My God doesn't live in a box, so my relationship with Him has no boundaries. If He wants to change a situation I see as impossible, I believe Him! If He wants to provide opportunity that my heart would not dream of, I believe! If He wants to pour His favor on me, though I do nothing to deserve it, I believe! If He wants to heal a body, that should be dead, I believe! If He wants to turn the water into wine, go for it Jesus! I'm a believer!
Dave Kraft says, "Our God is still the God of the impossible, the unlikely, the improbable and the unthinkable!" Believe big friends! This is a spirit filled life, where we believe the hand of God is working in her life. We see the miracles, the freedom, He desires us to live in! Ben Franklin said, "A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." I don't want to be a small bundle. I don't want to live a small life and I sure don't want to be wrapped up in myself! God has so much more for me, if I can get over me! This is where my freedom begins.
So how do we get to this place? Some of us arrive easily, others, like me arrive kicking and screaming. I was a fence sitter for many years. Some of you are there now. You can't stay there forever. At some unforeseen time, you'll be tossed hard from that fence. That will be a crisis of faith. A crisis my friend Joy is experiencing now having buried for 23-year-old son.
We will all face crisis of faith moments. Turning points, a choice to make. My friend Joy has had a few, I've had couple. In those moments that try to kill you, you will choose life or death. God or this world. You may feel you're in the pit, the dark, alone, full of fear... yet maybe they are our mountaintop experiences. Because that's where God shows up. We will never look at life the same when we recognize He is our only Savior!
I want to share a couple things tonight that are hard, but don't let them be your take-away. Let God be your take-away. We all experience hard moments, loss. The question is what will we do them? Will we use our brokenness and pain, to lean in to God? To glorify Him, so others would know him.
When you think of your earliest memory, what comes to mind? Early memories are usually things that leave a mark, for good or bad. Sometimes traumatic. The memory that stands out for me is first grade. I remember the phone ringing on the wall in the classroom. Think Brady Bunch and me, Cindy in a yellow jumper. This may not be accurate but it's what I see when I look back. I remember my teacher speaking on the phone, looking me. She hung up and asked me to go to the office. It was the end of June and school would be out in another day or two. As I walked down the hallway I met my brother who was in second grade. We walked past the office and the principal, Mr. Chamberlin stood in the doorway, smiling. He told us friends were taking us home. We got into car, driven by friends of our parents, church friends. We drove the mile home.
Earlier that morning I remembered waving goodbye to my 4 yr old brother Jeff. The sun was shining, and he was headed on a picnic with my aunt. He was excited.
As we pulled into the driveway I saw cars, so many cars. My brother and I walked to the house and our parents met us at the entrance of the living room. They ushered us to the couch and said something to the effect that Jeff had been hit by a car, and went to heaven to be with Jesus. I remember thinking okay, He is safe... and I said, "He is with Jesus, so that's good."
Looking back, I'm not sure if my response was the only way I could handle this crisis, or if my faith was that grounded? My parents words offered peace and hope, and I trusted them. I believed in this Jesus I had learned about in Sunday school. If you ever wonder the importance of little ones being taught of Jesus an early age, I am proof. I was buying it all. It was my best hope of making sense of what had just happened to our family. Otherwise, life sucked!
Years later this memory would come back to me and I would lean into it, for peace, for clarity, for truth. The Bible talks about the faith of a child. Faith is that simple. I want to continually grow in my journey but my core faith is simple.
Matthew 18:3 says, "And he said, truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." In an instant, a tragedy, our family went from two boys and two girls, to boy, girl, girl. My sister was only two, but would feel the loss of her buddy Jeff for years.
God protected us in that season, a peace that passeth all understanding... those of you who have walked hard roads know this peace, or I hope you do. It is a mystery of God.
Friends, we are all walking a fragile journey. What you choose to do with your story is the question. God gives us all the tools to use this life for His glory, but He allows us to choose. He is a gentleman and He waits for us to move, and when we do, He is there! When we say yes to Him, He opens doors to walk through and the other side offers a rich life where He surprises us daily, if we are paying attention. He carries our burdens and He heals our hearts. We will either be game changers or or we will fall victim to the dangerous path we walk, but I believe we are already victors! I know it is not easy my friends... but it's worth it.
The Israelites forgot they were victors. They suffered under Egyptian rule for four hundred years, doing hard labor in the brutal sun. Finally, they are freed, and after more miracles of manna and quail, they come to the promised land, the land of milk and honey... and evidently giants! Numbers 13 describes the reaction of ten of the twelve spies that are sent to explore Canaan. The moment God asked them to step up and trust, they turn to mush. They don't trust God.
"But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” Numbers 13:31-33
God had parted the red sea before their eyes, yet how quickly they forgot. They had a choice and they chose wrong. They chose fear. The two men who listened, Joshua and Caleb would be the only two to enter the promised land. But first the punishment, forty years of wandering in the desert, because ten guys didn't trust God. Their fear told them they wanted to return to Egypt, where life was miserable. They wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb for speaking truth about the land.
The truth is some of us would rather live in captivity to our fear, wandering in the desert, than experience the freedom of being in the will of God. God wanted them to experience freedom and He offers us the same.
Sir Francis Drake said, "Help us to dare boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms show us Your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars."
God offers us so much more than we realize... if we just let Him out of the box.
I think many of us, we drink the juice, speak His name, but we never really get to know Who God is or experience the mysterious love that he has for us. We don't fall in love with Jesus.
My game changing, kicked off the fence crisis came when I was twenty eight. I had married my love the year before. I was three months pregnant and that same guy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I felt like I was kicked in the gut. Life changed in a diagnosis and the next ten months of my life rocked me to my core. When our baby girl turned 3 months old, Mark passed from this world through the thin veil into eternity and I became a widow and single mom.
I never envisioned this as my life... but no one would.
In those months leading up to Mark's death I did a lot of soul searching and recognized some truths in my life. I had walked the line of in between. The fence had been my safe place. Many of you are there. You claim God, but you don't really know Who He is or what love looks like without skin on.
In those moments I gave it up to God and said, "Not my will, but Thy will." Jesus offered those words to the Father the night before He was crucified.
If you are sitting on that fence, if it's where you live, I understand. But, it's not okay. You can't stay there. You have to get uncomfortable, and get ready to have your world rocked. In the midst of the pain and agony, He shows up and He shows off!
The morning that Mark passed into eternity, I told God, "I quit. I’m yours!" I sat on the front porch as the early morning frost lifted off the lake, and the sun rose. It was 20 degrees, cold and clear and I knew I had a choice to make. I chose Him and I chose freedom. The desires of my heart became about Him.
That day changed the course of my life. Has it been easy? Has my path been smooth? Not always. But what I have learned is to stop making so many plans, and allow the Spirit of God to direct my path.
I knew it was time to get uncomfortable, because let’s face it, I had lost my dream. I was about as uncomfortable as a person can get. Everything I planned was over, in a diagnosis, in a second, like years before, when I lost my brother.
And I went back to that time, and I remembered the peace that passed all understanding and I leaned in like the little six yr old, broken girl I had been and I asked Jesus to show me that there was life after this. And He did.
The desire of my heart is to personally live in obedience to Christ and the freedom that comes with that… and for you to know the same. It’s still messy, but He covers it all.
A freedom that comes from laying down our life, and asking Jesus, who died for our sins, to live within us, changing us from the inside out.
It’s not magic, but there is a mystery to it.
It involves the God of the universe, who waits patiently for you.
It’s a choice, and only you can make it.
Two years later, I met an amazing man, who pursued me and we married a year later and a year later we had a son. There are NO words to tell you how rich my life is. I love this man with all my heart, and love the life God has allowed us to live.
Whether you find yourself single, divorced, a single mom, a widow, hang on. God has you. Just breathe and allow God to move. Make Him your priority.
The truth is, this life isn't about you… or me. It’s about Him and our opportunity to join Him in this adventure that is called a vapor in the Bible. We get a few years, my friends. What are you chasing?
A couple weeks ago my husband & 22 yr old son and I traveled back to Champaign for the funeral of his best friend from elementary and middle school. This boys mama was a close friend of mine. I met her 17 yrs ago, the month after she buried her first born, a 7 yr old son with severe special needs. Two weeks ago she buried Christian, her second son, lost in a house fire he lived in with a couple roommates.
How do you make sense of that? I know she loves God but come on God, What are you thinking?!
We ask that… under our breath and sometimes we scream it at Him.
You know what?
Life's not fair.
Life is mostly glimpses of joy, tucked in between the tragedies. Handle with care, celebrate the joys, and hold loosely.
We will have crisis, but we get to choose, everyday what and how we will do this life. When we think of our hearts desire, does it center itself around Christ, who desires us every moment of every day of our entire life?
That path leads to freedom. Freedom to allow God to give and take away. To trust Him on this path of freedom, because we do not live in fear of this world. We live in the freedom of the knowledge of the almighty God, who knows the breaths we will take and the hairs on our head. He cares about every detail of our life!
He goes to battle for us, everyday!
What are you living for? Who are you living for and Who is your number one love?
Revelation 3:16-18, “So I will spit you out of my mouth, because you are only warm and not hot or cold.” Friends, that was me when I was sitting on that fence!
He goes on…
“You say, `I am rich and have many things. I need nothing.' You do not know that you are in trouble and need help. You are poor. You are blind. And you have no clothes to wear.
I tell you what you should do. You should buy from me gold that has been made clean by fire. Then you will be rich. And you should buy from me white clothes to wear. Then people will not see that you have no clothes, and you will not be ashamed. You should buy from me healing oil to put on your eyes. Then you will be able to see.”
Jesus is that healing oil to my eyes.
Henri Nouwen said, “The question is not, How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results?
But: Are you in love with Jesus? Do you know the incarnate God?”
The reason for Known, is not simply to make more friends, join another group, read another book or eat another taco.
Those are the extras that come from building a community of like minded sisters in Christ. They are the add-ons when you come together and share real life.
The question is this…
Do you know Jesus…
and if you don’t, do you want to know Him tonight?
And if you do, where is He in your life? Is He the lover of your soul, your go to guy, your rock?
or is He just an add-on in your story?
Don’t leave here tonight not knowing who you are in Him.
Come and pray.