It all boils down to one thing…

We are entering a season where people are more apt to care more about germs, colds, and the flu than at any other time of the year.  Anyone of us has the potential to carry any one of these and spread it to someone else.  In a sense, we are, potentially, couriers picking up sickness and delivering it to others.

If you think about it, we all have the potential to be “couriers” of so much more than the common cold and flu.  Individually, we all have ideas, thoughts, goals, dream, and aspirations that we carry with us each day.  Some of these will be accomplished and lived out because of the internal drive that exists that will push it into being.

I keep thinking about all the ways God can or could use me for His purposes.  Some of the ways that come to the surface the most are in the realm of writing and pastoring.  I meditate on His Word and think on those things.  I know he has gifted me.  No matter the vehicle He uses through me – it all boils down to one thing…. love.  We are all to be couriers of His love to the world we live in.  No matter the arena – love is the central theme He wants to share with those in which we come in contact.

I’m reminded of a time when I was a courier for FedEx.  It was Christmas Eve and there had been a lot of snow in key locations around the country.  This meant late deliveries and in many cases no deliveries.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was sick and it was very cold that day.  We were all messaged that there was a late plane landing in Atlanta and packages would be shuttled out to us for afternoon delivery.  Despite how I felt I was excited to be able to help spread a little Christmas cheer with a few more deliveries.  I just had no idea how one delivery was going to impact my life.

It was literally the last delivery of the day.  I pulled up to the front of the house and I could see two children peering through the curtain in the window.  As I put my truck in park, I could see them begin to jump and down with excitement.  I retrieved the package from the back of the truck as I wiped a little moisture from my eye – I was moved by the excitement I could see.  The children, along with their dad, greeted me halfway in between their house and my FedEx truck.  I handed the dad my clip board for him to sign for the package.  He told me that it was a package from their grandparents and they had been waiting all day for this box.

Some 10 years later, I still recall that moment as a courier for FedEx.  Why?  Why recall a delivery to a family whose name I can’t recall?  Why, get a little misty-eyed over this delivery?  I believe we are all couriers with the potential to impact the lives of others for the glory of God.  What I delivered was a box that contained items that have probably long been forgotten.  More than the contents of that package I couldn’t see – I realized I was really a courier delivering love from grandparents to their grandchildren for Christmas.  I am glad to have had the pleasure of being the one to have that experience that day.  For a moment, I had the opportunity to forget about “the job” or the fact that I was cold and sick.  In that moment, being a courier had great meaning and purpose.

How much more the joy we are to share the love of our heavenly Father with those He loves so much.  “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal live.”  (John 3:16, NIV).

How is it God has gifted you to carry His Message of love? Who is it that needs to hear this Message of love from you today?  Go and deliver it in a manner He has gifted you!

Living life fully devoted to Christ

I’m reading, “Living a Divinely Inspired Life,” on YouVersion as a devotional these days.  Today’s devotion is entitled, Discover your Spiritual Gifts.

I grew up in a church tradition that focused a lot on Spiritual Gifts.  It seems to me there is less of a focus on this in the churches I have been a part of in recent years… It’s just not what I grew up with in my earlier years as a believer… and maybe something I am missing now.

If I am honest, I have begun to do things in order to be seen by others.  I know that is super-spiritual and something you will probably want to aspire to… It’s just not of the Spirit I desire to please.  I find myself in a place where I don’t want to be.  I’ve made several attempts to live out God’s purpose on my own or own my own terms.  From the devotional I read,

In order to fulfill your purpose in life, you need to operate in your area of supernatural gifting.

So much water has gone under the bridge over the years.  It feels as though I’ve gotten out of the water and chosen to stand on the bridge and watch it pass me by.  While dreaming of being back in the water.  But for some reason I’m scared.  It’s a miserable place to be… where I am today… living in fear rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit.  One thing I am going to surrender today is this fake attempt at finding my purpose in the arena of trying to be noticed.  Step one is to step away from what I thought was “my ticket” to moving on. 

In The Message, 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11 reads,

Each person is giving something to do that shows who God is:  Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.  All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God.  He decides who gets what, and when.

Paul writes in Romans 12:6,

…let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.  If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; (The Message).

These words here by Paul really stuck with me this morning.  They pointed out my sin of comparing myself to others and my sin of trying to be seen by others in order to win their approval over God’s.  In the end, my desire really is to hear the words of Jesus, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  And not the pat on the back from others.

Why does God give spiritual gifts to the people He sees as His church?  We can find the answer to this question in Ephesians 4:12-13,

To train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (The Message).

I know it’s so easy for us a Christians, pastors, and churches to get our eyes onto the wrong “thing”.  I believe that’s why so many of us end up searching for something else “to do” or for a new way of doing things.  We haven’t become comfortable in the skins God has created for us to wear.  We are constantly looking for approval from others or ourselves.  Our ultimate approval from God is the only approval we really need in this life.  We experience it as we build up His church leading each person into a lifestyle of being fully devoted followers of Christ.

God’s call…

These words by Oswald Chambers always seem to stir my mind and my heart.  Everyone is not called to preach.  But we are all “called” to serve the Lord with the gifts that we have been given. 

Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains— “. . . separated to the gospel. . . .” Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him…  Beware of competing calls once the call of God grips you.  (My Utmost for His Highest, February 2).

On the RBC Ministries website, there is a link to “Discover the Word Daily.”  There is further teaching available as a PodCast on the subject.  It’s called “Looking at Your Job from God’s Perspective“.  The teachings purpose is to help people understand God’s call (ministry or in the workforce).

Do you need a break today?

It’s interesting how each person that follows Jesus is so different. The gifts given, the personalities, and purposes for each person are all different. God is very personal with each person. Even the circumstances in life are different for each person. For some, it may seem like everything in life always goes their way. Another look at the human race it may seem like there are others that always struggle and have difficulties… never getting a break.

Why is it that some seemingly have no problems and all they touch turns to gold or at best stays steady moving forward? Why is it that others seem to never get a break?

It’s the same thing when I look at churches. Most churches get to a certain place with the number of people attending. And they just maintain that number… sometimes they will hit a growth spurt and leadership is gelling and moving forward then BAM roadblock… people leave and move on and continue on elsewhere or they get frustrated with the whole church thing and just drop out. Then there are those churches that start up and never look back… they grow and grow. The staff grows, changes, and grows some more.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated? Like there is something else that you should be doing… or that you just aren’t fitting in with what you are doing or where you are serving? Do you think that maybe you are doing something that God really didn’t intend for you to do… thus bringing on the frustration and roadblocks?

In Psalms 73we read about the frustrations of Asaph.  I’ve read it several times in the past couple of days. Do you relate to the thoughts of Asaph? What about in verses 11-14?

  What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
      Nobody’s tending the store.
   The wicked get by with everything;
      they have it made, piling up riches.
   I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;
      what has it gotten me?
   A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
      a slap in the face every time I walk out the door. (The Message).

Look and see just how Asaph ends this Psalm in verses 25-28.

You’re all I want in heaven!
      You’re all I want on earth!
   When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
      God is rock-firm and faithful.
   Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
      Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
   But I’m in the very presence of God
      oh, how refreshing it is!
   I’ve made Lord God my home.
      God, I’m telling the world what you do! (The Message).

I don’t know why (but for some) things just seem so easy – and for others it’s incredibly difficult. Wherever you find yourself I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. Stay focused.  Give all of your attention and worship to Jesus.

If it’s difficulties you are faced with remember the words of Jesus to John the Baptist’s disciples just before John was beheaded, “You’ll be blessed if this does not cause you to fall away.”  God can and will get you through anything… it just may be in a different way than what you are expecting.

A sad face is good for the heart

I received a comment from my “Are you hungry?” post.  Instead of posting a lengthy comment there I have decided to write one here.  The question posted was, “Is it possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sad at the same time?”  There were several thoughts that came to mind as I read this question.  If anyone would like to add to the discussion please jump in. 

One thing about sadness and the Christian I believe is that the sadness should draw us closer to God.  Ecclesiastes 7:3 states, “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”(NIV).  I first came in contact with this verse back in the late 80’s when The Choir released their CD Chase the Kangaroo.  The song “Sad Face” has been a great inspiration to me over the years.

I loved the song then as I do now.  This verse puzzled me as a young believer.  I was in a church at the time that was very focused on the Holy Spirit.  (Can one get out of balance when it comes to the Holy Spirit?)  I felt as though when something “bad” happened to me that there was something wrong (with me)… like I wasn’t spiritual (enough) or I wasn’t as good as the other believers I hung out with…  Or I was out of God’s will.

I remember a night when I shared this verse sitting in the worship center with some of the youth and youth leaders.  I basically said then that it is OK to have issues of sadness, loneliness, etc… then quoted this verse.  But I didn’t understand what it really meant.  I had not ever drank from the cup of true sadness and hurt.

Before I go there lets look at John 16 where Jesus talks to his disciples about the coming work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says,

Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…  (v 5-7).

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you…  (v. 13-15).

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (v. 20-24).

I think now I have come to understand sadness and how it relates to my walk with God as a Christian.  As a young believer in my late teens early 20’s, I had not had the opportunity to walk a road of real sadness, heartbreak, separatedness, etc.  Now that I am in my young 40’s I have had a taste of that road.  I think I am beginning to understand why sadness is allowed in the life of the Holy Spirit driven believer.  Jesus said, “Your grief will turn to joy.”  He goes on to say, “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

As a Christian, I believe it is possible to become sad and to stay there – to live in sadness that ultimately leads to a depression.  Remember Jesus said, “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  It’s in those times of sadness He wants us to come to Him.  It is through turning over that situation with trust to the Father so that the Counselor has opportunity to work in our lives.  If we choose to sit in our sadness we choose to stay focused on ourselves – which leads to bondage in self pity.

…the greatest destroyer of that confident relationship to God, so necessary for intercession, is our own personal sympathy and preconceived bias. Identification with God is the key to intercession, and whenever we stop being identified with Him it is because of our sympathy with others, not because of sin. It is not likely that sin will interfere with our intercessory relationship with God, but sympathy will. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 3).

I know there is so much more that can be said on this.  This is probably not even an answer to the question but rather the beginning of a dialogue on the subject.  Below is the song that I referenced above.

Sad Face by Steve Hindalong as performed by The Choir.  I think this song was written after Hindalong’s wife miscarried their baby.  You may also recognize the name Steve Hindalong as the co-writer of the song God of Wonders we have all come to love in our churches.

There’s a crystal in the window
Throwing rainbows around
There’s a girl by the mirror
And her feet won’t touch the ground
‘Cause she never saw the sky so bright
Isn’t that like a cloud, to come by night
Nevermind the sky
There’s a tear in her eye

A sad face is good for the heart
Go on cry, does it seem a cruel world?
A sad face is good for the heart of a girl
A sad face

There’s a woman in my kitchen
With a rainbow on her cheek
Well isn’t that a promise?
Still I never felt so weak
There’s a tiny spirit in a world above
Cradled so sweetly in our Father’s love
So you don’t have to cry
No there’s something in my eye

A sad face is good for the heart
Maybe just now I don’t understand
A sad face is good for the heart of a man
A sad face

A sad face is good for the heart
It’s alright you don’t have to smile
A sad face is good for the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
A sad face
A sad face…

Reaching out to someone I don’t know

Intercessory prayer is a wonderful way to serve others.  Have you ever spent time praying for another person without them knowing about it?  If you have then you know the joy that is associated with the time spent praying for them.  You know of the burden that is carried for someone else… the heavy heart.  You also know how much you begin to think about that person throughout the day.  The care and concern for the other person grows… and you wait on God to be who you believe Him to be in that persons life.

If you do not know what it is like to pray for someone else… commit to praying for someone else… there are circumstances that surface everyday that call us all to our knees – you can touch the world through prayer.

Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 7).

We are living in desperate times.  It seems like finances are a struggle for almost everyone I know.  While driving to work yesterday I saw a tow truck snatching a car from one of the schools I pass.  I know what the tow truck was doing… it was the probably the second re-po of the morning all before 7:40 in the morning. There was already another car up on the flat-bed.

I wonder how that teacher felt last night?  I don’t even know who the car belonged to but I hurt for them.  They are even on my mind this morning.  I pass by a business everyday also… that’s their business – repossessing cars, trucks, and right now there is even a boat in the yard.  The yard is full of vehicles! This is not a time to point a finger… to put people down for their mistakes… but rather a time for all of us to get things right.  I think we are all under a microscope of sorts right now – at least that’s how I feel.  And now is the time to repent of the sins and to walk the path God would have us to walk.

I pray for the person who owns that maroon car.  I pray God helps them in this situation.  I pray for grace and mercy for this person.  I ask God to give them a miracle.

Your intercessions can never be mine, and my intercessions can never be yours, “. . . but the Spirit Himself makes intercession” in each of our lives ( Romans 8:26 ). And without that intercession, the lives of others would be left in poverty and in ruin.  (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 7).

Did he get inside you?

My prayer time in the past couple of weeks has been going to a place I have not been to in some time. Maybe it is due to the lessons that were put together for our small groups… they have all been pertaining to prayer.  I also think it has a lot to do with dreams God desires to see lived out in my life and those around me. 

For some reason, God has seen fit to lead in this manner.  I look forward to seeing the dreams God is going to unleash as a result. I am blessed to see how God has been working in the lives of several people around me and am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part it.

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” Acts 19:2, The Message.

Paul’s questions of John’s disciples took them each to a deeper place that can only be found in Jesus.  They had a head knowledge as it pertains to life change but had not come to a place of heart knowledge… heart change… intimate fellowship. 

Once our hearts are changed by the power of God there is no limit to what God can do with us because of what He has done in us.   The dreams that He gives those who follow Him are limitless.  The only limits placed upon those dreams are those we impose. 

To be filled with the Spirit of God is to be filled with dreams and visions that are too compelling to ignore.  Live or die, succeed or fail, barbarians must pursue and attempt such dreams and visions.  The barbarian spirit dreams and finds the courage to live them… For the Spirit of God to unleash dreams and visions within our souls, we must become free to risk and to fail.  Every dream born of God is fueled by love. (Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way. 100-101).