Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

Inspired by God

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

 If you’re faithfully serving every week during a worship service or leading a small group and not studying Scripture, you aren’t prepared. In order to do good works, we must follow God’s “order of operations.”

  1. Believe in Jesus

Romans 10:9

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

  1. Love God
  2. Love others (and yourself!)

Matthew 22:37-39

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. Do good works

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

  1. Make disciples

Matthew 28:19

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

IMG_2963Once we are saved, we can choose to be a follower of Jesus, or become His disciple. We can follow Jesus from a distance and watch what He does in the lives of others, or if we want to truly know Him, we must become a disciple. Becoming a disciple requires discipline. We do this not because religion demands it, but because we want to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When we discipline ourselves to study Scripture we get to know God.

When we get to know God, we begin to know ourselves.

When we get to know ourselves, we begin to realize our rebelliousness against Him.

When we realize our rebelliousness against Him, we become grieved over our sin.

When we are grieved over our sin, we humble ourselves and allow Him to correct what is wrong in our lives- and our relationships, and teach us to do what is right.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

We cannot, I repeat canNOT go through the “order of operations” out of order. If we skip 1, 2 & 3 and try to start solving our life equation at step 4 or 5 we’ll never discover God’s promise of eternal & abundant life. Furthermore, Jesus warns those with disorderly lives in Matthew 7:21-23 who do work in His name- they must depart from Him, because they don’t know Him.

God is a God of order.

Follow His “order of operations.”

Don’t know the order?

Dust off that old Holy Bible on your bookshelf or download You Version and lets start studying Scripture, together!

IF…..

2 Chronicles 7:12-16

12 Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said,

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

Some time after Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the Lord revealed a contingent promise to him: IF God’s people humbled themselves, prayed, sought His face, and turned from sin, He WOULD hear them, forgive them and restore them.

After Jesus’s death and resurrection, God echoed the same contingency to His people:

Romans 10:9

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

IF we confess Jesus as Lord & believe God raised Him from the grave, He WILL save us from eternal punishment. But we don’t have to offer sacrifices of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats as Solomon did for the dedication of the Temple. Jesus, the Lamb of God, willingly spilled His blood for our sin.

How then, should we respond to such a magnificent, selfless, sacrifice?

We are to dedicate our temple to Him so that His name will be honored forever.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

How do we do that? (verse 14) IMG_1850

We humble ourselves, every morning.

We pray, every morning.

We seek His face, every morning.

We repent for our sins, every morning.

We accept His forgiveness, every morning.

We praise Him, every morning, for being faithful to restore the areas of our soul that the enemy sought to steal, kill and destroy.

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
 for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
 great is your faithfulness

And then…He gives us another promise (verse 16):

He will watch over us, for we are dear to His heart. Did you get that? WE are dear to HIS heart!

What a loving, giving, sacrificial God He is….

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Restored Marriage

Hosea 6:1-7

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
 He has torn us to pieces;
 now he will heal us.
 He has injured us;
 now he will bandage our wounds.

2 In just a short time he will restore us,
 so that we may live in his presence.

3 Oh, that we might know the Lord!
 Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
 or the coming of rains in early spring.”

4“O Israel[a] and Judah,
 what should I do with you?” asks the Lord.
“For your love vanishes like the morning mist
 and disappears like dew in the sunlight.

5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—
 to slaughter you with my words,
 with judgments as inescapable as light.

6 I want you to show love,[b]  not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me[c] more than I want burnt offerings.

7 But like Adam,[d] you broke my covenant
 and betrayed my trust.

When we purchased our fixer upper colonial style house in 2006 we were excited to have a much larger eat in kitchen than our previous home. But, to be honest, we really, really, really didn’t like the country style cabinets, worn out appliances, broken countertop or faux stone vinyl flooring. However, due to a limited budget, we were only able to replace and update a few items on our “to do” list before we moved in. In the 8 years since, we completed several more cosmetic changes until we recently decided it was time to tear the room to pieces and remodel.

IMG_5006Last week we stripped the popcorn off the ceiling (NOT a fun job…I highly don’t recommend it!) and hired a contractor to rip out the cabinets, patch sheet rock and lay ceramic tile flooring. In a short time, cabinets and countertops will be installed, and the room will be restored. Not only will it be a functional working place to prepare meals, but a beautiful space to gather with family and friends around the table.

When our marriage hit its breaking point in 2001, Doug and I scrambled to make a few cosmetic changes to our relationship. But, it didn’t take long for us to discover that God, in His loving kindness, intended to cut our pride and disobedience to pieces. To be honest, we really, really, really didn’t like the entire process. Yet, Our Father, in His infinite wisdom, knew that in our hearts, we were merely offering sacrifices and burnt offerings… and not loving Him and knowing Him the way that He desires.

The restoration of our marriage seemed to take longer than “a short time,” but, when we look back over those years of being torn and injured, we realize in view of eternity, His promises came rather quickly. Not only has our relationship been restored, we function much better than we used to and our love for one another has become more beautiful than the day we said “I do.”

Broken marriages take time to be healed, but time alone heals nothing. Returning to the Lord in humility with a heart of repentance and allowing Him to bandage your wounds does. And once you have been restored to your first love, you can live in His presence and truly know Him. Only then will you be able to be restored to your second love…. and the two of you become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.

Way of Escape

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

IMG_4402During a recent flight into Charlotte Douglas International Airport, I peered out the window as our Airbus A 320 was hovering over the tarmac, preparing to land. Moments later, however, my husband and I, along with the one hundred and forty eight other passengers were thrust back into our seats as the pilot revved the engines and ascended back into the sky. A few thousand feet later, a voice came over the intercom: “ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the delay. We were forced to abort the landing because another aircraft was taking its time getting off the runway. We’ll be on the ground shortly.”

After thanking God for holding us and that plane in the palm of His hand, I began recalling all the times I’ve hovered over sin, not consciously knowing that if I chose to land in it, death would be imminent. Maybe not a physical death mind you, but perhaps an emotional death and most certainly, a spiritual one.

The temptations in my life are no different than what others have experienced….so why is it that my ability to stand sometimes seems much more difficult?

Just as we are all uniquely and wonderfully made by our Creator, we are born into unique and wonderful families that receive His blessings for thousands of generations and, as a result of sin, curses for several generations.

Exodus 20:5-6

New Living Translation (NLT)

You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[a] who love me and obey my commands.

Although God’s punishment of our ancestors sin may seem unjust and unfair- the Lord in His unfailing love and mercy always offers a life saving solution. When we choose to humble ourselves before His throne and confess ours and yes, even our families sin and repent for our disobedience, He is faithful to forgive.

1 John 1:9

New Living Translation (NLT)

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

When the wickedness is gone, we are better able to endure hovering over the tarmac of temptation. By depending on the powerful engine of the Holy Spirit, we can avoid landing on the thief’s runway, depriving him of the opportunity to steal, kill and destroy us. Instead, we can rest safely in our first class seat, knowing that our Savior promises to give us a way of escape….. and a satisfying flight.

John 10:7-10

New Living Translation (NLT)

so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Your Will, Not Mine

Luke 11:5-13

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.[a]

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “You fathers—if your children ask[b] for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Jesus taught His disciples the importance of being persistent in prayer so that they could obtain what they needed. Often times, when this disciple doesn’t get the answer I want, I respond like a self-centered child by throwing a hissy fit…and then I just stop talking to God altogether. Of course, that never brings about the desired result of getting my own way, all it does is separate me from the One who holds the keys to what I need to receive, find, or be opened to in the Spirit.

IMG_4382There are three items on my prayer list right now that I’ve been asking the Lord about for years. YEARS. One, in particular, He has remained silent on……I’m continuing to ask Him about it, but recently, my prayers have shifted from me stomping my foot, demanding an answer (right NOW!!!), to me demanding my will to submit to His. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, my focus has miraculously become less about the prayer that I want answered and more about the One who answers my prayers. Jesus modeled this most humbly, as he faced impending death on a cross:

Matthew 26:39

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

On another prayer request, I’ve received an answer in the form of a promise. Since then, I’ve continued asking Him to confirm what I believe I heard through His Word- and others. As my doubt has begun to evaporate, transforming into faith the size of a mustard seed, I keep knocking, declaring “may Your Kingdom come, may Your will be done!”

Matthew 6:9-10

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven,
 may your name be kept holy.

10 May your Kingdom come soon.
 May your will be done on earth,
 as it is in heaven.

My final request has become a daily act of obedience. God, in His infinite wisdom continues to give me the manna I need to survive –just for the day. Realizing that He made me to be a planner, He knows that what I need (before He answers), is to know how to trust and follow His plan for my life. Just as with the other two requests, He is teaching me to submit my wants, my will to Him, so that I can learn how to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. After all, that is what my prayers should be about- His will, His purposes, His Kingdom, His power, His glory….not mine.