I love how God goes to great lengths to get our attention, even in our busyness! He is never too busy for us. Let me give an example.
Last week I had the great honor of attending the Christian Book Association’s Unite Conference & International Christian Retail Show, with my sweet and beautiful publisher Suzi Wooldridge. I also enjoyed a wonderful few days with some other amazing Bridge Logos authors and dear friends—Angela Donadio, Heather DeJesus Yates, Julie Wilkerson Klose, and our super creative publicist Danielle Stoltz. I was fortunate to be in such great company, and the whole experience was just overwhelming to say the least.
I was thrilled to do my very first ICRS book signing on Monday, and I met so many amazing people through that experience. I was informed on Tuesday night that my book had been picked up by a Korean publisher, and would be translated to the Korean language, and distributed throughout Korea! I was also blessed to be interviewed on four amazing broadcasts. The whole event was simply breathtaking. God has certainly been busy pouring out blessings over me, and I am so thankful to Him!
But, as blessings are being poured out upon us, we must not be too busy or too distracted to do what we were first called to do. The thrill of everything happening so quickly, and all the attention can cause us to lose focus if we are not careful. We must remember, God has not called us to be successful. He has called us to be obedient. When we are obedient children, we can expect blessing to naturally follow us.
When I arrived at the show on Sunday, I met my publisher and we ran some errands, and put together gift bags for my book distributors. We had fun just hanging out together working on the bags! But, in all the excitement, I left my purse in one of the halls in the Opryland Hotel. It was an hour or more before I realized I had left it somewhere. I left Suzi, and hurriedly went back to the last place I could remember having my purse—right outside the Fed-Ex office in the hotel.
Praise God, when I got back there I saw it sitting on the counter in the Fed-Ex office. Someone had picked it up for me, and nothing was taken from it. Hallelujah! I was walking back to my room when a frantic looking couple stopped me and asked where to go to register for CBA Unite. I told them I was sorry, but I didn’t know. The lady looked at my tag hanging from the lanyard around my neck, and said, “But you are registered.” I explained that my publisher had picked it up for me. I apologized for not being able to help, and continued the hike back to my room. (If you’ve been to the Opryland Hotel, you understand why I said,"hike")!
With literally thousands of people attending CBA Unite, I didn’t expect to see the couple again. Later that night we walked back to the CBA show floor, so I could show Bryan and the girls where to meet me the next day for my book signing. Oddly enough, we met that same couple again. The lady stopped walking, so I approached her and pointing to her lanyard and tag I said, “I see you found the registration area.” She laughed and said, “Yes.” And that was that.
The next day as I was walking around the enormous showroom floor, I happened to see the couple again. They were talking to some distributors, and I kept walking. For some reason, I had an odd feeling upon seeing them again. I certainly wasn’t continuously running into my own friends at the show this often, and there were more of them than just this one couple.
The next day, Danielle helped me pass out the gift bags, and introduced me to our distributors. I had a few bags left so I took them back to the room. On the final day, I decided to go to the floor and give away the final couple of bags. I didn’t know who I should give the final bag to, so I prayed and asked God to lead me. Immediately the couple that I kept bumping into came to mind. So, I prayed again and said, “Ok God, if something is going on here, and you would like for me to talk to these people, let me just see them here one more time.”
I promise you with all my heart, I turned around and they were right behind me. I approached them, gave them the last gift bag, and introduced myself. They asked what my book was about, so I shared a little of my testimony with them. The gentleman looked at me and said, “Can I ask your advice about something?” I humbly agreed. Now, I’m not going to reveal the situation, for their privacy, but it was obvious that God had set up this entire meeting! As the Holy Spirit began to speak through me, the lady’s mouth dropped wide open, and tears came to her eyes. I had no idea what their situation was, but God DID. We continued to talk for quite awhile, and then I prayed with them both right there on the show floor.
God knew exactly where they would be, and what they needed. I’m glad He was patient with me, as I ran marathons around the hotel to get from meeting to meeting. He never let me forget that couple. That divine encounter was set into motion before any of us even arrived at the show. As busy as I was, He kept reminding me in His sweet gentle way that there was ministry to be done. Yes, spreading the word about my book was important to me, because it carries His message of grace to all who read it. But this precious couple was just as important to Him. He's never too busy to leave the ninety-nine, for the one.
No matter how busy or exciting the things are that are happening around us, we must always be ready to listen and obey. Slow down, take a minute and ask God, “What is YOUR plan for this moment?” He will let you know. I pray that precious couple was as blessed as I was through that experience. What a loving, caring, and patient, God we serve! There’s never a need that is too small for Him to meet, and there’s never a need too great for Him to meet, and He's never too busy. He is ALL we need.
Psalm 139:16 NIV
“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Sometimes being the leader of the same ministry for 20 years is not a good thing! It could mean that you are holding tightly to a dead or dying ministry. So what makes us hold onto ministries that are perishing anyway?
Sometimes we have been doing something for so long, we feel it is the only thing we can do. We refuse to try to step out into a different calling because “this is what I’ve always done.” We may feel that God has equipped us to do one thing only. But God is more creative than that. He has so much to offer us, and He delights in promoting us, if we are striving to follow Him and listening to His voice.
Fear of losing our place can hold us back. We might feel like if we let go of the ministry we are currently leading, we will have to go back and sit on the pew with nothing to do. In other words our ministry becomes our identity. We may feel that if we are not recognized by the position we fill, we won’t be recognized at all. We have to remind ourselves that God is not in the business of demoting, but promoting.
God wants to see us grow, and in that process He wants us to train others to do what we have been doing. My Pastor/Mentor in Iowa always told me that I should be continually seeking to work myself out of a job. We are not supposed to hoard up all of our talents. We should train and mentor others to do what we are doing, and if possible to do it even better than we are!
We must train others to take our place. This lets others grow in their calling, and it allows us to move into the new areas of ministry God has planned for us. If you are not equipping others, you can be certain that you are leading a dying ministry. You will not be here forever!
How can we expect to receive greater things from God, if our hands are clenched tightly to a ministry that He has told us to let go of? Look at the picture above. If you will notice, when our hand is outstretched to release something, it remains in the perfect position to receive from God our next assignment. Do we doubt God’s ability to continue to use us, and lead us into greater ministries?
We only hinder ourselves and our own growth when we adopt the attitude that we are the only capable leaders. Instead we should be seeking to invest in the lives of others. This is how churches and ministries grow. If you can’t love your people and appreciate the gifts of those under your care, why would God lead other people to your ministry? If you know someone within your ministry or church that has a gift such as singing, speaking, teaching, preaching, praying with others, etc., and you are not willing to let them use that gift from time to time; they can become stagnant, and so will your ministry.
However, God often uses those He has gifted by opening other doors to them if we ignore them. He doesn’t neglect, or forget His chosen. And if we do, it is only our ministry that suffers. God uses variety. If He didn’t, He would have made everyone JUST LIKE YOU. But, guess what…He didn’t. Remember, if you close doors to those God is trying to use, He WILL open other doors to them, and it is often in another church.
Another thing that gets in our way is jealousy. The enemy loves to use this destructive tool between God’s people. We might start to think that someone will do a better job than we did. Or perhaps people will like them better than they liked us. Well, if that’s the case it’s a good thing! People will not forget you, and you can believe they will love you even more if they see your heart is for the betterment of the ministry as a whole. Hoarding a ministry because of jealousy is a major sign of spiritual immaturity.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to refresh and revive a ministry. If your heart is sincerely in the ministry because you love and want to serve people, then you want the best for them. I sent my daughters to school because I wanted them to get a great education. I would have loved to have kept them home with mommy. But, I realized my scholastic teaching skills were not the best—algebra comes to mind—so I entrusted them to the care and teaching skills of other teachers. Why? Because I love my girls and want the very best for them.
As leaders it is our job to see that those entrusted to us are taken care of Spiritually, and emotionally, and used in the way God chooses to use them. I’m often amazed by all the attempts and lengths some ministers go to in order to get more people in the pews. How many of the people in the pews do you know already? Do you know their needs? Do you genuinely care about their wellbeing? What are their personalities like? Do you have relationships with them, or, if they walked out today would you even notice or care? People know if they are cared for.
Do you really think God will entrust more people to your care, if you are not willing to love the ones He has already entrusted to you? We must LOVE people. All kinds of people. There will always be those we don’t particularly like. Everyone has their own different quirks and hang ups, but God has called us as leaders to love and care for His flock. If we can’t care for the flock He has entrusted to us, we shouldn’t think He will lead more sheep into our fold.
Time is running out. We want to reach the lost at any cost, but it requires caring for those God has entrusted to us already. Lead, teach, train up leaders. This is not a one man, or one woman show. God uses us in different ways. Think about this. Who believed in you? Who mentored you, and trained you? Where would you be without people who were willing to invest in you? Are you willing to do the same for others?
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
1 Peter 5:1-5 ESV
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Acts 20:28 NLT
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
When I was a young girl growing up in Tennessee, it seemed like nothing ever really changed. My home, and the landscape was seemingly much the same for many years. Even after I was grown I never really noticed a lot of obvious changes in my familiar environment. I grew up, time passed, life happened, and God moved my family and I, to Iowa for nine years.
When we moved back to Tennessee I began to visit some of the places that I frequented when I lived here nine years earlier. I was amazed by how drastically things had changed. Trees and vegetation seemed to be so much taller than before. Everything looked so different. Nothing looked the same as it had before I left. I was shocked by how much things had changed.
It seemed to be so much like the old frog story. We’ve all heard it. The premise is that if a frog is suddenly put into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in cool water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. Though the story has been passed on for years and years, it is not true. A frog will jump out of the pot when the water becomes uncomfortable. (But, please don’t try it. The frogs and I both would appreciate you skipping that experiment.)
But, the point the story was attempting to make is that we don’t always notice things changing in our immediate situations, especially when change occurs gradually. We get used to our surroundings, our habits, our way of doing things without taking a lot of notice of the subtle changes that are taking place. Just like as a young girl I didn’t notice how much my environment was changing daily. But, coming home after several years I was shocked to see so much change.
We live in a world that is changing on a daily basis, and unfortunately, most of it is not for the good. Some of the change has happened gradually over many years but it seems to be picking up momentum. The enemy of our souls is continually trying to lull us to sleep by making sin appear ordinary.
He would love to convince us that nothing is really changing. He uses so many different tactics to try to get us into a common routine, or a comfortable level of complacency. He causes us to be self-absorbed and focused on ourselves, our families and nothing more. As we get comfortable, we pay less and less attention to the changes happening around us.
Things that used to shock us seem to have become commonplace. How many of us can see a rainbow now without feeling uneasy, or having a sense of grief? We now see it so commonly associated with homosexuality, that we rarely appreciate what it was originally created for.
“I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures: Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.…”
The sin of homosexuality used to be hidden. Now you can’t get through a single TV program without one of the characters proudly announcing they are homosexual. Society has accepted it as the norm, and so it is fed to us through every outlet available. This is only one of many sins that has become normalized in today’s society. If you don’t like your gender, you can change it.
Don’t misunderstand me, certainly not all change is bad, and certainly not all change is good. But how do we know how to accept the good, and reject the bad?
There is a standard. We must hold tightly to the Standard, or the Truth of God’s Word. One thing that will never change is God and His Word. We can count on Him to be the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Sometimes the methods of sharing The Word have to change, but the Truth—The Holy Bible—never changes!
God’s opinion of sin does not change. He is a just God, and He will never condone sin. It doesn’t matter how widely accepted sin becomes by people of the earth, God has the final word, and authority. He demands justice, and He follows the standard He gave us. We can try to rationalize or make excuses for why we reject God, and His ways, but one day each of us will stand before Him. We will be accountable for ourselves and only ourselves. Excuses will not work. Why? We all have been given the same standard to live by. It is the Holy Bible.
No matter how much times change, God does not change. We must be aware of the changes taking place around us. We must be alert. Sometimes we have to return home to notice change. We have to look back at our lives, and how we desperately wanted to serve God when we first believed and accepted Him as Savior.
Our home should be the Bible. We must go there to see, and know the standard—the Truth— and then look at the changes that have taken place in our own lives. We may be shocked when we “go home,” and see the changes that have happened while we were away, or lulled into complacency.
We are often tempted to compare ourselves to others. “Well at least I’m not doing what Sis Snobby is doing. I’m not as bad as her.” Sound familiar? God isn’t going to compare you to Sis Snobby. Her life is not the standard. He will compare you to His Word. He will compare you to Jesus, His Perfect Son who died in your place to make atonement for your sins. He will compare you to the real standard—His Holy Word—the Bible. Have you changed, or do you need to make some changes?
This past weekend, I had the honor of wearing my “photographer’s hat” for a dear friend’s wedding in Iowa. The photo above of the groom and his father helping him attach his timepiece seemed so relevant to this blog, I just had to include it. I love photographing weddings. Each one is beautiful in its own way, and I’m always excited to see the new ideas and traditions that come together by the combining of families.
I love that moment when the groom looks upon his bride for the first time in her beautiful white gown. Times and traditions have certainly changed. It used to be taboo for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding, until the moment she walked down the aisle. Now, most weddings that I have photographed have what we call “first look” pictures done before the actual wedding. The groom waits in a designated location, and the bride arrives. On my cue, he turns to see her for the first time in her wedding dress, and I start snapping photos to capture the look on their faces. Traditions always change, and this is how its done these days.
If we go way back and look at the Jewish wedding traditions in Biblical times, we can really see some interesting things. Nothing at all like our weddings today, the Jewish wedding included a number of steps over a period of time.
First, the father of the groom made the arrangements for the marriage. At this point the groom would travel from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride. He would pay the purchase price for the bride, thus establishing the marriage covenant.
Second, the groom would return to his father’s house, remaining separate from his bride for 12 months or longer, during which time he prepared the living accommodations for his wife in his father’s house.
Third, the father would release the groom to go back and get his bride at a time completely unknown to her. Because no one knew when the groom was coming, he would announce his arrival with a shout!
And fourth, the groom would return with his bride to his father’s house where he had prepared a place for her. The marriage would take place, and there would be a celebration with a great wedding feast.
Sound familiar? It really makes Matthew chapter 25 a lot more clear, doesn’t it?
Let’s read Matthew 25:1-13 NIV
25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
We are all waiting for a grand wedding. Jesus is coming to take His bride—the church—back to His Father’s house to a place He has prepared for us.
John 14:2-3 NIV says:
“My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
We must be prepared. We must be sure that we have oil in our lamps, and are prepared to meet Jesus! We must keep watch because we do not know the day or the hour when He will return. But we do know that God cannot lie. Jesus will come to take us home one day. The groom is coming! Will you be ready?
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Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
I have been blessed with some amazing people who have been incredible encouragers in my life. I wish I could list them all by name, but I’m sure to forget a name, and I would never want to leave one of these precious ones out. Besides, you know who you are!
Life as a minister is not always easy. I’m certainly not complaining, because there is nothing I would rather do or be. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing lost and broken people come to Christ, and find Hope in Jesus. It is beautiful sight, and it is worth every second of discomfort or trial that could ever come my way. Nothing could stop me from talking about how wonderful my Jesus is!
But, at times ministry can be so discouraging I find myself wondering if I’ll even survive. Ministers rarely talk about the trials and burdens they carry, and the huge amount of discouragement that comes along with the assignments, but these things do exist. A big part of our job in ministry is to encourage, and lift up others. We often have a smile on our face when we are dealing with our own worries, frustrations, and feelings of just not measuring up. The enemy knows exactly how to hit us where it hurts the most, and he is relentless if he thinks he can discourage us in the least.
We sometimes deal with depression, and feelings of rejection. We often doubt our abilities, and we feel like our best efforts just don’t make a difference at times. We are human. But, most of the time we feel like we must be super strong for those we lead. Sometimes we pour out our hearts preaching on a Sunday morning, being careful to share exactly what the Holy Spirit has given us and no one responds to the altar call.
We then leave church wondering what we should have said, or what we shouldn’t have said, or what we said wrong. We feel that we were unsuccessful, and we spend the rest of the next few days critiquing and mentally replaying every word we said, looking for where it could have gone wrong.
We lead people to Christ, and are thrilled to see them growing and beginning to find their purpose and calling, and then they backslide and quit church altogether. We wonder if there was something more we could have done to prevent it. We deal with hundreds of issues, and counsel many, many people behind the scenes. And though we pray for God to take care of them, we still worry about their problems and their wellbeing, as well as our own.
Many times we are criticized about what God has called us to do, and how He has led us to do it. We hear about unkind words that others have spoken about us from people who call themselves our friends. Many times they don’t realize that what they are sharing with us is indeed hurting us. Sometimes it’s just better not to know.
It’s not always easy. But, then there are those times when out of the blue, I get an email or message from an encourager! They might tell me that something I said in a sermon really impacted them or was right on time. They might simply tell me that they are lifting me up in prayer, and thinking of me. They might tell me that what I’m doing is indeed making a difference.
I’ve been blessed by individuals who have contacted me to tell me that God has called them to intercede and pray for myself, my family, and my ministry. Just knowing that I have prayer warriors fighting on their knees on my behalf thrills my heart, and gives me strength! I’ve had friends who have shown up for out of town events just to show their support for me when I speak. Just seeing them sitting in the congregation has been an encouragement to me, and has strengthened me more than they could ever know.
I have a few ladies who are older and wiser than I am who have lifted my arms in the heat of battle more times than they could even imagine. I treasure these dear ones, and I know that their reward is going to be amazing in heaven. If God has called you to be an encourager, do NOT take it lightly. Yours is a huge job, and one of tremendous importance. You may feel that your words don’t make a big difference, but I’m telling you they do! We ministers depend on you, your prayers, and your words of encouragement.
In the New Testament Barnabas’ given name was Joses, or Joseph, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement!” He left a legacy of being an encourager. Can you imagine having these things said of you?
Acts 11:23-24 says of Barnabas, “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
I am so grateful for all of my friends and encouragers. I hope you never feel insignificant or unnoticed. Your prayers, faith, and wonderful words of encouragement help me to remain true to the Lord, and continue to do what He has called me to do, with all my heart! You are so important to the Kingdom of God, and you are so important to me. I pray that God blesses you abundantly for being obedient to His call of being an encourager! I love you.
Isaiah 61:1-“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”
To be honest, I hesitated to write this blog because a lot of people don’t believe, or understand how destructive the power of darkness can be in the lives of some individuals. I also hesitated because I have heard others share these kind of things, and I thought they might be, well, a little flaky if you know what I mean.
But, just like Peter and John in Acts 4:20, I cannot help speaking about what I have seen and heard my Jesus do! As I have stated before, jail ministry has proven to be the perfect atmosphere for miracles. I believe there are many reasons for that, but I feel the biggest reason is because there is a silent cry of desperation coming from the hearts of the inmates. They feel hopeless, and we all know where true HOPE is found—only in Jesus. Also Romans 5:20 tells us, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
So, if we are going into an atmosphere where sin and evil abounds, we can count on God’s grace to be there in great abundance. We can also count on the Holy Spirit to empower us for what we will face, or to teach us what to do when we are faced with spiritual forces. This is why I always encourage others to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues.
But Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
As I was driving to the jail on this particular Friday morning, I was just listening to my praise and worship music. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit just filled the car with me, and I began to pray in the Spirit. It flowed and flowed out of me with such an urgency, I was a little surprised. I arrived at the jail and went inside.
Once inside, twelve ladies joined me for the service. I prayed, and we began to sing worship songs. As we continued to worship, I noticed an older lady with her arms raised. I’m always blessed to see these ladies with their arms raised, tears streaming down their faces in worship to our God. But this lady seemed a little different. I felt I should continue to watch her.
As the music continued to play and the other ladies continued to sing, I made my way toward the lady. When I approached her, she turned to face the wall, mouthing something that I could not decipher. I placed my hand on her shoulder to pray for her, and it was if the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “That is NOT my Spirit.” She immediately fell to the floor, and started trying to bang her head on the concrete.
Realizing now what I was facing, I whispered, “Help me Holy Spirit.” I then turned to the eleven other ladies and told them what was going on. I asked them to check their hearts and ask Jesus to forgive them of any sin in their lives, and ask Him to be Lord of their lives. I explained, “This lady has a demon, and when I cast it out, it will look for the next available vessel. Don’t be that vessel. Make things right with God right now.”
By this time, the lady was starting to foam at the mouth and her arms were curved in toward her body and stiff as if she couldn’t unfold them. I tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t. I was holding her head to keep her from banging it into the wall and floor. She still wouldn’t look at me, so I physically turned her head toward me. Her eyes glazed over right before my eyes with what appeared to be thick cataracts.
The whole time I was thinking, “Is this really happening?” Still, I was amazed by the total absence of fear or doubt in me. I knew the Holy Spirit was empowering me. I am certain I would not have had the boldness or faith to do what I did next. I turned around and noticed that three jailers had come into the room with us. All three stood back and did not come near us. That in itself was a miracle because they are supposed to remove inmates that get in the floor for any reason.
In the next moment, I looked straight into the lady’s eyes, and said, “You have to come out of her in The Name of Jesus!” She continued to try to mouth something, but it was as if her jaw was totally locked, and she continued to foam at the mouth. Once again, holding her head in my hands to prevent her from hurting herself, I commanded the unclean spirit to come out.
She still seemed to writhe, and foam at the mouth, so once more I said, “You have no power or authority here, and you MUST come out now in The Name of Jesus!” She looked at me, and her eyes became clear. She sat up, and I asked her if she was ok. She said she was. I immediately prayed with her and led her to Christ.
She told me and the other ladies at the table that this was the first time in years that she had felt like she was in control of her own body. The other ladies began to comment that she looked so different, and even her voice sounded different. She thanked me and thanked me. I told her to thank Jesus, He did it!
The jailers had left the room, and I continued the service using the opportunity to point out the importance of staying sober. Because when we alter our unconscious with drugs or alcohol or other destructive behaviors, we open ourselves up to demonic possession, or oppression.
When the ladies left the room, one of the jailers told me to wait at the desk because the head CO wanted to talk to me. I was thinking, “Oh boy, this is it. They are never going to let me come back.” The CO approached me and said, “I just want to ask you ONE question. Are you SURE you got them all?” I assured her that I felt they were gone.
She continued to tell me that the ladies had been having nightmares, and seeing strange dark shadows when no one was there, and they all just felt an evil presence. She told me it all started when this particular lady came into the jail. She thanked me, and I left.
Driving away, I thought back to my drive to the jail, and I remembered how the Holy Spirit had flooded the car with me that morning. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was preparing me for what I was about to face. We must be prepared to release prisoners from darkness. I’m not just talking about the people inside the jail, I’m talking about anyone who is bound by the powers of darkness.
We must have the spiritual discernment to recognize what is happening in situations like this. That lady had been bound for years by this demon. She told me of the horrible things it had spoken to her, and it had physically thrown her out of a moving car at one point. This isn’t surprising. The enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)
Let’s be ready to face the enemy head on, no matter what he presents us with. Satan has no authority or power when we stand in faith, and trust in the Name of Jesus. Greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4)
There are so many things in this world that can bring fear into our lives. We live in a world of uncertainty. Unexpected circumstances are a normal occurrence. If we are believers, we build our lives on faith, and the Word of God—the Holy Bible. But, that doesn’t mean we are exempt from feeling fear.
The enemy loves to use fear and doubt in our lives. Like I’ve said before, his tactics seldom change. He knows how to push our buttons, and bringing fear into our hearts and minds is one of his favorite weapons. I know and recognize many of his tactics, but at times even when I know he is at the source, fear can creep in and try to steal my joy.
Things have been going great over the past few months. I have been extremely busy, but I love it! It thrills my heart to be able to travel and share the Word of God and watch Him move in the lives of His people. He has been doing so many amazing things; saving people, healing people, delivering lives from the powers of darkness, rescuing lives from addiction, and breaking chains in a myriad of situations. There is nothing better than giving God the opportunity to display His glory! It is my hearts utmost desire.
But, when things seem to be going extremely well, and God is moving you can be sure that the enemy of our souls also takes notice. It shakes him up. It makes him nervous, and it makes him mad that our God is receiving honor and glory. He becomes furious when he realizes that souls are being brought into the Kingdom of God. That’s when he begins to use his influences to attack us with weapons from his underhanded arsenal.
After a wonderful weekend of ministry in Iowa, I went in to see my doctor yesterday just for a run of the mill check-up. They did blood work, and today I received a phone call to tell me that some of the levels in my blood panel came back elevated, and now I will have to undergo more tests including an ultrasound.
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear the word abnormal levels, or abnormal tests, is “Oh no! What is wrong with me?” The second thing that comes to mind is, “I don’t have time for this!” And of course all kinds of scenarios begin to run through my mind about what could be wrong, and what the outcome will look like. We all do it. Health matters often have the greatest potential to make us fearful. So, what do we do?
I am currently going through a Bible Study with my ladies at church on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore. Having done this study a few years earlier, I was impacted greatly by one point she makes concerning fear for our lives and wellbeing. I was reminded of it today, and as I looked through my homework for tomorrow night, I was surprised to find it there on the pages for this very week. Coincidence? I think not.
Beth discusses three scenarios when we face trials, and their potential outcomes. In reflecting on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s situation when they were faced with being thrown into the fiery furnace, we can draw some conclusions that can be helpful to us in our own situations.
Scenario A: We can be delivered from the fire. In other words, God could have stepped in, and prevented the king from even throwing them into the furnace. In our personal lives God could completely heal us, or instantly resolve the situation. The outcome—their faith (or our faith) would be built.
Scenario B: We can be delivered through the fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We might have to go through the fiery trial, but God uses other means to deliver us. It could be a doctors or surgeons hands, or another situation resolved by the hands of a person God chooses to use. Either way, Jesus goes through the trial with us, just as He went into the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The outcome—our faith is refined.
Scenario C: We can be delivered by the fire into His arms. In other words, we get to go see Jesus! The outcome—our faith is perfected!
No matter how the scenario plays out, we win! We are often frightened by the unknown, but we can have the confidence in knowing that no matter what our situation looks like, if we are trusting in Jesus—WE STILL WIN.
Even though it may be frightening, and we may initially face tremendous fear, we will ultimately have the victory if we are living our lives for God. The words of the song “In Christ Alone” sums it up so well when it says:
“No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.”
This is the POWER of Christ in us. We have nothing to fear. We have the blessed hope. No matter what you may be facing today, whether it is the fear of a relational outcome, a broken marriage, a financial crisis, or even a health issue. We have not been given a spirit of fear! God is working all things together for our good, despite how things may appear in the natural.
God is faithful, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He gives us perfect peace in every situation if we will give it all over to Jesus. Nothing is impossible for God. We can overcome fear because we are overcomers though the power of the cross! In the end WE STILL WIN.
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11(NLT)
I love happy endings. I love the feeling of anticipation as a movie or book reaches the end. You feel the tension rising. You see where the story line is headed. You may not know all the details, but you know “The End” is drawing near.
Don’t you wish life was like that? Wouldn’t it be great if there was always a nice, neat ‘happily ever after’ for every part of your life story? But there’s not a guaranteed happy ending. We don’t always know how things will turn out. We know that whatever happens God will work it for our good. We know from reading scripture that the ultimate end is good. God wins. The enemy loses. We live with God forever in a beautiful place. But between now and then? We know a few things to look for to know the time is getting close. We have some apocalyptic prophecies laid out in the book of Revelation. But exactly how it is going to play out? That’s a bit hazy.
We can’t see the ‘whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end’. We don’t know how things are going to work out. We don’t know how God is going to solve our financial problems. We can’t see a logical way to work out the mess we’ve made of our lives. It seems impossible for God to change the heart of our wayward child. We can’t see the happy ending.
Sometimes, we read the Word of God and we see the amazing stories of the lives of the men and women that God saw fit to put within the pages of Holy Scripture. I stand in awe and wonder at how God moved in their lives. But something hit me one day as I was reading about the life of Abraham in Romans 4:20. It was the phrase that said Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. It says in God’s Word that Abraham did not waver. But if you read the story back in Genesis, it seemed like he did waver. Sarah wavered and gave Abraham her maid Hagar to bear the son. Abraham wavered when he took Hagar and bore a son with her. God clearly said to him that Sarah would bear the covenant son. This looked a lot like wavering to me.
Now I know and fully believe that God’s Word is inerrant. I know that God does not lie. I know that He does not make mistakes. But here it was right in front of me. I knew there had to be an explanation and I knew that I was going to have to seek if I was to find the answer. I pondered. I meditated. And one day, when I was thinking and reading about something completely different, the verse out of Ecclesiastes popped out at me. “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
God has planted eternity in our hearts and we don’t know His work from beginning to end, but HE does! He is the great I AM! He is timeless. He is beyond and above the limits of time. When he looks at us, He sees us through the eyes of eternity! He sees us completed in His Son! He sees us covered by the Blood of Jesus. He sees His Righteousness! He saw Abraham’s end from the beginning. And He sees our end from the beginning. He sees the end of our story! He sees our ‘happily ever after!'
God looks at us through the eyes of eternity! He also chose to do a unique thing: He planted eternity in our hearts. Whether we choose to believe in eternity or not, it is real. It is part of who we are. I think those that say that we just cease to exist when we die aren’t really being honest with themselves. Why do I believe that? Because God planted eternity in their heart. There’s a seed of eternity there. It may be hidden deep down. It may not have been watered and nurtured. They may have tried to ‘pull it up’ and throw it out. But what God plants, man cannot destroy. Eternity is there.
And since eternity is in our heart, it influences how we perceive things. God looked at Abraham and saw his end from the beginning. All God saw was Abraham’s faithfulness!
When we look at situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity we see them differently. An eternal perspective helps us see past the here and now to the potential of what God can do! We see, through the eyes of faith, that God has a plan for our situations and circumstances. We see, through the eyes of faith, a soul for which Jesus gave His Life. We see that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time."
An eternal perspective is a perspective of hope. It is a perspective that sees the potential. It is a perspective that sees the best. It changes how we see everything!
What if we chose to see the best in people instead of the worst? What if we chose to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of doubting they are of any benefit? What if instead of jumping to conclusions we jump to their defense? Or better yet, we jump in to help? Or jump into the gap in prayer. What if we chose to see situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity? We just might see more ‘happy endings’ and ‘happily ever afters’.
Eight weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Bible study at Northside Assembly. I had no idea what I was in for. God brought some of the most beautiful, sweet and precious ladies into my life. I will forever cherish them. They may never know the extent of my gratitude for how they encouraged me, and lifted me up. I’m so grateful to have met each one of them.
The study was an eight week study and this was our final week. The book was about waiting. We all go through periods of waiting, and since we are not always the most patient, it’s usually frustrating to wait.
I myself have been in a waiting period in a couple of areas. I’ve been in this position of waiting, over and over again. You would think I would get used to it, but every season of waiting is different in its own way. Even though I travel and speak all over the nation, I still have a huge desire to minister in my local area. God has blessed me with a jail ministry (in a town other than my own) that has been such a huge blessing to me. I have been overwhelmed and amazed by all the things God has done behind prison doors.
But, I have been burdened for my hometown as well. At the beginning of February I started trying to get into the jail in my own town. It has been a long 3 months, and I finally decided it just was not going to happen. I contacted the jail chaplain, and he put me on the ministers list months ago, but nothing else happened. I called and left messages at the jail. No one would call me back. I thought I might have to rob a bank just to get in!
I was so frustrated. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has been with me in this ministry to inmates in the other jails. I believed with all my heart He would want me to go into my local jail to minister. So, why was this proving to be an impossibility?
You should have heard some of the conversations I had with God about it. I begged Him to open the doors so I could get in. I prayed and asked Him to lift the burden from my heart if it was not His will that I go there to minister. The burden never lifted. My frustration grew even more. I decided to give God an ultimatum. (Don’t act like you are holier than I am, and have never done it.) I prayed, “God, I’m going to call the jail one more time, and if I don’t get an answer today, I’m going to just accept that You don’t want me to go in there, and I’m going to forget it!”
I refused to accept the fact that God was just telling me to be patient and wait. I thought I had to have a “right now” answer. Isn’t that what frustrates us the most? We want right now answers, or right now results. If this is what You want me to do God, then make it happen right now! But, our demands do not move the hand of God—our patience and putting our trust in Him and His timing does.
As I went through this eight week study with these precious women of God, I was reminded of how faithful God is. He’s always ON TIME, even if it’s not the timing we are hoping for. So many times when we get tired of waiting, we start putting demands on God, or start giving Him ultimatums, when we should be giving Him praise, and thanking Him for the lessons He is teaching us in the meantime.
Of course waiting isn’t fun. But, when we offer our praise and do what we can during the wait, it becomes easier. This was the prayer I prayed at the end of April:
“Lord, I really don’t understand why it is so hard to get into this jail, but I trust in what You are doing. I know You have it all planned out. Even though I can’t see anyway to get in, I know that You have called me to this ministry, and no door is closed to You. Thank You for opening the right doors for me. I may not know what You are doing, but I trust in what You are saying. Amen.”
A few days later, I decided to contact the jail one more time. I went to their website to find their phone number, and a name and email address seemed to just leap off the page at me. It was like God led me right to it, and whispered into my heart, “Send her an email.” That is exactly what I did, and within an hour she had replied giving me the next steps to get into the jail. I would need to attend their orientation class. The class is only given once every six months, and it would be available in just a few days! Do you think that was coincidence? I don’t. God knew exactly what I needed to do to get in. He also knew exactly when the class would be available.
The whole time I thought He was ignoring my pleas to open the door, He knew exactly when it would be the right time. And when He was ready, He opened the door, and showed me exactly what I needed to do, who to contact, and when.
Waiting isn’t easy, but we can trust that our God knows what’s best, and His timing is perfect. We often feel like He is ignoring us, but He is continually working things in our favor. We don’t have to know what He is doing, but we can certainly trust what He is saying. If He tells us to wait, we need to wait. If He tells us to move, we need to move! And, if we feel He is saying nothing, keep doing what you are doing, and praise Him even more.
We’ve all experienced it—that one moment where someone has said something, or done something that has made us feel small, insignificant, or flat out rejected. It seems that all the blood in your body rushes to your face, as your hair seems to stand on end. You feel like you have been punched in the gut, and you wish you could disappear into thin air totally forgotten. Next, you start looking for a way to make a graceful exit.
The moment you are alone, your thoughts immediately return to the words that were spoken, the actions that were taken, or the body language shown by the one who made you FEEL the way you are feeling at this very moment; embarrassed, humiliated, insignificant or little. Your mind dwells on the hurtful event despite your best efforts to dismiss it.
Maya Angelou put it extremely well when she said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about the people in your life that you treasure. They may not have a list of great accomplishments under their belts, but I am fairly certain they have probably made you feel special at some point. Then there are those people we run into from time to time, and when we see them we immediately feel a tinge of despair, or discouragement. Most of the time, our thoughts rewind back to an incident (or more than one incident) where they made us feel, well, not so great!
It’s not like we haven’t forgiven them. They may have even come to us and apologized, and attempted to make amends with us. But, the feeling remains. We can completely forgive someone, but still remember how they made us feel. We then subconsciously, or consciously choose to “love them from a distance.” It’s a self-protective measure. We don’t want to feel the hurt, or insignificance they have showered upon us in the past.
I recently made a sweet friend in ministry that I can say, I truly would like to emulate. She inspires me. I haven’t been around her more than a handful of times, but I can tell you she has made me feel important not only to her, but especially to the Kingdom of Heaven! That has encouraged me tremendously.
In a society where women tend to be so competitive, and jealous of one another, it is so refreshing to see a woman of beautiful godly character rise up and show the love of Christ to her sisters. This precious lady is so humble, not at all self-seeking. She thinks of others first, and it shows. Her ministry is blessed not only because God is honoring her character and faithfulness, but because I believe she makes people feel significant and valued. She is genuine--the real deal!
In life and especially in ministry, we must be very careful about how we treat others. Everyone is significant, and cherished by Our Heavenly Father. How dare we treat one of HIS children like they are not just as loved and cherished by us? We might not think it matters, but you can believe it matters to Him.
Ladies, body language speaks volumes! If you think your body language doesn’t affect the way people react to you, take a look at the picture below. Which of the ladies in the picture looks most approachable?
You can almost tell by looking which ladies would welcome conversation, and who would rather be left alone. As women, we often carry our thoughts and emotions all over our bodies. Rolling our eyes can mean we are exasperated, or annoyed. Crossing our arms in front of us can mean we are unapproachable, and would rather not be bothered. Placing our hands on our hips with elbows extended can mean we are on the defensive.
We don’t need a class on body language to detect when someone thinks we are not worth their time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a short answer, and turning the head as if the conversation is over. There are so many subtle hints that can make people feel as if we don’t value them.
Now, I realize sometimes we do things unintentionally and that’s understandable. Other times we can be shy, and it could appear that we are not being friendly. But, as women of God we need to be very careful of how we intentionally treat our sisters. I’m not saying we have to run around and gush all over everyone we see. That can be just as bad. There’s nothing more distasteful than people who run around gushing all over everyone in the room, but are just about as phony as a three dollar bill. We don’t want to be fake.
Be loving. Be sincere, and be transparent. We often worry so much about our own appearances that we lose sight of how we make others feel. Why do people want to be your friend? Is it because you are popular or hold a high position, and being around you makes them look important? Or, do you have friends that genuinely want to be around you because you make everyone around you feel loved and valued?
I’ve always heard you will attract the kind of friend that you are to others. Let’s learn to love well. We are sisters, and we need one another. Build one another up. Encourage each other. We all have issues to face, and we are certainly stronger together. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
Romans 12:10-11 ESV - Love one another with brotherly (sisterly)* affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
* Emphasis mine.