The People Lived in Peace

everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree…..(1 Ki 4:25).

One of the hallmarks of Solomon’s reign was that the people lived in safety and security. Sadly, in our day, there is little peace, safety, and security. Instead of acting as a hospital from the broken, the church often operates as a protector of its theology or a place where political stances are more important than caring for people.
 
When Jesus got down to the nitty gritty of life it was never about building something, launching a new, exciting program or making some huge investment in the new building project. His mission was always about love and bringing God’s hesed (His enduring, faithful, covenantal love) into the world.
 
Rainy day
Jesus took people on a journey. Sometimes I think the church feels like it’s done its job when we get people inside a building, but does this in some way stall our journey? To sit inside a building week after week. Do we ever hear about Jesus and His disciples sitting in a building, week after week, as they went about the Judean countryside to spread the good news, bringing God’s hesed into the world?
 
The Jews believed that faith was radically active. We check off boxes in our churches to measure growth and spiritual activity. We ask, “How many people are coming? Who signed up and how much money did we raise?” If we feel good about those numbers, we feel like we’re making progress in the kingdom of God. All of these things are good, but I wonder what would happen if we started asking, “How many people are on a life-changing journey with God?” How many people have shared their story and the church has surrounded them in caring for their needs, whether that be, physically, emotionally or spiritually? Who is walking alongside of someone, sharing their life with them as they grow closer to God together?
 
Could it be that our world’s lack of peace, is because we have stopped seeing people? I mean, really see people. Getting beyond what’s in front of us and into their heart. We are rarely moved to compassion because the only person we can see is ourselves and our own needs. Our Lord, forgive us. What if the church became an open door where people could share their story, be received with love and grow in the grace of God together? What if we started seeing our growing love for people, not programs, numbers or “new exciting ministry strategies,” as indicators of growth? Maybe then, we would see God’s peace expand into the world. Maybe then we would make disciples of all nations, in Jesus name.
 
As God’s hesed extends into the world, His peace rushes out like a flowing river. God’s Holy Spirit changes people as they encounter the Lord Jesus. As we bring people into that experience, teaching them about the love of Jesus their heart turns away from sin as they encounter the living, active, God of love.
 
Lord, forgive me. I lack the love in my heart to see the hurting. Father, I am rarely moved to compassion. Help me to see people. I don’t want to neglect to care for them because of my own personal agenda. God, fill my heart with your grace, in Jesus name, Amen.

When You’ve Been Hurt By The Church

except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places…..(1 Kings 3:3).

King David, although a man’s after God’s heart was also, just a man. His son, Solomon, who succeeded him as King, although a great ruler, was also, just a man, with brokenness, impure motives, and fears. Never should we look to a leader and glorify them as somehow “above the rest.” Truly, they are just people, with their own sins they wrestle with. I think the best leaders are people that are humble enough to say, “I’m a lot just like you.” Should they be spiritually mature people? Yes, of course, but we must remember that even the most spiritually mature persons are still being made into the image of Christ. They still have their own baggage that the Lord is working through.
five-marks-of-a-servant-leader-hia6qyzq
 
One of the reasons why the church can be so messy is because its filled with people with their own fears, blind spots, and insecurities, including those who lead it. At the end of the day, although they may have the titles or degrees that put them in a position of authority, they are just people. Therefore, we should not be surprised when they fail in some way or do something that hurts us.
 
I have spoken with many people who have been hurt by the church. I have talked with some who have stopped going to church altogether. I can understand why someone would get the point where they give up on the church. If our focus becomes how we’re treated by people, leadership or whatever, it’s easy to become frustrated and done with the church.
 
That can’t be our focus though. We must have grace for one another. Knowing that your pastor or church leaders are just people sets them free from our high expectations of them. This doesn’t dismiss their behavior, for we are all held accountable to God and we should be accountable to others. The right response isn’t to say, “How could they?” and then cut ourselves off from that fellowship, but instead to say, “I must have grace for them because they are a sinner too.”
 
There must be an open door of conversation between us and our church leaders. Sadly, sometimes, the church operates out of fear and so the decisions that are made are not done out of love, but to protect something it fears. This shuts off communication and leads people out of the flock to a place where they will be heard and understood.
 
We must remember that the leader of our church is not our pastor or board of people who govern it, but our leader is God. If I place my life in His hands I can rest assured that no matter how I am treated or misunderstood by people on this earth, God sees everything and He will make all things beautiful in HIs time.
 
Lord, give us grace for one another. The church is so messy. We misuse power, we treat people wrong. We don’t listen to the broken. We shut people out. We are governed not by love and grace, but fear and insecurity. Forgive us, Lord, we want to show your power to the world. Please sift through our mess and grow our hearts, in Jesus name, Amen.

Water the Seed

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them… (1 John 3:9).

The other day I set out for a long bike ride. As soon as I started my body didn’t feel well and I knew it was because I was dehydrated. I had a slight cold the days prior and didn’t drink enough water. I had to take a moment to simply drink water before I could start pedaling at full speed. After downing, nearly all of my water my body was revived and I could start back out on the bike.
Nice Portrait Of Young Female Cyclist Athlete Having A Break.
 
What’s the problem with sin? We all do it. Yet the bible tells us that if we are Christians our earthly duty is to stop sinning. To crucify the desires of the flesh and live in our new birth through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. How do we do this though?
 
The book of 1st John tells us that God’s seed remains in us if we are truly in Christ. If I do not water that seed it will not grow. Sometimes, what our lives need most is to return to the well of living water, Jesus Christ, and be refreshed by the His love.
 
As I was drinking water a thought flashed through my mind, “This is what its like when we’re spiritually dry. We cannot live in the fullness of who we are in Christ, because we have not been hydrating ourselves with God’s word.”
 
All of us face battles in life, circumstances that are painful and unexpected. Some of us go into those seasons spiritually dehydrated, so when we’re in them we are weary, tired and defeated. We have to take a moment to pause, get back with the Father and drink in His love so that our hearts can be hydrated with His truth.
 
The Christian who endures the battle with the greatest amount of joy is the one who has prepared well for the battle. They are those who have sipped daily from the truth of God’s word, allowing it to be their greatest joy, hope, and delight. When the well runs out it’s because we have not been drinking from the Father’s love. We’ll be sure to head into sin because we have not watered the seed of God’s love in our hearts.
 
Lord, I do not want to sin. I want to live in your grace. I want to live as a woman so full of the Father’s love that your truth is what rings in my heart. Lord Jesus, may you daily satisfy my soul, not things, jobs, money or anything in all this world. Lord, let it be you, in pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

What the Church Needs in a Good Leader

“I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you” – 1 John 2:14

Yesterday, I received this message from a previous student in my youth ministry.
“Thank you for being such a great youth pastor over all these years. Here at LCU, we are talking about community, and thinking on the loving presence of others. I am deeply thankful for you. Thank you for every lesson you have given at Collide and teaching me to be a better Christian man.”
This young man is truly a gift from God. He is a strong, mighty and courageous young man through the power of the gospel. I am so proud of him. I am deeply touched by his words because they confirm what I held in my heart as I attempted to share God’s love with as many students as I could muster.
Love is what Jesus centered His ministry on. When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God…..and love your neighbor as yourself.”
We must remember that before Jesus led people, He loved them. Indeed, it was the reason why He led them. Even in the story of the rich man who comes to Jesus to see how he might receive salvation, before Jesus challenges Him to let go of His life to take up a brand new one to be led by Him the Bible says, “He looked on him and loved him.”
I heard a quote on the radio yesterday that said, “All of the decisions we make in life are either made with fear or made with love.” Love is what young people need. More often than not, as adults, we impress our fears upon the people we meet. Sadly, we create ministries centered on our own ego’s and agenda to fill some unhealthy insecurity in our life. I’ve done it. My first few years in ministry my time and energy were spent on patting my ego with results to show for it. My fear changed no hearts because I was simply a leader who was led by fear.
Choosing-Love-Over-Fear
A ministry directed by love, now that can change the world.
One of my primary focuses as a youth minister was to ensure that every student that walked through our door felt seen and deeply loved. With the rise of social media, you’d think that people would be more connected and feel like they’re known, but it’s just not true. People are just as lonely, if not more. God made us for genuine relationships with others. He made us to give and receive love. He made us for investing in other people.
Many people in our country are starting to wake up to the reality that we need to focus more on making disciples. I would say this, start with love. Love and grace are what changed Peters heart that day Jesus reinstated Him. We don’t need more strong, independent leaders in the church. We need more leaders whose hearts have been filled with love. A leader without love is just a person who leads in fear, but a leader whose heart has been captured by love is someone who will see God’s kingdom come in whatever setting God has placed them.
One of the scariest things to do is show people your heart. To share your insecurities and vulnerabilities. Good leaders, lead by example in this. They don’t believe the lie that says sharing my fears means that I’m weak and people won’t want to follow my leadership.
When God opens a leaders heart and they share it with others a pathway is created between God’s heart and theirs. A doorway for others to see Jesus through them. A connecting piece for those from the outside to say, “I feel that way too.” As we let out hearts be directed by love we allow for God to create bridges between us and people for His love to meet them as it flows from within our hearts to theirs.
Lord, you are so strong. Thank you for students whose lives have been changed by love. Thank you for using me to share your love. Continue to use my life to be a vehicle of love and to share your good news with everyone that I meet. May my heart never be led by fear but always be directed by love, in Jesus name, Amen.

I’ve Not Arrived Just Yet

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did…. (1 John 2:6).

Yesterday I was listening to a sermon from a friend of mine who said, “We have to be careful as Christians not believe that we have arrived. God has created us more for pursuit than for arrival.”
 
I can remember a number of years ago feeling as though I had arrived. I felt pretty awesome about myself and didn’t think my sin was all that bad. Now, as I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, I notice that sin tries to take me captive more often than I care to admit.
 
There are many moments throughout the day when a thought flashes through my mind that is completely prideful and self-centered. Jesus calls us out and upward to a brand new life. In fact, the Scriptures say that if we want to claim to be a Christian we must walk as Jesus did. Truly, life is not found in arriving, it is found in pursuit.
The Pursuit of God
 
This is why so many marriages struggle. One or both parties stop pursuing and just start believing they have arrived because they signed on the dotted line and wear the ring. Our walk with God is one that requires daily humility, pursuit, and daily grace. Grace for ourselves and grace for one another.
 
If you walk around Jerusalem, even today, you might find some disciples following their rabbi and if their rabbi has a limp, those disciples will walk in the very same manner. To be a disciple means to become just like your rabbi. To walk so closely with Him that His life starts to look like your life. It is an on-going pursuit, a daily sacrifice to die to the old life and take up a brand new one.
 
I want to walk in a manner so worthy of my rabbi, Jesus, that I start to act like Him in every manner. Yet, I know that this requires a life sacrificed to His refinement with each passing day. One of the main reasons why Christians stall in their faith, have a hard time hearing from God and don’t pursue God’s will is because they stop pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s no magic formula for growth. However, the heart that stays consistent in its pursuit of God will keep climbing up the mountain with God as they are transformed, more and more into His likeness, in Jesus name.
 
Lord, I want to be just like you. Yet, I know I have such a long ways to go. Thank you that you are changing me. I can see how much my heart has changed over the past few months. It is truly remarkable. Lord, forgive me for my unbelieving, selfish, prideful heart. Make me more like you as I submit myself as a daily sacrifice to you, in Jesus name, Amen.

Let God Avenge You

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness….(1 John 2:9).

Darkness is always trying to steal our joy and freedom to live fully alive in life-giving relationships with others. As I reflect on my own heart I have noticed a message that is trying weasel it’s way in. It’s a message that says, “This person hurt you, BE ANGRY! Pray for vengeance!”

dark

Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

“In your anger, do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)

Some hurts cut us so deeply that we go on for days, weeks and months mulling over the wrong done to us. It’s easy, in those moments to store up thoughts of darkness towards that person or persons who hurt us. The releasing of pain is the beginning of freedom. When our hearts let go of our need for justice, we can live freely knowing that God makes all things new. There is no wrong done to us that will not be redeemed if we place it in the hands of an Almighty God.

Some of us are swimming in the shallow end of faith, because the deep end requires us to let go, forgive, and set it free. Sometimes, the justice we’re seeking is purely for our own selves, not for the glory of God. I often have to ask myself, “Heather, what’s the point? What are you seeking?” Then, God takes me to the prison cell, similar to the one Joseph found himself in for years after being wrongfully accused. I am reminded of God’s beautiful redemption of a life that was mistreated, abused and wrongfully accused.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”- Genesis 50:20

Sometimes my heart swims in the shallow end of faith because I keep waiting for God to birth my idea of redemption. I have a hard time being present in the moment because my heart keeps dwelling on the past. The past cannot define our future, for God restores all things. We need not fear for tomorrow, because we know that in Christ we have- true victory. The most dangerous place we can find ourselves in is the place of our own hearts that grow bitter darkness towards people. We must seek to actively let go of our pain to find our freedom in Christ.

Many people cannot shine their light for God, because the darkness in their hearts towards other people is snuffing it out. When our hearts burn brightly for God, it’s because our hearts are radiating with His love, truth, and peace. No heart can rest at peace when it is constantly mulling over the past.

Lord, I release everything in my heart to you. Today, I choose freedom and forgiveness. Today, I entrust the story of my life to you, knowing that you are a mighty God who makes all things new. Jesus, be my greatest joy, delight, and hope. Transform me, according to your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Nearsighted and Blind

But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind….(2 Peter 1:9).

When I’m at work, sometimes, the only thing I can see is right in front of me. Instead of the people surrounding me. Mostly, because I forget that my purpose at work isn’t about food, it’s about people. However, if I could be quite honest, food has always been a bit of an issue of mine. From the time I was a young teenager, the thought of it stole my attention and affection.
 
We all have vices and things we turn to that keep us from resting out thoughts on caring for people. They are distractions sent to destroy our witness for Christ. They are vices set up to make us ineffective for our Lord. I’ve got them, you’ve got them, so what do we do?
 
We keep our eyes set on things above. We live transparent lives and be honest about the fact that we really just don’t have life altogether. We never fully will, but we have within our grasp the power of God to overcome sin and impure thoughts. We don’t have to stay stuck in defeat, because we have the victory through the resurrection power of Jesus.
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I often have to pause, submit my selfish thoughts, whether they’re about food, exercise or just purely about what’s best for me and say, “Heather, think about people.” That’s a hard one for me, because at the end of the day, my favorite person, based on who I think about the most, is myself. It’s sad but true. This is something I’m working on with Jesus.
 
As love grows within our hearts in increasing measure the idol of self-starts to die. Those vices of our past will always try to rear their ugly heads, but I do believe that we can be free from them as we daily submit our sins to the Father. I have noticed a change in my own heart as I have confessed them daily before God, asking Him to change my heart over idols like food and exercise.
 
What keeps you from seeing and loving people? What can you submit to the Father today as you grow to be more like Him? Don’t fear transparency, embrace it. That’s where you find freedom, in Jesus name.
 
Lord, I submit my heart to you today. I pray that I would see people today, not just myself. I submit my idols to you and I ask to live in victory over them through the resurrection power of Jesus, Amen.