Thursday, October 11, 2012

It Really is All About Your Heart!

I have been a bit out of spiritual commission here lately. In a valley if you will...

Every single time I have made concerted efforts to climb out Satan has crafted someone to give me a swift kick in the teeth only to knock me face down at the foot of the proverbial hill I was climbing. I've been quite mad at times if I'm brutally honest and I know you expect nothing less than honesty...I mean gosh if you are reading this you are probably on your own journey of sorts with stories and experiences you could blog about...

As a Christian...I am supposed to love God and love people and I really want to do that, but I know I cannot do that and do it well until I get back to the Father on how to handle those that are not so nice. I know what I am supposed to do, but sometimes doing it is another matter. I read something today that hit me square in the face. "You don't really know if you are walking in love until you have an opportunity to walk in love." This is so very true...

God wants to love on us, but we have to receive that love by getting into His presence through reading His word, praying, and serving other people. Am I the only one who battles with making the intentional time to do this? I think NOT! I have struggled with all of the above lately. This is clearly the problem.

1 John 4:16

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

I am just so very thankful for God's Holy Spirit and His loving willingness to never leave me nor forsake me even when my misery is caused from my own doing sometimes.

Dark and trying times will come to all of us as we grow and mature in Christ. As we learn to navigate and handle ourselves, we develop more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ if we yield to the truths of His word.

Psalm 119:111
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

If the truths in His word are complete and totally trustworthy then why on earth do we struggle so desperately with giving our hearts over to our creator who wants only the very best for us? Unfortunately, many Christians never develop mature Biblical knowledge. The church is sitting full of people who drink from a giant sippy cup of milk. Let's face it, none of us can really put a lot of wholehearted faith into something we don't fully know or understand. The things mom or grandma might have lived out or talked about won't sustain you when the refining fires of life are lit. Here is another sobering thought...a good number of those in church profess to be saved because of an experience they had as a youngster. The sad truth is they are lost to this day. I know this to be true because this was me a few years ago. Not all of them, but a good number. I am going to say this loud and clear... YOU CANNOT COME TO CHRIST WITHOUT EXPERIENCING A CHANGE INSIDE YORU HEART! I want to add, this change is not anything you do in and of yourself. It is a change that happens inside you because of what Jesus Christ has already done on the cross. The change in your life happens when the eyes of your heart are opened and you surrender yourself to God by accepting Jesus as your savior and making Him Lord over your life. I beg you to examine your heart today and know that you know where you stand with your creator.

Psalm 119:160
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgements endureth forever.

Here is another powerful quote from a story I was reading in my study time. "When you are blind, you just can't assume anything. And the problem is you get a picture in your mind and if you get it wrong, you just live inside the mistake." So many are spiritually blind and they think they know the truth, but in actuality they are living inside a distorted mistake of the truth. And...sometimes those that know the truth fall right into the enemies trap of deceptions and distraction. They too are then rendered useless for furthering God's kingdom. If God's people are rendered useless then we are done...there is no one else to reach the lost. He has given us the task of reconciling a lost and dying world to himself through the Holy connection we have in the Spirit that came to us through the blood of Jesus!

Proverbs 23:7
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

Many people say they "believe in Christ" but I am learning this means different things to different people. Obviously, those who believe in Christ based on anything other than what God's Holy Word teaches, are living inside a distorted mistake of the truth.

We have a tremendous responsibility to present our testimony without blemish.

Romans 2:23-24
You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed month the Gentiles because of you."

You know what? God does not place expectations of perfection upon us because we were incapable of such a performance. That is why he sent His son, Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Compared to a Holy God of "perfection" we will NEVER do enough good or right enough wrongs to assure an eternal connection with our creator.

Until we surrender our hearts to God and receive His very heart through Jesus, we will NEVER taste or see the things of God. I had to learn the hard way, no one is able to see in faith the things of God when they are filled and puffed up with pride. A spirit of brokenness has to come and the realization of who we are in comparison to a Holy God must be realized. It is in this sweet place of brokenness that God can reach inside us and draw us unto Himself. Even then...we still have the ultimate choice as to whether we will repent and turn from our old selfish ways to receive His son Jesus for our salvation or reject Him. I know the enemy is fighting night and day against each of us and as long as time marches on the intensity of the battle will only rise to new heights!

God's word says this...

Matthew 7:23
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Other Christians should be our fruit inspectors aka accountability partners in love. We need each other inside the body of Christ. We have a personal responsibility to live with clean hands and help each other. We can't run around eating our own because that is precisely what the enemy would love to see on our dinner menu!

What are you having for dinner...God's word or other Christians?

If you are reading this and realize you are all means run to Jesus! If you are a Christian reading this and realize God's love has grown cold in you...Repent and Return to Holiness!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Passing through...

This morning I was sitting outside reading the story of Zacchaeus and some things hit me fresh and new or should I say in a very practical way! A man named Zacchaeus heard that Jesus would be passing through Jericho and he wanted to know who Jesus was, but he was a very short man and knew that he would not be able to see for the crowd. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus as he passed by that way.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector and he was very opposed by the Jews because the money from taxes supported the secular government and its pagan gods. It was common knowledge that tax collectors were making themselves rich by gouging their fellow Jews. Basically, Zacchaeus was a cheater and turncoat. In society, this man was considered “untouchable” because of political views and immoral behavior.

How many “untouchables” are actually in our sphere of influence?

When Jesus passed by the spot where Zacchaeus was up in the sycamore-fig tree he said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

If you notice in the picture, Zacchaeus is pointing at himself. This is where Jesus is telling Zacchaeus that he is going to stay at his house this day!

Quite the uproar developed that day among the people as they began to mutter in shock about Jesus going to be the guest of a sinner! Zacchaeus was indeed a very crooked tax collector.

Something happened though…

Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus then said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

After he met Jesus, he realized that his life needed straightening out. By giving to the poor and making restitution – with generous interest – to those he had cheated, Zacchaeus demonstrated inward change by outward action. We MUST show our faith by changed behavior. Following Jesus in your head or heart alone is not enough. We need to be asking ourselves, has my faith resulted in action?

What does this changed behavior look like?

We cannot be “the people” in this story that are in an uproar about Jesus eating with a sinner. We must be “Jesus” to the “untouchables”! Jesus still loves to bring the lost into his kingdom, regardless of their background or previous way of life. I'm learning that sometimes there is an instant change that looks radical and others it looks very gradual and takes a little more time.

I am so thankful that my previous way of life didn’t stop Jesus from coming to me and confronting me in my sin with His gentle and forgiving love.

Lord Jesus… please help me love people like you do! I want to extend the same mercy and grace to others that you so lovingly extended to me:)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Is it Okay or Is it Holy?

Justin Lookadoo threw this question out there for me to chew on last week while attending Spirit Song 2012 at Kings Island! If you have never heard of this Lookadoo guy he is a Christian author/speaker. He wrote a book called Dateable and has now written a dirt series that addresses topics on drugs, sex, and something else I can't recall. Anyway, as I stopped by his booth and began talking with him, he pointed out that we as Christians are asking the wrong question. We ponder is something okay?

For example...

Is it okay for me to buy just one lotto ticket?
Is it okay for me to have just one beer?
Is it okay for me throw my trash out the window of my car?

I could go on and on and on...

But...the question is NOT really is it okay? The real question we need to be asking is..."Is it Holy?"

Leviticus 19:2
Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

By the standards of the world it is normal for us to want to know how far we can go and still be okay with God so to speak. If this is your line of thinking you might have just missed the whole point.

If we truly desire to be more Christlike and live a life of righteousness through Him then straining our words, attitudes, thoughts, and actions through the "Is it Holy?" filter might not be a bad idea. At least that is what I am thinking for myself.

Now, if this idea of considering holiness is a bit much for you and seems to turn you off right away, I would ask you to examine yourself to make sure all is right with you and the Lord. Seeking holiness is not going to mean anything to someone who does not have Jesus Christ in their life. Honestly, if you are in that camp then the only question that will really concern you is the one that goes something like this..."Is it okay?" It isn't about being okay or not okay, right or wrong? It is about living a life that represents Christ (who is Holy BTW) and being transformed more and more into His likeness daily!

Start asking yourself...


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is it Yoga??? No it's Jesus!!!

I crack myself up at some of the thoughts that run through my crazy mind! After dinner tonight I decided to take a stroll along the Mississippi riverfront down by the park in La Crosse, WI. People were literally stirring from every direction this afternoon and from afar I noticed this group sitting on the ground in a circle. The thought crossed my mind that it was a group about to do yoga and then as I got a bit closer I could see there was a man talking with a group of youth. I ended up parking myself on the concrete base of an old monument in the park so I could hopefully hear what this man was telling this group of youngsters. As I listened for a moment it didn't take long to figure out that this group was sharing about Jesus! This was music to my ears and a blessing to my heart:) The guy sharing with the group was encouraging the youth to prayerfully walk around in downtown La Crosse seeking God's direction as to how He wanted to use them. He was sharing from his own heart how God had really revealed Himself in this very park on many different occasions. Immediately, I began to pray for God to lead me in this moment. What was I to do if anything? Did God draw me over just to listen or was I to share something from my heart?

After the group prayed, I asked a lady standing near me what church group this was and she told me they were from First Free Church. I promptly walked over to the guy that was the obvious leader of this group of youth and told him I needed to share something quickly with this group if that was okay. I told them I was from KY and that I was traveling back and forth weekly to work in this area. I shared my experience about how God does want us to be bold and allow Him to work through our lives. We may not always understand or even realize the impact we are having on someone else. I shared the following story: Two years ago I was on a flight into La Crosse when I sat next to a lady that I was sharing my personal testimony about Jesus. This past March I was traveling back into La Crosse for work again and a lady asked me if I remembered her and she started to jog my memory as to who she was when I DID recall her! As it turns out this lady was the very same lady I sat next to and shared my journey with Jesus! It was my friend Shelly that I mentioned in a few blog posts ago titled "Sometimes we just need a big 'ol splash of Jesus". Shelly shared with me how two years ago God had placed me into her life at a critical time when she was searching. She told me God used me to help literally change her life. She got involved with First Free Church and started attending some Bible studies and connecting with other women in this fellowship. I wanted this group to know that God is already using the Christians at First Free Church to bless others and they should be encouraged as they step up to reach out to others. I wanted them to know that just there very presence in the circle at Riverfront Park was a blessing to my heart and gave me tremendous encouragement as I watched God's people gather with intentions of reaching out to others with the love of Jesus Christ!

Is it NOT just crazy AmaZing that God would put a lady in my path from two years ago to let me know how she connected at First Free Church and then tonight I walk right into the midst of First Free Church youth gathering in the Riverfront Park? I live for seeing Jesus ALIVE in the hearts of His people! First Free Church is yielding their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and I'm forever thankful that He is giving me the privilege of seeing this all the way form KY!

After sharing my little experience with the youth, I talked more with the young lady, Darlene that I had asked what church this group was with. We ended up sharing with each other how amazing Jesus is and how people in general have really abandoned just loving people and having authentic compassion for others. We exchanged contact information and plan to connect by e-mail and possibly have dinner some evening before my time in La Crosse is over. Only God can ordain such connections and meetings and I am forever honored and humbled by his divine hand intervening in my life! Thank you Lord Jesus...I love you so!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

A 'lil detective work in the sun!

God watches all things at all times and if you are willing He will allow you to be a part of what He is doing in the lives of others around you…get this!

We arrived into Key West late Saturday night and were so very ready to hit the pool early Sunday morning! I had prayed for God to use me to touch the lives of others however He wanted to this week. This made me nervous as I prayed these words, but my heart truly is to be used by God regardless of how uncomfortable it may be at times. It is always worth any discomfort I may initially feel and His blessings far outweigh the discomfort!

Here’s the scoop…

I got to the pool on our first morning at the resort and the entire area had already started to get packed out. After all, it is Memorial Day weekend. I sat my bag on the ground in hopes a couple of chairs would soon open up. Shortly, this gray-headed guy began moving his things over a couple of chairs that made two chairs available to me. Super nice guy he was! He was a smoker and was even so kind to walk away from our area so not to bother us with his cigarette smoke. He kept us informed of all the freebie stuff going on like popsicles available at the concierge everyday at 2 p.m. etc… In spite of his super nice demeanor, I began noticing that he was always getting up and down never to stay in one location for very long. It was like he had ants in his pants! I started to watch him through my dark sunglasses to try and figure out what he was doing. He certainly had the appearance of a lurker.

To my left there was another family at the pool with a baby so they were quite busy entertaining their little one. They were up and down a lot from their chairs. I guess you could call me a “people watcher” of sorts. Traveling around over the years has made me more sensitive to who is around me, and what they are doing for my own safety. I don’t even think about it anymore, it just happens.

After several hours of soaking up the sun, I was taking my last dip in the pool before going to the room. Greg and Kayla were down at the beach and I was also waiting on them to return. Again, I observed the gray-headed man standing up next to the water’s edge reading the newspaper. I thought to myself how odd that looked and wondered why he would just stand there instead of getting comfortable in his chair. He didn’t even have a toe in the water. S-T-R-A-N-GE! I then looked up a few seconds later to find this man seated on the chair that belonged to the family with the baby. I watched him cover his legs with the newspaper and reach into a bag that was left placed on the chair. There was some obstruction to what I was able to see, but it had the strong appearance of this man taking something from the bag. He placed the newspaper on the ground and promptly walked over to his chair. He grabbed his messenger bag and placed a towel over his legs and the bag opening while he placed something inside. I almost could not believe my eyes as I was watching a real theft take place and I was positioned right in the middle of it with a birds-eye view! I immediately swam like crazy to the ladder because I thought to myself; I need to get a picture of this dude so I can report him! I swam like a mad woman to climb out the ladder to get my camera and snapped a great picture of the man’s backside as he was exiting the pool area. I then thought…now what?

Soooo, I grabbed a pool waitress and reported what I witnessed to her and she went to get the resort security. In the meantime, the lady returned to her chair that had been the “victim” in all of this so I informed her of what I had observed. She checked her bag and sure enough…her wallet was gone! At this point, he had only been gone from the scene under 5 minutes. Resort security came over to gather information and walk the grounds after viewing the picture I managed to snap from behind. Within 10 minutes, Key West Police Department was notified.

Claire was the name of the young lady that got her wallet stolen. Claire, her brother James, and myself walked up to the general manager’s office to await the arrival of the Key West PD to file a police report. In the meantime, Claire started notifying credit card companies to report stolen cards. She was on the phone with Bank of America and in real time they were able to give her an address of where the guy had just attempted to withdraw money from an ATM machine. The police went immediately to the area of Bank of America and with the picture showing his clothing were able to detain him for questioning until we could identify him as the same man who had in fact been inside the resort moments earlier.

Key West PD drove Claire, James, and Myself to the scene and had us each identify whether or not this was the guy we had witnessed at the Casa Marina Resort by the pool. Without any doubt at all…this was indeed the man! Needless to say, on day one of my vacation I was not expecting to be cruising around with the Key West police!

While I had a few moments alone with Claire and James, I shared with them how my husband is a pastor and usually we are in church on Sunday morning. I shared how I had prayed just this morning for God to use me in some way to make a difference in someone’s life today. I told her this was how He had chosen to use me. They were both very appreciative and blown away at how “easy” this entire thing had went down from start to finish. I believe the word Claire used is “miracle”. Indeed it was a miracle that someone would see such a crime, report it, and catch the guy in a matter of about an hour total. I would say…”miracle” led by the divine hand of God would be right!!!

This was Claire’s last day at the resort. She and her family were leaving Key West in a few hours to make the drive up to Miami to catch a flight home to Ohio. We talked for a bit after the entire ordeal was over and she gave me a big hug goodbye and once again thanked me for my help. She was even so sweet to have a gift basket delivered to our room at the end of the day full of Key Lime goodies to enjoy on the rest of our trip. She wrote the nicest card of thanks to me and also said she would NEVER ever forget me! I just hope she thinks more about how God used me than me☺

If you have ever thought that walking with the Lord was a bit humdrum; look out because He might just have you rolling with the 5-0! I’m not EVEN kidding!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bad Weather, Delayed Flights, & Extended Stays...

Long story short, I should have flown home Thursday and weather related issues caused an additional overnight stay. Honestly, I just wanted to get home because “officially” my vacation had started and I had laundry to do so we could leave for Key West at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. Oh the anxieties of travel and uncontrolled circumstances, but then this whisper came…like a peace within me…there is a reason for this…

I arrived into Minneapolis Friday morning with a few hours to kill so I decided to mosey over to the mall area of the airport for a sit down breakfast. My waitress was so super nice and honestly made me a bit uncomfortable in some weird way. She had a raspy voice, made intense eye contact, and I hate to admit this but she gave me the impression that she might possibly at one time been a man…not sure about that one though. She just had features that gave off this impression coupled with the way she carried herself. Isn’t it just like us to profile people that are a bit different than we are? Regardless, I began thinking about how God loves her and none of those things that may or may not be true make any difference in the fact that God sent His son Jesus to die for her just like He did me.

As I was eating my breakfast, I had the strong thought come to my mind that I should get a book out that I have been reading and perhaps my waitress might ask me about it. The book is called “The Missing Elements of Worship” and I actually bought it earlier in the week at a Goodwill store in La Crosse, WI for two bucks. I must admit I had doubts anyone would notice my choice of reading material much less my waitress.

Moments later my waitress caught a brief glimpse of the book cover and she DID lean in to ask me what I was reading. Needless to say, this was the first bit of the encounter that profoundly gripped my attention! As I flipped the book over and told her I actually bought the book a few days ago in the Goodwill store she proceeds to tell me that another lady was reading that same book a few days ago. She nor could I believe this was in fact the same book! With much excitement in her voice, she proceeded to share with me how this other woman was such Godly woman and travels around speaking about the Lord.

My waitress was so animated in our conversation at this point she was saying to me that it was kind of interesting as to how all these Godly people were everywhere last week and now again this week because she had been thinking of getting her family into church. She even said it sounds like God is knock, knock, knockin’ on my door! I said yes I would say that He is my friend! I was able to briefly share with her a small bit about how lately I was concerned with how the church was allowing “religion” to overshadow the love of Jesus and his invitation to come to Him just as you are. I mean honestly… I had just sat in this very restaurant and been somewhat guilty of the very thing that gripes me inside the church! I had already had the very thought about this woman that “might” be a “man” and was scanning my thoughts as to how messed up she might actually be. I was weighing in my mind the chances of God being able to reach her. We tend to give up on people based on appearances and trends of behavior that we brush elbows with in society. Praise God He NEVER gives up on us! My mind quickly re-oriented and returned to the days that I am sure my life looked such a mess there were people thinking there was no way God was going to be able to reach me. I was terribly self-absorbed. God reminded me AGAIN where I have been delivered from through the blood of His precious son, Jesus! I told this young lady in our brief conversation that I used to be a drug addict and that if it wasn’t for Jesus I don’t know where I would be today.

Before I left the restaurant to catch my flight I felt that I couldn’t just leave and not say something encouraging to this young woman. I wrote her a brief note telling that I could clearly see God knocking on the door to her heart and encouraged her to pay attention and yield to what He wants to do in her life. I shared with her a bit about salvation and how God had used her to bless me this very day. I told her how God had prompted me to get my book out because the thought entered my mind that she would ask me what I was reading. I confessed my doubts that I had and how through this encounter God had increased my very faith! As I was leaving, I made sure to find her so I could hand her my note. She immediately expressed such heartfelt gratitude and hugged me while bidding me farewell with a God Bless You. Amazing!

As I was walking to my gait to fly home, my mind raced with excitement, and it was clear as to why my flight plans had changed the night before. God had a divine appointment for this gal that waits tables in an airport restaurant called Ike’s. He started working in her life last week through that other lady. He wanted her to see my book and do what God can only do…blow her mind and confirm His presence in the tiniest of details. God is so very good and I am just once again honored that he allows me to be involved in anything He is doing knowing how completely nasty I can be some days. Thank you Jesus for loving me anyway! Help me to always LOVE like you do…

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sometimes we just need a big ol' splash of Jesus!

Ahhh...and how refreshing it is my sweet friends!

I am reminded of Proverbs 11:25

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Monday evening I was in Detroit awaiting my connecting flight to La Crosse, WI. I was seated in 2c of the plane and when I boarded there was a lady in seat 1c that looked up and said, "I think I know you". I was so caught off guard initially, I cannot recall if she asked if my name was Kelli or if I was a nurse, but then she asked if I was spiritual?

I replied with a cautious smile and somewhat of a giggle and said Yeah:) The words gushed from her lips, "You changed my life two years ago!" This got my attention!!!

I took my seat behind her and as we continued to recall the past it all came back to me. I worked in La Crosse exactly two years ago and had met Shelly on a late night flight into La Crosse where we became fast flight friends. We talked and shared various things about our lives and I shared what all Jesus was doing in my life!

Who knew...but a Holy God in complete control of all things?

Two years ago at that very moment in time, God was working in Shelly's life and He allowed me to be a part of His work by just simply sharing from my heart about His precious son, Jesus!

The really neat part to all of this... I was in such need for a big ol' splash of Jesus to refresh me on Monday evening and He appointed Shelly to do just that! It isn't often that you get to see how your life may have impacted another soul on this earth especially those that you meet flying around the country...I mean really...what are the chances? That is why this experience is so super amazing and just oozes with God's mighty presence!

I'll say it again! Jesus is alive and dwells within the hearts of His people!

Needless to say, I was so filled and refreshed I could hardly sleep. All I wanted to do was pray and talk to God about this exciting blessing He has given to me. I have this new sister in Christ in La Crosse, WI that I am forever thankful to God for placing into my life!

I am once again reminded of just how very good God is to me! Thank you Jesus...thank you!