A Person After God’s Heart
Another break up… There I was again mourning the loss of another failed relationship. Even though I knew it was for the best I couldn’t stop the waves of rejection and grief that washed over me. The lies of the enemy that I am not good enough and never will be. So in week one of our David series when Blake asked if we have ever felt rejected, I could relate.
For the last ten years, I have had over a dozen failed relationships, and none of them lasted longer than three months. That starts to wear on a person's heart, mind and spirit. One break up becomes a dozen. You start thinking, If only I had been better it would have lasted? Why am I the way I am? What is wrong with me? Maybe I am cursed. Maybe God is punishing me.
“What is our measuring tool to know if God is enough?” I honestly had no idea where Amanda was going when she asked this question nor what could be used to measure our experience, trust, belief or faith of the truth of God. I mean, truly, we know that we can use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of a room to find its square feet or a cup to measure ounces for baking a cake; as a former Special Ed. Teacher, I knew that we could not write a goal for a student if it was not measurable. But how do we measure something that we can’t see, something that is abstract, something that remains larger and more “unknowable” as the relationship with God grows?
What do we do if we do not participate in the pursuit of more but we still struggle with enough? In this week’s talk we were reminded how stuff does not bring happiness. Instead, we heard how our relationship with Jesus and people brings true wealth.
“Spiritual work is HARD.” What? I don’t know about you, but that is not what I want to hear. Even though I know Amanda is right. In the last week of October’s gathering, we dove deep into the discomfort of our comfort.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard the story about the prodigal son for as long as I can remember. I’m guessing that most people, even if not Jesus followers, know the story as well. So, it’s difficult for me to not drift off in other thoughts when hearing it. This past Sunday, I took notes during the talk and therefore, paid attention. I still didn’t “get” anything even after paying attention.
I have to spend some time putting myself in the parable and figure out if I identify with any of the people?
This week’s talk was the third in the Into the Unknown series at Radius. In this series, we’ve had a chance to look at how we face the unknowns in our lives. This week’s talk looked at Israel’s encounters with God and their own creation of the golden calf. If you missed this week’s talk you can catch it here.
Don’t Be Afraid To Dream Big.
This was one of Amanda’s exhortations that stuck out to me. Dream Big. I couldn’t possibly. I’m entirely too practical for that. Keep my plans small, and then they’ll probably work out. And that brings me to another point Amanda made, “Accept that you are not in control.” A small dream or plan is something that I feel is in my control. Just because I feel in control does not mean that I am. It just gives me the illusion that I am. And, I am quite content to live in that illusion. However, what kind of growth am I going to have within that illusion? I will have very little growth along with my very small dreams. But it feels safe. Maybe safe-ish?
Toward the end of Pastor Blake’s message today he prayed: "May we chase, may we embrace the Holy Spirit in our life.” This spoke so truly to me, along with the question, “God, Holy Spirit, who am I supposed to reach today?” After a few weeks of feeling disconnected to our gathering for various personal reasons, I felt (what feels like) the truth of the Holy Spirit reflected in the words shared today. I’ve often felt that the Holy Spirit is what chases me, like the “Reckless Love” song that I am absolutely enamored with when we sing, “Oh it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99.”
I am your over the top protective parent the kind of parent that my family called the hawk when my daughter was a toddler long before the term helicopter parent even existed.You know most times we don’t even realize how active God is around us on a daily basis as his children. He is the ultimate helicopter parent watching and hovering over us. He keeps us safe from so many dangers and pit falls that we never even knew were there. He is constantly removing the banana peels from our path and keeping us upright. How many times have we narrowly avoided an fall or an accident and said thank God with out really stopping to think that he really was watching and did intervene. Or when you drop your toast and it lands jelly side up was that luck or Gods doing?
After an interesting personal week wherein I found myself talking about a painful incident from my childhood, I heard Pastor Blake use words on Sunday that spoke directly to me. He challenged us in the beginning to recall if we could remember an experience when the powerful words of an adult had spoken something into us. These words could have caused fear, anxiety and confusion. As he continued to speak, he said “When someone spoke something over you that has impacted us our entire lives...no matter how successful we are” I found myself nodding my head because those words spoken over me as a child, at now 36, still resound in my mind like an earthquake through my soul. You see, at that age I sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…” but I didn’t really know. I didn’t really know who I was as a child of God and I don’t believe I actually came into that until my mid twenties.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear,
I am a child of God”
As has happened many times in the past, we find ourselves in a series that seems to be speaking very directly to where I find myself in this season of life. Reminders and clarity on who God says I am and letting that, and only that, shape my identity and sense of worth, have been very needed for me personally. I thought the song whose lyrics are quoted in part above was a very appropriate choice this past Sunday as we discussed that as children of God, we are also considered heirs. I don’t know about you, but for me, I find myself living as though I’m still enslaved, someone bound to stay in the same stagnant position, doing the same things over and over, rather than someone empowered by God and worthy of receiving a great and holy inheritance.
I have a nervous bladder--- what I mean by that is when I’ve had opportunities to speak, let’s say at a
conference--- I’ll have to slip off to the restroom several times right before I go to speak and sometimes
I’ll be speaking multiple times that day, so that’s a lot of restroom breaks. It’s a funny thing because
when you’re in a bathroom stall at such a conference, other people are often talking about the speaker
and the message they just heard. It’s a strange thing to hear others speak about you without realizing
that you are present.
Low lighting, somber organ music and candles are not Radius’s usual style. But when I arrived to Sunday gathering a few weeks ago, the normally seemed like a funeral was underway. And it made me so uncomfortable! Though I knew the upcoming message series, Rest In Peace, would be uplifting, I was struck by how much a few details can seem to change everything.
Having just returned from the missions trip to Ecuador, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and lessons learned during my time there. There were many lessons I learned or got to see in action on this trip. I’d like to share the three main ones that I think we all can use in day to day life.
“His way is in the whirlwind and the storm…” (Nahum 1:3)
This summer as we’ve been moving through the Minor Prophets, we have reiterated the fact that the God of the Old Testament gets a bad rap. Admittedly, I have often shied away from diving too deeply into these earlier books of the Bible because I simply can’t rectify the God of peace and love that I know, with some of the horrific judgments we see occur there.
I don't often get the opportunity to contribute to the Radius Blog, but imagine my delight when I found out that the subject of the message the week I was asked to write was a book of the Bible that has been quite instrumental in shaping my beliefs in my faith walk as it currently stands today: The Book of Micah.
“The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf.”
I’ve read that verse during some of my darker times, for sure. You may or may not have as well. Just follow me here. This week someone reached out to me to write about our gathering, how it applies to my life, and how I relate to the story of Jonah. I decided that I wasn’t going to be afraid. This time I decided to do what I was asked to do, no matter how hard it was for me, no matter how scared I was.
Some of you have heard the Cliff-Notes version of my story during the On the Road series that we did last year. If you haven’t, go check “Christians in Cars Having Coffee” (I’m the owner of the dirty Jeep). At that time, I had the opportunity to share with Pastor Blake about the time when God met me on my journey, when I came out of my darkness, when I was no longer in the fish, like Jonah. But today let me take this opportunity to tell you what happened when I said “no” to God.
We always sat in the same spot. First two seats on the front row, all the way on the left side of the room. We walked back to those seats after having dedicated our young son in front of our church family and we stood at those chairs years later as the pastor asked that same church family to pray over us as we prepared to move to a new city. Every week, those chairs stayed empty until we arrived to occupy them. We worshiped, prayed, hugged dear friends, and were fed spiritual truths all in those same chairs.
The writing team had this prompt—“ Imagine you're on the Road leading to Calvary seeing Jesus headed to the cross.
Who are you? Why were you there? What part of your life was interrupted? What did you FEEL when you saw Him?” Several wrote first person accounts following the events of the day—This week’s blog is one of those perspectives- written by Andrew Roehm. Imagine yourself in the events happening in Jerusalem the week leading up to Jesus’ death.
Feelings are not facts.
I adopted this mantra a while ago, determined to not let myself be led solely by my feelings, or to fall prey to believing the damaging and self deprecating thoughts that so often run through my mind, and to separate reality from the over exaggerated and anxiety laced fiction that feelings can so often cause you to believe. Feelings are messy. Feelings are hard. Feelings are unpredictable. Feelings keep you up at night. So then here comes Radius with a series called Felt, focusing on Jesus’ feelings, and I’m instantly a little uncomfortable.
About a year ago, after I had just turned 40, I was riding in the car with my husband and kids. Out of the blue, one of my lovely family members mentioned that I was middle-aged now.
Honestly I thought, “No Way!” I don’t feel middle-aged, and I, for sure, didn’t like the sound of that. So needless to say, I decided to Google, “What age is middle age?” Even though the age ranges came back anywhere from 35-65, I succumbed to the fact that I may actually be middle-aged or at least on the verge!
After always being a rather good student, I met my nemesis in high school and it called itself, Chemistry. The classroom itself was always fascinating to me with its knobs and handles, hoods and sinks, and tables meant to extinguish flames. I looked forward to learning about these tools and putting them to use. Like so many things, my expectations of what it could be didn’t entirely capture the reality. Chemistry was a danger zone. With experiments that could explode and react and create other substances, it was a class full of learning but most of it not what you could find in a book. Labs were the best part of the learning and the most important truth was follow directions one at a time and focus on each step and not the product you were trying to get.
As we celebrate Radius’ 4th birthday I want to share how much my life has changed since the first time I walked through those doors.
To summarize my life prior to Radius, I was a MESS. Not a hot mess, just a mess mess. (If you’d like some details feel free to read my testimony here My Red Cord). I was lost and struggling with depression around the time I first discovered Radius. In my desperate time of need, God was moving in my life without me even realizing. I will never forget the first time I visited.
In the season of vacations and road trips, I headed out of town with three girlfriends last weekend to the little town of Waco, TX.
Waco is a small enough town, that you don’t actually fly into it. You fly into a neighboring larger town, Dallas/Fort Worth or Austin, and then you drive more than an hour to Waco. It’s a town that’s held the prominent Baylor University since 1886. And it’s the town still clouded by the shadows of the 51 day stand-off between a cult and the U.S. government ending in tragedy in the spring of 1993.
How Do I Follow Jesus?
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
We live in a world consumed by social media. I am guilty myself. Not a day goes by that I don’t check my Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… multiple times. We scroll through to see funny memes, people's lives, what someone ate for lunch that day. We follow people on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook. So how do we follow Jesus?
The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
There is this phrase I say, “that’s Jesus getting in your business.” I left gathering on Sunday saying that! I have found myself reflecting on Amanda’s message multiple times. One thing that has continued to play over in my head is the phrase Amanda said, “we need to tap out of the physical wrestling match and take it to the spiritual mat and wrestle with God.”
I became suddenly aware of how often and how much energy I am using in wrestling in the physical world. No wonder I feel exhausted sometimes!
Growing up I was raised mostly in a Christian/Non-denominational environment. My parents jumped from church to church and my mother even converted to Atheism at one time. My grandmothers took me with them to Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran churches. With all that bouncing around to different churches and religions, it’s no wonder I had no solid foundation of God in my life. I thought I had accepted Christ as my personal savior many times when I was younger. But I had a hard time accepting that my sins were forgiven. I knew I would continue to sin and I was afraid of making God mad at me. So, I kept my distance, from him. I guess I thought that if I was a good person, I would still go to heaven.
37 billion hours—the amount of time experts estimate that Americans wait in lines every year. If you’re like me, when I read that, it evokes all types of feelings and none of them are good. Overall, I’d say, I dislike waiting. I think my kids would probably even say they hate to wait. An M.I.T. line expert named Richard Larson has concluded that occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time. I say, “Yep,” to Mr. Larson and wonder how much he was paid for his findings. Because we can all attest that when we are busy, time seems to fly by and as our hands slow down, so do the hands on the clock.
I had a conversation with a friend this week that so reminded me of how God can (and will) redeem our stories, that it brought me to tears. As we approach Easter, this concept of redemption is at the forefront of my mind, as it’s the most tender and heart achingly beautiful part of the Gospel to me.
In 1841, Dr. Livingstone arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, a staunch abolitionist, this Scottish medical missionary headed north through the continent of Africa exploring and and sharing his faith. He wrote and spoke about the horrors of the slave trade and shared of the beauty of the African people and country on his return trips to Great Britain. His explorations became legendary and his voice proved influential. In 1866 – on another trip to Africa, his voice was silent. No letters, no communication of any kind made its way back to Europe or America from the famous missionary and many supposed he was lost or dead. In 1871, Henry Morton Stanley a journalist with the New York Herald and London Telegraph was commissioned to search for the famous doctor. In 1871, it is said Stanley found Livingstone in the Zanzibar region suffering from illness. Upon locating the good doctor, Stanley introduced himself, saying, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” These lines echoed across Europe and America, gaining a fame to be all their own that would far outlive both the doctor and Stanley.
Have you ever travelled to a different country? I’ve lived for some periods of time overseas and have had wonderful experiences. But on every trip, without fail, there is a time for adjusting to everything. For the first couple weeks, I wake up in the morning and am a bit surprised I am there. I have an extremely uncomfortable feeling in my stomach; it’s like I’m on another planet. Nothing is familiar and I feel like I don’t belong. As the days and weeks pass though, I get into a routine and get adjusted to the time; I make new friends, and I start to feel like myself again. This process is longer than I want, and it takes multiple experiences to gain normalcy.
We're excited to add a new voice to the Radius Writing team. Here's the first Rad blog from Angela Schuck. -
The theme for this past Sunday’s service was ‘Overcomers: Speaking our Testimony as we overcome the World and Help People Meet Jesus.’ After I saw this theme, God impressed upon my heart the words of Revelation 12:11, which Pastor Blake also mentioned during his sermon on Sunday:
Revelation 12:11 (KJV) – And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.’
Wow. This is a powerful passage that sums up how we should be as Christians right now.
As I write this I am on day 3 of a juice and water fast. My roommate is also cooking something that smells so delicious for her and her daughter. To say that I am leaning on God right now would be an understatement. This is my first real fast.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the car by myself, it’s like a concert up in there. There’s none of this quiet, background music….we’re talking full volume music blasting, and there’s definitely singing and dancing involved. (Consider yourself warned if you ever find yourself next to me at a red light.) Several times God has used music to speak very clearly to me. One such instance was during a very low and difficult time of my life and the song He used was one most of us probably know,
Happy New Year! It’s 2018!
There’s so many exciting things that happen in our lives when we feel like we get that fresh start in January each year. Some will quit bad habits; some will begin good habits. Some of us will shift and adjust priorities as we reflect back on the things we’d like to change from the past year.
It can be a fresh start in your soul health and in the life of your church family as well. At Radius, where our gatherings are to hear from and speak to God, we like to mix that idea up on the First Sunday of the year and start the year in fresh exciting ways. Though we meet corporately, we individually move throughout our gathering space to the stations set up to aid us in interacting with God. It’s a great way to carve out time for personal reflection and response to what we hear Him saying to us.
Last Sunday, we finished with the story of Mary in our Expectant series.
It was back in November when Joel made the graphic for our December Expectant series. When we saw his idea, there was something so perfect and intriguing about an open door to represent “Expectant.” An open door as in a place to go maybe you haven’t been before. An intrigue about what is next. As we close the year on the threshold of Christmas, we look to the future like that open door. There are things yet to come that only God knows is in our future. Our friend, Tim, often says-“ The best is yet to come”; and with God, that statement really is always true. What a tenet to hold onto so that you CAN stand Expectantly looking toward 2018.
I was asked to write this week’s blog post, and I’ll be honest, I wanted to say no. Not because I don’t enjoy writing; I very much do. And not because I don’t have anything to say about our current series, Expectant; actually, quite the opposite. I wanted to say no, because God has been using this series to speak to and stir some places in me that I’ve pushed far down and have not wanted to deal with or talk about.
I wrote a couple different versions of this post, but hit a wall every time because it didn’t feel authentic or genuine. Sometimes in life, our reality looks so vastly different than our expectations, and the pain and disappointment of that can be crushing. I think when we find ourselves in these inevitable situations, it can reveal so clearly who we believe God to be, and the position we give Him in our heart. I’ve found myself in just such a place, living in that tension of unmet expectations and a reality I never thought I’d live.
We took family pictures on Monday. Last year, I remember looking at the family pics taken at the Shuffleboard Club and Mirror Lake and thinking it may be the last year we would be at that gathering location as a church.
Because it was around that same time that a specific building came into the sights of our church as a possible next step. So, we began the inquiries and sought information. It seemed like so many things were going to fall seamlessly into place. It was ideal—in multiple ways. For instance, we had been told that we were losing our office space as the new office building owners had different plans for the space. No problem. It’s perfect. We could move right into this new space as the office space closed down. Maybe we’d have to do a month in storage and then voila---our next location. Look at God’s timing!
Not to mention our family pics would be like a little memorial to the time there at the Shuffleboard Club.
Isn’t it perfect?
Isn’t it a neat little package with a red bow on top?
I have been going through a lot lately. I know, everyone has their struggles, but I like to often deny my stress and worry. I hate asking for help. But as I saw in the last couple of weeks, I was working myself too thin and realized I am extremely blessed to have people in my life who lift me back up when I fall down.
There I was, sitting in church, listening. It was the Sunday before Independence Day. Let freedom ring! And so it did- my phone rang in the middle of the sermon and I immediately lost focus on what Pastor Blake was saying. A tidal wave of emotions came over me. “I still feel like the new girl at this new church, I want to impress everyone but now I look like the ditzy millennial who’s preoccupied with her phone.” Those fearful lies ran through my mind. Stereotypes and labels played ping pong in my brain. I was so focused on myself. I tried to reengage in the message. As I continued to take notes, I realized what just happened and how it was so applicable to the sermon. This Sunday’s message was all about focus and freedom. To me, this was so convicting.
I do not like to write. However this is my fifth… actually my six time writing for Radius (I had to go back and look).
When people compliment my blogs I quickly tell them, “God wrote it, I actually don’t write.”
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
I wonder if the disciples even understood the weight of this command when Jesus told them during those last moments before He returned to heaven.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Israel’s journey of miles began with accepting the freedom God gave them and learning to trust and obey God in the wilderness. This past week at Radius we saw Israel finally step into their promised land.
Together as followers, we too stand at the precipice of many promises; promises of peace that passes understanding, unspeakable joy, and mountain-moving faith. Wherever we find ourselves in this journey, we all need to take more steps forward into these promises. As God’s own children, these promises are our inheritance.
And how do we claim that inheritance?
I have had the incredibly good fortune of being a part of two amazing church families. HighPoint, the church I attended for many years prior to moving to St. Pete, was also a church plant, and over the years I saw many shifts take place.
We shifted from housing our children’s ministry in one tiny room to an entire “town” for kids taking up half of the building.
Recently, I was challenged to find my “five kernels” in life; you know, those times when perhaps we felt lost or broken and God provided, or a time the phrase “when it rains it pours” felt like an understatement.
Today we’re gonna talk about talents.
I know, I know…you probably think you don’t have any, or at least any that are very useful, but humor me.
Hello, my name is Sarah, and I like stories.
I can’t help it. I mean, what’s not to love? And they’re everywhere! It’s totally true that art imitates life and life imitates art (I’m not sure which is more true). Everywhere I look I see a story being played out; walking down the street, talking with a stranger, hearing beautiful music or even a pastor speaking… *ahem* You see where I’m going with this?
Sitting at Radius on Sunday, I promise I really was carefully listening to the things Blake was saying. I didn’t intend to get lost in a story. But hey, if my mind keeps heading in a persistent direction whilst I’m actively asking God what he has to say, I’m gonna go there!
To set the stage, I’m going to have to allow you to track just how easily I can end up in a storyline, so step into my mind won’t you?
Thinking about fear I am reminded of something I read in the book Praying God’s Word, by Beth Moore about breaking free from spiritual strongholds, "Satan is many things, but he is not very creative. He uses the same thing over and over as long as he is getting results."
How true is this when it comes to fear. The enemy not only knows your fears he put them there!
Debt - ✔
Late fees - ✔
Electricity shut off for non-payment - ✔
Cell phone shut off for non-payment - ✔
Car insurance cancelled for non-payment (and license suspended) - ✔
Car repossessed - ✔
Living paycheck to paycheck - ✔
Savings account - What’s that?
Tithe - Occasionally, when I am “able”
What is wrong with that list?
We have an extra special blog post today from Sarina. You won't want to miss a single word of this post.
Rahab. Why was it so important that her story share that she was a prostitute? The story could’ve been just a woman named Rahab, instead it is the prostitute Rahab. I realize that we will never know if Rahab wanted her story to be shared including that part of her life. Maybe that is how God wanted her story to be told. God saw the importance of every detail in Rahab’s life and wanted it to be shared.
For a while now God has been tugging at my heart to share my story. Perhaps he has been tugging a lot longer and I am just now noticing. However, as much as God has been whispering I feel the devil shouting. Every time I think about the details of my testimony I feel fear, guilt, ashamed, unworthy.
“If my family knew what I’ve done they would be ashamed.”
“If my friends knew the details they would judge me.”
“If the man I am dating knew my past he would definitely not be interested."
Well no more. Here is my testimony – May my story bring you glory.
I grew up in church, was baptized at two, went to a Lutheran school through 7th grade and was extremely active with my youth group all through high school. As some may remember from my last blog a lot changed in my early 20s. I went through a terrible divorce that challenged my relationship with God. As God was waiting with outstretched arms to comfort me, in my time of need, I went the opposite direction. Let’s just say I ran the opposite direction.
For the next 8 years I spiraled from one bad relationship to the next. Trying desperately to please any man that gave me attention. I’ve been verbally abused, emotionally broken, cheated on and lied too. I also fought spitefully with anger, was jealous, lied and cheated. I constantly felt heart broken. I am pretty sure I spent more time crying in my relationships than when I was single.
About halfway through this spiral I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I had lost my job, car, boyfriend of almost 3 years and had to move back in with my parents. I quickly turned to a new man, partying and heavy drinking. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse….. I found out I was pregnant. There I was alone in my parent’s bathroom staring at this stick crying and terrified. I called two friends and both gave advice one said keep, the other said abort. My heart is heavy as I type that I chose the latter. I hid everything from my family, had that friend drive me to the clinic and tried to pretend like it never happened.
Fast forward another year I was 25 years old and back with my ex-boyfriend. This time around he started doing drugs… at first I was devastated but the sad part is I was more devastated at the idea of losing him than the fact he was sneaking behind my back doing drugs! So naturally I thought ‘if you can’t stop him, join him’. Two years of drinking, drugs, fighting and lots more crying. How had I fallen so far?
I know right now, as you read this, you are waiting for the climax of my story, some life changing event where I decided to turn it all around. Nothing just “turns around” after the things I have been through…. But God knew that and was still at work in my life.
At 27 years old that relationship ended for good and with it the drugs. Around the same time God placed me in a new position at work that moved my desk next to a woman who was on fire for Him. Her tattered bible sat on her desk as she spoke freely of his love and compassion. I never felt judged and openly shared much of my life with her. She gave me the book Captivating and challenged me to pray and read my bible. I could feel Gods presence in our conversations and soaked it all up! He was there still, he loved me and he wasn’t done with my story yet. My story was just beginning.
As I share my testimony I feel that fear rise up, however I will no longer let fear rule my life. I will no longer fear the darkness. God was not ashamed of Rahab and he is not ashamed of me nor you. No matter what your past, what mistakes you have made, what failures you have, He is right there with loving arms open ready to forgive and help you heal.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
In one of Amanda’s previous messages she said “May our story bring him glory”. I have felt God pulling me to take the first step forward, and that by sharing my story it will help others. I am not sure how yet but I have finally taken the first step in faith. I have thrown my red cord out and can’t wait to see what God brings next.
Thy Will Be Done.
“Follow your heart.”
This has to be one of my least favorite phrases. Far from being just an expression, this lie has so permeated our culture that on any given day, you can buy t-shirts, journals, or phone cases emblazoned with these words. As socially accepted as this advice is, the Bible, as usual, stands in stark contrast to accepted societal norms. Not only does it not recommend following your heart, it goes so far as to say that your heart is wicked and will flat out lie to you.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
It’s easy to look at the story of Jonah and judge his disobedience. It’s easy to scoff at his seeming cowardice in running in the opposite direction of what God called him to do. The truth of the matter is that our hearts, if left unchecked, will always lead us into a dark, lonely place much like the one Jonah ultimately found himself in. When our obedience to and communication with God is dependent on our current feelings, moods, or circumstances, we’ll spend most of our life running or being tossed about like a ship in rough waters.
If you are a follower of Christ, you have a great call on your life. To love God, to show others His love, to extend His grace, to assist the poor and needy, to make disciples...yet we have all been guilty of letting our hearts lead us astray from fulfilling these beautiful, God-given purposes. How many times have people quit jobs or given up on relationships simply because they weren’t “happy”? And how can we avoid falling into this very common and very human pitfall? The answer can be found in one simple word from a verse found in the book of wisdom.
“Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path.”
Not be at the mercy of.
The Message translation says to “point your life in the right direction”. I’ve recently struggled with letting life circumstances, hurts, and unanswered prayers deter me from actively pointing my heart towards communion with God. If you find yourself in a similar place, I’ve got good news. You’re actually in a great position to encounter the relentless mercy of your Heavenly Father.
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!”
When we cry out to Him, He hears us. When we align our hearts with His wisdom, we step more fully into the calling of our life. When we adjust our compasses to the one true north, He directs our steps and leads us beside still waters.
No job is too small for a father. A father sees the needs of the people around him, whether those people are family or not, and moves to serve and act in order to accomplish what must be done.
Though David was just a boy when he met Goliath on the battlefield, he already displayed the traits of a good father (and future king).
David enters the story as the youngest brother, holding the least standing not only in their family, but also because of his job; he was a shepherd turned delivery boy.
David continues by getting involved in the situation at hand, where a giant has been insulting the men, the king, and the God of the Jewish people for 40 days. He doesn’t shy away, uncertain of whether his contribution will be appreciated, but steps bravely into the midst of other men and begins pursuing the truth of the situation. Here we see that a father does not shy away from the unknown, but pursues knowledge and wisdom of what he does not know in order to prepare himself to act in the best way.
1 Samuel 17: 26-32
David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”
And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”
But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”
“What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.
“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”
He then volunteers to take on this giant that has intimidated and embarrassed the entire army day after day. Not only does he volunteer, he declines armor and weapons. He then prepares himself for the conflict.
1 Samuel 17:40
He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.
Here we see how a father, and all of us, can prepare for the giants in life. He gathers stones, knowing they are solid and useful like the truths and promises God has given us.
David moves out into the battlefield, issues a blistering challenge, and speaks truth over that place and over his opponent. He draws power from God and it is boldly established regardless of his physical size or the amount of his experience with combat. Like our Father, he acts to defend his family from the giant that stands before them.
David’s victory over the giant who was thought to be undefeatable, saved both armies from enormous loss of life and revealed God’s power to be true and real. Each father’s life can be a testament to God’s love, truth, and power being real in the world.
Now whether you are a biological father, step-father, adopted father, foster father, or you’ve been a father to someone by guiding and loving and caring for them, there’s something you can take away from this. In fact, everyone reading this can take this truth from this story:
David was only able to do these things because when faced with the giant, and when the people around him said, “Have you seen the giant?!”
He turned to them and said “Yes, but have you seen our God?”
His heart, his mind, his spirit and his strength were all completely focused and dedicated to God.
In our lives when we face the giants, we can turn our eyes to our Father and see that he is with us.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
God continues to fulfill this promise even when the giants of our lives seem to block out the sun.
I call on each of us to challenge ourselves. Let each of us recognize the fathers in our lives, and recognize all they do to serve and love others. Let us each live like David in that moment, completely dedicated to showing the world God’s power and truth in the love He shows us.
I glanced in my rear view mirror at the fuzzy blonde head in the backseat. At less than two years old, he was too little to understand that the world and family he knew had been forever changed. Sin had entered the picture and did the only thing that sin does; destroy. Although this little one didn’t belong to me, his mother is like a sister to me, and I loved and cared for him and his family deeply.
As I rounded the corner to this little boy’s broken house, I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky. Where moments before questions, frustrations, and anger had swirled in my mind, in an instant one word cut through them all: promise.
His promises still stand.
His promises are always true.
His promises do not return void.
I can’t imagine what Noah and his family must have been feeling. 40 days of rain and flooding? They had to start wondering if it was ever going to end. They had to doubt whether God really knew what He was doing, and if they would ever see dry land and sunshine again. Their temporary circumstances had to start feeling like they were going to be pretty permanent. The same is true for us when the storms of life come and grief, sorrow, and pain seem as though they will be our constant companions. Will this ever end? Where is God? How could anything good ever come out of this?
In any given situation in life, we all have choices. We choose how we react and how our circumstances grow and shape us. It’s human nature when things happen to us, to lose focus of the fact that we can allow those same things to do something through us.
So, what does that look like, practically? Well, if we take a page from Noah’s story, I think it looks a little like three not-so-simple steps.
People surely thought Noah was crazy. Noah himself may have even questioned his sanity at times as he built a massive ark following God’s incredibly specific instructions. The Bible says Noah was a righteous man who found favor with the Lord. Because Noah walked with God, because he invested in his relationship with his heavenly father, he talked to Him regularly. We all know that with any relationship, you only get out what you put in. God was no stranger to him, so when He spoke, Noah recognized His voice. Then he did what seems like the most obvious next step; he obeyed. And yet, how often do we miss out on this?
We have a dream God planted in our hearts. We feel God leading us in a certain direction in our lives. We feel prompted to speak to someone. We feel God putting His finger on a sin habit in our life that we know needs to be dealt with….
But we let fear, uncertainty, self –doubt, or pride get in the way of our obedience. I write this to myself as much as to anyone who may read it. I am currently going through the most difficult time of my life. There are days where I don’t know up from down, and holding onto God’s promises and walking in obedience to Him in the midst of intense heartache is difficult and at times seemingly impossible. But in a time of uncertainty, what I do know is this…I want it to be said of me that I found favor with God. I want to be seen as righteous in His eyes. I want to raise my son in such a way that the same will be said of him. The Bible says if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Draw near and listen for His voice. He will speak. When he does, listen and obey.
After the waters receded, and Noah and his family safely stepped off of the ark, the first thing Noah did was worship God. He built an altar and offered burnt sacrifices, and the Bible says it was a sweet and pleasing aroma to the Lord.
The truth is, storms are a part of life, and in most cases, all of us are either in one, coming out of one, or one is looming ahead on the horizon. No matter where you find yourself today, build an altar. Worship the One who sets His sign in the sky as a reminder of His covenant to us.
He is faithful.
When nothing else in life is good, He is.
He is worthy of our worship.
There I was, 21 and going through a divorce.
Leaving an abusive relationship; I was scared, angry, broken, ashamed and betrayed. How could God let this happen? What did I do wrong?
That was when I decided God wasn’t going to be a part of my relationships anymore. I mean, He was a part of my marriage. We prayed together, attended church, did bible study, and look how that turned out.
Going my own way, I started seeking approval, happiness and fulfillment in having a large group of “friends” and another very unhealthy relationship. Again I was hurt, betrayed by people I thought were my friends, by the person I thought loved me. In all honesty though, I was betraying myself! By not having God at the center of these relationships they were shallow, selfish and superficial.
It could be easy to look back at my failed relationships and friendships over the last decade and feel hopeless.
I could learn how to better navigate the buoys!
I am reminded of a scripture Paul wrote to us single ladies.
1 Corinthians 7:25-26, 32-34
25 Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain as you are.
32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit.
This has become one of my favorite passages. It reminds me that being single can be a blessing. We live in a world so focused on dating, marriage, sex, and relationships. From the time we pop out of the womb it seems every movie, game and toy is about finding the person that “completes” you.
When a relationship ends it can feel like the world has ended also.
As Pastor Blake reminds us, “We’ve all had shipwrecked relationships, spouses, friends, parents…. What treasure can we take from that shipwreck?” Looking at my fleet of shipwrecks I have found there is hidden treasure in each one. My broken relationship with God was restored. I am reminded that God has never given up on me, he has never turned his back on me. It’s hard to even fathom a love that great.
How could he love me, in all my brokenness?
But he does…
John 15:12-13 (NLT)
12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
And that is what He did. Jesus came and died on the cross because he loved us so much and wanted to give us eternal life in heaven. Why wouldn’t I want to be best friends with him?! Only by leaning on God and putting that relationship first will I be able to love others the way he loves me.
John 13:35 (NLT)
35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Gather with us this Sunday as we continued our Shipwrecked series. You won’t want to miss it!
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.
Many times when we hear, “kingdom of God” we think of something beyond this world, high above us. The truth is that the kingdom of God is all around us, and every day we get to choose whether we invest in it or whether we withhold ourselves. Each of us has gifts that carry value, and the people we meet on mission as we move out in ever widening circles are hungry and thirsty to experience those gifts.
He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
Here we see a glimpse of how God equips us, and where He places us in the world. God has had the deepest understanding of who we are since we were being woven together as a human being. He knows our abilities and what potential we hold. God gives to us in many different ways whether it’s spiritual gifts, material gifts, or physical gifts. He also understands that what He gives us is more than enough to accomplish His will when we partner with Him. Then he places us in the world, and gives us freedom to use those gifts as we see fit. In this we are allowed to explore the beauty God has created around us and in us with the talents we have been gifted. As we follow the story we see what can happen when we choose to fiercely pursue His will, or refuse to act and stand still.
The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
At any point in our lives we can see ourselves in all three servants’ shoes. Sometimes we are given plenty and we use it to make great things, even if the risk is great. Sometimes we are given less than others, but we are still happy and willing to make due and increase what has been given to us. Other times we find ourselves terrified to lose what little we have, and we rob ourselves and the world of our gifts by sitting still and holding on to them out of fear.
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Each of us is beyond lucky to be the son or daughter of a God that gives generously. We are given much, and our impact can be great in the world if we choose to act and utilize what we know we have. Even if it’s being able to make people laugh, make people feel comfortable where they are, or being able to really listen to someone when they speak. These are riches that we can invest, and the return on our investment can end up being priceless.
So this week go out with the gifts God has given you, and act boldly knowing that you carry the name of God on your heart, and that His Spirit fills you up. Invest in the people you do life with, and watch as God works and grows in them. Reflect God’s light into the world and see it reflected back, even if it’s just a glimmer from a person you never expected it from. The ultimate return on the investments you make for God is a warm embrace, a smile from the Father of Lights, and to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I have a friend who has the very unique and interesting job of being a rare book dealer. He was recently in town to exhibit at one of the oldest and largest antiquarian book fairs in the nation and we had an opportunity to talk about the nature of his career. It's multi faceted and while it certainly requires quite a bit of knowledge, experience, and savvy, one thing stood out above the rest as being a crucial element to his success: relationship. He spends time getting to know his customers, their interests, their collections, their likes and dislikes. In turn, his customers are more willing and comfortable spending the money associated with these rare, precious items because a trusting relationship has been established.
We have access to the most precious book ever written. A collection of 66 of the most precious books ever written, actually. People have died because of their belief in it. Men and women have given their lives so that others may have free access to it. It is a book filled with hope, truth, and promise, but most of all, it is a book about relationship. From the first page to the last, it is about God's constant pursuit of each one of us.
He knows us intimately.
He knit each of us together in our mother's womb.
He has counted every hair on your head and he collects every one of your tears in a bottle.
He loves you.
If you were the only person on this planet, He would have still gone to the cross just for YOU. That's how important you are to Him and that's how precious a relationship with you is to Him. He came to seek and save that which was lost. He wants you to know you can trust Him. Spend time getting more acquainted with His character by committing to being in the Word regularly. The Bible promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Sunday, the second talk of this series taught us about a spiritual “discipline” that is rarely taught and even more rarely practiced - Fasting.
What is fasting?
In the Bible, people did without food to better devote themselves to hearing from and speaking to God. Sometimes it was a time to speak to God about their sins, and sometimes it was a time to hear from God about direction. Sometimes it was a time of preparation for what God had next for them. And every time it was a call for a breakthrough in their current circumstances.
Isn’t that what we crave in our lives? A breakthrough in some area. Maybe it is in finances, or in a relationship, or in knowing what decision to make. Maybe it is a breakthrough into greater intimacy with God.
The Truth is this-- we know that Jesus fasted. In Matthew 6 He assumed we would when He said, “When you fast” rather than “If you fast.” It seems that - Jesus Followers Fast.
Yet how many of His followers are really fasting on a regular basis?
At a prayer conference I attended recently, they used a statistic that only 5-10% of churchgoers say that they regularly pray. I do not like unknown stats so I can’t say if that’s an accurate number based upon a study. However, I can say that my own experiences with those in the church do not contradict that number. Whatever the number of those who regularly pray, I think we can all agree that there is an even smaller percentage who turn to fasting when they need any type of major breakthrough.
When our lives and our churches lack the strength and power that Acts spoke of, “setting the world upside down.” There’s no doubt that we are missing aspects in our spiritual walks.
So how do we set ourselves in the best position to receive all God has to give us?
Put fasting back on the table as part of what we do in relating to a holy God.
As I fast in a right spirit - not for health reasons but for heart reasons - these become my prayers that are confirmed in my actions,
“I recognize my need for You, God.”
“I need You more than I need anything else.”
“I crave Your favor and blessing.”
“May Your spirit be stronger than my flesh.”
We have a world, a country, and a city in need of breakthroughs. We are a people who need more of God. Perhaps by taking in less by fasting--- we actually can receive the MORE we so desperately need.
I grew up in religion. A religion that would say they were more than that… but under the grace that was offered from God, I was given the impression that I better “be good.” In fact, I would say if my childhood “discipleship” had themes they would be- Ephesians 2:8-9 (King James Version, obviously) -----For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.--- followed quickly by the mantra- “Now, be good.” For years, I have lived under a burden of trying to be good. Here’s the thing- I am not good. I am horrible. Just like the classic experiment--- if you put me in a room with a plate of oreos and told me not to eat them and then left me alone for enough time… I’m gonna eat them. Probably devour them. I may even lie and tell you some alien beamed himself into the room and ate them and it wasn’t me. I’ve got a sin nature that just has no quit in it. So to tell me to “be good” was never going to cut it. I had tons of DIRT in my life. But I knew in my religious training- I wasn’t “allowed” to… What was I to do? Hide it! Cover it up! Lie about it. For all that is actually holy--- pretend you’ve got it together!!! Sunday’s message starting our DIRT series is so powerful because it lays open the TRUTH--- WE ALL HAVE DIRT! Not only that, but it’s no surprise to a holy God. That’s why He sent Jesus to the DIRT of this world. I love that Jesus was born right into our dirt--- from a human woman--- dirt--- into a manger--- seems dirty… When He started his ministry on earth--- He was always in the Dirt- the dirt of people’s lives. That’s the salvation. He came to the DIRT to get us out of it… Romans 8 starts--- “So NOW there is NO CONDEMNATION to those who belong to Christ Jesus…” I lived in condemnation in childhood… or if I thought I was doing okay--- I lived in pride and judgment and condemnation of others… either place is a no good place for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Check out later in Romans 8 where it says--- “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness [Dirt] of our sinful nature. So GOD did what the law could not do!” Hallelujah! I have DIRT! And I don’t have to figure out how to get rid of it! I don’t have to “be good” as I grew up attempting to be. As I continue to let Jesus into the mangers of my own life, He does the cleaning Himself. The work I do is called “surrender.” And that’s enough for me. Welcome to the DIRT series at radius! We’re able to get into the dirt of our lives and the mess in the lives of others because of what Jesus did on Calvary and is still doing for us.