. Those kinds of answers are often overlooked or taken for granted. Now I understand that Jesus meant what He said when He told us to ask and we will receive. I understand what it means, at least a little bit, to seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness.

There are some things for which I have been praying for a very long time that still go “unanswered”. This week the theme that we are assigned to teach is about expecting miracles and how to pray for them. Although it is difficult for me to explain the deep mysteries of why God answers some things a certain way and others a different way, especially when I have a deeply personal situation in which I identify with the struggle, I know that trusting God is a choice. I have realized that a lot of it has to do with how we see God. I finally not too long ago let go of some resentment and misunderstandings that I had of God. I realized that He is good and that He never changes. So He has become my rock.

Here is my decision. I choose to pray with all faith that God will do what I ask in His name and that which is conformed to His will. I choose to thank Him for the prayers that He has answered and I choose to trust Him for the answers that I have not received yet. It is that simple. Whether my prayers are answered or unanswered, I love Him, and I choose to trust Him with unwavering faith.

Change of Mindset

It’s easy to think about the future and dream big dreams, but when it comes to right now be so confused about how to make a difference. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of every day and then suddenly it is the future and it isn’t what we thought it would be.

One of the hardest parts of accepting God’s calling on my life was the fear that it would just turn into another big dream that wouldn’t be realized. I moved forward with half-hearted conviction because I didn’t want to be hurt when it didn’t happen. I have always been called a dreamer and said to have my head up in the clouds, and maybe that is true. I believe that God created me that way. However, I don’t want to be the kind of dreamer that people were referring to when they called me one to begin with. Maybe the better word is visionary. God has put so many things on my heart, and today He asked me, “Why are you waiting?”

Many excuses have tried to rise to the surface, but there is no really good one. I realize that God’s dreams and plans for me are not only in the future; that they have to start somewhere and sometime…and why not now? Why can’t I start following the dreams that God placed on my heart today? Why can’t I look at the big picture and start meeting needs and inspiring others today? Why must I always be waiting for someday? I think if we are really honest with ourselves, there is no such thing as someday. All we have is today. Our situation is never going to be naturally conducive to changing the world. That is something that without a doubt God wants to do through us and we have to decide to chase after that with Him. It will always be an upstream swim; an uphill battle. That’s why it hasn’t been done that often before. If it were natural and easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

God showed me today that it needs to involve a change of mindset. Right now. I need to capture the vision. I need to see the details in my imagination. I need to feel the highs and lows. I need to imagine arriving at the next step before I can begin walking toward it. Otherwise, it is like shooting an arrow without knowing where the target is. Sometimes we use the idea of faith as an excuse to not use our intelligence or skills to the degree that we should. “If it’s God’s will, then it will happen.” In my understanding of the way it works, we search for God’s will and then we obey using everything that God has given us. It is a very active process. It is not a passive waiting for everything to simply “happen”. We have an incredibly important part in it.

Did you know that you are powerful? Did you know that as a child of God that has been transformed by His grace, you have full authority and permission to walk forth into the world and boldly shine your light? There is no time for false humility that says, “I am nothing, but God is everything.” The truth is, because of God, you are everything you need to be and have everything you need in order to go forth. He has called you. He is sending you. GO! Stop waiting around dreaming about someday when God will use you greatly. God can use you greatly today. Seek the vision from God, and He will give it to you. You’ve got to shine your light.

I simply can’t get over this passage from Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 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. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

God spoke plainly to me today that if I continue in the mindset that I had before, doubting my worth or my value to the Kingdom and dragging my feet doing a half-hearted and rushed job on every project that He gives me, I will be the salt that has lost its flavor; utterly hopeless and thrown out to be trampled underfoot. I will be the lamp under the basket, in a house full of darkness with people searching frantically for the light. I must be bold. However, before I can change the world, I need to have the mindset of a world-changer.

A world-changer sees every challenge as an opportunity to totally transform the project into the best it can be. A world-changer loves the most impossible ideas, because he or she knows that “impossible” gives space for miracles. A world-changer longs to sacrifice himself for something of eternal value. A world-changer won’t accept anything except the best work possible. A world-changer stands out.

I was talking to a friend a couple days ago about how my entire purpose in life has changed. I used to be most concerned that I would bother someone. I would live my life apologizing for everything, even when I didn’t do anything because I didn’t ever want to cause harm or disrupt anything. However, I read a quote from Dr. Seuss the other day: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” That was probably the most profound quote I have heard in a long time.

We were born to be world-changers. God created us that way. If we live out the full purpose of our lives, we are going to bother a lot of people. We are going to take a lot of bullets, because the vast majority of the population of this world doesn’t understand that we were born to pierce the darkness. We live our lives so often as victims. “Poor me, I can’t do this because I have been through this or that,” or “I can’t do this because I have this special challenge. People just don’t understand how hard it is for me.” Is that the attitude of a world-changer? I don’t care how much everyone else thinks that you are stepping out and really doing something; if you have a mindset like that, you will never accomplish all that God has for you. FACT. PERIOD.

When I am tempted to be afraid or back down, I have begun to ask myself, “Is that how a world-changer would respond to this situation?” If I am tempted to procrastinate due to a daunting task, I ask myself, “Is that how a world-changer would react to this challenge?” A world-changer faces everything head-on, confident in God and in His ability to work through him. A world-changer knows that there is no such thing as impossible while walking hand in hand with Jesus Christ. Let the sleeping lion inside of you awaken. Here comes the dawn. Here comes a new day and a new story. You decide how you want the story of your life to be written. Will you step out into God’s will and live it out to the fullest potential? Will you allow God to change your mindset? As His followers, we must have the mind of Christ. Christ was completely dedicated to the Kingdom at all costs. Are you?

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