I know it’s Christmas, but we need a Youth Pastor. I know it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Maybe, just maybe you were like me two Christmases ago and needed to read a post like this because God was moving you down a path you didn’t even know yet.
Maybe God is dealing with your heart. Maybe you needed to read this post or know someone that needs to read it. You are that someone who God is telling to step out on faith and like Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, ESV).
We have 20 youth and the possibilities of adding more are in our Christian school of 125. We have a middle school and high school in our town and no one is reaching these kids. Our church has a youth building that could hold 100+, with a kitchen, worship area, stage, sound system, and two game rooms.
Youth Pastor: A full-time position with a church family that is praying for you. A church that is ready to take this step and wants you to know you will be supported. A pastor (that’s me) who will have your back. Maybe it’s time for you to take this step?
Maybe you play the guitar or not. Maybe you haven’t finished college yet. Maybe you have no experience or some. Maybe it’s time for you to take this step?
Are you giving fear permission to access the promises God has made?
There’s an enemy of our souls and he’d love nothing more than a permanent place to filter every plan God prepared for you. Fear is crippling. Fear causes us to react irrationally. Fear drives a wedge between our relationships.
Today, we see natural disasters, racial tension and political division panicking our world. Personally, you might be suffering with a broken heart, loneliness or struggling with becoming another statistic; falling victim to addiction, divorce or suicide.
This isn’t Satan’s first rodeo. The author of confusion and doubt will use your insecurities to stir up questions in every corner you put your confidence. The enemy will use this freak tidal wave of uncertainty and hesitation to drown every declaration you were once so sure of.
Even our past carries the power to pause present day promises if we allow pain to produce the kind of panic that alters our perception of truth.
Fear likes to grip the best intentions and suffocate God’s truths with these burdens from a hardened heart. Be careful here because good decisions don’t come out of our reactions to fear. Worry won’t provoke positive changes.
Jesus says, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)
This peace Jesus gives is not of this world. He’s the only one who can give you lasting peace. In His presence, there is an absence of fear. It’s a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Jesus silences fear.
The pain of our past will pursue our present day stories until we give the hurt a proper burial and lay these insecurities to rest permanently.
The pain of our past wants to prove nothing has changed. Peace is asking you to step out from the shadow of the past and process life through the lens of Jesus. As you learn to let go, cling to this deep reassurance that His unflinching love, His unfailing hope, and His very best for you is here in His presence. Draw near to this peace.
When it looks like He’s not changing the hard things, know that the Father’s delays are designed to draw out the darkness in our hearts by drawing us into Him.
In this world, there will be trouble. The storms will swirl through your emotions with debris from other people’s messes but you still have the final say. You have a choice to settle your mind and steady your stance on this truth: Jesus has overcome the world, fully, completely, finally and for all of time. It’s already done.
Fear only resides within us. And, the perfect love of Christ resides in us also. You may feel fear but you don’t have to live fear. At the feet of Jesus is where you are set free.
The year is already half over. Time to look at my New Years’ goals.
To my chagrin, I remember promising to all my readers that I would blog about the progress of my resolutions. I vowed to undertake and implement 12 new goals. (What was I thinking?)
Written in my journal is this incredibly long and un-checked list. I felt tentative and strangely courageous when I wrote all those things down in January. Now I just feel stupid. They’re not done. (I haven’t even blogged once about them!)
On the opposite page from this list of near-impossibilities are several Scripture verses and my theme word for the 2016: FULFILL. I chose fulfill because I had 12 important things to do this year. I wanted to embark on new ventures, and I wanted to complete the old undertakings that still hang around my neck like a feverish child. I want to fulfill God’s purpose for my life.
That was the intention of the list.
But if fulfillment comes through joy and success and accomplishment, then it’s no wonder I don’t feel fulfilled. I might never feel it. Maybe my perspective is the problem. After all, I can’t find proof for my definition anywhere in the Bible. Instead, the Bible shines a light on the lies I believe about fulfillment. Maybe you listen to these lies, too. It’s why you don’t set New Year’s resolutions anymore.
Lie #1: I will feel fulfilled if (and when) I accomplish my goals.
Sometime or other, you might have heard John 10:10 quoted to prove that God wants to give us full lives. (“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”) The context of this verse follows Jesus’ explanation a thief breaking into the sheepfold to steal the sheep. Jesus declares that He is the gate, the door to good pasture and protection from the enemy. Following John 10:10, Jesus gives the discourse on the Good Shepherd—Jesus is about to die for His sheep. In between both illustrations, Jesus says He gives “life to the full” or “abundant life.” Seems like a strange analogy, if you’re a health-and-wealth guy. Jesus’ goal was the salvation and protection of His sheep from the enemy. He didn’t come to give them a fancier sheepfold.
Truth: Fulfillment comes through God’s purpose for me (which will probably be different—but better—than the one I’ve conceived).
Lie #2: I will feel fulfilled if I’m happy. (i.e. God’s purpose for my life is to make sure I’m happy.)
Ah, the mystery of attaining happiness! This is the lure of the American dream: total fulfillment, followed by utter disappointment. Why are we never satisfied with the things we buy and the goals we attain? It’s because we weren’t designed to be satisfied with temporal things. Our souls are hardwired to desire God and be satisfied with Him. And His ultimate desire is the salvation of the world. Anything less than participating in God’s mission will bring us disappointment and disillusionment. Happiness is fleeting, but joy lasts. And joy is intrinsically tied to elation over the success of something outside myself. Paul explains the connection between joy, suffering, and God’s purposes in his letter to the Philippians. He prays for them “to discern what is best and . . . be . . . filled with the fruit of righteousness . . .” Paul knows what will fill them up. God alone.
Truth: God’s purpose is for my life is to make me a witness (which will be painful).
Lie #3: I will feel fulfilled when I’m handling life easily.
Psalm 57:2 says “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” Not my purpose. Generally, He accomplishes his purpose for my life through the painful, difficult periods when my attention must focus on Him because I don’t know what else to do. Fulfillment in God is total faith and dependence. Usually that doesn’t happen when life is easy. Fulfillment takes faith. Heb. 11:1 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We may never see our dreams fulfilled. Faith doesn’t mind believing without seeing.
Truth: Fulfillment occurs when I’m completely dependent on God (because I can’t handle anything on my own).
Lie #4: I will feel fulfilled when I’m confident and determined.
Psalm 145:19 says, “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him.” That sounds more like it. Let’s talk about my desires. But we miss the point here—the end of the verse says “of those who fear him. He hears their cry and saves them.” We don’t have an accurate word in English for the kind of fear that appears in Biblical phrases about fearing the Lord (yirah in Hebrew). Biblical fear means “fear, dread, respect, reverence, and awe.” All of them. We read these definitions and see a list of positive and negative words, and the combined concept confuses us. That shows how little we understand God’s character. Knowing Him is fearing Him. Proverbs 2:4-5 explains how to do this: search for Him, as for a hidden treasure. Proverbs 1:7 says the “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” The process of searching brings the knowledge, which produces the respect and awe that make God a completely trustworthy source of total fulfillment.
Truth: My fulfillment involves a fear of the Lord (a holy reverence that alters my perspective).
Confidence and determination that come from within myself won’t sustain any measure of fulfillment or joy. The depth and satisfaction with my life will rise only from my intimacy with God.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12) I’m created to long for intimacy with God. Any other pursuit will fail miserably.
A few years ago (quite a few), I had studied hard and was ready to get my driver’s license. A family friend took me to the testing center but then he had to go to work. So, he called someone to pick him up and left me there.
I took the written part of the test and then the driving portion. When I completed both, I called my friend to tell him that I was finished. He paused for a moment and asked, “How did you do?” I happily replied, “I passed! I got my license!” After another pause, my friend said, “Well then, you don’t need me to come pick you up. Just get in the car and drive home.” We laughed and hung up the phone.
I was so used to not being able to drive alone that I didn’t recognize the power that I had just been given. It took a few minutes to realize that I had been given the authority to drive. I had confirmation that said I was now a licensed driver and had a right to be on the road. That license would have been useless if I had put it away and never took advantage of the power behind it.
As Christians, we have been given spiritual authorities that we keep tucked away but forget to pull out and use when we need them. As God’s children, we have certain rights. The great thing is that we didn’t have to pass a test to get them. They were given to us when we became children of God because our Heavenly Father loves us and wants the best for us. Here are just a few:
• We have the right to a sound mind.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)
• We have the right to have peace in the midst of our circumstances.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
• We have the right to be forgiven for our sins.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
• We have a right to be free from the past.
“So, if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
• We have the right to expect God to hear our prayers and give direction for our lives.
“Call unto me and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 6:33)
• We have the right to go directly into God’s presence.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Just like my driver’s license wouldn’t have done me any good if I never got behind the wheel of a car, these promises from God’s word do us no good unless we believe the authority behind them and put them into practice in our lives. These are only a few of the wonderful, life changing, freeing rights that our Heavenly Father has given us. The Bible is full of all that he wants to do for us and through us.
I would hate to think about the conveniences and adventures I would have missed if I had never used my driver’s license. Even more so, I can’t imagine my life without the promises God has given me as his child.
Writers Conferences are always busy, especially when I serve on faculty. I’m either consulting, teaching a workshop, editing a manuscript, brainstorming with colleagues and conferees over a meal, or rushing to the next keynote session.
It’s wonderfully exhausting.
So, recently when I read an email from our esteemed conference director letting us know that we could sign up for an onsite chair massage during the writers’ conference, I signed right up.
What a great idea, I thought, having an onsite masseuse to do chair massages in the midst of all the craziness.
I had been looking forward to the 15-minute chair massage but I got so caught up in editing a wonderful picture book manuscript that I ended up running into my massage appointment seven minutes late.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” I said, explaining to the sweet masseuse why I was tardy. “If you don’t have time to take me, I totally understand.”
“You’re fine,” she said, motioning for me to have a seat in her massage chair.
I’d never before had a chair massage, so I was grateful when she demonstrated how to position myself in the chair and put my face into the designated opening so that she could begin targeting the knot in my right shoulder (no doubt from carrying around my heavy purse and computer bag). As she massaged, we engaged in friendly chitchat. And, being that I’m a children’s author, we talked about her daughter’s love of reading.
“It’s awesome that she loves to read,” I commented. “Do you have other children, as well?”
There was a long silence.
“Well, we would like to,” she said, her voice a little shaky. “I just miscarried a few weeks ago…”
Though I couldn’t see her face because I was face-down in the massage chair, I knew she was hurting.
Her voice said it all.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I whispered, knowing at that moment why I was actually at the massage appointment. It wasn’t for my hurting shoulders. It was for her hurting heart. God had orchestrated this whole thing, and I knew it.
Though my 15-minute appointment was over, no one was waiting in the wings so I took that opportunity to tell her about my niece Mandy and her testimony. I shared that Mandy had also struggled reproductively.
“In fact,” I said, “the doctor told Mandy she would not only have a hard time getting pregnant, but also she would have a hard time carrying a child to term even if she did conceive…she was heartbroken.
“But,” I told my sweet masseuse, “Mandy wasn’t ready to give up on her dream of having children.”
My masseuse seemed interested, so I continued: “Lots of well-meaning people gave Mandy advice: ‘Take this vitamin and it will help you get pregnant.’ Or, ‘Try conceiving when there is a full moon and you’ll be more likely to get pregnant.’ Or, ‘Stop eating acidic food and you’ll have a greater chance of conceiving.’ Or, ‘Drink lots of carrot juice, then you’ll be sure to conceive.’ Mandy followed every piece of advice, trying desperately to become pregnant, but the only thing she became was depressed and a little orange from the carrot juice.
“Then, her mother said, ‘Mandy, honey, why don’t you find some scriptures in the bible to stand on? Find your promises in the Word of God and pray them over yourself every single day. The Word works!’”
I could tell this got my new friend’s attention.
I went on to share how Mandy dug into the bible and found several scriptures to stand on concerning her situation.
*Exodus 23:26: “There will be no miscarriages or infertility in my land, and God will give me a long, full life.”
*Deuteronomy 28:4: “Blessed shall be the fruit of my body and my crops will be blessed.”
*Deuteronomy 28:11: “The Lord will give me prosperity in this land and he blesses me with many children, numerous livestock and abundant crops.”
*Galatians 3:29: “And now that I belong to Christ, I am a true child of Abraham. I am his heir and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to me.”
*Luke 1:42: “God has blessed me above all women, and my children are blessed.”
*Psalm 127:3: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
*Psalm 113:9: “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.”
I could feel the Lord’s presence, so I continued: “Mandy stood on those scriptures for three months. She prayed them over herself on her way to work every single day, and one Monday night, the pregnancy test came back positive! Later that year, Mandy gave birth to a healthy 8-pound, 13-ounce baby boy—Walker–on Feb. 15, 2006. Then on March 19, 2008, Waverly came into the world, joining big brother Walker, and Mandy was once again amazed at God’s goodness.”
Just then, my masseuse’s next appointment arrived.
“Would you like me to send you the scriptures?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered “That would be great.”
I took her card, gave her a hug, and hurried off to teach my next workshop.
Later, I texted her the scriptures that Mandy had stood on, and she texted back, “Thank you so much.”
Though I may never see her again, I am standing with her in spirit, believing that she will get pregnant again and that she will birth a healthy baby, knowing that God is no respecter of persons and what He did for Mandy, He will do for her. (I hope you’ll join with me in praying for her!)
You know, every time I share Mandy’s testimony, I am once again reminded that God’s Word is alive.
You see, the bible is more than just a good book filled with great stories. It’s The Good Book full of great promises. So, why do so many of us leave it on the coffee table instead of discovering its power and relevance today? Mandy found out just how powerful and pertinent the Word of God was when she began believing for a baby.
Well, I’ve got news for you—God has a promise for you, too. Dust off that bible and find out what God says about your situation. Now that doesn’t mean you’ll have your happy ending as quickly as Mandy did, but you could. And, wouldn’t it be better to stand in faith believing for your miracle rather than remaining depressed and sad over your negative circumstances?
Let God’s Word and Mandy’s miracle encourage you today as you believe God for your breakthrough. The bible is full of promises just for you—so stand on those promises today!