There’s nothing more disappointing than spending your hard-earned money watching a bad movie. You know the one. You keep sitting there, moment by moment, hoping that it will take an exciting spin and make it all worthwhile, but it never happens! You walk out of the theater feeling robbed of your time and your money.
I’ve watched more movies like that over the years than I would care to mention. However, my top picks this year have never been shown at the box office. These vivid documentaries have showcased in the hidden theater of my mind starring "ME." Titles include: Keeley's Ultimate Failures, Keeley's Hilarious Shortcomings, and Keeley's Monumentally Bad Decisions.
Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the “accuser of the brethren.” Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg couldn’t hold a candle to the directorship of the devil. He could win Oscars with his artful mastery to detail and sobering special effects. Each frame is crafted to remind you of how pathetic you are. His movies don’t win awards though. They cripple your heart.
Romans 3:23 says “For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
If you’re human, you’ve missed it and probably missed it a whole lot. I completely understood that and had no problem forgiving others for their mistakes. When it came to me, I had a hard time letting myself off that easily. Making myself "pay" by constant guilt, condemnation, and yes, watching those hideous movies over and over again seemed to be a fair penance for my wrong doings!
Mark 11:24-25 says “What things you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them and you shall have them. And when you stand praying, FORGIVE, if you have ought against any, that your Father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
The qualifier in successfully communicating with God in prayer is FORGIVENESS. Unforgiveness HINDERS your prayers. It creates a barrier between you and God.
Did you ever think that the person you were holding out on was YOURSELF? It’s just as wrong not to forgive yourself and to harbor ill will and animosity against yourself as it is not to forgive someone else. If you continually meditate on “I’m such a failure, I’ve made such a mess of my life, I'm not a good parent, Why did I make that financial decision, Why did I say that to that person, I'll never amount to anything worthwhile, etc” you’ll have a very hard time breaking free from the past and allowing God to bring blessing into your life.
Isaiah 43:25 says “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
When we ask God to forgive us of our sins, not only does he blot them out, he doesn’t even remember them anymore! If God himself doesn’t even think about our sins again, why on earth do we beat ourselves up playing them over and over again in our heads? It is useless!
So, I have found it best to put my past mistakes where they belong – not just behind me, but abolished and destroyed, never to be remembered. I ask God to forgive me, ask others to forgive me, and I forgive MYSELF. If Satan’s movies start to play, I’m not going to get the popcorn and take a seat. I will just say “No devil, I’m not watching that anymore. I’ve been forgiven and I refuse to be crippled by that situation any longer. Now get out of here, in Jesus name.” It almost sounds too simple but that’s God for you. He does all the hard work and we just do the trusting.
Are YOU ready for the best year yet? I truly believe 2011 will be an exciting turning point! Forgive others AND forgive yourself, and see what God will do!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I've been reading about the temple lately and the sacrifices that took place there on a daily basis. The temple was an incredibly beautiful place and full of splendor. I can hardly imagine all of the gold and ornate objects used for temple worship. However, the temple wasn't like a museum that you file through and gawk at how pretty everything is. It was a very busy place with many workers as constant sacrifices were going on day and night. Think about the day to day activities: killing animals, tons of blood, chopping up huge pieces of meat, hauling wood to start endless fires, breathing smoke in the air, weird smells, constant clean up, attention to safety issues (think of all the grease and blood you could slip on), and maintaining order while attending to all the people's sacrifices.
In all the busyness, everyone had to abide by the Levitical laws in the sacrifices. This was a serious matter and believe me, they weren't having round table discussions on how to cut corners for speedier sacrificial processes! These temple positions were sacred but they came with an incredible amount of responsibilities. Most of the responsibilities were very non-glorious and bottom line, were a bunch of work! Yet in God's eyes, these tasks were holy, set apart, and absolutely necessary to cover the sins of those who came to worship.
Most Kingdom jobs can seem somewhat mundane and routine. I've been in ministry since I was 15 years old, and it is always interesting to see enthusiastic new Christians who want to get involved in helping at the church. Sometimes their zeal wanes when you ask them to fold bulletins an hour before church starts. They are surprised to see that there are a lot of "regular tasks" that have to be done in order for the ministry to effectively operate. Ezekiel 44:23 says "there is a difference between what is holy and what is common." Many times we get off track thinking that the seemingly common things we are doing for God don't mean much but in reality, they are HOLY. Making those calls to ask for Fall Festival volunteers is holy. Making those copies for Children's Church is holy. Creating that phone list in Excel or sending that mass email for an upcoming event is holy. When you empty that trash can, replenish the paper towels in the bathroom, or make that pot of coffee for the ladies meeting, that's holy. Making a meal for that couple with the new baby is holy. Changing that diaper in the nursery is stinky but it is HOLY.
Ministry is a whole lot more than standing up on stage and sharing the Word of God. That is just the tip of the iceberg. In ministry, there's a whole lot more brooms to hold than microphones. As a Bible student, Pastor Kenneth Hagin used to tell us that ministry is spelled W-O-R-K and I have found that to be true. So if you get the honor to hold a broom or a microphone for God, just know that what you're doing is absolutely necessary in the process of seeing people come to Christ. What you do really counts in God's eyes!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I've had marvelous opportunities lately to fight unbelief, loneliness, frustration, and fear. God reminded today of his faithfulness. As I drove down the road a bright red cardinal flew across the front of my van. I smiled as that one little bird brought up a wellspring of faith.
I thought back about 10 years ago when I was experiencing a very down time. Although I always knew the Lord was with me, I desperately needed a tangible sign that He had heard my prayers. I asked him to please send a cardinal to my tiny back yard that day to confirm His presence in my life. I had never even seen a cardinal in that area before but I dared to ask. A couple of hours later, I was washing dishes and I looked out the window. Hopping across the grass was the most beautiful cardinal I had ever seen. I just dropped to my knees and cried because God had shown himself to me.
Fast forward about 7 years, I was going through another hard time. We were on the brink of losing our home and we could not see a way out. After getting the kids off to school one morning, I headed out to the back porch, sat at the patio table and read my Bible. I began to pray and then I lowered my head and began to sob. I must have been crying for 5-10 minutes and then I heard a loud "tweet tweet." I lifted up my head and on the tree branch right above my head were THREE cardinals standing in a row! I immediately stopped crying and just began to laugh. I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that God would bring us through and HE DID!
Many times I have had stressful situations and I would look out and see a cardinal or a cardinal would fly beside my car. It's kind of like God's little sign to me. It's his way to say, "Hey, I'm thinking about you today. I love you. It's going to be okay. I'm with you." He showed me that again today. He is so good to me!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I have concentrated on Exodus this week as I had this burning desire to read the entire book. I marveled at the wondrous miracles God did time and time again and yet, the Israelites still complained and doubted God's deliverance through every problem they encountered. I found myself thinking "I can't believe you guys. You walked across the DRY sea bed of the Red Sea with walls of water on each of side of you. All ONE MILLION of you ate from bread that fell out of the sky each and every day. All ONE MILLION of you drank from a rock that miraculously started springing water. Yet, you continuously moaned and complained about going back to Egypt where you "had it better!" Unbelievable." How quickly they forgot the saving power of God.
After 40 years on this earth, as I hate to admit it, I am guilty of the same thing. God's aim has always been to reveal himself to me. In every circumstance, I have had the opportunity to see God's character. I have seen him as a healer, a provider, he has fed us, he has clothed us, and he has sustained us. I remember many "melt downs" where I doubted God's provision. I would think "Well, I guess this is it. God is done with me. I think I'm being hung out to dry. I've made bad decisions and I'm just going to have to face the grim circumstances. . . " It's funny how in times of crisis, it's easy to forget God's faithfulness and goodness. Personally, I think most of the battle in life is just learning to trust and lean upon God. I'm not perfect in all of this, but I do feel like my natural instincts of fear and taking on an assumed posture of defeat has changed a lot. I have began "catching myself" and not allowing my mind to wander into self pity and despair. I think of the verse, "Why so downcast oh my soul, put your hope in God." I try to rehearse and focus on past victories instead of focusing on the problems at hand.
I wrote something this morning that expounds a little on this:
Father, I feel just like Moses. Somehow, I feel very insignificant and unable to do the great tasks set before me. However, I do recognize a destiny inside of me, a set apart and "for such a time as this" anointing. It is unmistakable and evident to me - like a constant humming in my ear, like an internal alarm quietly sounding. There is a leading, a trust and a knowing of where to turn and what to do each and every day. You have taught me to look beyond my momentary afflictions to a place of victory. I have learned to not allow myself to be overwhelmed and befuddled over life's trials. I immediately look for You - for your hand of deliverance. I instinctively reach out for it like a child grabs his mother's hand for security. The hand of my Father, who's grasp is sure, a slight tug pulling me through, helping me gain confidence through the valleys, a steadying support through the winding, rocky, trails up the mountain. A hand to hold and dance with on the mountain tops of life.
Exodus 15:13 - With unfailing love you will lead this people whom you have ransomed. You will guide them with your strength to the place where holiness dwells.
Monday, July 20, 2009
This is the long anticipated day! The thirties are gone forever! I could barely sleep last night as I tried to relish the last little bits of being 30. I am not afraid of growing older, it's just when you start breaking your life into decades, life seems to be so much shorter. As I lay in bed, flashes of memories and milestones from my life danced through my mind. All of these things making me who I am today. God preserved me through many hard times. Things that could have harmed me were reflected off my life and actually made me a better and stronger person. I sensed such overwhelming gratefulness of God's goodness and faithfulness to me. His Word has been an anchor and a comfort for me so many times. I grabbed my Bible and held it close to me all night long. His Word has kept me this 39 years and as I slept and awakened to 40, it was assuring to have His Word already cradled in my chest, ready to take on another year.
Remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my life is fleeing away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you. Human existence is but a breath. I've waited patiently for you to help me and you've heard my every cry. You've lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. You've set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. You have given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to You.
Father, You have done many miracles for me. Your plans for me are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all of your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. I realize now that doing something for you and bringing something to you - that's not what you're after. Being religious, acting pious— that's not what you're asking for. You've opened my ears so I can listen.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But I finally feel like I am growing up and I am ready to put away childish things. I only see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but one day I will see everything with perfect clarity. What I do know is there are three things that will endure - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. Lord, that is my heart's cry. Let me genuinely love like You love.
Lord I commit myself to You today anew and afresh. Thank you for the gift of life.
I love you.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Kevin and I have been heavily involved in church ministry for our entire 19 years of marriage. We have done everything from being youth pastors, singing every week on the worship team, working at our local church as a bookkeeper, secretary and administrator. We have lead events, Bible studies, men's and women's groups, prayer groups, headed up children's ministry and anything else that we could do, we did. Whenever we were needed for anything at church, we were there. If it was 3 nights a week, we came. If we were needed on the weekend to help in preparation or anything else, we were there. I would never trade these experiences for anything because we have had the privilege to serve and meet so many wonderful people. We have grown through these wonderful times!
The Bible says to seek God's kingdom first and all of these things shall be added unto you. Serving at church and helping people is definitely a part of seeking God's kingdom but I am beginning to learn that "His kingdom" is not just within the four walls of a church building. I had convinced myself that my Sunday church service participation was the only eternal thing that I did all week, so I had better give it my all AND never miss it. Church had become first on our list and if there was any time left over, we would try and squeeze out some time with the family.
I know for myself personally that I felt that family time was overrated. Many times volunteers would come to me and say "I need to take a season off as my family is suffering right now because of this commitment." I would say "Okay, we understand." But deep down inside I would think, "I'm doing 3 more jobs than you and don't really spend much time with my family, and we're doing great! We are working and sacrificing for God's kingdom and that's just how it is."
Back in 2003, I was able to reconnect via email with a precious couple Kevin and I had admired from our church in Indiana. They were very active in church and I barely ever remember them missing any church service or activity at the church. They had wonderful children who were all serving the Lord and all went to college and achieved educations with honors. I asked them a few questions about child raising. Their answers were so inspiring that I have kept a copy of them to this day. One of the questions I asked was "Is there anything that you wish you would have done in raising your children that you didn't?" Their answer was something I never forgot and am just beginning to receive revelation on.
"The major thing we wish we had done that we didn't do is take family vacations. I didn't say MORE vacations because we only took one the entire time we raised the boys. That is out of balance. We need to be serious, but that is far, far too serious. I think we missed out on some great times of having fun together enjoying God's blessings. Working hard to get out of debt, working hard to stay out of debt, working hard to see churches built, people fed, lives changed, souls won. Working hard to get the boys through college without having to start out in debt. All very noble causes, but I'm sure God would have provided for it all, including vacations. I wish I would have started earlier in my walk with God to know the difference between what was seed and what was bread in our finances. You don't want to eat your seed, but you don't want to plant your bread either - there is no harvest on planted bread, and no vacations either."
So, from this day on, we have decided to be a little more balanced and realize that investing in our family is valuable. God is not looking at his watch waiting for us to finish those family moments so we can get back to "His kingdom business." I realize now that family business is kingdom business too!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. I just need a break! My mind would wander to a deserted beach somewhere in the caribbean, or a mountain top cabin in the foremost corner of Alaska. I would think of the feeling of rest I would gain by having that conference planned, or that looming project at work completed once and for all. However, God stopped me in my tracks the other day about "rest" and I wanted to share it.
As usual, I was thinking about the break I was needing from my day to day life. A song rose up in my heart and I heard the verse "Find rest my soul in Christ alone. Know His power in quietness in trust . . . " Then, it hit me. True rest is found in Christ. I will never gain true rest from any natural source - sleep, vacations, excursions, an organized and spotless house, or completed house and work projects. I had been looking for a certain time to "rest", but it seemed like it would never come.
Hebrews 4:8 says "This new place of rest was not the land of Canaan, where Joshua led them. If it had been, God would not have spoken later about another day of rest." Okay, so the Israelites were waiting 40 years to enter into the promise land. Don't you think they thought once they got there that it would be the all in all? That land was their destiny and it would be full of everything they could ever need or want. Well, apparently it didn't hold EVERYTHING and that was a place of God's rest.
I have found myself time and time again thinking, "once this is accomplished, then I will really rest. If I can get this church event out of the way, then I'll be good. If our church can overcome this or that and get this many members or volunteers to do this or that, then we can rest a bit. . ." Well, there is no destination to rest as it is not a physical place or occurrence.
Hebrews 4:9-11 says "So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who enter into God's rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world. Let us do our best to enter into that rest."
So, we have God's rest inside of us. We should focus and aim for God's daily rest and not just a vacation to try and "catch up" on rest. The question is not what can I do to get rest but how can I LIVE in God's rest?
The Lord said to me: "You are allowing yourself to be anxious and wrought up and it's draining you mentally and physically. You are magnifying your duties and not me as you go about life. You are looking at life as a mountain you are forever climbing and an obstacle course that is forever zapping your strength. You've got to change your perspective. Life is not a chain of duties and tasks. You are not enjoying the big picture."
Now I'm not advocating working yourself into a frenzy while trying to rely on the "inward rest" of God, but I do think I have misplaced my focus on what "rest" is. So, once again, I'm learning. God help me to enjoy the "rest" of my life which only comes from You!