It’s Not Just a Matter of Survival, It’s a Matter of Revival

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There’s a lot to learn from Lot!

Genesis 19:16, 18 & 19

”When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful.”  Here’s a short story synopsis. The city is destroyed by fire. There are no other survivors. Lot and his family are saved only because the angels grabbed their hands and pulled them out of their indecision.

Isn’t that how we respond when we first hear of God’s plans? We stand with our feet firmly planted in the place we know. The place that seems safe. We have lived there so long change seems way to risky. Besides, that place has become home. Oh, the paint is peeling, the cracks are emerging, and maybe its even sparking a few flames, but we’ve built our lives there. Our comfort zone. We know it’s not perfect. We know there’s a possibility of something better, but then again there could be something worse. So we get stuck. We accept the unacceptable because no one likes moving. If you are like me you realize that the new place will require you to change into a new life. And honestly we just can’t see what that looks like, so we hesitate.

Once Lot and his wife and daughters are practically dragged out of the city the angels tell them to run for their lives and don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Lot’s response echoes his fear of the unknown. “Oh no, my lord! Lot begged. You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness. But, I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die.” Lot begs the angels to let them stay in a village nearby. He says thanks for saving my life, but the mountains are not the place for me.

At first glance, I think Lot is a little bit wimpy. Angels just pulled him from a burning city, why wouldn’t he trust their directions? But, aren’t we a lot like Lot? When God takes our hand and pulls us away from the old life strewn with stumbling and ashes we beg to stay in the valley. We know we barely escaped. We know God drew us out just in time. But standing that close to God makes us acutely aware of how we came out of that burning city with ash still clinging to our faces. We recognize we are not ready for mountain-top living. Mountain-top living that exposes us to the presence of God.

So we stand at the edge of the old life barely a step or two away. Just in case this new life gets too hard, we want the option of going back. Even if it means going back to a pile of ashes.

God tells us to go, run for your life from these choices you are making because devastation will follow. We turn and go but just far enough to clear immediate danger.

We bargain with God, just as Lot does. We live marginally obedient lives and miss the mountain-top moments.

Lot asked the angels to allow him to go to a small village instead of the mountains. He begs, “please let me go there instead, don’t you see how small it is?” He would rather live small, than live obedient.

Do we recognize our own lives in this story? Is it possible to look around at our small living and see the reality? Living small keeps us believing we are in control. We’d rather live small than risk reliant obedience.

My friends, obedience requires daring dependence. When God says run for your life, don’t look back, don’t stop anywhere in the valley he means it for our safety. We have somehow convinced ourselves living small keeps us safe.

Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. I wonder if he stood in wonder at God’s mercy toward him as he watched the beginning of a new day. He had lost so much. But God had spared his life and the life of his daughters. He and his little family were the sole survivors of the destruction of his city. But the question hanging in the air full of smoke and ash was whether this would lead to a soul revival for them.

God will wait. He wants us to hurry. He wants us to escape. He will send angels to pull us from the fire.  But he leaves it up to us to decide how far we will follow him.  I imagine him standing with open arms calling to us. Hurry! Hurry to the mountain top!

He knows the obedience to move toward the new beginning requires daring dependence. He didn’t leave us alone in the climb. Jesus stood on a hill reaching out his hand ready to help us over the steep place. The Holy Spirit helps us step over the hurdles where fear blocks our way. He promises he will never leave us.

I’m thinking we might just find this climb breathtaking, our hearts alive, wondering why we took so long to get to the mountain top. Oh, I know there will be moments when we look around and wonder if we can take just one more step. Because let’s be honest here, we can’t see what’s around the next bend in the road and that makes us uncomfortable. But, what if we start the new day convinced it’s not just a matter of sole survival, it’s a matter of soul revival? Would it be worth the risk?

I confess I am a lot like Lot. But I have an advantage. Because I know the love of Jesus I’m willing to risk the climb. One step at a time.

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But Lord…

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The Lord said, Go!

Ananais said, But, Lord!

But the Lord said, Go!

So Ananais went.

Acts 9:10-19

’Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananais; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananais.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying there, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananais come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.”  But Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on your saints [God’s people] at Jerusalem; and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing you as Savior]. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a deliberately chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” So Ananais left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road to Damascus, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles]. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; and he took some food and was strengthened.’

Acts 9:10-19 tells the story of a man who doubted but did it anyway. Can you relate Sis?

I get it. When God says go, I run through a mental checklist of what it could cost me. I’m a lot like Ananais. He knew who Saul was and fear stepped into the path before him. Sis, isn’t there always a form of fear stepping between us and obedience?

I wonder how Ananais missed this promise. “I have shown him (Saul) a vision of a man named Ananais coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” God revealed he had gone before Ananais.

Because Ananais is so focused on who Saul is, he can’t see clearly who God says he is.  Because Ananais is so focused on Saul’s power he can’t see clearly the promise of God’s power in him.

Sis, I think sometimes we are so fiercely focused on fear of the unknown that we forget God is the all-knowing. When God asks us to go, could we cling to the promise he has gone before us?  There is courage to be found there.

I love how God in his infinite patience explains the plan to Ananais. He gave him the encouragement he needed. So Ananais went. And in the going, he found God’s confident heart beating with his. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

When Ananias found Saul he wasn’t timid.

When Ananais found Saul he didn’t stand at a safe distance.

When Ananais found Saul he laid his hands on him and said,

”Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay Sis, did you catch that? Ananais called Saul his “brother”.  Because Jesus loved Saul, his persecutor, Ananais loved him too. He trusted Jesus’ perspective even when he didn’t see evidence or reason to. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

I love that Ananais proclaims he was sent so Saul could REgain his sight. Maybe you are like me in recognizing the beauty of grace poured out on Saul through these words.

Saul was a man longing to serve God. He had lead a passionate life for God. He had lead a purpose-driven life for God. But somewhere along the way he lost sight of God. His pride lead him to judge others, blinding him to grace and mercy.

Sometimes we need to sit in darkness before God allows us to REgain our sight. He acknowledges we once saw him clearly, but have allowed the world to crowd in and cloud the truth. The truth that we have a great need for grace.

Ananais said, but Lord…

Saul said, but LORD…

We say, but Lord…

Sis, don’t you love how God will get through one way or another. He will either tap us on the shoulder with a little unveiling of the bigger picture, or he will allow us to sit a spell in darkness so we will regain our sight with a new perspective.

On any given day I can stand alongside Ananais and Saul.

But here’s the picture I cling to. I see Jesus laying his hands on either side of our face, leaning in and whispering—will you trust me now?

Will you say yes to my plan?

Will you go where I say go?

Because Ananais and Saul were willing to trust God, we can find hope for the moments we react with the same words…but Lord. I am so thankful for their stories because we get to see how God will take a single solitary effort of obedience and change the world.

So Sis, lets turn toward trust in the all-knowing when we stand facing the unknown. He’s got the plan, he’s gone before us. It’s a promise we can depend on.

 

Dear Father,

We stand at the road leading to unknowns and we shake in our boots. Oh, we hear your voice, we long to go, but we stagger under the burden of fear. Lord, help us to see your perspective. Help us to see the path you have already set out for us. Oh Father, help us to remember all the other times you have gone before us, because it reminds us to trust you in the new journeys. When we stand hearing you invite us to go, give us courage like Ananais, built on  the promise you have gone before us. When we stand hearing you invite us to change our perspective, give us a new vision like Saul to see through your eyes. Lord, we live thankful you believe we can go and make a difference in this world for your Kingdom. We depend on the promise you will always go WITH us. Thank you Father. We declare we can’t do it without you.

all my love,

Amen.

 

 

New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His Word will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

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Call it like it is.

“we begin by trusting our ignorance and calling it innocence.”  Ozwald Chambers

Hey Sis,

Did reading that sentence pinch you too?  Did it reach in and tighten around your heart a bit? Please tell me it’s not just me who sees herself standing right there.

Because on any given day it’s how I think…it’s my subconscious stance.

I can claim I’m a good person.  There’s no “evil” in me. I can proclaim with complete certainty I am not a murderer, adulterer, thief, liar, slanderer, etc. etc. etc.

But, here’s the point that pinches me and wakes me from that certainty. I can proclaim it today, but where will my heart stand tomorrow?  Or the next day?  Or the next?

Do you wonder if the people who commit these actions start their day with goodness and trip and fall into sin?  Do they wake up like me and you and somehow find themselves living an alternate life before days end?

Sis, are you like me?  Don’t we stand assured we are better, we are good, we are safe? Can you look back and recognize how this is faulty thinking?

When I look in the rear view mirror, I see the truth. The truth of how I have stood on the very edge of those very sins and felt the Holy Spirit grab the hem of my heart and pull me back just in the nick of time.  Have you seen it too? The ugly truth of the darkness that lurks just under our pure hearts?

Oh Sis, I know what is in me.  And to be honest I am frightened by it.  Sis, maybe you are staring at me with wide eyes as I confess my broken self right here in front of all the world to see.  Okay, so I haven’t murdered anyone.  But my heart has inched over the line in other ways and my certainty of how good I am becomes blurred by that truth. The ugly truth of what lies within.  Oh, I don’t want to look at it, confess it, even give it a name.  But nevertheless, it finds it’s way to the surface on any given day.

The truth is that the only good in me, the only thing that is certainly good is Jesus Christ.

And the only assurance that His goodness will triumph over my sinful nature is the Holy Spirit.  Without Him the evil in me will win.  It will eventually convince me I am more.

Oh you may be thinking “evil” seems like too strong a word to describe what’s within us.  But if we temper it and call it anything else aren’t we fooling ourselves. It needs to be ugly, and dark or we won’t be moved to run from it.  We won’t be moved to spend every single bit of God’s power within us to turn away.

So Sis, here’s a bit of homework, for you and for me and for us.  Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Let’s sit in front of a mirror and look for the dark spots.  Let’s find them and pick them out of the light, before they have a chance to grow and multiply and eclipse the goodness of God in us.

“We cannot trust our ignorance and call it innocence”—we must believe and receive the truth of what Jesus says….we need Him.  Every single day.

 

Here’s my prayer for us!

Dear Father,

Thank you for planting the light of goodness in us, even when you see the possibility of darkness.  We trust You to keep us turned toward the Light.  Thank you for reminding us of how easily we turn away when left to our own choices. Oh Lord, we live in a world that determines what is good enough and trick ourselves into agreement with it all.  So Father let your Word set the true standards, let your Word remind us of how far we are from Your perfection.  Lord we cling to the only hope we have that we can get one thing right, the hope of Jesus Christ who paid the price to light us from within, so we are perfectly good in Your eyes.  Thank you for knowing exactly what we would need and providing the Holy Spirit to guide us.  We need You…Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

Shine on Sis!

Dear Sis,
This letter is for you, and for me, and for us.
Time is short and the shadows are growing long.
We sit here, looking around at each other with the same question on our minds. What lights us up?

Sis if you are like me, you wonder at what “special light” you have to shine in a world just crying out for a little relief from the darkness. And here we stand. Stuck. And here we plant our feet, because there is no clear plan.

Oh Sis, I want to ask you a question, the same question I ask myself.
Was there a moment in your life,
A point of pain in your life,
A place of poverty in your life,
that propelled you into the arms of Jesus?

Did you long to be seen?
Not social media seen, but deep soul seen.
Did you long to be known?
Not known for what you do, but know for who you really are.
Did you long to be accepted?
Not accepted in the perfect Pinterest places, but accepted in the messy spaces where we really live.
Or did you just long to be invited?
Not invited by mass evite, but invited to really connect, heart to heart.

Here’s what I’m wondering Sis.
If we are standing in His light today, searching to and fro for a place to shine, could simply remembering how we once stood in the shadows open our eyes to possibilities?

Because whatever propelled you and me into the arms of Jesus will propel us to wrap our arms around the shoulders of our sisters standing in a similar place.

Sis, don’t we all know the desperate need to believe we are not alone?

Could it be that the answer to what lights you up, what lights me up is waiting to be uncovered in the pages of our own stories?
When we remember that place of longing, passion for compassion will be born there. It will burn there.
And Sis, there it is, the simple spark that grows into a full blown brilliant light.

Sis who knows where that spark will lead you, maybe you’ll share a meal, offer to help with the kids, or even invite someone to sit across the table and have a cup of coffee. And some days it might just be you’ll offer a hug, the kind of hug that says, I’M WITH YOU!

Okay Sis, listen closely here, I want you to hear this…
WE MUST NOT BELIEVE THE LIE THAT SAYS IT’S NOT ENOUGH!

The biggest hindrance to our light is looking for the big things to do. Jesus took a towel and started washing feet, he stopped to talk to a woman at a well, he had dinner with sinners. He paid attention and allowed his path to be interrupted.
What will we do?

Okay Sis, If you’re like me you’re probably wondering if we could do this thing. And in the wondering your mind is wandering through all the ways you could add a little glow to your world.
Let’s be honest Sis, we are girls who like a plan, and if it comes with a list that’s even better.
But, I can almost hear Jesus whispering right into our ears…
Hold on.
Hold on.
Stay with me here.
Because he wants us to remember he isn’t sending us out to shine FOR him…
He’s inviting us to shine WITH him.
So Sis, when we say yes to lighting the day with love, let’s remember Jesus stands beside us linking arms…and the one true God WITH US WILL SHINE THROUGH US.

Okay Sis, do you see what I see?
The only “plan” we need is to stand so close to Jesus everyone we meet will ask us to introduce him.
Because the common cord in our string of lights, the very lights that illuminate the darkest places is Jesus IN US!

So dear Sis, dear you, dear me,
Let’s let go of the plan, link arms with Jesus, and when we feel him nudge us toward someone, let’s just do it! Even if it feels a little crazy risky.

Let’s unleash compassion that grows from the light of His love.
Because Sis, THERE IS NO POWER OF DARKNESS THAT WILL OVERCOME IT!

Yes Sis, your little light, my little light, our little lights will make a difference for eternity.
And His Kingdom will be multiplied!
And His name will be glorified!
Let’s light it up girls! Let’s light it up!

Love,
Your Sister in Christ,
Karen

 

A Natural Response

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The crowd numbered near two thousand. We stood shoulder to shoulder, leaning on the railing, eyes wide in disbelief. As our cruise ship slowly drifts through the waters of Glacier National Park, the beauty overwhelms and quiet reverie seems the only appropriate response. For a few, extraordinary moments we stood in stunned silence. Of course the silence was quickly followed by lively exclamations. Because amazement requires response. Because wonder requires response. Because admiration requires response.

I love how beauty moves us to respond. We can only imagine how Peter, James and John must have felt as they stood on a mountaintop with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-6 ‘Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.’

Let’s look at this from their point of view.

They climb up this mountain to spend some quality time with Jesus. They most likely felt special and looked forward to this time alone with Jesus. No crowds, no other disciples, no distractions. Then before their very eyes Jesus was transformed into a glorious God-like vision. Then two dead prophets show up and start chatting with Jesus. They have seen Jesus do some amazing things up to this point, but this experience held quite the shock factor.

I love Peter, he’s the kind of guy that just reacts from the heart no matter what the situation. He responds to Jesus (even though Jesus is looking a bit dazzling and different right now) like a friend. He tells Jesus, we are so happy to be here! Then he says, we should build you, Moses and Elijah each a shelter as a memorial of this moment.

Peter didn’t know what to do or what to say, but his amazement required response. His wonder required response. And because Peter is a man of action, moved by beauty, he allowed his admiration to respond.

Dear Lord,

Every day your light in the morning sky reminds me of the beauty you lay before me. I am dazzled by your light and long to respond as Peter did, with deep admiration and love. When I don’t have words to express my thankful heart, I will simply whisper, I am so happy to be here with you.

Amen

 

Join His Team

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Favorite quote of the moment: “The great commission is the great invitation to JOIN GOD!”

God doesn’t send us out on our own. He has a team plan.

Jesus stepped down from the beauty of heaven and huddled up with us so we could learn firsthand. He said, come, follow me.

He coached us on what love looks like.

He coached us on what love does.

He made it so simple and easy.

It always started with relationship building that looked a bit like this:
Notice, really pay attention. He saw people for who they could become.
Pray, cooperate with God.
Listen, hear the whole story. Meet people right where they are.

We have made it hard and complicated with rules and expectations. We have made it a “program” instead of the game of life.

In our striving to do it all right we have “organized” His simple plan into departments wanting everything to fit neatly into specific ministries.

But, Jesus didn’t fit neatly. He was loving in the risky, messy places in the world. He didn’t follow the rules.

He played the game of love recklessly.
Here’s another favorite quote from the “Love Does Stuff” conference:
I think Jesus must have said this, “I don’t need your plans – I have my own.”

I love the simple game plan!
Follow Him!
Do stuff in love! Join His team!