Missions Highlight- Jenny Andrews

Summer time seems to be one of the busiest times for missions. I’d like to highlight the good work that some of my family and friends are embarking on.  Prayerfully consider giving those who are answering the call of The Great Commission.

My sweet friend Jenny Andrews is serving with Gaits to Heaven

Jenny is a Native American who has served The Great Commission by sharing her testimony, heart for Jesus, and gifts/talents on Reservations in the United States.  She has a heart for her people, the struggles they battle, and sharing the hope of Christ with them.  Jenny speaks candidly about her own struggles and from her own brokenness a message of healing and restoration.  She is also a US Army Veteran.

I have had the pleasure of serving with Jenny in reaching women in our local communities, of South Florida.  I have the utmost confidence in the work she is going to do on the reservations.

If you can not give financially, please keep Jenny and our Native American population in your prayers.

A note from Jenny:

Please pray for me as I raise support to go on two mission trips this year. I have already raised $480 out of the $1200. If you would like to donate please send your gifts to “Gaits to Heaven” with a memo “Jenny Andrews” so I will receive the gift. It will be a tax deductible gift. I covet your prayers. Thank you for your support.

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CLICK HERE TO DONATE

 

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Swept Away By the Lord & In Fellowship

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I am a big fan of Conferences and Retreats, they are places where we get to pull away from the every day and put all of our focus on Him.  There are no distractions, there are no interruptions.  They are an opportunity for total immersion into fellowship with your brethren in Christ as well as God himself.

This weekend, my home church held a women’s retreat.  We were blessed that a few other local small churches joined us for this time of fellowship and communion.

Speaker Michelle Howe pointed us toward having a “Swept Away” life in the Lord.   It is easy to be swept away by the world, the enemy… but it is a great thing to be swept away into relationship with God.  She suggested these daily actions:

  1. REJOICE (Isaiah 44:2) — the Lord has swept away our sins, therefore we have cause to sing for joy!  Rejoice in thanksgiving, prayers, song, praises, gratitude.
  2. REBUILD (Nehemiah) — when our walls are dropped, we rebuild them with HOPE that is found in the Lord and find we are restored.
  3.  RENAME (1 Cor 5:17) — we are a new creation in Christ, the new is here and the old is gone.  Our new name is Image Bearer, Christ Follower… not the labels of our oldself.

She then had the women at each table write their name at the top of a piece of paper.  Then, we were to pass them to our right.  As we received another woman’s paper, we were to allow the spirit to lead us to a word or statement about that woman… and write it down.  I’ve done this exercise before, but it has always been with a group of women that know me.  This time, with so many women at the event, many of us were seated among women we had never met or at least didn’t know very well.

After we received our paper back, we were instructed to circle 3 things… a statement that surprised us, a statement we expected, and a statement that we longed for.  What I found interesting was that the word I circled that surprised me, was the same thing I knew the Lord has been working on in me.  PATIENCE.  I don’t see myself as patient, but I have released my need to know and control the Lord.  It was interesting that someone would see that in me, a work that is coming to fruition.  The second word, was something I expected which was STUDENT.  I’m a student of the word in many ways.   But the third, the thing that I longed for someone to see in me was CHRIST.  In the past, when I’ve done this exercise… I’ve gotten a lot of great compliments.  But I’ve always longed for CHRIST LIKE to be in that list.  It’s been a “few” years since I’ve completed this exercise… and a woman wrote I was “light, like a city on a hill”.  It means my love for Christ, is no longer something that is inside of me… but a light that shines for others to see.  PRAISE GOD.

You can view Michelle’s full presentation notes here:  How to Live a Swept Away Life

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A member of our church then shared her testimony, and I’ll respect that sharing by letting her story remain her’s to tell.  But I wanted to share a few things that I took away from it personally.

  • We do not fool the believers around us.  Whether we speak up or not, believers can sense when we are struggling and will pray on our behalf.  The Lord brings our names to the attention of our intercessors in the church.  You have people praying for you, and you may not know it.
  • We swim at our own risk.  We may see the signs that the waves are dangerous, we know what lurks in the ocean.  We may dip our toes in the ocean of sin, slowly walking deeper and deeper.  There will be those of us who feel a little nibble, take heed, and return to shore.  Yet, some of us will continue to wade deeper, ignoring the bites.  We may not be paying attention to the waves coming overhead… or we are pulled into the riptide.  Taken deeper, unable to save ourselves from our circumstances.  Life may be a “swim at your own risk” event, but Jesus is the Life Guard who is always on duty.
  • Pursue the Lord in PRAYER, HIS WORD, IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM

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Speaker and Counselor, Amy Oliver spoke directly to my heart as she engaged us on the importance of seeking God directly in His Word, as well as a solid perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman.   Some highlights of her presentation:

  • Knowing who Jesus is, and being thankful for Jesus is not enough.  We must be in active submission to His Lordship.
  • Our prayer accepting Christ as our savior is not a stopping point, but a launching point.
  • The Word constantly and consistently calls us to RETURN TO GOD, to FOLLOW JESUS.
  • There is a difference between REGRET (being caught) and REPENT (broken and called to change).
  • His Word helps us to not only know WHO God is but to recognize the counterfeit that the world and enemy will try and sell us.
  • The fruit of our spirit is not a works based faith, but instead a natural response to act in obedience to the Lord.
  • In Christ there is REAL FREEDOM, in the enemy/the world there is an ILLUSION of freedom (but a price will be paid).
  • Good Christian things can become an IDOL in our lives if we allow them to take precedence first and foremost over our personal, devoted time to God.

A Proverbs 31 Woman is:

  • FIXED – she is rooted/grounded/secure in her role as an image bearer.
    • Women have a tendency to shift their identity as their circumstances or seasons of life shift.  If our identity is in Christ, then we need not shift but be rooted, so that no matter how things shift or change… we are still first an image bearer.
    • Women’s image or worth is not found in comparison with other women or the amount of likes a photo or story gets on social media.
    • Media tries to tell us who we SHOULD BE, God tells us WHO WE ARE.
    • The standards of the word are cheap, and they don’t last.
    • God knows our BEST, he is our MEASURE or STANDARD
  • FOCUSED – she is focused on HER mission, not the mission or calling of others.
    • Her success is not based on the success of her husband, her children, or her activities.  Her success is based on the mission the Lord has given her, thus what things we say YES to matters, why we say YES matters.
    • Requests of her time are weighed against her God given mission, she seeks the kingdom first.
    • Her life looks distinctly different from non-believers because she is mission focused.  Distinctly different, reflecting him, illustrating redemption.
  • FIERCE – she is fiercely dedicated to her task, she is not distracted or strayed.
    • She does not multi-task between her walk with God and the ways of the world, it is impossible to do so.  She is sold out for the better, kingdom calling… abandoning the world for Him.
    • She doesn’t have a guilty pleasure that is of the world, because she knows that it bears no fruit.  It does not set her apart from the world as a redeemed follower.
    • She does not repeat bad choices or behavior with a false expectation that this time it will turn out differently.  She knows the result of all sin is the same.
    • She wears the full armor of God, saturating herself in the Word.
  • FEARLESS – she is not afraid of this world, but fears the Lord.
    • Fear of the world = anxiety, depression, worry, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord = awe, reverence, worship, trust, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord casts out all other fears from the world.

When we have an encounter with God, we are changed.  There is a visible and noticeable difference.  How do we encounter God, how are we changed?

  • Know Him in His Word – evaluate the things in your life closely to know if this is something wasteful or worthy.  Anything outside of Jesus is fake, when we know Him through his word and our relationship with him, we can identify what is false and counterfeit.
  • Know Your Place in Him – Image bearer, then wife, then mother… and so on.  You are a priority to God, He gave his son for you.  Find your value and worth in knowing you are a priority to God, not based on what the world sells as valued.  Don’t try to be someone else, envious of their gifts and talents.  Instead, know what you are good at and DO IT.
  • Know How to Care for Yourself – your spiritual health is important, be intentional about your time with God, take a break away and invest in your spiritual health.  Jesus often retreated to be alone with God, to hear from Him and be away from the noise and distraction of the world.   When our spiritual health is in check we are mission focused, dedicated in prayer, deepening our relationship with Jesus.  Learn to set boundaries.  Find contentment with what the Lord has blessed you with instead of what others have that you lack.

Thoughts => Feelings => Beliefs => Words => Actions => Habits => Character => Destiny

(=> means influences, builds)

You can view Amy Oliver’s full presentation notes here:  Swept Away!

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This will be continued on Thursday with some take away notes from our breakout discussions/presentations.

If there is WILL, there will be PROVISION

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There is a belief that I have always held on to when making big financial decisions, it’s really quite simple:

If it is God’s will, then God will provide.

I truly believe that if God is calling you into a new place, new ministry, or new direction in your life… and that step requires some sort of financial need… God will provide the funds for that need.

I’m not suggesting that it means you can sit around and do nothing, and your bank account will suddenly grow by the amount you need.  However, I do not believe God will call you to action if it means you will acquire debt to do so.

It may be that God is preparing your heart, head and family for the transition or change, but you are not getting the finances because the timing is not NOW.   When the time comes to take those steps, the details will be addressed.

Too often, we try to force these things because we feel the call… and then we assume that it must happen right now.

But when we rush God’s calling, we are shorting the blessing.

God put a calling on my heart quite some time ago, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to unfold.  I knew God was calling me back to school, I needed to be equipped for something.  I wasn’t sure what.  Through a series of affirming events, I found myself enrolled in a certificate program. This worked for my family in so many ways.  I could work at my own pace, they had a payment system that was within our budget, and the certificates were the equivalent of a seminary degree.

I didn’t know at the time what God wanted me to do with this education, but I did know that going back to school was part of the steps to get me there.  As a mom, with young children at home, I had plenty of time to work my way through.  I was not in a rush to get a job.  So, I was just going to do what I could… as I could.

Then just a few classes in, the news broke that the school was in the process of accreditation!  They were going to start a degree program.  I was so excited. However, this was also going to be a bit more expensive.  As I stated before, I wasn’t really in a hurry.  So, I just kept plugging away at my classes.  Each payday I make a payment into my student account, because we agreed that there would be no student loan or credit card debt.  I believed if God was calling me, the money would be provided.

My first dose of reality hit when I had my transcript reviewed.  There were some classes from my old college that they were not going to count toward this degree.  I didn’t quite understand why, and I made a request to have the transcript looked over again.  I provided a bit more information on the classes, explaining why I thought they fit the degree requirements.

After a few days, I got a wonderful email that they agreed!  They credited me for the classes I questioned, and I was just thrilled.  I sat down with my course schedule to see the impact that would make on my degree plan.  Sure enough, I would be finished in ONE YEAR.  Super exciting, but I wondered…. how are we going to get the rest of the money in this short of a time?  When I didn’t have those classes credited… the end was far enough out, I wasn’t worried.  This changed everything.

But, I still held true to the belief that if this was indeed God’s calling, then the money would come.

And it did.

Within just two weeks, I was given a job opportunity that would take a few weeks of my time….but would pay for my school balance in full.  This was nothing I had done myself, but God doing exactly what He does best….

Being faithful to those He calls.

Equipping those He calls.

Providing for those He calls.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSONS FOR OUR GOOD

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I have been taking classes with Christian Leaders Institute, and I am currently finishing up my Old Testament Survey class.  Before I took this class, I was already in love with the Old Testament.  I actually find it very relatable to the every day struggle we have to do what God has asked of us.  This class has really helped bring to the forefront some points I may have been glossing over.

In the Old Testament, God set out some very specific directions for Israel.  In fact, it couldn’t have been more clearly stated.  It was repeated over and over again.  It was even written down.  For all intents and purposes, there was absolutely NO REASON Israel should have had trouble understanding what was expected of her.  Yet, time and time again, Israel would fall away from those directions and do her own thing.

And, time and time again, God would send someone to set her straight.

To most people, today, they do not see the direction of God very clearly.  In fact, an overwhelming number of prayers revolve around people wanting to understand what God’s will is for their life.  Praying for his plans to be revealed to them, praying for His will to be done in a situation.  And, as Gentile believers, we didn’t get such a specific list of what we should and should be doing as Israel did.  This became a point of conversation at a council meeting amongst the disciples and elders.  They flat out admitted that they couldn’t expect the Gentiles to keep a law, that they couldn’t even keep as God’s chosen people.  So, they went into prayer & came up with a few chosen things.

Even Christ, himself, left us with two commandments.  Love God.  Love one another.

So… what does that mean about all of those rules?  What do we do? How do we follow God?    We are left having to work that out with God, one on one…. daily, hourly… minute by minute, at times.  Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit to convict us and guide us.

But, let’s go back to Israel in the Old Testament for a second.  Actually, lets go back to the beginning.

God created everything, including man and woman.  He set out some pretty simple rules.  Tend to the garden. Name the animals.  Have babies.  And, don’t eat from that tree over there… or you will die.  Adam and Eve were not bound to the rules that would eventually be placed upon Israel.  And, the serpent managed to derail them from the most simple set of rules ever given.

They had it easy.  They walked with God.  They didn’t have the weight of sin upon them yet.  They had NO REASON to disobey God.  But, they did.  And, it would cost them & forever changed their relationship with God.  He would no longer walk among them, as he once did.

Over time the burdens on God’s people would grow from this original sin.  And God would continually pick people to step up & save Israel from her own doing.

The world would become so wicked, that the only way to make it better would be to send a flood to wipe away all the evil… save a man and his family, whom God favored.  All evil was wiped away, yet sin remained and flourished, after the flood waters rescinded.

God would hear the cries of his people, enslaved & oppressed, and rise up a man to deliver them from the hands of their captives.  Moses would lead the nation of Israel, making a covenant with God, setting up some very clear directions and expectations.  Yet despite their deliverance from captivity, Israel couldn’t keep it together.  Every time Moses would step away to commune with God, they’d start doing their own thing again.  And even their leader wouldn’t make it to the Promised Land, because of sin.

In the time to follow, when Israel was without a leader or a king, Israel would once again go about doing her own thing.  Each man doing what was right within his own eyes, what made sense to him.  They would fall under oppression and hard times, and God would hear their cries.  He would raise up a judge to bring Israel back into the fold.  But, scripture tells us repeatedly, that as soon as the judge would die, Israel would go back to her old ways.  Doing what seemed right, in their own eyes.  Israel could only keep it together when there was a leader, headship… person of authority, in place.  And even then, they were still messing up some.

Then, when earthly kings were raised up…. sin was still abound.  Even that king, who was a man after God’s own heart, couldn’t follow the rules.  Simple rules, written out, taught by the priests, and with warnings from the prophets.

A theme here in the OT, is Israel’s inability to follow the rules.  But when you look closely, you will notice part of that theme is that they did better when they had a clearly defined leader.  But, as soon as that leader was out of the picture, they couldn’t keep it together.

Fast forward to Nehemiah.  By this point, Israel had really messed up & they were paying the price for it.  They had been taken into captivity into Babylon.  Jerusalem, the city and the temple both, were destroyed.  They were displaced and scattered.  They were breaking all sort of rules from worshiping the gods of the locals, intermarriage with people who were clearly on the “do not marry” list, they were not sacrificing for any sort of atonement, and were once again doing their own thing.  The law was forgotten.  New generations had come, and had no understanding of what God had done for Israel in the past, and what His expectations for them were.  In Ezra we learn that God softened the heart of the Persian King (who was now over Babylon) and allowed Israel to return to it’s city & rebuild it (and the temple), seeking favor from God.  They get there, come up against some opposition and everything stalls.  Then Nehemiah gets wind of what has happened, he is grieved over it, and with the permission of the king, he returns to Jerusalem and takes on the big task of putting it all back together again.  Not just the physical city, but also the people and more importantly spiritually.  They find the Book of Law and share it with the people.  Everyone is reminded of what God had done for Israel, they grieve over their sins, they renew the covenant, and everything looks great.

Then, Nehemiah goes back to the king’s house to do his job.  What happens when Nehemiah leaves?  In short order, it all falls apart.  Once again, without that leader that God raised up…. Israel can’t keep it together.

So…. after all that history lesson (LOL)… how is this relatable to us today?

While we don’t have the same Book of Law that Israel was given, there are some things we do know.

We know that were a supposed to do what is good, noble and true.  We know that we are to be honest, hard workers, ethical and moral.  We know that we are supposed to submit to God, our spouse, etc.

Yet… when the cat is away, the mice will play.

The boss is out of town?  Great, lets toss the required suits and wear jeans and tshirts all week.

Dad isn’t home?  Cool, we can bend some of his rules with the kids… right mom?

Not in church today?  No problem, go right ahead and overcharge your customer.

Teacher is absent?  No big deal, we can skip class or tell the substitute that we were going to watch a movie.

When left to our own devices, when our leadership & authority is out of sight…. we don’t follow rules.

We speed when the cops aren’t looking.

We change or relax the rules when the other parent isn’t home.

We do bare minimum work when our boss isn’t around.

And, we don’t even think twice about it.

Which is exactly why I am glad that the story didn’t end with Nehemiah.  I am so grateful for the New Testament, which gives our stiff necked, wayward selves… HOPE.  Hope that came in the form of a baby, who would walk this earth sinless, yet pay the price for the sins that had already been committed & the MANY yet to come.

When Christ left, we once again began to falter.  In fact, the two rules he left us with… Love God, love others.  We have a hard time just following those.  We are the same today, as Israel of the Old Testament.  Everyone doing their own thing, and what seems right in their own eyes.   And, just like they were waiting for a Messiah then…. we await His return now.

The truth is, we really know what we should be doing.  In many ways, it is simpler for us now (after Christ) than it was for those in the Old and New Testament during his ministry and just after.  The question is, what are you doing about it?  Are you accepting that you’ll never be perfect & making excuses and exceptions to what God wants from you?  Or, do you have an open mind, heart and soul… wholly surrendered and trying to do what God asks of you to the best of your abilities… at all times, not just when others are present?