Sunday, March 16, 2008

An Acceptable Service

As I have continued to wrestle through the truths God is teaching me regarding the idol of busyness I keep coming back to Hebrews 12. The passage opens up with challenging the believer to "run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." Last week I crashed hard and realize that I was not running with endurance. My focus was completing an act and not on Jesus the author and perfecter. Without focusing on Christ each task I do, even in His name, loses value. Just how valuable is our God and this heavenly kingdom we are part of? Hebrews 12 depicts this as well.

"For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind...but you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myraids of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood..." (Hebrews 12:18, 23-24) What a perspective!! We cannot even approach the mountain of God without the work of Christ. It is so not about is about the living God and a heavenly kingdom. It is about God perfecting our faith through Jesus.

How is God's kingdom established in our lives? Through shaking. We fill our lives with so many things that are not of heavenly value. God longs to see us focusing on building His kingdom. Everything that is counterfeit in our lives He will remove. "This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

And the end result? We received a kingdom which cannot be shaken. A life so grounded in God that no matter what comes our way we are not moved. A life so rich because of a healthy realization of eternal value that we do not have to find worth in building our own kingdom. We fill our time focusing on the reason for our service and out of GRATITUDE we offer God "an acceptable service with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28)

My prayer is that God will continue to shake my life so that He is all that remains. As I run the race that I will endure because I am focusing on Christ, the author and perfecter. I need to lay down the pen and let the Author finish my story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In the Name of God

The last couple of weeks have been wrapped around the axle busy. Does anyone out there copy? Have you ever had a week where you felt like you were literally suffocating because your "to do's" outweighed the hours in the day? Mentally I would try to prioritize, but everything on my list was "good". Work (a given), train for ten-miler, time with God, prepare for small group, meet with small group members, interview potential leaders, follow up with existing leaders, map out plan for making sure leaders are coached, teach workshop on how to study the Bible, and somehow make time for the friends and family who are important in my life.

As I did my devotion Monday morning I couldn't understand why I was so empty, exhausted and stressed. I mean really...the majority of my weekend was spent serving God. Shouldn't He refill my cup? Somehow I stumbled through the day and made it to church on Monday night. During service God stopped me in my tracks. Our teaching pastor Todd Phillips is doing a series called "No Other Gods" ( During the message he discussed we have many things in our lives that are good. However, if we take the good things God has blessed us with and put them on the throne of our life they become idols. Without even realizing it I had taken the very gift of service and turned it into the idol of busyness. Instead of pouring out of the overflow of my whole hearted devotion to God I sought satisfaction in my accomplishments in the name of God.

The second part of my lesson came in the form of a letter from a very wise friend. She and I met up during my whirlwind tour on Sunday. Needless to say my stressful state made its mark. Today I received a card in the mail. The quote from the card that hit home? "So remember, it's not about a busy schedule, it's about the people and purpose of what makes up the schedule." You see, it isn't about me coaching another leader, it is about God taking a willing vessel stepping into leadership and inspiring a small group to grow in their relationship with Him. It isn't about the small group member I have to follow-up with because they missed for the third time in a row, it is about the community exhibiting God's love they need to take them through a difficult time. It isn't about teaching a class on "How to Study the Bible" well, it is about God working in hearts and growing a thirst for His word. As God opens my eyes to these truths I truly am able to see Him in every opportunity. My list grows shorter because when He is on the throne I experience the overflow of His blessing.

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—
the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;
the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known." Deut 11:27-28

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My kids...

This might come as a shock to some of you, but I have 2 little is 7 and one is 8. They are beautiful. Okay...okay...they aren't LITERALLY mine, but I do have the privilige of sponsoring them. A year and a half ago I received Leidy...she lives in Colombia. It has been such a blessing corresponding with her and viewing life through her lens. I received an updated picture on the year anniversary of my sponsorship and was amazed to see how she has grown. And she looked so happy! The letters I receive are precious...she calls me her godmother or pretty sponsor. Receiving letters from her warms my heart. As a single woman who doesn't necessarily feel together enough to have kids it is a blessing to pray for this child and watch her grow in the Lord. She has been the top of her class and is so proud of her accomplishments...she mails prayer requests for "Daddy God" and tells me tidbits about her life and family. I have never met Leidy, but hope to one day.

Meyrizza lives in Indonesia. I started sponsoring her in August. Little did I know when I embarked on a mission trip that I would have the opportunity to sponsor another child...and to meet her! She is beautiful. We met at a waterpark and were able to spend the afternoon together. At first she was so timid, but after splashing around in the water and communicating non-verbally the barriers came down. We walked through the park riding rides, playing games, and laughting at each other's antics. My heart soared...I learned that she loved pink and Strawberry Shortcake. She does not pray to "Daddy God" yet...her family is Muslim. She enjoys dancing and our outing was her first time at a waterpark. By the end of the afternoon her hand would constantly find mine as we walked to our next adventure. I was taken and look forward to corresponding with this precious one. I pray for her, that she will know and experience the love of her heavenly "Daddy".

At first I was cynical about sponsoring a child. Yet, the experience has been so rewarding. I care about my kids and their families. When I hear of news in Colombia or Indonesia my heart skips a beat and I find myself praying for them. It has taken me outside of my comfortable little world and into the life of a child. Interacting with them is so refreshing...their innocence and take on life despite their circumstances is a constant reminder that it isn't all about me. Luke 18:16 sums it up, "But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." If we help little children realize their importance in the eyes of their Father, what an impact that will make on the world. "Do not hinder them" many countries basic necessities are lacking in the lives of children. Removing physical barriers through child sponsorship and engaging through correspondence and prayer we have the opportunity of walking these precious ones to Jesus. Are you ready to experience a glimpse of the kingdom of God? The best view is through the eyes of a child.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Frontline Arlington

Dedicated to Jason C.

Birthdays are a time to celebrate life. On Monday, February 11 ALIVE was the buzz word of the evening. Every Monday night I am at the same place...the Rosslyn Spectrum in Arlington, VA. A year ago the Frontline ministry of McLean Bible Church took a step of faith. As Todd shared in his sermon we "stepped away from the table." So much has happened in a year. Personally I have been blessed beyond measure through the staff, the small group ministry and the mission trip that I was a part of. I look back at my story and am in awe of all that God has done. And I am just one. The campus started with 250 people from our Tyson's campus. We are now typically over 500 strong...most services in overflow. Over 500 lives impacted with the message of God's love...over 500 lights walking out into the DC metro area sharing what we have experienced.

On Monday I sat with my Global Impact team. Sixteen of us went to Indonesia in August...sixteen lives forever intertwined. One of our team members was a new Christian when he signed up for our trip. I have been a Christian for 25 years and just went on my first foreign soil mission. Jason was a Christian for a few short weeks and stepped out in obedience. He was baptized Monday night during our one year celebration. The team had the privilige of being front and center. The campus pastor immersed him in the water with these words "dead to sin and raised to walk in newness of life." ALIVE. Eternally alive. The water did not change where Jason stands with God, yet the act is a celebration of the life he now lives.

Rewind back to the service...the worship was electric, the message was inspiring, but what sets Frontline Arlington apart is God's people. In a year we are beginning to understand the levity of the lives we live. We are engaging with each other through small groups, mission trips, service and corporate worship. We have taken our first steps away from the table and experienced the initial exhileration of firsts. What will next year's celebration look like? I pray that the firsts we have known this year will be but a memory. I pray that we will step forward with faith and run, not walk into the lives God has called us to share with. My devotion on Monday was from Joshua 3. This passage recounts the Israelites crossing the Jordan onto dry land. In verse 7 God makes His mission known..."I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel..." To the priests, I am sure the direction seemed crazy. They were to carry the ark of the covenant into the Jordan while the river was at flood stage. "Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away." Do you see it? God called them to step out...His presence (the ark of the covenant) was with them and as they were obedient His name was exalted. Just as He had parted the Red Sea for Moses, He stopped the rivers of the Jordan for Joshua. God wants to exalt you believer, He wants to make His name known through His divine power at work in your life. May next year's celebration include countless lives impacted by a campus fully engaged in the presence of God.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eagle's Wings...

The last couple of weeks I've had a lot of questions. I don't look for them, they just come unexpectedly. I reached the limit (again) and decided it was time for a heart to heart with God. He brought me to Isaiah 40. A familiar passage, but somehow different.

He silenced me with verses 1-27. The highlights? The glory of God will be revealed. The grass will wither and the flower fade, but God's word stands forever. He will come with might and He will rule, but He will also tend His flock like a Shepherd. He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, marked off the heavens, calculated the dust, and weighed the mountains in a balance. He did not have to seek out understanding, or determine the path of justice because He IS knowledge. He sits above the earth, He created the stars and calls them by name. He is great and mighty. In short, He doesn't owe me an answer.

The end of the passage closes with a reference to the eagle. As I came to the very familiar verse I pondered why the eagle? Out of all of the analogies He could have used why would He want us to soar like eagles? Did you know the eagle's wings were designed for soaring? The bald eagle has a wing span of 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet. They are not created for short flights. Flapping their wings and trying to lift themselves up to their soaring height of 10,000 feet would be futile. Instead their wingspan captures the range of thermal air currents generated from mountains and valleys.

In light of our education on the eagle, let's plug the analogy into this passage. Because He is the Everlasting God and Creator, the things of this world do not tire Him. From His vantage point there is no need for panic. Do not take matters into your own hands and try to rise to the height He has called you to by your own mere strength. When you are tempted to panic and flap...wait. He will bring you to the next mountain or valley...and you will soar.

All things new...

This entry is a little overdue, but I still want to share. On December 31, 2007 our family was blessed with the arrival of my niece, Allison. Her timing was a breath of fresh air for our family. We were all eagerly anticipating the possibility of a Christmas arrival, yet God had a different plan. Somehow it seemed right...closing the chapter of the old with the gift of new life.

As I held her I was amazed at how perfect she was. Innocent. Untainted. I was filled with hope. This little child was perfectly planned and formed by her heavenly Father. "My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secred, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." (Ps 139:15-16) I am filled with hope for all of the DIVINELY appointed days Allison has in front of her. I would love to protect her and my little nephews from the harsh realities of life. In my limited time with them I want to anticipate their falls and kiss away their tears. More than anything my prayer is that they will find God in each of their days. "But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares, the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year." (Deut 11:11-12) As we come to the end of the first month of this year may we know that God is in each of our days. He has already walked ahead of us into our tomorrows...His eyes are continually on us even to the end of the year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

the empty chair...

Christmas is going to be different this year. It already is. My sister sent photos of the decorating festivities at dad's. My heart caught in my throat when I saw this picture. You see, that is mom's chair. She should be sitting there watching her grandsons decorate the tree. Or leaning over handing them decorations and directing them to the next empty spot. I flash forward to Christmas Eve and the time we normally celebrate together. Her chair will be empty as we sit around the table.

As I've been shopping for Christmas gifts I find myself reaching out to pick up a gift that mom would love and then stopping mid-air. Opening gifts Christmas Eve night there will be no gifts from mom. She will never add another piece to the nativity set she started for me. As wave after wave hit of the many voids we will experience this year, I started asking God how we would make it. Almost audibly He stopped is in heaven and Christmas is about Who came.

You see, 2000 years ago God gave a gift. His Son had stepped down from His throne in heaven to our messed up world. Heaven experienced a empty chair if you will. Through the void of heaven, we experienced the fullness of God. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (I John 4:9) Do you see it? Christmas is about a tangible God. He literally traded places with us. The Divine stepped into humanity and bore the past, present, and future. In talking about His death Jesus states, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (Jn 12:32) This passage foreshadows Jesus' death on the cross. What about the cross will draw all men? I believe Isaiah 53 depicts fully God's plan for the cross. "Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God - a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried - our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him - our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost. We've all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him. He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off - and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he'd never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn't true. Still, it's what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he'd see life come from it - life, life, and more life. And God's plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many "righteous ones," as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly - the best of everything, the highest honors - Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep. (The Message)

Christ coming as a babe in a manger, led to Christ walking the earth as a man and the road to Calvary. He could draw all men to Himself on the cross because He bore all of the sin AND the consequences of sin. He intimately knows your sorrows just as He intimately knows mine. He was crushed so that we could have life. For each blow that we are dealt, remember the cross. Remember that Christ already bore the pain, He was bruised for us and God exalted Him. This Christmas, remember for a moment, heaven experienced a void so that we could experience a Saviour.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Under construction...

"When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual- and crushes him." Dr. Alan Redpath, The Making of a Man of God

This weekend God taught me some lessons on construction. The key to any structure is the foundation, it must be it is in the building of a life. During a road trip my friend Jade and I were discussing construction of the temple. Ezra and Haggai contain parallel accounts of the rebuilding of the temple. Sometimes God has to rip away the foundation of our lives and reduce it to complete rubble so He can rebuild. The Israelites experienced this destruction with the temple. 2 Chronicles details their attempts to restore, purify and repair the temple, yet with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the temple was totally destroyed. Ezra 3:10-13, "When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals took their places to praise the Lord...and all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy." The key to this passage is verse 11. The foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. The foundation of a structure describes a lot about the building. The width, the height...if it will be a simple structure or elaborate. Interesting to note the reaction of the people. Older generations were weeping, while the new generation was rejoicing. Sometimes it is hard to let go of what we have built. We build our faith, our ministry, relationships, and careers without realizing the strong foundation we thought we had can be obliterated in one blow. We try to mend and repair what is broken, yet until God reaches our foundation the transformation is only temporary.

In Haggai we receive a glimpse of the new temple compared to the former. Solomon's temple was glorious. The older generation realized the new temple did not measure up, yet God reminds them to be faithful. Haggai 2:2-9 "Who is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, declares the Lord...This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once again more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty. And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty." This passage is so rich. Do you see it? God realizes the Israelites are comparing. They see the former temple as more glorious. Isn't that what we struggle with? At the root of many of our "Why God?" questions we consider the past more glorious than the present. In our finite minds we think the career, relationship, church, status, and the list goes on was our moment. Yet God says hold on. What you thought you had doesn't compare with what I am about to do. I am going to take this life that appears to be less and fill it with my glory.

He also promises peace. As we allow Him to shake our foundation, rebuild from the rubble of the past and turn regrets, pain, and sorrow into riches we will experience overwhelming peace. He is in control. His future is better than our past or our present. Be strong today and realize tomorrow will come.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning to dance again...

Recently my best friend gave me a journal and wrote " have always embraced life and lived it to the fullest- keep embracing it! Keep dancing!". The past few weeks I have forgotten what is to embrace and what is to dance. I've never had to stop and figure out life...yes, a few rough bumps, but never rendered totally speechless. Never this depth of silence from God, never free falling into a pain so deep that I'm still not sure I've touched the bottom. More than anything I want to go back. Back to "before". Death marks. It causes people to "tip toe" away, allow "space", meet the practical, but run from the pain emanating from those left behind. It is a matter of respect...a chamber that only the grieving can enter. It takes you to a place of darkness you never knew existed. It seduces those left behind. The conversations unspoken, the embraces now empty, the phone that no longer rings, the void in family gatherings and photos. Losing mom stopped my dance mid-step.

God and I were doing all right. He was leading and I was following. The trip that I returned from a little over 3 months ago changed my frame of reference. I could see and hear Him so clearly...I had experienced His love for our team and His love for the nations. Less than a month later my frame of reference changed...He was now my Shepherd as I walked through the valley of death. I arrived on the other side of the valley only to realize that I was standing at the foot of the mountain of loss. As I stare up at the mountain I feel like I am in the middle of the dance many songs swirling, dancers each with their own routine and the steps that were once second nature I have no confidence to take. Trusting God, serving, simple conversations, being real, finding the right words at the right time, cultivating relationships, celebrating and finding joy in the midst of pain. The silence of God is so scary...yet I realize in that silence He has spoken to the darkest corner of my heart. He understands the loss of separation...He understands a pain so deep there are no words. When my pain hurt the most He knew the response was to just sit in silence with me. Yesterday I woke up and could feel His presence...not because I've read the right verse or prayed the right prayer...He was just undeniably there. I needed that. I needed the weeks of silence so I could be overwhelmed by the sweetness of Him. Last night during worship He asked me to dance again..."Never Let Go" by Matthew Redman...a few steps of the sweet worship I experienced "before".

Learning to dance will take time. He is teaching me that is okay. I will still have seasons of silence. The healing process is just beginning. Yet in those times I know He is there...and I know that He is choreographing a depth and beauty only realized through pain.

Lamentations 3: 25-26 "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that He waits silently for the salvation of the Lord."