God Speaks Through Humbling Circumstances….Start Listening

who reveals his thoughts to mankind…. (Amos 4:13).

It is a remarkable thought to contemplate that the God of the universe who created the earth, the seas, and the skies speaks to me. He not only speaks to us, but He came down to us, in humility to become a baby boy, so that He could show us the fullest extent of sacrificial love.
 
Did we ever pause and think that God speaks to us in the form of a baby boy more than in the form of a majestic, all-powerful king? Of course, God is always majestic and all-powerful, so here’s what I mean by that, we are often looking for God to speak, but He already is through humbling circumstances in our lives. God practiced such humility by coming down in the form of a baby. Could it be that His voice is shouting at us through our circumstances in life that feel insignificant? The ones where we are of very little importance? The ones where we are made to look small? We keep asking God to speak, but He’s banging on the door of our hearts through a neighbor walking through a crisis, a young mom facing divorce, a child crying out for help from an abusive home and a baby in need of one more late night feeding.
 
What about the abused wife crying out for help? What we do for her reveals much about our character and our willingness to hear from God. What we do for the lonely, divorced woman months after her husband walked away shows us where our priorities lie. The intentions of our hearts are revealed when our time is interrupted by someone of small significance. Yet, this is where the voice of God most often speaks, not when we are performing great acts for God amongst a great crowd of people as we sit upon our own personal thrones, but in the places where only God sees us in the shadows of His mercy. In the places of humility where we are challenged to become like a baby born in Bethlehem, humbling ourselves so that others might be lifted up.
 
If you want to hear God’s voice, start listening to the hurting, join them in their pain and seek together the goodness of God. If you want to hear God’s voice, stop speaking so much and start listening. As you walk in humility seeking not the throne but the manger we see that God loves people. After all, He became one to rescue and redeem. He left His throne so that we could receive His love. It’s time for us to leave our thrones too and seek the same humility that we find in a manger in Bethlehem.
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Lord, my heart needs you. I am desperate for you Lord. I long to hear from you. I am sure there are many times you’re trying to speak to me through humbling circumstances, but I’m too selfish to hear what you have to say because I neglect so often to care for the vulnerable. Lord, I want to have a heart that is committed to loving and serving others. I long to hear your voice more, so today I submit my desire to be someone special to your grace, change me, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

God: The Gift Giver….Even When You Don’t Get What You Want

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!…. (Luke 11:13).

My parents are great gift givers, especially my mom, it’s kind of her thing. She gets all excited and makes a really big deal whenever she’s giving a gift. Especially when I find a piece of clothing that she and I both like (this rarely happens!). On these rare occasions, she usually buys it for me right away with great excitement. She just loves to give gifts.
 
Our Heavenly Father is an even greater gift giver. His heart is always for us. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Especially when what we wanted becomes delayed or never comes to fruition. Yet, there is a better gift behind our wishes and wants if we’d be willing to look for it. Gifts like grace, love, mercy, hope, and joy. God is always trying to grow us, not with larger bank accounts, a bigger home, or an ever-expanding wardrobe, but with the fruits of the Spirit.
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You know your heart is growing in love when fear starts to die. You know your heart is growing in grace when things like control and anxiety start to take a back seat in your life. Peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control are some of the greatest gifts given by God, for truly, they are the gifts that are constantly and consistently reshaping our hearts to become more like Jesus.
 
Jesus, the righteous and risen King who tabernacles within His people. The one in whom our hearts delight! He is the one we are becoming like as we receive with joy the fruit of the Spirit. What a joy it is to know that the living Savior lives inside of His people through the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Rejoice that God loves to give good gifts to His children and that means you! Don’t get discouraged that the gifts aren’t coming in your way or in your timing. Rejoice that God is growing your heart to become more like Him.
 
Lord, you are life, love, peace, and hope. You are the joy of my life. Truly, you see me. Thank you for loving me. I know you have great gifts for me. Thank you for making me more like you. Jesus, you are the greatest joy of my life. Let my heart be glad and sing of you today, even when I don’t always get what I want right away, in Jesus name, Amen.

Stop Waiting for God’s Big Call and Start Working For the Kingdom

He conscripted 70,000 men as carriers and 80,000 as stonecutters in the hills and 3,600 as foremen over them….(2 Ch 2:2).
 
Doubt and discouragement came knocking at the door of my heart and mind yesterday. Yet, grace reminded me to stand firm in the promises of God- “He keeps in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him.”
 
I keep hearing this message in my life to bloom where I’m planted. You see, doubt and discouragement want to take me into the future, trying to convince me that some of the deepest desires of my heart will never come to fruition. I am reminded that regardless of these things happening I am to bloom where I’m planted. I’m not sure where doubt and discouragement have tried to steal your joy, but be reminded that you too are to bloom where you’re planted. Despite the fact that you haven’t quite yet gotten what you’ve wanted.
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Haven’t gotten the child yet you’ve been so desperate for? Consider acting as a spiritual mother or father to other children within your congregation so you can bloom where you’re planted. I know it’s not the same, I get it, but don’t allow what you don’t have to keep you from experiencing the joy of Christ as you walk in submission to Him. Don’t have the job you want? Don’t worry, or wait for it to happen. Don’t think, “real ministry will happen in my life when I get such and such job or opportunity.” Instead, bloom where you’re planted. Giving praise to God in all seasons. He’s not looking for superheroes with supertitles. He’s looking for faithful men and women of little significance in the world’s eyes to live with boldness and courage for His namesake.
 
Haven’t seen the healing you’re waiting for, don’t despair of hope or allow the enemy to keep you from fruitfulness during this time, instead, bloom where you’re planted. The other day, I was reminded that even in this time, I am still a Kingdom worker. Those moments when I’m sitting on the plane, serving as a volunteer youth leader and talking with another basketball official are all opportunities for me to bloom where I’m planted, taking advantage of the opportunities before me and not waiting for the ones I want to be put into place.
 
Be encouraged that you have a great calling from God. A calling to go and change the world. Truly, it happens, not by the big moments we seek, but through the small steps of courage that we take, one day at a time.
 
Lord, I long to be a Kingdom worker for you. I know that this present season is not wasted, so today, I choose to bloom where I’m planted and give you glory through it. Jesus, use my life, today, in this present season, to be a Kingdom worker for you, in Jesus name, Amen.

Set Bitterness Free

and many people died from the waters that had become bitter…. (Revelation 8:11).

If we swim in seas of bitterness, we will surely drown in despair. As our heart despair of hope, joy dies. It dies in the place of our wound, the place we just cannot seem to let go. The place we demand God for justice (our idea of justice) and we won’t be satisfied until justice comes in our timing and in our way.
 
Many Christians have died in seas of bitterness. I have been tempted to swim in its waters as well. When I’ve been wronged, neglected or forgotten, it’s easy to become bitter. It’s easy to allow what I wanted or what happened to me to become my focal point and steal my joy. It’s easy to let that situation fester inside my heart and mind until a root of bitterness springs up in my heart and mind.
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Bitterness is a terrible pill to swallow. It only holds your captive, making you believe that it has something to offer. Instead, It is like wormwood to the soul. Bitterness not just directs our thoughts, but our actions as well. It keeps us from loving people well because it locks love away behind the bars of our demand for justice. Justice in our way and in our time.
 
The only way to set bitterness free is to unlock it with love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Yes, that person hurt you. Yes, what happened seemed unfair. Yes, it was not right, but we must learn to release what we wanted and exchange it with the love and grace of God. We must submit ourselves to the Master of mercy who heals broken souls and takes the wounds of our lives and makes all things new. He is a mighty God. We need not become HIs hand of justice, instead, we must allow ourselves to become instruments of His mercy so that He might write a new song in our hearts. A song that goes out to the world that says, although life has met me with hardships, I trust in the one who is leading me. He has a great love for me. He is all I need.
 
Father, let that be the song of my heart. Truly, you are so good. You are the master of mercy. May I sit in the shade of it. Father, give us the grace we need to love others well. Shower us with your love, we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Power of One

for the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great…. (2 Chronicles 1:1).

Yesterday, while learning from a true ministry hero I was deeply humbled. This woman has grown youth ministries to thousands, spoken to crowds of people larger than could fill most athletic stadiums, had multiple publications and spoken all over the country. Yet, she has never encouraged us to pursue such things. Instead, she challenged us to invest our lives in one person at a time. Truth is, she practices what she preaches.
 
She has made it her life’s mission to help teens all around the world find their worth, value and identity in Christ. She says she’s done it through the power of investing in one. That’s right. A woman whose grown ministries to over thousands did it by investing in one. One insecure teenager at a time. Truth is, kids don’t stay because there’s some great preacher on stage. They’ll stay because there’s someone who sees them and cares for them as a person.
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The power of investing our lives in one individual can be life-altering for that person. It can help them see, as Jeanne as told us so many times, that they have the wings to fly. The cool thing is, all those little birdies that she’s given encouragement to, are now soaring for Jesus.
 
The Lord spoke something deep into my heart last night, it was, “Heather, you’re going to do this too.” Not speak to thousands, but to love one insecure teenager at a time. You see, the problem is, I heard another voice as I was praying this morning. A voice saying, “You can’t do this.” “No one will respond.” “You don’t have a heart like that and never well.” “You’ll look stupid even trying.” That’s when I know I’m moving God’s direction. When the voice of shame whispers into my heart trying to convince me what God has said is good is stupid.
 
God made Solomon great, not because he was seeking it, but because he asked for wisdom. Whenever we ask for the things of God and live them out, God entrusts us with more territory for the Kingdom.
 
I know I’ve been that person whose sought her own glory. Who desired a stage and thousands, because I thought that’s how I would most effectively minister, but honestly, that was mostly my pride driving that desire. I’m learning that the power of loving one person at a time has much greater benefit and reward in the Kingdom. Be encouraged to go and do likewise. Invest your life in just one, helping them see that they have the wings to soar for Jesus.
 
Lord, I need you to grow my heart. I need a deeper capacity to love people. Forgive me for how long I desired the stage and not the people in the crowd. My heart was soo foolish, but now I long to be different. Please, Lord, use my life to invest in one insecure teenager at a time for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

Unity Through Humility

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you…(1 Chronicles 28:20)
 
Yesterday, while out on the basketball court I made the wrong call and I knew it. It’s one of the hardest calls to make in basketball, in my opinion, and a lot of people don’t understand the ruling so the coach didn’t have anything to say about it. The thing is, I knew it was wrong.
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Something that’s important to me as an official is that the players can learn from their mistakes. Whenever our whistle blows it offers the coach a chance to teach their players about the game, but when you make the wrong call and no one bats an eye, they’re not going to learn the proper ruling and grow in their game.
 
I made up my mind that I was going to ask the coach to meet me briefly after the game so I could talk with him, but as I was about to get the words out, something stopped me, it was pride. This voice in my head that said, “Don’t do that! You’re going to look incompetent. How will you ever move up as an official? Just keep your mouth shut. That way you won’t have to look so stupid.”
 
Knowing this was pride, the second time I came around the coach I asked him to meet me after the game. I knew that humility is something God honors. Although I had to look foolish for a moment, I knew that it was for a greater purpose, something bigger than myself.
 
Solomon sets out to build a house for God. David, his father, encourages him to not give up, but to keep building and persevere in strength. In order for Solomon to finish the task of building the temple, it would require a tremendous amount of hard work, perseverance, and courage.
 
Now, the temple of God lives inside of God’s people. We are God’s temple; His building. There’s a greater purpose God is trying to accomplish and it’s so much bigger than just the individual. In order for us to grow up in Christ, we must walk in humility with one another. We must seek unity. We must understand that we’re going to mess up, and that’s ok. We’re going to get it wrong sometimes, but there’s grace for us. The task of God’s people growing up together will require a lot of hard work, courage, and perseverance.
 
Would we be willing to die to our own pride for the sake of the body of Christ? To thoughts like, “I could have given a better sermon than that,” “I can sing better than her,” “That’s not how I would have done that,” “I should be the one leading that,” “this church is just full of a bunch of hypocrites,” or “those Christians are idiots because they’re ____________ .”
 
It’s not about you. I need this reminder daily, to die to my pride and offer myself as a living sacrifice to the body of Christ, so that we may all grow up in unity together. Why is unity so hard? Because we care too much about ourselves and our status and appearance before others. Our pride throws a wedge in the building process because our arrogance starts to shut down the work that we are responsible for. Our part in the growing process stalls because we don’t practice humility before and with others.
 
I’m not saying I always do this right, trust me, I don’t. Yet, I am learning in life that the thing God honors most is a humble person, willing to admit their mistakes. I’m learning that people are actually drawn to that. In fact, the coach had a great response to our conversation. A lot of the time the stuff we fear will never actually happen. It’s just something the enemy tries to convince us will. He’s crafty like that, but don’t give up on unity. It’s what God people need as we grow up in Him.
Lord, I want to be a humble person.  Forgive me when pride wins out in my heart and I take the bait of temptation and fall into sin.  Show me where I lack unity in the church.  Grow my heart towards grace, love and forgiveness instead, I pray, in Jesus name.

Fake Church, The Overbearing Leader and the Love of God

Joab was the commander of the royal army…..(1 Chronicles 27:34).

Last night as I blew my whistle, I cringed inside, because I knew I had just called out of my area. I was officiating an area that at the time didn’t belong to me. It belonged to my partner and although I saw the violation, I had to trust him to make the call.
 
We all have a role to play in the church. A place God has gifted us to be a Kingdom worker. As a leader, in my own fear and insecurity, I have tried stepping on the toes of those I have given leadership to because in my own pride I didn’t think they were leading well enough.
 
We have a problem in the church that starts in our own hearts. We’re so concerned about offering some impressive program to people that we don’t use how we do church as a training ground for people to try, fail, grow and develop as future leaders in the church. Truth is, the reason I wanted to step in, on many occasions was that, at least from my purview, things weren’t “looking” as good as they should to the outsider. In my own pride, I’ve wrongfully believed what keeps people at church is impressive programs not the power of God displayed in God’s people, who sometimes stumble over their words, miss a beat on the worship music or don’t hit it out of the park for whatever opportunity they’ve been given to lead.
 
In my immaturity what I thought I was supposed to do next was step in and take over control to “fix things.” Looking back, I don’t think that was the right call at all. As a leader, who is seeking to make disciples, instead of taking over, communicating to the mentee that they just don’t have what it takes, a better approach would be to come alongside and help them. Offering much grace and understanding, cheering them on and believing in them, guiding them in their faith development.
 
This problem we have in the church is really a reflection of our own prideful hearts. There’s a seduction trying to convince us that offering something impressive is what people are most drawn to. Although it may draw them, it will not keep them. I have found that was draws people and keeps them is love, humility, transparency, and grace. Yes, of course, we should seek to offer our very best programs at church, but not to the point that we neglect caring for people in the process.
 
This seduction really reveals a falsity we have believed for ourselves. We’ve convinced ourselves the best us we have to offer others is someone who has things together, lives the model Christian life and looks “impressive” to others on the outside. Yet, we read that there was nothing “impressive” about Jesus’ appearance (Isaiah 53:2). What drew people to Him was the love that He had in His heart that He extended to others. He was God’s power on display as He demonstrated real love in action.
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Be reminded today that the best you is a real you. Don’t kid yourself, I did it for too long. You don’t have it all together and that’s ok. In fact, there’s beauty and freedom in admitting that you don’t. People will be drawn to you, not because you’re the ideal Christian, but because you’re willing to admit that you’re not. People can relate to that. They can relate with someone who is just like them, a sinner, saved by grace, being made new by the love of God.
 
Lord, I want to be real. There’s too much fake Christianity. We’re so concerned with being impressive that we’re not being real. I am not an impressive person, Lord, I am a sinner, saved by grace, who longs to extend your love to the world. Use my life. I long to be a Kingdom worker for you, in Jesus name, Amen.