Don’t Leave the Tent!

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Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.  When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses.  And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.  Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. – Exodus 33:7-11

This is one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Most people aren’t even aware that it is there.  However, I think it is a very powerful story of worship and of the presence of God.

Every time I read this snippet of the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, I am struck by several things.

The first is in verse 7.  It says that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting….”.  So the tent of meeting was placed outside of the camp, but it was available for anyone who wanted to go and seek God.  Anyone who wanted to be in His presence was invited to go out to the tent of meeting, at any time that they desired.  However, this short passage doesn’t mention anyone going to the tent except for Moses and Joshua.

The second is that, whenever Moses would go to the tent, the people would get up and stand in the doorways of their own tents and watch for a sign that God’s presence was visiting Moses.  And when they would see the pillar of cloud they would stand and worship from their own tent doors… they would worship from afar…

The people who had been rescued from the enslavement of the Egyptians, though invited, didn’t enter the tent of meeting to be in God’s presence. They stood at a distance and watched for their leader to enter God’s presence and then they worshipped without drawing near.  Never experiencing His presence for themselves.  Never investing themselves in taking the journey to where God’s presence was housed. Selah.  (Pause and think on that)

And then there’s Moses.  The passage says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend.  When Moses would go out to spend time in God’s presence, then God talked with him.  Personally.  Intimately.  Comfortably.  As if speaking to a close friend.

Finally, the passage names Joshua.  Scripture says that Joshua was a young man, and that he never left the tent of meeting.  He, in spite of his youth, made the decision to remain where God’s presence resided.  He did not leave.  He literally chose to LIVE where God was.  He determined that he wanted, more than anything else at that time, to spend his days – and his nights – communing with God.

Such a powerful “little” story.

In the Old Testament, the presence of God was housed in one location.  The Israelites chose to remain a distance from this place and worship God without drawing near to His face and presence.  They stayed, “safely”, removed from where the powerful evidence of God would appear.  Joshua, on the other hand, chose to remain incessantly where God was. Night and day He sought after God.

Of the two, who do we more resemble in these advanced times?  The ones who have been freed from the enslavement of the enemy, yet we worship the One Who paid for our freedom and liberty from afar?  Or the one who longed to be nowhere else but face-to-face with God?

God’s presence is no longer housed in a specific tent outside the city.  It is no longer inaccessible to those who refuse to leave the safety of their own comfort zone.  Wherever we are, God, Himself, is there….  Scripture, in Psalm 139: 7-10 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

And Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”

There is nowhere that we can go where God’s presence does not reside.  His presence is in even the most secret of places.  And it is our choice whether to abide… remain… LIVE in His presence, or to stand back and watch others spend time with Him, as one spends time with a close friend, and miss out on knowing Him intimately.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

Don’t leave the tent.

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Whose Approval Do You Seek?

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“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” – Jesus (John 5:43-44)

Ouch! How often do we “receive glory” from one another – in the form of adulation, approval, applause, affirmation and adoration – and place that “glory”, or opinion, above the opinion that Christ holds of us?

We will receive the praise, and even criticisms, of man and take it to heart, allowing it to inflate our heads or damage our souls. However, when Christ says that He loves us, we question how that is possible. After all, we KNOW ourselves. And when Christ says that we are forgiven from our past and that He “remembers our sins no more” when we repent, we refuse to receive that forgiveness and, instead, allow our minds to be tortuously haunted by the enemy of our souls who would like nothing more than for us to be running scared and beaten by guilt and shame.
OR when His Holy Spirit reminds us of things in our lives that are keeping us from drawing near to Christ – or becoming more like Him – yet friends/family/society says “Its okay”, “Its no big deal”, or the ever-popular “Its your life/body do what feels right”, we receive the “glory” from man instead of the loving admonition from God… because it’s easier, more comfortable, and MUCH more pleasing to our ears and ego.

As long as our most valuable approval comes from men then we will never, not EVER, recognize and relax in who God created us to be. Which means that we will never, not EVER, be comfortable in our own skin or with our own unique set of gifts/talents.
What a miserable way to live… constantly changing opinions, convictions, and even appearance, to avoid being beaten around the head by the ever-wavering opinions of man.

_________________________________________________________
Regarding our pasts:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:13-16

In other words He KNOWs us better than we know ourselves

Regarding our value to Him:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10

And although He KNOWs us – and everything we have ever done or said – He still sacrificed Christ for us

Regarding His love for us:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

He loves us and – despite things that we have said or done that may have wounded His heart or the hearts and lives of others – He never stops loving us.

Regarding His sacrifice for us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED…..For by grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV)

No, we truly didn’t deserve His sacrifice. Yet He gave His own life for us – in our undeserving state – because of His great love. If we deserved it, or could earn it, then Christ’s sacrifice was for naught.

Regarding our “nows” and our futures:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

And when we receive His undeserved GRACE and FORGIVENESS, and commit our lives to following His will… not perfectly, but with the purpose of becoming like Him… then our past is no longer thought of by Him

_________________________________________________________

When we open our hearts and minds to understand that Christ GAVE Himself up to one of the most painful, shameful, “senseless” deaths in order that we might recognize how very much He treasures us, what sense does it make to seek the adulation… the “glory”… of man instead of the approval of God?

And why put the words/opinions of man above the words/opinions of God – Who gave all that we might rest in who HE created us to be?

In Galatians 1:10 Paul writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Go back and read Romans 8:28-29 again……..  Seriously.  Go read it…….

These 2 verses remind us that there is nothing that we can do to change how very much we are loved by Christ.
The love of man changes as quickly as the seasons and is as unstable as the winds.
The love of God never wavers.

Receive His “glory” and grace. Accept yourself how HE sees you.

Allow HIS opinion to be what governs your mind, will, emotions, actions, and speech. You may find yourself enjoying the freedom. I pray that you will. ❤

Car Clings and Commmitment

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So I Attached a cling to my car yesterday. Only the 3rd that I have put on any car in dozens of years.

I typically don’t put them on because it’s rare that I find one creative enough to be appealing for me. (However, I do have a “We will We Will WOK you” one that I plan to put on in honor of my crazy Asian Shmexy because I think it’s hysterically funny given the context of life with Jun-Jun!)

I also don’t put them on because, to me, they are a commitment. Placing a cling on your car is making a very public statement that you are committed to the cause of whatever is displayed on your vehicle…. and you will, therefore be judged according to those things.

For instance: I have never put a “Jesus fish” on my car because 1. Jesus was not a fish. 2. I have never, ever, been persecuted like the Christ-followers of old who used this symbol as a way to find one another. And 3. Although I find honking long and loudly, middle fingers, cursing/yelling at others, and other immature displays of aggressive road rage ridiculous, I have been known to look at someone with THAT look and shake my head in derision while muttering loudly about their incompetent driving and such in my not-so-far-in-the-past mild road rage days. Wouldn’t have represented the “Jesus fish” very well now, would it?

And I’ve never put a “save the tatas” cling on NOT because I don’t support breast cancer awareness – and not because I am not proud that there is a movement towards a cure – but because I participate in absolutely nothing breast-cancer-awareness related except to have that compassion for sufferers and survivors in my own heart. So why advertise as if I am passionately involved in finding a cure, running the annual race, and furiously donating money to the cause? (Put down your judgment gavel, please. And no, I don’t judge others who have all these cause-related clings because I don’t know their life. This is a PERSONAL random conviction – not one that I apply to every soul that breathes.)

Plus – even the window clings are hard to get off after a while.

Anyway – the point…
I put a cling on (No, not a Klingon) yesterday because 1. I was given it and 2. I am cautiously optimistic about being part of a place where my husband is excited to be, learning about forgiveness/character/grace, and growing.  I see him growing through scripture, teachings, and the recent joining of a small group of people who talk about the realities of walking with Christ (in spite of his insecurities regarding people getting to know him and vice versa). And I’m beyond thrilled that HE is motivated to be a part. So, with his blessing, I took the plunge and attached the cling to the rear window of my car. Bam! There’s a commitment sticker on my window. Just like that.

An artistically creative cat face, an asian “punny” tribute to Queen, and an Elevation cling. Pretty strange combo for a pretty eclectic mix of a family. Well… we’re nothing if not real. 🙂

PS – I’ll probably find a cling, one day, that honestly articulates being a real follower of Christ who is authentic, faulty, flawed, and doing their dang best but liable to make many a mistake along the way. (Contrary to all the “Christian kitschy” that is out there now.) And that one I’ll grab up and stick on there too…. and probably give away like candy.

My Last 2.5 Years as a Teacher at Y.A.L.E.

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Today marked the end of one often frustrating, yet fulfilling, leg of this journey called life. Today marked the official end of the Y.A.L.E. program (Young Adult Life Enhancement) where I have worked since October 2012.

For the last 2.5 years I have worked with 18-21 year olds, most of whom were considered “youthful offenders” or “at risk youth” when they were underage. I was their Leadership and Lifeskills Teacher. I was their Case Manager. I was their “don’t come to me with the same problems over and over… CHANGE things” advisor.  I was their encourager. I was their “mama”.  I was their friend.

“But you can’t be a friend to your clients”, the age-old mantra says.  Really?  You can’t?  Oh but, there are times when you must.

You see, a friend loves in spite of………. They’re not a “yes man”, agreeing with everything that you do or say in order to stay in your good graces, but a friend will tell the truth, and often disagree, even when it’s most painful to hear.  A friend sees through the bravado and posturing, listens past the words, and reaches in to get to the heart of an issue. A friend lays down his/her life for others.  And a true friend sticks closer than a brother.

Many of the students that I spent the last few seasons with had no brother.  Many had lost family at the hands of another through street or domestic violence. Some had lost family due to their own mishandling of life and they had shoved them away with their anger, violence, or drug use.  Others had lost family to mental health issues – whether the family member’s or their own – it didn’t matter, they were lost.  And then there were those who still lived at home with family.  Or perhaps I should restate that… there were those who still inhabited the same four walls as those who have borne the same blood yet were not safe, nurtured, or appreciated there.  They had no brother.  They had no real “home”.

These were the lives of our students.  And so we, the staff, became their friends who stuck closer than a brother.

There were the days when we got to celebrate with a student who passed a portion of their GED – or that all important final test was completed with a pass. Days when one (or several) completed a training certification, graduated from high school, or enrolled in college or trade school – and really attended. Perhaps it was that a student handled their anger in a more appropriate way, or approached a conflict with calm but direct words instead of weapons of flesh and steel.  Or when one of our students got a job, drivers license, first car, or the keys to the first place of their own.   Oh the celebration!  Some students would quietly stand holding evidence of their accomplishment, but the grin that was spread across their face spoke so very loudly.  Other would march proudly in the door, yelling loudly for all to hear “I passed!” or “I did it!”  There were always high fives, “I KNEW you could do it”s, and hugs all around. We did know they could do it.  Sometimes they didn’t know.

There were also the days when we cried with our students.  Like when one had to bury her child and she was but a 21-year old mother.  But more often there were the days that we cried FOR our students.  When a student told us – after a few days with us – that he had been sleeping in a slide outside at a local park when he left orientation each afternoon.  Or when another was a victim of domestic violence yet would not let us help for fear of being “alone again”.  And I won’t soon forget the 6-foot tall, strong-in-body, young man who told us he was “lost” and had no idea where to even start to change his life, tears ran down his face, and ours ran unchecked as well as we talked about options for the taking, possible solutions, and hope.

There were oh-so-fascinating days when we were able to take our students outside of a staunch and stifling setting and get them out into the world, where many of them had never been.  We laughed belly laughs when a student saw a real live cow for the first time and referenced a Wrong Turn movie when we took him to the country.  We huffed and puffed and then watched faces light up in wonder when we hiked The Cascades.  We walked and talked about futures and dreams when we took them to RU and VT campuses – places many had only heard tale of.  We played basketball, served the community, saw the Globetrotters.  Our students shone like stars with their talents and service at a local Black History celebration.  And we whooped and hollered, with shouts and cheers, when some conquered their fears on ziplines, high ropes, and even in canoes.

But the most heart-gripping of all were those days – and sometimes nights – that were consumed with reading and watching the news, listening to the “street gossip”, making phone call after phone call, and waiting with baited breath to see/hear if any of our students was involved in a local news stories about youth who were perpetrators of violence or wounded victims of the same.  Despite every effort made, pretty regularly, we would get the word that “one of ours” was making headlines in the news, or sick, or homeless on the streets.

It was always a heartbreaking thing when these reports came. Hard to hear. Often hard to understand.  Because when you pour your life into someone, you want them to grab hold of the truth that – regardless of what they’ve done, or been, in the past – there is hope for something different.  Something better.  You desperately want them to “get it”.  You want them to understand, without question, that there is at least one “someone” who believes in them, loves them, hopes for them.  And you want that understanding to empower them to change… to choose a better course that may be difficult due to unfamiliarity, yet knowing that they can handle it because they are strong.

I’ve witnessed many a changed course while working with Y.A.L.E..  Many causes for grand celebration.  I can list every success with absolute joy and pride for the young men and young ladies who did, indeed, “get it” and squared their shoulders and determined they were worth – and capable of – so much more than their past.

And I’ve witnessed many who, it seems, don’t have the strength to shake off the iron grip that holds them, like the hands of a captor covering their eyes and strangling the life out of them, pulling them back into their past.  It’s life and comfort for them.  It’s all that they’ve known.

One of my students shot another of my students last night.  He’s one who can’t quite summon the courage to escape the fingers of the grip of his past to break free into something better.  Something different.  For some like this young man – although the consequences will be, ultimately, much harder to live with – the security of living what they know is much easier than risking ridicule and retribution with change.

So there’s a glimpse into my season with Y.A.L.E..  Celebrations and heart-breaks. Conversations and consternations. Graduations and GEDs. Adventures and awards. Courtrooms, jail cells, and funerals.

Given the chance I might do things differently.  I would be more firm – or more gentle – with some.  I’d try one more home-visit in an effort to get through to someone.  I’d push for more outings and adventures where our students could experience things they hadn’t before.  But one thing that I couldn’t change is how much I love and believe in each and every one of those 100 that crossed my path through this job.

Did it change things for them?  Some it did.  Others, I may never know.  But what I DO know is that love never fails.  And sometime, somewhere down the road, that love that was shown will come back to mind and maybe, just maybe, it will spark something in them where they can begin to fully recognize that they are valuable, capable, believed in, and loved.

2.5 years of my life as a teacher.  I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?

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“Love God, love people”.

Seems to be the catchphrase of churches today.  Looks great on a billboard or t-shirt.  Sounds like a great mantra.  Excellent quote for a bumper sticker.  Blogs and books are written about it quite a lot these days.  I see/hear/read that phrase everywhere of late.  It’s an inspiring, healthy, scripture-based phrase.  Can’t argue with that. Right?

Oh, but I can.

Last week, my daughter and I were out in our community and we pulled up to a red light.  In front of us was a church with a large yard banner that read… you guessed it… “Loving God. Loving People.” I sighed and said “It’d be nice if churches did more than just post that quote everywhere”, which prompted a conversation with my daughter about the importance of doing versus simply saying something so powerful.

Church-folk, we need to have the same conversation.  Can we talk?

Can we!  Churches, and church-folk, can talk a good talk.  We can talk for hours on end…all about church.

We talk about inviting people to church.  What the church is doing this week. What the church has challenged us to do.  How much we give to the church. How the church is doing this or that this week and you must come.  How well the church is doing because we had this many or that many on any given day.  We church-folk can talk about “our” church.

And we can talk about our church leaders.

How much we don’t agree with this leader.  Or how that leader is “not in their place of giftedness” (which, in non-church vernacular means that they should quit – or be removed from their position – and do something else because we think that they suck at what they’re doing).  We talk about this one that’s controlling.  This one’s “falling away”, or “in sin”, “not hooked up anymore”, or “struggling with something”, because they’re not doing as many things inside the four walls of the church (building) as they used to.  OR we talk about our poor, pitiful, pastor and his wife.  They’re so misunderstood and unsupported.  Life is so difficult for them.  They don’t have good “armor-bearers” and there is too much demand placed on them.  They’ve got such a hard calling to minister/serve the people in the church, it’s a wonder that they stay. (Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve served in church leadership for over 20-some years and it’s no ball of fun at times, can be very difficult, and is – most definitely – not for the faint of heart. However, the pity parties don’t accomplish anything except division.)

We can also talk about each other.  Like. Dogs.

She doesn’t live up to our standards for her life.  He isn’t doing what we think he should be doing (because, you know we know better than he/she does regarding what God has spoken to them or intended for them). How dare they leave our church?  “They’re not following God they’re following a man.”  “They left us abandoned”.  “Their heart isn’t right” because they left, so let’s talk about them to everyone we know that they know and see if we can’t damage their heart even more by our gossip and hurtful words.

We can talk.

We can also talk about those who don’t attend any church. Those who believe differently from us.  Those who don’t WANT anything to do with church – or Christ – for whatever reason.  “Those people”… “Them”… “Non-believers”… “Seekers”… “Sinners” (which, last time I checked defined every single one of us who breathes.  But I digress.)… “Un-churched”.  We talk about how they need to come to our church.  How they need to “get connected” with our groups.  How “they” are going to hell.  How God hates “them” and what they do.  How “they” are wrong and we’re right.  How “they” don’t act/speak/live in a way that meets our approval because we “talk the talk and walk the walk”, meanwhile “they” do not even know what the heck we are talking about.

We talk and we talk and we talk.  All while our little church logos, bumper stickers, and banners wave in the wind crying “We love God and we love people!”

It looks real nice on that church sign.  And we wear it proudly on our pre-washed bright colored t-shirt.  But here’s a “solid” for you: Words. Mean. Nothing. Without. Actions.

Scripture says: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

And in James 2:14-26 we’re admonished not to just wish a “God bless you” on people in faith, but to do something to meet their practical needs.

And there’s the ever popular 1 Corinthians 13.  “The love chapter”.  Part of which – verses 4-8 – people quote in marriage ceremonies, public speeches, and more.  However, the first 3 verses aren’t very well known.  They’re a little more challenging.  A little more of a “truth slap” to those of us who claim to follow Christ.  Here’s a paraphrase from a recent sermon I heard about these 3 verses:

It doesn’t matter how “in tune with the Spirit” I believe that I am, if I do not love others – graciously and without expecting something in return – then I am nothing but a lot of loud noise, according to God. (- 1 Cor 13:1 para) Spiritual gifts, “experiences”, knowledge is not ultimately the point. Without love it means nothing. (- 1 Cor 13:2 para) Even if I do the most extravagant thing that I can, to show how spiritual I am, but do it for any other reason but love, it doesn’t matter. (- 1 Cor 13:3 para)

So, churches and church-folk, how about we stop talking and do something about loving God and loving people?

How about instead of expecting people to come to our fabulous, exciting, well-done, sometimes spirit-filled, church service (all of which I, personally, love attending myself, btw), we GO into all the world and share the gospel by loving others practically and meeting their needs?

How about instead of using the money that people have given – because pastors have taught them “do not mock God, but bring 10% of everything you make to church first” (another post, another day) – to pad a “rainy day” bank account like a hoarder who doesn’t want to let the smallest thing go… how about we use some of that money to do things for the community that we are planted in and the people – both in our church and without – who have real needs?  Wouldn’t that demonstrate Christ a little better than money in the bank?

Or what if, instead of starting our own “helping” organizations – that compete with the ones already proven and serving in the community – so that we can proudly boast about how we have a “Christian” soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing bank, homeless shelter, serving organization to exalt our name… what if we pooled our resources, time, and energy to come alongside those already established places and “make a name for ourselves” as the church that truly gets involved by working with our community organizations by providing love, support, and volunteer hours?

What if, instead of having to advertise that we “love God and love people” with printed chotchkes, stickers, and signs, it was simply known that that group of people who attend that church really love God and care about people, all because it was demonstrated instead of talked about?

The bottom line… Christ didn’t just talk about serving others, loving others, dying for others.  He DID SOMETHING.  His hands and feet were always extended to give, serve, love, help, touch, do, and provide the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Talk is cheap. Doing something that demonstrates Christ to others is what matters.  Otherwise, we’re just making noise… unpleasant, undesirable, unheeded noise with our ever-moving lips.

Again, pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and actually DO something?

CATALYST 2014 – Strengthen Your Core

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Core

Reviewing notes from the 2nd session of Catalyst, with Christine Caine, and my mind and heart are, again, challenged and convicted.  Following is a cursory summary of things my spirit – and pen – “caught” from her passionate fire. (Direct quotes are in italics)

Christine Caine:

Christine shared her own recent and personal battle with cancer, surgery, and recovery. She talked about how, in order for her body to be strengthened following surgery, it was necessary for her to strengthen her core before proceeding with more strenuous exercises.  She had been warned that, if she didn’t re-strengthen her core – and resumed running too early – her body would, eventually, collapse. She likened this to our spiritual life.

“If we haven’t strengthened our spiritual core, eventually our world will collapse.”

Matthew 22:34-40: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

“The typical ‘Christian’ is trying to serve God with a toxic heart, a wounded soul, and a tormented mind.”  If we don’t allow His presence into these, the deepest places where we have been hurt and damaged [our core], then we cannot be capable leaders.

“We are a bunch of Christians running around wanting to change the world but not willing to be changed.  Until we change ourselves we will never change the world.”

“My gift wouldn’t have taken me where my character couldn’t have kept me without a strong spiritual core.”  In other words, character has to be developed, and God must be granted full access to the darkest places in our heart, soul, and mind, in order to be effective with the gifts that He has given.

Addressing the heart:

“You do what you want when it’s a passion.  You do what you have to when it’s an obligation.  Remember when serving God was a passion?”

If our leadership is about us and our satisfaction, our ego, and/or our self-fulfillment, then how does God fit into this? “If your heart is so full of yourself then there’s no room for Him.”

As Christ-followers, if we aren’t seeking Him passionately…. “If Jesus is not enough for His church then why would he be enough for the world?”

“Get off of Facebook and in the face of God!”

“Skinny jeans and tattoos do not make you a powerful leader for God.  Being filled with the presence and power of God makes you a powerful leader!”

In reference to the soul:

When we prayed to receive Christ, our soul wasn’t instantly changed and all of the damage completely healed.  Our soul was saved… redeemed… yet still needed (or needs) to be healed and restored. But many of us have locked God out of the very place that – when healed – can be stronger and so much more powerful.

“The pain of recovery is often more powerful than the pain of injury.”

“If we don’t allow God to ‘go in deep’ and heal the wounded places in our soul it will become infected and seep out, like [disgusting and oozing] pus, into your leadership.”

We go to church on Sundays and yet don’t allow God to change the deepest part of us.  We don’t allow Him into our lives the rest of the week, so our souls are gasping for breath and life. “If we could stop surviving on church as if it’s life support then we could be the powerful and prophetic people we were called to be!”

And what about the mind?:

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be ruthless about what goes into your mind!  “Don’t ‘jump on the enemy’s train of thoughts of worry, negativity… fear.”  2 Timothy 1:7 says for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We often lie awake at night with our mind filled with worry and fear.  We forget that “My God never sleeps or slumbers!  He’s always working in every situation so God’s got this. I’m gonna get some sleep!”

And when we allow the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Never Sleeping God access to the damaged places of our heart, soul, and mind then we become the called leaders that we were intended to be.

“The degree to which we are healed and free is the degree to which we can lead others to freedom.  We reproduce who we are.”

Christine shared a story about her youngest daughter and how her husband is always telling their daughter that she is beautiful, smart, and called by God.  Recently, she began attending school and a little boy was picking on her.  He grabbed her “wubby” from her and said to her:”You’re ugly and you’re stupid!”  To which she replied: “I am NOT!  My Daddy says that I am……”

Whenever the enemy comes against us – whether in our mind, or through the words/actions of others – we remind ourselves of who God says we are.  And we remind the enemy… “‘My DADDY says…..’ and we rebuke the lies of the enemy with what The Father says about us!”

Are there parts of your own heart, soul, and/or mind that you have not allowed God full access to?  Pray.  Ask Him.  Listen for His response.  And then take some “J.A.M. time” (Jesus-And-Me) and allow Him to peel back the layers of pain, and even shame, to discover the powerful core of you which yearns and longs for Him!

CATALYST 2014 – Won’t Fit In a Nutshell

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So many things that can be told about Catalyst this year, but mere words are not capable of capturing the essence of – or all that was contained, communicated, and “caught” in – this year’s experience.

Following is just a sample of potent quotes, thoughts, gleaned learnings, and shared ideas – from the first session – for your reading pleasure.  (Direct quotes are in italics)

Matt Redman:

“You can be mindful of situations and circumstances in your life, but magnify God!” instead of magnifying those things.

Personally, it delights my soul when Christ-followers can rejoice, dance, shout, sing, and have a party while celebrating that we were loved enough for Christ to die, that we have been freely given grace and forgiveness, and that we have real hope and a future. Matt was leading a worship celebration and the place was, literally, jumping… “There’s a reason for our rejoicing and substance behind our shouting!”  Absolutely. Right!

Andy Stanley:

2 questions that you should be asking in order to determine what God has called you, specifically, to do.  1) Who are you?  and 2) What breaks your heart?

“There’s an inexorable correlations between leadership and change.”

“A great leader makes things better.  A great leader changes things that aren’t working. Great leaders fix things that are broken.” If a leader can’t fix necessary things because of resistance to change, it may be time to evaluate if that is where God has placed you to lead. “The status quo has driven some leaders out of the local church so that they can actually get back to ministry.”  If a leader looks to blame congregants, circumstances, or co-leaders instead of accepting responsibility for brokenness or stagnancy, he/she is no longer a great leader. “Blame is perhaps the greatest change avoidance strategy.  Great leaders don’t blame….. You can’t lead without intersecting with change.”

“Great leaders change things.  Broken-hearted leaders do great things…What breaks your heart may be the greatest thing God will use you to change.”

“You are called to change things in the arena of what breaks your heart.”

“Don’t opt for purposelessness because of fear!”

Think about this: Many years from now, what would you like people to line up and thank you for?

“What God originates God orchestrates.” If God has originated your broken heart then He will orchestrate the “how”… but He has gifted you in leadership FOR the how!

“1. Who are you?  2. What breaks your heart?  God has called you to change it!  And He says ‘Fear not, for I am with you!'”

Can YOU answer those 2 questions?  Think about them.  Pray about them.  Consider them carefully.  The answers  will give you a cue to what the God of the Universe has called you to change!