If you build it, He will come.
Lately I have been filling out job applications every day. Seriously, every single day. The last time I actively looked for a job the internet barely existed. (By the way, happy 25th anniversary, internet!) Back then it was a different ball game entirely. It was more like hand to hand combat, less like a computer chess match. You physically had to put on your pantyhose (do they still make those?) and your 4 inch pumps and you went from place to place, actually talking to people. Nowadays nearly all applications are submitted online which has its' pros and cons.
The pros? You can stay in your pajamas all day long, and you don't have to nervously psych yourself up to go introduce yourself to people.
The cons? The computer program Du Jour may have glitches and you may have to start over. Again and again. Like I did today. You also may never hear from the company you apply to. You may take it personally. You may not.
Also, this is the first time I have job hunted as an old person. Really old. (That comes with it's own list of pros and cons.) The whole procedure is hard on the self esteem. You have to ask yourself not just where you've been and why you are here, but also where do you want to be. More importantly, WHO do you want to be. The process of applying for a job introduces the most unwanted influence. The very thing most of us try to avoid in life. Rejection.
Fear of rejection causes us to wonder, "Am I good enough? Do I have what they're looking for? Am I too old? Too young? Am I too fat? Too experienced? Not experienced enough? Not educated enough?" That thing you do becomes your identity, and that is not what God intended.
The application process reduces a person's identity to a list of qualities, highlighted only to expose the things that person chooses to disclose, leaving the whole of who they are neatly tucked away somewhere. Neat. Tidy. Truthful but inauthentic.
I think I approach God that way sometimes, especially when I need something. I have thought, "Let Him see how good I am, yes, I will build my case as I stack up my list of spiritual accomplishments to display how much I deserve that thing," as if I am applying for His approval. As if He can't see right through those disingenuous prayers of mine.
Aren't you glad that isn't the reality of what we can expect as we approach our Father, God? The reality is that there is no need to hide. Anything. Let me tell you what I have learned, He sees you completely and He loves you unconditionally. Who you are is NOT what you have done or what you do. You're identity is found in what He has done. Romans 3:24 tells us that we are, "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (ESV) Justified means that the way He sees you is just as if you had never sinned. God views you through the blood of Jesus, and that means God sees you as perfect. You do not need to tippy toe around Him to show Him your good side, all the while carefully disguising the ugly. He has made you beautiful. He calls you qualified. Fully known and fully loved. Genuinely. All of you.
The Message translation says it so well, "It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (Message)
So no matter what you are gearing up for in life right at this moment, remember:
1. He planned for you.
2. He has designs on you for glorious living.
3. You must get your identity from Him.
4. Go ahead and get your hopes up. In His reality, you've already got the job. Run with it!
Stay posted for news of my ongoing earthly job hunt...
If you could do anything, what would you do?
That's the question my family posed to me a few weeks ago.
My mind swirled with possibilities ranging from the absurd to the practical. My top three choices if I could do anything? Travel. Open a store. Hang out at Bethel. All three seemed difficult with no money. But isn't it true that God can do the impossible? Remember the little boy's fish and bread? Jesus can do miracles with very little! (And that happens to be exactly what I have!)
I traveled a lot this year, in fact I sold my car and spent every penny to do it. I have a love affair with Europe. I know it will be in my future so I felt no urgency to choose this as my 'anything'.
Opening up a store might take some time. The name took no time at all. The name seemed to be already in me. Crown Cottage; An eclectic mix of antique treasures, unique home furnishings and European finds. I would shop there! However, I am not in a position to take out a small business loan right now so this 'anything' will have to wait.
And the other thing? The Bethel thing? Well, let me just say, when my life exploded I felt surrounded by death. The last few years have been so difficult that one of the most constant places I felt life flowing from was Bethel Church in Redding, CA. From prophetic words, to positive, faith filled messages, to powerful worship, I knew there was life there.
The anchor holding me fast is the unchanging, never failing Word of God. Ephesians 3:20, "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!"
That constant reminder helps put courage in my heart and strength in my spirit.
My 'anything' turned out to be enrolling in Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry beginning in September. So I sold everything and moved to Redding, California. In the past few weeks I have asked myself, "How did I get here?" After all, it was almost an instinctual response to move to Redding. It is HOT here! I mean really hot! I only have one acquaintance and I don't even have a job yet. I could get caught up in counting what I do not have, but I choose to fix my eyes on what I do have. Most of all, I have peace. And yes, 'anything' could happen!
As I attempt to make a fresh start here, I'm working on my blog, this website, some new things, as well as my social media accounts. In just a couple days some more of the old will go away as I embrace the new. I want to invite you to follow me.
I have social media links available on the side bar of this page, but if you want to connect on these social media platforms, here are some links.
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013254843451 (Look for Connies Crown on Facebook.)
https://www.crown.cottage@conniefriend on Twitter
https://www.instagram.com/crown.cottage/ on Instagram
I want to thank you for sharing this journey with me. I also want to ask you, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" We serve a God who makes 'anything' possible!
When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. Brene Brown
Summer is a time for road construction all across the United States. You thought you were on your way. Smooth sailing ahead! But now you sit. Hungry and thirsty, your kids have to go to the bathroom, and you are waiting on a pilot car that doesn't come. The delay is gobbling up precious time, and all you want to do is MOVE! Has that ever happened to you?
Sometimes life feels that way. You are filled with lots of questions and very little answers. Did I go the wrong way? Was there an easier path? Did I miss a sign? How did I get here?
I have discovered that my thoughts have formed neat little rows in my brain. Grooves, you might say. It takes time. A LOT of time and intentionality to retrain your brain. Those grooves have to be dismantled. The carefully formed paths of thought processes, all that you thought you knew, all of your plans and expectations, becomes very hard ground. Like a well known freeway. All of those roads have to be painfully grated away. It makes you sit up and take notice. To really lean in and listen to God for the next turn.
I have decided, from now on I only want good roads in my head. God roads.
I think as human beings, we struggle for control. We have an innate desire to feel safe, to be protected. Most people go to great lengths to isolate themselves from discomfort and pain. We wrestle for control. In my struggle to re-imagine life, much has been revealed about who I have been and who I want to be. I want to live as though God is my source. Because my heart knows that He is. (Again, it's those darn grooves in my brain!) My employer is not my source. Neither are my charitable friends, not my husband, not my family.
All my worry, my fussing and moaning, my tears and tantrums, pleading my case as I tell Him how it should work out is absolutely worthless. When His delay of "maybe" turns into "no", you've got to rely more on God's mercy than ever. The bottom line is, life is unpredictable and only God has the ability to control everything.
I am learning that I am not God. I don't know the future, and I certainly can't control it. He quietly says, "Do you trust me?"
Um... I'm trying. Help me be a quick learner, God. Then within a period of 2 days, I received scriptures of encouragement from multiple friends. All about TRUST. (of course) Maybe you need to be encouraged today too.Psalm 91...I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91...He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart
Psalm 91...For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm 61....From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 62...Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God[c];
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
I pray that through God's words, you have felt His presence. Here are 5 bits of wisdom for today to help you learn to trust and rest in His care. These things are helping me.
1. Remind yourself how BIG God is.
2. Know that He sees you.
3. Get away from the noise and listen for the still small whisper of God.
4. Embrace the posture of humility.
5. Express your gratitude.
Change is hard. Good change, bad change, it makes little difference, it's always a bit of an adjustment. It used to get on my nerves when people around me had a hard time with change. "Why don't they get on board already?" But I understand it better now after living through a traumatic change. It seems to be a natural part of the process of moving forward; you have to grieve the past.
I believe that a key to breakthrough when the pain of change hurts a bit to much, is gratitude. I have learned that I must stop the treadmill in my mind of all I will miss, or what I have lost, and the only dependable cure I have found is to start giving thanks. It messes with the wiring of habitual thought and it actually instills hope!
I have this quote written in my calendar, "Thanksgiving positions you to recognize the abundance that is available to you. It builds faith that can recognize the greater reality." If you re like me, you want to recognize the abundance available you.
Don't you love that? I think all of us want to be in that position. To recognize abundance, to see and hope for a greater reality than what we see, we are called to be people of faith, after all!
If you are going through transition or any kind of change, let me encourage you; gratitude is the key that will let you through the next door. Use that key!
Write down your top 3 things to be thankful for. Every day. Make it a habit that you'll never regret. As I sign off my old Connie Friend Facebook account for the last time, these are things I'm grateful for.
1. Reconnection with old friends has been a joy and delight to my spirit.
2. The instant availability to encouragement, scriptures, and stories from friends lives has given me courage too many times to count.
3. The honor of sharing my life with so many of you on a daily basis is something I am truly grateful for. You have been a blessing to me.
Recognize the abundance available to you right this minute by writing down your gratitude list.
One month ago, on the first day of July, 2016, my life blew apart. One moment I was the pastor of a beautiful group of people; people who I had the pleasure of pouring my life into, people who trusted me, people who turned into teams that had become family, family that I thought I would be with until I became too old to serve. One moment I was the chief cheer leader, pointing the way and the next moment, charges had been leveled against my husband and at once, everything shattered.
Our church had endured so much already. We had gone through financial hell since the 2008 recession, then suffered an embezzlement by a trusted accountant, and now this? This was just too much.
The leader of our organization looked at me and said, "This has nothing to do with you, but you are not allowed to go on campus, you cannot talk to anyone. Until an investigation has been completed, you must stay away."
It was a Friday. The end of the business day, the end of my world.
All I could think about were my plans for a patriotic celebration on Sunday. How strange, the things your mind attaches itself to in times of sudden trauma. How silly. How insignificant. Plans and people had to be abandoned. "No contact".
I was left with so many questions. How would the people respond? What would they think of my abandonment? Will the accuser be given a voice, but not the accused? Did my leadership even count for anything? Has it all been a waste? Why? Why do I have to be relegated to collateral damage?
By the time we stepped out of the meeting and into the parking lot, cracks in my facade had appeared, and tears were flowing. All I wanted was to protect our beloved friends from more pain. "We resign!", we said, "Let us simply slip away and spare them the pain."
But it was not to be.
The past 45 days have been a blur. Admittedly, the thoughts come along with the sobs, in fits and spurts. As messy as the process may be, I feel urged to at least try to record my journey.
I learned many years ago a lesson taken from the journey of Lewis and Clark. Every supply they brought with them on their trek across the country was carefully and painstakingly recorded and protected. They took an inordinate amount of ink. INK! Why bother? What was the point?
It comes down to one monumental mantra, "It's not enough to take the journey; you must be willing to mark the trail!"
I know people are coming up behind me. Through good times and bad, am I willing to mark the trail? This is my attempt. It may be ugly, it may be strewn with broken promises, shattered dreams, blood and guts, but I pray God will use my journey to help someone else. After all, I'm not the first to experience the pain of betrayal or abandonment or just plain misunderstanding, and unfortunately, I won't be the last. The truth is, we all go through difficult, unexpected hardships in life.
Matthew 5:45 says it in a rather in-your-face style, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that." (MSG)
A situation such as mine will test your love, that's for sure. Those dear ones I always thought would be by my side, aren't. Some I hardly even knew have proven themselves to be faithful friends. To "respond with the energies of prayer" is something I am working on.
My lessons so far?
*Be slow to judge - desperate people do desperate things.
*Guard your heart - everything in life flows from that place.
*When chaos abounds - do what you know you heard from God last.
The compass may be shattered, but God remains constant. As I shake the broken glass from the instrument in my hand, I see that He is still faithfully pointing the way. I welcome you to follow my journey.
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a
voice behind you, saying, "This is the way: walk in it." Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)
If you have been married to someone for any length of time, you are bound to discover little habits and quirks that drive you crazy. My husband has this thing with trees in our yard. He prunes them. All the time. In every season. He trims back leaves, chops off entire branches and cuts off the tops. Just when I start to enjoy the flourishing growth, he whacks away at it. He says things like, "It will produce bigger fruit! It will grow taller. Trust me!"
But I don't want to trust him! "Let 'em be!", I say.
In time, I forget about the clippings on the ground, and go on with life. Until a day like today comes. Today was a day that I went out to check on our cherry trees. When I looked up I was treated to a pleasant surprise. Bright red, shiny, plump cherries hung in huge clusters from the branches. I couldn't even wait to get a bucket. I just enjoyed eating them right off the tree.
John 15 tells a parable of Jesus, when He said, "And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more." I think there are periods in life when we feel really good about what we are producing through our lives. Everything is clicking, our personal time with Father is meaningful, our relationships are flourishing, then all of a sudden, WHACK! And we cry out in astonishment, "But God, I am doing everything right! But God, don't you love me? But God, I deserve more, not less! What is happening?!"
I like to trust in the mystery of God when He gives me unexpected, pleasant blessings. But when I get cut, I bleed, just like you! But to trust God in the mystery of unexpected pain, that is another story. Can I set my eyes further than my pain, and see that He will produce more through my life as a result? I am trying.
Maybe today you are asking "why", through tears, through injustice, through devastation. I believe that the Father of your heart, the Gardener of your life, is creating something beautiful. He is tenderly caring for your limbs, seeing glorious fruit to come. It will come. He has not abandoned you. He is with you. Let your tears become the water that will nourish the soil of your life. Let the strength He has already placed within you sustain you as you stay planted. Lean on Him as He props you up with His caring hands.
Through the pain, trust in the promise of fruit to come. He loves you so much, too much to leave you mediocre. He has placed greatness within you, in the very seeds of your DNA and when He prunes you, He is calling the greatness forth. So rise, my friend. When He subtracts, it brings multiplication. God math. Crazy God math.
Know that the pain won't last forever, but the promise will.
So I will trust Him. I still may not trust my husband with garden shears in his hands, but I trust God. He is a good Gardener. His promises are worth the pain. I have to believe that. Maybe you should too.
What is your posture, your attitude of expectation when you pray?
I admit, most of the time when I am asking God to set something in motion in my life, or I am asking for dreams and plans to come to fruition, I set my expectation somewhere in the future, as though it takes God time to put His answer together. But the truth is, His ability to answer is not dependent upon my ability to ask..
Isaiah 65:24 tells us something unbelievable. It says,
“It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear. (NKJV)
Recently my husband Stan and I were in Paris with our daughter Aly. We had traveled from another region of France by train and when we arrived we wanted to get our bearings, so while my husband rested in the hotel, Aly and I decided to walk all the way from Notre Dame along the Seine River to the Eiffel Tower.
It was so beautiful we didn't mind the miles. The details on every building, the beauty of the river and the Spring color blooming, we were in PARIS and it felt as though we could walk forever. As we arrived at the Eiffel, our senses were abruptly bombarded by the crushing sea of people. The green lawn so familiar to us in photos was completely hidden beneath the crowds. Illegal vendors pushing selfie sticks and trinkets, food carts, tourists, bicycle taxis, lots of yelling and noisy traffic made us want to find a quiet spot from which to gaze upward at the magnificent structure we had dreamed of seeing.
The only place the people weren't was a curb separating the sidewalk from the street. We found our spot. We were happily watching people stroll by, taking the mandatory selfies and just chatting about the world and our place in it.
All of a sudden I began feeling ill at ease. Remembering the recent bombings here and seeing the huge crowds before us, I couldn't understand what I was feeling. Was it fear? Was it all in my head? Was it a warning from God? Just as I was ready to get up and leave the area, I felt a shift in the weight in my pocket. My brand new iPhone, filled with thousands of photos from our trek through Europe had been plugged into an extra battery pack in my pocket, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash. As I looked down, I saw the cord laying out of my pocket on the ground. "My phone is gone!"
Oh the terrible wave of shock and regret and panic that came over me. In this sea of people, how could I ever find it? Someone had snuck behind us and silently slipped it from my pocket, and I sat there like a stereotypical, clueless tourist and let them!
Aly ran one way, I ran the other, our eyes frantically searching the crowds for signs of WHO. We saw the armed military guards present, but surely their goal is to catch terrorists, not pick pockets. "It's just a phone", I kept saying.
Aly and I both turned and met in the middle, as we did, we instinctively grabbed hands and prayed a desperate, impossible prayer. We prayed that the person would somehow return it and as tongues flew from our lips, we turned back to the spot where we had been sitting. Just then we saw the selfie stick guys cluster and run across the street. Aly had been living in Rome and she knew that when the vendors run it means police are near. So she said, "Let's find a cop!". I thought it was ridiculous, no one would care.
A man wearing cargo pants, looking as though he were middle eastern, with broken English he looked at Aly and said, "I have your phone". Wait. What? Who was this man? How did he have the phone? He slid it from his pocket and showed it to us and just as quickly put it back in his pocket. "You can have it back if you come with me," he said.
"Not on your life, buddy", is what we were thinking. How could we know it was even mine? What did he want? What is going on? We noticed a band on his arm that said POLICE. Was it real?
Just then two other men approached, guiding another man with his hands behind his back. They held him up against the food kiosk until his face was smashed against it. He was mouthing the word, "sorry". Another man in full police garb complete with bulletproof vest rode up on a bicycle. At this point we began comprehending what was happening. Again, the man said, "If you come sign a statement you will get your phone back".
We told the man that we didn't know how to get there, we barely even knew where we were. He told us that they would send a car. A few short moments later, we began hearing that siren noise we have all seen in the movies. "Ner-ner, Ner-ner, Ner-ner!"
The crowds parted as the police car pulled right up on the curb. They threw us in the back seat and away we went. We sped through the city, running red lights, zig zagging through traffic at a very high rate of speed. It was spectacular!!!
The policemen didn't speak English and we didn't speak French, but as we pulled into the gated facility, we understood they wanted us to follow them through the doors, through the metal detector and into the station. All heads turned to look at the Americans. They seemed super happy about what had happened and were congratulating each other.
We took a spot on the hard wooden bench. To our right was a small glass room. The man who earlier had been smashed against the food kiosk was inside the glass, staring at us, silently gesturing prayer hands, begging "sorry".
After an agonizing hour or so the original undercover policeman told us that we needed to wait until 9:00 pm for an interpreter to come so that we could make a statement. They still had my phone so we had no choice but to wait. Aly asked him how they knew the phone was even ours, in that sea of humanity, how did they know? He said, "I was watching you."
It took us awhile to wrap our minds around that. Why us? There were thousands and thousands of people there. Why watch us, sitting on the curb, taking selfies, eating our little popcorn?
As the hours passed we struggled to put the pieces together.
Finally the interpreter came and we were ushered into an office to give our statement. As the interpreter talked with the policemen, we didn't know what they were saying then the interpreter turned to look at us and said, "This is the first one". Huh?
"This is the only phone they have ever recovered." The undercover policeman had watched him take it and slide it under his shirt, and they got him! That was a big deal to them.
Through all of the chaos, the hand of God was impossible to ignore. Before we asked, God heard. As we spoke the words, as we communicated in tongues, all of heaven went into action. Only God could've orchestrated all of that simply to demonstrate that He immediately answers our prayers.
I was reminded of the story in the book of Daniel, when the angel came in response to Daniel's prayer he said, "‘Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks." Daniel 10:12 (Message)
In the past, I have thought God was slow. Slow to hear, slow to act, slow to fulfill promises, and that my prayer life was a strategic waiting game. This experience in Paris has challenged those notions. I realize now that God is quick. He hears before I ask, He answers before I listen. If the response seems to be delayed, it is not His fault. In fact, it is usually my own fault or it is a warfare dilemma such as Daniel experienced. I can trust God to answer. All the time. Every time. He is not far away, He is near.
"God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], A very present and well-proved help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (Amp)
At the end of the night, I got my phone back unharmed and when I left the station, I left my old way of thinking behind. I will never think of God as slow again. His response is faster than a speeding police vehicle through the streets of Paris. His response is quicker than the thoughts I form in my head before the prayer is said out loud. He is faithful!
In time of trouble, crisis, or emergency you can count on His rapid response. What do you need to release into HIs hands today?
Church goers around the world but especially in the West, have become well trained worshippers. We have every tool at our disposal to make entering into worship easy. From Powerpoint to video productions with words printed larger than life on the screen before us, we rely on so many electronic cues as we are led to the throne of God.
It's so easy. Too easy at times. We can choose to stand there and let others worship for us. We become so accustomed to the ease of it that we forget what we are even doing. We turn our attention to things such as preferences, styles, familiarity, and we forget why we came in the first place!
We came to worship! To worship Jesus! The one who took our place of punishment, took on our shame, the Lamb that was slain, who now stands as the Lion. The one worthy of all that we have to give! We came to bring our praise as an offering before the throne, as we gather with untold numbers to bow before Him and offer whatever we have to give. David knew the truth about the heart of God even in the time of the old covenant, even when no one else was worshipping God the way David was, he somehow knew. "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings." Psalm 51:16 (NIV)
Some feel as though they deserve applause for rolling out of bed, donning smile-less faces, walking into church only to go through the motions of worship. Their bodies may be sacrificing to stand and offer praise, but their hearts are far from worshipping.
Hosea 6 says,
3 Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.”
6 I want you to show love,[b]
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me[c]
more than I want burnt offerings.
But that's not even the point of this blog! The point is, after we get our hearts right, after we position ourselves to cooperate with the Kingdom, after we are truly ready to hear from the Father's heart in worship, when the words are stripped away. How do we worship when its just the instruments and us? No words on the screen to fall back on, no one prompting us with the right words to say. How do we worship when there are literally no words?
There are seasons we all go through as human beings when we might feel as though we are hidden or invisible. We feel alone "in the valley of the shadow of death". Our emotions are raw and there are no prescribed words on any screen that can match the feeling within us. It is impossible to describe the depth of despair and loneliness at times. Song lyrics fall flat and make the distance between our hearts and God feel further still! What then?
What are some practical tools you can use, to enter deeper into worship when there are no words?
#1. Close your eyes and shut the world out.
The truth is, when Jesus sacrificed His life and died, He had YOU in mind. So get alone with Him. Stand before Jesus, in whatever state you are. Lonely, angry, lost, broken, whatever. Choose to stand before Him and be seen. He acknowledges your pain. He is acquainted with the way you feel. Paul writes in such plain language,
"So then, we must cling in faith to all we know to be true. For we have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who rose into the heavenly realm for us, and now sympathizes with us in our frailty. He understands humanity, for as a Man, our magnificent King-Priest was tempted in every way just as we are, and conquered sin." Hebrews 4:14-15 (Passion)
#2 Position yourself before the throne.
"So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy's kiss and discover grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness." Hebrews 4:16 (Passion)
Picture him in your imagination. God gave you your imagination. Use it!
There He is! God, seated on high. Jesus is at His right hand. On a beautiful throne, made of precious gold and whatever you imagine, What does it look like? There are colors we've never seen before on earth.
He is surrounded by thousands upon thousands of angels worshipping before the throne. What are they saying? "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord, God Almighty! Who was and is and is to come!" Add your own words of adoration!
What does is sound like? What does it feel like? What is the melody you hear in His presence? Begin to sing it out. Choose to stay there, in that realm. Put yourself in the picture because the word of God says that you have every right to be there.
Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,"
#3 Listen. He will speak.
If you have a question, ask! He will respond to you in this most holy, sacred space.
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
Now's your chance. Maybe you ask, "How do you see me?" or "Am I doing a good job?" or "Show me how you love me." Be ready for Him to answer.
Respond to what you see, hear, and feel. Jesus is real and He's right here with you. So do whatever you feel appropriate to you! Get on your knees, cry, shout, sing, run, dance, laugh out loud. This is your moment to communicate heart to heart with your friend and King Jesus! Don't let it pass by unmarked! Even your choice to be silent can be a valid response.
"Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth." Job 40:3-4 (NIV)
It is not healthy to simply go through the motions of life on auto pilot forever. Worshipping God is healthy for so many reasons, but one big reason is that it puts you in touch with the reality of how you are feeling and that swings the door open for healing! Healing cannot come to the places where we deny any need of i!
I encourage you to try these four steps the next time you enter into worship. I would love to hear what you experience. He wants to encounter you. Do what it takes to make it happen. I hope this helps you, and I pray you enter into a new freedom in your worship expression to Jesus. I know He will meet you there.
Across the entire earth, this past Sunday, Easter was celebrated as one of the largest events on the Christian calendar. We celebrate what glorious victory our King has won for us!
There are lots people who only darken the church doorway on occasions such as this. They go to Easter services out of obligation to a loved one, out of tradition, or for the sake of the kids. Our culture has made Easter a big deal, (marketing in stores, on t.v., etc.), so church is at the forefront of people's minds more during Easter and Christmas than at any other time.
In many churches, it is a day when the salvation message is boldly proclaimed, and preachers and pastors go for broke. They attempt to reach people who are desperate for change and longing for relief from the burdens they have carried for too long. Countless numbers of people took the giant leap of faith to receive Jesus as their Savior last weekend. (Yay God!)
I watched it happen in my church. I saw many tears. I recognized the familiar elation and joy experienced by so many at the altars that day. Salvation is a miracle when stubborn human beings recognize their need for a Savior. It's a sign in itself, when people feel the presence of God for the first time. His unconditional love washing over them is almost too much to take. When shame and fear of judgment are cast aside and nothing is left but peace, it's crazy! It's a wonder!
For the last couple of days, I have been replaying our Sunday altar scene in my head, and wondering what about Monday? What about Tuesday? What happens to all those people after they say "Yes"? What about next week? I mean, salvation is miraculous, but it's not instant sunshine and roses. That one time commitment to Jesus doesn't suddenly make life easy. All the pieces don't fall in place immediately for most of us. There is a lengthy process to it. The habits and choices that created the mess in our life, or caused us to carry heavy burdens don't disappear in an instant. It took a long time to get in that position, and it will take some time to untangle the unhealthy knots we have gotten into.
If expectations of the newly saved are out of whack, perhaps it is because of the way the gospel message is presented in some churches. I don't think pastors intentionally make promises they can't deliver, but in their zeal to see transformation in people's lives, maybe they do present the precious gift of eternal life as a magic pill that will solve all their issues. "With 3 easy monthly payments of $19.99 you will have smooth sailing from here to eternity!" We long for people to say "Yes" to Jesus, and we try to remove the obstacles or roadblocks that are in the way.
A one time commitment to Christ isn't all their is! As my husband so eloquently teaches, salvation is two fold. Step one is conversion; the vertical relationship with Jesus begins when we commit our lives to Him. Then step two, is sanctification, this is working our salvation out daily, which of course, is the horizontal relationship we commit to within a body of believers. We need both steps to complete the salvation process.
But many preachers only give the first part! So people "get saved", then we wait a whole year to see them again, they have no foundation, no Christian friends, no accountability, and they pick up the same habits and patterns that they just laid down at the altar again!
And I just want to yell, "But wait, there's MORE!" There are things that happen in church life that don't happen any other place! The rough edges get smoothed off. Faith is stretched. Capacity is grown. Friends become family. Hope is restored. And growth is unlimited.
2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (NASB)
Our Christian life is supposed to go from glory to glory until eventually, we look, act, respond and love like Jesus himself! Somehow people have been made to think that the one time cleansing of the conversion experience is all there is. But wait, there's more!
You might have taken a shower this morning but that one shower won't be the last one you ever need. To stay healthy and in good condition, and to not offend others around us, bathing is something we must do frequently. In the same way, our commitment to Jesus at the time of conversion made us clean, but we have to come back to Him frequently, and connect with others on the same journey to work out our relationship with God in community.
Perhaps Philippians 2:12 explains it best, "So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]." (Amp.)
Conversion is the start of a beautiful journey of freedom. But wait, there's more! We have the opportunity to grow in wisdom, so we will make better decisions. We get to grow in love, and perfect love casts out fear, which means we can become brave! We get to experience true, deep and lasting peace. The kind of peace that the world is longing for.
If you have a friend who has told you they "got saved" but they are continually struggling with life, encourage them about the 2 step process. They need the strength and security that intentional growing provides. If you go to C5, get them to come to Connect U with you. Maybe this describes what you have been wrestling with understanding. If so, get yourself connected to a healthy church full of people you can relate to, get committed and see how your life with expand in ways you didn't even know possible.
Don't allow discouragement or doubt to creep in and rob you of what God has initiated in your life. Your conversion was a great start, but it's not all there is. But wait, there's more! Abundant life is actually available.
So the next time you feel like you are up against a wall, don't give up. Don't settle for good enough. Jesus paid for you to have freedom, deliverance, health, stability, hope, joy, love, and peace. But wait, there's more!
God rarely answers our prayers the way we expect or in our timing, but He always answers in His perfect way and in His impeccable timing.
In today's blog, I am sharing my piece of the story of the 2016 C5 Easter.
In the months building up to Easter, we have been distracted. Distracted by good things like revamping every ministry in the church, growing people, and experiencing many open doors for new ministry in our city. But we have also been distracted by money problems, delays in breakthrough and waiting for completion of a financial restructure.
As a leader, I know better than to blame distractions for my lack of planning, so let me just say, Easter came early and I wasn't ready, I wasn't free to spend a bunch of money on advertising. I wasn't able to buy little gifts for our guests. I wasn't creatively inspired. (It's funny how inspiration usually carries a price tag) - but again, those are not excuses, but they are reasons. Frustratingly stupid reasons.
One huge benefit to being where we are, is that it forces us to think differently. We began to think not about what we don't have, instead, we ask, "What is in our hand?" And through the refining process, we finally are discovering who we are as a church, where our strengths lie, and working into them instead of throwing money at our weaknesses. We have great people. We have revival fire. We have the Holy Spirit. We know how to worship and bring heaven into any situation. We have His Word. We have great BIG faith.
God met us right where we were. He does that, doesn't He? He meets our natural with His super, and that's how we see miracles happen. Supernatural breakthrough happens when we choose to stand in faith and trust God in our deficiency.
Good Friday was an especially sweet service. Good Friday is meant to be a somber, sobering reminder of all that Christ suffered as He became sin for us. The atmosphere in our church was pure sweetness instead of a forced sadness. It was sincere and authentic thanksgiving to God for sending HIs Son. Gratefulness to Jesus for His ultimate sacrifice.
On Saturday, we didn't know if people would even come to our Eggstravaganza event because we didn't do much advertising. But they came. Oh how they came! By the hundreds, they streamed in. The crowds weren't the miraculous part though. It was our volunteers. Such genuine compassion for the lost, such love for our community. It was a beautiful scene being played out across all of Seeliger Field. All while the Dream Center was quietly and discreetly providing food, clothing, and love to those who needed it most.
On Easter morning, we put our proverbial stake in the ground. We were given a permit to hold a Community Sunrise Service on the Nevada State Capital Grounds this year. Because we believe that God wants to impact our city and have every person come into relationship with Him, we were determined to meet there, to sow our seed into that ground, even if the staff were the only ones to come.
As we began gathering, a beautiful mule deer ran right through our gathering place! It was as if all of nature had been waiting for us to gather there, and the welcome mat had been rolled out for us.
And to our surprise, people came! People from our city we had never met before, people on vacation, our own faithful C5 God-seekers all gathered. We sang. We worshipped Jesus in front of the State Supreme Court, the Capitol building, in the open air. It was incredible. As Pastor began to close in prayer, the chimes of the bells at the Laxalt building began to ring, as if echoing our plea to make Jesus famous in our city.
As we all departed to head to the church, the sky suddenly opened and drizzled tiny drops of rain. I think God was simply watering the seeds that we had sown. Then as quickly as it came, it left. The sky cleared up again, the sun came out and the rest of the day was picture perfect.
Inside C5 Easter morning, there was an atmosphere of expectation and joy as we gathered for early morning prayer. We were simply there to celebrate Jesus. No pleading, no longing, just thanks.
As we began our worship service, people kept streaming in. Through the entire worship set, as I sang on stage, I watched. I watched people be welcomed. I watched people receive prayer. I watched men get more chairs. I watched brand new people that had never been to C5 before come forward to receive communion. I watched people as they cried and bowed there knees in gratitude. I watched men get more chairs still. By the end of the service, I watched so many accept Jesus for the first time. Easter 2016 went so far beyond my expectations.
This may have been the first time (for me) that Easter wasn't about the production. It wasn't about the advertising. It wasn't about the crowds. It wasn't about a new stage design. It wasn't about giving away anything. It was all about JESUS.
And since it was all about Jesus, His glory was all the production we needed. He spread the word and drew people to His house. He brought the crowds. He gave the gifts! He gave Himself. What more could we ever ask for?
So 2016 Easter at C5 will always be the perfectly imperfect celebration of Jesus in my opinion.
This morning when Carson City woke up to falling snow, I felt as though God was winking at me, saying, "See? You believed for a Miracle March, you trusted me with what you had, and I am faithful." Isn't He funny?
I'd love to hear how God revealed Himself to you this Easter.