These Signs Shall Follow

An exchange of conversation bounced back and forth between the interpreter and the young women.  Before I knew it, the team and I were being ushered into the woman’s home.  Our interpreter explained that this young mother had an infant son who was sick.  She was unable to work that day and the day before had taken her child to the doctor.  She couldn’t afford to miss any work, but more concerning was that the doctors couldn’t do anything for her child.  He wasn’t eating, slept very little, and he cried or coughed most of the time.  It was obvious she wasn’t sleeping either.  She pleaded with us to pray for her child’s healing.

My mind began to race and my heart was beating so fast, I was sure the others crammed into the tiny space could hear it.  As I looked down at that little cherub faced Romanian child, I could tell he was struggling to breathe.  He was coughing, crying, and gasping for air all at the same time. 

Have you ever read Scriptures and thought,

  • “Yeah, that’s not for me.”
  • “Yeah, that’s not for today.”
  • “No way, I am NOT doing that!”
  • “I can’t possibly do that.”
  • “Jesus didn’t really mean for me to do that. He was God’s son, and I am not.”

Fear used to be a big part of my life and it would stop me from stepping out in faith.  I believe that fear and faith cannot reside in the same place at the same time.  So, if fear is rising, it is pushing out faith.  However, if faith rises, then fear is pushed out. God’s Word promises that fear is no longer part of my identity.  Once I have chosen to believe in and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for me, then I am God’s child and fear has no place within me.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:15-17 (NIV)

When we doubt or walk in unbelief, it’s really called FEAR.  Fear of what might or might not happen can cause us to miss amazing opportunities. Fear is what stops us from believing and even acting upon Scriptures like John 14 or Mark 16:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:12-14

We had less than a second to decide.

  • Were we going to do the very thing we came to do?
  • Were we going to allow fear or faith to rise?

Of course, we all agreed to pray.  This was exactly why we were going door to door.  Yet, I also realized none of us actually expected to pray for healing that was so desperately needed. 

Faith allows God to work, but He can only work according to the Faith that is in us!

We chose to act on the commission Jesus spoke over His disciples and to us saying:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

In that second, even though no one voiced it, we knew we couldn’t allow fear of what might not happen cause us to miss an opportunity to see God perform a miracle.  We were there to “do the stuff.”  To lay our hands on the sick, to preach the gospel, to help anyway we could in Jesus’ name. We all knew Jesus performed miracles signs and wonders because He listened to the Father and the Holy Spirit. We just needed to do the same.

God has called us to be people of action not inaction! 

So, we prayed fervently.  We laid our hands on this cherub faced little angel and we cried upon the name of Jesus for healing.  God is the miracle worker not us.  He performs miracles using us, His people.  He works in and thru us with the power of the Holy Spirit to do these great things mentioned in this passage of scripture.

By the time we had all prayed the child was breathing with ease.  He was resting peacefully and was drifting off to sleep.  The momma, who looked to be just a child herself, began to weep and thanked us profusely.  As we left her tiny home, we all knew God had showed up and made Himself known, not just to this young mom, but to all of us American believers as well.

His Word promises that His signs will follow when we step out in faith allowing God to work through us. 

Let’s Expect Miracles and pursue the promises of His Word!

 

Peace Amidst the Storm

The other day I was driving home from work and just felt a general heaviness over my life.   You know how those drives are.  You finally have some alone time to reflect on how you have been feeling, doing, and living and they aren’t always positive.

It had been a long day, a long week, and a long past handful of months.  As I kept driving, I noticed big, dark clouds approach as the sky turned grey.  Perfect!  Just as I thought my day couldn’t get any worse.  My mind began to race over all the things my life had consisted of and I realized I was letting myself outweigh the positive with the negative.  So much so that I became more than sad, I became angry.  I felt betrayed.  I asked God how could He have let me down?  How could He have just turned His back and left me alone?

As the clouds began to release their tears I did the same.  But not for reasons you might expect.  You see, during this time of lowness and self-pity, God gave me a revelation.  He asked me what could be seen after a heavy rainfall?  At first I figured wetness, flooding, destruction, or any negative connotation people have with rain (there are a lot).  Then I remembered that rainbows are seen after rain.

God was showing me that something beautiful could come out of a season of rain; that there can’t be growth without strengthening, reward without challenges, or peace without belief. Believing that your rainbow is brightening through each hardship and that rain isn’t always a bad thing is the key to finding peace amidst the storm.

Think of it this way: our world cannot function without rain.  Rain waters our crops and the plants of the world; it replenishes freshwater systems, cools down a hot atmosphere, and so much more.  Out of all these, the most important characteristic of rain is that it brings life.

 

“Then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”

 -Leviticus 26:4 (NASB)

 

Rainbows aren’t just pretty pictures seen after a hard rainfall.  God used a rainbow to show Noah that He would never flood the earth again.  We can have peace and safety in knowing that God always keeps His promises, that He is never going to flood your life to a point of drowning, and the seasons of rain are meant to draw you closer to Him.

 

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”  

 -2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)

 

So I encourage you to reflect on the things of your life and ask God about His promises to you.  Don’t lose sight of His deepest desire to love you, to be your friend, and to strengthen you for the magnificent plans He has in store.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

From the Edge of the Mat

When I was 9 or 10 years old my parents enrolled my younger brother and me in Noble Firs Wrestling Club.  It was a great way for us to burn off some of our rambunctiousness.  My older brother, Jeff, was wrestling in high school at the time.  Over time, our living room became a wrestling room, a place to hone our skills.

The year before I entered high school, my older brother and several other exceptional wrestlers in the district graduated.  This paved the way for me, even as a freshman, to do well in our district.  I wrestled in the varsity spot of the 98-pound weight bracket (obviously, those days are gone).  At the end of the season there was a tournament where all the schools in the district came together to determine which wrestler for each weight bracket would advance to the state tournament.

I did very well in the tournament and I found myself in the finals.  For the finals, a single mat is positioned in the center of the gym and everyone’s attention is focused on one match at a time. 

I was nervous as I faced my undefeated opponent. 

As we sized each other up in the opening moments of the match, I quickly surmised that he was not only taller than me but he was also stronger.  The specific details of the match have faded from my memory but what is clear is that from the edge of the mat I heard a voice.  From out of the intense noise of the crowd yelling and my coaches calling out instruction came the familiar voice of my older brother.  His was the voice of one who had gone before; it was the voice of experience.

As I zeroed in on his voice, the crowd faded away and I simply followed his instructions.  “Get to your belly.  Arms in.  Adjust your weight back.  He’s too high, grab his head, pull.”  My opponent had been very successful in using a less common technique that I was not familiar with.  There is little doubt in my mind that, without the experienced voice from the edge of the mat I would not have won.  Instead I came away not only with a win but I pinned my opponent and ended the match early.

In John 10, Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.  In verse 27 he says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” 

In the course of life, we will from time to time, find ourselves feeling weaker than and outmatched by our foes.  The path can seem unlit, uncertain, and unclear.  There will be many in the crowd shouting advice and instruction but it is at these critical times, when the voices of the crowd are the loudest, that we must hone in on the voice of the Jesus.

Shhhhhhhhhh… In order to hear His voice in the crowd, you need to know His voice in the quiet spaces first.  This doesn’t need to be complicated.  It just needs to be consistent.  Even just a few minutes each day can drastically change your perspective.  Simply set aside some time to read and pray.  Jesus has already made you a priority and he patiently waits for your response.

Here are few steps and scriptures to help you.

  • Believe in Jesus.
    • Romans 10:9 (ESV) “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    • Acts 16:31 (ESV) “And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”
  • Be baptized in the Holy Spirit
    • In John 14 Jesus tell his disciples that the Holy Spirit will be coming. He will teach them all things.  John 14:26-27 (ESV) says, 26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
  • Pray
    • Philippians 4:5-7 (ESV), “…The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
    • Pray together. Where two or three people gather in the name of Jesus He will be in their midst and things will be established.
      • Acts 1:14 (ESV), “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
  • Don’t give up
    • Luke 18:1-8 – Read the parable of the persistent widow who did not give up.
      • Luke 18:7-8 (ESV), 7And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
    • James 5:16 (ESV), “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

I recognize that these steps may seem a bit basic for combating complicated situations.  These are, however, the tools we have for tearing down strongholds.  Our battle is often in an unseen spiritual plane and will not be won with human strategy.  Instead, we need to seek heavenly strategies.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you the heavenly strategy for your situation.

A few questions for thought…

  1. What voices are you zeroed into hear?
  2. Who is cheering from the edge of the mat for you?
  3. Who are you going to the edge of the mat to cheer for?

In His Service,

Pastor John

 

Put Your Own Air Mask On First

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.”

-Exodus 20:8-10 (ESV)

 

If you have ever ridden in an airplane, you have heard the flight attendant’s speech about where the exits are, where the bathrooms are, and what to do in case of an emergency.  One part of this speech that always sticks out to me is when they tell you that if we were to be in a situation where the air masks drop, you need to secure your own air mask before assisting others in theirs.  Although this can be hard to swallow, it makes sense because if I can’t breathe, I can’t help you breathe.  

I say this phrase a lot at the coffee shop I work at because when dealing with people all day, sometimes you just need to get your own coffee first! (Amen, anyone?)  Lately, though, this saying has been more than a suggestion on an airplane or a funny thing to say at work.  It is a deep and profound reminder that if I don’t take care of me, I will never be able to be the person that God has called me to be.  You and I are called to mighty things and when you are called to such high things as you and I are, we can’t be wasting time being burnt out and empty.

Scripture that talks about taking a Sabbath has continually challenged my husband and me. Not because we don’t see the value in it, but because we see the immense value in it and yet it takes a lot of planning and discipline to put into practice.  Most of us have no idea how we would take a Sabbath day!  Sabbath day is a day to rest, spend time with God and our families, and do things we love to do.  It’s a day when we don’t do work, chores, homework, or errands.  Because it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day or week or month (by the way, where did June go?!) to do all that we need to do.

If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard somebody share a testimony about how they gave a small percentage of their finances to the church or blessed somebody when it felt like there wasn’t enough money to do that and pay their bills.  And yet somehow, beyond human understanding, there was more than enough money to go around.

A lot of us have no problem giving God a small percentage of our income because we see the value in it; the thought that God can do more with 90 percent of my income than I can do with 100 percent.  However, most of us are keeping 100 percent of our days.  None of us would come out and say this but what we are really communicating is: I can do more with seven days than God can do with six.  For some reason, we have taken a leap of faith by giving 10 percent of our finances to God but haven’t taken the leap of faith to fit seven days of work into six and to see what God can do with that one day we give Him.

I strongly believe that when we choose to prioritize the important things in life and discipline ourselves by cutting out the things that aren’t important during our workweek, we will be rewarded with a richer, healthier life.  So many of us are taking care of everyone and everything else (even things that aren’t that important) and wondering why we are exhausted, burnt out, sick, empty, and don’t have time for the things we actually enjoy in life (like God, family and friends and our health).

The key to Exodus 20:8-10 is that it says for six days we work, and then we rest.  Taking a Sabbath means we will need to work smarter during six days of the week so that one day we will be able to rest.  Maybe this means you run errands on a day you work rather than Saturday like you normally do, or go grocery shopping or clean the bathroom on a work day so that when you don’t work, there is time to do what fills you up.

I don’t know your schedule and I don’t pretend to think that making this a priority in your life will be easy or happen overnight.  But I do believe with all of me that if we begin to cut out the things that don’t matter (social media, toxic relationships, worrying, Netflix, etc.) and begin to make time for things that really do matter (reading our Bibles, date nights with your spouse or children, reading, doing something that you love, exercising, etc.), you will be so much happier and healthier.

In Psalm 23:2 (ESV) it says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”  Makes.  Meaning it’s not easy but it is vastly important.  Imagine getting refreshed by the still waters and being in His presence!  Being with the people we love, doing things we love, getting good sleep, eating healthy meals and drinking lots of water are so important to living the life that God has called you to!  Imagine those green pastures!

Establishing a Sabbath day will be hard at first but it will get easier.  These days it feels like saying ‘no’ to something becomes wrong in our culture’s eyes.  It is not a crime to take care of you!  Saying no to working that extra shift so you can go home and make a healthy dinner for yourself is worth it.  Saying no to the next episode on Netflix so you can take a walk or read a book is worth it.  Saying no to the dishes today to go get coffee with a friend is worth it.

You are allowed to say no to good things in order to take care of yourself too.  Taking that leap of faith in saying no to something in order to say yes to something even more important is worth the risk.  You are valuable and worthy of love.  This means loving yourself and sometimes being a little selfish so that you can be full, that way when your name is called by God to do something amazing, you will be ready.

 

 

Dear God…

Dear God…
I’m tired. I’m just so tired from everything.  My body aches, my spirit hurts, my feet fail beneath me. I don’t know how much more I can take of this. It’s all so overwhelming. The weariness seeps into my bones and I don’t think I can go any further. I’m tired in my mind from all the thinking and all the wondering, the what-ifs that could prevail. My body is weak from trying to do all the things that need to get done. My spirit is exhausted from the fight, the fight to be good. I’m just so tired. Help me. HELP ME! I’m just so tired. I just can’t do it anymore.

Finally…
 
I know you are tired, my child. I know your burdens are heavy and I know your feet are weak. I know your arms fail you when you try. But I am here.
 
I was here when the world began and I was here when you were formed. And I am here as you strive to be better. I’m looking right at you and I’m still here, waiting and loving you.
 
I will not leave you nor forsake you. I love you, my dear. You are my special and wondrous creation! I sent my Son to die for you. Oh how I long to be your safe place.
 
My burden is light and my yoke is easy, but you must trust me. You try so hard on your own to do it without me. Please stop. I am here to be that Father to you that you need. I want to be a part of your life. Please invite me in. Invite me to help you and to give you strength when your fingers can toil no more. I’m here for you. I love you.
 
I see your weakness. I see your pain. I see all the things you’re trying to do to be good. Rest in Me. Trust in Me and I will guide you where you need to go. I will show you what love truly is and embrace you every day as my beloved. I am here because I love you and I want what’s best for you. 
 
Release your pain to me. Give your tiredness and hopelessness to me. I can take it. I want it. I want you to find freedom in Me. Trust me, my love, and I will give you beauty for the ashes you feel, for the desolation you stay in. It’s time to be my bride again. 
 
So come, my child. Come home to me and let me heal your wounded heart. Let me bind up what fails you and give you strength anew. Let me be the Father I want to be to you. I cannot say it enough. I love you. I LOVE YOU! Let me take care of you. Release your pains to me so you can be free, as I’ve always wanted you to be. So come. I am waiting.
 
-Your Father, who always longs to be with you.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
-Psalm 147:3,11,13-14 NIV

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
-Psalm 121:3-8 NIV

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