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Spiritual Hercules

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“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling me.” –Philippians 3:12-14

How many of us want to be that Spiritual Hercules, who has constant and amazing experiences with God, who sees supernatural things in their ministry, and is entrusted with great responsibility in the Kingdom? When I hear about people like Heidi and Rolland Baker, who are just entirely in love with Jesus, who see miracles everywhere they go (even the dead raised!), and who are well on their way to rescuing one million orphans from the streets, I am just in awe that God would bring so much fruit to their ministry. It makes me hunger for something like that, not because I want to be this famously amazing person (at least I hope not), but because I want to be THAT in love with Jesus and want to be used by Him in big ways. I want to have a radical life like that.

Yesterday my friend Rachel and I went mountain biking. I can easily say that it’s one of my favorite things to do. The truth of the matter is, it is one of my favorite things to do because this particular road is nearly all downhill and the scenery is breathtaking. Would I love it so much if we were in the desert and going uphill? I can say with near absolute certainty that I would not. Mountain biking is hard work, and it is humbling to see how not in shape I am. I’m not sure if I have ever been in shape, but I have heard from people who have been that it is a grueling thing to get to that point. One must be consistent and purposeful in the process, and they must constantly be pushing themselves further than they think they can go. There is definitely a good portion of a work-out that reaches beyond the comfort zone and breaches the pain barrier.

Paul makes the comparison several times in Scripture between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. One of the most common verses is found in 2 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow-boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

Now, there are some comparisons that cannot be made in this analogy. Obviously, we are not competing against each other, but rather we are a team running toward the standard and goal of knowing Jesus. However, I believe that God has put this spirit of competition inside of us, not to try to be over someone else, but rather to compete against our inner man (or wo-man) that is willing to settle for something that is less than best. I see the attitude in myself so often, especially when I am taking classes. I will do my assignments, and I will do them pretty well. I do not, however, strive for perfection. I know in my spirit that I could do better if I applied myself more. However, I don’t. I also see it in how I take care of myself physically. I find myself saying, “I do a pretty good job; definitely better than I used to.” This, however, is not the spirit that God desires of me. This is something I definitely need to work on.

The first time I heard that Heidi Baker needs 4-6 hours of prayer every day to be able to do what she does, my ADD started screaming and I thought, “How in the world can she even pray that long?” I have found, however, that everything that the Bakers do (and many other people I admire) has come from a disciplined process of building spiritual muscle. They pressed into God’s presence until it hurt – until it literally broke their hearts – and then pressed in more. Why do they see so many miracles in their ministry? Because, like Heidi Baker says, all fruitfulness flows from intimacy. They were faithful with little, so God entrusted them with much. How do I handle the responsibility and privilege I have to enter the throne room of my King whenever I want? I can honestly say that 2 years ago, I would not have been able to spend as much time in God’s presence as I do now, but my meager 1-2 hours a day is not going to cut it. Imagine if a husband and wife just spent 1-2 hours a day together! They would probably not have a healthy relationship.

I have been challenged in these days to press into the presence of God past my comfort zone until it hurts, and then to press in even more. I want to build my spiritual muscle, because I have learned that it is impossible to reach all the depths of the presence of God. There is always more! I want to know what it’s like to believe God for miracles every day, to have a constant radar for the people around me and who God would have me pour into, and to have an endless supply of energy and love for everyone I come into contact with. I am not there yet, but it is encouraging to know that God promises these things if we would put in the work to truly and deeply know Him. You know what? He is the prize! He is the pearl of great price. Am I willing to sell everything I have to gain Him? Am I willing to totally re-order my life and my priorities so that I might gain Him? Am I willing to sacrifice myself physically, emotionally, and mentally so that I might gain Him?

These are the questions I am asking myself in this phase of my life and I would challenge you to wrestle with them too. May you be blessed today!

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Trembling Hands

“When I grow up, I want to be nothing. Someday, I want to be successfully weak,” said no starry-eyed child, ever. However, this is exactly what I am saying now.

I have always despised weakness, especially in myself. People could say all kinds of things about me, but if they inferred that I was weak, it became my life’s mission to prove them wrong. To me, there was not a worse comment to be made or judgment to be cast upon me.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was near the beginning of our contract, and we had a team exercise where we faced the hard facts with each other. We shared the opinions of each other that we would have rather kept hidden. We had to listen with open hearts to the things we didn’t want to hear anymore than the people speaking wanted to say them. My nightmare had become reality and the consensus had been spoken: people saw me as weak. In the moment I handled the news well. However, over the past year and a half it has been a struggle to figure out how to deal with it. “They don’t really know me. I’ll show them,” has been my attitude. However, God has been teaching me lately that I have been wrong. So wrong.

It must have been a month ago. I arrived at the church already broken down, even though it was only morning. I silently wondered how I would make it the rest of the day. Tears started to flow down my cheeks and I desperately tried to hide them. I was so frustrated. Frustrated with fighting this chronic pain. It had been 12 years. I was tired of waiting for God’s promise of healing. The past few weeks had been some of the hardest I had faced. It was like God had turned the fire on super hot. One can only hide something to a certain extent, and that day I was struggling to walk. I would have to answer questions. I would have to grimace a smile, but I didn’t even have the strength to do that.

I prayed in my frustration, “God, why won’t You heal me? I’m here and I’m seeking Your face. I have been open to whatever You would have to teach me. Just heal me, already!” The answer came clearly and immediately: “Not yet. I have greater things for you. My work in you is not yet complete.” As peace washed over me, God did not take away the frustration. For some reason, I would have to see this battle through. Little did I know that God was propelling me into the greatest lesson that He has taught me yet.

Weakness=unlovable. Weakness=despised. Weakness=rejected. Weakness=useless. Says the world.

However, God says: Weakness=full capacity. Weakness=accepted. Weakness=power. Weakness=useful.

It doesn’t take long in reading the Gospels to see that Jesus often preached opposite values from what society taught. He taught people to turn the other cheek, to be a servant in order to be great, and to be like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He taught that the first will be last and that many who are last will be first. Could there be anything more preposterous? The scandal of God’s grace sent the Prince of Heaven as a helpless baby in a manger, born to scared teenagers. The angels chose a field of dirty shepherds to be the first ones invited to the party. Jesus could have chosen some of Israel’s brightest stars to train for world transformation. Instead, He chose uneducated and despised fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots. Riff raff. The world would never expect this. Where were His political advisors? Apparently God saw something in the weak and helpless that He could use more than those who were powerful and capable. Why did Jesus need to die? What greater weakness could God Almighty have shown than to allow His Son to die? As crazy as it may seem, I know one thing to be true: without death, there would be no resurrection.

God isn’t looking for the prepared; He is seeking laid-down lovers. God isn’t holding out for the educated and talented; He is particularly drawn to those whom society would brush aside. He says, “Come, lay down your lives!” The call is not for the faint of heart…or is it? The call is not for the weak…or is it? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”

Who wants to be considered foolish or powerless or despised? Anyone who truly wants to be used by God. In order for Jesus to do His Father’s will, He chose into that. He became a fool. He became weak and He was despised. He allowed Himself to be a little helpless baby. He grew up, raised by clueless kids. He allowed His creation to torture and kill Him. He spent three days in the grave.

I am learning something very important from Jesus and the ones He included in His story: our emptiness gives more space for God to fill us with Himself. Our weakness gives more room for God to fill us with His power. The bigger my empty container, the more He can fill. The deeper my dry well, the more space there is for His water of life. Come, Holy Spirit.

The world will tell us to try harder. God calls us to go lower still. The world will tell us to reach for the stars. God calls us to seek to be nothing. John the Baptist’s words ring in my ears every single day, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less (John 3:30).”

Paul discovered the secret when he said, “…when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10b).” How did he come to this conclusion? Because God just finished telling him the most preposterous thing any human could ever hear, “My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9b).”

Lord, if You can only use me in my weakness, then, God, help me to drink the cup of suffering. If You can be glorified best in my nothingness, then help me to go lower still every day of my life. Although I am terrified by that prayer, I desire Your will. I lay down my life. Use me. Fill me.

It must have been a week ago. I sat in a room with my friend Brandon and we asked God to speak. Brandon turned on the music, and the presence of God came so powerfully that we were both in tears. I prayed about that day when all my team saw in me was weakness. What God showed me was that He chooses to be powerful in the weak. What was sown in weakness will be raised in power. So with trembling hands lifted high, I offer my life.

Merry Christmas!

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Greetings! Merry Christmas!

The clouds are rolling in and a cool rain is beginning to fall in the beautiful Andes Mountains of Ecuador. A gentle breeze is blowing in my window that smells so distinctly of a rainstorm. Although it is rare here, I can hear thunder clapping through the skies. It reminds me just a little of summer storms in Nebraska. However, it’s Christmas. There’s no snow falling and it’s hard to see too much that reminds me of Christmas as I know it. My spirit is finding it hard to believe that in six days we will be celebrating the famous birthday of the King.

This past year has been quite the year of both sorrows and victories. However, as Christians we believe that victory is always ours, even in moments when defeat seems eminent. I thank God for the full redemption that He promises when we give our lives completely to Him; for the redemption that I have seen in my own life. If I could give a theme word for this past year, I would say FREEDOM. I lived the majority of my life with so many chains – depression, secret addiction, oppression, and fear. I can now say that I am FREE because I am starting to understand for the first time what it means to truly be loved by God. I am simply enjoying every day that comes my way.

The church is doing great here in Ambato. Our leaders are being formed and our third entire class has now graduated from the leadership program. We have around 100 people coming to church, and many many more people throughout the city with whom we have strong connections and relationships. I have no doubt that the church will continue to grow and transform the city of Ambato. God’s hand has so clearly been on this church and on the leaders who are growing and maturing in their faith. It has been a wonderful thing to see and be a part of.

If you are waiting for the special gift, here is the information. Please submit a paragraph (no more than 100 words) to me about an experience that you have had this past year where God inspired you. I will choose a winner and send them the information about the gift. Send the story to the email address at the end of this email by January 5th.

It is hard to believe that when we come back from Christmas vacation that we will have around a month left here. That thought alone has been overwhelming to me. The thought of saying goodbye to my team is incredibly sad, though we have made the most of our time here and have truly invested in each other. I have been in South America for nearly two and a half years! A special thanks to everyone who has supported me financially, through encouragement, and in prayer. You have been super important to me and in my journey.

As this chapter is coming to a close, it is only logical that another chapter is beginning. In July of 2015, I will be moving to Boise, Idaho to begin a 2-year contract with Extreme in communications, working in my area of passion with writing, photography, and media. I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to learn from very talented people and to use my gifts to serve God in missions. I have to fundraise for this position, and because I will be stationed in the States, the amount is much higher.

The total amount that I must raise is $96,000 for Extreme, plus money for my student loans. I pay $400 per month on student loans, but I am praying that God would provide the sum total of around $26,000 that I still owe. I have received money through February, but I have an immediate need starting in March. I know that God has called me to missions full-time in the future, and I do not anticipate ever having a big paycheck. That is why I have decided to not claim financial hardship and to do what I can to pay on them as I serve on the mission field. To be honest, I have had complete peace in this whole process that God will provide. I have seen Him work countless miracles in these past two and a half years in South America and I have no doubt that He will come through. The plan is that I will be in Nebraska or somewhere in the United States March through June. If you would like me to come share about missions at your church, Bible Study, or group, I would love to talk to you about that! Also, I would love to meet individually with whomever desires!  For more information on all of this and money stuff, email me (cweber@extremenazarene.org) or Facebook message me, and we will see about setting that up!

Thank you so much for being a part of my life and my story! God has used each and every one of you to touch me in an important way, and to know that you are praying for me and are standing behind me in all of this is a priceless wind in my sails. Each one of us at several different points in our lives must make some very brave decisions, and knowing that you are supporting me helps me to step forward and do what I do well. I sense that these next couple years are going to be super exciting and challenging, and I would like to invite you on the journey with me. May you have a Merry Christmas, and may Jesus receive all the attention, not only during the Christmas season, but all year ‘round.

God bless!

Chelsea

Go Big or Go Home

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“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow-boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This morning my friend Rachel and I were listening to a sermon, and the pastor talked about his experience with a music teacher. This teacher pushed him to the maximum, suggesting that he practice six hours a day and never giving him compliments. He went to his teacher one day and said, “This is impossible! Who has six hours a day just to sing?” to which his teacher responded, “Those who want to be the best.” Because he was a busy student, he was only able to practice two to three hours every day, but was pretty proud of his accomplishment. After a year of this rigorous schedule, he built up the courage to ask his teacher how much he had advanced, expecting to receive a compliment. Instead, his teacher asked him a question, “You play soccer, right?” “Yes.” “When did you first start to play soccer?” The student thought for a second and quickly responded, “I was seven years old.” “How good were you in soccer when you were seven years old?” The teacher asked. “I was pretty bad.” The student responded. “Well, there is your answer,” the teacher said, but quickly added, “Before you get discouraged by that answer, you should know that singing is an endless frontier. You can never arrive at knowing everything about it. You may be ahead of 99% of the people in the world, but you have never arrived at knowing or being everything.”

That interchange has stuck with me: “This is impossible! Who has six hours a day just to sing?” “Those who want to be the best.” I think about my life and how so often I live surviving from one day to the next. However, what are the things that I want to truly excel in? I can think of a few: my relationship with Jesus, writing, photography, creating memories, being the best wife ever someday, being a true encourager, etc. Each one of these things is an endless frontier of discovery and growth. How much time each day do I dedicate to each of these things? If I truly want to “be the best” that I can be at these things, I need to make it a goal and a passion to dive into them, face the hard facts about where I fall short, and continue to perfect my skills.

That is my challenge to you today: How are you working to be the best you can be with your skills and passions? How have you ordered your time around that? Be blessed today!

The Difference Between Milk and Orange Juice

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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

These past two years have consisted of me learning what my true identity is and walking in it. I believe that I am soon to be entering a new phase of life involving risks and blazing trails.

This morning I was reading, and God jumped out of the pages and slapped me in the face (in a loving way). I have always been the good girl who followed all the rules and tried not to rock the boat. I seriously value peace. I was the milk in the refrigerator…good stuff, but with a pretty bland taste.

However, God is calling me to be orange juice. God wants to give me zing. God can’t use me to change the world until I step out of the mold and am not afraid of receiving flack for jumping into something that has never been done before.

Perhaps I rely too much on precedent. I go where I’m told and do what I’m told. However, before me is a book with blank pages just waiting to be filled. What if I erased all that I think is expected of me and jumped into the story?

I have no idea what that means. However, the challenge has been presented. Be orange juice. Be a shock to the taste buds of the world. Live on purpose. Blaze new trails. Because I don’t know about you, but when my time on this great planet is done, I want to be that supernova.

I’m Gonna Miss It All

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The countdown is totally on. We have less than two months before we pack our bags and are on our way out of Ambato forever. Today I feel like a walking zombie, trying to cope and still be productive with my life. I can’t get it out of my mind and heart how thankful I am that God placed me on the Ambato missionary team. We all definitely have our faults, but I deeply love every person that I live and work with. They are AMAZING people. Our journey has been long, difficult, and complicated. We have all cried in front of each other multiple times, walked each other through storms, (and sometimes caused some storms ourselves), and invested in each other. We prefer each other, and we would fight for each other against anyone that might come against any one of us. Maybe we wouldn’t have picked each other out of a crowd to be friends with, but God brought us together and we will always have a solid bond.

About a week and a half ago, I was in a lot of pain and trying to make it through until after worship time at youth service. I struggled through the songs, and my teammate CJ went home with me. We sat in the dark together on the couch, stared at the tree, and cried. Well, I cried at least. She knew that was what I needed: to be with someone but not necessarily communicating. There was no pressure to say or be anything other than how I was in that moment. Experiences like that only come with someone who really knows you, and with those people there is peace.

And then there’s living in a house with 12 people (or a sometimes rotating number of people) plus the pastors’ family who is here a lot. Trusting people is not an easy thing for me at all. I can be a pretty difficult heart to win. However, it’s amazing to me to see how I’ve been able to let so many of these crazy people into my heart. I’m going to miss a little four-year-old girl screaming and jumping all over me with hugs. I’m going to miss walking into the kitchen to find our three Ecuadorians with their guitar singing worship songs completely off-key. I’m going to miss games of Nertz with Brandon and CJ and not being ashamed at all to just scream at the top of my lungs (because everyone else is doing it too). Then there’s the constant yelling each other’s names from all corners of our four-story house. Random scream fests. I’m going to miss going to the little store down the street with David before youth service, pulling in the chairs from the sidewalk, and talking while watching whatever old movie the store owners are watching. I’m going to miss being able to plop down on the couch next to whoever is home and know that I am automatically a part of things (or at least think I am). I’m going to miss cooking for several people, knowing that generally someone is there to eat with me (usually Brandon and/or Mark). And then there’s the late night talks with Nancy. Our close relationship definitely did not come easily, but rather through the fire. However, through it all, I thank God for this girl with whom I can share anything and everything and she can with me too. We’ve sacrificed for each other and loved each other through some really dark times. And everyone on our team is absolutely crazy. Last night we recorded a team “Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas)” and it was the most psychotic experience…like all other team activities. I have probably watched the video 20 times today, trying to imagine how I could possibly leave these people less than two months from now. I just want to take in every moment, but run away and cry at the same time. Blech.

Then there are our disciples and leaders in the church. We have watched them walk through a process from the world to Jesus, and every one of them is at a different point in the journey. Will they all be ready to be left on their own? Probably not all of them entirely, but we gave all we had and now we leave them in God’s hands. This past Sunday morning I took part in a children’s Christmas program that was directed by the leaders. We 40/40s only had minor roles in dramas while the leaders took charge of the schedule and the program. It is a heartwarming thing to watch. Maybe it’s the stage I am in right now, but I know without a doubt that it is about time for us to step out. My heart is drawing the line.

I’m going to miss moments like this past Sunday in worship. We played “God of This City” for the first time as a band, and as we sang about the greater things that are yet to come and be done in this city, I looked out over the crowd to see nearly everyone lost in genuine worship of the King. At the end of the song we sang, “Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in Ambato.” I know this is true because this is God’s story, and He’s just getting started.

And just as there are greater things yet to come for Ambato, there are greater things yet to come in each of our lives as well, and just as a chapter is ending, a new one is beginning. I am ready for and excited about what is next, but that doesn’t change the fact that I will miss some really cool moments we have had, especially moments that I have had with my team. I am just so thankful for this experience, not only because of the amazing people I have been privileged to share life with these past two years and four months, but also for the ways that God has completely revolutionized my life. He took a girl that was so broken emotionally, and healed and cleaned her up all over on the inside. I am leaving South America an entirely different person than when I came.

I have had the coolest life ever. Ever since I let God direct my paths, it has been a wild, wild ride, and I have seen His faithfulness every step of the way. Because of that, I can walk forward into the future knowing that He won’t ever let me go.

Victorious

If I could be honest, today was a difficult day for me. I went to a rheumatologist for a small issue with my feet, and they ran some blood work and other tests. Everything’s fine. In fact, I am healthier than I have been in a LONG time. I don’t have anything against doctors, but I realized today that visiting them brings up a lot of frustration that I have inside of me.

For example: How can I have gone through this entire day with an extremely high pain level and have completely normal blood work? I’m not saying that they should have found something or that I wanted them to find something. I am happy that everything was fine. It’s just weird to me that everything inside of me feels…not right, but everything looks…just fine. Can I get a witness?

This is complaining Chelsea. However, she was put to rest about 4:00pm when complaining Chelsea met with Won’t Put Up With It Jesus and He put her in her place. That makes Him sound so unloving. He is the most loving Person I have ever known. However, in His love for me, He calls me to greater things than pity parties and doubt-filled thoughts. He calls me to be victorious.

So the conversation that happened in my brain in a glorious clash of the current Bible study and prayer actually involved four people: me, Jesus, Luz (one of our disciples) and Alejandro, our disciple who was teaching the Bible Study lesson. And it went something like this:

Alejandro: If your faith falters when the testing comes, what kind of faith is that?

Me: God, this isn’t a simple test. 12 years??? And no one knows how hard it is to walk through it. Why did you allow me to have a type of sickness that a lot of people don’t believe exists? Etc. etc. etc….It was ridiculous. You really don’t want to hear the rest.

God: So…that’s not the girl I created you to be. I created you to fight. So why are you laying down now? Get up!

Alejandro: There’s no victory without a battle, and the bigger the test, the greater the potential for growth.

Luz: It’s important to remember that the moment we step foot on the battlefield, we already have the victory.

Me: Got it.

Once God changed my perspective, He was able to use me in the next half-hour to speak kindness into the lives of two unsuspecting people. Stuck in my own world and consumed by my own problems, I would have missed those opportunities completely. However, focused on Him, He used me to bring two people closer to Him. But then He took it a step further.

One of my teammates invited me to watch the movie “Not A Fan” tonight. Sorry if I ruin this for someone, but one of the scenes in the movie was a funeral that didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of just a couple pre-arranged people sharing about the difference this person made in their lives, many people shared incredible stories about how this person took his time and his resources and poured them out over these peoples’ lives. He saw needs and he spoke into them. The daughter said to her mother, “I want to live like that.” I said the same in my heart as well.

I want that kind of a legacy; not that I need a ton of people to stand up at my funeral and say nice things about me. We generally say nice things about dead people unless they were particularly terrible. However, I want a legacy that makes people say in their hearts, “I want to live like that.” I want to pour out love extravagantly.

And then I realized something that God is trying to teach me. I have heard it said that the true test comes when we can be there for others in the midst of our own struggles. I might change the words of that saying to run: True and selfless faith is able to lavish itself on others even in the midst of its own battle. I have pain 24 hours a day. However, God wants to teach me what it means to keep my eyes so focused on Him that there exists no distraction, that I see others through His eyes and that I am ready and available to participate in their stories as He leads me. You see, a legacy of pure and poured out love can’t be made when our focus is on ourselves and our issues. There’s always an excuse. If it wasn’t chronic pain for me, it would be something else, I guarantee it. A legacy of pure and poured out love only comes from eyes that are fixed on Jesus, a mind that absolutely knows it is victorious in Christ, and a heart that is always ready to be broken and poured out.

May I live my life in such a way that others are drawn closer to this irresistible God and find His hope to carry them through their storms. May God use whatever means necessary to display His strength in my life, and may I not be ashamed of weakness. Because you know what? This isn’t even my story; and all of this has nothing to do with me. It does, however, have EVERYTHING to do with Him. So may all the glory be given to Him who deserves every bit of it. Amen.

Breathe!!!!!

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“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heaven! Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness! Praise Him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise Him with the lyre and harp! Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing; praise Him with strings and flutes! Praise Him with a clash of cymbals; praise Him with loud clanging cymbals. LET EVERYTHING THAT BREATHES SING PRAISES TO THE LORD! Praise the Lord!” –Psalm 150

This morning’s message by Steven Furtick so impacted me that I needed to share a word with you today. Sometimes when I listen to sermons, I don’t really get into them until the last ten minutes or so. Today was one of those sermons; probably because the last ten minutes were what I needed to hear.

Have you heard the story of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37? In case you haven’t, here’s a recap. In Ezekiel 36, God is telling Ezekiel about the restoration that He is going to bring to Israel and pours His promises into Ezekiel. Then He takes Ezekiel to the most unlikely of places to fulfill that promise: a valley filled with dead, rotting corpses. God then proceeds to command Ezekiel to do something a little ridiculous: prophesy to these bones and tell them to hear the Word of the Lord. So Ezekiel does it, and flesh and tendons begin to form. Soon these bodies look a lot better than they did at first, but there is something missing: they are still dead, because they have no breath of life. Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath and to command it to come and fill this vast army. As soon as Ezekiel proclaims what God would do, God’s breath came from the four winds and breathed life into the vast army and they stood to their feet. What a powerful sight!

You see, in Hebrew, the word for “breath” is also the word for “spirit”. So here lies the connection:

Ever read the story of Pentecost in Acts 1? I want to recap a verse here:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Notice in the story of Ezekiel that the Spirit of God came from the four winds; from all four directions to fill His people. In Acts 1:8 it says that they would receive POWER when the Holy Spirit came upon them. They would receive power when the BREATH OF GOD came upon them. However, the breath doesn’t stay there, because breathing isn’t simply the act of breathing in. It’s also the act of breathing out. And where did the breath of God breathe out? To Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Ladies and gentlemen!!!!!! God wants to fill you with His Holy Spirit today so that you might not only breathe in His breath of life, but that you would breathe out that breath to transform the world around you. I challenge you today: BREATHE!!!!!!

Infectious

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I watched the movie Compelled by Love last night again, and what jumped out at me was the way that others described Heidi Baker’s life: Infectious. Her love and passion for Jesus is like a contagious disease, and one can tell when someone has been with Heidi by their passion and sensitivity to the presence of God.

Could anything more amazing be said about someone’s life? I don’t want to say that I haven’t been living a passionate life for Jesus; I have been. However, it would not be a true relationship if I did not always want more; more of Him and more of His love. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to imagine what that might look like in my life – to have an infectious life, filled and fueled by the Holy Spirit. How might my life need to be restructured so that God would have more room to move in me?

I read a truth yesterday, that God fills us to our capacity to be filled as we open ourselves up to Him. Therefore we must always be emptying ourselves so that He might fill us more. I am not perfect by any means, but maybe my holes and imperfections could make me a leaky vessel that is constantly spilling out God’s presence and love wherever I go. I just don’t want anything else for my life. Anything else is simply empty and meaningless. When you have tasted of God, everything else isn’t even worth comparing to that joy.

I do not want to be complacent. I look out my window and see a million needs. God, what would you have me do today? Who would you have me touch? How would you call me to be generous today? I don’t only want to be filled with peace; I want to be filled with passion. I want to have a love that surpasses the fear that I might have in talking to someone I don’t know or in praying for someone who has a need that I could never understand.

Today is my day off from work, but I never have a day off from following Jesus. His life was infectious, and He lives in me. I can’t keep it inside. Lord, would you make my life infectious today?

I love the words of this song. Let it inspire you today!

Risky Business

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“The solution to fear is not courage but love…’There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.’ (1 John 4:18). The more we allow ourselves to be filled with the love of God, the less room we will have for fear. When we are confident in our Father’s immense, complete, constant love for us, we won’t be afraid anymore.” –Rolland and Heidi Baker (Reckless Devotion)

For most of my life I have been a very cautious person. I don’t stick my head too far out there. I don’t put my heart too much on the line. Don’t want to rock the boat. I value peace and security.

Unfortunately, a safe and wave-less life is not at all what God has called me to. He created me for adventure. I am being pushed into the deep end, and it won’t be the swimming pool much longer. I don’t want to settle for a piece of His purpose; I want all of it.

That’s easy to say and difficult to live. I tremble before the smallest ripple. I get nervous to organize an event, when I know God has called me to run and restructure entire organizations. It would be so easy to live for minimum. I could still do more than anyone ever expected of me. Everyone that is, except God. He knows better. He knows what He created me to do. And He is ultimately the only One who matters.

That will require…gasp…taking risks. A lot of them. Constantly. I need to build my faith muscles. I need to build my skills. I need to learn to jump at the slightest movement of God moving me forward. I must dive in and trust Him to fill me and give me everything I need.

Yesterday I was reading about the great missionaries of the 1800s, and William Carey jumped off the page at me. My lesson said that Carey translated the Bible or significant parts of the Bible into 35 languages. I thought about my meager goal to learn 5 languages and wondered if Carey was insane or if I was underestimating what God can do with a person’s life that is willing and ready to be used by Him. And you know what? Translating the Bible wasn’t the only thing Carey did with his life. He did a lot more as a missionary in India. So the question I have been asking myself is: am I truly ready and willing? If God said to me today, “Jump!” Would I hesitate? Could I believe that He could do immeasurably more with my life than I ever asked or imagined?

The fact that what He asks of me could be anything and everything scares me. So I run to God’s presence and drink in His love, trusting that He will make me ready…not before the risk comes, but the truth is He makes us ready in the process as we obey. When I signed the contract and boarded the plane to be a missionary in South America, I absolutely did not have what it takes to plant a church and raise up leaders. However, every step of the way He has given me what I needed as I put myself out there in faith. Last Friday was a perfect example of that. I was nervous to translate and promote a martial arts event. However, God filled me with His power, and before I knew it, I was praying healing over peoples’ lives with authority and translating like crazy in His strength. He gives us what we need, and not a minute sooner or later.

It’s risky business following Jesus. I am a dreamer, but I have not always been good at dreaming God-sized dreams. I want to catch His vision and live not in in His courage, but in His love. God, would You make me more like You today? Would You fill me up even more? Will You help me to see my future, not through the eyes of fear, but with the perspective of perfect trust and peace? I will trust You for today. And tomorrow, I will trust You for tomorrow.

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