Dead Men Walking

Hello friends! I know, it’s been a while. There have been some pretty crazy changes going on in my life. If you recall, my husband and I are expecting our first baby (it’s a girl!) in July, so I’ve had a lot going on, but I really wanted to share this with you…

I’m currently 21 weeks, and during this pregnancy there have been certain times where I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. But none stick out more prominently, than the one I had early in my second trimester, because it seemed to have spiritual significance.

In this dream, I was in a town, where everybody was dead, but they didn’t know it. They were walking around like zombies (without all the gross bodily changes that occur in the sci-fi/fantasy world). They were just trying to go on about their daily routines, but were failing. Oddly enough, some realized that they were dead and wanted to leave this town with me, even trying to take some of their children with them, but the other dead people tried their best to prevent them from leaving.

For the next couple days I pondered this dream and realized, this is reality. We walk by people who are dead in their sin every day. They just don’t know it!

In fact, Ephesians 2:1-3 states that we were all dead in our sins, walked in disobedience, and lived according to the desires of our flesh (we did what felt good/right in our own eyes); and Romans 8:7 says we were actually actively/willfully hostile to God. But God…

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. ~ Ephesians 2: 4-7, Amplified

God gives us new LIFE, hope, joy, and peace! This isn’t to say that there won’t be tough days or troubles/obstacles in our life, but that He’ll be with us every step of the way; if only we’ll believe and accept Him as Lord and Savior. There’s hope for the walking dead, found only in Christ Jesus.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” ~ Romans 10:14-15, NLT

So, who are the dead men/women walking in our lives? Could it be our co-worker, our classmate, or relative? Could it be our neighbor, our doctor, or cashier?

May we be the bringers of good news!! May we guard our tongue and speak truth in love. May our actions line up with our words and beliefs. And may we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go!

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JOY

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
~ Psalm 30:11-12, NLT

I recently had a birthday; and, as usual, I began taking stock of where I am in life. Feeling overwhelmed at work, cramped at home, and just overall exhausted, I was in a real funk for about two weeks.

Then, yesterday on my way home, it hit me like a warm ray of sunshine…JOY.

Where did it come from? I’m not sure, but suddenly I was giddy about some of the changes to come…a new two bedroom apartment, a new pet, a possible part-time job for some extra income. It was in that moment that I remembered: happiness is fleeting but joy is everlasting.

How can that be so? Because joy comes from a separate place that’s unrelated to my circumstances; and it allows me to be thankful in any situation. It’s funny, because I’m always reminding myself that my hope is in Christ, but I seem to easily forget that so is my joy! The prophet Nehemiah (8:10) actually says that the joy of the Lord is our strength! That means the joy we have in Christ Jesus is what carries us through when we’re feeling weak or unable to continue; just as I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.FontCandy (9)

And what joy can be found in Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the Savior of the world, the One who suffered and died for us because He loves us and cares for us! (Yes, He does care for us. He had to remind me of that this week, too.)

As believers, we know that one day we’ll get to worship before His throne! One day we’ll get to see His glory in all its fullness! We know that this world is temporary, and that one day we’ll see the earth in all its original splendor and perfection, and live eternally with Him. But until then, we need to let the joy found in Him sustain and empower us to reach our broken world, and reach out to those without hope, without joy, and without the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Lastly, as Paul said to the Philippians (4:4), “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”

But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew
on your people in the place of the dead!

~ Isaiah 26:19, NLT

Rich in Faith

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NLT)

Yesterday, as we (my church family) were praying for churches that we’re working towards establishing in El Salvador and Ghana, I began thinking about the impoverished communities where these churches will be built. As I prayed, in my spirit I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 8:2 which states, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” Of course, in context, Paul was writing this to the church at Corinth, regarding the churches in Macedonia, who, though having very little, gave freely and abundantly to the believers in Jerusalem, who had even less. But I was reminded yesterday, that the believers in other nations and cities who are lacking basic every day needs, are in the same boat! They may have very little in monetary and dietary value, yet they are rich in faith and joy. How is that possible?

Well, let’s recall the Israelites in the desert, after God rescued them from Egypt. Did God not provide for their every physical need on a daily basis? Just as the Israelites were forced to a position of complete reliance on God for daily sustenance—manna, quail, water, and even clothing—these churches in nations with very little, recognize that God is the giver and sustainer of life! They have faith in His faithfulness and ability to provide for their every need, even though their current situation tells them otherwise.

I believe, in America, faith like this is difficult to obtain because we have so much! Having much isn’t a bad thing, but when we come to rely more on the things that we have, rather than the Giver who provides them, our faith and relationship with Christ are impacted negatively. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold so tightly to the things that God has so richly blessed us with, but always remain in a position of obedience, thanksgiving, joy and compassion that moves us to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, as I was helping out in the kid’s church on a Sunday morning, the speaker described a pitcher pouring water into a cup and the cup overflowing, as an example of Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And as he spoke on this, I immediately pictured one of those fountains in my head, in which, a pitcher pours water into one cup, which, inFountain turn, pours water into another cup, and then into another, and so forth. I remembered that God blesses all His children—whether financially, spiritually, with knowledge, or other gifts—but we aren’t to keep the gifts to ourselves! We’re to allow it to pour forth into the lives of others, so that they, in turn, can do the same.

Therefore, let us remain in a position of submission to God, seeking His face daily, and allowing Him to continually pour into and bless us, so that we can pour into and bless those around us. Let our faith be not in the things we have, but in the One who gives them; and may our hearts be full of joy and faith, knowing that God is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7; 1 John 1:9), trusting that He cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31), and having full confidence that He has and will continue to provide for us, strengthen, and protect us (Psalm 31:22-24; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 5:17-18). In Him we place our hope!

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:10, NLT)

Lead Me, I’ll Follow

On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. DSC00059When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses. (Numbers 9:15-23, NLT)

Friday morning as I read over the above scripture I thought about how this is such a perfect picture of being at the mercy of God’s leading. The Israelites were in a position where they couldn’t move forward unless God lead the way. I thought about how difficult it must have been to set up and tear down their camp. There were millions of Israelites, by this time, and each time God said to move, they had to tear down their tents, gather their families, and the numerous animals they had with them, as well as dismantle the Tabernacle. Then when God told them to stop, they had to set everything back up; without knowing whether they would be staying a day, a week, a month, or even a year. They couldn’t see the future, they just had to trust the God who was leading them.

As I read this, I noted how difficult this must have been, especially for control freaks (like me!). Yet, Israel’s obedience to the Lord’s direction is representative of how we ought to be! How often we’re ready to move—perhaps, even with a plan that God has already revealed to us—without the go-ahead from God. We can get so caught up in making something happen, that we can become overwhelmed and frustrated when doors remain shut to us, and ready to give up before God has even prepared the way for us. (I think I’ve said this before, but God loves to place us in impossible situations, so that when He produces a miracle, He receives the credit! For more on this, check out Perfection in Weakness) Moreover, more often than not, we’re not even ready for what God has planned for us; or He’s using us right where we are and just isn’t ready to move us yet. Most of the time there are still areas of our lives that need developing or strengthening before He can lead us on to the next part of His plan.Faith is

If we could see exactly every detail of what God has planned for our future, following Him wouldn’t be considered faith! Remember, Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is remaining steadfast to our hope in Christ regardless of what we see or feel, or how hard things get. It’s about not knowing what’s going to happen, or how something will happen, but trusting that God will take care of us, even if it’s in His timing. The Bible never says things will be easy for the believer; in fact, we know that there will be difficult times (Daniel 11:35; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 21:12; 2 Timothy 3:12; Revelation 14:12). There will be (and has been) persecution, imprisonment, and even torture done to our brothers and sisters around the world. But we also know that God’s plan will not fail and there is a future of everlasting life that awaits those who allow Him to lead!

It’s one of the most difficult things, to follow Christ. To truly trust, rely on, and cling to Him, believing that He has our best interest at heart, but that’s exactly what He asks of us: that we let Him take the lead.

Lead me by Your truth and teach me,

for You are the God who saves me.

All day long I put my hope in You.

Psalm 25:5

Learning to Be the Light

I’ve had this song–Learning to be the Light by NewWorldSon–in my head since I woke up this morning. Usually when that happens I post it as the “Song of the Day” on my Facebook page and let that be it. But when I went to do that this morning I wound up putting the song on repeat a few times; I was captured by the lyrics of the song…

Learning to Be the Light

When the stars came crashing down
In tiny pieces to the ground
I was all alone down here
Trapped beneath the atmosphere
Then I, thought somebody called my name
I spun around and caught a flame
I gave into a God I didn’t know
And now everything is falling into place
A brand new life is calling and I owe it all to grace

It’s so much brighter living in your world
Savior, what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa

When a heart is cold as ice
You can’t melt it with advice
No one wants to listen to
A list of things they shouldn’t do
So I build a city on a hill
And I light a candle on the sill
Knowing you’ll be always knocking at the door
Oh God I just want to love on everyone
All I have is yours to give so let the people come

It’s so much brighter living in your world
Savior what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light

that makes the shadows hide
the light that breaks the curse of pride
the light that takes the weary in it’s arms

When it all came crashing down
There was only darkness all around
But in the distance I could see
A Flame

It’s So much brighter living in your world
Savior what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone, I mean everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light!!

Oh, where do I begin?! First off, it describes our walk with God. He’s constantly calling out to us and when we finally catch a glimpse of  Him and we accept His sacrifice for us…we don’t even know what we’re getting ourselves into! In order to understand Him and get to know Him we study His Word, pray, attend church, and worship Him. As we get to know Him more, we come to appreciate Him more. We find hope, love, mercy, and grace in His arms and it begins to overflow from us; and we want to share it with the world!

The line that really struck me as I listened to this song was, “When a heart is cold as ice/You can’t melt it with advice/No one wants to listen to/A list of things they shouldn’t do,” because it reminded me that we can’t just tell people about God and His love, grace, hope, and mercy, because non-believers don’t want to hear it; sometimes all we can do is show them…

 And finally, we’re not perfect and we never will be. We are going to struggle and things are definitely going to go wrong at some point, but all we can do is keep our eyes on Christ and learn to be the light that He’s called us to be, by studying His Word and walking daily in His presence.

In Whom do You Trust?

As we mature from teens to adults, our freedom gradually increases. We are given the opportunity to make our own choices about school, work, relationships, jobs, our faith, money, and how we choose to spend our time–just to name a few. Often, our parents continue to advise us, but in the end, the choice is still ours.

What I find interesting, is that sometimes we choose to do the exact opposite of what our parents advised, and we figure out, much to our dismay, that we made the wrong decision. Now, when this happens, does it make sense that we would blame our parents because things didn’t work out the way we expected them to? Absolutely not! We made the wrong choice and we are responsible for the repercussions of our actions. Our parents tried to lead us in the right direction, but we chose the wrong one.

I’ve realized that we often do this with God, as well. God advises and tells us what we ought to do, what He’d like us to do, but in the end, it’s our choice. When we try to follow our own path and things don’t work out, is it God’s fault that things didn’t work out for us? (Hint: Was it our parents’ faults?) We may think we know what’s best for us, but when we refuse to listen to God’s counsel and not trust Him, it’s not His fault when our world is turned upside down, but our own, for relying on ourselves instead of Him.

In the book of Isaiah, God uses Isaiah to tell the people of Israel “‘Woe to the obstinate children,’ declares the Lord, ‘to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin’ (30:1).” In this verse, God is talking about the Israelites and their decision to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against their enemies, but the concept is the same; the Israelites weren’t putting their trust in God to keep them safe, but were forming their own plans.

Proverbs 19:21 states “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” In the end, we may have all these plans for our lives. We may have desires and dreams and goals, but unless they’ve been instilled in us by the Holy Spirit, trying to attain them is going to be impossible! We may try and try and try, but it will be fruitless, because they’re not God’s plan for our lives and His hand won’t be upon us. But He promises that when we put Him first and seek His face and His will for our lives, He will bless us and make us fruitful.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me will all your heart.”