Thursday, October 27, 2011

Strong and Courageous

Over the past 2 ½ years God has cultivated my soil, precisely planted His seeds, watched me through my growth processes, as He provided everything I needed, and harvested His crops to bring forth His fruit. I love to look back and see the awesome miracles He performed in my life; it all seemed surreal and exciting. Don’t get me wrong there were moments in time during my growing season that I wanted to turn around, stomp my feet, and walk away, but I reminded myself of God’s promises to Joshua,”…I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5) “I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Throughout the first chapter of Joshua, God continues to remind Joshua to be strong and courageous and that he must obey His law and all of His commandments; it is only then he will succeed.

God has now begun a new season in my life. I can actually say at 32 years-old I am officially retired! I am a stay at home mommy and wife; the two true desires of my heart. I am truly grateful that God designed my life’s blueprints, for if they were up to me, they would have been quite a mess, and definitely not the way the way God would have wanted them orchestrated. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I love what King David said to the Lord in Psalm 139, you “know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (vs. 1-6) God is omniscient and omnipresent. He knows the plans He has for my future. I am excited to move to the next level of my journey for God already knew before the foundations of the earth what I would be doing in this very moment and the plans He had for my future.

God has already begun to speak to me little by little preparing me for what lies ahead. At moments I feel like maybe what Joshua might have felt like in the moment after Moses’ death when the LORD told him, “…you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.”(Joshua 1:2) I don’t think that it was a shocking surprise to him, given he was Moses’ assistant for forty years, but the sheer thought that he must finish what his predecessor began, must have been overwhelming for a moment or two, but God’s promises gave him the faith and confidence he needed to lead the people of Israel. As He will give me the confidence and faith to take the steps that He has ordered for me.

He too makes those promises to us as we allow him to till our soil, plant our seeds, and harvest His crops. We are able to choose whether our crop will thrive and be plentiful, sparse and scarce, or lifeless and dying. God continues to remind us, despite what is ahead of us to “be strong and courageous!” I pray that whatever God is preparing you for, step forward and walk in faith as Joshua did! As you walk out your faith, it will inspire others to do the same. Encourage others today to have confidence and allow God to direct their future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


About a week and a half ago we met with my neuro-oncologist to review the results of my MRI scans. I was elated to hear him tell us that they were stable, looked good, and he even saw improvement from the last scans! This truly made my heart overjoyed. I remember thinking how God has always been faithful in His promises and has always walked by our side.

God created us to witness to others by showing and telling them what He has done for us. The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence, courage, boldness and authority to minister to them through His works in us. As Jesus taught His inner circle of disciples, He instilled in them God’s love, His word, and His forgiving nature. Before He completed His mission on earth, Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples, and future believers.
In His prayer for His disciples, Jesus said, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” (John 17:9-10) I love that Jesus has commissioned us to spread His Good News to those around us. He has given us our families, coworkers, friends, and neighbors to guard and take care of, so that none of them are lost in this world. He wants us to follow Him so that we may become one with Him and the Father. He wants us to be of one accord. (John 17:20) Jesus came to this earth to show us how to live as faithful servants in His kingdom. For those that live by God’s standards in this life will be made great in God’s kingdom.

Matthew speaks of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began his teaching by describing the characteristics that He was looking for in His followers. These are called the beatitudes; they taught the heartfelt obedience to God. The beatitudes stated how to be blessed by God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled; blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for the will see God; blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called sons of God, Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-12) Each of these beatitudes describes traits that are a contradiction to worldly ways of life. We must learn to exemplify those traits if our objective is to become more like Him.
Many think that being “blessed” by God means that we will have financial prosperity and always have laughter and pleasure; however, being “blessed” by God means experiencing His profound joy and hope regardless of our external circumstances. To have His joy we must follow Him no matter what the cost.

As we become the salt and light of this world, we must remember to be “like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden” and “in the same way, let [our] good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise our heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16). We must fulfill what we were commissioned to complete. I pray that you keep shining your light, like a beacon in the night. Share with others your testimony so they too may understand and feel the hope and joy of Christ.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Restless Desire

Daily I experience a longing that has such an intense and profound grip on my heart. This insatiable desire, like the one of the psalmist (whom some believe was King David) who wrote, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2). It is in this inconsolable longing that I have come to understand my very purpose; the purpose for which my very soul was created.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25). Committing my life to Christ has allowed me to have a taste of what it is to fill my restless desire. By following Jesus I risk: the possibility of losing friendships, being marked by the title “holy roller” (in a bad sense), losing face with co-workers and friends when I choose to have integrity over dishonesty, and never acquiring what this world calls “wealth.” My benefits far outweigh the risks I take, even if it involves losing my physical life. In my life, whether I live or die, I want Jesus to be glorified.

My desire is to be part of the bigger story—taking up my cross daily. I want to exhibit the light Christ’s Kingdom brings to this world. I yearn to bring people to know our Father God in a real way. All the hidden choices I make, set-up God’s story. As I whole-heartedly turn from my selfish ways, I discover what it is to “find” my restless desire.
Give your Father God all that you have and He will give you all you need. Share with others what it meant for you to risk your life for Him and you begin to see your greater purpose. If you are struggling and need help making this choice, seek a strong Christian friend or pastor in your community that can guide you in the right direction.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eyes of Faith

When we first gathered to talk about starting Thrive, the amount of work seemed insurmountable. How would we know where to begin? Would we have sufficient resources and how could we acquire them? Where would we store equipment? How would Tom and Jackie manage the cost of their living expenses given there was hardly any money for a salary?

I knew in my heart of hearts that this vision and dream was from God. He prepared every intricate detail, but I couldn’t see through my eyes of faith how it would come to pass. In 2 Kings 7, Elisha prophesied that by the next day the people of Samaria, who were in the midst of a famine, would see that “five quarts of fine flour [would] cost only an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain [would] cost only half an ounce of silver” (vs.1) The king’s officer said, “that couldn’t ever happen even if the Lord opened up the windows of heaven!” (vs.2)

It was difficult for me to envision how this vision would come to pass. Now looking back, I discovered how my eyes of faith were clouded by not allowing our Father God to reveal and present His resources.

I was astounded as God blessed Thrive with $25,000 worth of audio equipment from a local church that believed in our vision. Then there was a couple, who owned their own marketing business, and donated about $10,000 worth of fliers toward our first mailer into the community. I was truly astonished as God took care of every component and detail. Like Noah when he built the ark (Genesis 6), we obeyed as God commanded.

Yes there were moments of uncertainty and momentary panic. We were elated that God opened the window of opportunity for relocating Thrive in a prime area of Katy. We were confident after “securing” the location, that it was God’s will. Out of necessity, we established teams to bring about more structure and organization to various processes that were essential to our future success as a church.

Soon after the announcement of our new location, the prearrangement of our “secured” location fell through. We were perplexed and a bit disheartened. But God! At the midnight hour, He provided a more suitable arrangement (our current location) which afforded us the opportunity for storing our equipment in the facility and more flexibility in event planning and usage of space. His faithful promises opened more windows of opportunity we couldn’t have foreseen.

My eyes of faith no longer seem to be clouded, but are instead now clear. When we keep our eyes on Him, He will “generously provide all [we] need. Then [we] will always have everything [we] need and plenty left over to share with others.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Keep your eyes on Him and He will open windows of opportunity that will amaze you. Share with others today the lessons that you have learned and continue to learn. They may need to hear your story and it may come at their “midnight hour.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Flame of 35...

The vision of our church plant and others across America is to reach the lost and to bring strayed Christians’ focus back toward God. I have seen what Isaiah 10:17 speaks of, “The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy …” I have seen the great rewards of watching families grow stronger in the Lord. I have seen marriages being rebuilt, non-believers being baptized for the first time and seeing how their changed life brought their family and extended relatives to know Christ and be on-fire for Him. I have seen “the Holy One be a flame” that has run rampant through the lives of a new generation of believers. It has devoured “the thorns and briers with fire” and caused the enemies of darkness to come into light.

Being a part of the foundation of a church plant has been like tending to a flame. It requires much patience, attention to detail, diligence and wisdom to know that the stronger the flame the more perseverance it takes to keep it going in the right direction.

I have seen how attention to detail at our Grand Opening in 2009 created an atmosphere of friendliness, great worship and a passion for Christ and our salvation. Gathering donations of tickets to baseball games, movies, Starbuck’s gift cards, candy, etc. to provide for visiting children and parents, was a great way we gave back to our community.

On the other hand, our first day with the children’s ministry allowed us to see that we weren’t quite equipped or prepared to go from zero to sixty in the few minutes before our first service began. However, we quickly gained an understanding as to the types of changes that needed to be executed. Two and a half years later, our children’s ministry is thriving and a wonderful, fun, and safe place for our children to be.

It has been amazing to see where God has brought us from to where we are now. Our leadership team has changed a few times in the past couple of years; however, the direction in which our “flame” was being blown has always been the establish a hospital for the spiritually sick and to reach lost souls for Christ. Even though there have been disappointments and discouragements along the way, I know we have been successful because we have “obey[ed] the commands of the Lord [our] God and walk[ed] in His ways, [and] the Lord [has] establish[ed][us] as His holy people as He swore he would do.” (Deuteronomy 8:6)

Setting priorities and accomplishing goals has allowed us to grow as a church body, but striving not to lose our character for the sake of a goal has been challenging. I have learned that it is important to have volunteers in a church who are knowledgeable in finances, law, government, business, etc...but more importantly to have people serving who display integrity and character above reproach. A person whose heart is intertwined with God’s and is without knowledge or skill, is better than someone who is very skilled in all of those areas, but lacks in their daily walk with the Lord.

Finally, making sure that all members of ministry teams are being consistently encouraged and supported is essential to ensure that the “fire you are tending to” doesn’t die out. It is important to remember that the coals constantly need stirring up while still seeking out and fanning the new sparks within the church who are ready to ignite and shine brightly for God.

The flame that God has begun in Thrive Church is one that will reap eternal rewards. Watching the fire grow bigger and stronger has humbled me and I feel honored for being asked to be part of this journey. I pray that whatever journey God has placed in your heart that you would allow Him to stir it up to a blazing flame that would burn gloriously.

Pressured Washed

Everyday at my job I walked past a band hall that was made of white stone. At the beginning of each school year, I noticed how tidy and clean the stone walls looked after being pressure washed. . It was commonplace for me to pass the band hall several times a day.

I know this sounds silly, but it was somehow refreshing to me. Every year as the semester proceeded, the wall slowly formed a layer of mold and mildew making for a drab and dreary appearance. After awhile it wasn’t refreshing. Maybe once or twice a semester, they were pressure washed again.

I think our lives are a bit like that. We start out white, pure, and innocent, but over time we become jaded by our fallen world. We grow layers of unforgiveness, insensitivity, bitterness and hate. We walk around like a strong stench of mold and mildew. We can live in bondage to these filthy layers for days, months, years, and for some, a lifetime. These bondages become commonplace for us, thus creating an atmosphere of oppression. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” This sin makes us unclean so that we are unable to approach God.

Our layers of sin separate us from God, but we can choose to accept Him into our hearts and be reconciled “through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought [us] into his own presence, and [we] are holy and blameless as [we] stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:21-22).

Isn’t that just refreshing to hear! Even though we live in a fallen world, become jaded and think sinful thoughts and conduct sinful actions, Christ made us blameless and beyond reproach. Through His actions, we are no longer a mold and mildew covered wall. We are “pressure washed” and made clean through Him.

However difficult your life may be at this moment, allowing God to peel off your layers and make you new will set you free from the chains of bondage that are holding you down. If you’ve already experienced the awesomeness of being washed, share your testimony with others; God delights in you sharing His glory.