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)

Your Own Work

Galatians 6:4-10 (NLT)

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

The comparison trap always leads to death in the soul. Whether we are measuring our waistline, our bank account, our marriage, or our position at work, comparing ourselves to others makes us dissatisfied. Either we feel like a loser (“they are way better at such and such than I am”) or, it inflates our ego (“I am way better at such and such than they are”).

KIM_2018_edited-1The body of Christ is no exception. A worldly view of our family members of faith ranks people by where they serve. The people on stage are AWESOME! The people changing dirty diapers…not so much. God is not impressed by our ranking system. He is not amused with our justification for idolizing certain areas of service. He is not naive about our desire for attention or worthiness. He is not ignorant of the condition of our heart. He knows all. Yet, mercifully, He forgives all.

When we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength our souls are set free from the comparison trap. We are still. We know Him. We know who we are in Him. We know the gifts the Spirit has given us. We know the talents the Lord has equipped us to use for His glory.

When we love Him, we obey Him.

When we obey Him, we submit to His will for our life.

When we submit to His will for our life, we do good – especially for those in the family of faith…..and it makes absolutely no difference to us if we use a microphone or a diaper to do it.

Pay attention.

Pay careful attention.

You are responsible for your own conduct.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone.

Bitter Jealousy

Acts 8:18-24

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”

20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”

24 “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”

Simon had been a sorcerer- astounding the people of Samaria with magic tricks. Yet when he heard the Good News of Philip’s message, he believed in Jesus Christ and was baptized! Simon was saved….. but he wasn’t instantly sanctified.

In Acts chapter 8, we discover that as Simon watched Peter and John lay hands on believers to receive the Holy Spirit, he wanted something.

But what he wanted was wrong:

He wanted power.

He wanted to be the apostles.

He wanted their gifts.

He wanted to be an instant leader in the Kingdom.

He wanted others to acknowledge and praise him (as they did when he was performing magic shows).

And then….to get what he wanted, Simon tried to manipulate Peter and John, through bribery!

Peter, however, wanted to obey the Lord.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that Simon’s heart was not right with God. He quickly rebuked him for his bitter jealousy, urging him to repent for the wickedness in his soul and ask God’s forgiveness for his evil thoughts.

Jealousy.

Bitter Jealousy.
As a new believer, I sometimes looked at church leaders and longed to minister the way they did. Like Simon, my heart wasn’t motivated to bring glory to God or advance His Kingdom. I was jealous. Sometimes bitterly jealous of the praise and attention my leaders received on- and off the stage. Several times the Holy Spirit brought conviction and rebuke from my authority to correct me. I too, was given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven for the evil lurking in my soul. And when I did, God graciously sanctified the wicked areas by exchanging them with his holiness.

Sadly, many believers often receive revelation through rebuke as Simon did, but they still refuse to repent. In their pride, they tell their leaders (or friends) to “pray for them.” Instead of submitting their will through personal confession and repentance, they hide. Instead of fearing God, they fear the terrible things (v. 24) that might happen. Instead of taking responsibility for their sin, they blame others.

Are you bitterly jealous of a leader in the Kingdom of God?

Are you trying to manipulate others to get the provision, power or position you want?

IMG_2961.jpgSubmit your will to the Lord and ask Him to deliver you from evil!!!

Confess.

Repent.Be forgiven.

Be set free.

Then GO…share the Good News with the gifts God has given YOU to advance His Kingdom.

Magnificent, Unfailing Love

Numbers 14:17-20

17 “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested.

Perhaps you have perfect kids.

Yay for you!

Perhaps you have been the perfect parent.

Kudos!

My children are imperfect….and so am I.

Romans 3:23

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

I’ve been training our children for over 16 years. Some days my heart is overflowing with love for them. Some days I wanna deliver a knock out punch to all four! And some days I hang lifelessly against the ropes, bruised and bloody from the fight.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Besides the relationship with my groom, there has been no greater opportunity for me to know the power of the Lord than in my role as mother.

Sadly, I must confess:

I haven’t always been slow to anger.

I haven’t always been filled with unfailing love.

I haven’t always forgiven our children’s sin and rebellion against me.

And sometimes, I’ve excused their guilt:

“Oh, that’s just ‘typical’ growing pains.”

“At least our kids aren’t as bad as so-and-so’s.”

“I did the same stupid thing when I was that age.”

“Ya know what? I’m sick and tired. I don’t wanna deal with them right now!”

IMG_0987The truth is: God knows our children are imperfect. That’s why He sent His Son. God also knows that I am imperfect. That’s why His Son died for me too. And in His magnificent, unfailing love, He has graciously given me the power of His Spirit to draw me into repentance so that I can love Him… and love our children.

This year we’ll have 3 teenager girls residing in our home. I’ve heard it said that these can be “tumultuous” years. Perhaps that’s because its evident that children between the ages of 13-18 seem to be wandering in the desert. Perhaps that’s because their rebellious behavior is more expressive than it was during their primary years. Perhaps that’s because the sins of their parents is greatly affecting their lives. Perhaps that’s because they’re tired of following the leader (Moses) and they’d prefer to grumble and go their own way (Miriam & Aaron). Perhaps that’s because they want to worship the golden calves of the world instead of submitting to the One who beckons them to surrender all to Him.

Whatever the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, their Heavenly Father will pardon them when they repent. And He will lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey if they trust and follow Him. For He knew them before He created them in my womb. He knows the plans He has for them. After all, they are His children and He loves them far greater than I do.

IF your gift is…

Romans 12:3-9

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[b] Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

A dozen years ago, I was fired from serving— at church. Technically, I was told to take a mandatory sabbatical from my volunteer position in children’s ministry, but it felt like I was fired.

In the weeks and months that followed I became an offended, angry and bitter woman who acted more like a child than a leader of children. I began gossiping about the staff members who dismissed me. I pointed out every weakness in them in order to convince myself (& others) of my superiority and subsequent righteousness over them. And when I prayed (ranted) to God, I believed that the blame rested entirely on their shoulders- and that they should be punished.

But, as the months turned into a year, my heart began to soften and I was finally able to listen to God.

I forgave.

I repented.

And I realized that I needed to be fired.

The truth is, my motivation for serving was completely wrong. Sure, I was doing what church leaders told me to do:

“Don’t be a consumer Christian- SERVE”

“Find a ministry that has a need and fill it!”

“Its not about you, its about doing for others.”

I was using the talents God gave me to lead children’s worship. I was faithful to show up for meetings and practices. I trained other volunteers. I served almost every weekend…. during all 4 services. I enthusiastically sang and danced right up to my 40th week of pregnancy- and I only took a few weeks off after giving birth!

But I wasn’t worshipping God.

I was worshipping service.

IMG_4321I was offering “sacrifices” on the altar of ministry, but I didn’t love the One who sacrificed everything for me.

I read the bible occasionally.

I prayed even less.

I was neglecting areas of my relationships with my husband and our children.

I wasn’t submitted to other parts of the body of Christ.

So God allowed me to be fired to re-order my life:

  • Love God.
  • Love others (as I love myself).
  • Make disciples.

My fellow disciple, let this be a warning to you: don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourself.

Are you loving God?

(If not, take a mandatory sabbatical and begin worshipping Him alone)

Are you really loving others?

Then use the gifts He has graciously given you:

(out of your fear of God– not man)

IF your gift is serving others- do it!

IF it’s prophesying, deliver it!

IF it’s teaching – preach it!

IF it’s encouraging, speak it!

IF it’s finances – give it!

IF it’s leading – do it!

IF it’s kindness – release it!

Only Fools Insist

Last night, as our 9 year old son was preparing for bed, he nonchalantly asked “is it ok that I told my teacher at church that there was….a… “situation” this weekend…ya know…that you and dad had a fight….about the mulch?”

Proverbs 20:3

Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
 only fools insist on quarreling.

Shock. Embarrassment. Realization that a room full of kids and their teachers now know with certainty that my husband and I acted like fools!

IMG_0879Then I chuckled and promptly relayed the story to my groom.

This morning, during another “situation” with our son (ya know…when you tell him to practice his spelling words on Friday and the test on Monday proves that he didn’t study….at all?!?) God gave me the opportunity to turn my foolishness into a blessing.

As I talked (ok- lectured) about his rebellion; not completing the assigned work, even though it wasn’t fun and he didn’t want to, I compared his lack of integrity to my lack of integrity that he witnessed two days before. A few moments later, as I looked into our son’s weepy blue eyes, I realized he only knew and “shared” (gossiped) half the story. What he didn’t see was his father and I taking a “time out” from each other to confess and repent to our Father for the stubborn pride that compelled us to insist on quarreling over mulch. Yes, mulch. Completely stupid, I know. But, stay with me!!! He didn’t know that a little while later, we came back together to apologize and forgive each other. He didn’t realize that each day both of us need God’s mercy so that we will make the choice to submit to Him- and one another. He didn’t understand that submission isn’t fun and we don’t always want to (even in our 40’s).

But submission is always the right thing to do. It’s right because we say we love God and each other. It’s right because actually loving God means obeying His commands- all of them, whether it’s fun or we feel like it. It’s right because our marriage is designed to reflect the love Jesus (the Bridegroom) gave for the church (His Bride). And when we choose to do what is right, an amazing thing happens; the Holy Spirit enables us to walk with integrity in our lives- and in our marriage…. and our children are blessed as they follow.

Proverbs 20:7

The godly walk with integrity;
  blessed are their children who follow them.