The Impact of a Vision

Psalm 35:15 ~ The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.

I will warn you in advance, I’m excited! I’m at a prayer conference in Marietta, Ohio, listening to some awesome men of God preach the Word of God, as well as spending the week with some of my favorite people, the Marietta Bible College students and President Myron Guiler. Marietta Bible College isn’t your typical higher education institution. The higher education factor is the Lord Jesus Christ and He doesn’t govern too many colleges and universities in this era of time. So for someone who longs to feel the presence of God in a powerful way this is the place I want to be.

I took so much away from the conference last night, but to encourage you today I’ll give you a three point message to chew on for a while as I have since last night.

Habakkuk 3:2 was Preacher Chuck Herrald’s text.

O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

One of my favorite texts is from that same book, Chapter 2:2

And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon the tables, that he may run that readeth it.

A Vision Looks Forward

Habakkuk said that when the vision was read, he may run that reads it. That’s because a vision is exciting! Or it should be. It has limitless potential to see great and amazing things happen. I want that. Not for me, but for the Lord’s glory and for an opportunity to make a difference.

A Vision Leads Followers

It’s a simple message, and yet so profound, and seems to be so lost in the churches of America. We’re so busy leading programs, we’ve forgotten about the work. I’ve been on this road for 21 years and in the “Midst of these years” I grow weary of not making more of a difference in more lives.

The second message from Preacher Dan Lamb, was from the book of Matthew 14:22-29, when Jesus and Peter walked on the water. The preachers question was this, “What if Peter didn’t believe he could,” what would have happened? That thought sickened me. How many times have I failed to believe in myself, and more importantly in what the Lord could do? And who might I have influenced with that disbelief. As leaders we need to lead in the right direction!

A Vision Lights the Fire!

Oh my stars, does it ever!!! Praise God for great leaders such as those of Marietta Bible College who for decades have impacted countless countries for the cause of Christ because someone had a vision. Dan Lamb encouraged the students last night to “Take what they’ve learned back to their country and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then come back to America and share their heart with us.” He closed by saying, “America doesn’t need any more junk, we need more heart.”

What a great truth, and what a spark it has ignited in my soul!

How to Apply the Balm

Why is it that the people of God seemed to be so continually perplexed when it comes to the things of life? Parents have no concept on how to raise their children without the help of books by authors they’ve never met, the school is left to discipline and teach manners of those that don’t even read the help books, and the moral decay of our schools is evident on the evening news. It is for certain a scary world we live in. The adults aren’t any better off than many youth; morality is situational and objective for themselves, but yet they believe it should all means be defined by the law for all others. Police are viewed as the enemy, there is no respect for authority from the White House to the Church house and in the words of a man who once attended our church but fell out to world “We’re in a mess.” So what’s the answer? Before you think this is a blog of discouragement and chastisement, read on.

This is a word that will sooth your soul…

Jeremiah 8:22 says:

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

Israel’s idea of the law had become subjective and their world was in a mess too. And so Jeremiah, the weeping prophet; who preached repentance to God’s people, had the same questions that I had at the beginning of this blog. I have those questions because I see so much heart ache and pain in every direction. Parents want to be good parents, children want a home filled with love, employers want trustworthy staff, churches want committed members, but it all seems to be unraveling because nobody is asking the right questions.

Where is our healing? Where it’s always been… in the Balm of Gilead. Jesus.

I know, I know, His name is on billboards, social media memes and in every sermon you’ve heard preached, and yet your world is still a mess. I think I know why. Because we’re not applying the balm.

The Acknowledgement

God has been after me for…. Ever… to use my talents in a greater methods. You see, I know I have the abilities… I just don’t apply them. You know your own issues, but when have you actually applied Jesus’ word to it? And what does that look like?

The Accountability

Israel needed to repent. They thought their ways were good enough and God would take care of them, because after all, they were the chosen. Don’t we each feel sometimes that God will cover us, come what may, even if we’re not exactly where we should be? Or is it only me? Repentance doesn’t necessarily mean that we have some massive sin, (although it could). But it could mean that you have a spirit of rebellion by not seeking God’s solution before mans.

I see more and more frustrated parents who seldom if ever darken the door of the Lord’s house with their children and yet they want good kids. Good kids need to know the only One who is good. Jesus. He is the balm that can sooth the heartache in the homes that are filled with disrespect and unruly children.

Another often heard conversation I have is with people who are hurting because friends and family have let them down and left them broken. I see people who have been abused in ways that I can’t even imagine and they have no desire to seek the One who can apply a balm to their heart and soul that will heal that hurt for eternity and love them as they long to be loved. He’s a cry away.

The Application

The Balm of Gilead known as Jesus, isn’t available online or in the store. It’s freely available for the asking. Salvation is immediate upon the request to ask Jesus to come into your life and accepting His work on the cross as payment for your sin. But peace,direction, guidance,  contentment, happiness and a wholesome life is only found in those who continually seek a relationship with Jesus for their home. Now… everyone may not be saved in the home, but the one who is can seek the guidance and wisdom of God, and to the best of their ability, live it. As it’s lived, the healing balm is applied. And sometimes it even gets onto the ones who have rejected the Lord and they too feel it’s soothing effects and desire to know the Lord of all, Jesus

How to Make Hope Grow

How easy it is to lose hope? A few hard knocks from Satan, a mini or major crisis, the loss of a loved one or the hurt and angst of relationships gone awry and hope can seem so bleak and so far in the distance. Depression sets in and you avoid even the glimmers of light for fear they will fade again. Woah… I’ve depressed myself! That too is easy to do by speaking negatively into your life, which I happen to have a vast amount of experience at. I’m getting better, but any day can find me relapsing into a loss of hope. I look at numbers on my web count and think, “There are so few.” And then I think about the preacher standing in the pulpit on Sunday morning in a little country church preaching to 10 people, he would love to have my numbers. And I’m ashamed. I forget that God called me to write, sing and speak, He didn’t call me to count. And who am I to say that if it were one, that one wouldn’t change the world when God did something amazing in their life.

Just wrote myself happy!

This morning I went looking for hope in the Word of God. 133 times it’s mentioned. And just a few of them are below to encourage you in your day.

Hope when people are missing

Ruth 1:12-13

“Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? Nay, my daughters; it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.”

Naomi was speaking to Orpha and Ruth, bearing her heart of the grief from the loss of her husband and sons. One daughter-in-law was about to take her up on her offer to leave, but Ruth… not her. She had a hope in her heart that God would provide a new life for she and Naomi, and if He chose not to, she still would stay and that hope turned into one of the most glorious love stories in the bible.

Grief can cloud hope till you believe the sun will never shine again. Look around you. Who has God sent into your life to stand in the gap until the sun shines again? Make a list of everyone in your life that you love, and begin praying that God blesses your relationships and the sky open with blessings.

How can I say that… because I’ve been there; when I thought nobody understood. But God did, because He’d walked the path I was on. He lost friend after friend at the cross on His hardest day. We were one of them if you think about it. Until we came back, glory to God! Thank You Jesus for the hope I have in You, the greatest friend of all.

Hope when purpose is missing

Psalm 22:9

But Thou art He that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.

From birth the Lord has given us hope and purpose. It is a lie from the pits of Hell that you are here without reason. There is an amazing plan for your life, but you cannot lose hope in Christ before it is completed. He needs you to get in the word and search it out for direction.

Hope when strength is missing

Psalm 31:24

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

A weak heart can be physical, emotional or spiritual. It can suck the life out of your day quickly and convince you that it’s over. There’s no need to battle back. What would have happened if King David had not battled back? There were times he was hidden in the darkness of a cave, friends forsook him, lies were told, authority was jealous and life was bleak. But he battled back with honor and stood on the side of the Lord when life was at its worst. He remembered the victories and encouraged his heart with the Word of God. It doesn’t cost a dime for us to find hope, but it cost Christ His life to give it. Hang on to it no matter what the world around you is saying.

Hope when mercy is missing

Psalm 33:22

Let thy mercy, O LORD,  be upon us, according as we hope in Thee.

How many times have we believed we’ve gone too far? We’ve failed God one too many times and there’s no mercy left in the well. First of all, the well has an endless supply. But it’s we who have to dip the bucket to fill it up, God’s really not into room service. He expects His children to do somethings on their own, and one of those things is coming to Him to receive the endless supply of hope and mercy that He has waiting. Get yourself to well of His word!

Hope when answers are missing

Psalm 38:15

For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

Satan is so full of chatter. He’ll tell you lie after lie until you lose hope, and the best one in his arsenal is that God doesn’t hear you. Well, take heart. The LORD hears every word, those spoken, those thought, and even those that you couldn’t even groan. That hope is in the word of God making it truth and the Devil is a liar. When answers are missing it is most often because we didn’t seek His answer. We sought the one we wanted, and that might not be His best.

Oh… believe me when I tell you I am so experienced in missing answers that I probably have a PHD waiting for me in Heaven on the wall of my mansion. Our hope for an answer again lies in the word of God. Every single ounce of hope we have come from Him. It’s kind of a pattern for living.

It’s not that we lose hope, it’s that we don’t pick it up. It’s waiting for you in your Bible whether it’s paper, digital or through the preaching of the Word. Keep search, don’t let Satan’s lies steal the greatest treasure you have.

Hope is find throughout the Old and New Testament. Do a word search and start planting seeds in your soul that will make hope grow!

It’s Time to Reclaim It

For our Sunday morning crowd, at Victory Baptist Church, I work up a PowerPoint of Welcoming slides, announcements, and various words of encouragement. As I worked on it over the weekend I came across an imag

e of a tree that was dead on one side and alive on the other with the caption “Making a Difference.” The image stays in my mind as a representation of the church today. From the beginning of time, God’s people would lose and gain ground, until Israel lost all bu

t a small, but mighty piece of land. And while God still very much blesses and protects Israel, His people now cover the earth. The piece of ground that God concerns Himself with for now is the inward heart, regardless if they are Jew or Gentile. He is concerned with all who trust Jesus as Savior. Israel will one day garner God’s attention in end times, but until then, Glory to God, His eye is on the church of His Son Jesus Christ. There’s just one problem with that; we too are going by the way of Israel. We’re losing ground.

It’s never more obvious than when you listen to the un-churched speak of the churches in their community. The churches belong to “those people.” Those whom they don’t feel apart. They’ll call them out by name “The church that so and so family goes to.” Many, not all, but a lot of churches have become family run businesses. A select group of people determines who preaches, sings, participates in service, and every other avenue of decision that is made on behalf of the body of Christ in their church.

So why is this on my heart? It’s not the condition of the church I attend, but it can be the church that anyone attends if we’re not careful to guard the ground for which God has entrusted them with.

The heart.

We’re responsible for taking the gift of Salvation, which God blessed us with through the sacrifice of His Son, and share it with the world within our reach. In and out of the building. On the web and in the newspaper. Every source of media and outreach that can possible be used as fertilizer for the ground for which we serve; the local church. Else we run the risk of losing the ground our predecessors have sown and reaped on.

It’s why my services have been used for the past 22 years in design and marketing of tools evangelists and churches can use to promote the church in a positive light. Not a light of the world, a light to the world. I have heard so many people in the circles I travel who have no understanding of the power of the media, and yet it runs most of their lives and they’re not even aware.

I’ve taught youth for the past twenty years in one form or another and they can quote the words to every secular song, tell you the name of every player on a national team, and discuss the vilest behavior in a network hit with blinking an eye, but they’ll not talk to their friends about Jesus. It breaks my heart! They’ll open themselves to drama on social media and tell everything that was once taboo outside the home, and poke fun of other people like they’re not people just like them. It’s why I understand the power the world has. Little and large churches become dynasty’s of power and serve to appease a select groups, and occasionally there are those that you’ll find Jesus in. We really have lost ground.

So how do we gain ground?

Wake Them

Zechariah 4

1And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.

The church seems almost oblivious across the aisles. In my journey’s I almost always experience a pocket or two of people with a real desire to see their church alive again. But most of the p

eople in the church are asleep. We need to awaken our congregations!

Watch Them

And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

Zechariah was concerned with the trees. The Angel seemed shocked that he didn’t know their significance. I doubt I would know the significance either and would likely be so shocked by the appearance of an angel, I probably wouldn’t know my name. But this is a different time; but it’s not a different message. We need to be watchful and aware of the messages that God is sending to us. We’re not without warning that our churches are dying.

Warn Them

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. 10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth. 11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are 

 

the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

I usually don’t cover that much scripture in a blog. People tire of reading… sad world. But I couldn’t not use every word!

What’s causing us to lose ground in the church is that the Spirit of God is missing out of the equation. Just as I would be shocked if an angel appeared in my sight, half the church would be shocked if the Spirit of God showed up. They’re so use to the formality of religion that anything else is just too celestial.

“Crying grace, grace!”

We should be crying out to the church that grace has been extended to the church, but for how long? How long will God wait before He takes the church out of the world and our loved one are left lost without hope. Warn them!

Alas, the Angel explains the symbolic vision in the last of the chapter, but Zechariah is still concerned with those trees.

The two trees, the anointed ones as I understand it, were Zerubbabel and Joshua, King and Priest anointed for those roles. My shout just came up from the depths of my heart. Who is it that God has anointed for the role of crying grace, grace, but His people. You and I who are called by God to share the gospel. We have Pastors to lead us and people to serve. It’s time we reclaim the ground the world has taken!

The He-Man of Praise & Worship

I began reading in the book of Chronicles, and as I was going through the first two chapters of name after name after name in the genealogy of Adam, my eyes began to glaze over and I began to talk to the Lord. “Lord, please, I know something in this list of names should be stirring my heart, but deed, I’m missing it today.” And so I continued on believing it would just be out of obedience and nothing would be spiritually gained. But as I continued came upon the name of Heman. And in honesty my mind wandered as it often does and I giggled under my breath remembering the show my girls watched as children, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.”  This caused my mind to wonder as to whether or not Heman was a He-Man. What role did he play that was so notable that got him mentioned in the names of fame in 1 Chronicles Chapter 2.

Interestingly enough Heman played a role near and dear to my heart, he was appointed to Praise the Lord. “What an awesome job!” I thought. And then my brain kicked back in and I considered myself… appointed, anointed Praiser for God. And that a job I often forget the importance of, was so important to God that it was mentioned among the great and notable of the Bible that we are so familiar with.

Perhaps you are one of those who have been called into the music ministry, either in song or instrument, or perhaps you’re just setting back in the congregation. This message is for both you, and anyone who needs a reminder or encouragement that praise is serious business in the eyes of God.

Fifteen times Heman is mentioned throughout, Kings, Chronicles and Psalms.

There is Wisdom in Praise

Heman was notably wise. 1 Kings 31 says of Solomon, he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman…” No one was wiser than Solomon, but Heman was obviously not a slacker. Solomon and David both took the praise of the Lord serious enough to put the wise, faithful and prudent people in those places. When called by God into a position of praise, we too should understand that God has called us into that place of accountability and honor.

The Waiting of Praise

When I think of waiting, I most often think of the delay of something.

1 Chronicles 6:33 says “And these are they that waited with their children. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman a singer…”

They were waiting, as in the service provider, (waiter/waitress). An old time preacher that once attended our church said that a song prior to service was a “sermonic solo meant to prepare the hearts of the people.” Glory to God that puts a shout in my soul to think that a song I sing or a word I say would cause another to praise our Lord!

The Willingness of Praise

1 Chronicles 16:41 reads “And with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chose, who were expressed by name, to give thanks to the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever;”

There should be an instant willingness in the people of the Lord, both those called to serve on the platform and those sitting in the congregation, to give praise to God in a manner fitting Him. Many aren’t comfortable of outwardly vocal praise because they’ve never been exposed to it in the churches they attend. I’ve had the blessing of being in vocal and non-vocal churches. Guess which one I prefer? And guess which one I’ve felt the presence of God in the greater degree? There’s a reason God “appointed” people to praise; it was because He knew the power behind it, and He wanted faithful people in those positions. It stirs the soul, it creates a desire to become one and be a part of the congregation as a whole. It’s builds a unity in the believers when they are in one spirit, praising and glorifying the work of the Lord in that place. It’s every bit as important to the congregation to praise as it is the singers and musicians. But it does usually start with the “sermonic solo’s or duets, quartets and choirs.” Woah… I wrote myself happy again.

Praise the Lord with gladness today!!!!

The Search for One Little Word 2018

Every year I seek a word to focus on that will draw me closer to God. Last year my word was “pursuit.” And pursue I did. The answers and edification for understanding God’s purpose for my life, again. Little did I know that as I pursued God, Satan pursued my mind greater and greater. But, I survived with a few skid marks from my heels digging in as my pursuit often times turned in to God drawing (aka pulling) me forward when I would digress from the path of understanding. Distraction is not my friend but it’s always as close as one.

I’ve prayed for weeks now about my 2018 word. Actually the prayer would go something like this, “God, what is my word going to be for 2018.” To which I would hear “Hope.” And I’d say, “No God, I don’t think that’s it.” I’m sure He rolled His eyes. Especially the 100th time I ask. And so again today, I said, Lord, my word is late. Am I even going to have one for the year? And so I sat down to read and study His word. Not mine. It was then I picked up a book, gifted to me by my friend Anne. It had been signed by the Author Dr. Bobby Jones with scripture penned in the cover. And so I read his scripture references.

Matthew 7:7

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Matthew 6:33

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

And lastly Romans 5:1-8

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Twice God tells me to seek; three times He mentions hope. Some may call it coincidental, I call it my answer. God probably was about ready to call me an idiot, though He likely wouldn’t because He’s nice like that. But my word for 2018 is shockingly:

“HOPE”

Hope in what? I praise His Holy Name that through faith I have access into His grace. I need it. A lot. Every time I doubt His design, fail to use His many gifts and neglect to praise Him as it’s due Him, I need grace. It is because of that grace that I have hope that I’ll have the opportunity to bring glory to His name in 2018.

I hope that through the 2017 trials and tribulations my patience will come easier and my experiences will be used to help others who may struggle as I do.

Finally, I’m so grateful that I can stand unashamed through the Hope of Jesus Christ Who has filled me with the Holy Ghost. It is through His Spirit that I find hope, peace and wisdom. I didn’t deserve it, but He was willing to go to the cross and die the terrible death that He did so that I could have a relationship, not just head knowledge, but a heart filled with love and the knowledge that the God of all, loves Shari.

My prayer for 2018 is H.O.P.E. – to Help Our People Evangelize. I want to encourage brothers and sisters in Christ, through music, art and the word of God to share the saving Grace of our Lord.

 

It’s Only Reasonable

I don’t have to wonder why I sometimes feel less than connected to God. It’s because I’m far too connected to the world.

A quote from the commentary of Matthew Henry zinged my heart today as I studied Revelation 4. He said “The more we abstract (disassociate) ourselves from all corporeal (worldly) things the more fit we are for communion with God.”

Distraction is likely the best tool in Satan’s shed, don’t you think? Everyone has something that is their “Ooooo something shiney!” It may be music, or technology; perhaps it’s a hobby or that next life goal. They are the little “g” gods that we put before the Creator of all the earth. The One Who has our life in His hand. How’s that for a dose of reality.

John, on the Island of Patmos, away from his iphone, television, etc. and without any way to connect to social media, has an opportunity to walk through the door of Heaven. Now, to be real, John didn’t unplug willingly; he was banished there. But rather than blaming the wickedness of others for his terrible circumstances of life, he uses the time to commune with God.  That pretty much leaves us excuseless. We were not plunged into a vat of boiling oil, beaten or banished. I’m freely sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a banana, enjoying the freedom to serve God without persecution. I should be dancin’ a jig across the floor with the knowledge that I could have been born in a foreign land where the persecution of John is still very real.

Revelation 4:1-2

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

What would you give up (without having to die) to get a few moments of a glimpse into glory? That was the question that I ask myself. Would you walk away from technology of every shape and kind? Would you rise early and greet the Lord before you greeted the things of the world?

I don’t think that God wants us to go to an island, away from everyone and everything to commune with Him. But I do think He wants us to unplug. So this is my challenge for myself, and perhaps it’s a challenge for you as well. Commit a “reasonable” amount of time.

Romans 12:1

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is you reasonable service.

A living sacrifice

We don’t have to die, or be banished, we get to live, Glory to God! But to sacrifice means it comes at a cost and what is it going to cost us to serve? For most of us it’s only going to cost a reasonable amount of time. What’s reasonable? So many questions! Reasonable for me is the time I waste. And by waste I mean truly un-purposeful time. Everyone needs rest, time to wind down, time with family, people have jobs, etc. etc. God understands that, but how much time during the day do we just flat out waste that could be spent communing with God? Would it take us into a heavenly experience? I don’t know, but I know this, I’ve never felt that time with God was unfruitful.

Holy

I’ve been more and more conscientious of the unholy conversation that I have or expose myself to. I’m not talking about cussing, or inappropriate language. I’m talking about television shows, conversations that do not glorify God, and times that I know if Jesus were looking me in the eye, I wouldn’t join in the conversation. And yet He lives in me and I do. It makes me sad… Jesus too no doubt.

Acceptable unto God

These are our reasonable service. I know mine doesn’t measure up. I need to unplug from earthy things and connect with God more.

I don’t want to sit in the Pharisees Pew

Luke 19:37-40

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.  And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Have you ever been at the foot of a mountain top experience? You feel in your soul that God is about to doing something amazing! You can see in the distance a plan that God has unfolding and something inside your soul begins to stir and the excitement builds until you just can’t keep quiet. You’ve got to tell someone; you’ve got to share the good news!

That’s a place that I feel that many Christians are at, but there’s just one problem: Religion. It always has a way of working its way into the ministry, because it looks like it belongs there. It’s pretty, and dignified and never makes anyone uncomfortable. People sit in their seats with their hands firmly clutching the bible or a hymnal or a child, anything that will keep emotion from taking over, else they’ll have their hands in the air like they just don’t care, and we can’t have that!

That is far too close to the Pharisee’s pew for me.

In Luke 19 Jesus is making His entry into Jerusalem, not only the main disciples are excited, but there’s a crowd of other believers who are making noise and glorifying God for the great and mighty things He has done. They’re acknowledging His deity, His control of situations in their life, and they don’t care if He’s on a lowly donkey; as a matter of fact that probably made Him more relatable to them. He didn’t arrive in a chariot, because He was the God of the common man. He put Himself in a position of relativity. They were excited that God was with them.

Although not everyone was happy. There was a religious crowd that didn’t like the noise. So they complained… to God.

Oh. My. Stars. That cracked me up. They went to God and ask Him to shush the crowd. Essentially asking God to shut up the gratitude.

It made me laugh and then it made me sick. Because I see people who are sitting at the foot of that mountain top experience of a service that leaves you excited and ready to go into all the world and share the good news but religion comes in. But, since it’s already had God’s answer, religion goes to the people and tells them to shush. They’re noise will disrupt the service and somebody might look at them. And they’re more than happy to oblige.

So… what’s the worst that could happen? Somebody else might get excited?

Jesus told the religious crowd that if the people would hold their peace, the stones would cry out. What might that sound like I wonder?

There’s a lot of things that happen around stones in the Bible and the Pharisees knew it. Jesus may have been reminding them of some of those events. What if the stones on location began to cry out about the things they’d seen? Like the delivery of Israel out of Egypt and the twelve stones that were laid in remembrance of that event. What would those stones say… would they tell of the rejoicing and the weeping as the children were lead toward the Promised Land? What would the stone say that Jacob used for a pillow the night that God changed his name to Israel. When that stone watched Jacob wrestle and get his thigh knocked out of kilter. What about the stones that were about to be hurled at the woman caught in adultery and Jesus stepped in and saved her life, just like He saved ours. What would those stones say?

Can you see why I don’t want to sit on the Pharisee’s pew? I don’t want those stones to weep because I fail to praise God Who is worthy of a loud house.

There was one more stone that the Pharisees knew nothing about. But Jesus did. It was one that would shortly to come to pass, and would be rolled away to find an empty grave and risen Lord so that I, and you, could have eternal life and a relationship with the Lord. He would forever be “God with us.” What would that stone say? The stone that witnessed it all!

We don’t have a stone to tell us, but we have the Word of God and it stirs my souls this morning and I can assure you that my hands may be on the key board but they will be praising God in the air here shortly. He is the Rock! And there will come a day when every person of creation will hear the Rock cry out. Be ready, and be loud!

In Search of the Happy Place

Philippians 4:11

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Those are the words of the great Apostle Paul.  They speak to my heart’s desire, but they don’t necessarily align with the manner in which my life was lived in 2017. I never really thought that life would be easy when I said to the Heavenly Father. “I give in!” See, I didn’t have the honor of just obeying. I fought God tooth and nail. I fully believe if I had obediently said in 2010, “Yes God, I’ll go. I’ll quit my job and serve you full time.” That my life would have been considerately different. If over the past seven years I hadn’t tried to get to point “B” by side stepping point “A”,  I may or may not have been struggling. We’re not guaranteed stress free days even when we’re obedient. But I still think that I’m learning a hard lesson now from not being content with the state I’m in.

So my goal in 2018 is to find my Happy Place.

If you found yours what would it look like? And would it look the same as the one God desires for you?

Good question I thought to myself… would mine?

I think there are three things that will bring me to my Happy Place. The first is…

Contentment

If happiness becomes a state of mind, not a state of being, then I’ll have arrived at that place. I watched a living example in Minnesota at the home of my hosts for the week, Butch and Pat. They were not wealthy people. They were not people who hadn’t experienced pain. But they were in their happy place as a couple and as individuals because they were living a life obedient to the Lord. If God said speak, they spoke. If God said sing, they sang. And that might be in the middle of the city square. If God said sell your house and move, they did. A week after I was there to visit as a matter of fact, and they believed another home was in the waiting. And it was. They were happy in the state of Minnesota because they were happy in their state of mind.

Consistent

Another awkward task for me. It means staying on the path that God intended even when it’s hard. Even when there’s no money, seemingly no means for it and the very thing that I feel God called me to do, isn’t happening. So as I searched for my 2018 word, I thought back to my 2017 word of the year. “Pursuit.”

Where had my pursuit taken me? And did I miss my arrival? I’m still pursuing, but I hope this year the pursuit is a little better focused. And consistent: in that I don’t look left and right, only forward to what God’s design is. This past year, every time it would get rough, I would think… this isn’t God’s plan. So I would start applying for jobs and looking for other means and every door slam in my face leaving me more distraught than ever. But through godly people in my life, “I would hear every time, you’re where you belong, you’re making a difference. Stay in this lane.” And often times out of exhaustion, I’d just ride it out and God always provided.

Connected

I need to connect every single aspect of my life to the word of God. So my word for 2018 Is “Hope.” I’ll do the art for it later. But for now I’ll just think on this:

If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven; where of I Paul am made a minister; who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God. – Colossians 1:23-25

I do not profess to have suffered in the manner of Paul. But his words are clear.

Continue, being settled (content)

Not moved away (consistent)

A Minister (connected to both God and people)

What about you? Where is your happy place?