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Faith Imagined: October 2009

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

October 30, 2009

Granola Bar Devotional


I wanted to use my post today to highlight my devotional ministry - Granola Bar Devotional Ministry. I started this small writing group in the JANES Women's Ministry at Bay Area Fellowship. The GBD Ministry is now global, but it had its beginning in the local church. I believe if you want to start a ministry, you would not go wrong by starting it at your local church and in your local community.

I started this ministry because my women's minister was looking for more women's groups to get women plugged into the church and connected with each other. I told her that I was thinking about starting a writing group, and she said, "Why don't you write devotionals." I thought for a second and said, "Sounds good!" This was over three years ago.

I spread the word about the writing group and when the first night came for us to meet, I was so nervous! Several beautiful women came to the meeting who were leaders in our church. Let me tell you, I wanted to say, "Nevermind," and call it quits. God was pushing this introverted girl out of her comfort zone, and I felt so under qualified!

The women gathered around my dinner table, and I explained to the them what we would be doing. I told them why I was naming the ministry the Granola Bar Devotional Ministry (nutritional snacks for spiritual growth), I explained the unique design of the devotionals (small and square like compact granola bars), and I tried to act like I knew what I was doing -- which I did not!

Over three years of leading this ministry has taught me so much. I have learned that a few people can achieve a lot, that ministry should always be about reaching others, that I will never, never, never be perfect (thank You, God, for Your GRACE) and that starting a ministry is not a smooth process.

However, the most important thing I learned is that it is imperative to wait on God's timing. I found myself pushing and pushing this ministry to where I wanted it to go, and I became frustrated, exhausted and upset at God for making me do something that was so hard. I wanted to give up many times, but I later realized that God was doing a good work in me, not just through me.

A ministry should have what Joyce Meyer calls a "holy ease." Starting a ministry is not easy; but if you are frustrated with life, God and every one around you, you may not be aligned with God's plan. I struggled with this until I heard the following story on Christian radio:

A woman was driving a car through a construction zone. She was late to work and anxiously remained stopped behind eight cars waiting their turn to go down the street. A safety vehicle was slowly leading cars to the other side of the construction. The woman became so impatient that she sped around the safety vehicle and crashed.

What I learned is that God is our safety vehicle. He knows things that we don't, and He protects us from crashing. When we start a ministry, we need to make it our number one priority to seek the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will speed off, lose control and crash and burn! We need to find a "holy ease" when it comes to doing ministry and not worry about what the world deems as "success." God's success looks quite differently than ours.

I constantly have to test myself. If my ministry is starting to control me (my time, my emotions, my thoughts), I need to reconsider my strategy. God has told me in no uncertain terms that my role as a wife, mother and a child of God are more important than any ministry. Playing hop-scotch with my children is more important than writing a best selling Christian novel. I can never forget that!

However, in my spare time (when all the kids go to bed) I forgo the TV and write and read for my Lord. So here is a little something I wrote for the GBD Ministry. It's just a small spiritual snack, but I hope it makes you smile!

Heavenly Smiles

When I am holding my baby daughter, she gives everyone heavenly smiles. She is in my arms, and she feels the freedom to spread her sweetness to each new face that she sees. Her smiles melt the hearts of the passersby, and they always comment on how beautiful and sweet natured she is. However, when my daughter leaves my arms, her sweetness completely disappears. When someone else is holding her, she frowns and cries and lets the whole world know her displeasure. She has no more heavenly smiles to share and no more sweetness to pass out. She is completely miserable and makes those around her anxious. . . . Read the rest here!

*If you would like to make Granola Bar Devotional Ministry a part of your writing ministry, please check out our Information Page. We try to ensure that our devos have one spiritual nugget in each, and no more. We are not trying serve up a spiritual feast....just spiritual snack buffet!

This post is dedicated to the original GBD Girls: Jeannie, Tammi, Susie, Mariah, Sunny, DeeDee, Vicki, Liette and Christina.

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October 29, 2009

Soccer Humility

My sister-in-law has been inviting me to play city-league soccer with her for several years. This season I finally felt ready, so I went out and bought my cleats, shin guards, and soccer ball. I am thirty-two years old, and I have never played a lick of soccer (save elementary gym class) in my entire life.

When I met the other team members, it became painfully obvious that I was soccer ignorant. I needed help putting on my shin guards, my sister-in-law had to give me a quick lesson on how to kick the ball (on the side of your shoe laces), I had to be told over and over again the name of each position, and my team mates had to continually tell me where to stand on the field.

My ignorance became evident to the other team, as well. During the game, the ball went over the goal, and I asked a player that I was guarding if it was good or not. She looked at me with surprise and said, “It has to go into the goal to be good.” As the girl laughed and walked off, I struggled with my utter stupidity. I finally decided to swallow my pride (it kept catching in my throat), and I worked harder to do better.


I turned my focus to the ball. I might not have all the fancy footwork that every woman around me seemed born with, but I had determination and a learning spirit. I blocked the ball, kicked it (maybe not quite in the direction of my teammate), hit the ball with my head (well, it was actually the side of my face), and pestered any woman on the opposite team that had the ball. Even though I was clueless, I became a crazy force to be reckoned with.

I played the entire game. I could feel my heart thumping against my chest, and I could have taken my pulse just by feeling the pulsating in my gums. My entire body was throbbing. I never realized how enormous the soccer field was and how few players there are on the field. The other team was so good at passing the ball that it felt like I was always chasing it. The other team won, but I knew that I didn’t make it easy for them.

I motivated myself by saying, “Glory to God! Glory to God!”


I knew that many of the women were not Christians, so I wanted to be a good example of persistence and dedication. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I knew nothing of soccer stop me from playing it. I know that God loves me and thinks I’m special, so if the entire world of soccer laughs at me, I would be okay. My desire is to base my self-worth on being a daughter of God, not on what the world thinks of me. And if I do that, I can do anything.

If we as God’s daughters base our entire self-worth on the awesome fact that we are His, we can do anything! So many Christian women fear doing something new. We don’t want to join a Bible study, volunteer at our church, go to a new play-date, or share our faith with others because we are scared what people will think of us. But we can’t let fear stop us from stepping out because God is always doing something new: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43.19 NIV).

In our Christian walk, God will always have us reach outside of our comfort zone. Whenever we start to feel comfortable, we must prepare ourselves -- God is going to do something new. The best way for us to perceive what He is doing and to be ready for it is by swallowing our pride and humbling ourselves. We can’t always be know-it-alls. We can’t always be the best. We can’t always have it all together.


Many times we will be ignorant and on the bottom of life's totem poles. But, that’s okay! Our self-worth is based on the fact that we are children of God: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8.17 NIV). This promise should be enough to encourage our complete obedience and dependence to God.


Jesus came to this earth as a lowly carpenter. He served people every day by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and teaching the ignorant. He washed His disciples’ feet and sacrificed His body for the world. He could have come to this earth as a prince, demanding angels and humans to do His bidding and expecting us to pay for our own sins. But He didn’t! He humbled Himself for us and did something new, and we are called to follow His example!

What are you doing that is new? Are you basing your self-worth on the world or on being a daughter of God? Are you able to swallow your pride and try something that you know nothing about? What can you do today that would enable God to show His power through your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

Will you join me on a journey of knowing Christ more intimately? I want my life to burn for Christ and brokenness is the first step. Made a choice to humble yourself before God and others, and you will find your God-designed "life."



Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life (Proverbs 22.4
NIV).


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October 25, 2009

It's Party Time!


I am super pumped! I revealed in last post, Breakfast with Bono, that I struggle with having my time with God in the morning. Up till now God has allowed me to have my God-time anytime I could manage it, which usually wound up being at night or during my kids' nap time.

I've tried to do my God-time in the morning, but I've always given up. I'm just not a morning person, I insisted. There is no way I can have a meaningful interaction with God when I'm half asleep.

However, I'm praying the Prayer of Jabez for a month. If you haven't done this, I highly recommend it for those who want to play a significant role in the Kingdom of God. Part of the prayer is a petition for God to increase territory. I've earnestly prayed this for my writing ministry.

It became extremely apparent that a main factor in increasing my territory is for me to finally give God the first part of my day. In my previous post I explained that Jesus is way cooler than Bono, so I should be excited to wake up and talk with Him. Yet, it was still hard! What was I doing wrong? I carried a lot of guilt, thinking I just wasn't spiritual enough.

As I mulled over these things today at the grocery store, I thought of two of my friends. One friend loves her God-time in the morning. Her father used to wake up early in the morning with coffee, and she used to sit on his lap while he read his Bible. And now as an adult with three kids, she wakes up early, starts her pot of coffee and slowly sips the hot brew while reading her Bible.

My other friend is simply a morning person. One of her favorite verses is "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118.24 NIV). She has most of her day accomplished before 7 o'clock in the morning! I'm just getting started by the time she's in full gear.

My mornings have almost never been peaceful or productive. When I taught high school, I woke up with just enough time to get ready and get to work on time. Now that I stay at home with my kids, I wake up to the laughter of my sons and the squeals of my daughter. No time to get ready for the day. My day simply begins.

As I walked down the tea and coffee isle comparing myself to my friends, I started feeling even more guilt (ploy of the enemy). I told this struggle to everyone and made myself accountable, yet I still couldn't seem to find the solution. I felt defeated and embarrassed. I stared at all the coffee, wondering if I should start drinking it in the morning. Maybe that would wake me up. I'm not a morning coffee drinker. I do like going to Starbucks, but that is mainly because I get a sugary-whipcreamy dessert beverage.

I decided to skip the coffee. I didn't think forcing myself to drink coffee in the morning was the answer for me (though, it might be for others). I started to leave the isle in a huff. On my way I spied a yummy box of chai tea. I adore chai tea lattes! That's what I can do! I'll have a cup of creamy, hot chai tea and drink it from my wonderfully imperfect mug! That would give me something tangible to look forward to!

I started to feel guilty again about this new crutch to help me get up in the mornings. Shouldn't Jesus be enough? But before I could dwell on it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me even further.

You could also have a whole wheat English muffin with some blueberry preserves? He whispered.

Oooooh, that would be good, I thought

And why don't you play some worship music in the kitchen too, He added.

Wow, God! That sounds like a party just for You and me! I exclaimed.

Precisely, He chuckled. I love parties.

That's when the truth dawned on me. I expected my time with God to be something wonderful without putting any effort in it. It's like having a birthday without a party. The party makes the birthday special. Without the party, it's just another day!

I was feeling guilty over nothing. God loves to party! He is the creator of them! Humans are the ones that have twisted something so wonderful into something that scars the human soul.

When God released the Israelites from Egypt, God commanded that they have parties to remember what He has done. In Exodus 12 God told the Israelites to throw parties so they would remember the Passover and the Feast of Unleaven Bread (Exodus 12.1-29). God wants us to enjoy His mercy and blessings, not just to think about them!

So tomorrow morning around 6am, I am going to have a party with God! I will play my newest WOW CD for 2010, heat up a nice cup of chai tea latte, smother a crispy English muffin with preserves, read my Bible and talk with my savior! I'm so EXCITED!!!

How about you? How do you make your time with God special? What can you do in the morning to celebrate your time with Him? I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas! Let the partying begin!


This post is dedicated to my morning party girls: Liette and Sunny!


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October 22, 2009

Internet Cafe: Spiritual Flu Shot


Spiritual Flu Shot

I bought a book from the religious section at Barnes and Noble a few years back. It looked like an interesting, encouraging read and the author on the cover looked smart and friendly. I went home and started reading it. As I read it, I felt very empowered. The book discussed deep, spiritual ideas, and I believed that I had found a hoard of valuable insight.

I read one quote from the author that I thought was brilliant, so I typed the quote word for word and massed emailed it to almost everyone on my address list. I wanted everyone to know what wonderful things I was reading. I wanted everyone to be encouraged by this author as I was.

After I sent out the email, I continued reading the book. I began to get a sinking feeling deep in my spirit. I noticed that I was already on the second chapter of the book, but the author had yet to write anything about Jesus. How could that be? Jesus is the highlight; He is the main attraction.

I quickly started thumbing through the book desperately looking for the name “Jesus,” but I couldn’t find His name. Then, I flipped to the back cover of the book to see which Christian leaders had supported her book, but I didn’t recognize any of the names.

Finally, I got on line and looked up the author’s name and the truth became evident:

I had an encounter with a false prophet.

Her words sounded beautiful, spiritual and right-on. I felt comforted and encouraged by her ideas about spirituality. Many things she touched on were based on biblical truth. I could probably back much of what she said with scripture. Yet, even with a ton of supporting evidence, she still purposefully skipped over Jesus and His sacrifice for us on the cross.

When I realized that I had been unknowingly tricked by a false prophet, I was so ashamed. Why didn’t I research the author before I bought the book? Why did I mass email my friends with this author’s spiritual emptiness? I knew what I had to do. I had to eat a big o’ slice of humble pie and mass email all my friends back and tell them that I had made a mistake.

It was very embarrassing, but I did it. I explained what happened and apologized for not getting more information before spreading the false teaching.

I was so disheartened about this entire event for several years until God recently taught me something. God gave me the image of a spiritual flu shot. Sometimes God exposes us to a small dose of failure to prepare us for a greater victory.

I can say honestly say that now before I consume information and pass on information, I ALWAYS verify the creditability of the author. My false-prophet radar is constantly in high-gear, and I am now able to quickly recognize false teaching that glosses over the importance of Jesus Christ and the cross.

The amazing thing is that my email address list has multiplied greatly since my mass email several years ago. I am now a leader in several ministries, including writing ministries which emphasize the passing on of information. God was so good to me that He allowed me to stumble when the stakes weren’t that high. If I were to stumble now, I wouldn’t even want to think about the damage that could be done.

Has God ever allowed you to stumble? Can you look back and see how God might have been giving you a spiritual flu shot? Can you see a difference in your life today because of that spiritual flu shot?

“God, thank You for allowing us to stumble. No hurt, disappointment or failure comes without Your notice and design. Help us to get over our humiliation and look to Your instruction. Show us how to get rid of our pride and become wiser in You. For it is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning” (Proverbs 9.9 NIV).

You can also read this at the Internet Cafe!

*Note - I know that vaccines are a hot topic, but please look beyond the argument and to the strength and mercy of God! Nothing happens in this world without His knowledge; and if we cling to Him, we shall always be victorious even in devastation (Romans 8.28).

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October 17, 2009

Women in Ministry

Women do not need a title to be in ministry – there is ministry all around us. We don’t have to be pastor’s wives, women’s ministers, church staff or Bible teachers in order to live sold-out lives to Christ. We can go outside our front door, click onto the Internet or head to the grocery store and find fields ripe for the harvest (John 4.35). We live in a lost world, and people no longer know how to reach up to God. God put a desire in each of His children to know Him, but so many people have lost their way. They need someone to show them path to God through Christ! And that someone is God’s chosen – you and me!

We as Christian women have Jesus residing in our hearts, and that Jesus longs to gather up His lost children. That Jesus in us desires to serve the needs of the brokenhearted. That Jesus in us craves an intimate relationship with His children! If we truly want to live spirit-led lives, we won’t be satisfied with simply giving God a small portion of our week. When our lives are God-controlled instead of flesh-controlled, our every moment will crave God’s anointing. Our sole desire will be to please Him!

Our female gender does not exclude us from being fishers of men! Whether through evangelism or discipleship, our lives can make a beautiful mark on God’s kingdom. We can be God’s instruments to bring His children closer to Him! We are daughters of the King, and we work diligently to shine His light into a dark world (Matthew 5.16). God will daily orchestrate divine assignments for us; and if we are attentive to the Holy Spirit, our work will bear beautiful fruits for the world to see and give God glory.

However, our ministry in Christ cannot happen unless we are daily seeking to know God more intimately. Our ministry and good works should be a manifestation of our love for our Father; otherwise, we are just going through religious motions. As we cultivate our relationship with our Creator, the fire of His spirit will burn inside of us (Jeremiah 20.9). Our passion for God and His people will overcome any shame, insecurity, embarrassment or fear we have while proclaiming the Gospel. When we fall in love with our Maker, we can’t help but share His majesty with others!


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October 16, 2009

Breakfast with Bono!

Bono singing Amazing Grace

video

I and about one hundred thousand other people packed the Dallas Cowboy Stadium to watch U2 live in concert. I have never seen such a crowd; it was breathtaking, yet overwhelming. The roar of applause when Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam entered the stadium thundered through the stands. The vibration of energy echoed like a pinball from the metal structures and absorbed back into my skin.

The lights went black just before the stage burst into brilliant colors. Bono's voice consumed the crowd, and I had to remind myself that Bono was just a man. In Bono's charismatic way, he walked along the path that cut through the thousands of standing fans. When he jumped up and down, the ocean of people rippled like choppy waves on a windy day. When he waved his arms, the ocean of people leaped into stormy peaks. Bono had an unmistakable power over the throng around him.

I could tell that even Bono was impressed by the crowd. Several times he took off his earpiece to hear the bellow of the multitude. With one word from Bono's mouth, the blaring sound around us hushed, and the crowd was able to sing a duet with him. I marveled at the sophistication and control of the U2 team.

One lucky boy got chosen from the crowd. He looked about sixteen years old. Bono encouraged the young man to walk the path with him. The boy took a precarious stroll around the stage and Bono proceeded to put his infamous sunglasses on the lad's head. The boy just stood there with a big, goofy smile on his face as the mass of voices screamed in excitement.

That boy will never forget this moment! I thought.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I wanted to pray for Bono that night. Somehow, I wanted to reach him and pray a blessing over him. I wanted to encourage him in Christ and show him that not all Christians were stubbornly self-righteous in their "goodness" and incessantly judgmental in their lack of brokeness to the Holy Spirit. Though I am not perfect, I am sanctified (continuously being set a part and changed by God). I yield control to Him, and He does a good work in me.

As I watched the fortunate boy go back to his seat, I realized how ridiculous my desire was. And rightly so. Bono has way too much on his plate to indulge a moment of his time to me. However, I did pray for him from my seat with all my heart. I prayed that he use his life to touch the world for Christ. I prayed that he allow God to continually sanctify him, which Bono sings about in U2's song Rejoice from their October album:

And what am I to do/Just tell me what am I supposed to say/I can't change the world/But I can change the world in me/If I rejoice (ref)

As U2 continued to perform, Bono did many things that had me praising God. Bono prayed. He told the entire stadium full of people to lift their hands. Then he told them to lift certain people up as he said their names. I noticed the men next to me timidly raising their hands. Bono also thanked many people for helping to save lives around the world, including President Bush and Jeremy Camp. But nothing could top Bono serenading us with Amazing Grace. I wrote about this song here, and I wonder if John Newton could even fathom the influence his song has had.

While contemplating all of this, God confronted me with a struggle that I'm having in my life: my quiet-time or my God-time. It is my goal to do my God-time every day, but it is usually squeezed into a lull in my day's activity. If all else fails, I do it before bed. I know God has been wanting me to spend my "first-fruit" with Him, meaning the first moments of the day I've been blessed with. I can't seem to get up, and I can't justify it. (If you claim busyness, you are out of God's balance for your life because He promises that His yoke is easy and burden light!)

If God has asked me to do something, He has already promised my victory (Psalm 18.35). I have no excuse! Proverbs 6.10-11 rings in my ears whenever I sleep in and allow my kids (5yrs, 2yrs & 7mnths) to wake me up: "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man."

God, help me to wake up!

God asked me a question right there in the middle of the screams and the flashing lights that convicted me to the core and will forever change my God-time.

What if Bono wanted to talk with you before breakfast?

A hundred thousand people stacked inside the Cowboys Stadium will be testament to my answer. What would I do? You better believe it -- I would be bright eyed and bushy tailed. I would come prepared with a bunch of questions. I'd have my camera ready. My makeup would be perfect and my outfit would be full-on rock n' roll! All my family, friends and even strangers on the street would know that I would be meeting with Bono. I would tell everyone I came into contact with "Oh, by the way, I'm meeting with Bono in the morning!" Nothing could stop my excitement.

But why is it that I can't even muster a fraction of that excitement for God -- the Ultimate Rock Star. The God that even the mountains sing praises to His name. I think sometimes I contemplate only the humble Jesus who washed the feet of His friends, and I forget the rock star Jesus who will come back to this earth in a performance that will make U2's concert look like a tea party.

Then I saw Heaven open wide—and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that's known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as "Word of God." The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of kings, Lord of lords.

- Revelation 19.11-18 (The Message)

Bono has to walk onto the stage. Jesus splits the skies open and rides on a Pegasus! Bono has a name that is common knowledge (Paul Hewson). Jesus has a name that only He knows! Bono has a road crew. Jesus has the armies of Heaven! Bono is surrounded by lights. Jesus has fire coming from his face! Bono has sunglasses. Jesus has many crowns! Bono has a microphone. Jesus has a sword. I don't know if Bono has any tattoos, but Jesus has King of kings, Lord of lords written on His thigh. Although the writing might be merely symbolic, it still evokes a very cool image!

I could go on and on with the supremacy of Jesus. He existed before there was time. He is God in flesh. He lived the perfect life. He saved all of humanity with His death and promises abundant life with His birth. Jesus is the rock-star of the universe!

Yet. . .

I

STILL

STRUGGLE!

Jesus, You are the most important, beautiful & awesome rock-star that ever lived. Please, help me to understand the gravity of that reality. I want to put You first in everything. I can't do it myself. I yield to You. Do a good work in me. Help me to give You the first-fruit of my day! I want to know You more. When You come down from heaven in all Your glory, I want to be able to say, "Yeah, Jesus and I are tight!" This is my chance! You've singled me out from the crowd. You've brought me onto the stage. You've chosen me to walk along Your path! Help me to man-up and wake up! It is in Your name I ask, Amen.

Dedicated to Jennifer G.

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October 10, 2009

Imperfect Vessel



I struggle with a feeling of unworthiness. This feeling is especially crippling when I'm doing things for the Lord. I want to cover up my imperfections, but God won't let me. I wish I could pretend that I were strong, but I can't. How can I -- flawed as I am -- do anything right for the kingdom of God? My mistakes are guaranteed. My stumbling is certain. How can I move forward knowing I am not good enough?

I called my spiritual mentor and asked her if I could come by for a visit. We are both busy, but, somehow, God arranged two precious hours for us to sit together at the foot of Jesus' throne. No time existed during those two hours. We were just two souls in the presence of the Spirit of the Holy One. We drew our open hands up to God, grasped pieces of His goodness and exchanged them with each other.

My friend handed me a mug of coffee, and I didn't notice the mug's appearance. I only noticed its feel, and it felt comfortable and perfect. As we chatted, I sipped from the mug, never once looking down at it. She began telling me where she found the mug. She was at a store looking at all the beautiful handmade mugs. While she looked at the perfectly shaped vessels, she saw one that should have been thrown away.

This mug was made too thin and the body of it had collapsed. The maker stretched the body back up, but the damage was already done. The mug was warped with wrinkles and folds, yet the maker still put the mug into the kiln. He added a handle and glazed it and presented it in his store. How could the maker offer an imperfect mug in his store? Why did he place value on something so flawed?

My friend looked at the mug then looked and me and said, "It's an imperfect vessel and it's beautiful."

I held the mug protectively in my hands. It might be flawed, but it could still be used. For the first time, I looked at the mug, and I could honestly say that I've never seen a more beautiful vessel in my life. In that moment, I placed a great amount value on the mug. That imperfect vessel reminded me of myself.

God holds me tightly in His hands, and He places an expensive price tag on my life. I've been weak and I've crumbled, but He stretched me back up, glazed me with His spirit and put me through the fires. Yes, I am flawed . . . but I am no longer frail. I may have wrinkles and folds, but God thinks I am beautiful. He has fastened me with His handle, and He is ready to use me.

God show me how to be confident in my imperfections!

"Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob? Don't be afraid. Feel like a fragile insect, Israel? I'll help you. I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel. I'm transforming you from worm to harrow [a tool used for soil], from insect to iron. As a sharp-toothed harrow you'll smooth out the mountains, turn those tough old hills into loamy soil. You'll open the rough ground to the weather, to the blasts of sun and wind and rain. But you'll be confident and exuberant, expansive in The Holy of Israel!"

- (Isaiah 41:14 MSG)
Every fiber in my soul knows that I am nothing in the light of God. If you were to place my soul next to the Spirit of the Lord, I would completely disappear. It would be like placing a tea candle next to the sun. The more I grow in Christ, the more I comprehend my inconsequentialness without Him.

The story of the immoral woman washing Jesus' feet always bothered me. Jesus forgave the woman of her many sins and He said,
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love" (Luke 7: 47 NLT).
What I don't think people realize is that we are all immoral. I don't care how the world categorizes and ranks our sins, but compared to the perfection of the Holy God, we are all liars, prostitues, thieves and murderes. We all have need for great amounts of forgiveness. The only difference between the immoral woman and us is that she comprehended the truth -- she is nothing without Him.

The world might label us as a sinner or a saint, but it doesn't matter. We are all sinful without the redemption of the cross. We are all that immoral woman at Jesus' feet. The distinction between people who are forgiven much is not their appearance of "many sins"; it is their full understanding and awareness of their "many sins." We all have an outstanding dept of sin that we cannot pay.

All my value and all my self-worth can only come from God. I might be a tea light, but I got the power of the sun around me. I have no significance without my Creator. It's time I let go of finding my own value and start allowing God to place His value on me. I am an imperfect vessel, and God thinks I'm worthy to be used.

God, please help us to shed ourselves of self-confidence, self-worth & self-control and to clothe ourselves with God-confidence, God-worth & God-control. Only then will we truly be beautiful vessles!


Dedicated to my spiritual mentor and special friend, Cheryl Grundy.

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October 4, 2009

God is Your Starbucks







Recently, a blogging friend asked me if I understood the verse “. . . for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8.10b NIV). Her question sparked my interest because I had made a vow at the beginning of 2009 that I would dedicate this year to understanding and gaining joy.

However, this particular verse always appeared backward. It seemed to me that it should read “The strength of the LORD is your joy.” How could God’s joy be our strength? Where can we find God’s joy?

To answer this question, I had to look at this verse in the context of the Bible. This verse was stated by Nehemiah (445 B.C.), an Old Testament prophet. He was sent by God to help the Israelites rebuild their lives. The Israelites had just experienced great amounts of devastation at the hands of other nations. They suffered through starvation, displacement and slaughter. In fact, when Nehemiah came on the scene, only a few survivors were left.

The remaining remnant made their way back to the promise land, but they were disgraced and harassed by other nations. Their homeland was in ruins, and the city wall that protected them was consumed by fire. The lives of the people were in shambles, and all that was left to do was rebuild from the mess. Needless to say, there was very little joy during this bleak time.

Against all odds, the nation began to rebuild itself. There wasn’t enough man-power or money, enthusiasm was low, bordering cities tried to sabotage the reconstruction and there were many disputes among the people themselves; but, somehow, the wall was built in record time and the towns within the walls were restored.

Before the people went back to their villages to start their new lives, Nehemiah told them, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” But where do we find God’s joy? It is hard to gain strength from something that we do not see.

The amazing truth is that God’s joy was actually recorded approximately 250 years before the nation rebuilt itself. The prophet Isaiah (700 B.C.) foretells the fall and restoration of the Israelite nation. Isaiah records God’s attitude toward the nation rebuilding itself. And what is God’s attitude? It’s joyful: “Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones (Isaiah 49.13 NIV).

God is shouting for joy. God is telling both the heavens and the earth to rejoice. God is eager to offer compassion and comfort to the afflicted remnant, and He is rooting for His people to succeed at rebuilding their lives.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that God is our cheering section. Life is hard and bad things happen – houses are foreclosed, families are broken, health is compromised and lives are lost; but we gain strength to move on because God finds joy in our lives. He wants us to rebuild from the ashes and start again. With God on our side, we can accomplish anything.

Are you nervous about going back to school? Are you apprehensive about dating again? Are you scared to start that new business? Are you concerned about a health issue? Are you struggling with an addiction? Are you consumed by self-doubt and worry? Don’t be! God is cheering for you to succeed. He wants you to make those tough decisions that push you outside of your comfort zone. It will be hard at first, but you will find strength in God’s joy for you. He wants you to rebuild and thrive!

*Hank from the Starbucks commercial represents you and me. The people around Hank cheering Him on represent God. He is yelling out your name in encouragement! He is shouting for excitement that you exist! His joy for you is overflowing! This joy should strengthen you to live the full life that He created for you. You can accomplish all that God has in mind. This commercial doesn't even come close to fully illustrating the joy God finds in you. Watch the video again and know that God and all the heavens are your cheering section!

This post is dedicated to Crystal!

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