Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." - Psalms 45:11

Cinderella has nothing on us!

Someday, girlfriends, Jesus, the King of all Kings,  is going to return to this earth and take His bride, the Church, home to live in Heaven with Him forever.

Yep. We'll be going to a forever ball, and we'll get to dance with the Prince of Peace... Wonder what the conversation will be like on the dance floor of Heaven??? What will He say to us, when He gazes into our eyes on that day???

He is enthralled by your beauty.


Yes. He thinks YOU are BEAUTIFUL! Like a bride adorned for her husband....


Sweet princesses all, He has invited you to His ball... to be His special guest... And in every case, He will brush the curls from your face, and hold your head in Hands, and tell you just how much He loves you!

He's crazy about you. Nuts about you, really. So much so that He gave everything He had to purchase this life with you.... He stretched out His arms at Calvary, and said to you and to me... "May I have this dance?"

Just for your invitation to this dance. The ultimate celebration.

We'll be dressed in His righteousness alone. And we will be made like Him.

Oh, dear friend! Our only part is to honor Jesus.

To adore Him.
To worship Him and Him alone.
To give Him praise.

For His honor.
His glory.
His kingdom's sake.

For He (Jesus) is our LORD.

He is King.
He is Ruler.
He is Boss.
He is Personal.

He is Real.
More than a knight in shining armor.
Besides - there are no fairytales here.

He's beyond belief, really.

And He loves YOU.
More than any other loves you.
More than there are stars in the sky.
Or grains of sand on the seashore.
Beyond your wildest dreams.

And He's yours for the taking.

Just ask.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

True Praise in Response to He Loves Us

A friend posted this on facebook, and I just had to share it... We need to learn to shout it again and again at the top of our lungs... He LOVES US! OH HOW HE LOVES US!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Draw Me Nearer

 "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." - James 4:8a

A friend of mine has been posting three word sentences as her facebook status for the past several weeks... In every case, the first two words have been, "God is...." A few days ago, her status simply read, "God is... near." I had been going through a bit of a weird funk -- for lack of better words -- for a few weeks, and when I read her status, I received the gentle reminder that God is, indeed, near.

What I had been feeling was like when you go window shopping with someone. You know that they are there, because they came in with you... But then you find yourself further interested in something and rush over to take a deeper look. You find yourself totally captivated by this (fill in the blank here) and have found yourself wrapped up in your own little world. Then you turn around, only to find that the person who was with you is right there with you.... and had been all along. Nothing is "wrong"...  The relationship is still intact... You're still friends... You were just mesmerized momentarily by something that captured your attention. And you are slapped back to reality when you turn around and remember that your friend is there. You knew it all along. And maybe you suspected that they might go and do their "own thing" for a while, since you were totally involved in whatever it was that demanded your engrossment.

There will always be times when circumstances will cause us to feel as if God is distant and distracted from us. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Though the enemy would love to taunt us and tell us otherwise, He is not far away.

He is near. So close you can almost feel His breath on your neck and His heart beating next to your own!

He is within you. (Col.1:27)

I don't know about you, but because He is within me, there is this driving desire to know Him more...and more.... To be so tightly woven that one could not tell one from the other.... And yet, on this side of Heaven, because of my many failings and imperfections, I know that will never be.

Still, there's a longing from within me that wants to grow deeper and deeper in our relationship...

I long for my heart to beat not like His, but to be syncronized with His.
I long to breath as He breathes.
I long to see as He sees.
I long to hear as He hears.
I long to speak as He speaks.
I long to love as He loves.
I long to live as He lives.

I think that was what Fanny Crosby was talking about when she wrote Draw Me Nearer. It's based on Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

Draw Me Nearer

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy Voice
As it told Thy Love to me.
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee....


Draw me nearer,
Nearer, Precious Lord
To the Cross
Where Thou Hast Died.

Draw me nearer
Nearer, Nearer Precious Lord....
To Thy Precious bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,

By the pow’r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Draw us nearer, Lord!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good for the soul...

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:16 

Ok. I may as well admit it. I'm addicted. To sweet tea, for cryin' out loud! :)All of this summer time heat hasn't helped, either. I've been drinking that stuff by the gallons... Seriously. It's been kinda scary. I can finish off a gallon of tea in less than a 24 hour period. Without help!

Whenever HH and I go to restaurants, I often tease our servers to "just bring me a pitcher and a straw... it will save you some steps."  The poor souls often wear the rubber off their shoes just getting my refills....

All of this started when I was a small child. My great-grandmother used to make the BEST sweet tea EVER. I mean, it was the color of liquid gold, and was so thick that you would think you could cut it with a knife... And my young palate loved the sweet stuff... I could drink gallons of it even then.

After a lifetime of giving into this temptation, I've had to change my ways. Now that I am older, I am cautious about packing on the calories and hopefully potentially staying away from the dreaded D word (diabetes) ... So, I have learned a new way to feed my addiction, and still maintain the taste... SPLENDA!

So, the "house wine of the South" is still king at our house... We still have sweetened tea... but we have it without the calories.

Hmm... Isn't that how a lot of us are with other things??? When God tries to correct us on an issue, do we try to do an end-run around Him? Do we go for something a little "lighter" (but with the same flavor) ??? Do we dance around issues, or do we try to face them head on???

Just a little something to chew on....

Now... if we can just tackle the peanut butter in the same way.... :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What a Week!

"A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity." - Proverbs 17:17

To my many friends,

I don't even have words to begin to describe the week I've had... Talk about a roller coaster ride!!!! I celebrated my 30 year high school reunion last Saturday! What a night that was!!! Every time I heard a happy squeal, it was music to my ears, and I knew that the planning had paid off!

These are the folks who knew me when I looked like this:

There were even folks there from my elementary school days! They knew me when I looked like this:
That's me with the pigtails, front row, three from the far right.

These were the people who knew me when.... and love me anyway! HA! What a testimony that is to the kind of loving people we all grew up to be and to us as a class....I am proud to be a part of that group.

Then on Sunday morning, we HAD CHURCH at NBC! My buddy and singing partner, Edwin, sang "Midnight Cry" with our choir and orchestra. He knocked it out of the park!!! It was incredible!!! What a great song, and what a great God! That was followed by an AWESOME sermon by my pastor relative to watching for a Savior, not the signs, and being prepared for the return of Christ.

All of the celebrating came to a screeching halt as we came into a week filled with deep sorrow when we realized that a dear cousin was going to be departing this earth... She passed away on Tuesday evening following a staph infection. The doctors at Vandy still don't know what caused her death. So many of you have expressed your deepest sympathy and we appreciate your kind words. This is a difficult loss for all of us, particularly her younger sister (my cousin) and my mom. Please remember us in prayer in the days ahead.

It's at times like these that we realize that God gives us friends to lean on and to be "Jesus with skin on" to others... Thank you for your kind expressions and for your sweet friendships in both the good times and the bad... You guys are the best! :)

Much love,


Word of God Speak...

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

I absolutely love taking the time to type posts or to study God's word into the wee hours of the morning. It's a time of day when I know that there will be absolutely no distractions - no noise from a television, no phone calls, no incoming emails to distract me, and not a soul is on facebook at that hour! It's a great time for me to have conversations with God because I am the epitome of the night owl musician... Up late, and sleeping in.... (And I am ever so thankful for a job where I can do that.)

A couple of nights ago, I posted a comment on a board for a local newspaper. It seemed a particular local politician was in hot water with a religious group for doing a little research, forming an opinion on what he read and making that opinion public knowledge. I actually had applauded him for doing the research and for making a stand on the issue at hand based on what he had read.

It was really late, and I did need to head for bed, so I finished up, and began my normal bedtime routine... Before I crawled beneath the covers, I grabbed my Bible, as is my custom, and flipped it open. There on the pages in front of me was a passage where God was speaking, and it was as if He had just said those exact words to me as an affirmation of what I had just said on my post! I quickly told the Lord, "thanks for saying that!" and proceeded on to other things of our conversation that night.

Now, I am not an advocate of playing Bible Roulette for daily Bible Study (closing the eyes, opening up the Bible and circling the finger above the pages, then landing randomly on a passage.) That's just plain dangerous!

But I do, however, want to say that the Word of God is still powerful... It still speaks to hearts and minds today, and God does have a Word for us. The Bible is God's love letter to us! He has much to say to us from the pages of His Word....

You know, if the local politician had formed his opinion strictly on hearsay or public opinion, and not on actual researched facts, I probably wouldn't have given the guy the time of day after that. That's because public opinion is not time honored or a solid way of finding truth. Opinions come and go. Fads fade. But God's Word stands forever.

Sadly, I see a lot of folks in the world who will discount the Bible as just being an ancient book of yonder years that has absolutely no message or meaning to folks of today.... They will discount the scriptures, discount believers, even turn things inside out (calling love "hate" and "hate" love) and yet, when you ask them where they got their information, or whether they had actually read the Bible, they will say, "I don't read the Bible."

If you've never read the Bible, chances are you have one somewhere. Find yours. Blow the dust off the cover, crack it open and read it for goodness sake! Discover the wonderful ways that God still speaks to you and I... Take the time to read a short passage. See who the players are. Discover the principle that God has there, and then take the time to ask God what He is saying to you about that principle. How does this apply to you?

Betcha that the words will just jump right off the page, and scratch you where you are itching the most.

I am reminded of a song that came out a few years ago by Mercy Me...

"I'm finding myself at a loss for words

And the funny thing is it's okay

The last thing I need is to be heard

But to hear what You would say


Word of God speak

Would You pour down like rain

Washing my eyes to see

Your majesty

To be still and know

That You're in this place

Please let me stay and rest

In Your holiness

Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You

Beyond the music, beyond the noise

All that I need is to be with You

And in the quiet hear Your voice

I'm finding myself at a loss for words

And the funny thing is it's okay" - Bart Millard, Peter Kipley

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Simple Message with a Simple Invitation

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." - John 1:12-13

During the first two weeks of June, I had the privilege of flying to Brazil with 24 other musicians from the US for a mission trip with Global Missions Project. We played about 17 concerts in a ten day period in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, all under the direction of my friend, Camp Kirkland.

At one of the churches in Brasilia, God reminded me of something that I think we often take for granted in the US. In the middle of our concert that night, Camp presented the gospel in a very simple, easy to understand way... When we finished the concert, the pastor of the church gave a really simple invitation, "Does anyone want to receive Jesus tonight as their Savior? Anyone????"

Ten people responded to the simple question. Ten individuals' lives were changed that night for all of eternity!
Such a simple presentation and a simple invitation... and the folks responded as if it were a Billy Graham crusade!

Sometimes I think we get so elaborate in our presentations that we miss the simplicity of the gospel: God sent His Son Jesus to save us from our sin. Jesus died a cruel death on a cross to rescue us and redeem us from the consequences of sin before a Holy God. He rose on the third day and someday He is coming again. And if we ask Him to become our Savior, He will!

Does anyone want to receive Jesus as their Savior??? Anyone???

It's a simple message and a simple invitation. If you don't know Him as Savior, then you can by simply trusting your life to Him and asking Him to take over. That's what the word, "Lord" means. If you already know Him, are you asking others, "Does anyone want to receive Jesus? Anyone???"

Come By Here

"And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." - Genesis 3:8

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in an upstairs room that we call the baseball room of our house, at the computer. I was scrolling through so many facebook statuses, reading, while at the same time pondering some events that happened at our house last week, and it came to me...

I wonder if part of our problem is that we no longer sing Kum Ba Yah. The very translation of Kum Ba Yah is, "Come By Here." Since when did we become so sophisticated that it was no longer acceptable to ask or seek God's presence???

The truth is that we aren't the first to fail to seek God's presence... As you can tell from our scripture at the top of the page, Adam and Eve took the prize there. And we've failed to seek His presence since then.

I've even heard this from a pulpit (or two or three) from a "super cool" pastoral type when visiting churches in the past: "It's not like we're just going to stand around in a circle and sing Kum Ba Yah...." 

Uh. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah... Nope. Sounds really cool like ... maybe it will even meet the approval of the Hollywood crowd... but I think I want to be in a church where God is present and we aren't too afraid to ask Him to be present, and we aren't ashamed of trying to please Him. (And, thankfully, I have experienced that at our home church!)

Seems to me that the first priority of our worship is to seek God... and to ask Him for His presence... And those above anything else. We should seek to be in His presence, and for Him to move among us. Never should we assume anything or that we deserve to stand in His presence. Only Jesus is worthy of that. But His Word does say that we can go boldly before the throne of grace.... And by doing so, we are worshiping the Father.

Romans 12:1-2 says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  (ESV)

Could it be that our spiritual act of worship is turning to God in our daily tasks???  I believe that was exactly what Paul was saying! So.... What would our lives be like if we asked for God to show up at the routine times of our daily lives? What if we asked Him to "Come by here" when:

When we are hanging with friends...

Someone's laughing, Lord. Come by here.

At the beginning and ending of life... (and all of the days in between)
Someone's crying, Lord. Come by here.

When we need talk with Him...
Someone's praying, Lord. Come by here.

When we're driving down the road and singing with the radio at the top of our lungs...
Someone's singing, Lord. Come by here.

At life's joyous occassions...like a wedding... the birth of a baby... graduations...
Someone's dancing, Lord. Come by here.

When you realize a loved one's journey will soon end....
Someone's dying, Lord. Come by here.

When your feelings are crushed.... or you are the object of gossip or some misunderstanding.
Someone's hurting, Lord. Come by here.

When you've messed up and need forgiveness....  Someone's sinned, Lord. Come by here.

When you are in need of a Savior...
Someone needs You, Lord. Come by here.

Oh, Lord. Come by here....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Great is the Lord Almighty

"Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain..." - Psalm 48:1

(WARNING: Transparency Alert!!! If you aren't the type of believer who welcomes real people with real stories of a real God Who really saves and changes lives, then stop reading here, and go find another blog. This post will contain some adult situations in an effort to be transparent and to encourage others who may be struggling with their own pasts to find freedom in Christ... Parental guidance suggested. Pharisees need not apply!)

So I was sitting in church orchestra rehearsal last night, playing "Great is the Lord Almighty," (Dennis Jernigan), getting ready for Sunday. As we were playing,  I was once again reminded of the lyrics of this great song of testimony:

"When His Children were dying and lost in their sin, MY GOD DIED AND HE ROSE AGAIN!
And I've been rejoicing since He took MY PLACE, and I thank YOU, JESUS, and PRAISE HIS NAME!!!"

A few years ago, while serving in the orchestra at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia, our church choir and orchestra accompanied Dennis Jernigan for a concert during one of our morning worship services. Now, mind you, I have played a lot of music over the years, and I was quite familiar with several of Dennis' worship tunes, but his was just a name on a page of music, like the many other composers' names I read on a weekly basis.... until I heard his story that day.

Dennis was saved from a life of sexual sin -- specifically, homosexuality. He spent several years in homosexual relationships, all while in the church. But then, Dennis came to the end of himself, and began a relationship with Jesus! And God changed his life! He is now married to a heterosexual wife, has several children, and God sings songs to him that he now writes and we as the church of today now sing: You Are My All in All, Great is the Lord Almighty, Who Can Satisfy My Soul, and countless others like them.

As incredible as Dennis' story may be, each of us who belongs to the family of God, every Christ-follower also has a story of our own... One of how a loving God, in His infinite Grace and Mercy has saved us and made us His very own.... And at a time when the church is struggling to be heard in the world, maybe it's time we started getting real with the folks in the pew next to us, and shared our own stories... I mean, how better to re-ignite the flames of faith, than to remind one another of just Who God is and what HE has done in our own lives????

Beth Moore tells the story of when one of her young children was hospitalized with a rota virus, one of her daughter's classmates sent her a homemade card that read, "I thrupt, too!" (Translation: I threw up, too!) I think that there is a desperate need among our congregations for revival, and how better to do that than to become real with one another with what Christ has done in our own lives and to remind us of who we are, who we were before Jesus came in and rocked our worlds, and who we are yet to become???

Yet, I also believe that there is a definite fear among us to share our stories.. There is a fear of judgement among believers... so much so that it would drive the very members of the family of God back into hiding behind the doors of our pasts, and would keep us from being effective servants of the Living God! And there, boys and girls,  is the very definition of hypocrisy... We claim to have experienced the grace and merciful favor of the God of the Universe, and yet, we shove our own histories under the rug and will not so much as give credence those who bring their own histories to the forefront!

Truth be told, our pews are filled with sinners every single time we meet! The Bible says, "There is none who is righteous, none, not even one." NEWSFLASH! The girl who sits in the orchestra on the platform week after week and sings the solos has a story, too!!!! And as much as I hate to admit it, my own story's not pretty... And I know that many of my readers are folks who have served side by side with me in churches from days gone by will be reading/hearing this for the very first time. Many of you have heard me sing or play, or are in my Sunday School class... Several of you worked with me in Christian workplaces and will have no clue about the story I am about to tell. I haven't told it because there is a lot of shame involved... and I have had an inherent fear that should I go public with my story that the Church would force my testimony back into hiding... and that I would go right back to the idea of praising God publicly, but keeping the past hidden... and only admitting that there was a past... And I am convinced that is precisely where the enemy wants the Church to be... hidden, cowering in fear of harsh judgement of those who sit with us in the pews week after week... when, in fact, God calls us to be real.

That's what the whole story of the woman at the well is about ... Jesus called out the Samaritan woman when she told Him that she "had no husband..." In John 4, Jesus told her, "You've spoken correctly that you have no husband... when in fact, you've had five husbands, and the one you are now with is not your husband." Jesus basically told her to get real! And we all know the story there. (If you don't go read John 4! Here's a link: http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/john/4.html Ready, set.... GO!)

I can relate to the woman at the well in some ways... You see, I struggled with sexual sin in my early twenties and became pregnant with a child out of wedlock. The father and I intended to marry, but changed our plans after I lost the baby in a miscarriage. (And yes, it was a miscarriage, not an abortion, as rumors would have it.) I started spotting three months into the pregnancy -- all thanks to a tubal pregnancy and no thanks to two back to back eighteen hour shifts at a fast food restaurant in Oxford, MS with no breaks --  and was placed on bed rest, and still lost the baby two days later. I had a DNC for a miscarriage and two weeks later, I was back in the hospital for four days with an infection from the surgery. I was a lost church member, baptized, and actively attending worship, singing wherever God would allow me to sing, and serving in the high places in our denomination! I would finally marry -- legitimately -- to a different man in 1992 (ironically our wedding fell on the ninth anniversary date of my miscarriage -- I was convinced that God was giving me Tony because I had been "good"!) I began to stake my life on my marriage to Tony... Then, horror of horrors, Tony died of cancer in 1998. I was 35. He was 40. After Tony's death, my life pretty much fell apart. I had always really struggled with purpose in life... I guess I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I just never had the courage or the confidence that I could go there. So, consequently, I jumped from job to job, was fired from more jobs than I am willing to admit, and really had no substance to my life. Don't get me wrong -- I had all the friends I could ever want, plenty of nice things, a life full of opportunities that others would literally kill for, but I was empty -- lonely, unfulfilled and without direction. I had no money... and I didn't have a job. To make matters worse, I was not easy to live with. I would argue with a fencepost, and had no control over my temper or my tongue. As far as I knew, the universe revolved around me... and if it wasn't already about me, I made it about me. Widowhood only compounded the struggles I had. I felt useless, like I was just taking up space in the universe that was intended for someone else. I struggled financially, and nearly lost my home... So much of my own life's downfall was due to my own making, and I felt I had nowhere to turn! Prayers bounced off the wall because I had absolutely no relationship with the God of the Universe... although I talked about Him quite a bit... I knew all the right things to say, and all the right things to do... but did not KNOW God...  until the day I came to the end of myself, and said, "Jesus, I am tired of struggling. I am tired of trying to do and be, and coming up short. I'm tired of me. I need You to be the Boss of Me. I need You to take over my life." My life has changed dramatically since that day! For the past ten years, I have been teaching music in private studio. I remarried in 2001 to a godly guy... I have a beautiful home, great church home, and a purpose within the Body of Christ, and a purpose in life! Life is not perfect, and God is still molding me day by day into His image... But I am not who I was and I am not yet who I will be! I am simply clay in the Hands of the Creator of the Universe... An adopted Child of the King of all Kings, and a joint heir with Christ, nonetheless, and only so because of His infinite love, mercy and grace.

So. There you have it, boys and girls. Now you know why I am in awe of our God. Now you know why I Praise Him so! That's the story of this child who was dying and lost in her sin... And MY GOD DIED AND HE ROSE AGAIN... And I've been rejoicing since HE TOOK MY PLACE... And I thank YOU, JESUS, and PRAISE HIS NAME... singin':

Great is the Lord Almighty, He is Lord, He is God and King
Great is the Lord Almighty, He is God Supreme
Great is the Lord Almighty, He is Lord, He is God and King!
Great is the Lord! Great is the Lord!

So... What's your story??? I dare you to tell it!!! I double-dog dare you to drop your own masks and share your own story -- warts and all -- first to a church that needs to be reminded of Who Our God is... That very action will cause our churches to lift Him up. And dear Christ-followers, I triple-dog dare you to be a people who understand GRACE and to be givers of MERCY... When that begins to take place, the lost world that is dying and headed for hell will sit up and take notice -- not of us, but of JESUS.

After all, isn't it all about Him????

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader: Part 10 - The Heart of (the) Worship(er)

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

We began our series in October, and as only God could design it, we are now ending this series on the Heart of the Worshiper at Easter! What a better way to end a blog series than by bringing it back around to WHO worship is really all about and why???

I know that this has been a zany journey for us at best, as you've read about my wacky stories. But I hope that you've come away with this thought:

Worship is not about us.
It never has been.
And never should be.

It is about the Holy Son of God.
He was At Creation.
Appointed by the Father.
Sent to earth.
God's Passover Lamb.
Without spot or Blemish.
The Only One Who could fulfill God's requirements.

Came to earth as a baby.
Born in a feed trough in a barn.
Fully God.
Fully Man.
Born with a Purpose...

To save us.

Some of the people followed Him.
Some of the people loved Him.
Some of the people hated Him.

Some cried "Hosanna!"
Then they cried, "Crucify Him."
Fickle they were.

But that was part of the plan.

To Save us.

He was beaten.
Beyond recognition.
Crowned with Thorns.
Forced to drag a cross through the city.
Then nailed to a tree.

But that, too, was part of the Plan.

To Save us.

He died....
Placed in a borrowed tomb.

It was Sealed
With a large Boulder
And Caesar's personal seal.

And Heavily Guarded
By the Roman Government....
With the threat of death,
Should anyone allow the stone to be removed.

But that didn't stop our God! 

It too, was part of His Plan.

To Save Us!

Sometime during the night,
Fingers moved.
Eyes twitched.
Legs swung over the place where He lay.
He sat up.
Feet hit the floor!
He stood.
Removed the burial garments.
Folded them with the carpenter's fold.
And left them lying.
To show that the work was complete.

Jesus was ALIVE.

The Angel of God rolled away the boulder.

And out of the tomb He came!!!

The Work was Complete!

To Save Us.

And when the Heart of the Worshiper realizes Who He is, and What He did, we bow in awe...

That, my friend, is what worship is about.
That, is WHO worship is about!

Not about you.
Not about me.
Never has been.

Just Jesus....

Matt Redmond wrote a beautiful song called, The Heart of Worship. Click on the link below to hear it.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader: Part 9 - Personal Holier-than-thou-ness: My stuff doesn't stink, but yours sure does!

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

So.... Where were we???? Ah, yes! We're nearly finished with this series on the heart of the worshiper. (Is it one "p" or two???? I've always thought it to be two "p"s but the ESV says one.... We'll go with their spelling.)

We've all slept since then, so here's a quick review of just some of the things we've discussed... We've talked about things like Absolute Abandonment, Being Real with God and Others, Meeting needs of folks who are different from ourselves... We've talked about making Jesus our treasure first, and then all else will fall into place... And we've talked about numerous other things...

Deep breath. We've got to tackle one of the biggest topics of all this week.... Personal Holiness.

Ok. Before we go any further, allow me to say that this is a topic that doesn't excite me when it comes to writing about it. Why? Because it probably is the one area that trips me up the most! If I go too far with it, I can fall into pride and become extremely judgemental of others. If I don't go far enough with imitating Christ and trying to live the way He wants, I fall into the trap of relying on myself to set my own rules rather than relying on God. Scary thought, huh?

We already know what kinds of consequences those types of attitudes result in.  And in either direction, the issue is clear: personal holiness can easily become personal holier-than-thou-ness... And the biggest question is where is the line drawn?

I think what we have to do is ask ourselves some hard questions. Am I trying to impress others more than I desire to please God with the way that I live? Do I talk about the kinds of things that I do for the kingdom publicly, in order to receive praise from others?  Do I look for ways that others fail and bring them to their attention more than I consider my own failures? Do I hope that God "looks the other way" when I deliberately fail Him? Do I look for ways to rationalize my own faults and sin? Is my heart still tender toward God, and do I still try to please Him according to His word? Or am I making up my own rules and hoping that will do?

For my own life, prior to having a relationship with Jesus, I was very quick to jump to the judgement of others, while failing to see my own sin in my own life. I thought that as long as I didn't do something really bad, God would look the other way... and that He was okay with me. After all, I was in church, and I was reading the Bible and goodness knows, I was doing all sorts of things in His church! And wasn't that good enough to get me into His kingdom, or certainly within His good graces?? I thought I was the golden child!

Uh, yeah. Right.

Listen, friends. The Bible says that our righteousness to Him is as filthy rags! (Isaiah 64:6) None of us has arrived spiritually speaking. We are a fallen people, living in a fallen world. And it's only because of the grace and mercy of Almighty God that any of us even have the ability to stand before Him!

Which brings me to something that has been bugging me. A restored worship pastor friend of mine told me recently that after a moral failure, there were some folks with the attitude that he could never serve in a leadership role in that church again, because "there was a need to protect the bride."

News flash! Jesus said that He would be the One Who would present the Church as a Bride, without spot or blemish. It is not our job as the Church to present the Church without spot or blemish to God. The Church cannot present itself as spotless or without blemish to Christ because it consists of a fallen people and a fallen people cannot represent themselves as spotless or without blemish. Only Jesus can do such a thing, and to think otherwise makes Jesus' sacrifice on the cross needless and without merit! (Who needs a Savior, if the Church can save herself???)

Truth factor: Each one of us has scars. Every last one of us has sinned. Every last one of us has failed God in some way. That is not to say that following the moral failure of a leader that we don't have to go through the biblical path for restoring a fallen brother or sister in Christ. But if we, the church, take the attitude that a fallen brother or sister in Christ is now permanently disqualified from serving in leadership forever, even after having been through the process of restoration, then I would submit that no believer would be able to serve in leadership roles! And that's just not biblical. (Don't believe me? Look at the story of King David. The guy slept with another man's wife, tried to cover it up, and then had her husband killed when his plan didn't work out. And yet, after all of that, God still called him a "man after His own heart!")

As a believer, I have no right or standing with God that gives me permission to judge another based on my own ideas of morality. I have no right to stand judgement on any other believer. Period. I only have the right to judge my own behavior based on the Person of Jesus Christ and my own actions based on the truth of His Word. Period. The standards of the Bible are not there to question the hearts of others but to question my own heart! And to see where I line up with God....

What about if we go the other direction? What if we kinda make up our own rules as we go along? The Bible calls this "carnality..." That's when we live only by opting for the flesh, our human nature and fail to live by God's standards. Again, this finds its roots in self-serving attitudes. Often, we don't dive into carnality head first. It usually begins with simple longing, a lack of satisfaction with Christ, and then we search for it with the eyes, then we allow the mind to be engaged. The heart follows suit. And BINGO. We're in the middle of a mess that we had no idea that we created for ourselves!

It's in those times of carnality that we finally willfully defy God, and we only pray that He will turn His head away and let us slide. But nothing escapes His sight! And we know it. So finally we either do one of two things: we return to God, and do things His way, or we begin to make up our own rules to live by.
Sometimes that means that we try to change the rules to suit our own fancy with our own sin. Sometimes it means that we even go so far as to attempt to dismiss the existence of "sin" as a whole from our culture... and then that removes the need for a Savior... We then become spiritual, without being Godly. We become religious without a relationship with the Living God. We search for truth in all but Christ....

But Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free!" (John 8:32)

So, then how do we combat these areas of failure?

First, I think we remember Jesus, and imitate His attitude...

1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  - Ephesians 2:1-11

Second, we need to grow up in our faith in Christ, and find our freedom and our satisfaction in Him. From Colossians 2:

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Finally, I think we can learn to use the scriptures to only judge ourselves, not others.

1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. - Matthew 7:1-6

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaack!!

OK. Contrary to the rumors, I haven't fallen off the planet. I have just been extremely busy for the past month. HH and I took a few days and had a working vacation in Virginia... and since arriving home, I have spent my time playing catch up. There have been concerts, friends who have come into town to visit, and lots of other distractions. I know, it sounds like a lot of excuses, but I'm back now. ;)

The blog series will continue, and I will try to have something up and ready for you to read early next week!

Many thanks to those who have been so faithful to continue to check in during my absence and wondering where I've been!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Well Done...

The last time I saw him was in early December. I took a student over to the nursing home where he resided, and we played for the residents there. He was sleeping for most of the time that I was there, but at one point, he looked up, opened his beautiful blue eyes, and looked directly at me. "There are those beautiful steel blue eyes that I love so much!"  I said. Then he quickly closed them and went right back into his almost comatose state. I kissed him on the forehead, and patted his forearm. He quickly grabbed my hand. I told him that I loved him and that I wanted to play some Christmas carols. He whispered, "That'd be fine."

Dr. H, as I fondly called him, was my former pastor, a wonderful shepherd and a loving friend.... He buried my Tony and married me to my second husband. Though I wasn't led to Christ by him, his teaching has certainly shaped my life in more ways than I could begin to count. He was an encourager.... my biggest cheerleader after Tony died... and one who loved his flock well above and beyond the call of duty.

And we loved him back.

I think probably my favorite Dr. Hubbard story has to go like this:

We were sitting at dinner, just a few weeks after Tony had died. Crowded around my little breakfast table were five of us.... Dr. H, Mrs. Faye (his beloved bride), my friend, Ron (who led me to Christ later) and his wife, Jean. I had made some supper for us, and had them over to say thanks for all that they had done from the time of Tony's illness until his dying breath. And for dessert, I had decided on Sara Lee pound cake, and fruit. I had bought the whole fruit that had been quick frozen in a bag, thinking this would be fine, and would be easy. (Somehow, I think I managed to miss the domestic gene for females...) Anyhow, the fruit didn't thaw as quickly as I had hoped. Dr. Hubbard was trying to be nice, but he just couldn't fake it. He said, "Bitsy, I nearly broke a tooth!" I quickly apologized... and we all got a laugh about how bad my cooking skills were. (Needless to say, the next time I entertained, I had pizza delivered!)

A little later that night during the dinner conversation, Dr. H looked at me and said, "Bitsy, I believe the roses will bloom again." I had never heard that expression before, and he explained to me what he meant. He was saying that he believed that I would eventually remarry, though at the time, I wasn't so sure.

As it turned out, he was right. When my then fiance' and I had met with he and Mrs. Faye for lunch in order to plan our wedding just a couple of weeks prior to the wedding, Dr. H again found a moment to tell me, "I think the roses are in bloom again." Nearly four years had passed since the night around the dinner table, and soon friends and family would gather in the livingroom of that same little home and my then retired pastor declared two of us as husband and wife in the company of a handful of family and close friends.

Yes, Dr. H, and they are blooming still, now eight years later... but none like the many roses that you have cultivated in our lives, my sweet friend. You were a joy to me and to countless others in your 50 plus years of ministry....

Thank you, Ken Hubbard, for sixteen wonderful years of friendship. You are a gem in His crown!

I love you, and I will miss you sorely. See you on the other side.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Christian Lay Leader: Week 7: Treasures

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

When I started writing this blog, I wanted to be sure that we accomplished (at a bare minimum) two purposes: 1) Encouraging those who are already Christ-followers, and 2) Speaking truth to the non-believer, both in a very real, very personal way.

Hard to believe we've made it to this point, isn't it???? We've been learning about developing a heart that is that of a true worshipper...  We're learning to abandon ourselves to God, and allow Him to have complete control of us, and we've talked about developing that loving relationship with God. We've talked about having a servant's heart and loving God and loving others.

Since we've been talking about the heart of the worshipper, I am going to continue in that theme, and I'd like to discuss here the topic of what motivates us to be givers. I am not specifically talking about the giving of money, but let's not dismiss the thought that giving a tithe back to God through  the local church is a very large, very practical part of having a giving heart.  

Before you go and hit the x button, I should tell you that there is no need to worry. I am not going to ask you for one single penny! This site and the facebook group are provided and maintained at no cost to any of you. If there is one thing I am a firm believer in, it's this: we should never ever have to charge folks to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

That's not to say that we (as Christ followers) should not support certain ministries or ministry projects, and most certainly, we should bring our tithes and offerings to our local congregation. Those are things that God commanded. And if it's in the Book, then boy, howdy, I think we'd better do it just the way that the God of the Universe laid out the principles.

God commanded that we give. Throughout the Bible, God commanded that His people be a giving people. You can find references to tithing even as early as the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. And Jesus talked about giving more than He did just about any other subject!

What is it that causes you and I to hold on so tightly to whatever it is that happens to be in our hands???? Why is it that we refuse to be open-handed or open-hearted with our lives???? It's not like we don't have a God Who won't provide for us.

I mean, let's face it... You and I definitely have a Provider in Heaven Who meets our needs... and does so willingly and cheerfully. He's the same God Who:

Fed the Children of Israel with manna from Heaven while they were in the wilderness.

Stretched the oil and flour.

Turned water into wine at a wedding reception because the wine had run out.

Blessed the widow's mite.

Fed Five Thousand with a couple of sardines and a handful of dinner rolls.

Filled the nets of a group of tired, previously unsuccessful fishermen (to the point of breakage) with lots and lots of fish.

Fed Four thousand more.

And He has promised to supply all of your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:19)

And yet, we cringe when we hear someone talk about giving... or get bent out of shape when we are asked to help in some tangible way. What is it about us that causes us to grip the things that are tangible or intangible to the point of having white knuckles???? I can't answer for you... but I can tell you how I felt before I became a Christ-follower. You may have felt the same way or there may be other reasons.

Like you, I had heard the stories of Jesus' miracles and of God's provision over and over again. We've heard all about how God loves a cheerful giver... And I guess that I believed that all those stories were fine for those folks back then. But for the life of me, I never could seem to grasp that the reason God was telling us those stories was that they were testimonies of His faithfulness to all generations.... The story hadn't ended with those folks in the pages of the scriptures! He wanted us to know that He was faithful to them, and He would remain faithful to us... His faithfulness would remain throughout eternity.

But beyond all of those reasons, I failed to understand that God wants us to learn to be givers because it is a real reflection of where our hearts really are... both to Him and to those around us. See, the bottom line is that it never has been about us. If we give with ulterior motives, then we will have a hard time accepting His own gift without strings or ulterior motives. If we hoard or become stingy, then we will not be likely to effectively share His truth with others. If we give out of duty, then our relationship with God will also likely exist out of duty, not love... If we fail to give at all, then it is also likely that we don't trust God in other areas of our life. And I would even be so bold as to say that this is true even where our salvation is concerned. Bottom line? If He isn't Lord of all, then He isn't Lord at all! Period.

So, what changed my heart about giving? 

I think a large part of it came when I realized the priceless gift that Jesus gave was for me at the cross... I had already heard over and over how God had set the example... But when I came to the realization that a Holy God,One Who cannot be touched by the impurity of sin became sin for me and I accepted His gift of salvation,I became a part of His family.

When I became a Christ follower, Jesus became my treasure. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7 I finally understood that I had a personal debt that I owed Him that I could never, ever begin to repay.

You see, it had always been easy for me to believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world... But I had the hardest time accepting that He actually died for my own personal sins..... That it was for all of those stupid, horrible things that I committed (or didn't do) that put Him on that cross! Yep. Those ugly words I said, that gossip that I passed along, the crude, ugly jokes,the lies I told,and the many, many things that I did that broke His heart... Yeah... All of those were placed on my Savior... and He was nailed to a tree at a place called Calvary...

He did it for me...

And He did it for you.

And He did it "just because."

Ever gotten a gift "just because?" I firmly believe those are the best kind of gifts ever! I love getting them, and I love giving them! Those are the gifts that don't come on your birthday... or Christmas... or anniversary... or any other occasion. They are just presents given out of a heart of love. Jesus did the same thing when He gave of Himself for us... It was a gift, "just because."

The prophet Isaiah wrote: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." - Isaiah 53:5-6

The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross motivates me to be like God in that I want to give my all to Him, because He gave His all to me. Why? Because He gave His life in exchange for my life out of His love for me! It was entirely a gift of love! I can never, ever outgive God... But that doesn't stop me from trying to be like God. God was a giver. I want to be a giver, too! 

What should we give?

Let's start with Jesus.
Then, let's give:
Our love.
Our heart.
Our talents.
Our time.
Our money.
Our expertise.
Our prayers.

To whom shall we give it?

Let's start with Jesus.

Then to:
Our families.
Our church.
Our friends.
Our neighbors.
Our co-workers.
Our acquaintances.
To strangers.
To enemies.
To our allies.
To aliens.
To whomever God places in our paths.

Without ulterior motives or expecting anything in return.

Just because....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader: Week 6 - Serving: Working up a Sweat

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

We've made it to the sixth topic of our series on the heart of the worshiper. This series has turned out to take a lot longer than we anticipated, but I think sometimes we don't always see the big picture that God has in mind. So, I am glad that we've been flexible thus far and that you are still with me as I share my zany thoughts from my days prior to becoming a genuine Christ-follower.

To tell you the truth, the idea of talking about serving the Lord is one that makes my head swim.... There are a lot of things we need to address when we talk about service.... Who we serve, What we serve, When we serve, Why we serve, How we serve, How much, and then we need to discuss some of the fallacies of service. We need to discuss our motives for serving. We need to discuss spiritual gifts and how those are used within the body... And if I honestly tried to cover all of this, it would take six months to read one blog post!

Rick Warren has written a fabulous book called, "The Purpose-Driven Life" which addresses serving God. There are similar books out by Dr. David Jeremiah and Max Lucado on the subject as well. If you are looking to go deeper on this topic, those would be great places to start.

For the purposes of this blog, and to keep the continuity of the previous blogs, I am going to share my own experiences relative to serving in the local church body prior to knowing Christ. And then I am going to share what God has taught me as a Christ-follower over the past nearly nine years.

I believe I shared with you last week that I was invited to church by one of my neighborhood friends, who also happened to be a PK. She had invited me to join a youth choir at her church because she knew that I loved music. I think I also told you that particular choir was going on tour to Texas.

I learned right away that service was supposed to be a big part of the Christian life... and I have the physical scars to prove it! The very first time I ever remember going to that church was to go to work at a pancake breakfast in order to earn money for the choir tour.  I had not even been to a choir rehearsal yet, but I was already working in the church.

After the pancake breakfast that afternoon, I helped to wash windows along the church nursery wall. This was an outside wall, and beneath us was a paved driveway that led to a carport typed awning (this was in the 70's) for a drop-off point for parents. Now, mind you, I had never even so much as cleaned my room at home or had to clean a bathroom mirror! So this was an entirely new experience for me. But I wanted to earn my way to Texas, and so I climbed up on a rickety step ladder and began to clean those windows! Side by side with my little PK friend, we were working for Jesus. Or something like that.

Okay. Now, I was a very short kid -- always the shortest one in my class and I hadn't gotten all that much taller by the time I reached the seventh grade, and so reaching some of the spots on those windows was a challenge for me. At one point, I gave up and climbed up on the very top of the step ladder. The ladder gave way, the bucket that I had on the shelf fell, and I went backwards! The next thing I knew, I was down on the pavement! I had a gash in the top of my head, and there was fear that I might have had a concussion as well. It wasn't pretty. But I helped earn my way to Texas.... and as far as I could tell at that point in my little warped teenage brain, that was also a step on the journey to earning my way to Heaven as well.

The only problem was that I didn't know how much I needed to do to get into Heaven. So, I continued to do nice things. I tried to make sure that I was at church nearly every Sunday from that day forward (surely God would count that toward getting in) and that I did plenty of good things for him. My resume was filled with all sorts of lay activities in the local church, as well as professional opportunities in churches and para-church organizations or agencies. If I had one of those Sunday School pins to represent each of the things I did over the years, I believe I would have tripped over it!!!!

But those things all became moot point because all of those activities were about me.... and boosting myself in the congregation and getting God to notice....

Here are some of the things I have learned since following Christ about service:

1) I am to serve Him because I belong to Him.... Not because I want to belong to Him. Do you see the difference?

"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:8-10

2) My service to God is a way of showing others that I do, in fact belong to God.

"22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1: 22-27

3) My service to God is for the benefit of His kingdom. Therefore, I am to serve humbly and follow Christ's example. It isn't about me.

"1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:1-11

Did you notice what Jesus did? He took the form of a servant... and humbled Himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v.7)  Our example of servanthood comes from Christ Jesus, Himself!

4) God designed and calls each of us to fit into a specific local body of believers to complete the specific mission that God has destined for our churches. We are to use our spiritual gifts, our natural talents and our life experiences to help our local church to reach the lost and to encourage the saints. He did not design anyone for pew warming!

You can find spiritual gift lists in  Rom 12:3-8 ; 1 Cor 12-14; Eph 4:7-13 ; and 1 Peter 4:10-11.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then He has given you certain spiritual gifts to be used within the body of Christ. Those came at your salvation. Discover your gift, and use it for His benefit within your local church. If you fail to use your gifts within your local church, your church will not be able to accomplish fully her mission that God has designed for her within your community.

There are many good gift surveys available to help you discover your areas of spiritual giftedness. Your pastor or educational minister could probably help you to find a survey and help you discover your own gifts. I seem to remember that "The Purpose Driven Life" had a good gift assessment survey in the back of the book as well.

5) Don't confuse "spiritual gifts"  or natural talents with THE GIFT or THE GIVER! God has given us the GIFT of HIS SON! One of my biggest issues I think was that I often confused the idea of serving with having a relationship with Jesus.

If you are questioning your salvation, the best thing to do is nail it down!

God loves you and has a plan for you:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not persish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

There's a problem - God is holy and we are not. 

"There is none righteous, no not one." - Romans 3:10

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." - Romans 3:23

The penalty for sin is eternal death. .
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23

God made a way for us through Jesus and His death on the cross.
"But God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

All we have to do is ask Him to be the Lord of us. The word "Lord" is probably best translated in today's terms as "Boss." When you ask Jesus to be Lord of you, you are asking HIM to call all of the shots on your life from this point forward. He's in charge 24/7...

"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." - Romans 10:9-10

If you have made this decision, the next step will require some courage on your behalf, particularly if you have been in the church for a long time, as I was. You will need to talk with your pastor or another church staff member and tell him of your decision. He will guide you from there as to next steps (believer's baptism and so forth.)

I will be praying for each of you.... as you find your place of service and for some of you who will be nailing down your salvation experience for the first time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader: Week 5 (Part B) - Daily Walk: The Do's and Don'ts of the Christian Life

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

Last week, we learned that we are slaves to sin... and that God gives us freedom. Sometimes our freedom comes when we first come to know Christ. Other times it comes after we are believers who experience some kind of moral failure (big or small) and find ourselves in a position of brokeness before God. That's what I want to touch on this week.

Sadly, yes, believers fail God sometimes. And sometimes we get ourselves into real messes. And depending on the circumstances, we can find ourselves in a place that is embarrassing, and costly.... Very costly. I am talking about the kinds of costs that money cannot repair... emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The kinds of costs that disrupt our lives... and sometimes cost us our jobs, our families, our friends, and sometimes, if the person happens to be in ministry, our churches. This is the kind of cost that bankrupts our lives.

And do you wanna know the truth?? (The truth is what sets you free!)

It's precisely where God wants you and I to be.

You see, it's when we are broken that we are most useful to Him in His kingdom. The heart of a servant who serves from the broken places is not likely to stray again.

Shepherding was a very common way of living in biblical times. And Jesus told a story about the wandering sheep and how the shepherd would go after the one that went astray (Luke 15:1-7.) I've heard it said that what Jesus was referring to was the practice of shepherds in His day relative to teaching a wandering sheep not to wander again.

The shepherd would go and retrieve the wandering sheep and before he would bring it back to the fold, he would break all four legs of the little wandering lamb. Then the shepherd would gently bind up the broken legs and place the little lamb on his shoulders, where he would remain until the wounds healed. During this time of healing, the shepherd fed the lamb, and he would carry him everywhere that he went. The shepherd would meet his every need, just as he met his own needs. When the healing was completed, the little lamb would then be allowed to return to walk on his own again. But from that point forward, the lamb would become a shadow to the shepherd. He would never stray from his side again.

When we are broken before the Lord, and allow the Lord to be the Only Healer of our wounds, we have the choice to serve Him out of our brokeness. If we allow Him to carry us, He will meet all of our needs. And as He allows those wounds to heal, we learn to follow Him.

Like that lamb who is allowed to walk again eventually under his own power, if our eyes are on Jesus during the entire time of our healing, it is not likely that we will find ourselves in the briar patches soon again.... We will fall right in step behind Him....

Paying attention to His every word for us.
Listening closely as He speaks to us.
Obeying all that He asks of us.
Remaining teachable as He teaches us.
Being a fisher of men.
Going to the least of these.

All from a servant's heart.
All from a broken servant's heart.

The prophet Isaiah wrote (about Jesus):

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations." - Isaiah 61:1-4

Did you notice that He has come to set the captives free? But did you also notice that the freedom followed the binding of the brokenhearted?

Again, like that lamb, we've been set completely free to come and go as we please but now we are CHOOSING to follow.

Following closely.
Remaining at His heels.
Never straying.
Never. Straying. again.
Even when we could do our own thing, we choose to follow ONLY Him.

By Step.
By Step.
By Step...

All for His good pleasure.

In some cases, we will be redesigned for a different purpose. In others, we will be scarred vessels who will be used in similar circumstances to where we were before. But it's not up to us to decide how or where or when He will use us, or whether He will choose to use us again. That's for Him to choose. And for us to obey, and in whatever capacity He chooses to use us, if He chooses to use us, we will be content.

Our job is to look to Him, and simply follow.....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Letting Go After Twelve Years... A Word of Encouragement...

Okay. I know some of you will be freaked out by the fact that I have written three posts, three days in a row... Don't get used to it! I don't usually have the time to do this and this has been a unique week.

Most of you will read this on January 13th. For most of you, it will just be another date on the calendar, but it has a specific meaning to me. It was January 13th, 1998 that Tony passed away following a battle with cancer. Today will mark the 12th anniversary of his death.

Now before all of you start getting all weepy and soppy on me, I want you to be aware that this year is different for me. For the first time, although I can't say that I have made a really big deal of the date in quite a while, I am aware of the date's arrival and I am finally being able to say that I can think of Tony in a way that does not associate his life with his death (necessarily.) I have come to a place where I can think of the pre-cancer days and smile, remembering birthday parties with family, crazy things we did together as a couple, the dreams we dreamed.... buying our first house together... The tears don't come as often as they once did...

And I am only sharing these thoughts with you because I want to encourage those from Mourning into Dancing who are struggling with loss. So many of our girls are still in the very early stages of grief, and I want them to know that time has a way of healing old wounds... This is about encouraging you, girls.

Tony and I had a great life together.... and make no mistake... I loved him dearly! But there comes a time after the grieving process when you move on.... and you realize that you are living in a totally different world. That time comes at different places for different people. There are no magic formulas... no magic pills or dates on the calendar that make it go away... I still have moments when the tears come... but that happens on the very, very rarest of occassion now... and I am a long way from crying myself to sleep as I did for the first three years or so after he died.

And that doesn't mean I don't still think about him daily (actually he comes to mind several times a day.)  In truth, it's hard to escape thoughts of someone, when everywhere you turn in your home, there is some piece of furniture still there that you built together (and the fights that went with it.... LOL) or your little furry shadow that you both raised from the time she was six weeks old is still sleeping on your bed (she's nearly eighteen years old now).... Then there are all of the sayings and silly rituals you had together.... Those thoughts don't dissappear. But now, I can remember those things and smile... I can't drive past our first home which is just a few blocks over and not think about us picking out that house...

Anyway, girls, I want you to know that God has a way of comforting us in our grief, if we let Him.... You and I will never know on this side of glory why God chose to take the men in our lives away at one time or another... But as a really good friend of mine posted on facebook last night relative to another loss, because of Jesus, if they knew the Lord, we will all have a lot more time in eternity with them than we did on this planet. Therein lies our certainty.

This little poem was read by one of our former pastors at Tony's funeral, and it stays in my mind. I have no idea who wrote it... But it speaks of  "Letting Go."

"Miss Me But Let Me Go"

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free!

Miss me a little - but not too long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love we once shared
Miss me - But let me go!

For this journey we all must take
And each must go alone
It's all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home

When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me - But let me go!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Whodathunkit???? :)

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen". - Ephesians 3:20-21

Yeah, I know. Two posts in twenty-four hours! Major miracle, right??? Well, let's just say that I wanted to give the Lord a "Standing Ovation" for what He has done with Mourning into Dancing!

Last spring, God really impressed upon my heart the need for "Mourning Into Dancing" to become a reality for a group of young Christian widows. So many of them were already in my circle of friends... and were really hurting from the pain of losing their spouse. Having gone through this just 12 years ago myself, I knew what little existed by way of support for these girls. And with a heart of obedience and really kinda feeling my way through the dark, Mourning into Dancing became a reality in April, 2009. 

Tonight, as I am typing this, we now have 27 girls in the facebook group from literally all over the world. Because of God's leadership, modern technology and thanks to the world wide web, 27 girls are connected to other girls who have walked in similar circumstances of loss. 27 ladies under the age of 60 can lean on the shoulders of twenty six others who totally understand and can pray and encourage....

Not bad for a group that is almost entirely based on word of mouth and just through facebook, huh? :)

So, join me, dear friends in Thanking God for His continued work in Mourning Into Dancing!

Thank You, Jesus! I never dreamed that we'd reach five, let alone 27! And I certainly didn't expect them to come from around the world! Thank you, Lord for so many who have found a home on our simple group page.... and come with an encouraging word for others who also may be hurting. God, You ROCK! Thanks! In Your Precious Name, Amen!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader: Week 5 - Daily Walk: Dos and Don'ts of the Christian Life

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23

And..... We're back! :) Hopefully, you have all recovered nicely from a great Christmas break and the New Year is well under way for you by now. My husband and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve during our break. I am so thankful for him and grateful to God for the gift I have in him as my husband. He is my best friend, and my soul mate. And I love him dearly!

Are you ready for week five, friends??? Shall we review just a bit as to where we've been thus far first? Let's do that quickly. In week one, we learned that we need to drop the masks and get real with one another and with God. In week two, we talked about our prayer life and we learned to pray the way Jesus prayed. In the third week, we first learned about loving others and then in part two, we learned about fully loving God. In week four, we learned about wreckless abandonment, and how we allow God to do with us as He pleases, all within the love relationship that we have with Him as His child.

Ok. Take a deep breath, and lets begin thinking about our freedom in Christ this week.

Let me start with a story.

When I was a child, I grew up in a neighborhood filled with lots of playmates on our street. All of us were from various backgrounds... My dad was a computer guru in the retail industry. Other dads worked in insurance or sales. We had a nurse, a pilot, a mechanic, a truck driver... and then there were the Baptist preachers... Yep. Just a few doors down from us and across the street was a parsonage belonging to the church that I would attend in my teen years... and in that parsonage lived several different pastors and their families over the years. So, I grew up with some PKs being in my peer group during most of my childhood.

I remember one particular family who lived in the parsonage.... and the oldest daughter was just a few months older than me, but a year ahead of me in school (she started at age five, even though her birthday was late in the year.) Anyhow, this particular girl was the first one to invite me to her church. She knew that I loved music and invited me to come to youth choir with her. They were going on a youth choir tour to Texas, and she knew it would be fun for me. And so, it began....

Well... a few months into the journey, they had youth council elections, and the pastor's daughter was elected to the council. I had NO clue what a youth council did in a Baptist Church. I had not been raised in the Baptist Church. My family as a rule wasn't a church going family, except on Easter when we would dress up in our new Easter clothes and go to the grandparent's houses and show them off.

So, anyway, one afternoon not too long after the elections had been held, I was over in the backyard at the parsonage, hanging out... and I congratulated the PK on making youth council. Then, I said (in my great naiivety), "So.... Are you guys planning some great dances soon?" My little PK friend's face turned ashen, and said, "Bitsy, Baptists don't dance!"

Now, I am sure that my little face turned about as red as a beet because I was totally embarrassed. And I proceeded to find out all of the other dos and don'ts of Baptist life... And in my warped little brain, I think I began to believe that it was all of those things that I did, and all of those things that I didn't do that made me a Baptist, and then, true to my nature, I took it one step further... I thought it was what made me a Believer... So much so that I carried that belief all the way through to my adulthood years.

Going to church faithfully all those years, and taking so many classes and learning doctrine from the pulpit, my Sunday School teachers, at college, in church classes, I learned all about what it meant to live the Christian life, but I had NO CLUE about what it meant to be in a relationship with Jesus. I knew all of the right words to say and all of the right things to do, but I did not have a love relationship with the Living God! I just didn't. I didn't know how to even begin to have a relationship with God. I just thought that because I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, didn't do drugs, kept myself  "pure" (well, I did up to a point, but that's for another time and another post), didn't dance, didn't curse (or "cuss" as we would say it in the South), didn't gamble, and I voted Republican that made me a Christian! Seriously. I was even baptized... or well, I should say that I got wet. What's worse, I actually was serving in leadership roles in our denomination's state convention office!

Anyway, a few years ago, God began teaching me and showing me some truths. I didn't know it at the time what that was.... But I remember watching some movies from the "Left Behind" series and some similar in content with a group of singles from my church. And I started identifying with the Associate Pastor in the movie who had been left behind. I knew a lot of Bible stuff! Hey, Christianity was one of my double majors in college.... I knew the Book well! And I could argue with the best atheist you could throw at me! But I didn't know the Author of the Book... the Author of Salvation...

I didn't know God.

I was caught up in the world's biggest religious rat race... And sadly, I was one mighty big rat.

All I was doing was spinning my wheels... and going nowhere...

Like a hamster on a wheel.

Round and round I went. And I was going everywhere that I thought I was supposed to go, but in truth, I was going NOWHERE.

I had absolutely no purpose in life. I jumped from job to job to job. I was so insecure, no real motives, no real goals... No real life. Yeah, I had a lot of stuff... and on the outside, it looked like I had it all together, but inside of me was a turmoil that would make Don King want to shave his head! I'm telling you!!! It was the truth! I was one giant mess.

Ok. So back to the movies... I started having nightmares... and lots of them. My first husband had died a couple of years prior to that... and I began having nightmares about him. And I had nightmares about being left behind. This went on for a couple of months... During all of this time, I was still faithfully attending church, and going to choir rehearsals, singing in a ladies group that I directed...

I remember that the Easter production came, and I was at the end of my rope. I had been several months without a job, and was financially in the worst shape I had ever been in my life. I was close to losing my home, had no money, horrible credit (due to no fault of my own) and was struggling with nearly every relationship I had. I felt deserted..... abandoned.... and completely at my wits' end.

And it was there that I finally gave in and talked with a dear friend (my former worship pastor and one of my closest friends), who led me to Christ in his office.  Those chains of legalism were unlocked that afternoon of April 18, 2001!

God took the shackles off my feet that day.... And He is still teaching me to dance.... I won't be so arrogant to say that I understand complete freedom at this point in my life, but I can tell you that He is still teaching me how to be free... And there are still some areas where I need to be unshackled. But the taste of sweet freedom is beyond anything that I ever dreamed before.

" To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"  Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:31-36

Mary Mary made this song popular a few years ago.... I hope it ministers to you.