Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Strong and Courageous

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At the start of each year, I ask the Lord for a Scripture to guide the organization I lead. That Scripture becomes the theme for the year, as we seek to honor the Lord and expand our influence in the community. It is a source of encouragement when we face challenges, as well as a source of inspiration as we see God’s faithfulness in light of His specific Word to us. This year the Lord spoke Joshua 1:9 to my heart.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (NLT).

Joshua was chosen to be the successor to Moses. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Moses was the revered leader of the nation of Israel for over forty years. This was the man who received God’s call to lead from the burning bush. He led a multitude of people out of slavery into freedom. This was the man who spent weeks with God on the mountain, whose face glowed so brightly that he had to cover it in public. Moses performed fabulous miracles, and brought the Chosen People to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua had some very big shoes to fill.

But the Lord promised Joshua that if he diligently followed and relied on Him, the Lord would be with Joshua (See Joshua 1:8). He could set aside fear of the unknown and discouragement of not being good enough. Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. His strength and courage were not dependent on his warrior abilities. They came from trust in and obedience to God.

There is another passage that is similar to the encouragement Joshua received. It is found in Deuteronomy 31:6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (NIV).

In the first passage, the Lord spoke to Joshua. In this second passage, Moses spoke to all the people. The great leader was now 120 years old and ready to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses instructed the vast community to trust the Lord as they crossed over into the Promised Land. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would be stepping into enemy territory, but the Lord had told the Israelites to possess the land.

The ability to overcome the enemy came from the Lord’s presence. He was with His people and would never leave nor forsake them. They weren’t big enough, strong enough, or brave enough in their own strength to fulfill God’ plan. But the Lord was.

In the passage in Joshua, God’s strength and courage are available to the individual. In the Deuteronomy passage, they are available to the faith community.

The command to be strong and courageous is not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament gives Christ-followers the same encouragement.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 3:10-13 NIV).

There is a very real spiritual battle going on. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. Our enemies are not the people we can see. Your fight is not with the annoying person that perpetually rubs you the wrong way. It is not the group that opposes your beliefs and values. No, our true enemies are the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness. We fight the battle by praying, walking in God’s love, and representing His ways. This takes strength and courage, but again our source is Christ and His mighty power. He is already victorious. Our power to stand in the midst of the most troublesome situations is in Him.

What is the Lord calling you to do? Does it seem too big for you? Are you afraid, perhaps terrified? You’re in good company. Our God likes to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, because then we rely on Him.

No matter what 2018 may hold, we can be strong and courageous. We can stand victoriously against the devil’s schemes. We can advance God’s mission. We can thrive in the Lord’s mighty power individually and in the places we lead.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, be my strength when I am weak. Be my courage when I am discouraged. As I trust You and follow Your Word, equip me to answer Your call and do Your will. Remind me that I am never alone. You are with me, providing all I need every moment. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

 

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Following the Wind

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved windmills. My heart would soar at the sight of a scene from Holland with a charming windmill surrounded by tulips. Today I am still delighted by windmills, including the looming white giants that dot hillsides and other landscapes where wind is present. Regardless of the type, when I’m around windmills I have feelings of awe, wonder, and peace.

Windmills come in many shapes and sizes, but the purpose is the same: To be moved by the wind to generate power in order to accomplish a task. The task may be to produce electricity, saw wood, pump water, or, as in the case of my beloved Dutch windmills, grind grain. The common factor, though, is wind.

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I want to be a windmill. I want my life to be powered and moved by the wind. Before you raise an eyebrow at my statement, it’s important to know that wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

At the time of creation, the Holy Spirit hovered like wind over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as “a rushing, mighty wind,” breathing life into the Church (Acts 2:2). In an earlier scene, Nicodemus asked Jesus what He meant by being born again, and Jesus explained.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

There are two important characteristics of wind—direction and speed. The windmill is affected by both. The windmill sets neither the direction or speed of the wind, but rather is responsive to it.

My heart longs to be responsive to the wind of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is life-giving and produces spiritual growth. He seals our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. He can be grieved by wrong choices. He is unstoppable and dynamic like a hurricane, yet gentle and refreshing like a cool summer’s breeze.

I want to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead for my life. May I never set my own course and make decisions based on my human intellect alone. I want also to follow His timing. May I never rush ahead because of eagerness or impatience. And ultimately what tasks will be accomplished? To glorify the Lord on this earth and to do His will.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:25, NLT).

Following in every part of our lives is a lofty but wonderful pursuit. We thrive as we allow ourselves to be carried along by the Holy Spirit. It certainly isn’t easy or natural. It takes mindfulness to say “yes” to the Lord and reject the tendency of our human nature. We must evaluate ourselves often by asking, “Am I surrendered to the flow of the Spirit or am I fighting against Him?”

I want to be a windmill yielded fully to the Wind. What about you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide my life. Help me remember that He dwells in me and empowers me to live for You. Let me be aware of the Spirit’s presence. May I have a willing heart to follow His direction and timing for my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Put Away the Cookie Cutters

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My husband and I own a home-based pie business. This may surprise you—my husband is the one who makes the pies. I help where I can, but he is the one with the expertise for pie crusts and creating artisan pies. My primary job is to make the cut outs for the top. It’s fun to roll out dough and use cookies cutters to make decorative shapes. Throughout the month of February, I cut out dozens and dozens of hearts. Each heart was the same shape and size, and made a lovely pie crust. We have a pi symbol for National Pi Day. We have a cross for Easter. Cookie cutters are handy for baking, but not for our lives.

When I was a young woman in ministry, I assumed my journey would look like the journeys of my mentors and others I respected. I thought that successful ministry meant to lead a growing, thriving church or evangelistic organization. Humble beginnings were fine but only if it developed into something bigger and more notable. I myself was on the track to God-honoring success. At the age of 18, I was a featured soloist for Christian community events and led worship with a trio for evangelistic meetings with attendance of over 2,000 people. I believed that, as I followed Jesus in obedience, ministry would only increase. That’s what my cookie cutter for ministry looked like.

How shocking that God’s path went a completely different direction. By the time I was 24, I had four small children and was hidden away as a youth pastor’s wife in a tiny logging community. When I prayed about ministry opportunities that were offered to me, I sensed over and over again that I needed to decline. I would politely say “no” while arguing furiously with the Lord. This clearly did not fit my mold.

Eventually the doors were open for music ministry again. I loved leading worship for services and conferences. I wrote songs and recorded two CDs. Music was my passion and I thought it would be a part of my life forever. Then, four years ago I started to feel the stirrings of a new direction. It led away from music and church ministry altogether.

Today, I love serving Jesus as the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, a speaker and a writer. But it isn’t what I ever imagined myself doing. No cookie cutters for successful, vibrant ministry looked like this. But that’s okay.

Our heavenly Father has called us to an adventure with twists and turns that require trust. We keep our eyes on Him as He directs our next steps, with confidence that He truly knows what’s best for us and His Kingdom.

Have you followed a carefully charted course, and yet find yourself in a place that surprises you? Has life thrown some twists and turns your way? Do you believe you are where God wants you, but it doesn’t look like what you imagine? It’s okay. Put away the cookie cutters. Success isn’t measured by numbers, results, or position. It’s measured by loving obedience to our loving Father.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I praise You that Your plans are good. I surrender my life to You, and trust You to lead. Help me not to measure my success by the standards of this world. Help me measure it according to Your Word. Thank You for calling me to follow after You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.