Where's My Coffee?

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"Where's my coffee? I just emptied the V60 and put it away, but now I can't find my coffee."

That is how the conversation began with my roommate, and it developed into the decision that, "the most frequent adult problem we all face is: where's my coffee?" 

It is a sad but true truth...I think we all ask it. You might be asking it about your tea or detox water, but we all face it. In the morning we need that headspace, that pause where we process the day before and prepare ourselves for the day to come. It doesn't really matter what your beverage of choice is, but #CoffeeIsLife.

More importantly and despite my beverage bias--the most common problem we all face is that we need that time and space each day, and most of us aren't getting it. Lifestyles and work styles have us moving so fast and so constantly that we often don't take the time we need. I see my friends getting burned out, needing a rest period so badly they want to run away, or crashing in the midst of projects. 

We need to be intentional with our time. Take our life one bite at a time.

Everyone caught on and adapted so easily to eating six small meals a day, or grazing...why aren't folks doing that with their lives? New lift plan people: Take each week day by day. Take your time to have your morning coffee, do it alone in a quiet place, do it with friends or family digging deeper into each relationship, do it in a crowded coffee shop making new and brilliant connections. Either way it does not matter "where" your coffee is, just that you are taking time to have it. 

Your business, your family, your friends--will all thank you later for taking that time. You will have greater success all around. The most common problem is not that we can't find our coffee, it is that we can't find the time between our #sidehustle and our 9-5 to refocus.

Time is valuable, but if you don't have the space in your head to 'human' because you aren't taking time to reset, your time won't be of any use and will cost you more in the end. 


- Felicity Neel

For more blogs by Felicity Neel, go to her marketing website at mtnmarketingmaven.com

It's A Wonderful Life

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
— James 5:16, NLT

It produces wonderful results

I love that. 

I love it because we so often fear that our confessed sins will push people away and bring rejection into our lives. Yet in God's kingdom it's so opposite. He gives grace and embraces us as individuals, not as the sin we confess. And often it's through the human arms of our friends, pastors, mentors, that He embraces us. As we confess and stay accountable to each other, and pray for one another, that effective prayer produces wonderful results.

Truth and Love go hand in hand.

We cannot have a healthy relationship without one or the other. As we follow God's leading in our accountability, we will find how to balance truth and love. Because of God's unfailing, zealous love for us, the truth is we need to live like Christ. It's all in order to keep us close to His heart. It's not binding or harmful, it's not for the purpose of keeping us away from good things. 

It's to bring us into better things. A better life than you ever dreamed. It produces wonderful results that you never thought possible; but God did. 

Great Exploits

But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
— Daniel 11:32

This week one of my regulars at the coffee shop approached me and said he wanted to talk. 

A friend of his has been helping kids with cancer for years through a Christian organization. When his own child was born he had leukemia. Some time later his friend posted that the leukemia was all clear!

And then some time later, he posted that it was back full force and they were leaving it, "In God's hands."

"What do you do with that?" he asked with genuine concern written on his face. He said he didn't know how to respond because he isn't religious at all. 

As I weighed out coffee beans, I told him that leaving it to God doesn't mean we shrug responsibility. It meas we do what we can in our limitations and we believe that God, who's sovereign, will do the rest. Even if it means that He's there to comfort us when the worst happens. 

Then last night, one of my classmates with church background made this statement: 

"Laws, laws, laws, no mercy! That's the God of the Old Testament!"

"It's different when you read it with God's heart," I said. He almost dismissed it but the Holy Spirit urged me on. "Most of the destruction that happened was consequences of people's actions. God only wanted to love them and they pushed Him away." He nodded quietly. 

Great exploits don't always mean preaching before thousands, going on missionary trips, or healing hundreds. It could be speaking life into a concerned regular at a coffee shop; bringing truth to someone who walked away from the church; it's loving the girl who most people dismissed, because I don't get to choose who's deserving of love and who isn't. 

Sometimes it's a mother who intercedes for her children when they face the ugliness of the world; it's a loving wife who honors her husband and supports him. Great exploits are simply being obedient to God. 

You can preach and heal and see lives transformed; you can be a light in your home and at work. It's simple. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a Christian. They see how I live. It isn't perfect and in fact, most of the time it's raw and blunt. But I know people see Christ in me and they see His work in my life because given enough time, they come to me when they're not sure what to do. People see the light in me when I'm just serving their coffee and chatting in the early hours of the morning.

Great exploits come from having relationship with God and following His leading. He strengthens us when we cannot stand--in turn, we strengthen everyone around us. 

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
— 1 Corinthians 15:58

Till The Heart

The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
— Ezekiel 36:34-36

How often do we look at the end product of our promises and we forget the process it takes to get there?

Don't get me wrong--we should look forward to the destination. God is on the brink of doing some incredible things in our lives and changing our hearts! He's about to restore what was broken, take a wilderness and make it like the Garden of Eden--can you imagine that? The Garden of Eden!

We all have a wilderness in our lives. We all have hearts of stone that He wants to make hearts of flesh. We all have a testimony that He uses for His glory. We are all on a journey. But in the beginning of the chapter He says, "For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown [vs 9]."

There's a process of tilling hard, fallow ground and making it rich again in order to grow a Garden of Eden. 

That process usually isn't enjoyable or pain-free but it is necessary for a real heart-change. God has really big plans for you! But unless He tills your heart first, you will remain a wilderness. I would rather endure the tilling than remain desolate. 

Remember that God is for you and anything He works in your life is only ever for good. He wants to rebuild the broken places. He wants you to reach that destination; we need to embrace the process of getting there. 

There's a beginning to every promise. The more you surrender and say yes to God, the more you'll see Eden becoming reality in your life. It's greater than anything you could ever dream for yourself. 

 

 

Easter: 5 Things Worship Leaders Need To Know

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Easter. Resurrection Sunday. Your church is going to be packed this weekend!

And as a worship leader, it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane of, “This is just another Sunday.” Well, Easter is not just another Sunday. The story that we’re telling on Easter is central to our faith. It’s why we got saved. Easter is a time that will alter the course of eternity for many who will be attending your service on this weekend.

So here are 5 Things Worship Leaders Need to Know when it comes to your Easter service:

1.       Don’t Forget About God. 

Often, in the business (busy-ness) of a production, we’re trying to dot all of our i’s and cross all of our t’s. Which is important. But let’s not neglect pulling from the source of wisdom and power of the One who our service is built around. Pray the night before. Pray before any of your team arrives. Pray once your team has arrived. Pray during rehearsal. Pray after rehearsal. Pray without ceasing. Services seem to run much better when God is in the picture...and included in your production.

2.       Be Mindful of the Songs in your Set List. 

Easter isn’t the time to build a set list around songs that you prefer, or songs that you sing well. These should be songs of Jesus’ victory over death, God’s plan of salvation, His love for humanity, etc.

3.       Excellence is a Must. 

Roughly half of the people who will attend your church on Easter weekend are CEO Christians. What’s a CEO Christian? Those who usually attend church on Christmas and Easter Only. Get all of the bugs worked out with your team. Plan your transitions. Communicate every detail to your team. Give them a vision of what needs to be accomplished. While all of your church services should be done with excellence, this is especially true on Easter. Give your visitors a compelling reason to return.

4.       Plan to End Pre-Service Rehearsal Early and have Your Team Greet guests. 

Many who will be attending your church on Easter will either be feeling lonely, guilty, or both. And the feeling of isolation only intensifies when they see person after person conversing only with those who attend regularly. Call an early rehearsal; end your rehearsal 10 or 15 minutes early, and have your team spend that extra time meeting new guests. Who knows…it could make a difference in someone’s eternity.

5.       Your Personal Life Will be on Display. 

Fact: Those who will be visiting your church will be paying more attention to you and your pastor. Why? Because you are the ones they’ve seen from the stage. Sure, you’ve publicly shown that Jesus is your Lord, but is it evident that you’re engaged in the rest of the service when you take your seat, or when you’re chatting in the foyer, or when you’re interacting with your kids and your spouse? Be mindful of what you're communicating in your body language off stage. Remember: You’re being watched.

You Can Overcome "It"

Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.
— Isaiah 48:16

What is your "it"?

Problems, struggles, needs, trials? The moments of, "God I need a miracle!" or even the moments of, "God, I'm trying my hardest to wait on you..." He knows. We know that He knows, but this is something that we really need to get in our hearts. He knows; he's familiar with us and our needs; he sees us draw every single breath, watches its chemistry within our bodies nourishing cells, and then watches us exhale this breath of life. How much more does He know our needs?

From the time that IT was, HE was. He has a solution, He is the sovereign one. 

So often we look at our problems as mountains in front of us and we can't help but think how helpless we are to remove it. So instead, we learn to build around it; to live our entire lives around it; and every now and then we look at how big IT is and then sigh and continue with our daily lives. IT becomes something we just deal with. 

We can't forget that we serve a God who levels mountains to make our way straight before us. 

At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them...And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys.
— Isaiah 49:8, 11

He's our redeemer! And we are His people! He wants us to be free and walk in authority more than we do because HE sees the big picture. He isn't ashamed of our "it". 

He is the Lord YOUR God, fully understanding of your situation and fully sovereign to level it. But in the process of overcoming, He teaches us to profit--to learn from every experience and grow in maturity; to learn the ways of war and strengthen ourselves in Him; to embody the promises He has for us. And He will lead you in the way you should go. You're not figuring this thing out yourself. You're not guessing. He will lead you.

Sometimes He leads us up to mountains just so that He can show that it is HE who levels it. 

Taste & See

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
— Psalm 34:8-10

Those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

This is something I have been reminding myself of every day, multiple times a day. It's easy to take things for granted and forget just how blessed we are. Everyone does it. In some way, in some areas of our lives, we take certain things for granted. 

A couple weeks ago, I got that horrible cold everyone came down with. Within days, I couldn't taste anything.

I have never been so congested that I couldn't taste or smell anything; perhaps close, but not entirely wiped out. For the first few days of no taste, I tried eating things that were full of flavor and spice in attempts to get a hint of flavor. I even sauteed a plate of jalepenos and spicy peppers with my dinner one night! Everyone who walked in started coughing and getting runny noses. Me? Nothing. I took a bite of my food. Nothing. 

I lost my appetite since I couldn't taste anything, and for a couple more days only ate because I knew I had to. Normally I eat about 5 times a day and now I was down to 2. 

One day at work, I made myself a coffee out of habit [and need for caffeine]. I sipped it not expecting to taste anything. The faintest hint of flavor made my eyes light up!

I could taste my coffee! It was just a hint but it was enough to lift my spirits. It meant that I was getting better. 

Maybe we go through dry spiritual states so that we remember what it was like when we felt God's presence every day; or when we used to read our bibles hungrily. Sometimes we go through seasons of dryness. After being in that season long enough, our spirits get hungry. 

They say that appetite is the best ingredient for any dish. The same goes for our spiritual health. The hungrier we are for God, the more satisfied we'll be. 

I believe God gives us hints of His goodness, His peace, His love, His wealth, etc., when we're in seasons of drought and grow hungry. It lights up our spirits and signifies that we're getting healthier. He wants to draw us in. He doesn't just want to be read about--He wants us to taste & see that He is good, and in Him we lack no good thing. 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
— Psalm 34:18-19

Let that sink in. He is near if we only choose to reach out. He comes to the rescue each time. He gives perfect satisfaction for every need. 

Every need. 

Perseverance

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Coming up against spiritual resistance can sometimes take every ounce of strength that we have in order to overcome it. 

God showed this to me while I was climbing once. At the time, I was in San Diego for a powerful women's conference and I was spiritually tired. I went to the conference expecting to hear from God, to get some things out of my heart and get His truth in me. Then I came against spiritual resistance. I was connecting with God and the conference was amazing, but among these beautiful Godly women I felt alone; out of place; and I could hear that voice telling me I didn't belong there. Questions like, "Why did I even come? Out of a thousand women I haven't connected with anyone." 

I recognized the voice of the enemy but I still had to fight. I prayed and pressed in until I saw breakthrough and the enemy had to leave.

Going to this conference, I was tired but determined.

When I was climbing, I wore myself out pretty quick; but I wanted to do one more climb. I was an overhanging climb [which is slightly upside-down] which made it more difficult. And I was lead climbing, which means I was clipping the rope in as I went higher. When I got to the hardest part of the climb, my arms and my fingers couldn't do it anymore. I felt like I couldn't hold on anymore and everything in me wanted to let go; but that would mean falling about fifteen feet to where I last clipped. I didn't want to fall. So I mustered up all my strength and pulled the rope up and tried to clip. My fingers surged and then I got tired and grabbed the wall. I tried again, the gate on the clip started to open, and a finger came off my hold. I grabbed the wall.

I thought about letting go; but I didn't want to fall. So I mustered up my strength again. I yelled and gripped the hold I had with all I had in me. The gate started to open on the clip, a finger came off the hold and I gripped it even tighter. I was too close to give up. 

Click.

The rope is clipped and I let go of the wall, allowing myself to hang on that blessed clip. I didn't finish but I clipped that bolt when I was spent and exhausted. Then I came down and I was congratulated for pushing through. 

What are  you determined for in your life? Determined for breakthrough? For vision? For your family or your prayer life? 

Sometimes we come up against an overhanging wall in life when we're already spent. We feel like we really can't hold on anymore. We try to stay positive and combat the lies of the enemy but we're so tired. We have good moments which are like that open gate on the clip, but then we face resistance again. 

8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

It's not our strength, it's His. He makes us strong so we can do all things, if only we have the stubborn will to do it. To keep pressing in. To remember the authority He gave us against the enemy and tell the enemy to leave in Jesus' name. 

Here's the beautiful part: I didn't finish the climb. But when I came down I was congratulated for getting through that hard part. God is like that. He doesn't stand around waiting for us to finish and then get disappointed when we don't. He congratulates us because He knows our process. He loves when we muster our strength and push through even though we're tired. 

If you're determined for breakthrough, God will make it possible. He will always catch you, always give you strength, and remind you of the authority He gave you. Just don't let go.

A Heart After God

Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go [into the promised land]. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
— Deuteronomy 1:38

God created something special in Joshua. It was not only the heart of a faithful servant, but a heart to seek God. 

God was looking for faithful people who would do His will because they loved the Lord their God. He found this in Caleb and Joshua, who were not afraid of the enemy because they knew what God had told them to do. They trusted in God's word because they knew something about His character that others had forgotten. 

Caleb and Joshua knew God as a Father; something Israel had forgotten.

Joshua was to be encouraged and prepared to go into the land and take it--40 years before it would happen! For 40 years, Moses encouraged Joshua and in turn, Joshua spent intimate time in God's presence. 40 years later, he was strong and courageous to take what he knew was theirs to take. 

God prepared you to take something. You have an inheritance that He created you for; the only person who can stop you from obtaining the life God promised you, is you. 

There is no force on this earth or beneath it that can stop you from taking the inheritance God has for you. You must be strong and courageous to take it. 

God had to pursue His chosen people and teach them that He is a relational God who really does seek the best for them. He still pursues us. It won't do to keep Him at a distance from your heart. He wants real, raw, pure love. He can bound over every mountain of your life, everything that stands in your way! He extends His hands to us and asks, "Will you come with me?" 

God prepared you to take something. If you know His character and trust in His word, then you will not need to be afraid or doubtful. If you're still afraid then spend intimate time with God. The more you know Him and His character, the stronger you'll be to do His will. 

Shipwrecked

I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel...24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
— Acts 27:22-25

Faith is when you trust God against all odds.

Fourteen days a raging storm tossed Paul's ship around the ocean. The crew thought they were done for. No sun, no light, no break from the tempest. They tried to lighten the ship as much as possible by cutting off anchors, dumping the ship's tackle overboard, even throwing food into the churning sea--anything to make it out alive. Fourteen days of this and the storm pounded harder. 

Yet Paul, a prisoner on his way to appeal before Caesar, had a word from the Lord and used that as his anchor of hope. He held onto that word for dear life because he knew that God always fulfills His word. Not only that, but God promised to spare the entire crew--not just Paul. God had a mission in mind and the storm would take them there. Against all odds, Paul trusted and believed in God even though the storm raged on. 

30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea... 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
— Acts 27:30-32

Sometimes you have to let go of your logical ideas and remain where you are in order to be saved. This is when faith moves against all odds.

You have to cut off your plan B and remain where God has placed you until He says it's time to go. Our job is to wait on God, wait for His voice, wait for His timing, until He moves us forward. He will bring everything else to pass as it should. When we have a plan B in mind that goes against His word, we become lost in the sea. We'll be dashed against the rocks. 

I know what it's like when storms rage around you; darkness shrouds your mind and you pray for daylight to come, for the circumstances to end; yet the tempest grows more intense and you're trying to keep your head above water. At times like these, I've often tried to come up with a plan B because, "Surely this isn't what God had in mind when I said Yes!

The best thing you can do in a tempest is lighten your load. Check your priorities, your relationships, your habits, and cut off the things that are weighing you down. 

The sailors threw anything overboard that they didn't need because they had to lighten the ship. God told them to stay put, so they lightened the load. The things that you don't need and only weigh you down...leave it in the sea.

Finally, when you're in a tempest, give thanks to God and remember His word. Don't forget the promises that He gave you because those will be your life source. Contrary to current circumstances, His word rings more true. You can hold onto that and put your life on His word. It will save your life. 

Pursuing Love

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
— Genesis 3:8-9

In a moment everything changed. 

As soon as sin poisoned the hearts of Adam and Eve, they immediately did what we all want to do with sin--they hid. They were filled with shame, fear and disappointment. They never knew those feelings before, all they'd ever experienced in a timeless garden with God was His eternal love. All they knew was pure joy and goodness in a place where they enjoyed creation, each other, and had an unveiled relationship with God. Suddenly they were frightened of the very One (the only One) they had always loved. Suddenly they were ashamed of His goodness and glory. 

It's interesting to me how the father of lies has never changed his tactics yet he can be so effective. It's because the devil knows how to punish our hearts; take away the safety of relationship with God and then WE hide OURSELVES. 

But God pursues us. 

God didn't just leave them there clothed in guilt and shame, letting the poison take over. He pursued them. It was no coincidence that immediately after sin entered and Adam and Eve hid, God showed up in the garden. 

It wasn't because He was there to scold them. He found them because He wouldn't allow total separation. 

Although they would have to reap the consequences of their actions, God insisted on keeping relationship with the crown of His creation; the very creation that He made with His hands and breathed His life into. 

For the first time, they experienced another scenario: the only One they'd ever loved wasn't ashamed of them, but still loved them as before. 

His goodness and glory was still available for them to partake in. He wasn't ashamed of their sin but instead He covered them. Their own coverings were insufficient (have you ever seen a fig leaf?) but He knew what they needed. It wasn't just the animal skins--it was unfailing, unmerited, undeserved, unconditional love. Adam and Eve never really understood that kind of love until they did something that conditional love would cast them aside for. Instead, He drew them in. 

He draws us in. God has been around humans for a long time, He's seen everything we're capable of and more; the goodness and curiosity He placed in us to discover Him; the dark evil of sin that's driven humanity to do terrible things. But He isn't afraid of it. God isn't afraid of your sin, your mistakes, the horrible things that life can pile on us. 

In fact, He promises that instead of your shame, you will have double honor and the ruins of your life can be rebuilt greater than before. He can look your sin in the face and make you white as snow, cast it to the deepest depths of the sea where it will never surface again, clothe you in glory and honor as His child. 

When He calls you, answer. He isn't there to shame you. He's there to cover you. 

The Power Of Prayer

5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church...7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
— Acts 12:5-8

We don't often realize the power of prayer.

Constant prayer can ebb and flow like shifting tides. Some days are sowing days while others are reaping day. Sometimes the sowing goes day after day; sowing, sowing, sowing. This is where stubborn faith comes in. Even when we're wearing or praying dutifully, we continue to sow and God honors our faith. His word never returns void--but we must sow it. 

Then there's the reaping day. These could be anything from a small victory to looking your promise square in the eye. When I read these scriptures a few days ago, it made for a wonderful reaping day! God illuminated His word to me and gave me the revelation I'm writing today. In a dry season of sowing, I got the refreshment I needed. I thought of all those believers in a small, candlelit room at midnight. It was the eve of Paul's execution and they were praying constantly. Among them was a servant girl, Rhoda. It probably seemed like an impossible situation. No man got pardoned unless the king said so, and Herod was bent on Paul's execution. 

Little did they know, God was working the miraculous as they prayed. Imagine if we could take a glimpse of the heavenlies working in our favor as we pray. 

We might see the same, mundane sowing days with an occasional sprout of hope or confirmation. But we don't see the roots pushing through tough soil, drinking in nutrients, growing and spreading, anchoring themselves, delving deeper to form a foundation. We don't see our prayers reaching the Throne room like precise arrows, filling bowls of intercession. 

When we partner with God's will, our prayers pulsate with the beat of His heart and He commands angels to aid us and carry out His will. That's how powerful prayer can be. 

All we see is the fruit. Sometimes sowing takes so long that when we see our prayers fulfilled, we can hardly believe it. We know God can do the impossible but we have to believe it. 

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
— Acts 12:13-16

Rhoda knew Paul's voice. She knew without a doubt that their prayers had been answered. I want to be like her. I want to know my Master's voice without a doubt and pray His will. I want to have faith so stubborn that my prayers shake the heavens, and I get to partner with God to do the impossible. 

The power of prayer is no small trifle. It's the most powerful weapon that we as Christians can wield. Let us remember to pray with the authority we're given. 

Sow and reap. Have faith. 

Fight for victory // Nehemiah part 3

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them...Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar.
— CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Restoration brings opposition. At the very onset of a vision to rebuild, to heal, to bridge gaps, to forgive, the enemy brings opposition. We must fight for victory.

The enemy is not creative in his attacks but he is particular to each individual. Fortunately, we can see his methods and strategies in the Word and then have a defense against him. In order to have a defense against the enemy, we must accept the truth that there is an enemy to fight. The truth is, if the enemy has a strategy against us then we can form a strategy against him. I'm not good at watering things down, so I'll just tell you that this enemy isn't merciful. He wants to kill you before he runs out of time. This is why community is so vital in our walk with God. Joining arms with believers forms a wall of prayer--a shield of faith--that the enemy can't just walk through. 

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”
— Nehemiah 4:1-2

The first form of opposition Nehemiah faced was ridicule. We often experience this through other people who say we can't do what our hearts are set on. Sometimes the enemy ridicules us through our own insecurities and thoughts. Nehemiah immediately prayed. He knew that this dream came from God and God would make it possible. So the Jews prayed and then they built the wall, divinely moving in God's grace and strength. 

Having a mind to work, a mind to build, gave the Jews divine grace to continue in the way God was leading them. No ridicule could dishearten them because they had confidence in their God. 

Then the enemy threatened to attack and confuse Jerusalem. Confusion is a deadly virus that starts small and then spreads out, doing most of the work for the enemy. Often when confusion breeds, if believers aren't grounded, it attacks weak spots and turns people on each other. Again, the first thing Nehemiah did was pray! He and the people got on their knees and prayed. Getting rooted in God's word is the best thing you can do because He never lies and He is not the author of confusion. If you're in a confusing season, you're probably not connected to the heart and mind of God. Take a step back and ask Him for truth and clarity. 

He brings clarity, exposes the lies, extinguishes fear, cuts out pride, gives us endurance. It's amazing how clearly we see when He brings us above the chaos of the storm and onto the mountaintop. 

Then Nehemiah set up a watch day and night. Don't just leave it all up to your prayers--take action! Be vigilant, be watchful; because in a moment of discouragement the enemy will try to take opportunity. 

10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”
— Nehemiah 4:10-11

The people were growing weary and tired. The wall was such a mess that they felt unable to build. Ever feel like you're sifting through layers and layers of junk? It can be overwhelming. Sometimes we start strong and feel like nothing can stop us. Then after digging down a few feet we realize we've barely scratched the surface. This is where you must lean on God and lean on your fellow comrades. Stay with it. Take a deep breath and keep at it

Do not grow weary in doing good, because at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not lose heart [Galatians 6:9]. 

But if you give up, that harvest will never come and the enemy will knock you out. Let God finish what He's started--what you have started. The harvest will be so worth it when you look back at all the fruit that's come from it; and you will have no regrets for digging in your heels and staying with it. 

13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
— Nehemiah 4:13-14

The people took action against the enemy and Nehemiah reminded them how great and awesome our God is! He reminded them that they had something to fight for. This dream, this wall, this city, this temple wasn't just for them. It was for their families, for future generations. Because the people took action, the enemy didn't get to advance. The enemy's plan was thwarted. God reveals plans of the enemy and thwarts them when we come to Him. Even so, the Jews didn't lower their guard. They kept their weapons on them as they built. They continued faithfully, knowing this:

Our God will fight for us. 

Our enemy is very real. He does prowl about like a roaring lion. But remember that God is greater, He has all power, all dominion, all authority, and He fights for us. If He tells us to do something, He will provide the grace and strength to do it. It's our responsibility to be alert, watchful and prayerful. We get to build the dream. If we endure and don't give up, it will be greater than we ever imagined. Fight for victory and watch God take you to greater lengths than you thought possible. 

Become a Visionary // Nehemiah Part 2

11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem...17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste...Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. 19 But when [our enemies] heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing?”...20 So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”
— Nehemiah 2:11-20 [Condensed]

Nehemiah wasn't afraid to stare destruction in the face. He had the favor of the King behind him. 

When he got to Jerusalem he took a few people with him to assess the situation. Walking a full perimeter around the wall, he got vision for the work that needed to be done. He wasn't discouraged by the extensive task because he had a God-given dream and knew that God would strengthen them to fulfill it. 

At first, he took only a few people with him while he gained vision. It's so important to have a close group of friends who are heaven-minded and discerning, who can support you in the process of dreaming. God puts people in our lives so that we don't have to do life alone. They're trustworthy people who aren't ashamed of the damage and brokenness in our lives. Instead of seeing our healing as a daunting task, they see room for God to do the impossible.  They will stand with you and build the God-dream in your heart, understanding that in doing so, they're building the body of Christ

The dreams God puts in your heart are not just for you. They form the inner-workings of the body of Christ. Each dream is connected like veins and capillaries to carry life throughout the body of Christ. 

So, Nehemiah told the people about the dream after getting vision for it. He told them about God's favor and confirmations; a testimony of faith. Now his dream was their dream, and they would all work to build it. 

Immediately enemies arose to discourage them; immediately Nehemiah combated them with truth and faith.

The enemy knows the importance of the purpose of God in your life. He knows that if you build up those ruins and come in unity with people, you'll emerge much stronger than before. He knows you'll be fortified, steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord [1 Cor. 15:58]. When that happens, combat his lies and accusations with the Truth; and hold fast to faith that the word God spoke will happen. The enemy is not creative in his attacks but he is particular. Therefore, be ready. Be prepared

Hold fast to the dream God put inside you and trust Him to provide the grace and strength to complete it. Stay open and accountable to the people God provided for you; because you will end up fighting side-by-side.  

Dare to Dream // Nehemiah Part 1

3 The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are burned with fire...5 And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned...8 Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses...if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.
— Nehemiah 1:3-9 [Condensed]

The first thing Nehemiah does when he finds out his beloved city is in ruins and the wall is broken down, is intercede. He understood the weight of the covenant God made with His people. 

Nehemiah got on his face and interceded for his nation, repenting of his sins and the sins they committed against God. He was truly humble. He didn't resort to denial or blame shifting, nor did he shuck off responsibility and think, "Well I'm safe here. I'm the cup bearer for the King of Persia. I've been righteous in serving the Lord." He mourned and wept, understanding the weight of the covenant God made with His people. 

In his time of intercession, he reminded God of that covenant. He had hope in God's word because he knew that God doesn't break promises.

Nehemiah grabbed hold of that promise.

 Not only that, but he decided to take action and asked God for favor. 

It's so easy to get caught up in our daily lives and lift up an occasional prayer for the things that don't go right. We can get caught up in the disappointment of how things didn't go rather than realizing how sovereign God is in His plans for our lives. I'm sure Nehemiah was comfortable in the palace but he didn't want comfort; he wanted to see God's dreams come to fruition! There are covenants and dreams that God made for your life and the enemy will do all that he can to stop them. Maybe you made mistakes or others sinned against you. 

The promise still stands. The dream is still alive. 

Nehemiah knew he had to fight for this dream. Will you? Will you dare to dream again? God is for you, He wants nothing more than to partner with you. You have His favor. The wall in Nehemiah represents broken down dreams left in ruins. Perhaps a career, marriage, or a broken heart.

God wants to restore that broken mess and make it greater than ever. He can make it stronger, more beautiful and more incredible than before. 

First we need to approach Him humbly, repent for coming short or sinning when we should have followed His direction; then remind Him of the promise (which really reminds us and builds our faith); then ask Him what we do to move forward. He will answer. You have His favor. Dare to dream again. 

Stillness

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
— 1 Kings 19:11-12

Elijah saw God in the grand, miraculous works He did. 

He had just shown Israel that God is the true God and destroyed the false prophets, and then prayed for rain after 3 years of drought. The fire fell from heaven and rain soaked the earth. Elijah knew God's power. 

But I wonder if he knew God's safety and security, His intimacy. Although Elijah appeared fearless, he ran away at the first sign of a death threat because he believed he was alone. How many times have we experienced victory and then gave into temptation or fear? 

So he journeyed alone into the wilderness, to a mountain where God displayed His power. But God wasn't IN these displays. He was in the still, small voice. I believe God was showing Elijah where to find His heart and where to find security--not just His power. 

Security isn't found in power but in intimacy. It's found in love. In the place where everything else is quieted and it's just you and God; and you can pour out your heart to Him; that's where His security lies. That's where He can speak to your heart. 

More than just comfort, God assured Elijah that he wasn't alone. It wasn't just Elijah facing the world and trying to turn Israel back to God. God promised there would always be a remnant. This was no measly handful of people serving God, He had 4,000 people reserved for Himself! Elijah was not alone. 

You are not alone. You're secure, upheld by a God who is capable of the greatest power and the greatest love. 

Take moments to hear His still, small voice and you will know Him in a deeper way. Take notice of the people around you who have been strategically placed in your life. 

Putting Yourself In Another's Position

Luke records the story of a man with an advanced case of leprosy. How traumatic, painful and humiliating this must have been for him. But one day, Jesus came to the man’s town. When the man saw Jesus, he fell to the ground. He humbly said to Jesus, “Lord, if You want to, You can make me well.” Jesus then reached out His hand…touched the man…and said, “I want to.” Immediately the leprosy left him.
— Luke 5:12-13

This story shows us that God has empathy for His children. As Christians, we are to have the same compassion—the same empathy toward those whom we encounter. 

Empathy is defined as:  "The ability to understand and share the feelings of others."

Continuing the ministry of Jesus is what we're called to as Christians. God could have sovereignly chosen to have Jesus' life continue (in human form) until today, but had He done this, Jesus wouldn't have been able to meet every single need—of every single person—throughout the entire world. So He chose us to carry on this same ministry of Jesus! In Luke 10:19, Jesus bestows us with power over satan: "Behold, I have given you authority over ALL the power of the enemy…", and in Mark 16, He says, "These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe in Me: They will cast out demons in My name…(and) be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed."

So with this type of authority and power, we are fully-equipped to meet the needs of others. But we'll never get to exercise these supernatural abilities unless we allow empathy to show us that there is a need.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to simply, "Honor Christ and put others first." And Philippians 2:3-5 says to, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. You must have the same attitude that Jesus had. ‭‭If we keep these Christ-like principles in mind, empathy will become like second nature to us and putting ourselves in another's position will simply be a reflex.


Here are 7 Tips to help you Put Yourself in Another's Position:

1. Notice others. 

2. Engage them. 

3. Listen intently. 

4. Pray silently as they talk. 

5. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. 

6. Be mindful of your body language. 

7. Grieve with them.

The man walking down the street…the woman pumping gas into the car next to you…the waiter who takes your order. Everyone has a story. Everyone has experienced hardships, betrayal, hurts and traumas. If we keep this in mind with everyone whom we encounter, we begin to understand more about the heart of Christ and continue the ministry He began!

Unlikely Blessings

2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand...
22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
— Genesis 39:2-3, 22-23

Life can repeat cycles of ups and downs. 

In Joseph's case, depending on the perspective, it could either look like a life of hardship and unfairness or of incredible blessing. He was sold into Potiphar's house as a slave but then became the keeper of everything Potiphar owned because the Lord blessed everything that came into his hand. 

But he was in the home of an Egyptian, separated from his family and homeland, living among pagans. Quite an unlikely place for blessings. 

Yet as a living, breathing testimony of God and His goodness, he walked about influencing the entire household. 

Then his life cycles to the next hardship; the next portion of unfairness. He did the right thing, he had integrity--not just with his master but unto God--and got punished for a filthy lie. He was thrown into a prison where people were put either to be executed or forgotten. He was forgotten. 

He was in prison. But the Lord was still with Joseph and showed him mercy. Quite an unlikely place for blessings. God blessed him and he had favor there, in the prison. Whatever he did, the Lord prospered him. 

He could have chosen to see only the downfalls and thought of how unfair it all was. Separated from his family because his brothers envied him; thrown in prison because he had integrity; forgotten by everyone who knew his existence. Sounds pretty unfair to me. 

But God wasn't leading him into ruts; He was leading him into various blessings in unlikely places. God promises that He will be with us wherever we go. That does not mean that we won't ever go into dark places, but that God will always always always be there.

Micah 7:8 says, "When I fall I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me." God is with us in the darkest places, shedding all the light we need. It's up to us whether we will choose to have the perspective of blessing or cursing. God can use anything for blessings. Will you let Him? What is your perspective?

Waiting For the Stirring

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. . .Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
— John 5:2-7

What kind of life satisfies, if all you do is wait for the occasional stirring that might bring you out of your pain? 

These people gathered together because they all had pain and this was the place to receive healing. They probably spent a lot of time talking to one another about their pain--sympathizing, sharing stories of hurts, sharing dreams of what they could do if only they were healed. 

This man waited 38 years. Maybe he got comfortable in that environment thinking, "Even if I never make it to the pool at least I have company here." Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed; quite a deep question when you're used to living a certain way for decades. You become accustomed to your lifestyle of waiting for the stirring. Perhaps he had forgotten that there could be another way to find healing because he was so intent on making it to the stirring. 

We should not wait around for the stirring of the spirit to receive healing, wholeness, and relationship when Jesus is standing right here with a willing heart and extended hand.

Sometimes it helps to be in the right environment but with a God who is everywhere at once, why would we wait until that spontaneous stirring? He's extending His hand and asking, "Do you want to be made well? Because I'm willing and able to heal if you only have the heart to receive."

I love that when Jesus finds the man again, it's in the temple. That tells me the man did have a heart to be healed and to be near to God because the lame weren't allowed in the temple. For 38 years he wasn't allowed to step foot in the temple. Perhaps he'd listened to the teachings from outside, collecting scraps of information. He couldn't enjoy worship and prayer with friends. But since the Word came to him and healed him, he was now free. He received physical healing and now he could seek spiritual healing as well.  So should our lives be when the Word comes and heals our hearts. 

We're free to seek Him and He will come. With or without a stirring.