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A Faith That Conquers

We are talking this week in our small groups about what it means to be conquerors in the name of Jesus.  This topic really speaks to me, because there is a vision on my heart that I believe is from God, and it is super big and super impossible for me.  It is testing my faith in ways that my faith has never been tested before, because I am being called to invest a lot more in this vision than in anything I have done in the past.  It is great to have dreams and to talk about them.  That’s what we do, right?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Or better yet:  What is God calling you to do with your life?

Well, that’s all great until the rubber hits the road and you actually have to work for your calling.  God doesn’t hand success out to us on a silver platter.  We are called to be workmen approved by God and to invest all the talents that we have been given in things that are worthy of the Master’s instructions.

What they don’t tell you when you are growing up is that you will have a period of time – could be a few months, could be a few years – when you work with all you have and see little results, and you have to simply keep working and giving 110%.  It takes a lot of faith to believe in a vision even when the rest of the world does not yet believe.  However, if we look at the story of anyone great, it is almost a common denominator that hard work was required and it was extremely frustrating in the beginning.  In this world where we are taught to value convenience and the fast-track, we have to come to the point where we realize that there are no short cuts to earning what really matters.

So where does God come in with all of this?  I am discovering that for me it is a matter of obedience.  I am not responsible for the results, and that is both an amazing thing and a frustrating thing.  Sometimes God wants to develop in us the character He desires before He will allow us to receive the blessing.  Discipline has been a big topic for me.  Not caring what other people think or say when it contradicts what God says is another.  Time management is a fairly new concept.  These have been hard lessons for me.

However, I want to have a faith that conquers.  The question has been asked this week, “Are you a conqueror?”  I can see how in the past I have been quick to wave my white flag, sometimes very prematurely.  However, God is changing that in me.

Faith that conquers has a clear vision and is aggressive in seeing that happen.  I have received a clear vision from God and a calling that has been Divinely grown over the years.  The Holy Spirit has commissioned me.  Therefore, I am called to be a warrior; I am called to push forward and see it through, as much as it depends on me.

Faith that conquers does not listen to strange voices.  This is super difficult for me, even when those voices are people that I respect and whose opinions I value greatly.  Sometimes arrows can come from those closest to us.  Satan wants to steal our blessing.  He will send fear into our lives to speak the prophecy of doom in order to defeat us before the battle even begins.  Then, when we are in the midst of the fight, he will attack again and cause us to ask, “Why am I doing this?”  However true faith causes us to be overcomers – overcomers of fear.  True courage does not necessarily mean that we don’t feel fear; but rather it means that we push through anyway, believing the truth that God clearly gives us in His Word and listening only for His voice.

Faith that conquers declares blessing.  Words are incredibly powerful, and they can destroy or give life.  James 3 makes that clear.  We can all see evidence of this as well in our lives.  Therefore, if what I am proclaiming is, “I want to do this.  It is my dream.  However, it is so impossible,” then we are defeated before we even begin.  However, a conqueror approaches his or her vision valiantly with the victory of Christ.  “I am called to do this, and I will do it in Jesus’ name.  I will be courageous and see this through to the end.  I want the blessing of God.”  The Bible says in several places that there is nothing impossible with God.  Therefore, if He has called you to do something, it is possible with Him by your side.

Something important to remember:  just because something is God’s will for your life does not mean it will automatically happen.  I cannot say that I have been called to write professionally and simply sit back and wait for God to make His will happen in my life.  I am called to a lifestyle of obedience and hard work.  I am called to use my talents to the fullest.  I am called to develop my skills.  I am called to develop the network that I have.  When I am completely faithful with all that I hold in my hands, God will, in His time, work all things for His glory.

We must have vision to see beyond what we can see.  The vision isn’t big enough until it is something only God can do.  That is definitely true for me.  It is sometimes a momentary battle to look at all that I see as impossible and to decide to believe that the “impossible” part is in God’s hands.  It is challenging to believe that God not only wants to do all He has put in my heart, but that He WILL do all that He has shown me.  What a crazy step of faith that is.  It’s like walking on a suspension bridge full-speed without consistently seeing the next plank of wood.  I could at any point fall to my death, but there is no other path to faith.

John 11:40 says, “Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?'”

I want to see God’s glory in my life.  I want to see His power.  I want to be used greatly by Him to touch the lives of many.  This is a passion of mine because God placed that in my heart.  Therefore, I can be confident that I WILL do that, in Jesus name.  I can write like I am communicating the very heart of God.  I can speak like Christ is speaking through me, because He is.

May you be challenged to have a faith that conquers.  There is no place in the Kingdom for a faith that waves a white flag, except to surrender ourselves in humility before God.  You cannot do this without Him, but if you have been called by Him, the impossible is made possible through His power.  Walk in His victory as the conqueror you are today.

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Missing the Miracle

This morning as a team we were reading in Mark chapter 5 about the story of Jairus and his daughter whom Jesus healed.  I have read this story hundreds of times, but there was something that I had never noticed about Jesus’ actions on that day.

You may know the story:  Jairus was an important guy – the leader of the local synagogue in fact.  His twelve-year-old girl was dying.  He heard about Jesus and the fact that He had been healing so many people, so Jairus sought Him out and begged Him to come and heal his daughter.  Jesus agreed.

So they started down the road.  A lady who had been bleeding for 12 years (wonder what was going on with the number 12 that day) came and touched Jesus and was healed.  Slight delay.  While they were in route, Jairus received word that his daughter was dead.  Before he could cancel plans with Jesus, the Son of God approached him and told him that he must have faith and his daughter would live.  So they continued to the house.

When they arrived at the house there was a massive crowd of people and they were making all kinds of noise with their crying.  In this time, there were people actually paid to cry.  That was their job.  How annoying would that be?  Anyway…detour.  Apparently Jesus was annoyed with them as well, so he sent them out, leaving just Him with three of his disciples, the girl’s parents, and the dead girl.  Jesus touches her, tells her to get up, and she does.  Awesome miracle.

That’s how I’ve always seen the story.

Today we focused our discussion on:  why did everyone but the three disciples and the parents of the girl miss the miracle?  Why did Jesus send everyone out except those five witnesses?

Because those Jesus sent out were obstacles to the miracle on that particular day.  Their hullabaloo and chaos were not part of the spirit that Jesus was looking for in witnesses.

I wonder how many times I have missed a miracle because I was a distraction or an obstacle to Christ.  Maybe it was my lack of faith.  Maybe I was just making a lot of racket that didn’t serve Christ for anything.  Maybe I was following the crowd.  Or maybe, like many of the people in this story, I was telling Jesus (or someone Jesus sent) that He was uninformed about the situation and crazy to think differently than I.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be in the minority with crazy faith than part of the crowd making all the racket.  You know why?  Because the crowd is missing the miracle!  I want to be in that room; I want to hear Jesus give the command, and I want to see her eyes flash open and her body fill with life.

I am called to awaken the Church, and I need to believe in the miracle.  I don’t want to stand in the way.  Rather, I want to be present with Jesus as He breathes life into the Church.  Just like Jairus’ daughter, I want to see the Church’s eyes flash open and her body fill with life.  I don’t want to be one of those outside missing the miracle.

Where are you?  Are you in the room or outside among the critics?  Stop being an obstacle to God’s work.  Discover His will and be a part of all that He is doing in the world.  The miracle of God’s hand in action is worth it.

I Will Do It

This morning I read a post by Jon Acuff (I read all his stuff, and you should too) called Failure Is a Day, Not a Destiny.  Here is the link:

http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2013/09/failure-is-a-day-not-a-destiny/

The article talks about the role fear plays in our lives.  It talks about how fear is a prophet, but speaks only doom.  What it says about us becomes our reality if we listen.

Words have power.  The encouragement or the insults we speak over others can have grand effects, whether those effects were our intention or not.

The same is true for self-talk.  For years, I allowed the thoughts of “I can’t” and “I’ll fail” to chill inside my mind like little friends.  Whenever I was faced with a challenge, they were the first to show up and didn’t allow any other thoughts to enter.

However, there was something that I didn’t realize:  I have a lot more control over my thoughts than I had allowed myself to believe.  I am not destined to live with these little friends forever.  Therefore, I came up with a new phrase and I give it colorful invitations every day into my mind.

“I will do it, and I will do it well.”

Turns out this phrase is a lot stronger than the other two.  When true confidence is invited in, fear realizes that it can’t shout as loud.  As I have faced challenges with the belief that I will do it and do it well, I have found that I can.  And when I fall short in some areas, I learn from those moments and do it better the next time.  Because of this, fear consistently walks out the door, because it’s not going to stick around where no one is listening.

It’s not to say that we won’t have failures.  The more risks we take, the more failures we are going to have, but we will also have more successes.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder what I could have done with my moments and my years.  I want to reach the end thanking God for the wild adventure we took together.

I want to inspire people, and yes I have people that I look up to who are putting things out there that challenge and encourage (like Jon Acuff).  However, I refuse to let the old thoughts of, “I could never do something like that” to enter my mind any longer.  I can do that and I will do that, starting today.  That’s the truth.  So I invite my new friend in again to say:  “I will do it, and I will do it well.”  Period.  Have a nice day.

What Is Your Name?

I don’t know if this will resonate with you.  Maybe it will be exactly what you need to hear.

When we read in Genesis about the story of Jacob, we can observe the life of a master manipulator.  From the time he was born, he lived up to his namesake, which means “deceiver”.  Even though he was the younger of two brothers, through planning he stole his brother’s birthright and blessing.  He met his match in his father-in-law who tricked him into marrying his older daughter as well as his younger daughter, just like Jacob tricked him in how he handled the flocks and herds.  Jacob was definitely not a trustworthy person, except in that you could trust him to look out for his own interests first and foremost.

Jacob’s life changed, however, when he had an encounter with God in Genesis chapter 32.  He sent his family ahead of him one night and stayed alone in the camp.  The Bible doesn’t say why, but that night a man came and wrestled with Jacob until daybreak.  As the man was losing, he knocked Jacob’s hip out of socket and begged him to let him go.  Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man then asked, “What is your name?”  And he replied, “Jacob (Deceiver).”

After that, the man changed Jacob’s name to Israel because he fought with God and won.  His name and descendants would grow into a people chosen by God and directly cared for by God.

If there is a word that I have allowed to define me for a long time, it would be “Failure”.  It was a name given to me by the enemy from the day I was born and in many ways, I lived up to my name sake.  I was notorious for starting projects and letting them die, having dreams but leaving them in the sky, and receiving messages from God and not completing what He asked of me.  There were very few things in my life in which I felt success.  If ever I started to chase a dream, the enemy would remind me of my name.  He would remind me of my history.  He made me believe that was who I was.

However, not too long ago, I began to wrestle with God through the long night.  I didn’t give up in my search for His blessing.  He asked me for my name, so I told Him, “Failure.”  Then He spoke to me and said, “I am going to give you a new name:  World-Changer.”  That is such a better name to live up to.

I am thankful that God changed Jacob’s name, and even more grateful that He changed mine.  I could not have changed it on my own.  I had to wrestle with the Divine.

How about you?  What is your name?  How does God want to redeem that today?

Without Limits

“‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them, ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.  Nothing would be impossible.'”  -Matthew 17:20

What if I lived my life in God’s realm?  What if I caught the vision that God has for the world?  What if I really believed that anything is possible?

I would write that book that has been on my heart for a long time.

I would speak in every public place I could find to encourage those who are called to actually fulfill their purpose.  I would challenge them to face their fears.  I would call them to leave it all behind – everything – for the cause of Christ.  I would speak about the Kingdom.  I would live my life calling people to action.

I would come up with a plan that would eradicate forever the orphan problem in Africa.  Every child would have a home.  There would be no more child soldiers.  There would be no more sex trafficking.  There would be no more forced labor.  There would be no more tears for wasted years and stolen innocence.  There would be only redemption.

God knows no limits, and as His child, I have the privilege of walking in His authority and victory.  There is no challenge too great nor is there brokenness too profound for God to work a miracle.  However, to see the miracle, I need to believe; not just with my words, but with all my heart that God not only can do the impossible, but that He WILL do it.  How would that change how I pray?

Today, I choose to accept and believe in a God without limits.  I choose to believe that there are also no limits to what my Father can do through me.  I choose to believe that this world can and will change.  Lord, use me.

That’s My Kid!

In Matthew 17, Jesus shares a moment with His disciples when He is changed into His heavenly glory and His Father speaks a word of affirmation about Him from Heaven.  God said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.  Listen to Him.”

I’m not a mom yet, but I have observed many moms as they bring their children into the public eye, generally at restaurants or in stores.  There are children who range from being very well-behaved to those who bring shame upon their parents and everyone in the store silently watches as mom ducks for cover in the marshmallow isle.  It is easy to judge someone’s parenting skills when you have never had to control a child yourself.  I have realized that once you have a child for which you are in charge and they throw a tantrum out of nowhere, you understand that each child is a separate human being with a will of its own.  He or she chooses whether or not to listen to your instructions.

I have also watched parents as they attend their child’s school concerts or sporting events.  Parents do crazy things to show everyone else which child is theirs.  They wear t-shirts with their child’s number on it, sound those obnoxious noise makers when they score, or give a standing ovation all alone after a solo.  Whether they say it out loud or not, they want to say to the world, “That’s my kid!  I’m so proud of him!”  They know better than anyone what it took for that child to get up and perform; the insecurities and fears.  They calmed his stage fright moments before the show and spent hours shooting hoops the week before so that she might be ready for the game.  It’s like they live those moments of anticipation and emotion with their child.  They have watched the progress over the years as their child developed her talent and know all the preparation that had to take place.  No one knows better than mom and dad what it has taken to get there.

When I think about how God might feel about me, many things come to mind.  Just like any kid, I want my Daddy to be proud of me.  I want to hear Him shout from the stands, “That’s My kid!”  I want Him to tell the world, “She brings me so much joy!”

So often my insecurity wants to tell me that He is disappointed in me, especially when the end result of something isn’t what I was wanting or expecting.  I knock over the music stand as I’m walking onto stage.  I stutter because I’m embarrassed.  The words don’t come out in Spanish like they sound in my head and people are sitting there giving me confused looks.  In my head before it actually happened, things went so much better.  “Wow,” I think, “I really blew that one.”

It’s also easy to compare myself with other children of His.  When my ministry partner has led 10 people to Christ this week and I have not led anyone to Christ, I tend to think, “Well, Daddy must be more proud of her than me.”

However, I had to come to the point where I realized how skewed my view of Him was.  No one knows better than He what it took to bring me to where I am.  No one else has seen the frustration and the tears like He has.  No one else has spent as many hours practicing writing or music with me so that I might be ready for the moment when I would be showing it to the world.  No one else has calmed my fears before each performance as much as He.  No one else fully gets how STINKING HARD Spanish is for me, nor have they seen me struggle for thousands of hours for ten years to get to the point where I can give a lesson in a Bible Study.  He sees me feeling a thousand fears yet facing them with stubborn resolve.  When everyone else is looking at me like, “Get it together, kid,” my Daddy is looking at me and saying to the world, “That’s my kid!  I’m so proud of her!”

Knowing that truth about my Daddy makes me want to please Him more.  It makes me want to keep getting up and giving it all I’ve got.  In the past it was so easy for me to speak condemnation over my life, but that never came from my Daddy.  That came from someone else.  It may be true that some things I can’t do as well as other children of His, but He doesn’t compare me to them.  My journey has been and is so different to the point that it is impossible to compare it to someone else’s.  God doesn’t pick people to be on His team based on their skills.  There are no “last chosen” members of His team.  I am meant to shine like He made ME to shine, unique and incomparable…and totally different from anyone around me.  I am His kid, and I live in His smile.  Nothing else matters more than that.

How do you think God feels about you?  If you struggle to believe His love for you, don’t wait another day to dive into His Word and find the truth.  We have an enemy named Satan who tries to attack us at the point of our worth.  We can live an entire lifetime and not even realize that we are believing a lie about our identity.  We can live defeated lives to the point that we never get on stage or enter the court.  It is so important to know the truth.  Spend time with Him.  Get to know Him.  Listen to the plans He has for you and dive into them.  Then tune into His voice so you can hear Him shouting from the stands, “That’s my kid!”  He is not a God of condemnation; rather He longs to shower you with love and acceptance.  He wants to sound the obnoxious noise maker when you score the goal.  He wants to give you a standing ovation.  He gets it.  He gets you, and He wants you to do everything you were made to do.  Instead of living your life under the weight of expectations, choose to live your life under the love of God.  You will find everything that You need in Him.

99 Years

This morning as I was listening to my partner give a discipleship lesson to some of our contacts, Genesis 17:1 was read:  “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai – ‘God Almighty.’  Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.'”

What a simple but powerful statement.  God showed Abram his power and gave him a command:  “Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.”  At 99 years old, one might think that his life was about over.  However, for Abram, it was only just beginning.  Next year his wife would have a baby.

God gives us this command as well.  We must be faithful, we must serve Him only, and our life should reflect clearly His character.  Blameless.  What a big word, but I want it to be said of me.

99 years old and Abram’s story was just beginning.  Tomorrow, I will wake up with a life ahead of me.  25 years and the story is just beginning.  What an exciting adventure.  Thank you for the opportunity, God.  Let’s do this thing!

Where You Are

Do you have a calling on your life that you are afraid to believe is possible?  Do you find yourself internally fighting God because of your doubts?  I have to give credit to my pastor for a message on Sunday night that found me right where I was and challenged me to the core.

When we read the Bible, history is not marked by numbered years as much as it is by certain influential people that everyone knows about.  It is a no-brainer that people who have shrunk back in fear and hidden themselves and their gifts aren’t among those who mark time.  It is only the valiant who have stepped out and become people of influence (for the good or for the bad) and become household names.

Now it is true that the goal in life is not to become famous.  However, I don’t know about you, but among my deepest desires is to have as big of an impact on this world as God would allow me and to shine brightly for Him.  I want to inspire and challenge people, and I want the world to be a better place when I leave someday for me having been here.  That doesn’t happen by timidly stepping out into the unknown.  It happens with a cannonball into the deep end and with radical trust in God.

I recently heard a song by Kerrie Roberts that immediately became the theme song for my life.  The song is called Middle of It All.  The first verse says:

 

I want to be the one who stands in the fray

I want to take a chance so I can say

I’m coming through, gonna get my hands dirty

On the journey here with You

 

I want to remember those forgotten by the world

I want to be the words for those unheard

And I’ll follow You into the hardest places

When I’m afraid, I’ll trust You

I’m afraid, but I’ll trust You

 

So we have these dreams.  We want to change the world.  But how do we do it?  Because it seems like the situation where we are is not conducive to that.  And you know what?  It never will be; not until you decide to make it that way.  Our society does not breed or encourage world-changers; it tries to shut them up.  So stop waiting for the stars to align and for the conditions to be right.  Stop waiting until you are brave enough.  Courage is a choice.  Go for it.

Begin where you are.  Right now.  Stop waiting.

You may not remotely have all the resources you feel you need to make it all happen.  You may not have accumulated yet the influence you feel you need.  But isn’t it awesome that we have a God who is the owner of everything?  Isn’t it awesome that we have the Holy Spirit who goes before us, walks with us, and stays where our footsteps leave?  When we begin the journey with God, we can rest assured that if this is HIS CALLING on our lives (stop doubting), that He is simply asking for our obedience and hard work.  The results are His department.

Use what you have.  God will give you the rest.

Think about the story in John chapter 6 of the little boy who gave five loaves and two fish to Jesus.  In just a few moments, over 5,000 men along with their wives and children had enough to eat.  What could God do with the calling that He has placed on your life?  What could He do with your gift of writing or drawing?  What could He do with your talent in business or your experience in finance?  What could He do with your years spent in social work?  Stop putting limits on how God can use you simply because you can’t see the miracle.  Choose to believe that He can take your life and make something beautiful of it for His glory.

Begin to live and walk in faith.

As we mentioned earlier, this world does not encourage people to go out and do radical things.  The world tries to talk sense into these people.  It tries to tell them to be rational and that they need to “calm down” or “lighten up”.  It reminds them that they are only one person and calls into account from where they come.  One of the most essential keys to being a world-changer is learning how to tune in to the voice of God and desire to only please Him.  Resistance often comes from the most painful places.  It can come from other Christians.  Many times it is a close family member that tries to snuff out the flame before it has the chance to grow.  Faith is a decision, not just in a certain situation but rather a decision to live differently.  I had been a Christian for many years before I decided to walk in faith and live my life directed entirely by the Holy Spirit.  Look to God for your encouragement.  Look to Him for your inspiration.  Extend grace to those who have every good intention by the limiting things that they are saying.  Remember that God has a calling especially for them.  Who knows? Maybe by your courage you might awaken in them the courage they need to chase what God has been telling them to do for years and they have been resisting.

Continue climbing and advancing.

Don’t stop.  Times will get hard.  There will be crisis points.  Remember that the battle is the hardest right before the breakthrough.  How many people have missed a victory because they quit right before it was going to happen?  Don’t get discouraged.  Remember that God will complete the good work that He began in you; therefore, you can have the courage to complete the good work that HE has called you to do.

Do more than what is asked of you.

This world is filled with people who only do what is required.  These people will live life only experiencing the minimum of the blessing that God has for them.  What consistently sets people apart from others is their habit of giving 110%…or more.  Think about the story of how Isaac’s wife was chosen in Genesis chapter 24.  Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, but the servant wasn’t about to choose just any woman for the child of promise.  He prayed for a sign from God.  As he sat down at the well, thirsty and in the company of ten thirsty camels, he prayed that the woman that God had chosen for Isaac would not only respond positively to his request for water, but would by her own initiation offer water to his camels as well.  As Rebekah approached and fulfilled every part of that prayer, the servant looked on in amazement.  Watering ten camels is no small offer or task.  Surely it took several hours to complete.  However, because Rebekah had become a woman who rose above the norm, she had the blessing of being chosen as the wife of a great man with a fantastic calling and future.  Her story will be told forever.

What is it that is burning inside your heart right now?  Let me offer you the rest of the lyrics to Kerrie Robert’s song:

 

So I will run into the middle of it all

And I will come when my heart hears Your call

No, I won’t hide behind the safety of the city walls

I’ll step outside the lines and rise above predictable

I will run into the middle of, the middle of it all

 

And You’re here

Lord, I know that I’m not alone

And You’re there before me anywhere I go

That’s why I want to fearlessly live and love You

You’re the reason why I move

 

Across the distance and right across the street

Whatever You decide to put within my reach

I will go, make me ready

 

May that be your prayer today where you are, and may God take you to places you never dreamed because you STEPPED OUT.  Begin today.

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