When We Forfeit the Miracle

Forfeit – (v.) To lose or be deprived of as a penalty of wrongdoing or neglect.

Parenthood has brought many treasures.  I think one of the things I love most is being able to almost grasp the unconditional love that God has for us.  It is a very difficult thing to comprehend – this Love that knows no bounds, that doesn’t care what we do, that gives expecting nothing in return.  It is relentless and unwavering.  No matter what I do, He still loves me.  And I understand that a bit more fully now that I’m a parent.  No matter what my daughter does (now and in the future) – I will still love her with my whole being.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed or frustrated.  That doesn’t mean I won’t discipline or require obedience.  It means that I will love her, I will hold her to a higher standard because I want the very best for her and I know better than she does what the “best” is (especially right now – she’s only two!).

God loves us.  He holds us to a higher (the highest) standard because He wants the very best for us.  And let’s face it – the God of the universe knows what is best for me way better than I do (even when I think I do).  I know that I disappoint Him sometimes, I know that I frustrate Him sometimes.  But I  am thankful for His discipline.  Because He wants what is best for me, He does require obedience.  If we obey, if we follow His lead, then we are on the path that is best for us (note here – best does not mean least resistance).

And when I don’t obey, then I forfeit a lot.  Just like a child who does not obey, they forfeit certain activities or certain treats (i.e. car keys, screen time, time with friends, etc.).  However, when don’t obey, I forfeit blessings.  I forfeit miracles.  I forfeit powerful moments of His presence.  And why, oh why, would I ever want to do that?!?

But I do.  Time and time again.

What have I forfeited?  What miracles did I miss?

This morning, I was reading from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day, as Christ was praying in the garden, the disciples were supposed to be praying with Him.  In His greatest moment of need, they were supposed to be there for Him.  And what were they doing?  They were sleeping!  How often did Christ need them?  I’m guessing not often.  They missed that opportunity – “Jesus forgave them, and they went on to experience God working powerfully through their lives, but that unique moment with the Lord was lost.”  I don’t want to miss a single moment that He has in store for me!  But how often I must because I’m too preoccupied to notice what He wants from me, what He asks of me.  Here’s the kicker, “God does not need our obedience; He has legions of angels prepared to do His bidding when we fail Him.  The loss is ours as we miss what God wants to do in our lives” (emphasis added).  God doesn’t need me to obey.  But He gives me the opportunity because He loves me.  And I want so desperately to please Him.  I don’t want to miss out on those moments!  I don’t ever want to miss out on His presence in my life.  Without Him life is lonely, empty, and without meaning.

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Or think of it this way – what if Joshua and the Israelite’s had only circled Jericho 6 times (Joshua 6:1-27)? They were tired, nothing had happened, and they looked like fools.  But 7 times is what the Lord required.  And the 7th time made all the difference.  What if Peter, James, and John hadn’t put their nets into the water (Luke 5:1-11)?  They had been fishing all nigh and had barely caught a thing.  Why would now, in the daylight, when fish were even more sparse, make any difference at all?  But it did.  Because the Lord said so.  What if the man born blind has refused to go and wash his eyes out (John 9:1-12)?  Why put in the extra effort?  Can’t I just wipe them off right here?  But the act of obedience, the going and washing were an act of obedience.

You get the point.  They (and many others) could have easily forfeited the miracle.  And the Biblical narrative as we know it would be different.

We must obey!  If the Lord has spoken to you, if He has laid something on your heart, then you had better listen.  What could be on the other side of your obedience?  Is it time in His presence?  A moment of growth?  Or a miracle?

One thing is for sure, as a wise friend of mine once told me, there are souls on the other side of your obedience.  The Lord is waiting for you to listen so that He can use you to save the lives of others!  Are you willing to forfeit those souls?  Lives are at stake here.  The choices you make today will affect other people!

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If you know the right thing to do and you do not do it, that is a sin (James 4:17).  Do you know the right thing?  Do you know what He has told you to do?  Has Scripture shed light on your situation and give you an answer/solution to a problem?

Often times what He asks of us will be difficult.  Sometimes, it will seem impossible.  But it is always worth it.  Always.

After all, God, all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator of the entire universe – He knows what is best for you, what is best for me.  Why wouldn’t I want to listen?

The Tides are Changing

I’m not sure about the area where you are.  But, here, something is brewing.  We are right on the brink of something huge!  And I see it in the communities around us as well.  The more people I talk to, the more excited I get.

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But let me back up a few steps….or a few decades….for a moment.

At some point in the church’s history, passive Christianity became the norm.  Sunday mornings became the benchmark for being a Christian.  Sing in the choir, make and/or serve a few meals, put your money in the plate, and you are golden.  The standard has been met.  A few people were called to be missionaries, a few were called to be pastors. The idea of making disciples, of fulfilling the great commission was placed in their hands.  Because it was their job to lead the flock.  That’s what we were paying them to do after all!  We were also paying them to preach the gospel, to visit the sick, to baptize, to dedicate, to teach, to counsel, to grow the church…because we had our own jobs to do.  We had our own families to provide for.  And it was their job!  Do you see how this got out of hand?  How can one person accomplish all of that in a single week?!?  It was never, I repeat, never, supposed to be this way.

I’m not saying that pastors and missionaries should be unpaid.  What I am saying is that we took advantage of that position.  And we let the few start doing the work of the many.  We put our responsibilities in the hands of another person and allowed church attendance to replace disciple making.  At the end of Matthew, Christ gave His disciples clear instructions – “to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded.”  We are His disciples and those instructions have been given to us.  Attending church on Sunday is not making disciples.  Placing money in the plate is not making disciples.  Making a meal is not making disciples.  Giving to charity (monetarily or otherwise) is not making disciples.  Don’t get me wrong – those are all good things.  But those good things, those fairly passive things, have replaced THE mission Christ has given us.

But the tides are changing.  People are waking up.

Millennials get a bad wrap.  And often, I am a tad embarrassed to be associated with a generation that is so frowned upon.  But there is one thing we have going for us, whether everyone may recognize it or not, we are passionate and we seek purpose.  Now, I’m not saying that millennials are the only reason the tides are changing, but I do believe it’s a big part of it.  They, we, want to be a part of something that truly makes a difference.  We want to get our hands dirty.  We want to have a purpose.

Unfortunately, sitting in a pew on Sundays doesn’t give purpose.  Donating to charity doesn’t give purpose.  But being a part of something bigger than me – that brings purpose.  Making a difference, seeing life change, seeing lives made whole through the power of Christ – that brings purpose.  And it should.  Because being a part of God’s kingdom, making disciples, is the purpose for which we were created.

Something is brewing.  I see leadership rising up from the younger generation.  I see men and women of all ages who are not okay with the status quo.  They are not okay with a dying Church!  And they are ready to make a change.  The great thing is – that passion, that desire for purpose, and a desire for new life-blood flowing in the veins of the church – it’s extremely contagious.

The passion is spreading.  Though not as fast as a wildfire, it’s still spreading, little by little, like moss on the trunk of a tree.  The growth may not be noticeable on most days – but eventually, there is evidence that the moss has spread, it has grown, and it’s still spreading.  Slowly, but surely.

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But I feel like we’re on the precipice.  That passion is going to erupt and the wildfire growth will begin.  Something is brewing.

The winds are blowing.  The tides are changing.

And I want to be a part of it.

Along the Way

When I started this blog it was because God has set a vision before us.  And He had done so in big ways, ways that I didn’t want to ever forget.  So as we started on our voyage, I wanted to keep track of all that was happening.  So much was happening!  These unmistakable God moments seemed to be a weekly occurrence.  You can catch up by starting here.

I have been writing more recently because we’ve been learning more recently.  But, I know I haven’t written an update on where our vision stands.  There’s a reason for that.  I truly believe that God has us on pause.  Though I keep praying, it seems the answers never come.  I should clarify that I know the answer isn’t “no.”  God has given us a vision to start an intentional community outside of the walls of a church building.  Of that I am sure.  But, I believe at this point, His answer is “wait.”  And that frustrates me.  A lot.

Especially when trials and troubles seem to have replaced the God moments we were thriving from!

But then come the moments of conviction.  In relatively odd places.

On Facebook while I’m talking to my Mom-in-Law on the couch.

Driving from place to place.

In a work meeting when we’re discussing the opening of a maternity home.

God stops me in my tracks in those moments.  I have found myself in tears.  Not because I was sad or even overly happy, but because I remembered I was in His presence.  I was standing on holy ground.

He has a plan.  He has given me a vision.  He has given us a vision.  And He will bring that vision to pass, so long as we are obedient to His promptings.  And, I believe, that as long as we remain in prayer and in His word, we’ll recognize those promptings.

That doesn’t mean the vision will come to pass tomorrow or in the next few years.  For Moses, it was 40 years.  40 years!!  And that’s just one of many instances I could refer to.  I know it will happen.  I know that we will be a part of making a difference in the community we are in by starting intentional community.

I *think* I know what that looks like (can you say ‘coffee shop?’).  But I also know that as a vision grows, it may start to look a bit different from the original view point.  The end goal remains the same.  The purpose remains the same.  But God is moving.  And sometimes that means that I change.  Because, after all, change is growth, without change there can be no growth.  If a seed remains a seed, it will never become a tree.

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And I want to be a tree, a tree that bears fruit.

I want to make a difference for the kingdom.  And I won’t settle for anything less.  Not now.  Not tomorrow.  Not 40 years from now.

When I reach those pearly gates, I long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And I truly believe the only way those words will be spoken is if I have a whole crowd of people with me.  I want to make my Abba Father, my Daddy, proud.

So we march on toward the vision, working diligently along the way.

 

Unraveled

The voyage never really looks like what we expect.  I’m sure you’ve heard the line, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  It’s pretty accurate.  I remember starting this blog and being SO excited for what He had in store.  But then nothing happens.  And life gets really hard.  And…wait, I’ve written this before.

Phew.

Following in His footsteps is so hard.  And I know the process, the journey, the voyage….whatever you want to call it….I know it’s meant to grow me, to pull me closer to Him, to make me closer to His likeness.  But I want it to be easy.  Goodness gracious, I want it to be easy.

Life pulls me 500 different directions.  Being a mom, working, church ministry, the day-to-day to-do list (laundry, dishes, budget, etc.)…it’s never ending.  And through all of that, we are supposed to maintain relationships and further the kingdom.  And sometimes I just can’t do it.

And I know, it’s not through my own power, it’s through His that I can make it all happen.  But, how – how do I just give it all to Him.  I try to rest, to relax in His presence and I feel guilty for not doing anything.  For not cleaning.  For not reading more Scripture.  For not focusing more on my sweet child.  For not being happy that I have so many great things.  For being overwhelmed.  For just wanting a break.

And I realize, even as I type, that there is a spiritual battle in my life.  And I know that’s probably more than half the battle.  But it’s never ending.  And it keeps coming.  And I can’t catch a break.  It’s either money, or health, or relationships, or just plain old discouragement.

It. just. keeps. coming.

And I’m coming unraveled.

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I want to give up.  I want to throw my hands up and walk away from all of it.  To run away and never look back.  It’s too hard.  It’s too much.  But I can’t.  I have to keep working, keep smiling, keep going.

And I will.  I can.  He can.  Even though I’m a complete mess, even though I don’t have it all together – He is still there.  He’s holding me, walking beside me, encouraging me.

Who am I kidding?  I don’t have this figured out.  I don’t know that I ever will.

But He loves me anyway.  Thank God for that.  Thank goodness He loves me through the good and the bad.  He loves me through the mess.  He loves me.  Unconditionally.  Without expectation.  He loves me.

….even when I’m unraveled.

And that’s what keeps me going.

Second-Hand Worship

Worship can easily become routine.

We go through the week just getting by.  Every day – wake up, go to work, take care of the kids, do the dishes, take care of the laundry, numb the busyness with a bit of TV, and then off to bed.  Wash.  Rinse.  And Repeat.  Until Saturday arrives.  Then it’s a full day of catching up on what didn’t get done throughout the week or squeezing in time with friends or ___(fill in the blank)___.  Then Sunday morning comes around, the alarm clock goes off, and we rush off to church, sing a few songs, try not to fall asleep during the sermon, put a little cash in the plate, and head home for a nap before the football game.

When worship becomes just another check mark during the craziness of our week, then worship, well, isn’t actually worship.

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We have become okay with giving God our seconds.

And God, He’s still God.  Which means seconds aren’t okay.  In fact, He would rather us not worship than worship with our seconds: “Who is there among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain?  I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of Hosts, nor will I accept an offering from your hand” (Malachi 1:10).

 

He wants our best.  Or He wants nothing at all!  God is not okay with lukewarm: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

When we come together to worship Him, it should be with our everything: our full focus, a 10% tithe, a cheerful heart, a longing to sense His presence, a desire to do His will, a willingness to set aside our own desires, and so much more.  And so often, we bring Him less than our best.  We are distracted.  We let our circumstance define our attitude (super guilty of this one).  We get annoyed with other people.  We become frustrated when the music isn’t what we want.

And that’s just Sunday mornings!  Worship isn’t just a church service.  Worship should be a way of life.  How we live, how we act, how we treat others – this is living worship.  And it should always be our best. When we don’t forgive, when we harbor bitterness, when we gossip, worry, lie, steal, etc….then we are most certainly giving Him our second best.

The church in America is dying.  Slowly.  But surely.  And I have no doubt that this is because God is tired of our second-hand worship, our complacent attitude, our indifference toward sin.

I’m sick of living in this state of second-hand.  It’s depressing and certainly not fulfilling.  I need a change.  We all need a change.

So let’s do something about it!  Change starts with you and I.  When things are good, when they are great and God-ordained, you better believe it will be contagious.

So, how are YOU worshipping?