Are you growing concerned?

Are you becoming more aware of the news?  From financial issues, and suffering of those around us, to the world events – horrific news, startling, and possibly very overwhelming.

My husband and i have been a part of the prayer team of our church, and so we find ourselves filtering things through soft and purposeful conversation with God.  Painful bodies, fearful moms, unemployment, disobedient children, struggling marriages, and on and on.   Our needs as people are very great, and our dependence is growing greater and greater on God himself to provide and meet the needs.

But i must tell you that while i know our needs are important they seem to pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

As I stand to sing worship choruses these past Sundays I realize how privileged we are to gather publicly, to give voice to our hearts cry of worshiping our great God without fear of imprisonment, beatings, death.  So as i close my eyes, and lift my heart and my voice to God I find myself lifting those believers around the world to Jesus, and ask for his presence in their lives.

Remembering Al and Eileen – We have friends who are Pakistani nationals, and have lived around the world. They are believers in Jesus.  And these last 10 years their government has not permitted them to leave their nation.  They are surrounded by 99.5% of their fellow citizens who believe in radical Islam, or tribal factions.  They have a life that is constantly one word or one action from death.  Al told us the last time he was visiting in the states that we need to pray for the believers in Pakistan like this:

  • Lord grant them wisdom to know your word, your heart, your spirit
  • Lord grant them favor with their neighbors that those who do not know Jesus might see his love extended through your people in that place.
  • Lord give opportunities to love, help and share your word with those who do not know
  • Strength, courage, boldness, fearlessness, God’s favor.

As the news continues to churn out photos and video of Christians being executed for believing in Jesus I can;t just stand in church and sing a worship chorus.  I am compelled to cry out for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted.  And i am compelled to cry out against the acts of injustice, shocking violence, of global bullying on a massive scale.

The rising tide of hatred and hostility of Christians is joined by the growing antisemitism that is playing out in the world.  Many are saying these are times much like that of pre-WWII, where people were being fed propaganda, believing ideology that was filled with venemous hatred, doctrines of demons.

America is not the same nation it was 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago.  The news media is whipping up a hostility toward Christianity, our government is embracing poor judgement, and the leadership of our nation is growing sketchy.  Being a Christian is becoming a dangerous decision, with frequent news of charges pressed, court cases, etc for simplly living out our faith.

The winds of change are blowing.  Are we there in prayer, standing firmly asking our Great God and King to meet us, change our hearts, accept our repentance, and heal our land?

I am growing concerned – not of God, because i know he holds everything in his great care, but i am growing concerned that fellow believers seem to have little sensitivity to the great need to pray, to seek God with everything in our souls, and to ask for the needs of our fellow believers that are hurting.

“Father, forgive us for our self focus.  Forgive us for not praying for our rulers, our government, or leaders.  And forgive us for letting your word slide from our lives.  We repent today, and ask you to fill our  hearts and minds with your spirit, your word, your strength.  And we bring our brothers and sisters who are being fiercely persecuted to you.  Please be their strength, glorify yourself in your people, strengthen and embolden your church to stand in the presence of evil, and know your plan is to bring many to salvation.  

We pray for those who are the persecutors… may they come to know they are persecuting your people, and that you know every thought and act.  May you show yourself to them in dreams, visions, and manifest fear in their very souls.  We ask for their salvation, we cry to you to turn your enemies to repentent believers.  In everything may we sense your spirit, your provision, your protection and your love.  And may the world sense this too.  Amen”

God, Fellowship, Faithfulness and Sisterhood

When God is on the move there is nothing that will stop the work he wants to do.  I have always believed that.  I have always longed to live in the early church new testament power of God to change lives, rebuild homes, strengthen relationships and transform a culture.

God has not changed, though decades and centuries have passed.  God is still moving in powerful ways throughout our world, seeking faithful people who are willing to yield their hearts, minds and souls to him.

Knowing God has not changed, perhaps it is us as a people that have become dull to his leading, prompting, and authority.  But when he awakens our spirits there is an energy, enthusiasm and new fresh sense of life that envigorates us deep to our core.  I love watching that happen in my own life, and how much more of a joy when you watch radical transformations occur right before your eyes.

Several months ago six women agreed to meet and work through a book – not the bible, but a book that uses biblical concepts, and unravels the mysteries of the female soul.  And something interesting has begun to happen… we have begun to seek god deeper, hunger in greater ways for answers to those deep issues, and God has begun to reveal his plan to heal us of the past, make us whole and reinvigorate us for the purpose he called us to.

I must confess that most of my life i could probably count on one hand people i would call a friend, let alone have a deep friendship that moves toward sisterhood.  There are those rare individuals that God has allowed in my life – we dont see each other for years, but when we do the relationship picks up right where we left off..  These are people you could trust your very soul with.  I am an only child and for years blamed that as the reason i was slow to make friends.  But the truth was it only took one betrayal of trust, one crushing blow of a loose lipped person to dismantle my capacity to believe in safety and honest protection of a sisterhood.  I spent many years believing everyone had to show me that they were trustworthy.  That’s not fair either.  But this time we started our praying… seeking God to be in the middle of the group, and to guard each of us, and the confidences given.  There is a profound sense of wanting this safe space, a haven to gather, to laugh, or cry, to bear each others soul… knowing we will uplift each other, pray hard for the needs, and trust God for what is beyond our capacity.

The book we are working through spoke of how in generations past women worked side by side… there was a closeness that came from sharing life, sharing work, sharing responsibilities.  And much of this  sisterhood has been lost to a fast paced, fractured life of this modern age.  Thankfully every tuesday the sisterhood comes back together, and we are also finding our friendships growing as we lean into God, and allow him to build his kingdom through us.

Are you an underdog?

underdog

 

I just got my booksneeze copy of ” God of the Underdogs – when the odds are against you, God is for you” by Matt Keller, and i have been devouring chapters, resonating with the ideas he is writing about.  I will tell you alot more when i finally do my book review, but lets start with an idea, and think it through.

Underdog – no not the cartoon you see above, but the person who just defys human logic as the best choice for leader.  Yes, not the popular, smartest, strongest or most financially equipped… but the person who is yielded to the will of God.  We love underdogs in good stories – if you are like me you want to see them succeed – beat the odds – find their place in a successful way.  Underdogs are those people who dont seem likely to fulfill dreams they have been given.

And why do we judge people like that?  Human logic wants to always categorize people, find nice neat little places and categories… the successful, the beautiful, the rich, the poor…. need i go on?  Beyond what our eyes see, and what our minds want to conjure up are people with a heart, and dreams.

Have you ever believed that God has a purpose for you, but….???  We fill in the “but” with a plethora of other things – the economy is bad, i am insecure, the timing is not right…. We each have a call to our lives, but that call takes a leap of faith and a willingness to risk it all.  Matt Keller begins working through some of the people of the bible, and how they have struggled with the call of God on their lives, and their human reasoning to doubt, underestimate or not be willing to move with God in blind faith.  Samuel doubted God when he called Samuel to go to find a new king to replace Saul.  Human fear (Saul was a warrior with a powerful and fierce streak) wanted to override the call of God.  How many times do we lay aside what God is calling us to and cave into the fear of someone, something, or perhaps the fear of stepping out of the comfort zone?

I have believed deep in my soul that there is a deeper purpose for me in God’s kingdom… He has taken me through some deep water,and showed me his deep love and saving grace and that is not by accident.  The bible is very clear that every experience, even when it is out of the perfect will of God, can be used in our lives as examples of how God moves in our lives, and how he can take even the most wretched situation and use it for his glory.  Yes, we all have history of living, struggling, and working through this salvation we have been given… filtered through the situations of our lives.  And Yes, God has a plan for each of us beyond the call to salvation.  As a young believer I was convinced that we were called to be missionaries…. we prepared, planned, and and got so close when doors closed.  But while that door closed my belief that there is a deeper purpose for me has not changed. In fact, it grew deeper, stronger, and more “unrequited”.  I have always been involved, volunteering for things, teaching classes, cleaning, cooking, and organizing.  And it has been good, but there is a hunger for something more.

Being honest here I must tell you that I turned my focus to workplace ministry – and how to share my faith in the marketplace.  And I threw my heart and soul into a career – educating myself, preparing and becoming the best i could be.  In the workplace quickly there were answers – hungry and hurting people ended up in my cubicle; prayer was abundant, and this was good.  But that nagging sense that God has me targeted for another purpose still kept coming up.

This deep sense of a purpose continues to magnify itself in me as I realize my own inadequacy.  When the economy went south, and my hard working career came to a crashing halt it caused me to ask hard questions. Inadequacy coupled with a big blow to confidence quickly changed my hopes of lifelong workplace ministry.  There has to be a plan here.  I turned to the church for support and encouragement and i found it in little packages – a word of encouragement from one person, prayer from another.  I honestly think i wanted an accountability group – several trustworth friends who will hold me to task, as would I.   I realize how much the church needs courageous examples of people living for God’s glory, sold out, or in the popular term of our day “All In”.

So what does “All In” look like for a woman that is a lot more of “Super Chicken”, fearing one more round of human rejection, or not willing to put myself in a place where accountability becomes the church gossip.  Wounds of the past have changed my courageous zeal into restrained curiosity to follow God.  “All In” looks different though.  All in means shedding the wounds, listening to the word of God, allowing him to fan the dreams and passions he has placed in my heart, and following him as he says move.

In the midst of the wrestling match about being all in I confided to Steve that one thing I really have always wanted but lacked is a safe small group where life can be shared, filtered, prayed over, and we can know we are each other’s keeper, encourager, prayer partner.  It must be an atmosphere that is fiercely guarded and protected as a safe place, allowing us to work through our lives as we yield them to God.  Steve and I have that kind of a relationship – but i meant among women.  My heart has been to see something grow, partly for my own selfish wish to belong, and be accepted, and partly because there is a gaping void of this.  Oh, its not a personality issue – i think we are all just so very busy that we do not set aside time to grow together.  And we do not take the time to build the trust we need for such a group.  The tyranny of the urgent crowds out the essential of life.  In my own life that i must pencil in a date and time, make it my word that i will be there, and then honor my word and follow through.

So underdog – what has God called you to?  and what have you sensed as a deep passionate dream that your soul senses God has placed there?  And how are you being called to impact the world?  And what lies, misgivings, insecurities have you layed in the path of that dream?

Samuel put every excuse before God when he was called to visit Jesse and his family for the purpose of selecting the next king.  His fear of the angry warrior that was Saul crumbled as an excuse God would not allow him to believe. And his obedience resulted in valuable lessons on how God selects leaders versus how humans do.  And his obedience resulted in a new king who would be in the lineage of Jesus.

So far this book has been thrilling, and encouraging.  And i have been reminded that every person God has used in the bible has been an underdog – whether insecurity, or fear, or lack of popularity, or appearance, or economic status…. Underdogs.  We are all underdogs… but we have a courageous, wise and all powerful God leading us… so we must follow.