It feels to me much like that holy moment when I am walking up to the stage to give a eulogy for a dear friend once, awkward and slightly raw and yet suddenly in front of a microphone and expected to say something that could help some burdened hearts and needing the Holy Spirit to take over so it’s all not a mess.
It’s a very difficult moment in Christendom, and I don’t want to hurt the burdened hearts further with some flesh form of wisdom driven by awkwardness or any other Lisa thing.
Let me first speak to motive.
I write this post for the ministry leader who called me last week and said, There are so few of us Biblically conservative Jesus followers left anymore and as a leader, I don’t know what to say or do.
I write it for the friend who voxed and the friend who wrote on my Facebook wall and the friend who texted, afraid that Christians are losing our mind and our faith and falling away, like we’re all in the movie Outbreak and it’s some kind of disease catching on and who is next and how to escape the fate, ourselves?
I write it for me, who after last Sunday when my pastor talks about the remnant in Scripture, remembers something important that in the midst of a loud culture war I think I have forgotten: that my Jesus, who is God over scores and legions, has never been a numbers guy. That’s something we modern people like to use to measure all the things, but not Him.
Instead, He used the few…to give the example of prayer (“where 2 or 3 are gathered” — Matthew 18:20), to feed the massive crowd (5 loaves and 2 fish — Gospels – Matt.14, Mark 6, John 6), to defeat the army of Midianites after purposefully dwindling Gideon’s thousands of men to a mere 300 (Judges 7), to walk through life with Him as His core 12.
And yes, He used the remnant: the “holy seed of faithful followers” to rebuild what was lost, says my Bible commentary of Isaiah 6 and 10. (It talks about this in other places in Scripture, too.)
Make no mistake my friends: God doesn’t need numbers to be God. He doesn’t need crowd approval to proceed with Kingdom plans.
Dear friends…I know it’s loud out there. I know there is differing opinion and things look confusing. But none of this matters as much as this: at this moment, does Jesus have you? Does He have me?
Does He have all of our love, all of our loyalty, all of our faithfulness, forever and ever, to the end…never ashamed of the Gospel, never able to be mislead, never wavering or putting our trust in ourselves or in someone lesser? Does He have us, really, have us, not just on Sunday at church and in theory, because we were saved, once, but daily, with our whole heart, all in with Him?
If Jesus has you, He will heal this world. He promises this. “If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chron. 7:14 ESV)
If Jesus has you, He will prove who He is. Bearing fruit to show the world the benefit of God — this is the point of why we are here — so that people will want Him. (John 15) Faithful people show the faithfulness of God. Loving people show the love of God. He has to have us, really have us, in order for us to pull this off.
If Jesus has you, He can work with the few. II Kings 19:31 (Commentary: “If just the smallest remnant of true believers retains the spark of faith, God can rebuild it into a strong nation”) Lest you ever think that a small number of committed believers is not enough for God to work with, just open your Bible and read. Story after story will convince you it is true.
I have so much more I want to write and say to us, to gather arms around us, to encourage us…we, the ones who feel mislabeled for our convictions as people devoid of love, the sting of wrongful accusation of ignorance and closemindedness for our personal commitment to the Bible, the loneliness of growing isolation from cultural lines which we didn’t chose to draw but now must stand firmly planted on our faith side of.
But make no mistake: it is not us vs. them as followers of Jesus Christ with differing theological beliefs in Christendom. It is the The Kingdom of God vs. the prince of darkness. Let us not waste time buying into his ploy and fighting each other a minute longer. Right now, I’m calling him out for his tactic to distract us with the infighting and calling us out for our buying into it.
In this hard moment, let us not become discouraged, prideful or jaded. Let us not become deceived or slip into despair or fear. Let not haughtiness or right fighting take hold, lest we fall into sin and dishonor God so great. The remnant is about Jesus and staying faithful to Him, not a man-made label it applies to. The qualification is faithfulness, so let us alone be found faithful to Him.
So as we determine that yes, Jesus does have us…yes, we will be the remnant and will stay faithful to God, faithful to His Word, living and believing everything it says until the end, I just want to encourage us with a few quick things…
We are not alone. Because God made us for community, the thought of isolation results in despair. This, the being alone, is a lie of Satan. At the same time, crowds and majority can’t determine our wellness, as if we have chosen right and others chosing the same proves that fact. If that’s what we seek, let us see how much we still rely on others to give us the endorsement that belongs only to God. This is the moment the Church has needed to rid ourselves of the encumberment of man’s approval, like never before. It is good. It is right. It is the sifting, so it is uncomfortable, but may we embrace the loosening for the health of our very soul. And know this: though we need not look over our shoulder to see what the crowd is doing, rest assured that there are indeed scores of believers all over this world with hands raised and hearts yielded and Bibles clutched, grounded in Jesus and proclaiming His greatness, so don’t you ever feel alone. Friend, it is a lie if you think this. You are not.
We must get past the numbers. Right now, our focus has to shift from quantity to quality. “Standing up for God will be learning to accept being in the minority, as lonely as that sounds. We who follow Jesus will need to determine we will stand up for Him even if we stand alone.” ~Put Your Warrior Boots On (releasing April 17) As the squeeze is on in this moment, with conflict and differing beliefs and sadly, even volatility in the body, the remnant must come to grips with the role we have been sleeping on. We have to be willing to be the few instead of looking over our shoulder to see who will join us. Few will be faithful. Few will stay true. Few will believe. These are things Jesus says in the Bible, and we must stop wishing for the crowd when Jesus told us it would be not so. It says in Isaiah that the highway of holiness is narrow and few will travel down it. We need to get used to this.
Your conviction does not conflict with love. This is such a wrong message, such a damaging, untruthful message that is being preached in society that I am honestly so fighting mad at Satan for skillfully perpetrating it and us buying in. Because the Word of God is so very clear about this and so much we believe about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross hinges on the conviction and standard by which the love and grace of this act is even made possible. I believe it is the sovereignty of God that I have written Put Your Warrior Boots On to be released in April because it thoroughly addresses this and so many currently relevant issues, before so many current issues even took place. I cannot wait to put it in your hands and will be diving in much more in depth, soon. But for now I want you, remnant, to know that staying faithful to the Word of God is not in conflict with loving people. In fact, it is the only way you can truly, agape love. Grace and love are so abused and misused in society we cringe at the very suggestion our life is in conflict with that and rightfully so with what we are being preached. It’s just not the right message. We should tremble at the thought that we tarnish such a gift by offering cheap, wordly love without the attachment of conviction and holy standard. God forgive us all for cheapening by creating our own version and definition of love.
I have one more thing I want to tell you. It might be the most important thing, yet. I’ll tell you Wednesday on the blog.
I hope you’ll come back, then.
In the meantime…p.s. I love you.
Oh Jesus, may you fully and completely have us.
I announced my son’s commitment to play football at Furman University last Monday to my family and friends via social media. Overwhelmed is not a big enough word for how I felt reading all the congratulations. How does one describe how it feels to be loved?
But there’s a backstory to the whole thing, and I think you should know it. Because in it, there are some nuggets I believe may mean something to you, too.
When Graham was little, he loved to draw. He would spend hours sketching and shading and imagining and coloring. Favorite super heroes, animals, you name it…the boy would bring it to life with his hands. Many days I stood in awe of the talent and hung up as many of his pictures as would fit on my wall.
But in that admiration there was also a tinge of sorrow. Because I had dreams for my oldest son and in retrospect, they were mostly about me. I bought into the silent expectation that in order for boys to be manly they needed to be all about sports and my son just wasn’t. He never knew, but inside, as silly as it sounds, I mourned the loss of a dream I didn’t have a good reason to want.
But over time, and after some tears and prayers, I put the dream away. And I fully embraced the new dream of seeing him use his artistic talents for the glory of God. I even got excited. I stocked him up on all the pencils and pens and paper and watched him create amazing things, day after day.
You can imagine, then, my surprise, when years later he comes home to tell me he’s playing football at recess. I like it, he says, and I can see the eyes gleam. More and more, he plays football outside, while the art sits on the table waiting patiently for him to return. Soon he no longer picks up the pencils. The artist inside him never leaves but it grows quieter and quieter until one day, he draws no more. And I must, once again, change gears. And I must, once again, mourn another dream.
But this is parenthood, is it not? The sweetest slow death to me.
Graham became quite an athlete.
I could tell you all the things, because I have them memorized: the plays, the catches, the touchdowns, the interceptions: I remember each one. But I memorized the tears, too, and sometimes their memory is stronger. I memorized the days he lived some challenging things in a changing environment throughout his high school football career. I memorized the sound of a coach’s voice that did not believe in him, the smells and sounds of grueling days of summer football practice, the day he told his teammates he was leaving his senior year to go to a different school. The dream felt especially bad that day.
And as any good cheerleader would, I stood on the sidelines and watched and cheered. I watched him thrive, and grow and learn. I watched him do hard things with determination. I watched him earn the respect of new teammates and coaches and earn the right to start the game and play both sides of the ball. I watched him be interviewed for the paper and send me joyful texts about how he was highlighted again in the news as a player to watch. And as with every other time he chased a dream in all of his 18 years, I fought to make the dream not about me.
And now here we are with a grown up young man and his dream to play college football, which has unbelievably become real. And I realize really all of it has been a leap: to risk, to rise, to change, to obey the voice of God, to cheer from the sidelines. There has been hard work and there has been inexplicable favor. Crazy God things that are too long to write in this blog that I wish we could sit down over coffee and let me tell you.
But I want you to know this, about your own life, too:
- Sometimes dreams don’t die but they go dormant for awhile and then God gives them back to you. Just always be ready to change gears.
- Sometimes people won’t believe in you. It’s ok: it doesn’t change you having the goods.
- Follow leads, walk through doors, take risks, if no other reason…so you can never say it was because you didn’t even try.
- Pray and trust God. Pray and trust God. Pray and trust God.
- (Parents) Don’t make your kid’s dreams about you.
You never know when God may dream up something better or give the old dream back.
In the meantime, just cheer.
It makes sense that the first attempt at this blog post a few weeks ago, I can no longer find on my computer. It reminds me of parenting. When we start out we put the parenting rules down on paper and then life makes the paper go away.
I should tell you this, first. I’m mush when it comes to my kids. They wouldn’t say so. They would say I’m a tough, loving mama, I suppose. But don’t tell them. Secretly, I’m mush.
But I know my own life and I know the things I needed to get to this grown up place: strength, to survive…hope, for the future…ability to communicate my feelings in a healthy way…not staying down when I get low…moving past injustices without bitterness. (Of course: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.)
And I know…my tendency to want to make my kids’ lives always go well — for them not to ever be uncomfortable or sad– will not get them there. Life will ask them to do something hard, with my approval or not. So, the love wins out and I put the mush away. It’s always there, always threatening to take over. I live with the mush right below the surface. But I have to keep it at bay, for the greater lessons, the greater good of my babes so they become strong people.
The babes are 17, 15, and 13, by the way. There’s so much I don’t know. Daily, I discover this. (This week, in fact.) But especially in the last year, when on several occasions, life has asked them to do something hard, here’s what I’ve found in the midst of it.
- It can’t be about us. We know this, right? We know that even in our cleaning up of their crazy mess of a room, bringing them the p.e. shirt to school they forgot for the 7th time, controlling how they dress, yelling at the mom of the bully, doing everything for them so as not to inconvenience them…it’s mostly about us. The problem with this is, we will make them insecure with our constant lamenting and apologies, and the eventual parental crumble rate is high. We won’t be able to set boundaries and keep them. And then we don’t earn clout. And without clout, they know we are mush and misuse the information. So it can’t be about us or we take all the good lessons not yet learned back.
- It won’t kill them. It really won’t. Even if their heart temporarily breaks. (You know hearts have the ability to rehabilitate themselves, right?) What kills them is us not letting them get strong.
- The road will have bumps. Why we think we can or should let them avoid the bumps altogether is in a word, insane. During the hard thing, some days the travel conditions will be ideal. Some days it’s a full on hail storm and we’re looking for an underpass to hide under until it passes. Bumps don’t mean disaster. Meeting bumps later on in life when we are ill-equipped for them could be.
- We must pay attention like it is our only job. Truly, this is huge. They are telling us things along the way and often, we just want to play on our phone, have a drink with friends, or watch tv. (And, yes. We have to have a life outside of our kids. 100%. But at the same time, we have to pay close attention. It’s not one or the other. It’s both and we are grown and with God’s help we have the capacity to handle it. The end.) Suddenly, this babe who had us with first breath is low on the scale and we don’t even know it but they feel it. It’s never what we wanted. But it’s happened. I know we get tired. I know parenting is all consuming at times. But especially through the hard, they need us to be paying extra close attention.
- They will be ok. I believe this. I have to, to parent them through something hard. No matter what happens, we have to have this belief so they will believe it, too. They may need counseling for awhile. They may need meds. But they need, also, to see a message in our eyes, you will be ok, over and over, again. For a time, we may even doubt this, ourselves. We aren’t omniscient, so we don’t really know. But always send the message. The message comes from trust in God and with Him, we do know they will be ok even if this life says they are not.
Without pain, they will never learn to withstand.
Without discomfort, they will never know about finding joy, regardless.
Let’s love these babes to death. Let’s squeeze them like we mean it, plant kisses on their skin, laugh with them, give them sage counsel, pray over them and pour, pour, always pour and keep pouring in.
But when life asks them to do something hard, may we not get in the way of the lesson.
We love them this way, too.
People say it to me all the time: I want to want God more. I just don’t know how.
I mean, look. Let’s be honest. We really do know how, if we’ve been a Jesus follower for very long. We know that reading our Bible and praying grows our desire for God. The truth is, we just wish for a quicker, newer, more exciting, more 2015 answer.
But one thing is for sure, and we have learned it. We will never want God by sitting still and hoping growth will come to us. Bible verses are meant to put into action. Prayer is meant to spur change. Wanting God is a purposeful pursuit.
And so maybe we find ourselves with this hope and desire that this year is the one that we will finally want God more than anything else in life and yet, we just want someone to spell it out for us…tell us something to get us started.
So, here it is.
We want God more when we constantly put ourselves in positions to expose ourselves to His transformative work. Constantly. Because we are a quick-to-forget-and-move-on people. And what does that mean in daily life? We constantly do things that stretch us for the Kingdom. If we want to find God, that’s where God will be.
Then we see Him. Then we are amazed. Then we reach for our Bibles to know more, pray to move closer because we can’t stay away. Then we want Him, and we won’t really have to try.
This is why when God nudges, we must immediately act. We don’t need to pray about doing something that God mandates in the Bible: love, serve, go. He’s already made it clear: yes, go do that.
But here’s how it usually works. We are presented with a need. I’ll pray about it, we say, liking the prayer excuse when it can buy us some time to say no or let our busy life talk us out of it. But most of us just need to respond.
So when God nudged me about going to Honduras in January, I knew it was to be.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t about Honduras for me. I was sure it was a lovely country, but it wasn’t a place that had my heart.
It was about putting myself in a position to expose myself to God’s transformative work. I knew He’d be there and I went to find Him, because God is in the messy and unkempt and not comfortable and not usual. I’m a leech like that with God, following Him to places, because I need to see Him and feel Him and let Him change me. I need to be a part of something I would rather not do so I want God most. I’m flesh, so I forget easy. When I interrupt my regular life, do whatever it takes for a fresh God encounter, I facilitate hunger for Him. This I have learned from experience.
(And p.s. you don’t need to go to Honduras for this. You do need to do whatever it takes, go wherever is necessary, to break your regular life so God can do something different inside you. That can be something in your home, in your community, in your city, in your church. There are literally needs, everywhere.)
Here’s how going to Honduras brought me back wanting God more (because remember: wanting God is a constant, purposeful pursuit). There’s much more, but I write it in this brief summary, in the hopes it will stir something inside of you, too.
Thanks for listening.
January 17, 2015:
Honduras. Well, it was dark and light and hard and exhilarating and tender and passionate and humbling and convicting and affirming and did I mention humbling? Yes. Especially that.
And I saw poverty, yes. I’ve seen it before but it’s never an old see. I saw tarp roofs and feet with dirt permanently tattooed in its cracks with a heel ripping off an old woman’s foot from years of abusive shoe-less walking…and a scared rabbit look from a 25 year old woman who someone might make into a supermodel in the US if they saw her on the streets, she was so beautiful. But instead, she used skinny arms to hand wash dirty clothes and hold a heavy baby and hug me like a friend in a way I didn’t deserve for just getting to meet.
And I watched my daughter take things in with quiet reverence and light up suddenly when a young girl danced with her and both of them got to be 12 and act silly together and just for a moment, forget about those young woman pressures and insecurities and it was more precious than any picture could really rep.
I saw God fuse 20 women from different places together for a common purpose: pouring out Jesus. We shared a gross bathroom and slept on wood slat beds with mice poison in the corner of the room “just in case.” And it convicted me that I might ever forget that women can get over themselves and rise above when Jesus drives the bus and clean bathrooms won’t help your life be any better if heart things are out of whack. They’re just clean bathrooms.
And the village people couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand them, without a translator. But sometimes I couldn’t find a translator close by so I talked to the people through my eyes and touches and walked away desperately hoping that was enough.
And the smells. Sometimes they were as bad as you think.
And I went to church and didn’t understand a thing but felt the Holy Spirit, which was the only needed thing.
And we had, for the church and village women, what they called a women’s conference. And I spoke to a packed room full of needy hearts, including my own, and the Spirit was strong and I felt Him in every crack and crevice. And I cried when I recited John 3:16 and it made me remember that if I ever stop crying when I speak of such love, I am in desperate need of revival.
And I met missionaries who are heroes without the capes who I urgently hope in some small way heard God through my encouragements to them, every moment I could grab them and whisper one. And I remembered how famous people get in magazines and on TV but these are the people I want in my circle because they and my Jesus are close and He feels closer when I am with them, somehow.
And here’s my confession: as a person who needs her alone time, by the end of the week, I was dying for some privacy and solitude and just to not go to bed with grit from the floor on my feet anymore.
And now I’m home with all that, and I miss my sisters. Isn’t that just a crazy thing?
(Pause, because I need to pray. Oh God, you are cool. Thank you for bringing random women with random personalities together to become a strong army.)
The church, the big C one, is alive and well. Don’t believe it when someone says different.
Jesus is biggest.
All people need to be seen. All. People.
It’s an honor when God lets you in on His work, because He really doesn’t have to.
I want God.
**Order I Want God HERE.
I can picture you – the one who wants to love the tree and presents and lights and does, in your own, way, despite that thing.
But your heart hurts and you can’t pretend it doesn’t, because pretending doesn’t make the heart hurt any less but just makes it hurt in silence.
The holidays are supposed to be fun and bright, but merry feels a million good things away and you’re convinced it’s a word for those people who haven’t known the hard thing like you.
This season, and always: take the hard thing to Jesus.
I know this sounds small to a hurt the size of Texas. I know it sounds simple when the hard thing has made every normal thing complex.
But hard things are ultimately heart things and
heart things belong only in the hands of its specialist.
My friend, take the heart thing to Jesus.
You who have lost the job or the spouse or the house or the parent or God forbid, the child.
You who knows too much now about what real suffering is – the kind that affects your body that people always fear but never really think will be their reality.
You who can’t get past the past or can’t get over the funk or can’t find the money or the hope or the joy, anymore.
You who has been hurt by the church or doesn’t trust community or reached out only to have your outstretched hand pushed away.
You who used to have all the kids at home and doesn’t now and that feels like a loss you can’t put into very good words because it sounds wrong to want kids to go back to being small when they are good and grown.
You who misses someone. You who has forgotten God. You who feels like He’s forgotten you.
Take Him your heart thing.
*I wrote this post after seeing so many hurting people sharing about hard things on Facebook. In this season which is fun and festive for so many, it is also difficult and painful for others. Let’s keep that in mind as we share our joys and celebrations! (And maybe…pass this post on to hurting people you know?)
**If this post describes you or someone you are burdened for, leave me a comment with a first name, only, and if you wish, a specific concern, and I would be honored to PRAY FOR YOU.
I like Tracie Miles.
This is important. Because when I like someone, I am more likely to listen to his or her words (Come on. Judge me. It’s human nature, people. :)
But besides being a generally kind, wonderful person who loves God, (and yes, she’s a family girl and an author and speaker, too) there is something else.
I like Tracie Miles’ message. I like the fact that she tells people, even in the title of her new book, Your Life Still Counts. Because it does. It really does.
And I, like you, know people who think for them life is over. They feel used up, unworthy, disqualified, too old, or off God’s mind.
Or maybe, it’s you who thinks that about you.
It’s not true.
I could try to prove this to you by telling you stories about people who did amazing things with their life despite horrible, mistake-ridden pasts, physical handicaps, bodies and minds well beyond the age of youth, odds stacked against them. There are lots of those stories, and they are true. But you’ve probably heard the stories or know one, yourself.
All I can really tell you is this: if you are alive and breathing, your life still counts. Period. There’s nothing else you need to know.
And even when you are gone, if you believe this truth and live it now, your life will count, even then.
My friend, Tracie Miles, has dedicated a whole book to this truth. I’m honored to feature her book on my site, today, because I like her and I like her message and even more, I like that life still counts for us all.
I’m sharing a small taste of the goodness of this book, below, in the form of an excerpt.
And because I really want you to know your life still counts, I’m giving away ONE FREE COPY plus a downloadable study guide!
So leave me a comment and say yes, I need to remember that my life still counts…and I’ll send you an email to let you know if you win.
Regardless, go get this book.
*Excerpt from Your Life Still Counts by Tracie Miles:
So as the speaker closed in prayer, extending an invitation to come to the altar, I wept silently but fervently in the privacy and safety of my pew. I desperately hoped all eyes were closed so my tears and brokenness would not be evident. But suddenly I became acutely aware of the presence of God right next to me and immediately realized nobody else even mattered in that moment.
My eyes were closed, but I sensed His eyes were wide open and focused directly on me. Part of me felt afraid and confused, wishing I could crawl and hide under the wooden pew. Yet a bigger part of me felt a peace I could not explain and had never experienced, as if it were so thick in the air that my nostrils breathed in nothing but holy serenity. I felt like I could stand and fly in the lightness and freedom of a prisoner set free.
Joy became a lump in my throat and I could hardly swallow. Friend, it was a feeling like no other.
Amid the flood of hot tears that burned in my swollen, tightly shut eyes, I pleaded with God for His forgiveness. I meekly, humbly, and reluctantly dared to ask God, once again, the prayers I had uttered so many times, yet never believed would be answered. “Could you . . . would you . . . possibly . . . forgive me, Lord? Really?” “If you could forgive this speaker, this ordinary woman, for her sin, could you maybe, just maybe, forgive me too?” “If you can still love her, can you love me too?”
“Will you love me, God?”
I felt like a little girl sitting at her daddy’s feet, asking for forgiveness for not listening to his words of instruction, and longing for him to scoop her up and shower her with kisses, hugs, and reassurances of his love. My heart was gaping wide, like a crack in the earth that had violently burst open after a powerful earthquake shook the planet to its core. I waited, anxious for God to pour himself into my heart and fill me with all the things I never thought I deserved to ask for, much less receive. My mouth felt parched and dry as my physical and spiritual thirst to meet Him became unquenchable.
Slumped in the pew, hiding from the world, tears flowing like a river, and body gently trembling . . . God touched me. I felt His presence. I knew He was there. I asked for His merciful forgiveness over and over, so many times God was probably wondering if I was a broken record instead of a broken soul. I had asked God for forgiveness for fourteen years, never feeling worthy of it and never expecting Him to actually grant it. But this time, in this place, in this moment—something was different. This time, with God’s power and mercy overwhelming my heart, I actually believed God forgave me. I believed He had heard my pleas filled with sorrow and remorse for what I had done.
*Leave a comment to win a FREE copy of Your Life Still Counts and Downloadable Study Guide! (winner to be notified by email).
Don’t forget to sign up for Tracie’s free 5 Day Faith Zone Challenge!
You can also stay connected with her by subscribing to her blog or visiting her on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
(And p.s. Thank you to all of you who came over from the P31 devo and shared your heart. Congratulations to Jessica, the winner of I Want God! We will be reaching out to you via email soon.)