The day before. The day before my own family begins. As I sit here and feel the reality of what is about to happen, I am humbled by the fact that the Lord would choose to bless me with a … Continue reading
Recently, I heard a message about the stoning of Stephen and all the details surrounding his strong display of faith.
I have read through this event many times before but today, God showed me the story in a completely new light.
Acts, the book known for the foundation of the church community.
Through Luke’s eyes, we see the first bricks being established to build what we know today as “the church”.
As the believers began to devote themselves to the Word after Jesus ascended into heaven, we see the first community form. This first community of believers met in fellowship, breaking bread with one another and devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to prayer.
The characteristics found in Acts chapter two and verse 42 preach a sermon in themselves but as we see these characteristics played out in the first Christian community, we see needs arise that the leaders of the church are compelled and overwhelmed in and of themselves to meet.
As in any church body, there are more needs than the community of believers can meet on their own. However, we are not called to meet needs on our own but allow God to meet the needs of those around us through His power and His strength.
The leaders of the early church began to see the list of needs as not just a list but real people with real problems that needed to be met through the hands and feet of the church.
For this reason, we see in Acts chapter five the apostles facing opposition. How many times in our church’s today do we face opposition? I think we can learn a lot about living out “the church with a purpose” from the apostles as they strive to fulfill the needs of the community around them.
As we come to Acts chapter six, we see that the apostles call on seven men to serve in response to the needs of the church. And in steps Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (6:5). What a wonderful introduction…to be known as a man who was full of faith, not just a faithful man but he was “full” of faith.
Allow me to pause right here and say: Lord, let me fix my eyes on You and help me to be a woman who is known as being “full of faith”.
As in any faithful follower of Christ, opposition comes knocking as soon as a step of faith is made and it happened to Stephen.
We see starting in verse 8 of Acts 6, that Stephen began performing miracles and allowing the Holy Spirit to use him in a powerful way but the witnesses began to criticize the teachings of “The Way”.
When Christ’s radical teaching meets the eyes of the religious, the result is opposition.
Stephen chose to stand up to the religious teachers even at the cost of his own life. In verse 54 of chapter seven, we see that the religious leaders were “infuriated” with him. But what does Stephen do, he fixes his eyes on Truth.
And what happens next is something that when read, can be missed entirely….
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
For most of us, we read that and focus on the fact that Stephen had an incredible vision of Jesus at the right hand of God. Which, by the way, is an incredible depiction!
However, allow me to fix your eyes on the one word that changed my entire perspective of Stephen’s glimpse into heaven.
He saw Jesus “standing”.
Take a moment and let that sink in….
He, a man, saw Christ, the risen King, “standing” at the right hand of God.
Stephen caught the eye of the King and not only that, but prompted Him to stand.
Can I just stop here and say what a difference that one word made in my life today?
As I read that verse over and over, I couldn’t help but think of my life.
When have I, mere flesh and bone without Christ, ever made my Father in Heaven stand to His feet on account of my step of faith in the midst of opposition?
I would like to think that in looking back, there were many times that my acts of faith caused Christ to stand, however, I can’t say that there have been “many”.
Stephen chose to speak when others silenced their voices. He chose to stand when others chose to sit and in return, caused Christ to stand to His feet as He looked down upon His son.
And to think that this glorious glimpse was moments before Stephen was to be martyred by the very ones who spoke of religion, including Saul.
Saul, who “completely agreed with the killing of Stephen” (8:1), but went on to be one of the greatest missionaries in all of Scripture.
God specializes in the weak to show His ultimate strength.
I want my life to reflect that of Stephen.
I want my Father in heaven to rise at my steps of faith.
I pray that in times of persecution I can be seen staring into the face of Truth Himself to gain wisdom, so much so that I get a glimpse of heaven.
Let us all learn to stand when others sit and in return, cause our Father in heaven to stand to His feet in abundant joy of His children.
If I’m honest, low self-confidence is the thorn in my flesh.
No matter the day, the hour or the circumstance, low self-confidence is my battle.
It’s amazing to me how the devil can prowl around and place issues in my heart on a daily basis that cause me to struggle with who God has made me to be.
Just one slight glance by a passer-by.
A breakout on the absolute worst day (when is it ever a good day?).
Another day without exercise and another day feeling a pound heavier than the day before.
A day when my emotions get the best of me.
These are all simple, broken examples of what the devil uses to taint my self-confidence.
On these days, my heart needs to be reminded of who it is, what it is made for and for whom it is made for.
1. Heart, who are you?
In this first truth, I need to determine who I am in Christ and not who I am on my own.
Whoever I think I am, God says I’m more.
Whoever the world says that I am, God says I am more.
“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.[a]
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.”
I am a creation, a masterpiece and my heart is a beautiful sight in the eyes of the Lord.
Heart, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, believe it!
2. Heart, what are you made for?
This is the word God spoke to my heart after typing the second question of my heart.
He created my heart for purpose.
He has plans
He has dreams
He has hopes
For my fragile heart.
“And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
When I feel that I am living a life less than what He has called me to, I remember,
He will guide
He will satisfy
He will strengthen
He will not fail.
Heart, I am made for the purpose of the building of God’s Kingdom so be led, satisfied, strengthened and walk forward in your calling.
3. Heart, who are you made for?
Have you ever had one of those days where your pile of mistakes seem much larger than your victories?
On these days I need to ask myself, who is leading the way today?
Is it me or is it my Creator?
If my day is God led, everyday should reflect the one who intricately designed this heart of mine.
However, some days I led my own heart.
Usually with anything that has been created, the Creator is the one who knows how to perfectly orchestrate the creation.
Sometimes I fail to allow the Creator of my heart to lead and guide my heart when He is the one who can perfectly speak
and Strength in the most magnificent ways.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Heart, you were made by your Creator and for your Creator so make the most of His masterpiece.
Let me just say that as I write this, I am amazed at the truths God is speaking to my heart.
So as I speak these words to my thirsty heart, allow Him to speak to yours.
Take confidence in the One who is confident in you.
How often have we heard the phrase “wearing his/her heart on his/her sleeve”?
This is a phrase often implying that someone is emotional or as some would classify it, emotionally overbearing.
As a woman, often times women are associated more with this phrase than men, but that’s not to say that men are off the hook.
Growing up, I often heard this phrase and just assumed that with it, was an attached negative connotation.
However, after today I’m not so sure.
Being emotional can be overbearing at times but is showing your emotions really that terrible?
Society likes to associate emotional people as a group all to themselves but really, emotions, if used in the correct way, can be a way of positive and effective communication.
However, we can learn a thing or two about emotions from the Big Guy Upstairs.
Jesus showed his emotions but in a way that caused others to gravitate toward Him and not away from Him.
I think there’s a message in that somewhere…
Now back to the root of it all.
I wonder what would happen if instead of wearing our heart on our sleeve, we wore our joy on our sleeve?
This is a lesson that I needed to hear today and maybe you need to as well.
So often, we think that joy is just based on the set of circumstances thrown at us on a daily basis.
Our joy is so much bigger than the set of circumstances waiting for us when we wake up each the morning.
If you are anything like me, mornings are not my best of moments.
If I could wake up and instantly find a cup of coffee on my nightstand, I may get out of bed fairly cheerful.
However, on most days before my feet hit the floor I have already grumbled about something and most of the time, it is because I had to wake up. (Had to?…)
The good thing is, Jesus meets me where I am each and every morning.
He meets me in my bed, before I place my feet on the floor and grab my cup of coffee.
I have learned that mornings are not meant to grumble but instead should be used to turn my grumbling into joy.
What if I woke up with joy on my sleeve every morning, thankful for the blessing of waking up to a new day?
What if I woke up every morning with Jesus on my mind and joy on my sleeve?
If I am honest, most mornings this “what if” remains a what if.
But that is the great thing about Jesus.
He loves me despite hearing my grumbles in the morning.
He loves me for me.
In talking with Him today, He begin to speak to my heart and let me in on a secret that I often overlook each and every morning.
“Your joy is readily available, on your sleeve”
“You choose joy”
What a simple task but a wonderful Truth.
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
What if we woke up each and every morning with God’s unfailing love on our mind and His joy on our sleeve?
Too often, like our emotions, we try to hide our joy.
If Christ is our joy, why hide it?
Just as Jesus spoke to me today, I am speaking to you now.
To you who, much like me, wake up with grumbling on your mind instead of grace.
I challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to choose joy and place it on your sleeve for all to see.
Allow Christ’s unspeakable joy to be something for people to speak to you about.
Each morning, before placing our feet on the floor, let’s choose to wear our Joy.
Let’s wear our joy on our sleeve.
Lately, I have been drawn to the quietness of my room with nothing but me, my Bible and solitude.
What a beautiful scene it is to just sit and BE with God.
During the past month, I have been blessed with a large amount of time to just BE with my Lord.
I sometimes question what He is doing but I remind myself that it is not my place to question His sovereignty.
He knows what He is doing.
That is a reminder that I need daily as I sit in His stillness and wait.
Recently, I discussed this very thing with a friend of mine. The patience in the waiting.
Satan can whisper in the waiting “You don’t need to be patient, you need to act, God isn’t doing anything, you need to do something.”
However, I have found that in the waiting my strength is renewed, restored and rebuilt into a life of splendor.
Isaiah 55 discusses this very waiting throughout the entire chapter.
First, He draws us in by saying “Come to me”.
Next, He calls us to “see” the things He is doing all around us.
Then, throughout the rest of the chapter, He calls us to rest in His promise that His ways are not our ways.
Sometimes we get stuck between the seeing and the resting phase.
We see what is only the here and now and not how to rest in the fact that He is holding us.
I am understanding more and more that God is working all around me and if I just choose to rest, even when I feel uncomfortable in the resting….
He will open doors that I once saw closed.
He will speak words that were once just ink on a page.
He will bring to light the things that were once buried in my heart.
He will cause the waves of life around me to “be still and know” (Psalm 46:10).
When we choose through our circumstances to see Him, and not the pain, and rest even when it feels uncomfortable, He WILL.
Take hold of Isaiah 55 today and know that when we:
1. Come to Him.
2. Choose to see.
3. Rest in His sovereignty.
we begin to see our circumstances in light of who He is in the midst of them.
Then we will see in verses 12-13 that:
“You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.”
Come, see and rest in all that He is.
“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Most of us dwell on what we see right in front of us. Something to grip ahold of, something seen, something we can do.
However, what if we were called to make the impossible, possible?
Often times we read The Word and see many miracles, answered prayers and sovereignty and are left thinking, “Wow, that is impossible!”
But is it really impossible?
In looking at verse 26 of Matthew chapter 19, we see that Jesus adds the phrase, “Humanly speaking”. Why didn’t he just leave that part out?
Those two words are very important in understanding what Jesus is calling impossible.
He is calling us as humans and our strife, our weakness, our controlling attitudes impossible.
He is calling our human flesh, impossible.
Now don’t get too depressed just yet, because right after that phrase is the purpose of our daily walk with Jesus.
Jesus says, “But with God everything is possible.”
When we encounter each day without the Word of God or without spending time with Him, it’s as if we’re telling God, “I got this”.
You see, God gives us the tools to empower His possible in our impossible. It is our inability to use His tools that results in us seeing the impossible in situations.
When we see things as impossible, we are viewing our situations in the light of our flesh and human viewpoint.
But when we see the impossible become possible, it is then we choose to believe what Jesus clearly stated in verse 26.
That God is our Possible!
We are the im- in the word impossible. It is when we take ourselves out of our circumstances and into the presence of Jesus that we see the possible come to life!
It’s time we choose to erase what we think is impossible and let God make the possible happen.
What in your life do you see as impossible? What do you see through your own eyes that just doesn’t seem possible?
I pray that you think upon that one thing in your life and place it at the feet of Jesus where His power can make our impossible, possible.
Let’s watch God change our focus on the possibilities ahead!
Now, more than ever, I feel God speaking stillness into the depths of my heart. In every quiet time, in every study of the Word and in every promise given, I am reminded that He speaks in the stillness.
When my soul is quiet, there I find Him. (Psalm 62:5)
When I am weak and need His strength, He calls me to “come to Him” and He will give me rest. (Matthew 11:28)
When I feel that the next step is one of uncertainty, He says “Be still”. (Psalm 46:10)
When I feel that the chaos around me is closing in, He says “Meet me in the stillness”.
In everything, He calls me to just be still.
You see God speaks to our hearts when we are ready to hear what He has to say.
As long as our minds and souls are in an uproar, we cannot hear God’s still small voice.
Often we are so caught up in waiting for God to speak and we think that He must not want to speak to us.
The problem is, our own voice is so loud that God’s voice cannot be heard.
Only in the stillness, can we hear His still, small voice.
One story that comes to mind when I hear about calming or quieting our soul is the story of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. Just after God had rescued them from Pharaoh’s wrath, they were so quick to focus on their present situation that they forgot what God had rescued them from in the past. God spoke through Moses and told him to relay a message to the Israelites in Exodus 14:14,
“The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
So often, we are just like the Israelites. We want to place our present situation at the forefront of our minds and think that nothing is worse than our current state. We quickly forget where God has brought us and the promises He has given us for the future ahead. We forget that this life is not ours to win. God has fought the battle for us on the cross and continues to fight for us each and every day in every situation we face. We are simply called to stay calm, focus on His promises, and be still.
Just as the Israelites were about to give up all hope and let their situation take over, God parted the Red Sea and, once again, rescued them. (Exodus 14: 15-31)
Give God your stillness and see Him part the Sea ahead of you.
For after all, it’s His plan and not our own.
What does it mean to truly decide to follow Jesus?
In listening to this song written by United, I find myself reflecting on what it means to truly follow Jesus, deciding to follow Him.
Often, we go through life relying on God but fail to truly decide to follow Jesus.
To follow Jesus, we need to understand what a Jesus follower is:
dis·ci·ple: One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (thefreedictionary.com)
I love the way the definition breaks apart a disciple as someone who “embraces” and “assists” teachings. Embracing the teachings of Christ is different than simply reading them.
Recently, God has been speaking to me regarding what writings I embrace as truth. When I say writings, I am talking about books displaying an author’s depiction of the Gospel.
Now I’m not saying that reading spiritually based books is bad because I am the first one to say that I LOVE reading Christian authors. I have many books sitting on my nightstand that I am “in the process” of reading. However, there is a difference between reading books about God and reading God’s Word.
This is the key message that God has been whispering to my heart for the past few days. As a growing Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ, my job is to not only read about God but embrace His teachings and assist Him in the mission of growing The Church. If I simply read another growing Christian’s perspective of their faith walk but fail to study and apply the teachings of Christ into my own life, how can I truly call myself a disciple?
I tend to see a book in a bookstore, read the back and buy it; not thinking about all the other books I have partially read but not finished at home. It’s what they call an “impulse buy”. The last few days I have realized how many impulse buys I have when it comes to faith-based books.
This is where God spoke to my heart. How often do I simply pick up the Word of God and study it without picking up a faith-based book without studying what God says about His truths?
So after realizing my own wrong, I decided that this new year I am going to focus on reading and studying God’s Word; His mighty, life-changing, and alive Truth. I am going to lay down the thoughts of others and pick up the Book that both began and finished it all. Now I’m not saying for everyone to stop using devotionals because devotionals are a great way to guide your daily quiet times with the Lord. I am saying that we need to treasure God’s Word more than we treasure the spiritual words of others. We need to revere the Word in desperation of finding God.
So back to where I started. Disciples are meant to both embrace and assist in spreading the Word of God. We need to embrace God’s teachings which we can only do by approaching God’s Word with boldness, knowing that He will meet us where we are. (Ephesians 3:12) Also, we need to assist in the spreading of the Word of God. Not only does He call us to read His teachings but also “go and make disciples of all nations” Matt. 28:19.
Being a disciple is a life-long devotion to the One who devoted His life for us. We are not made to follow Christ but should be willing and desire to follow Him.
So, my goal in 2014 is not to be filled with the words of others but to seek the Creator whose words hold the power to change and rearrange our worldly desires.
Let His words change your perspective so that we may embrace His teachings and assist others in knowing the power of the Gospel.
Let’s be true disciples.
The only word I can use to express 2013. I cannot explain the amount of thanks and praise I have in my heart for how God has used me throughout this past year. I can now only look forward to the ways He will use me in a mighty way in 2014.
As I look ahead, I see how God is putting my puzzle of a life together for His glory. He seems to put pieces together just as He should in His perfect time. You see, I have found this past year that His hands are constantly placing all things together for His purpose. There were times when I questioned if He was even at work only to find that as I remained still, His hands were truly working all things together for my good! (Romans 8:28)
In January of 2013, I heard God’s voice calling me to take a journey with Him unlike any other I have ever dreamt of. He led me on a journey with Him to the nations – Uganda, Africa. What a journey it was preparing, planning and seeking God through those seven months of anticipation. Finally, the day came when I stepped out of the plane and onto the soil of a land so far from home but that quickly gripped my heart. Even as I write, tears are streaming down my face as I reflect on those two weeks when God took hold of my heart and led it on a journey with Him to “love the least of these” and the people of Uganda. I am humbled when I see how God took what I thought were ashes and made them beautiful through the work He displayed in my life. Never think that anything is too hard, too far gone or too high for God to use! God can take your dreams and turn them into impossible possibilities.
Now as I sit here, the day after Christmas and reflect upon the past year and ending the year with the celebration of his humble coming, I see just how much God sees in all of us. Deep down in all of us is a dream, a gift given by God. He has given each of us a desire that when found, can change the world. What a wonderful way to end each year by pondering on His wonderful Love for us, through His birth in a lowly place. His ability to take a heap of straw and turn it into a blazing fire of Love for each one of us. Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
As I celebrate, I can only worship God in knowing that His plans for my future are far beyond any dream I can dream up for my life. As a new year begins so does a new journey with my Jesus.
After leaving Uganda, I felt God telling me that He was not finished with me yet and that even though the experience was so wonderful, I would step foot on the Ugandan clay soil again.
So, this January I will start preparing, anticipating and seeking God through another journey to Uganda with Jesus from July 1-31st. On this journey, I will focus on the place that gripped my heart the most on my July journey, SMILE Africa. What an amazing story of redemption and ministry this compound encompasses from the heart of a God fearing daughter of Christ, Pastor Ruth. For this reason, God is leading me back to both minister to others and for them to minister to me. My heart is so full of joy in just anticipating this journey. Also, I have a non-profit project in the making!! KUMBATIA Project is coming soon!! The mission will be “Embracing the least of these with the love of Christ”(Matthew 5:4). I cannot say how excited I am about this!!
Now this is where YOU, my brothers and sisters in Christ come in. On my last journey, many of you prayed, fasted and encouraged me along the way. As I came back and shared, the power of Jesus was so strong and that power was through the power of my prayer warriors that never ceased praying for my journey. For this reason, I am asking you starting the first day of this New Year, to PRAY. Pray that God will lead, guide and direct me on this new journey with Him back to the place that Jesus spoke to and through me; on the dirt roads of Uganda. God tells us in His word to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and that is just what I am asking you to do. For these next seven months, pray that God will do something miraculous and mighty in and through me as I venture back. I am asking for warriors, I am asking for seekers of the Faith. I pray that you will pray without ceasing and without doubts that God will do a work not only in my journey, but also your own. I pray that as you pray, God will show you miraculous and wonderful things this New Year. I pray that chains will be broken through the power of prayer! God holds the power to our freedom and I pray you find freedom this year in 2014. Let us rise together and “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) with confidence!
I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in and through us as we stand boldly together and pray without ceasing.
Thank you prayer warriors,
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”
2 Timothy 1:7.
P.S. Stay tuned for more exciting details to come! As He continues to speak, I will listen and He is not finished yet 🙂
It’s amazing that as you grow older, you are able to grasp more of the Christmas story than the year before.
(That’s what I love about the Gospel!)
In years past, I’ve heard the Christmas story and believed it but haven’t truly pondered the details of that Holy Night.
We sing songs in church, listen to Christmas carols, read the story out of the Bible but have we missed the important details that seem to be left in the background when it comes to the reality of the Christmas story?
One detail that jumped out at me this Christmas was the star that beamed a light so bright that silent night.
Why would God choose a star? How did He know that a star would both guide and transform the nativity scene?
In reading the Christmas story we hear of the star that led the shepherds and wise men to the manger but have you ever stopped to think just how important the star was to the story?
In Matthew 2: 10-11 it says,
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh”
Sometimes we overlook how meaningful the star was in the story of Jesus’s birth.
Not only did the star guide the wise men and shepherds, it also gave them joy simply through its brilliance. Just by looking at the star, all who saw it were “overjoyed”. What an amazing star that must have been; how important the star was to the Christmas story.
Another detail that is overlooked happens to be a major aspect of the story. If I were to ask you the birthplace of Jesus, you would quickly answer “Bethlehem!”, not thinking anything else about it. However, what if we realized just how small and little the town in which Jesus was born happened to be? That’s right, a small….little town. God chose a small, little town for the birthplace of our Savior, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Who would believe that a King would be born in such a lowly, small, little place?
You see that is the exact reason why. Why wouldn’t God choose a small little town? Therein lies the answer…
During Christmas, we often hear things such as “bigger is better”, “the best…”, “nothing compares to…”, “What did you get?” and other phrases that only prompt us to compare our “things” to others. If you truly think about it, Christmas is, today, simply a holiday to increase the sales of stores and shops.
How often do we hear of people giving Christmas away? Not very often, which I am guilty of as well.
So, why would God choose for His Son to be born in a lowly town in a simple manger within a dirty stable? To show that Love cannot be bought, sold or compared to anything ever given.
You see, Christ is a gift that never gets old, is given daily and never fails. What other gift has that type of guarantee?
This Christmas, I have decided to slow down and think upon the details of the story rather than the broad picture of how Jesus came to earth.
When we stop and think about the details, we find that our God is all about the details.
This can also be seen in the story He’s writing in us. He specializes in the details and in the details of our own story. Just like in the story of Jesus’s birth, our story has wonderful details that we fail to stop and reflect upon.
If we stop and think, we would find that it’s all about the details.
It’s all about the simplicity of a star that led lowly people to a majestic and silent night.
It’s all about a King who was born in a small, little town of Bethlehem.
It’s all about a Savior who died for you and for me, that is orchestrating the minor details of our lives.
This Christmas, focus on the details.