“Do you love me more than these?”

“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. John 21:15-17 (NLT)

I have read this story so many times, but this time as I was reading this portion of scripture my heart was gripped and I could not seem to read past verse 17. Something began to stir in my spirit and I felt compelled to read verses 15-17 several times.
The Lord began to paint me a picture. Peter had just been through the biggest trial of his life. He had committed his life to Jesus and spent the last three years following Him. He was determined that he would follow Him, even unto death. But Jesus had warned Peter that he would end up denying him. (John 13:36-38)

Sure enough, Peter buckled under the pressure and denied following Jesus. I can only imagine the torment in Peter’s mind, I am sure he felt like a failure and unworthy to to be called a follower of Christ. His whole world was turned upside down. His Messiah had just been taken and He out of fear had denied Him, not just once but three times. Peter knew in his heart that he loved the Lord and probably didn’t even understand how or why he denied knowing Him.

Oh the tug of war…There he was a denier, yet he knew he had been chosen and called to follow and finish the work Jesus had started. Peter was called and commissioned to spread the gospel message to the world. It must have felt like He was facing a massive giant. There he was faced with a huge decision one that ultimately would effect the whole world and every generation to come. How do you overcome this kind of failure and mistake, how do you go from failure to follower and from a denyer to witness?

I believe Peter was processing and dealing with his failures and coming to terms with God’s grace. I guess you could say working through it….

I can so relate! Being one who has made mistakes and often failed, I have spent many hours, weeks, even months working through the guilt, shame and feelings of unworthiness.

There was Peter, at crossroads of decision. As he was working through it all, he decided to go back to what he knew, what he had done before and that was “fishing”. He wandered back to his comfort zone, I believe he was trying to escape the chaos. Oh how tempting it is to go back to what we know and we are comfortable with in the midst of crisis. Especially when we are facing the unknown. We find some sense of security doing the things we have always done and feel we are capable of doing in our own strength.

It’s very challenging to choose to follow the path of the Lord when it calls for total dependence on Him and we have no idea how it’s going to turn out. Even more difficult, doing it when you “feel” like a failure, unworthy and inadequate. Peter knew what Jesus had called him to do, but had to be thinking “how can I preach His message when I couldn’t even find the boldness and courage to admit I’m His follower.

So Jesus in his love, knowing Peter and all that he was dealing with, decides to intervene. Jesus showed up and prepared breakfast for them. As they sat there, Jesus began to ask Peter the question, “do you love me more than these”. Not just once but three times. Wow, talk about self evaluation and personal inventory.

I think today it is so easy to get distracted by “stuff” and “things”, like: Work, entertainment, pleasure, provision, pressures, responsibilities and even family. I also see that we as followers may be tempted to blend into society and be “politically correct” and socially acceptable.
Often I find myself distracted and not doing the things I know He desires for me to do. The fact is we are all called to be witnesses, to fulfill the great commission. That is “His great commission”, not our interpretation of it.

Just like Peter, sometimes I feel unworthy and I know I need to make the Lord a priority in my life and do as Jesus said to do. I need to be about my Father’s business and “feed His sheep”.

It’s as if the Lord was asking me the same question as He asked Peter, “do you love me more than these? Oh my…there I sat in self evaluation mode, coming to terms with the “things” I needed to let go of in order to follow Him and fulfill what He has commissioned me to do. Oh the crossroads of decision…

The enemy wants to stop us from following God’s path. We must remember that fear, failures, insecurity, doubt and worry are some of the biggest GIANTS we will ever face! But that’s where grace and mercy come in, He equips us for the call! Remember there is nothing impossible with God!

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Proper Perspective

Over the years, there have been several times I have insisted on doing my own thing and trying to fill/satisfy myself with temporary things and pleasures. After exhausting many resources, I have found, He is truly the only One who completely satisfies. I realize now that we are “eternal beings” that we will only find complete satisfaction in a personal relationship with our “Eternal God”. He is the only one Who fits and fills! Everything else is incomplete, unsatisfying and temporary.

There are some “things”  that are obviously not of God and not good for us, but I think at times it can be a challenge to identify the “good things” that are not so good for us!

The fact of the matter is, not every “voice” we hear is bad, some of them are good, such as family, church, ministry, jobs, sporting events, school and fellowship, but if we are not careful to prioritize, even the “good things” can keep us from truly following Jesus Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in just living and if we are not careful we could forget WHY He gave us life in the first place.

Could it be, that the business of life, all its distractions and the temporary satisfactions, are some of the major tactics of the deceiver in these last days? Could it be that often we overextend and overcommit ourselves, spreading ourselves so thin that we end up doing a lot of good things but are unable to give anything our all and do it with excellence?

Please don’t take me wrong, I am not trying to be fanatical in my approach and I am not against these “good things”. I actually believe the Lord desires to give His children good things, wants us to enjoy life and have fun. I know His Word says we should be “hard workers and doers of His Word” but some of us may need to practice a little more “balance” in our lives.

I often remind myself, this is not my home, I am simply just passing through. My final destination is Heaven, and my purpose here on this earth is to serve the Lord, love people and to bring as many souls  “Home” with me as I can. I realize I can be easily distracted and I need the Lord to help me to focus on what is most important to Him, because that should be what is most important to me.

John 2:17 tells us “This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever”. So in the end, all the “stuff” ….. it’s all going to fade away, non of its going to matter. But the “soul”, it is lasting and eternal. Souls are the only thing we get to take with us when we go!

Jesus said in  John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they followMe;”. So, if I am truly going to be a follower of Christ, I must tune my ears to hear HIS VOICE and tune out the voices of this world and I must choose to follow Him.

I have a dear friend/mentor that has stresses to me the importance of “Eternity” and our need to look at “Eternity” to have/gain proper perspective. She is wise, this has made a big difference in my life, in fact I truly believe this is one of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 8 years. I know now I must first look at “Eternity” in order to gain the proper perspective in my life and make proper choices and decisions.

I often pray this simple little prayer, “Lord tune me to the rhythm of Your heartbeat, sync my spirit with Your Holy Spirit that I may know Your will and follow You”.

Worship: Focus

womens-aglow-big6.jpgI used to struggle as a worship leader in my early Beginnings. Oh the thoughts that would run through my over obsessive brain. Thoughts  like “I am unqualified and unprofessional. What if I’m not pleasing the people or the pastor?”. I am so thankful He opened my eyes and I realized that as a worship leader/pastor I needed to simply follow His leading and worship Him.

In today’s church, there is overwhelming pressure on the worship leader to sing certain songs, sound like the professionals, do the songs like on the CDs and look the part. Oh friends, If we are not careful and deliberate the enemy can so easily get a foothold. If we do not guard our hearts, there is a danger of us falling into the trap of pleasing the people.

This is where worship can so easily become tainted, because eventually giving place to needing man’s affirmation can lead to the rise of pride and self reliance. Then before we know it, worship turns into performance for the people, rather than an offering to God.

When the Lord ministered this to me, I felt such a release and discovered the simple joy of worship. I found an amazing freedom to be who He called and anointed me to be. I now realize as I follow His Spirit, focus on Him and worship Him, others will follow Him too! He assured me if I stay in my rightful place and do my part, He will take His rightful place and do what only He can do!

Worship should always facilitate unity, that’s why it is so important to sing songs that help us to focus on Him and not on us and our stuff. When our focus and worship is on HIM, for HIM and to HIM then everyone will be in one accord, ready to receive God’s Word and respond to it. When this happens, God has taken CENTER PLATFORM and Satan needs to watch out because there is no telling what God can and will do!

Lets take a look at Acts 2:1-4,When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting…..” . I believe if we are willing to focus on Him, align with the Holy spirit, set our own needs, desires aside and unify, God will do exceedingly above what we could possibly imagine. Think about it for just a few minutes, after “Pentecost” thousands upon thousands came to know Jesus, they were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Exponential Living-Worship

Worship is a lifestyle (way of life) not merely an event or a moment in time. It is more than singing songs, lifting our hands, shouting, jumping and dancing. In fact without a personal ongoing relationship and daily communication with the Lord, these expressions of praise and worship are simply physical activity. You see the desire to worship is sparked/fueled by knowing and communicating with the Lord. There is an infusion process that takes place when His Spirit connects with our spirit and that connection happens through relationship and communication.

I have read Psalm after Psalm, Scripture after Scripture but nowhere could I find just one portion of Scripture that totally defined all what Worship is. I personally believe the subject of worship is just too big, vast and deep to contain it into just a few words, verses or even paragraphs.

As I was searching out the scriptures, I discovered what I believe to be the foundation of Worship, that my friends is love! In Mark 12:28 -33 (NLT) it says, “One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Worship therefore is simply “love responding to love”. Worship is our thoughts and feelings expressed through some form of action, physically or verbally. Unless a feeling or thought  is expressed by some form of action it will only remain a feeling or thought. Sometimes this isn’t comfortable for us, but to maintain any healthy relationship, communication is necessary. If we don’t communicate there will be a natural decline. So don’t be afraid to express your thoughts and feelings to Him, after all look at how He showed and expressed His love for us. He gave His life, so we could live an abundant full life! That alone is enough to worship Him through action for the rest of our lives.

To lead a lifestyle of worship and have a healthy relationship with Him, it will take commitment, obedience and sacrifice! It won’t be easy. In fact it will no doubt cost us something. At some point we will probably have to lay down our pride, selfish desires, personal rights, finances and time. The life of a true worshipper is one of selflessness and sacrifice, it is costly and it’s more than likely going to hurt!

Though the lifestyle of worship is not the easiest path it is so very rewarding. There is nothing like living in His presence and having a strong healthy relationship with Him. For knowing Him is knowing peace! The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we willing to do what it takes, yield to His Spirit and lay down our lives for Him? after all He gave it all for us to live…..

 

 

Worship: An expression of the heart!

I decided to look up the definition of worship. The word worship means to: bow low, pay homage, show devotion, express feelings of adoration. Every definition I looked up included ACTION. So from what I can see, worship takes action, no matter how you look at it. Worship therefore is an expression of ones feelings and thoughts towards the one they are worshiping. It is an expression of ones heart and therefore reflects the condition of ones heart. The fact is, if we just sit there and keep all our thoughts and feelings inside, they simply remain thoughts and feelings. It isn’t until we take action and express them verbally or physically that they become worship!

Throughout the Bible we are instructed over and over to worship the Lord. Never once have I come across any exceptions or exemptions that excuse any Christian from the responsibility of worship. I believe the only one excused from these instructions is the one who has not yet been redeemed. I know for some, expressing feelings isn’t easy, because they are shy and have more reserved personalities. But we, even the most reserved are instructed to express our worship. At first this presented quite a challenge for me because I am naturally an introvert. In fact, when I first became a follower of Jesus Christ, this was way out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I sit back and just laugh at God’s sense of humor, because He has taken me the (blending into the crowd, slip in out of church services without being seen, introvert) and placed me on the platform as a worship leader and public speaker. Sometimes I just shake my head and say, “Lord, I trust You know what is best”.

Over the last six years the Lord has moved me out of my comfortable place & challenged me to grow and trust Him. My goal as His worshipper, is to always be moving forward and growing in my relationship with the Lord. Believe me there is room for me to step it up a bit! So, if you happen to hear me singing a little louder or see me doing a little dancing, don’t be surprised. Oh how I want my life to be an expression of worship to God. I desire to lavish Him with my worship as an expression of my love and gratitude, holding nothing back. I often remind myself that worship is more than a song, it’s a lifestyle. I have so much to be thankful for, after all He is the reason I am alive. My life and my worship belong to Him.

Psalm 40:2-3 “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”

Are you hiding behind a “Sunday smile, I’m okay mask”?

masksAbout 4 1/2 years ago I was ready to give up and I didn’t want to go on living. On the outside I appeared to be okay, but secretly underneath my “Sunday smile” I was in the biggest spiritual battle of my life.

Even though I was a Christian, a pastors’ wife, a Bible teacher and a worship leader, I was not okay. I was haunted by memories, struggling with a disease and overcome with depression. The secret struggles had finally consumed my life and I had reached a point of near hopelessness. My faith was next to none and I was contemplating taking my own life. But God intervened and sent a messenger of hope, a woman who looked behind “the mask” and dug deeper than my “I’m okay” responses.

The Lord miraculously rescued me; He lifted me out of the pit of despair and set me completely free. My life has been forever changed by His amazing grace and I am now walking in His resurrection power. I will never be the same again! “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God….” Psalm 40:2-3

I have such a burden for God’s people, for those who are secretly struggling just like I was. I want to ask you a question, “are you hiding behind a Sunday smile, everything’s okay mask”? Chances are, if you aren’t somebody you know is. I believe that many Christians today are being held captive by shame, addiction, depression, fear, anxiety and so much more. Outwardly, they appear to be okay, but on the inside they are secretly struggling. The “Good News” is He desires to set His people free.

The message that is stirring in my heart is this; there is hope, healing and victory in Jesus Christ! In John 10:10 Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. The enemy is ruthless. It is his goal to keep us from being who God created us to be and render us ineffective as the body of Christ. But God is bigger than the enemy and his tactics.  Psalm 60:12 says, “With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies”.  

Know this, the Lord has a plan for you and every individual. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “for I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.” God never intended for us to be overwhelmed, depressed, stressed out or burdened down by life. In fact He provided for our every need through Calvary and made it possible for us to walk in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ!

Maybe your secretly struggling and this message is for you. If you are, I want you to know there is HOPE and you are not alone. Please seek out help, such as a pastor, Christian counselor, trustworthy friend or family member, exc… There are also ministries like Teen Challenge that may be able to help you if you are dealing with a secret addiction. You don’t have to face and go through this on your own. There are people trained and willing to help you.

I am so thankful the Lord intervened in my situation. If He hadn’t, I am convinced I wouldn’t be alive today. I have gone from feeling hopeless 4 1/2 years ago, to being hope filled today. That is our WONDERFULAMAZING GOD! He rescued me and I know He desires to the same for everyone that stands in need of Him.

I want to leave you with this thought/challenge: If you are secretly struggling, REACH OUT for help. If you know or sense someone else is struggling, REACH IN to help!

 

 

 

Thankful For Friends!

For years I was haunted by the mistakes and memories of the past. I was in bondage to shame, addiction and depression. I had reached a point of great desperation and hopelessness. The fact is, it didn’t matter that I had been serving in the ministry over 20 years, that I was a Pastor’s wife and worship leader. I was in the battle of my life and I was struggling everyday just to survive. For years I had been hiding behind the “Sunday smile, everything is okay mask”. The pressures of life and ministry had finally taken a toll on my emotions, body and relationships.
At times I felt like I was all alone and holding on by a thread. I was overwhelmed with sickness and depression. I was weak in body and depleted of faith, just trying to continue on. I had reached a point of such depression that I was ready to be done with life. As I laid there on my bed contemplating, my phone rang and it was a fellow coworker and spiritual mentor who knew I had been struggling. She had a burden on her heart and felt something was wrong. That day the Lord used her in an amazing way. Thank the Lord she listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
I truly believe that the Lord places certain people in our path that will be a strength, encouragement and help to us in times of struggle and need. People we can just be ourselves around, that we can be real and open with. I am so thankful for those friends of faith that God has placed in my life. Now my prayer is that I too will be that “friend of faith” who is a help in the time of need.
I will never be the same again, and have been forever changed by HIS GRACE and the faith of a few close friends!

But You Will Receive Power!

Acts 1:8 (NLT) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” I was reading in Acts chapter one this morning and the writer tells us that before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded the Disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Fathers gives them the Gift He had promised. He goes onto say John baptized in water but He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.
Then in Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit Comes. Acts 2:1-4 says, “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”
These Scriptures really have me thinking about the precious gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I truly believe He gave us this gift to be used for His glory. I was reminded through His Word, praying/speaking in tongues is not the purpose of the baptism; it is the evidence that we have been filled. The purpose and the reason He fills us, is that we might be edified, empowered and equipped to be witnesses. It is very clear in the Scripture that we are to be faith filled ministers speaking the Truth, being led by His Holy Spirit, ministering to and loving people like Jesus did.
Often when I study the word of God, I end up doing a personal inventory. Sure enough, this morning is no different! I see things in my reflection that I need to change. All of a sudden a bunch of questions started running through my mind: Am I making the most of the gift He has given? Do I treasure it? Am I using it as He intended me to? Am I a light in darkness? Am I a witness for Him? Do I minister in power and boldness as He intended for me to do? Do I walk in faith and authority believing signs & wonders will follow me if I believe?
So much to think about, and my honest answer to every one of these question is….sometimes, but not nearly enough! I know I really need to step it up a few notches and focus on becoming a wholehearted, empowered and effective follower of Jesus Christ. Today I was reminded, my purpose for living is to serve/worship the Lord and be a witness. I know in these last days, I need to stand up for Christ and live like I truly believe in Him. It’s time to make an impact on the world around me and take some (soul-ground) for the kingdom! Hmmmm …..I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we as Spirit filled believers all stepped it up a notch or two? Could there be, would there be a shift in the atmosphere? I believe that revival starts in the heart of the individual believer, long before it hits the Sunday morning worship service.
Oh Lord I pray, “Revive my heart, and stir within me. Help me to be STRONG, BOLD and COURAGEOUS for the cause of Christ and the furtherance of the KINGDOM. Help me to be a faithful and true follower of Jesus Christ!”

Hmmm…. where did I put those earings???

I don’t know how many times I have misplaced my keys, an important document, a jacket, and I can’t forget the “earings”. No doubt, my most common search is for a pair of earings. I have a jewelry box, it’s just that most of the time the earings never make it to their designated home. It seems like it takes forever to find them and yes of course they are always in the last place I look. It is so frustrating, I have been doing these searches for years and they bring on such unnecessary stress. The funny thing is, as soon as I find the item it comes to my remembrance how and why that Item was placed there. In most cases I was in a hurry, my hands were full or a needed to clear a space on the counter. The truth be told sometimes I’m just a slacker, and feeling tired and lazy. I know I need to change and I know I should change. In fact I know the solution to the problem and yet I never find myself implementing change. Crazy right!

I starting thinking about my earings this morning after teaching my bible class. As I was teaching, I was reflecting on the precious gift of salvation, and what a treasure Jesus is. As I was pondering, these words came out of my mouth. “When you are given a gift, if you keep your eye on that gift and never let it out of your sight, you won’t lose it. If you treasure it and hold it close to your heart, you won’t risk becoming separated from it. We must keep Jesus at the center, as the focal point of our lives. If we treasure Him as the precious gift He is, we will never risk losing Him or being separated from His presence.” I had to pause for a moment, and I repeated what I said, not for the students, but for me. The Lord began to minister to me and reminded me of the scripture verse “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21

Today the Lord ministered to me, that sometimes I treat Him similar to my earings. I don’t care for them like I should and I am not alway mindful of where a lay them down. Ouch! did that ever hurt. I began to recognize that I don’t always care for my relationship with Jesus like I should. There are times I have neglected it, simply because I’m tired. I also thought about the times I have been distracted by other things and as a result, I found myself not sensing His presence and asking myself the question “where is God, is He there?”. Oh my, that sure sounds a lot like the title of this post. I know he promised He would never leave or forsake me, but the fact is we can distance ourselves from Him by allowing things to distract us, which may eventually lead to His displacement.

There is something to be said for organization. I think there is a natural peace that comes when everything is in its proper place. I know I need more peace in my life and obviously we need more peace in this world. I admit organization is not one of the qualities I possess. Today the Lord challenged me to “organize my spiritual house” and make sure I keep Him in his proper place. Lot’s of lessons learned today, some spiritual and some practical. Time for me to grow! Maybe just maybe, next sunday morning I wont be searching high and low and asking myself “hmmm….where did I put those earings?”.

God bless!
Christy