Monday, November 28, 2011

Normal is NOT Enough...

"go and make disciples..."
- Matthew 28:19 NKJV

     "Are you ready?  Ready for total surrender and complete availability to God?  Standing up against the devil has to start with laying down our will to God's."  (excerpt from the ATF Leader's Pre-Event Curriculum)
     This weekend, Jeff and I get to take 25 youth to Acquire the Fire, to consider these very things!!  I am SO excited!!  Not only do we get to spend time with Amazing Youth and Leaders, we also get to be filled with Powerful, Challenging Teaching Word, and Uplifting, Loud Music (fav)!!  As we prepare for this action-packed 30 hours; we have been praying for wisdom and understanding; revelation and knowledge; and an Encounter with God that would be FULL of Unforgettable Power!
     We are passionate about raising up youth that are filled with abundant life and an ability to lead others in love.  I am confident that one of the first steps in the process requires total surrender to God.  Does this mean that we give up our ability to reason or choose?  NO!  The act of surrender is merely an act of faith, honor, humility, and love.  It means we obey even when we don't understand.  It looks like considering the promptings of the Holy Spirit before our own thoughts or feelings.  Surrender requires us to line up our choices to the Word of God.  This can sometimes be a one time decision - remaining sober or celibate (before marriage), etc. OR it can be a moment by moment choice - responding in love and forgiveness rather than reacting in anger...either way will require a great amount of commitment and awareness!  Surrender is a verb, and invites us to actively align our will to that of Father God.  This seems to be a lifelong that bears good fruit along the way!!  Once you understand and commit to total surrender, you must consider your availability to God.  Do you "seek first His kingdom and righteousness"?  These choices are NOT for the weak!
     Have you ever noticed how taking a Stand for Something can be followed by great opposition?  The Adversary is not interested in the Norm, the lazy, the lukewarm Christians who are more interested in how they look than how they relate.  These many are easy for "him"...they are no threat!  BUT, the few who choose to follow hard after God put the Adversary on alert!!  If "he" can distract, confuse or manipulate us; "he" can kill, steal, and destroy us.  When, however, we choose to Stand Up and be counted; we invite ALL of heaven to move with us, and We are no match for the devil..."he" is a defeated foe!!!
     The Bible is FULL of stories where One took a stand, and His-Story was forever changed!!  David, Joseph, Esther, Mary (the mother of Jesus) - just to name a few.  Notice that in many cases, God choose the Youth to Be the Change in the World...not just their bedroom, school, team or community; but the World!!!  YOU are just as they!!  Chosen for "such a time as this", armed for battle, equipped for greatness, and certainly NOT the Norm!!!
     It is time, our moment is Now!!  This is a New Season and therefore, a New Opportunity to Rise Up and Be Counted!!  I Challenge you to join us as we dig deeper into God's plans for our lives, knowing they are good - that we Will prosper and succeed!!  Rise Up and Be Counted as a Disciple N' Action - God's very D.N.A.!!      

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Plentiful Harvest...

Then He said to His Disciples, 
"The Harvest truly is Plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest  to send out laborers into His harvest."
- Matthew 9:37-38 NKJV
     Wikipedia describes Harvest as follows:  "the process of gathering mature crops from the fields.  The harvest marks the end of the growing season, or growing cycle for a particular crop.  On smaller farms with minimal mechanization, harvesting is the most labor-intensive activity of the growing season."
     Although I have yet to know the privilege of Agriculture Life, based on the last sentence of Wikipedia's definition, my imagination visualizes something similar to the photo above (courtesy of Google Images).  I read a lot of Historical Fiction which generally is based in an Agriculture Era; where the lifestyle was centered around seasons, and families intimately knew the process of labor-intensive sowing and reaping.  
Sowing - Courtesy of Google Images
     How does this process relate to our Information Age Lifestyle?  What does it mean to sow?  Let's be clear it has nothing to do with fabric and thread.  "Sowing is the process of planting seeds."  Does this only apply to corn, grain, herbs, etc.?  The bible is full of reverences to the process of sowing; and in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, we are reminded that "he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."  I wonder then, what am I sowing?  Last year, I wrote a blog titled, A New Season which left me with a renewed sense of purpose and accountability about this important season.  I was also reminded of the vital next step which is to wait.  It takes time for seeds to grow, amen?  This is where we learn to practice patience...yeah!  Have you ever picked a piece of fruit too soon?  In my experience, unripened fruit is usually inedible, sour, and upsetting to my stomach.  So it is with us, if we are sowing seeds of love, expecting to harvest love, and we grow impatient; not only will we destroy that which we've planted, but the harvest will be minimal and less than expected.  If, however, you practice patience, then it is right to expect a plentiful harvest!!
Reaping - Courtesy of Google Images
     I have been able to apply this principle of sowing and reaping to many areas of my life.  For example, we choose to tithe 10%, knowing that in Malachi 3:10 we are promised that as we do, "the Lord of hosts will open the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it."  Likewise, in my relationship with my Sweetheart, when I am feeling unnoticed, unappreciated, unloved, unworthy (etc.); if I focus on sowing seeds of love, appreciation, attention, and value into Him, I can expect a bountiful harvest.  This is one application I wish I had learned earlier in our 22 years of marriage.  I spent too much time sowing seeds of bitterness, judgement, and disrespect all the while complaining about the above listed feelings.  I am also very aware of this principal as it applies to my body.  If I choose to consume sugar-filled foods, french fries, and soda (just to name a few); I can expect to harvest weight, diabetes, and fatigue.  If, however, I choose to consume clean sources of protein, veggies, and water; I will harvest health and vitality.      
A Plentiful Harvest - Courtesy of Google Images
     So, now that we better understand the process of sowing and reaping, I am redirected to Matt: 9:37-38.  We have spent many years in ministry, both as volunteers and paid staff, however, it wasn't until Very recently that I began to meditate on this particular verse more fervently.  Likewise, we have spent many years growing in our walk with God, and gaining wisdom and understanding about His nature and His word. A few years ago, we applied for a full-time position as the directors of children's ministry at a newly opened satellite campus of our church.  During the application process, we were able to see how the Law of the Harvest applies to our talents and spiritual gifts as well.  Our Pastor, in his wisdom, noticed that although we were filled with passion and some experience, we still had more growing to do in order to really be used to our full potential.  He also reminded us that if we tried to harvest too soon, our fruit would be weak and probably end in overwhelm.  At the time, we felt ready to serve in this full-time capacity, and SO desired to meet the call for laborers...we believed that we were ready.  Thankfully, our Pastor's wise counsel gave us a moment to pause and continue growing.  There is a known saying, "You can't give what you don't have", which we can apply to this principal.  As the Lord raises us up for Harvest, we get to trust Him as the Master Gardener and wait for our due season.  So, although we were a bit disappointed, we moved forward in faith that God would accomplish in us that which He began; and we continued to feel called to full-time Pastoral Ministry.  As we proceeded in faith, we continued to seek knowledge, truth, wisdom, and understanding; and simultaneously, we gained valuable experience in many areas of ministry.  So it is then, when a position for Full-time Youth Pastors presented itself recently, we were able to prayerfully ask if we were ready to harvest.  With great favor, and anticipation, we are excited to enter into this new season!!  Our heart's desire is to not only hear the call to labor, but to respond with preparation and passion!  We know that building a Strong and Successful Youth Ministry requires continued sowing, and we also look forward with great anticipation to the joy of reaping!!  
     This year, we have MUCH to be Thankful for!!  I continue to be in gratitude for a loving and grace-filled Father in Heaven!  I am equally grateful for the loving sacrifice of a Savior that I might be in relationship with them!  I am grateful for the spiritual gifts and talents that have been instilled in me and the opportunities I have to continue to grow and develop them!  I am grateful for a loving husband that honors me in His relationship with our Father God!  I am grateful to be a Mother, and to be blessed with four Amazing, Gifted, and Healthy children!  I am grateful to be called and equipped to serve alongside my Sweetheart in this season of my life!  May we each be filled with renewed peace as we relish in whatever season we find ourselves in, and may we enjoy the journey as we faithfully expect the promise of A Plentiful Harvest!!
Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours!!