Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Faith Grows Through Fire: The Gift of Faith

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

faith-grows-through-fire-gift-of-faith

People ask me all the time how I came to have the faith that I have. They see that I have a faith that can move mountains. I pray mightily in the Spirit because I’m certain of being heard. God has done so many miracles in my life that I’ve come to expect it. This is why people are befuddled and dumbfounded when they see my faith. It’s not actually my faith, by the way.

It’s God’s gift of faith, and He can take it away at the beginning of a tribulation in your life, only to give it back more strongly than ever.

Don’t be scared when you think your faith is gone. It’s at that moment that God is preparing you to receive more faith. Just wait calmly and put your trust in the Lord, even though you feel abandoned. Yield to God and continue to commit yourself to Him.

God stands outside space and time and knows all things. He is a good God. Even when it feels like He has withdrawn His tangible presence during the moment when you most need it, please wait…

You see, God won’t fill you if you’re not empty.

Over and over again in my life, the Lord has stripped me of every ounce of strength in my body, where if you were to look at me, you would think that my faith was gone. A raging fire was passing over me in my life, and suddenly somewhere in the midst of the fire, I was strengthened in the Lord and received a higher measure of faith.

How do you get faith? You have to be open to get it. You have to be yielded to God, to have an attitude of receiving. That’s how salvation is. You get it because it’s being given, and you’re willing to receive it. Having a greater faith in God is no different. Be open to receiving it. Ask for it.

As I was talking about faith with my husband one night, he said that he knew how to get faith. This is the progression:

  1. Believe God.
  2. Then you have to go through a trial that challenges that belief.
  3. In the end, you have to see that God delivers.

I am experiencing this in my life right now in several areas. I was working so hard to book a venue for the local homeschool conference that I’m in charge of, and nothing was working. I was under a lot of pressure, and it seemed like the harder I worked, the more nothing was happening. Vendors were asking me why the conference wasn’t booked yet. The keynote had agreed to work with us, but we left him dangling for weeks on end without giving him a reason why. The no-pay high-stress work that I was doing for the homeschool group drained me of every drop of strength I had until I literally collapsed.

At that moment, I went in to see the surgeon to discuss the procedure for removing the lump from my daughter’s spine. I saw that it was more serious that I had anticipated, that she would be unconscious for 48 hours and might slink into a coma, that bone from her spinal column would be removed in two places and never put back again, and that the lump couldn’t actually be removed completely because it was fused to the spinal cord itself. You know, the bundle of nerves that runs up your spine to your brain.

And then it hit me.

But my daughter was sitting there, and I wasn’t allowed to cry. I wasn’t allowed to scream in hysteria as a mother. No. I remained calm and wiped the sweat off my palms onto my jeans. I felt dizzy.

Later my husband took the kids to Costco for dinner, and I sat in the empty house. I sat in the dark, feeling abandoned by the Lord. Why did He not answer when I begged Him for a venue for the only Christian homeschool conference in this area? And now I could do nothing about it because I had no strength left, and why wasn’t I allowed to think about my daughter?

I screamed.

I wept.

I sat in silence before the Lord.

The next day I went to a prayer meeting with the Hispanic women I worked with at the women’s prayer retreat where I spoke in August. I plopped down on the couch and announced that the Lord had abandoned me.

After the initial shock of the statement wore off, the women’s eyes sparkled because God had given them Scripture for me. One woman told me that I was Peter, that I had jumped out of the boat and walked on water. And now I realize that it’s impossible to walk on water (what was I thinking?) and the waves are overwhelming me and I’m drowning. What happens next? she asked me.

God delivers.

Yes, but how would He deliver? How can He deliver without me doing anything? Because another woman quoted that God would fight my battles if I would only stand still. (Exodus 14:14)

The women laid hands on me and prayed for me. The fog lifted, and I had a supernatural peace and could it be… Joy! Yes, I felt incredible joy that was impossible because my daughter might be dead soon, and if the conference wasn’t booked, our group would never be able to have a conference again because of lack of funds. I felt responsible for the demise of the largest homeschool group in the area.

Nothing was resolved.

But I felt peace.

And I waited….

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.   Isaiah 40:31 KJV

The waiting was long.

I felt like a rubber band that had been stretched out of all proportion and would never be able to be snapped back to its original position.

And then it happened: a venue opened up, and would I come put down a deposit? As I walked around the venue, I had a lump in my throat because it was perfect. The price was also perfect. I wasn’t going to bankrupt our group and crash it to smithereens after all. The Lord delivered!

I cried tears of joy because this shows that God is still with me.

And now more waiting is required…

My daughter is going into spine surgery on January 8th, 2015. Will you pray for me, that God will continue to sustain me, no matter what the outcome?

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I Peter 1:6-7 ESV

The Gift of Evangelism

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

gift-of-evangelism

All believers are commanded to evangelize, or to lead other people to Christ, but there are some people with the gift of evangelism who seem to win souls wherever they are. They have a deep burden to fulfill the great commission to “make disciples.” Billy Graham, Chinese Brother Yun, Corrie Ten Boom, my own father, and a man from my church who recently went to be with the Lord are a few examples that come to mind.

My dad worked for Billy Graham before he became a missionary in Guatemala. Imagine the joy of easily leading people to Christ when they had already been convicted of their sin by Billy Graham. Droves of people would come down the aisle, ready to be saved, and my dad was one of the workers who prayed one-on-one with those people. He felt so much joy that he wanted to continue to do that for the rest of his life, he told me.

I recently read the sequel to The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the holocaust. God would call her to different cities where she didn’t even know a single person. She would walk out of the airport and look around, asking God who she was supposed to talk to. She ended up doing speaking engagements all over the world, leading people to Christ in the process. She confessed that it was wearisome to live life out of a suitcase, but she was scared of living outside the will of God because she needed to be connected to the Spirit of Christ. Being effective and useful for God’s kingdom gives so much joy that once you have experienced it, you never want to live without it.

Chinese Brother Yun (The Heavenly Man) was the same way. He was led all over China, spreading the gospel to anyone who would hear. He suffered great persecution as part of the underground church, and he was thrown into prison and beaten multiple times. But he had this huge desire to share the gospel with the lost, and he was a powerful modern-day evangelist. God has worked miracles around him, like setting him free from prison, blocking the guards from seeing him walk straight out of the prison. There is documentation to show that this happened. God is extraordinarily good to those who are wholeheartedly His.

Danny Acosta was a member of my church who recently went to be with the Lord. He was abruptly given three days to live. But he led ten prisoners to Christ during his life, as well as many other people. There is one woman from the street in particular that God has given me a deep love for, who was led to Christ by this man. She describes how he would boldly greet a hardened gang member as he walked down the street. She laughed at how much courage he had, because normal people thought his boldness was crazy. But the Spirit of the Lord rested upon this man, and the gang member awkwardly said thank you to this man’s greeting! My jaw dropped the first time I heard this man pray. He claimed promises from Scripture as he prayed, and his strong faith was not misplaced. Even though I never really knew him, I grieved when he passed away.

Spiritual Gifts in the Church

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

spiritual-gifts-in-the-churchHow important are spiritual gifts in the church? Do you realize that if you don’t use your spiritual gifts in the church, other people suffer because of it?

I’ve been a member of a couple of larger churches and a few smaller churches over the course of my life. I’ve also seen how churches function in other countries, since I’ve spent half my life overseas. Smaller churches (and overseas churches) have a larger proportion of people using their spiritual gifts because people can see that there is a need, and they fill the need in their area of strength, if they are allowed to do so. (In overseas churches especially, even new converts are actively using their spiritual gifts to the edification of the church.) On the other hand, many larger churches here in the States seem self-sufficient. In these larger churches, it’s sometimes impossible to be put into certain positions because there are too many leaders. For example, many women have told me that I have the spiritual gift of teaching, but unless you’re an elder’s wife in the large churches, you’re not really allowed to use your spiritual gift.

Many people don’t like some of the spiritual gifts and avoid Christians who are gifted in discernment or in exhortation. People don’t want to know if they are in error, because it makes them uncomfortable. And if they are sinning, they don’t want someone to confront them. I don’t have these particular spiritual gifts, but I know people who do. Instead of seeking after holiness, most Christians seek their own comfort, and they label people with these spiritual gifts as being divisive. So these spiritual gifts are silenced in the church for the sake of unity, even though Jesus confronted people all the time with clear words. Mature believers with the gift of discernment or exhortation usually have a deep knowledge of Scripture and how it applies to given situations. You almost have to be in a position of leadership for these two gifts to be used at all. Unfortunately, most of these people are not type A personalities, so they are never considered for leadership, even if they have a mature walk with God.

If people have the gift of mercy but leave immediately after the church service, they never know the spiritual needs of people who are suffering. I have the gift of mercy as one of my secondary gifts. (It’s actually the opposite of my personality because I’m a blunt and honest person and don’t care that much about feelings. It just shows that God can manifest Himself in your life in ANY of the spiritual gifts at any given time, if you are willing.) On this one occasion when a woman from my church was dying, I was called. My presence in the room of the dying woman gave everyone a deep spiritual comfort that was tangible. I had an exquisite joy that can only be found while giving comfort and hope to those who are experiencing sorrow. Basically, if you have the gift of mercy and are not using it in the church, you are allowing other people to scream in anguish with no one to help them.

So are you ready to find out what your spiritual gift is? Print out your inventory here:

The danger of taking a spiritual gifts inventory is that you will pigeon-hole yourself into one spiritual gift and get a big head about it, when in reality, the gifts of the Spirit are fluid and constantly changing depending on the circumstances that God has placed you in. Back in my college days, I took a spiritual gifts inventory that blasted the top off the faith category, but had zero in the area of mercy. There are seven people in total that God has taken me over and displayed the gift of mercy to. I crossed over and became them, I felt their pain as if it were my own, and I was able to be a deep comfort to those seven people over the course of the last decade. But if I see someone hurting or sick or poor, I feel nothing. So I don’t have that spiritual gift in general, only when the Holy Spirit comes upon me because He has chosen me to minister to a specific person only. That’s why I say it’s a secondary gift.

I believe that most Christians have multiple gifts, and that they should be open to being used by God in ANY area. Gifts are referred to as “manifestations of the Spirit,” so don’t cram yourself into a box, and don’t limit what God can do in your life. Also, don’t be proud of your gift, as if you did it. The more you let God use you for His purposes, the more He will surprise you by using you in your areas of weakness so that He alone is glorified.

 

Hoarding Money

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

hoarding-money“I don’t give a flip about the poor. I think they are lazy frauds that beg off people just to go buy booze. Why on earth should I help them?” I declared to my husband.

After doing a Beth Moore Bible study on the book of James, I was aghast at how many Scriptures command us to help the poor. Helping the poor is something commanded by Jesus, James, and tons of other Scriptures. I was floored and horrified because I have never heard a sermon about helping the poor, and I don’t care one whit about them. What is wrong with my hardened heart?

(Here are some verses about helping the poor. If you want to read them, I wrote them out here. Exodus 22:21-27, Leviticus 19:9-10, Leviticus 25:35-38, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Deuteronomy 24:17-22, 1 Samuel 2:7, Nehemiah 5:6-13, Psalm 12:5, Psalm 112:5, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 17:5, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 28:8, Proverbs 28:27, Isaiah 3:14, Isaiah 58:5-7, Isaiah 61:1-2, Ezekiel 18:5-9, Amos 5:11, Matthew 19:21, Luke 6:34-35, 38, Luke 14:12-14, Galatians 2:10, James 2:1-7, Revelation 3:17.)

As I was reading the book of James, I was convicted that we live “in luxury and in self-indulgence” in this country, and meanwhile other believers are working hard and don’t have enough to feed their families. In the body of Christ, we ought to fill each other’s needs instead of overpampering ourselves. My husband has the gift of giving. If he sees a need, he automatically fills the need of the other person. I am not talking about professional beggars that are liars. What I’m talking about is interconnecting with other believers in the body of Christ, whether at a local church, or with other homeschoolers, or with friends. These people aren’t lazy and shouldn’t be lumped in with frauds.

I do NOT believe the poor should get help from the government (aside from not having to pay taxes), because then they feel a sense of entitlement and demand it, and the majority stop working. That’s sin. If someone doesn’t work, neither shall he eat. (II Thessalonians 3:10) If someone doesn’t provide for his family, he is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8) But if someone is working hard and still can’t feed his children, and you know about it and do nothing, you are guilty of sin. Read James 2:15-17: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” God says your faith is dead if you see someone in need (for real), and you don’t help them.

We enjoy hoarding and piling up all of our money at the bank. There is nothing wrong with being rich, since Abraham was rich, and so was Job, and they were both godly people. But both Abraham and Job gave to other people and didn’t just hoard it to amass riches.

This whole idea of hoarding money reminds me of the man in Scripture who had full granaries and worked super hard to become rich, only to have his soul required of him that very night. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'” (Luke 12:20)

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