God’s Word for Your New Year

Happy New Year, friend!

As you think about the year ahead, have you asked God for a word to represent something He will actively do in your life during the

What is your word for the new year? coming year? This is a question I’ve asked Father God over the last few years, and the answers I received have been profound and life-changing.

The thought of asking God for a word for yourself may seem strange. I completely understand if you feel that way. The first time the idea was posed to me, I wasn’t sure what to think. It felt gimmicky. However, the idea apparently piqued my interest enough to try because I found myself asking God for a word one cold January night.

I wondered that night how long I’d have to pray to receive an answer. The funny thing is, I didn’t even get the question fully out of my mouth before I suddenly received an answer. The word was “warrior.” It wasn’t a word I audibly heard. Instead, it was a quick thought that flew through my mind so fast I almost missed it. It’s a bit hard to explain how to “hear” something that you can’t audibly hear with physical ears, but my spirit seemed to know “warrior” was my word. However, I wanted to make sure I really heard from God and wasn’t answering my own questions.

The next night, I found a quiet space in my house and sat down with my Bible. I thanked Father God for the word “warrior” and told Him that I desperately wanted to confirm it was the word He had actually spoken. Next, I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my hands and lead me to the passage that would somehow help confirm my word. To ensure I wouldn’t know where He might lead, I closed my eyes and opened the pages of my Bible. When I opened my eyes again, I couldn’t believe what I saw! Before me were the open pages of the Book of Psalms, and David was crying out for the Lord’s victory over his enemies who were pursuing him to kill him:

“My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. Don’t let me be disgraced, O Lord, for I call out to you for help. Let the wicked be disgraced; let them lie silent in the grave. Silence their lying lips — those lying and arrogant lips that accuse the godly.” – Psalm 31:15-18

It seemed to be no coincidence that I was reading about David. He was certainly a warrior. Was this the word that God was speaking over me? It seemed the answer I received was the first of several confirmations.

During the weeks that followed, I experienced many trials at the hands of cruel personalities. In years past, I probably would have given in to the circumstance and allowed myself to become the victim. But something rose up inside of me like a lion. I was determined not to give up, and I decided to fight the situation in the only way I knew: I prayed. I read Scripture. I spent many lunches during my workweeks with my door closed and my face on the floor asking God to intercede. I read several verses from Psalms out loud as declarations about the Lord’s victory over the circumstance.

Months passed. God did intercede. The trial ended. The cruel personalities never harmed me or my loved ones with any lasting wounds. I was delivered from that dark place. God used that year to teach me how to fight and how to pray. He taught me what it means to be a “warrior.”

Last year, I received the word “temporary rest”, and it was a welcome change from the chaos of the last several years. It was the first year in a very long time that I experienced

May the year ahead be filled with the goodness of Godemotional and spiritual healing through new godly friendships and the removal of the environment that had caused me so much pain. I am so grateful.

This year, my word is “new”, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store. It was clear before 2018 even began that the word for this year represents so many wonderful God moments that they can’t fit into one year! For example, recently, I’ve been learning new duties at my job; and as a result, I’m gaining new skills. The Lord has given me even more godly friendships that I’m sure will only grow closer as the year develops. I led worship at my church for the first time ever. Also, if you’ve followed this blog for a while you may have noticed the previous name “The In Place Missionary” has changed to “Love Roars.” Yes, that’s new too. I have wanted to buy that domain for over a year, and it finally happened!

I hope you will spend a quiet moment with the Lord and ask Him for a word for your year, and I hope the word you receive will provide you a sense of expectancy to see God move in very real ways in your life.

Your Sister in Christ,
Heather

Reconsidering the Woman at the Well

A “prostitute.” A “harlot.” A “promiscuous woman.” These are all words traditionally used to describe the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Like Mary Magdalene, she is often judged for her past as a sinner and as a person with little-to-no value due to her circumstances. But is this characterization accurate?

John’s Account

At the beginning of John 4, Jesus and His disciples arrived in the Samaritan village of Sychar on their way to Galilee. Normally, Jews traveled for three days around Sychar to ensure they would have no contact with Samaritans, a group they considered unclean; but the Bible says that Jesus and His disciples had to go through the village (but no explanation is given as to why) (Lizorkin-Eyzenberg).

Once they arrived at Sychar, the disciples went into the village to buy food. Jesus, who was very tired, sat beside Jacob’s well (a field near the village) to rest. Shortly after, a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. Although the woman was never named, we know from the story that her interactions with Jesus and the revelation she was in the presence of the long-awaited Messiah impacted an entire village. However, we also learn she was married five times and living with a sixth man to whom she was not married, a discovery that has frequently painted her in a harsh light.

Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman’s Character

Interestingly, the Samaritan woman’s assumed naughty behavior is not commented on directly by Jesus as sinful, unlike the adulterous woman to whom He told to “go and sin no more.” In addition, John, as part of his account, never stated the cause of the woman’s situation either. It seems possible this omission may be on purpose as it is likely not the focus of the story; however, it has traditionally been used as the emphasis. Why do I say her alleged sin is not the primary piece of the story? Let’s take a look at some common scenarios this unnamed woman might have faced that have nothing to do with sinful behavior that could have led to her tragic marital situation.

The Widow

It was not uncommon in the First Century for a young teenage girl to marry a much older man. The life expectancy was short and becoming a widow more than once was a reality for many women of antiquity for that part of the world. Could it be possible the woman at the well experienced the death of at least one of her five husbands? It seems very likely (Crown, Silver).

Marriage Laws

Some Biblical researchers have suggested the Samaritan woman may have been involved in a Levirate marriage; however, this scenario, although possible, was not allowed by Samaritan and Levitical laws (see Leviticus 18:16 and Deutoronomy 25:5-10) and has been strictly followed (most of the time) for what is known from ancient Samaritan historical writings. The Levirate marriage was the practice of a widow marrying the dead husband’s brother to provide financial security and continue the brother’s family line.

History suggests Samaritans may have practiced Levirate marriages at some point since Jewish women, for whom this practice was common, married into Samaritan families upon occasion to reduce the genetic consequences of continuous intermarriage of extended family members. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume the rules and laws may have changed slightly over time, but due to poor records on marriage laws and customs from that timeframe, it is difficult to know for sure (Atteberry, Crown, and New World Encyclopedia).

It was also acceptable for Samaritan men to have more than one wife, especially if the first wife was barren. Although the law legally allowed this form of marriage, Jesus’ definition was between one man and one woman only. Some theologians have suggested that perhaps Jesus was not pointing to her sin with the last man she was with but simply pointing to an arrangement that was not recognized by Him (Crown).

Occasionally, it was necessary for a woman who had no dowry to be taken in by a distant male relative (which was common). This is also a possibility as she would have been living with a man to whom she was not married (Crown).

Divorce

Serial divorce initiated by the woman at the well has also been brought up as a possible reason she had so many husbands, but that situation seems the most unlikely. Since women have to have a male relative help with divorce initiations, it would have been unheard of to have any respectable man help her divorce several different men. It would have been considered extremely taboo in that part of the world during the First Century (Crown).

Is it possible she initiated at least one divorce of the five marriages? Yes, it is possible. It would not be unthinkable that multiple men may have divorced her. It was much easier for a man to divorce his wife than for a woman to divorce her husband (Crown).

The Prostitute

Could the woman at the well have been a prostitute? If she initiated divorce, she may have lost any dowry or other assets to her ex-husband. In that ancient culture, no husband would have meant little or no financial security, personal value, or future hopes. She would have been at high risk for living on the streets, starving, and destitute. It also seems reasonable to assume that if she were a prostitute, no one in her village would have listened to her testimony of her encounter with Jesus because her standing within her own community would have been so low (Atteberry).

Final Thoughts

Honestly, the more I consider any of the scenarios listed above, the more I feel compassion for this woman. Her past seems to indicate she was most likely a victim of her circumstances instead of a sinful, wicked woman. The one fact that stands out the most about the Samaritan woman’s story to me is that Jesus saw her worth. He spoke about her situation which carried a lot of personal significance about her financial situation, standing within her own community, and the likely deep lack she felt. In addition, Jesus, a Jewish teacher, talked to an “unclean” Samaritan who was a woman. Then, He asked to share her water vessel which would have caused him to be considered ritually unclean. Any of those things on their own would have been considered odd by the culture of the day (Atteberry).

It seems the account tells so much more than about a woman at the well. It was a divine appointment which led the first evangelist, a woman, as recorded by John to reach a people separated from God. Jesus offered worth and restoration to a broken woman; she took the same hope and restoration to her community.

Beloved, if you carry shame and unworthiness, consider the story of the woman at the well. Like Joseph, who’s tragic circumstances led to the salvation of his people (by the way, his bones were buried very closely to Jacob’s well), this unnamed woman’s story follows a similar path (Bible Study Tools).

No shame is too great. No brokenness too unworthy for God to look beyond your past and speak restoration over you.

Sincerely,

Heather
Resources

Atteberry, Shawna, The Voice, http://www.crivoice.org/WT-samaritan.html

Bible Study Tools, “At Jacob’s Well and at Sychar”, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/at-jacobs-well-and-at-sychar.html

Crown, Alan, Jewish Women’s Archive “Samaritan Sect”, http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/samaritan-sect

Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli and Loden, Lisa, “Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman”, http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/john-4-reconsidering-the-samaritan-woman/

New World Encyclopedia, “Levirate Marriage”, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Levirate_Marriage

Silver, Sandra, Early Church History, “Longevity in the Ancient World”, http://earlychurchhistory.org/daily-life/longevity-in-the-ancient-world/

His Eye is on the Sparrow

What is the price of five sparrows — two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7 

I couldn’t believe it. God just used a faithful friend to give me turn-by-turn directions for something seemingly insignificant. How could it be that the God of the universe would care about something as small as a piece of code I was writing for a work form? Even now, my mind has a hard time catching up with my heart which knows God cares about all of the details of our lives, big and small. I hope my true story (from two weeks ago!) will encourage you.

As hour four quickly closed, I felt no closer to figuring out how to write a particular piece of application code that my supervisor wanted than when I first started. I admit to feeling a little hopeless at that point. I may be in the computer field, but I am not a programmer. I stared at the code with frustration for a long minute.

“Ask me,” the Lord stirred within in my heart in that familiar still, small voice.

“Okay,” I responded obediently, unsure what to ask exactly. “Lord, will you point me to the right resource?”

A few minutes after hearing nothing more, I texted a friend who knew the code language that I needed (I laugh now as I write this post because I think I felt like I needed to help the Lord answer my prayer). My friend tried to help and pointed me to a couple of sites, but my particular code issue was not something he was familiar with writing. The sites were useful suggestions, but after another hour fiddling with the code, I realized I was getting nowhere fast. As a last resort, I used my lunch to post a plea to Facebook for help.

“Now, what do I do, Lord?” I sighed.

A minute later, my smart phone buzzed with a message from another friend named Faith who responded to my request for help on Facebook (my friend’s name is not actually “Faith.” However, per her request, I changed her name as part of the permission she gave me to use her part of the conversation that you will read below).

“Did you ask the Holy Spirit about the code?” Faith asked.

“I asked Him for a solution,” I wrote back quickly.

“I agree He’ll lead you to a solution. I’m asking for a word of knowledge about it. I have no idea in the natural [physical world]. I’ll let you know what I hear in a few minutes.”

About ten minutes later, I received a follow-up message from Faith, “There’s something in the second part of the code. Does that make sense at all?”

I went back to my original code and started at the second sub statement, which happened to be the part I was struggling with all morning. Knowing that she had not seen the code and wasn’t a programmer, I started laughing at my excitement at what the Lord was doing through her, “Yes, your response makes perfect sense! I still need to get clarification on what to do with the second part though.”

“Okay, I didn’t know if codes have parts. LOL! I’ll ask what to do with it,” she confirmed before shortly continuing a minute later, “Delete something is what I heard. Like there’s too much maybe?” she mentioned.

I instantly recognized what she meant. “Yes, I think I did add too much to my code,” I agreed.

Although Faith could not hear me, I was laughing again as I looked at the code and removed what I suspected was incorrect from the overall module. When I was done making changes, I eagerly tested the code, but encountered an error.  However, I remained determined and I felt in my spirit that we were on the right path.

“I have no idea what I’m talking about,” Faith texted.

“That is funny to me, because I do know what you’re saying,” I confirmed. “I deleted the problematic code, but something is still missing.”

“Okay, I’m asking,” she responded and quickly followed up with “I am hearing something about a closing statement. Do they have those in programming?”

“Yes, closing statements are in programming” I confirmed.

I scrolled to the last closing statement, but nothing looked wrong. Everything appeared to be in order, and the syntax appeared correct. While I was still searching for my mistake, I received another message from Faith.

“Maybe not in the closing closing statement but one further up in the code?” she urged without knowing I was still struggling.

Her words suddenly made sense. Of course, the issue was with the end sub statement at the tail-end of the second sub command. It was the same code I had wrestled with all day. Immediately, I found the syntax error and corrected it. My fingers couldn’t press the run button fast enough when I realized that error was likely the last barrier to making the code work. Believe it or not, it worked! Perfectly! Only God could do that. I am still in awe.  

I’ve thought over the last several days why God would do such a seemly small thing. That piece of code would never have cured cancer or solved the problems of the world. It was a mundane script for a simple operational purpose at work. Why would God bother to help me with something so menial?

I believe God is involved in the details of our lives for many reasons. He’s a good Daddy. He loves us. It’s also a testimony of His great love in the little adventures of our everyday lives for others to see. If the whole event teaches someone about His love in even the smallest way, I feel it was worth doing and certainly worth sharing.

Peace and love to you, and may you experience His reality in your life — even in the smallest of things. If He cares for each tiny sparrow, He will certainly love you that much more!

Sincerely,
Heather

The Dreamer, the Deceiver and the Unbeliever

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20

Does God still give gifts of apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing, discerning spirits, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, tongues and interpreting tongues to Christians today? Theologians and otherstackofbibles_sm Christian experts frequently debate this subject. As a result, I decided to write a post about this question, not from an argumentative standpoint, but as a way to understand my own personal journey and remain grounded in the Scriptures. Over the years as I studied the Bible, examined the Greek, and witnessed God’s hand in my life and the lives of others, my thoughts about the existence and use of miraculous gifts has shifted.

Early in my Christian journey, I regularly dreamed of real events involving friends and family which had not yet occurred. These dreams were so startling they prompted me to engage and encourage the person I had dreamt about. As I interacted with friends about what was happening to me, I quickly learned these gifts were not considered “normal” within my Christian social circles. As a result, for many years I ignored these gifts which I often called “curses” because I did not understand them. I usually kept them to myself. At the time, I was very young, and I didn’t understand what those gifts are, why they happen, and from whom they are given (1 Corinthians 12:11).

As the years passed, I saw spiritual abuse by people within other denominations who claimed to have gifts like mine, using it as a gimmick to get money from gullible people. It became easy to distance myself from those false prophets. I already wanted nothing to do with my gifts and primarily went to churches that believed in cessationism, meaning the miraculous gifts ceased with the 12 Apostles. I convinced myself, despite my own experiences, that all people claiming to operate in the miraculous were frauds and fakes or they were fooling themselves.

More years passed. I knew doctrine. I knew Jesus saved me, but my spiritual life was stunted and without power for various reasons. Life was often distracting and difficult at times. God was real, but I didn’t see Him actively moving in my life; and at the time, I so desperately needed Him to show up.

Then the year 2012 happened. That was the year God encountered me and everything changed. He used a tiny prayer room, Spirit-filled Christians from different denominations, and the wife of the minister to physically heal me from an anxiety disorder that I had suffered from my whole life. I was healed in an instant, and my life transformed forever because God heard the prayers of Brothers and Sisters that night.

As I walked through the days and weeks that followed, the transformation in my life became more evident. I wanted others to know what Jesus did for me. Most of all, I wanted other people to be free. If he did it for me, I knew he’d do it again for someone else. However, as soon as I shared my testimony, I met familiar resistance. Many people around me didn’t know what to think of my story. Some try to argue that God didn’t use that night to heal me, but it was tough to disagree that I was not the same person. What really happened to me?

Soon after being healed, I moved to a non-denominational, charismatic church and witnessed believers and non-believers become healed from cancer, injuries, mental oppression, and illnesses. I also met other

Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn't know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.
Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn’t know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.

Christians who prophetically dreamed like me. Suddenly I was normal and ordinary which was comforting.

Experiences are great, but they can be deceiving. I appreciate them because they provide valuable perspective, but what do the Scriptures say about the miraculous gifts? The best answer I can give you is “read your Bible.” His Word is my litmus test. To settle the issue in my own heart once and for all, I researched many verses and dissected them in their original Greek. Some of the verses I reviewed were:

  • Acts 2:17-18 a reference to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 stating God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days [Greek lexicon]
  • Acts 4:10-16 the Apostles were identified as being sent by Jesus and performing miracles in His name and under His authority
  • 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 the gifts of prophecy and tongues are temporary [Greek lexicon]
  • 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 – the gift of tongues signifies that salvation is available to gentiles (also see Isaiah 28:11-12)
  • Romans 8:24 a possible connection to the “day of perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 [Greek lexicon]
  • Ephesians 2:20 a reference about the gentiles being included into the family of God upon the foundation of previous apostles and prophets. This verse is often used to state that apostles and prophets are no longer needed because Jesus, as the cornerstone, completed the Temple of the Lord.
  • Ephesians 4:11-13 Gifts and offices of the Spirit including apostles with a little “a” [Greek lexicon]
  • James 1:25 This passage talks about the perfect law has already come to compare it to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Romans 8:24 [Greek lexicon]
  • Hebrews 2:3-4 Apostles (with a capital “A”) were identified as those who had been with Christ and performed signs and miracles in His name [Greek lexicon]

I hope the verses above help you come to your own conclusions, because after all the research I’ve done, I have decided the answer to whether or not God still regularly gives these gifts is not definitive. Phrases like “prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless…but when the time of perfection comes, these things will become useless” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, emphasis added) and “[Miraculous gifts] will continue until we all come into such unity in our faith…” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis added) are not easily discernible. What is the “time of perfection” and “unity in our faith”? Do these passages refer to Jesus when He walked among us, or maybe they refer to when we die and we’re united with Christ? There aren’t clear answers to these questions, and the Greek fails to define these verses in enough detail. And what do the experts say? That answer also varies depending on whom you ask. What now?

At this point, I pray. I ask God for wisdom. I ask Him for discernment. I examine my experiences with a critical eye. I ask myself if those experiences have been tested or can be tested (1 John 4:1-3). Do the experiences proclaim the Gospel and point to Jesus, or do they simply exalt a person? If they do not point to Jesus, they are not from the Lord.

No matter what stance you take on this issue, it’s not the primary focus of our lives. That designation is reserved for Jesus alone. I hope this post encourages you on your faith journey.

In His love,

Heather

Giants in the Promised Land

She stared at the monumental task before her. Its completion seemed impossible. She understood how David must have felt with only a sling and a stone to take down a giant. Her mind raced. Her heart jumped. How would she get through this moment? Wasn’t she in the center of God’s Will? Didn’t she go where the Lord had called? Why was each step such an enormous effort? Did the Lord intend for her to fail?

I can think of countless times I’ve experienced that exact distressing scenario, wondering if maybe I heard God incorrectly or somehow removed myself from His Will and protection over my life. It’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes, we further confuse ourselves when we agree Arrivingwith well-meaning but uninformed clichés, suggesting God will always remove every obstacle and open every door when we’re on the right path.

It can feel distressing when you reach a new chapter, a momentary “promised land” in life and quickly discover it’s not going to be easy due to “giants” (obstacles, challenges, struggles, problems or seemingly impossible situations) in the land before you, threatening to spoil your victory and ruin you at every turn.

One evening a few months ago during my prayer time with God, I was particularly upset and confused about a giant in my life. I complained to my Abba Father for thirty minutes, asking Him why my mission field was enormously difficult and expressing how discontent it made me feel. I can almost imagine as I whined that God was calmly listening with an “are-you-done-throwing-your-pity-party-yet-so-I-can-talk” type of look on His face.

“Please speak to me through your Scripture, Lord,” I asked piously after concluding my rant (I understand if you’re snickering at me, dear reader). Little did I know how much God would use that request to teach me about how He felt my journey was going.

Soon after I voiced my request, the reference Acts 20:19-21 came to mind. As I wrote it down, another reference, Zechariah 4:10, popped in my head. I quickly wrote it below the first reference.

I was curious to know what the verses said as they were not immediately familiar references to me. I opened my Amplified Bible and leafed through until I found the first passage from Acts:

“Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and trials which came on me because of the plots of the Jews [against me]; [you know] how I did not shrink back in fear from telling you anything that was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public meetings, and from house to house, solemnly [and wholeheartedly] testifying to both Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance to God and [to have] faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [for salvation].”

The verse and section in context was Paul explaining that his ministry was difficult from the first day he entered his mission field in Asia and often accompanied by tears and trials. However, he concluded the end result was worth the struggle because it furthered the Gospel and glorified God.

I was floored. Did I just read that right? Did I not just complain to God about the giants in my mission field being too tall and the road too hard and too long from the first day I began this journey?

“Okay,” I mused aloud. “You’ve got my attention.”

I flipped eagerly to the other verse, now acutely aware the Lord was speaking clearly about that which I was groaning:

“Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)? For these seven [eyes] shall rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord which roam throughout the earth.”

The second piece of Scripture was a bit more difficult to figure out because of the metaphors, but with some simple research, I eventually understood. The passage was about the construction of the Temple and God’s pleasure as He oversaw the building process. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see, but the message was clear in my mind: The Father saw the construction within me, His Temple, growing pains and all, and was pleased.

I sat in my chair for several minutes, staring at the verses I just read.  I was speechless. The words were not easy to read.  God was delighted with how my journey was going. But was I? Not so much.

I wanted God to simplify my mission and agree with me to take away the obstacles, but He didn’t. Instead, I found myself having to face my giant head on. But I never fought the battle alone.

God often shows up in the most incredible ways in those dark moments when we find ourselves in Goliath’s shadow. Defeating such a giant requires faith and trust, even when the current circumstances look a lot like failure. It often means we keep fighting until we’ve reached the end. Only then do we realize God is always for us (Romans 8:28) and He’s always with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He uses our weaknesses as His strength. Our victories over the giants in our lives grow us and prepare us to fight bigger battles. It witnesses to those who don’t know our loving God about His reality. Our testimonies of overcoming adversity teach others and build their faith to believe that they can do the same with God by their side.

Wandering in the Wilderness

“Everyone wants the promise, but no one wants to be pruned.” – Kris Vallotton

The journey of life is full of new beginnings, unexpected turns and course resetting. Often times, when we feel like we’ve arrived, a new change shakes us or grows us. Many times, this process is painful, but necessary for maturity.sand_sm

I have experienced many of my own twists and turns throughout my life journey; but through it all, God has been with me, guiding my steps and whispering reassurance to my heart along the way. You can read about my testimony and God’s goodness through my life struggles on my About Me page.

Earlier this year, I found myself at an unexpected crossroad in my career and life in general. I call it “unexpected” because I had known for years that God’s will for my life was to remain within my place of employment where I had been for the last 15 years in different positions. He confirmed His will for me to remain where I was many times by providing opportunities for me to minister to others through love and encouragement. He gave me moments to share His love and His nature with the lost, hurting and broken. He gave me lifelong friendships for encouragement, correction and growth. He even used my workplace to bless me with a husband who is the love of my life.

Amid the blessings were also job struggles and pains associated with maturing and disappointments along the way. In many ways, I believed my place of employment was my long-term “Promised Land” because it was where God had sent me. But then it happened — change.

Sometimes, the change in course is obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. In many previous crossroad situations, the choice was often not obvious; but in this particular case, there was no mistaking it.

Months earlier, I began to feel a deep stirring of the Spirit, nudging me and telling me it was a season of change. It was time to move. To be honest, I wasn’t excited. I know I should say I was giddy with anticipation about the prospect of moving on to a new adventure, but I wasn’t. I was finally feeling settled and comfortable in the position which I had been placed. It certainly had its challenges and issues. In fact, there was a storm going on in that area of my life; however, I assumed it was one of those issues that would eventually get better. Plus, I knew I would give up many blessings to change careers — daily interactions with amazing friends, a position that gave me direct access to the organization’s decision makers and knowing how my role fit into the organization. But my heart became restless and many nights were sleepless.

I realized the first day I felt tug of the Spirit on my soul that God was also giving me a choice. Although He told me it was time to change course, I also felt Him telling me I could remain where I was and He would bless me and others for His Kingdom’s purposes. However, I knew if I moved, it was the best choice that He had for my life. Even so it was not an easy decision.

I asked God, “Where will you move me? Where do you want me to go?” When I didn’t receive an answer, I prayed and waited.

Although I really hate change and my stomach was quite unsettled, I answered one morning, “I am willing to go wherever you called me.” In that moment of submission, I felt like God was saying to me through unspoken words to my heart, “Understand there will be a sacrifice; but if you lean on me and relinquish control, I will give you new coordinates for your life and career. I know you’ve dreamed for many years about a specific type of job. If you go where I’m asking you to go, your dream will be realized. But it won’t be without a cost. Spiritual growth and trust in me will be necessary to see it through to the end.”

When I asked God what the path ahead would look like, desperately wanting a roadmap to make the process less intimidating, I felt like He was telling me it would look nothing like what I could anticipate, and I wouldn’t know all the answers until the end. But He knew. I just had to trust Him. As I considered the terms, I took a deep breath and watched as my season of change was set in motion.

The trust aspect became my greatest trial I faced. There were plenty of twists and turns and lots of confusion like a complex maze, just as God had warned. The process of moving took much longer than I thought it would. Patience is still an area in which God is constantly teaching and correcting me. Several days, weeks and months passed before the process was complete. Also, there were multiple interviews at different places. When something appeared to be working out, it suddenly fell through, and I really didn’t know what or where to go until the last minute. Even after I arrived in my new workplace, I was in constant transition and helping in a couple different areas for several weeks. Although I struggled and change was hard, God was faithful and kept His promises, and I suddenly found myself with options to go into the field I love.

“Almost there! Just keep going!” I would tell myself. Some days, I said it to myself through tears. Did I mention change is hard? Sometimes, I wondered if I’d be in the Wilderness forever. For a restless heart, sometimes the waiting period can feel that way. It can be easy to lose your way and lose hope if you take your eyes off of Christ and focus on all the uncertainties. But God kept every word of the promises He gave me.

People often think of the Wilderness as punishment. They think of the Israelites wandering in the desolation for 40 years. Instead, it is usually a time of testing and trials intended to grow and strengthen us. It is a time of preparation for our next life chapter which requires more than previous situations had demanded. Wilderness moments, although sometimes extremely lonely and discouraging, is never without God’s grace (Mark 1:13). For me, the greatest experiences and often the closest I have felt to God occurred during my Wilderness moments. It makes the life struggles worth the perseverance when we see God move miraculous ways.

If you find yourself in your own Wilderness experience, take heart! You are not forgotten. God is preparing you for your next adventure. He’s giving you an opportunity to see Him move and to mature spiritually. You will see He is faithful, and you will eventually reach the end and discover your Promised Land.

May God’s peace, love and joy accompany you along your life’s journey.

The Covert Christian: How Transformed Lives can Secretly Transform the World

In a world that’s becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel, how do we fulfill the Great Commission to share our faith and make disciples, especially in places where it may be cropped-cropped-cropped-joyinchrist1.jpgrestricted?  For some Christians, this task may seem daunting, paralyzing or impossible.  What do we do?  Do we give up?  Do we defiantly disregard the rules placed upon us and share anyway?

As Believers, we are called to follow God’s laws over man’s laws even at great cost; however, we are also given the responsibility to exercise wisdom and good judgment when facing scenarios in which sharing our faith is restricted (Acts 5:29; Ephesians 5:15-16).  You could disregard the rules; but in many instances, this may not be the wisest option.  In some instances, disobedience may be necessary, and should be used as a last resort (Acts 5:29).  In other situations, you must weigh the degree and necessity of actions which may cause you to lose access to the people to whom God called you to minister.  We must always do what is right, but we must also ask who will reach the lost if we’re not there as His testimony and witness.

The Power of a Transformed Life

One key way to share the Gospel in our workplaces or other places where we may face restrictions is through transformed lives.  Actions almost always impact people more strongly than words.  The words we speak may tell people who we are and what we think, but our actions tell people what we believe and Who’s we are.  When others see how we live, it should cause them to wonder why we live that way and for whom we live.

A Changed Heart Begins with a Renewed Mind

Before we can live in a way that reflects Jesus, our lives must be transformed from the inside-out.  This means our minds must be renewed, and Jesus must drive our new motives and mindsets (Romans 12:2).  A renewed mind means we change our ways of thinking, hoping, believing, and trusting.  We have new perspectives, new motives, and allow His will to become ours.  It means we choose to let go of the attitudes that once controlled our thought life and drove our motives without God (Romans 6:6).  As with salvation, once we have renewed minds, we act out what we believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9-10).  What we act out should be evidence of the motives of our hearts and what we believe.

Evidence of a Transformed Life

The Scriptures place a high emphasis on our lives as a powerful witnessing tool and declaration of what we believe (James 2:17-18):

  • Our thoughts and attitudes change to reflect His Spirit within us. – 1 John 3:5-6
  • We produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. – Galatians 5:22-23
  • People will know we are Jesus’s followers because of our great love for each other. – John 13:35
  • Our eyes reflect His light of purity and righteousness within us. – Luke 11:34
  • We chose mercy over judgment even when the world claims we have a right to be justly unmerciful. – James 2:13
  • We speak the truth and mean what we say. – 1 John 3:18-19
  • We “do what is right” when faced with tough moral choices. – 1 John 2:29
  • We keep God’s commandments. – 1 John 2:3-5

I’ve often found that when you exhibit facets of the character of God through the fruit of the Spirit, other people notice.  I don’t say this pridefully.  After all, it’s not me whom they see.  It’s Him.  If we live our lives in a way that reflects who He is, other people will be drawn to His attractive nature within us.  Questions like: “Why is there something different about you?”, “Why do you live that way?”, and “How can you forgive when I never could in your situation?” are open doors to share the Gospel with others.

May God use your life as such a powerful testimony of His love, mercy and grace that people are drawn to the Light you carry.  May they also see the radiance and genuine expression of grace and mercy that clearly reflects the evidence of a transformed life.  In many ways, this is the call of the In-Place Missionary — which is you!