Monday, November 14, 2011

Are You a Consumer Christian?

“Consumer Christianity” is crippling the church. It’s the mindset that somehow church is about us. One mega church pastor, Walt Kallestad of Community Church of Joy, found that his church’s strategy was actually fostering “Consumerism.” “We became a dispenser of religious goods and services where people came to get instead of a missions station where people are launched to give.”1

If we raise up our people to be consumers, what will we get? By definition, a consumer is a “user.” According to church consultant Kevin G. Ford, this is a failed strategy for growing your church. “First, consumers resist change. Second, the consumer is never satisfied. Rather than being transformed into a life of sacrifice and service, the consumer will demand more and more of others.”2 Another way to spot a “consumer” is by their critical spirit. They are the first people to find fault with something, but rarely offer a life-giving solution or volunteer to help improve a situation.

As a church planter, I think we made some mistakes from the start. We wanted our church to offer the best of everything—technology, programs for all ages, etc.—but instead of training our people to serve, I think we fostered their predisposition to be consumers. The trouble is when a consumer is done consuming, they leave to go find another church to consume from, and the cycle starts again.

For example, here are some paraphrased complaints my husband and I heard in our first two years from long-time Christians who left our church:

• “I’m burned out. I just want to show up and enjoy the service—not set up, not serve in the nursery, etc.—I just need to receive.”

• “I want to go to a church where I get fed. . . where they teach deeper things.”

• “This church doesn’t have enough to offer my kids. I’m looking for a church with a strong children and youth program, and this one doesn’t offer Sunday school or midweek youth services.

• “I wanted to lead the sound ministry and speak occasionally, but the pastor won’t let me. I’m going to find a place where my gifts are valued.”

• “Our family likes to participate in sports on Sunday and this church doesn’t offer a Saturday night service. We need to find a place that offers more service times.”

• “I’d like to sing solos on the worship team, but the worship leader won’t let me.”

• “I want to meet in a building. This theatre doesn’t have an altar area, and we need to have an extended prayer time after each service.”

• “I’d like to have weekly Bible studies geared toward my age group, but I don’t want to lead them. This church doesn’t offer anything for my age.”

What’s left if “consumer Christianity” runs amok? If left unchecked, one day the only churches left standing will be the mega-churches. The simple fact is mega churches can offer more to the “consumer.” Unfortunately, since people “can’t get enough of what they don’t really need,”3 church consumers become like addicts--always searching for that perfect church experience, but never being fully satisfied.

Let me say, I have nothing against mega churches. I constantly glean from pastors of mega churches. These men and women started from humble beginnings, and with a great team of believers alongside them, they planted their seed, tended their fields, and reaped their harvest.

But to mature Christians I ask, how can we grow the kingdom of God by abandoning the local church and, especially, the small church plant? “If everyone consumes, who produces?”4

As mature Christians our motivation should be obvious. First, we must walk in an intimate relationship with God. If we love God, we will be committed to loving and serving others. Even if obeying God requires me to sacrifice my own personal preferences, needs, wants, and desires. Period.

The opposite of a “consumer Christian” is a Christian dedicated to the community of believers God calls them to serve alongside in the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. Creativity will flow from this kind of mindset and heart commitment.

I’ve recently made a conscious decision to start training the people in my church NOT to be consumers. We’re all familiar with the first line of the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .” But, are we aware of the follow-up line . . . “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:18,19) People must be taught to obey God and to serve because it is not in our nature to do these things.

To combat “consumer Christianity,” here are some strategies:

• Learn to embrace change. Although methods might change, don’t forget the main mission that Jesus gave us.
• If you are a consumer Christian, I encourage you to become part of a small, missional group within your local church. Then, participate in the mission.
• Don’t expect your church to meet all your needs and all your families needs, only God can!
• Be careful about criticizing the church—the enemy loves that kind of talk because it causes division and confusion.
• Pray for your church and ask your pastors where you attend, “How can I help fulfill the mission of this church?” Remember, God’s called you to the mission too.

Now, get ready for an incredible God adventure in your local church and in your family! Let the creativity begin!

1-4 Kevin G. Ford’s book Transforming Church.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Still Serving Time

I taught school for fourteen years. Before year thirteen got underway, I decided that it would be my last year. I was ready to make a career change and go to grad school. Year thirteen seemed like the longest school year of my life. When June finally came, I happily resigned and prepared to move across the country. It was the summer of 2006, the now-infamous year the housing bubble burst. You guessed it, we couldn’t sell our house; so, I humbly asked for my job back.

Year fourteen was incredibly difficult, as my heart was no longer in teaching. I became desperate for the strength and will to teach my classes each day with a good attitude. After putting so much hope into my future plans, I was back to lesson plans, grading papers, and parent-teacher conferences. I was STILL teaching.

Jeremiah 33 begins with Jeremiah “still confined in the courtyard of the guard.” During this time, the Lord gives him a message, “ Ask of ME and I will tell you REMARKABLE secrets you do not know about things to come.” (vs. 3)

Don’t you LOVE that verse? I’ve heard Jeremiah 33:3 quoted repeatedly throughout my life. However, I never noticed that God offered that extraordinary promise while Jeremiah was still in confinement.

What was Jeremiah doing under palace guard? In the 18th year of King Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem was under siege by his Babylonian army. At that time, King Zedekiah of Judah put Jeremiah under palace guard because he didn’t like what the prophet was saying. Jeremiah continuously prophesied doom and destruction for King Zedekiah and Jerusalem.

Time passed. Jeremiah refused to change his prophecy, and we find the prophet is still in confinement.

Can you relate? Perhaps you’re following God’s will and even preaching God’s word. Nevertheless, it feels like you’re being punished.

Maybe you feel like you are still in confinement.
Maybe you are still waiting for your “prison” break.
Maybe you are still desperate to hear from God.

Not only was Jeremiah still confined, but his confinement forced him to be still. A few important take-aways can be gleaned from this passage.

First, in that prison-like place, God’s voice became clear to Jeremiah. The same goes for us. We need to utilize that quiet place of so-called confinement as a time to hear from God. Some of the greatest writings we have in Christianity are from people who were sick or in prison—Watchman Nee, John Bunyan, Martin Luther, Catherine Marshall, and the apostle Paul. Being temporarily “benched” gave them the time and the clarity to write words inspired by the Holy Spirit, the One who speaks in that “still, small voice.”

Also, if we surrender during times of “confinement,” God’s ultimate purpose is to give us a deeper revelation of Jesus. As the Lord’s message continues to Jeremiah, God begins to reveal the coming Messiah. “In those days. . . I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right.” (Jer. 33:15) Talk about a remarkable secret! There is no greater revelation than a revelation of Jesus Christ! Jeremiah’s prophecy that began with doom and gloom shifts to salvation, restoration, and a new Jerusalem!

For me, teaching in year fourteen felt like I was still in confinement. There was only one thing that helped. Each morning I would crawl under my desk and beg God for His help. I taped papers under my desk and wrote prayers, scriptures, and inspirational quotations on them. (this became humorous one day during an intruder drill; when the alert sounded, the students quietly hid under a desk as I shut the blinds and locked the doors. One of the seniors crawled under my desk. She whispered loudly, “Mrs. Stewart, what’s all these notes written underneath your desk?”)

Those mornings under my desk proved life changing. I learned to be still and wait upon the Lord. Jesus revealed himself to me each morning. Sometime He was “Teacher,” “Mighty-God,” “Strong-tower and Refuge,” “Creative-idea God,” “Shield and defender,” Lover of my soul”—whatever I needed that day, Jesus proved more than enough. Not only that, but I now consider year fourteen one of my favorite years as I had the privilege of teaching some of my all-time favorite students.

If you’re still in confinement, choose to be still in God’s presence. You can expect a revelation of Jesus and a new, sweet intimacy with Him that will make your “prison” time worthwhile!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Interview w/ Serita Jakes

Serita Jakes, wife of Bishop TD Jakes and "First Lady" of The Potter's House in Dallas Texas, shared some of the secrets to her success in ministry. On Sept. 6, 2011, we met in the green room of The 700 Club right before her interview on the live show. I found her to be very warm, lovely, and sincere.

When I asked her about "finishing strong", her answer got my attention. She mentioned all the people involved in helping her finish a project. So many of us try to do things all by ourselves, but she enlists her husband, her elders at church, her family, etc. to put something into motion. I would think if you have to answer to that many people, you are bound to finish something!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The hardest thing. . .

The hardest thing about being a pastor’s wife is being a working pastor’s wife.

I don’t want this to come across as whining or “woe is me,” but I said that I would share the good, the bad, and the ugly about ministry, so I need to keep it real.

As a full time producer, I’m motivated to do my “best” at work. Working on a live TV show demands more perfection from me than anything I’ve ever done. There’s no room for error in my segments; it’s a live show, so there’s no “do-overs.”

Simultaneously, I want to give my best to our church body as well. I see areas that we can “perfect” and people who need my attention. I have so much I want to do in our community to reach people for Christ. Unfortunately, there’s only so many hours in a day, and there’s only so much “me” to go around.

So, what’s the result of my dual-career life? So far, it’s a worn-out, amped-up, can’t-wind-down Lori. I lust after the idea of a day where I’m accomplishing absolutely nothing while sitting in my backyard staring at my fence for hours on end. This can’t be God’s plan for me, right?

What’s the answer? So far, I don’t have one. I love where I work and I love my church. Financially, we’re not in a position to live on one income, so quitting my job isn’t an option. More than anything, I just want to be in the center of God’s will.

Does God allow us to go through tough times like this? Absolutely.

In his timeless classic My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:

“If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all efforts of worth and excellence are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but difficulty does not make us faint and cave in—it stirs us up to overcome. Do we appreciate the miraculous salvation of Jesus Christ enough to be our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory?

Thank God that He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a joyous thing, but it is also something that requires bravery, courage, and holiness. It tests us for all we are worth . . .

God’s grace produces men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not pampered, spoiled weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life. And it is always necessary for us to make an effort to live a life of worth and excellence.”

One thing I’ve learned in life is “this too shall pass.” I know my breakthrough is coming. I know that if I trust God, stay in His word, and don’t quit He will be faithful to help me through this season. The same goes for you. You might not have all the answers, things might not make sense, and you might feel like giving up. But if you just remain faithful in this difficult trial you’re in, breakthrough is coming.

P.S. I want to thank God for my family. Sometimes they get my “leftovers,” when they deserve so much more. I can honestly say my favorite part of the day is walking into my home, my “sanctuary,” after a day at work. I’m SO blessed!

Here's a glimse of what I do at The 700 Club

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Regent Experience

A speech I gave at the Regent University Commencement luncheon following my graduation on May 7, 2011:

My Regent story begins on a private beach in Monterrey, Ca. on a Sunday morning in March, 2005. Inside the large rental house behind me, the women attending our church’s Spring ladies’ retreat were chatting and snacking following the morning service. I, on the other hand, had decided to spend some alone-time in prayer. On my lap was a 5-year-plan worksheet the speaker had just passed out and in my hand was a pen.

I knew where this prayer was going. “Lord, it’s me again. When and how?” I didn’t have to explain my question, because it had been the same question for 15 years, the time we had served as associate pastors at International Christian Center in San Leandro, Ca.

From the time I graduated from college in 1992 my heart’s desire was to receive a master’s degree. But as a pastor’s wife and, as time went by, a mother of 3 children, there was never a good time to continue my education. Housing prices in California were outrageous and I had no choice but to work full-time as a high school English & History teacher. I also lacked clear direction. Even if I went back to school, what would I study? As a lifelong lover of learning, my interests were varied.

The years passed quickly. In my heart I always believed that when all my children were in school the Lord would make a way for me to continue my education. In the fall of 2005 my youngest son, Ryder, would start kindergarten. But God was still silent on the subject of my future.

So after I prayed my one sentence prayer, I just sat still. The beach was empty and the view breathtaking. I reflected on my childhood years, for Monterrey was where I had grown up. The salty, seaweed scented air and the brisk breeze took me back to my happy years spent here as a pastor’s daughter. I was so thankful for my life and for God’s goodness. Practically lost in this moment of nostalgia I heard a voice whisper, “Major in Communications and prepare for television. “

I knew that voice like my own father’s. “God,” I replied, “I don’t know the first thing about television, and you know I’ve always been afraid to speak!”

But I knew there was no point in arguing. One thing I had learned in 15 years- don’t let fear keep you from obeying God’s voice. I began to fill out my 5-year-plan sheet. For the first time in years, I knew that God was leading me toward something beyond myself. At last my future was coming into focus.

I had one more question. “Where do you want me to go to school, Lord?”

Without hesitation the Holy Spirit answered, “Where do you want to go to school?”

In my mind I considered the direction my life was going. What school would prepare me for television? Ever since graduating from a secular university, I desired to attend a Christian grad school. The only option was clear—Regent University. Regent’s school of Communications and the Arts was the top Christian school in the field of Communications. The Christian Broadcasting Network was also located on campus—a great place for me to gain experience.

But Regent University was across the country—in Virginia Beach, Virginia! How would I ever talk my husband and family into moving 3,000 miles so mom could go back to school? It was so impossible I remember laughing and saying, “God, if this is your will then I won’t have to talk Matt (my husband) into this—you will. And if this is you could you give me a sign?”

After returning home from the women’s retreat, my husband and I sat down to catch up on the weekend’s events. I couldn’t wait to tell him my big news. I related all the highlights of the weekend, carefully holding back my surprise. “Oh, by the way,” I casually added, “God spoke to me this weekend.”

“Uh-oh,” he said. My husband had learned after 17 years of marriage that God’s voice usually meant our wallets would be opened. “What did He say?”

I proceeded to tell him the whole story. He quietly listened with no expression. After I finished he said, “Isn’t Regent in Virginia?”

I nodded yes. Next, he quickly listed in order all the reasons why that would not work. He was very sincere and sweet, and I loved the fact that he was trying to let me down gently. I agreed with him that it was a crazy idea. I left the conversation with “…if this is God He’ll show you and I won’t even have to bring it up again.”

Would you believe that 24 hours later my husband told me to “go ahead and apply?” That’s not all—the very next day a stranger brought a big box of books into the school where I was teaching and my principal said the box was for me. After removing the top layer of books, I smiled at what I found underneath. It was all of Pat Robertson’s books and 20+ cassette tapes of Pat’s teachings inside a tape case labeled CBN. Pat Robertson is the founder of Regent University and CBN. If that wasn’t a sign from God!

Two years would pass before we were able to sell our house and move to Virginia. We arrived with no jobs and no connections, but before our savings ran out, God provided a great job for my husband. Unusual favor of God and influence in the community followed—and in 2009 we started a church in north Suffolk called Three in One Church. After my first year at Regent I was granted an internship at the 700 Club. Four months later, I was offered a full time job as the Guest Segment producer. I am blessed to meet all the amazing guests we have on the show and to work with extremely talented and godly people who share my vision for the world to hear the gospel.

My Regent experience was rich and full in every way. I gained confidence over my initial fear of public speaking—here I am today speaking to you and on Sunday I’ll be speaking at my church for Mother’s Day. I learned the power of storytelling—both with visuals and with words. Before coming to Regent I used to always say, “I’m not very creative.” Now, my title at church is “Creative Director.” I have to give a shout out to my favorite professor—Dr. Pfeiffer. He taught me how to design a website and handle visuals. Who knew that as a church planter, we would need a webmaster? Guess who handles our church website?

Regent taught me you can completely change the course of your life through learning. Even though most of the students on campus were half my age, I learned that my age didn’t matter—it’s still hard work and perseverance that make a person successful.

Regent taught me how to unlock skills I didn’t know I had. For example, I found out I love to write, especially devotionals. Someday I hope to turn my blog into my first book. I found out that I was “technical” -- I learned how to work a camera, a light kit, sound equipment, edit video, be a digital photographer, and even direct . . .well, actually I wasn’t a very good director!

Regent made me believe I could do anything in the field of communications. Right now I’m a producer, but someday I’d like to write a movie screenplay and perhaps produce a movie—there was a time I wouldn’t even say something like that out loud. Now, I know it’s possible.

So, now we’re coming to the end of my Regent story. If you do the math, you’ll find it’s been 6 years since I filled out my “5 year plan” sheet. Who knew? Those things really do work! I can truly say without exaggeration—moving to Virginia and attending Regent University has been the greatest adventure of my life.

Finally, every great story has a hero. The true hero of my story is my husband Matt.**** He took a huge risk by uprooting our family from a comfortable life--a beautiful home, two perfectly good jobs, a large extended family, and a loving church body. He believed I heard from God and, by doing so, he allowed me to follow my dream. I love you Matt Stewart!

*Top picture left: I finally got my picture with Pat!

** Top picture right: "Look Mom, I'm on the program with Pat Robertson!" Yes, I actually said that!

***Center picture: After graduation, Matt took a picture of me with my regalia on. I didn't have it to wear to my graduation ceremony, because I was late and didn't get to pick it up! I was super bummed!!

****At the time of the speech, I didn’t have this last paragraph scripted. I cried my way through this part, and I really don’t know what I said—but here is the gist of it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to keep your marriage strong & stay out of trouble! My interview w/ John Bevere

John Bevere lights up when he talks about his wife Lisa and his four sons, daughter-in-law, and two G-babies (his word for his grandchildren; they call him G-daddy of just G!) In the video, the interview is close to four minutes, but the actual interview lasted twelve minutes. The man can talk!

I'm truly interested to know how married couples can make it and even thrive when they are physically separated so much. I believe God calls some marriages to this type of sacrifice. God's grace, which John defines as "God's empowerment that gives you the ability to go beyond your natural ability," is truly at work in the Bevere's ministry and in their family.

I love what John had to say about recreation and keeping busy with worthwhile activities. So true!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Doing Church in a Movie Theatre

I’ve always loved going to the movies. If you know my husband Matt and me, you know that if there is a halfway decent movie out, that’s where we’ll be on a Friday night. The BEST date night for me would include a Lime-Cilantro Chicken salad from Nordstrom Café, a little time to walk it off in the mall (to work up an appetite), a movie (a British chick-flick is the ultimate), popcorn, Diet Coke, Jr. Mints & Peanut M&M’s.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies (the exceptions were Sound of Music and Chariots of Fire because of their spiritual content—I love you mom!). I mean, what if Jesus were to return and we were in a theatre—would I make the rapture?! But times change . . .
I married a man who loves a good story. So, even when we were practically living on minimum wage, we always budgeted for a trip to the movies on date nights. Over the years, my Regal Crown club card has earned its share of free drinks, popcorns, and movies! Now, the cinema, aka “my happy place,” is giving back in an even bigger way! How ironic that we would start a church that meets in a Regal theatre? How amazing that almost 200 churches nationwide now meet in theatres!

I’m thrilled to be part of a theatre church! If you are thinking about going to church in a theatre or starting a church in a theatre, here are the positives:
· Cup holders! We let our people bring in coffee/drinks, and this is comforting to an “unchurched” person. Seriously, when we’re clapping or raising our hands during worship, visitors can hold their cup and not experience that awkward “what-do-I-do-with-my-hands” moment.
· Huge, clean bathrooms!
· Big screens—we have 2 projectors and use the entire screen. People are so used to looking at the screen now and even prefer it. We’re betting that we can simulcast into another theatre and our congregation will still have a similar “my pastor is in the room” experience. Which leads to. . .
· Room to grow—there are multiple theatres still available. Right now, we use 3 theatres—one for adults, one for teens, and one for children. As the main service grows, we hope to have a second worship team in a 4th theatre, and we will simulcast the message.
· Non-threatening environment to unchurched people—Some people might be intimidated to go into a church building but are very comfortable walking into a local theatre.
· Unifying—Every week our set up team works hard to transform the lobby, hallways, theatres, and 3 storage rooms (nursery, tots, & pre-k’s) into a church! Some might see having to set up/tear down your church every Sunday as a negative, but I’ve found it to be incredibly unifying. These volunteers become like family. One young man came to set up after spending the evening in the ER, and he was clearly in pain. I said, “Allen, what are you doing? You should be home in bed!” He said with a smile, “I’m here for the service, the church service. That’s what we call it, right?” I was blown away.
· Forces you outside the church walls, because you don’t have any! We focus on small groups inside people’s homes; we use Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, or Panera for staff or counseling meetings; we go TO the community for outreach and don’t wait for them to come to us.
· Your people learn that the church is NOT A BUILDING—it’s the body of Christ. Where does God live? In my heart, NOT in a building. I am the sanctuary of God.
· Personally, I look forward to the set-up time each week. On Sunday mornings, my teenage daughter Skye and I drop Dad off at the theatre at 7 am and head over to Starbucks for 30 minutes of latte’s and girl time. Then, my daughter sets up all the classrooms for the little ones. This time is very special to me, and I’m so proud of my daughter really “owning” this ministry.
Want to hear the negatives?
· I miss having a larger, deeper stage area for the performing arts (I’m a sucker for cool lighting & funky background décor). On the plus side, we put our efforts into making videos since we have such BIG screens!
· I leave church craving popcorn REALLY BAD! They make a fresh batch just as we leave, and it smells sooooooooo good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fighting Words

Words are so powerful. I’ve recently gotten on a bandwagon about how carelessly we describe our difficult situations in life. For instance, I’ve told you about my struggle with anxiety in a previous post, “The Ugly.” Once I decided to openly admit this, I wrestled with the question--how do you admit you struggle with something without admitting defeat or sounding like you’ve already given up? The answer--you adapt “fight” language.

For example, I don’t say, “I have anxiety.” I now say, “I battle anxiety.” This enemy of anxiety proves to be a formidable foe, but God is on my side and overwhelming victory will be mine one day. Earlier this year God gave me a scripture for 2011, Jeremiah 20:11.

It says, “The Lord is with me as a violent warrior.” I love that scripture and the picture it puts in my mind! It shows me that in the Spirit, God is fighting my enemy of anxiety like a half-crazed, sword wielding, God-version of William Wallace in the movie Braveheart. Other translations describe God here as a “mighty warrior, great warrior, dread warrior, dread champion, mighty terrible one,” etc. In other words, be afraid devil! Be very, very afraid!!

Do you believe that God will fight for you? David did. David knew how to use “fight” language because he knew he had a violent warrior God who would back up his trash talking* to Goliath! I keep a rock on my desk that I picked up from the stream where David found his 5 smooth stones before fighting Goliath. On the rock I wrote, “The battle is the Lord’s.” When I feel overwhelmed by things out of my control, I stop and look at the rock. The words remind me that God is on my side, He will fight my battles, and my speech needs to sound like I believe that!

From now on, before you say something like “I’m an alcoholic,” or “I’m lazy,” or “I’m fat,” or “I have cancer,” take a moment to choose your words carefully. Instead, try using fight language to show the enemy and yourself that you haven’t given up and you won’t give up. Why not say something like, “I’m fighting the urge to drink” or “I’m struggling with overeating, but I’m determined to win this battle!” Add some powerful scriptures on healing, freedom, and victory and you can say like Charlie Sheen, “Winning!” Only, you will actually be winning!

When Holly Wagner, co-pastor of Oasis Church, found out she had breast cancer, she was careful not to say, “I have cancer.” She realized (and I’m paraphrasing), “I’m not partnering with breast cancer, I’m not arm-in-arm going forward with breast cancer—instead I say that I have been diagnosed with cancer, but I won’t let it win.” That’s fight language! And, the good news is, she’s now cancer free!

I’m not saying you need to live in this imaginary place where you don’t face reality. Some people take this to a weird extreme. But the Word of God is clear on this subject, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”* I invite you to join me--choose to speak life, to fight on, and to ultimately win the battle with the help of our violent warrior God!

* Check out David’s bold fight language! David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” I Sam 17:45-47

*Proverbs 18:21

Monday, February 28, 2011

Count it all WHAT? Ya, right.


During my senior year of college at San Diego State University, I began getting headaches. It was summertime, and I was taking a 4-unit class known as the most difficult in the Psychology department—the notorious “Experimental Psychology.” The class was 4 hours a day for 6 weeks; needless to say, it wasn’t a good time for me to be in pain.

The first 3 days of class I was loaded on headache medicine, but by the fourth day I started throwing up. Soon after that, I experienced double vision and that’s when I went to see the doctor. Immediately, the doctor sent me to a neurologist who did a CAT scan, an MRI, and a spinal tap. The MRI revealed a swelling in my brain stem, but the doctor would need the spinal tap results before she could determine the cause. She mentioned it could be multiple sclerosis or encephalitis.

For the next 6 weeks I wore an eye patch to correct my double vision (one of my eyes looked permanently crossed), took the prescribed steroids to shrink the swelling in my brain, and waited for the test results. I continued attending class (w/ my one good eye!) and did my best to catch up and keep up. What if I had MS? I was a young married woman with my whole life in front of me. It was the very definition of a “trial.”


“Count it all joy,” Paul says in , “when you face trials, for the .” Does anyone else hate that verse? Seriously? Joy?! But early in this trial, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.” Somehow I knew this was the purpose of the trial and

I needed to pass the test—with joy.


Jesus says He came to give us joy. “I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do. John 17:13 The Amplified version defines complete joy as experiencing Jesus’ “delight fulfilled in them, that My enjoyment may be perfected in their own souls, that they may have My gladness within them, filling their hearts.’ Jesus came so that joy and delight could fill my heart? Count me in!


Anyone can have joy during a happy time, but how rare to experience joy during a life crisis. No wonder the enemy wants to steal our joy. What a testimony to the world when we are unshaken by uncertainty, pain, turmoil, and loss. We must be aware of the thief of joy. Some of us just accept the unpleasant or even horrific circumstance we’re in and resign ourselves to worry, anxiety, and depression. Stop! When you give in, you have come into agreement with the thief of joy. Instead, break any agreements you’ve made with the enemy and choose to step back into joy.


During my “trial”, I obviously asked the Lord to heal my brain. But I also asked for joy, and I made a conscience decision NOT to worry about the outcome of my test results. A few things helped me when I was tempted to worry. I intentionally listened to praise and worship music, surrounded myself with positive people, laughed whenever possible—especially at my new eye-patch “fashion statement”, worked hard in school, and kept my mind on the word of God.


I eventually discovered the swelling was caused by encephalitis. The doctor said I was lucky, because the type of virus I had is called “the sleeping sickness.” She said most patients go to sleep for six weeks. I would have failed my Psych class! Instead, I received an “A” in the class, regained my sight, and never lost my joy—glory to God!

Did you ever notice how this verse ends?

“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24

The outcome for everything God wants to do in your life is always full, complete joy. It’s worth repeating—Jesus came to give you joy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lysa Terkeurst & I Discuss Our Body Image Issues

Lysa Terkeurst's book Made to Crave is a MUST-HAVE for any woman dealing with food, weight, or body image issues. I loved the story in the book she tells about her ankles or "tankles", so I asked her to share it. Before the interview, I said, "Lysa, do you think you would be okay with me filming your ankles?"

At first she said no. But very quickly she looked down at her feet and said, "I'm wearing boots. Would I need to go ahead and take them off?"

I said, "I think it would be more of a 'reveal' if you would take them off on camera." She did--as you will see in the video! How awesome for her to finally embrace the one thing about herself that used to bother her so much.

My hope is that you will listen to God's opinion about your body and truly take it to heart as Lysa did (and as I'm learning to do about my dented nose). Psalm 139 is a good place to start!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can't Lead if You Won't Follow

As a leader, I’ve learned that some people in the church understand spiritual authority, but many don’t. What a pleasure to lead those people that understand this concept! How difficult and energy-zapping it is to lead those who don’t! Let’s face it--most people have a problem with authority because nobody likes being told what to do. But this is the way God has organized His kingdom. Apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, elders—God appoints and anoints people to lead and we are to follow.

David understood God’s delegated authority when he refused to kill Saul (even though Saul would have taken him out in a heartbeat!). He even repented for tearing off a piece of his robe. After doing so, he said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." 1 Sam 24:6 David set the bar high for all of us. We must respect those in authority over us and never cause them harm by our words or actions.*

More importantly, we must NOT be like Saul—taking advantage of our position because of pride and insecurity. Several years ago I taught from Watchman Nee’s book Spiritual Authority and it had a profound effect on the way I view leadership in the church. As leaders, we must realize the importance of staying under God’s authority. Too often we’ve seen pastors fall when they come out from under the protective umbrella of God’s covering and arrogantly try to lead in their own strength and know-how.

As Nee puts it, “One is not fit to be God’s delegated authority unless he himself first knows how to be under authority.” Also, it is “obedience that qualifies us to be God’s delegated authority.” Along with obedience, we must “lose our cleverness and opinion,” and allow God to break us of self. The only way to live in this state of mind is to constantly stay in communion with God. It is in this place of intimacy that we “clearly see our own faults” and our need for Him.

As leaders, our followers will benefit from our leadership to the extent that we have surrendered to God and been changed by His activity in our lives. In Watchman Nee’s A Balanced Christian Life, he explains this point. “Unless we are delivered, we cannot expect other people to be delivered. If we do not have vision, how can we expect others to see God’s way? Except we walk in it, no one else will be able to follow. Today God wishes to deal with us first. And after He has gotten some of us, we can then expect to gain other people.”

Oh God, give me the grace to be led by you and to lead others well!

*I’m not saying there’s no occasion to remove someone from their position in the church. That’s why we have things like church by-laws. I’m just saying we must tread very cautiously when it comes to these delicate matters—with a heart and attitude like David.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My 2011 Challenge

Last year I distinctly remember starting the year with clear instructions from the Holy Spirit, “Pray for unity, wisdom, and favor.” Just the sound of those three words still makes me feel good.

What am I hearing from the Lord this year? “Give more.” This is not as pleasant to hear as last year’s word. At the same time, our personal goal is to get out of debt.* My prayer is, “Lord, how do I get out of debt (which requires spending less) while at the same time giving more?” TBD.

Last week I spent a good deal of time talking to the company handling my school loans. I’m thrilled to be done with school, but now it’s time to pay for my education. Not so thrilling. We’re trying to figure out where the extra money is going to come from to pay my school bills. The only answers seem to be “downsize,” “spend less,” and “Trust God!”

For a girl who likes to shop (and I’m an excellent bargain shopper thanks to my mom), I am sad to say good bye to my friends--the mall, Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. You will be missed.

However, I confess that I’m excited to see how the Lord will help us navigate our way through this year. Spending less, giving more—what will that look like? I believe as we do our part, God will do His part. Miracles are going to happen. Extraordinary events are inevitable. The adventure of 2011 begins. . .

* After Matt & I set this goal, I attended our annual New Year’s Day prayer meeting with our CBN staff. Pat Robertson spends the week after Christmas at his home in the mountains praying and seeking God’s face. He delivered a prophetic word that he believed was from God and I took the following notes (as fast as I could!):

“Your country is in grave peril. In 2 years will come a time of reckoning. The president elected will have an impoverished nation.

Get out of debt. Restrict purchases.

My glory will shine . . .many will turn to me while many will curse and revile me.

Extraordinary miracles.

I will not permit mankind to destroy itself with nuclear weapons.

Great tragedy is coming . . .people will know I am God.

Seek wisdom, righteousness, and blessing.

Wise men’s solutions won’t work.”

For me, this confirmed the urgency we feel to get out of debt. Time will tell if this prophecy comes to pass, but I do believe Dr. Robertson is a man of God.