Everlasting – Timeless

Don’t you just love the fact that we get to discover who God is by reading the Bible??? I believe God is intentional when He reveals an aspect of His character to emphasize the meaning of that attribute in the circumstances given.

Abraham needed to confront Abimelech about a well of water that was seized by his servants. Abimelech had no idea and seemed quick to accept terms and make a covenant with Abraham…Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God (El Olam). For the full encounter, read Genesis 21.25-32.

First, some fun facts about his event. When Abraham first was called by God to go to where God promised, he did not always engage rulers in the land with such confidence. He often was timid and asked his wife to say she was his sister as a means to protect himself. Yet here, we see Abraham step up as an equal and negotiate with a king on the same level. Abimelech acknowledges Abraham’s success and power by identifying that God is with him.

Throughout scripture, the number seven is used to symbolize completeness. Abraham offers seven ewes which Abimelech receives making a pack. The place was called Beersheba which means “well of oath” or “well of seven”. This location continues to play a role in recommitment to God for Isaac. With this transaction and pact, we also have the first recorded purchase, acknowledging his rights by a king.

God as the Everlasting God, a timeless God challenges the scoop of my mind to comprehend. In some ways, at first glance, it was odd to me that such a powerfully reality of God is revealed over something like a well dispute. It wasn’t until further thought and investigation did I see the significance.

God’s covenant has already been established. He was continuing to see it through. This God who is always, in continuous existence, everlasting, unending future, is at work establishing the necessary details in this life so that His people would be blessed to be a blessing to the nations. How God lead and cared for the people, impacted every tribe they encountered.

El Olam, the everlasting God, is with you, despite whatever storm, unknown, unmet expectation, diminished dream or victory you are currently finding yourself in. I am thankful to reflect on who God is to me in this season of my life. That His timeless nature can bring me comfort as I so easily evaluate how things are goin based on my short impatient time lines.

May our hearts be strengthen as we sojourn with Him.

Do you want to go away as well?

Recently I was able to get away for a couple of days to just sit with Jesus. He challenged me at the start of this year to be more vulnerable with him. I realized that part of that meant giving him time to speak and for me to engage and let emotions be without having to work in a time frame. The time is a bit awkward at first and I can feel insecure in how to use the time, but the reality is that we have a relationship and once I let go having to do it “the right way” I began to just enjoy.

The second time I asked Him what does He want to say. After some moments of silence, I just began to write. These words challenged me and provided some good reflection. May He also speak to you.

We do not need to be silent. How do we live our faith out loud? The Kingdom of God is here, in this place, in this time. The season is now. We need to cultivate the soil and be ready to sow. How many seeds will you sow? What presents me from growing spiritually? What presents me from seeing breakthroughs in other peoples’ lives? Do I believe that all things are moveable with faith?

Truth is offensive. The Bible will offend. To live as a citizen of heaven in counter culture. We will not live like others. We will stand out as different. Am I okay with that? How much effort am I putting it to keep status quo. Who is your God? Will we live to please God or man? I am tired of making excuses of what I am not doing, aren’t you? Is it really because I can’t? Jesus did not say it would be easy. Why do I cower? Why am I afraid? May this oppression, this stronghold of my flesh, my sin, be broken in the name of Jesus.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Am I ready for the King to return? What will he find? That I have buried my talent and played it safe? Please no. That I have disregarded his messages? That I have been too busy with a new spouse? new oxen? Or to buy a loved one? Are we tired of excuses? What is that we believe in?

Your life demonstrates what you believe. Are we tired of being lukewarm, average, when it comes to the gospel? I confess I play it safe. I can talk and say all the right things, but at the end of the day how to I live? Is it ice cream and Netflix? How hungry am I see to the Lord? To Know him?

After Jesus fed the 5000, he gave a teaching of what it meant for him to be the bread of life in John 6. In verse 66, is says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

What kind of disciple are you? What are you waiting for? What does a step of faith look like? Or are we just waiting for someone else to do it, fix it? There is no room for passivity. Even in our waiting we are active. We are seeking, crying out, sowing seed, testing soil…sitting with Jesus.

Are you thirsty?

I share the following dialogue I have been having with Jesus this past month from John 4,7-15 and 28.

A woman from Samaria came to draw after. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

We all go about our business with tasks we need to do as well as tasks we do to avoid the root issues. Here the woman came alone, avoiding others to get water. Perhaps she was stuck in her allowing her past and people’s perception of her to keep her stuck in false identity. Perhaps she really needed water. Maybe she has already gotten water earlier but was down, she needed to do something to keep her distracted from her own pain.

Jesus initiated. He opened an opportunity to engage.

Her defenses rose. Her need to protect herself kept her at arms distance. Was she trying to be clever? Or was she trying to create a situation were he would realize her need to reject her. She had come to believe the lies so deeply, it is like she couldn’t help but remind him that she was beneath him and he probably didn’t want her to give him water.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw after with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

It is almost as if the core of her being was being poked and she knew there was something in his question that created a longing, and dare to think even hope. Yet fear of what might not be true for her, it is like she had to get something out of her mouth to protect her. She knew stuff, she could put up another truth to block her need…and vulnerability. She leaned into practicality and reasoning. It is not possible for you to get living water and besides who do you think you are?

We will do pretty much anything to escape the vulnerability our hearts need for transformation. Why is it that would find deceived comfort in a lie rather than let down our defenses? What is going to take to break that bondage?

Jesus could have given up by now…after all, he has already tried. He could see her rough edges. He could have thought, she is not ready…I’ll just pray that the truth sown will sink in one day. I’ve done what I can. BUT HE DOESN’T! He is so amazing to us. He continues to draw her and show her that she doesn’t have to be so brave.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a print of water welling up to eternal life. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

She opens a window of her heart. She verbalized her longing and realization of the need that lies beneath. She was thirsty beyond knowing what to do with herself. She did not flee. She let Jesus engage her.

Jesus is showing me that I am resisting him. He is peeling back areas of my life…which I have asked Him to do. I want to be transformed. I want Him to change me. I know I can not do it. I need His truth to renew my mind. Yet when He gets to a certain point…I pull back. I avoid. I find good tasks to complete. I justify my rest and ways to look at him but keep him at arms distance. It’s like I want to be close, but not too close. Why? What am I afraid of?

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town.

As I read this line, it was if the Holy Spirit said…see, she drank from the Living Water and is no longer thirsty.

John 7, 37-39 says: Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’’ When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.

Holy Spirit come and pour out a fresh anointing on your children. Teach us how to let our guard down and give you permission to fully have your way in our hearts. Root out, stir up all that keeps us from walking in transformation and the truth that gives life.

This wasn’t my plan

A common question people ask me is when did I know that God had called me to Sweden.  The first time I heard this question, I wanted to say, I’ll let you know when He does. As I look back on the path I have been on, it has been amazing to see how God has lead me. The reality from my perspective was that there were simple daily choices that just made sense. None of these choices came with neon lights saying God is calling you to go to Sweden and reach the unreached people groups 🙂

So what did happen?

I remember the season of deciding to follow Jesus during my college days. I can remember situations that taught me there I was not above falling with any types of sin. Learning how to read the Bible and hear God’s voice. Deepening a relationship with Jesus verses just an activity list of do’s and don’ts.

As I had the opportunity to teach public high school students algebra and geometry, we started a youth group by accident. While the Holy Spirit was stripping me of masks dealing with internal healing, He taught me how to live life with those far from Him. Perspectives was a course I got to take that opened my eyes to the reality of the mission of God from Adam and the burden that we are still not done began to grow. It was during these years I realized the amount of times it talked about Jesus’ return in the New Testament and a burden for the bride of Christ increased. I felt like the Spirit showing me how we were not ready for His return. I began to journal the desire to Know Him more and make Him known.

I began to look into the opportunities to study the Bible more in depth. Through a contact through a friend I learned about Columbia International University. Reading their website and their logo, there was no question that God was already at work orchestrating this path. Everything just made sense. I had no plans to go, I thought I would just take a class. Then the financial aid office called me and told me they would give me a scholarship if I came as a full time student. I hadn’t even applied for financial aid yet. Six weeks later, my car was packed and I was driving to Columbia, SC for the first time.

This wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t my calling. It was just what made sense as He led me. I can remember starting to come to Riverbend. I can remember the day I heard Robbie preach on the Great Commission. Sure I had heard that before and I was all about it. But Robbie said something specific that the Spirit engraved on my heart. Let us not be about contributing to the Great Commission. Let’s be about finishing it. That brought a new focus and intentionality. I mean that is our ultimate purpose. It was also at Riverbend, where Acts 1.8 was talked about as part of our DNA. Living out the gospel locally, regionally and globally. As I got to know more about the culture of this network of churches, I witnessed men and women who simply loved Jesus and wanted to live on purpose with a heart after God’s own. I made the choice to want this for my life as well. As a body of believers we can see how God is using us locally in Lexington, SC, locally on USC’s campus, locally in the refugee, immigrant and international student ministries, locally through the pre-school and well you know better than me all that God is doing in and through you. Regionally, the work at Allendale, the work through LINC projects and our network of churches in the southeast . And then globally. We have an incredible privilege serving with many missionaries all over the globe. I am excited and humbled at getting to be a global piece of Riverbend.

In 2008 after I had just gotten hired to work with college students through Riverbend, I sat across Robbie’s desk and he said, “We have just gotten back from Sweden and have decided to commit to a 5 year partnership.  One of the key aspects of the church planting vision is to help establish and equip a college ministry. Why don’t you take a team there next summer? And wouldn’t it be great if after 5 years, we could put boots on the ground there?!”  For the next three years, I had travelled to Luleå 7 different times. The five different teams that I brought, I was always thinking who would God raise up to send here long term. There were many possibilities.

October 2011, I was leaving a prayer meeting with the Luleå students and as I walked my heart was just broken for the need and the spiritual need that existed there. I was talking to God and said, “You are doing so much here it is hard to not get to part of it.” God answered, “You can go if you want.” I said, “really?” He said, “Yes.” Is was an opportunity to say yes I will go. Nothing forced or manipulated. It is just what made sense.

Fast forwarding to now. I have just moved to Stockholm. Never thought I would live here. Never desired to live. This is just where the path has lead. There is no question in my mind it is where I need to be for right now. With the 160,000 refugees currently seeking asylum in this country, the face of Sweden has changed and this is the window of opportunity we have right now, today, to make a difference in reaching the hardest to reach people groups who have become my neighbors. There are over 100 nationalities in this area. The local high school started their learning swedish as a second language to students age 16-20…150 students showed up from the middle east. We had 40,000 afghani boys between the ages of 14-16 show up in the last eight months with no family.

I have not received my calling to work with muslim ministry.  I have not received my calling to work refugees. I have not received my calling to work bi-vocationally. I am simply living out being a disciple and making disciples where He has put me. It is just what makes sense.

Sweden continues to get to be part of the globally vision from Acts 1.8 and now that meaning has gone to a whole new level. Not only do we get to take part in seeing God reawaken Europe, we get to love, serve and equip immigrants with the gospel to take back to their villages where we may never get to walk. We truly are living out a global vision to finish the Great Commission.

Yes God, have your way with me. You know how to best display your glory through me. I trust you to guide my steps. And let’s get this mission checked off!

Obstacles to Opportunities

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I Have overcome the world.”  – Jesus

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with  you all” – Paul

What are the obstacles you are facing? For me the obstacles I am facing are coming from different directions. There are the ones that are posed by those around me, the culture, the enemy, the resistance I see as I push forward with the vision that the Lord has put in my heart. There are the obstacles of my flesh where I fail to do what I know I ought to do and obey the Scriptures. The obstacles of what I must deal with by heart and injustice that affects me like the loss of a loved one to early.

How are we handling the obstacles?

Isaiah 26.3&4 states, “You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

I am learning the connection between peace and prayer. Peace is not something I can make happen and manufacture in my own strength. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit that grows as I sit in His presence and engage the Spirit to transform me. Peace comes when I surrender my mind, my emotions, my situations & circumstances before Him and focus on what I know to be true.

Jesus has overcome the world. I am learning that obstacles are the avenue for the Lord to shape my character, to display His glory and to strengthen community. Let us take time to praise God and thank Him for the obstacles that He has allowed to enter as to take away the sting of the enemy. Let us praise God for He has overcome every obstacles and there is nothing that He cannot handle.

Would you take a moment right now to list out some of your current obstacle? Ask the Lord to take each obstacle and turn it into a great opportunity to advance the gospel and therefore the Kingdom of God in your city. Ask the Lord to renew the joy of your heart, to forgive you for any unbelief and doubt, and to increase your faith. May we anticipate the testimonies of what will be as we wrestle in prayer trusting Him.

Denying self and seeking Him

Happy Friday. This morning I wake with the reality of the battle for control. I have had a weak of being struck with my need for self-discipline in every area of my life. The truth is that I know I want to live a life pursuing holiness, yet the battle exists to deny what I know is true and give into laziness, self-indulgence, self-protectiveness, etc. And in light of temptation, the Holy Spirit shows up and shows out in seeing me through, granting victory and has not left me once. Nor have your prayers. Money, health, time with our Saviour, physical temptations, attitudes and thoughts, I am very aware, as an answer to prayer, that I can sin my selfishness, pride and arrogance surface. I am asking the Lord to reveal my sin that I may be changed. Sitting in the verses of the fruit of the Spirit as a confession as well as a petition and seeking the beatitudes as my desire is to engage the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out that I would reflect the nature in Christ. Not something manufactured by my efforts but my submission to Him. I am learning more how when I am operating out of my perception and strength, the rise of fear of failure and rejection influence my thoughts and attitudes. Jesus’ example of emptying Himself and living fully is the path I choose. It’s just amazing to continue to see the paradox for my flesh as it is still convinced that it must fill myself up knowing that the result is emptiness. I hold fast to the truth that I cannot follow Jesus and remain the same. Praise the Lord!!! May He change my priorities, my passions, my direction, my desires, my actions and my values. I don’t want to settle for a man-made imitation when I can experience the real thing. Holy Spirit come and fill us this day with a fresh anointing of our Spirit that we may hear Your voice and respond as You lead. We Your servants are listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Learning as I try

I remember the feelings of urgency in wanting to make up for what I had sometimes felt as “lost time” all the while trying to find my footing in a new land with a new language and a new pace. As I met people who loved Jesus and enjoyed fellowship, I grew in excitement on what the Lord would do these coming years and the privilege He has given me to run with those I was meeting. I had a vision, a picture of how God was leading and now it was time to hop in the trenches and learn how to take steps toward that end.

What was the need? I started to meet with a group of people who loved Jesus, yet I quickly learned about the discomfort and insecurity most had when it came to sharing why they believe in Jesus. I thought to myself, okay great, here is where we need to start. We must grow in confidence and competence in sharing our story and God’s story with one another so that we can increase boldness to share it with others far from God. I was excited and felt that everything was clear.

Yet nothing was working. I tried breaking down simple tools. I tried demonstrating. I asked questions. I was laboring. Was this the reality I was supposed to accept? Was I suppose to chalk this up to cultural differences? I sought Jesus on what to do. How do you equip people? Aha. Is that the right question I need to be asking? I felt like God saying to me, who does the equipping?

In the beginning of Mark, Jesus’ first words state, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” I realized I had a group of people who didn’t know how to follow Jesus. We can’t manufacture ourselves to be fisher’s of men. The Holy Spirit must have room to that work in us. As God led us to take the focus off of being equipped as fishers of men and moved it towards the Father’s heart, a beautiful reality unfolded. We were all falling in love with Jesus. Students were enjoying their relationship with God reading the word, wanting more time in prayer and even fasting. And as the Holy Spirit taught us to follow Him, we had more opportunities to share our faith as life was happening.

We still need tools. Yet I am learning the necessity to cultivate a culture whose motivation is for following the King.