When God’s People Are Most Effective For His Kingdon

God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean… (Acts 10:28).

Why did the church spread so rapidly in the book of Acts? It’s really quite simple, people listened to God and when He spoke, they acted on what He said by practicing obedience. Even when it took them outside their comfort zone.
Peter has a vision from the Lord where a sheet comes down out of Heaven, on it are many animals he has never eaten before. Since he was a Jew he was raised to follow the law of Moses and eat kosher. Then, God changes things, for the purpose of opening the door for the Gentiles to come into the community of faith.
Some of us are holding onto our old traditions, keeping people out of God’s kingdom, because they don’t look, act and think like us. Maybe having them in our lives causes us to have to go to a place in our hearts that feels uncomfortable. It means we must give up personal preference so that some might be saved. It means that the church has to stop becoming about us and start becoming a place where people come to hear from God and act upon what He has told them.
Yes, the church spread because God’s people went outside of their comfort zones, listened to God and acted upon what He said. In my life, there have been many seasons when I either have a hard time hearing from God, or He is speaking, but I’m not acting, because of fear, pride or self-preservation.
But you see, Peter had fallen so far into failure that now he could do nothing but obey when the Spirit called. I’ve experienced this kind of transformation too. Where God took me somewhere so deep in my heart that I never want to go back to those seasons of not listening, not obeying and not practicing my faith. Now, I can’t say that I do this perfectly, far from it, but what I am now fully convinced of is that God doesn’t need me to do more for Him. He needs me to listen more for Him. As we practice this simple principle we will find that God’s greatest blessings don’t come on those who do, do, do, but instead on those who wait, listen, heed and obey.
Lord, I want to be like Peter who listened, heard your voice and obeyed. I want to be like Mary who did not doubt what you said when you said it. I want to be like Abraham who picked up everything to follow you even though he didn’t know where he was going. Lord, I long to be faithful to follow, please help me do this for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

When I Wander from the Lord…

they will be wanderers among the nations….(Hosea 9:17).

Ephraim had a safe, spacious place to live, but she rebelled against the Lord and thus, left His land of safety by her own admission and followed after her wandering lovers.
I’ve watched my own heart wander. My thoughts drift off to a place where God starts to act on my timeline. He starts to work for me in the ways that make me comfortable and don’t bring about any pain. This only makes me disappointed in the Lord when life doesn’t go as planned or a blessing I was anticipating from Him brings some sort of hardship or pain into my life.
It is easy to wander off away from the Lord and into a place in our own minds that feels better. Sometimes though, God wants us to rest with Him in the waiting, the wrestling, and the pain. I’ve never grown much outside of God’s resting place, but I’ve always flourished as I sit with Him in the stillness.
God’s will is not that we would have life all figured out. Nor is it that we would live lives that make sense to others. God’s will is that we would be set apart people who live so differently than others are shocked and amazed at how deep our trust in the Lord is. I often wonder if my life is a true testimony of a woman who wants to live like this. Sometimes I think it must look awfully safe, but then there are other times when I’m confident that maybe others are seeing my faith lived out in me.
Sadly though, sometimes, when we wander, we take others with us. Especially those whose lives are very impressionable. Children or new believers can very easy wander with us if we’re the one that’s leading them. Whenever I wander I must realize that the person its affecting is not just myself. Indeed, it is affecting more than just me.
The good news is that as I follow closely I can bring others into that experience as well. I can help lead them into the spacious place of God’s rest. I can be a comfort and a safe landing place for them, but only if my own heart has been captured by Jesus in the places of deep abiding rest.
Lord, I long to be so close to you that you are the only voice I recognize. I know Lord that I am so quick to stray because my heart wants to chase after things that make me feel better. Please forgive me for my waywardness. Please forgive me for not abiding deeply in you. I want to do that, help me as I grow, in Jesus name, Amen.

All My Lovers….

Ephraim has sold herself to lovers….(Hosea 8:9).

I have to be very careful not to sell myself to my lovers. For me, it’s those things that sometimes, my sinful nature tempts me to love more than God. It’s my need for comfort and control that I often love the most. Those are the ones that come knocking often at the doorway of my heart, seeking to steal my joy in Christ Jesus.
Whenever we sell ourselves to our lovers it is because we have bought into a lie. We exchange the truth of an Almighty Father with the tempting goods of our lover’s deception. Trust me, I get it, I spend far too much time exchanging God’s goodness with the temptations of the enemy. His goal for me is destruction and so he’ll convince me to give way to fear, by pushing all my old buttons.
Yesterday I sensed myself wanting to enter into an old place. A place where my fears buttons were being pressed and my heart and mind wanted to run into a place of panic and worry. It was then that I sensed the Lord say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
You see, the antidote for freedom is not to have all our problems solved. God’s antidote is rest. Yes, this is what our heart needs more than anything else. Sure, it would be great if God would solve all our problems and ease all our worries by fixing everything in an instant, but instead, He offers us something better. He offers us rest. Yes, the ability to rest and be at peace in HIs loving arms. The ability to calm our worried, anxious hearts, very quickly, in His grace and goodness.
I don’t want to sell myself out to false lovers. I know, in the end, their mouths only drop like honey, but their feet simply lead mine into the grave. Be reminded today that your greatest need is rest and that has you rest, your Father can clean up a heart weighed down by the worries and struggles of this world.
Abba, you love me, truly, that is enough. I long for you to be my greatest love. Jesus, please be that for me. Be my joy, hope, and purpose. Please, be the love of my life. I don’t want to sell myself out to my lovers. Convict me and draw me back when I do, in Jesus name, Amen.

Lay Your Isaac Down

Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”… (Genesis 22:12).

Has the Lord ever asked you to give up something you really loved? I mean, really, really loved? He has for me. Letting go of that was so painful as it felt like I kept dying a thousand deaths over and over again, but I heard His voice say, “Heather, there is great gain in letting go,” so I knew I had to be obedient.
You see, sometimes the thing we fear losing the most is what we need to lose. Although losing it is immensely painful, it is very, very purposeful. Maybe God has challenged you to give up a dream you’ve held deep in your heart, a job you loved, a promotion you were hoping for or your child who you’re afraid to let go because you think if you do they’ll turn away and never come back.
Fear is a terrible tool in the hand of the enemy. If we keep holding on out of fear than that thing, whatever it is has become an unhealthy idol in our life. Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that we can’t live without it and we wonder how we could ever make it if we actually do let go.
As I let go, God started to go somewhere deep in me. Somewhere painful, because He was exposing deeply embedded lies and things I had held onto for my own worth and identity.
I know you love your child, but you’ve got to let them go. The tighter you hang on the more stress you bring into your life and theirs. I know you love that job, but it doesn’t define you if God is asking you to let it go its because He wants to bless you with something different. I know you love that vice, but its only hurting you and you know it. I know that dream you have has been something that you’ve long for nearly all your life, but maybe God wants to be a new vision inside of you.
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son because he trusted God. Can I be really honest? For a long time, I didn’t trust God with what He eventually asked me to give up. I thought if I gave it up nothing better would ever come, but can I just tell you, that was such a lie. Not only have I gained so much more of Christ, but God is unfolding a plan much more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.
Be encouraged today that you can trust God. No, really, you can. I’m telling you, I’ve found Him to be trustworthy, loving and faithful. I hope that you can find the strength to lay your Isaac down too. God will bless you for it if you do.
Lord, I trust you. Finally, I really do trust you. What a journey you and I have been on. Thank you for taking me to deep places in my heart that desperately needed your renovation. Abba, be my joy today, I pray, Amen.

Let Go of That Attitude of Entitlement

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…(Acts 2:14).

One of Matthias’s first days on duty as one of the 12 disciples was on the day of Pentecost. My goodness, what an exciting day that must have been for him! I can only imagine how privileged he felt to be a part of that number as he stood with the rest of the disciples as Peter addressed the crowd.
Something changes inside of you when someone gives you a chance. Matthias was given an opportunity he probably never dreamed was possible, but because of His faithfulness to follow Jesus, He was chosen by God to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Let me tell you when you’ve had to play the background for a while, it is very humbling when you are finally chosen.
Maybe some of the other disciples had wrestled with similar issues as mine, issues of entitlement. Since all the other disciples had been one of the chosen disciples for all of Jesus’ ministry its quite possible that some of them carried that title with a bit of self-righteous pride, but not Matthias. I believe Matthias was so humbled by the opportunity to become one of the 12 that he viewed his role with a true attitude of gratitude.
I can say that because I’m living it now in my own life. When you get overlooked and others are chosen it humbles you, but when God finally calls you up and calls you out it is immensely humbling. Now, instead of believing I deserved this all along, my heart is immensely thankful to the Lord.
Maybe God hasn’t called you up yet because He’s waiting for you to repent of that attitude entitlement that you have that says, “I deserve this.” Until we change our hearts and minds and believe instead that I deserve nothing and everything is a gift from God, we will not quite be ready to be called up and called out.
Some of us may think, why in the world does that person get to be chosen but I’m not. I’m sure many and maybe even Matthias thought that about Judas. LIttle did Matthias know that God’s long term plan involving him. Yes, him, to take the place of Judas.
Some of us want so badly to take the place of others before it’s our turn, so we grow bitter resentful hearts towards them instead of simply being faithful to follow, allowing God to call us up and call us out when He best sees fit. Maybe God has a long term plan he’s working out in your life too, but you’re allowing what you believe to be unfair in this present moment hinder you from being faithful to follow.
Be encouraged to be like Matthias. Let go of an attitude of entitlement and deal with any thoughts towards another person that might be filled with jealousy or resentment because you want their spot. Let your life be a testimony to the goodness of God. The Lord is looking for more and more people who are simply thankful and faithful to follow no matter where He has placed you.
Lord, thank you that you are in control. Thank you for your timing. Thank you for growing and changing my heart through a long season of waiting. Honestly, there were parts that I hated, you know that, but I know, in the long run, it humbled me. For that, I am forever grateful, in Jesus name, Amen.

Matthias: A Man Who Was Faithful to Follow Before He Was Chosen

it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us…(Ac 1:21).

Some of us may wonder if we’ll ever be called up by the Lord? It seems, in our limited understanding that others are getting chosen over us and we wonder when it will be our turn to get called up, chosen and called out.
After the death of Judas, the disciples knew they needed to fill his role. They decided that the person they would choose to take his place would be someone who had been with them the whole time that Jesus had been ministering. There were two men’s names that came to mind. These men had followed Jesus and His disciples closely. I imagine maybe wondering if they too would ever be invited in to become one of Jesus’ 12 disciples.
By God’s divine providence Matthias is chosen to replace Judas. I’m sure that day was a day of true elation and celebration for Matthias. I’m not sure if he was the kind of guy who was often overlooked or passed over by others, but on this occasion, because of His faithfulness to follow despite his title or an important role to play, he is chosen.
Can I just be really honest? I was put in a similar position of waiting recently in my life and I hated not getting chosen, but something inside of me kept reminding me to be faithful to follow even though I wasn’t the one getting called up and called out. I can understand your frustration when it seems like one more opportunity doesn’t go your way and you’re back in the waiting room once more. Yet, Matthias reminds us to be faithful to follow and as we remain faithful, the Lord, in His timing, will call us up and call us out.
You see, the Lord is not looking for people with the strongest titles or greatest amount of prestige. He’s simply looking for those who have continued to follow, play their part in the work they have been given and as they walk in true obedience He gives you more work to do for the Kingdom. But you see, the Lord taught me that before I can become a Peter, I must first be a Matthias. Some of us want all the leadership before we show ourselves to be faithful to follow in the small things.
Matthias’s story gives me hope and it also reminds me to stay humble. It reminds me to keep my head low and my obedience in check. The Lord is looking for more Matthias’s to do His kingdom work. Would you be willing to be a little value in the eyes of the world, faithfully follow and submit yourself to Jesus so that He, in His time can raise you up? Matthias followed for three years before He was called by God. Would you be willing to do the same?
Lord, let my heart be saturated in your love. I want to be like Matthias who followed in true faithfulness. Because of it, you called him up and called him out. I want to be so faithful to follow even when I receive no prize or accolades, in Jesus name, Amen.

When The Words “I’m a Failure” Ring Louder Than “I’m Redeemed”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”… (John 21:15).

In a stunning scene, Jesus reinstates Peter, communicating a simple yet profound truth that, “I believe in you.”
Have you ever been down a road you’d rather forget? Have you ever been so devastated by life or the consequences of a sin or someone else’s sin that you’ve thought, “Surely, this is it for me. There is no more Kingdom work for me to do like I’ve done before. I am a total failure.”
I’ve been there, believing those lies. I think it’s because shame was closer to my heart then grace. If we stay in environments long enough where we are surrounded more by shame then grace, the message of “I’m a failure” becomes an easy one to tell ourselves. Until we find freedom from those environments it will be very hard to experience the beauty of God’s grace for our lives.
But you see, Peter, on all accounts completely failed Jesus. I mean, He totally dropped the ball as he denies his rabbi three times signifying that he is cutting himself off from Jesus. To deny your rabbi in public three times meant that you wanted nothing to do with them and that you were disassociating yourself from them. This is why it’s so beautiful that Jesus comes to Peter and gives Him a second chance.
Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes along the way and you wonder how Jesus could love someone as sinful as you. I wonder that often. Yet, Jesus, in all of HIs grace says to Peter, “I believe in you.” Isn’t this a wonderful truth? That no matter what journey we’ve walked. No matter how hard it has been, there awaits a Savior who comes to us to remind us that, “I believe in you.” Peter repents, and turns away from HIs sinful decision made out of fear and Jesus gives Him even greater Kingdom work to do than before.
Don’t believe the lie that your life is over. That you’ve disappointed God and that He’s completely done with you. There is grace for sinners like you and me and God will use those who humble themselves and admit their own weaknesses and failings. There are no perfect people. There are messy people who have been redeemed, who are climbing their way, stumbling towards victory.
Lord, I am amazed at how you love sinners. You take our lives and in our humility and repentance, you restore and redeem. That’s just the kind of God you are. Thank you, Father, for loving me, a sinner and for seeing me first as your child. I love you, in Jesus name, Amen.

The One Who Jesus Loved

So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved….(John 20:2).

John understood something about his identity. He affectionately refers to himself as, “the one whom Jesus loved.” We might think at first glance this feels a bit precocious, but John embraced and believed something that is true for all of Christ’s followers. Truly, we are, at the core of our being, “the one whom Jesus loves.”
If we understand this foundational truth we won’t feel the need to soothe our anxious hearts with a successful life and the praise of man. If we truly embrace our worth in Christ, we will find our heads and our hearts resting often in His bosom as we wait with Him in the stillness of His love.
When I first became a Christian I had many misplaced identities that the Lord had to help me sift through. For many years I thought His love for me was based upon my performance for Him. I thought if I had something to show for Him then I had more value, but what I have come to learn is that my greatest value is not in what I do, but in simply being HIs child.
The greatest story my life will tell is not of all I’ve done, but in the person who loves me. Yes, He is my greatest joy and finest treasure. If my identity is wrapped up in His love for me then I can have confidence in knowing that He is the rock I place my life upon. With a strong, steady, firm foundation, rooted in HIs love, my life becomes a beacon of hope that draws people into the glory of God, not because of what I do, but because of the Father’s love that is working in and through me.
Abba, pappa, daddy, I am loved by you. Therefore, I don’t need success or the praise of man. I just need more of your love for me. Yes Lord, let it be what guides my life. Let it be the joy that springs from my heart. Yes Lord, let your love radiate in me for the world to see, in Jesus name, Amen.

When Your Fears Are Challenged

If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar… (John 19:12).

The Jewish leaders used fear to become powerful people. Fear was their weapon as they allowed evil to rule their hearts and minds. You see, whenever a heart grows hard to the goodness of God, it will always be led by evil intentions.
The Jewish leaders could never quite see who Jesus was, because in their own hearts, I believe, they really wanted to be King. If pride is your friend and fear is your weapon, then you’re going to hurt people. People who are loved by God and are simply trying to follow after Him.
Pilate was a man who lived in fear and the Jewish leaders knew it, so they pressed buttons in Pilate that would send him into a place of internal panic. Maybe you’ve been there too. I know I have when my greatest fears are challenged and I now have a choice to make. Will I enter into a state of panic, or will I quiet myself before the Lord?
Since the Jewish leader’s hearts had grown hard, the only thing they could hear was evil. At the root of every hard heart is a wrong belief about God. Beliefs like, “God isn’t good if….” “God must not love me because”….. “I can’t ever trust God with this”…. or “God is mean and unfair”….Until we soften our hearts and repent of our wrong belief our hearts will continue to grow hard. I have seen my own heart grow hard towards God. A number of years ago, I allowed my heart to grow hard in my singleness and I made foolish decisions because of it.
After I repented I was able to start walking in freedom, but it honestly took me a long time to get there, because the Lord allowed me to fall in my own pride and wrong belief about Him. Once I hit the bottom I was able to see how wrong I had been.
Don’t be surprised if you’re bombarded by the enemy with lies when you start pursuing your freedom. Face your fears and walk forward with confidence knowing that ultimately, God is in control and you can trust Him with every single step along your journey. God’s goal is to set you free from fear, but you’ve got to be willing to take scary steps of faith towards your freedom, in Jesus name.
Lord, I don’t want to be like Pilate who allowed fear to control him. I want to be like Jesus, who looked fear in the face and kept walking forward in your grace. Lord, I know that you can use my life, even when I am afraid. Even when I stumble and fall you pick me back up again. Thank you, God, for loving me in that. way. Thank you for picking me up, in Jesus name, Amen.