Losing My Light

I still remember the moment my dad told me that one of my older cousins had drowned. I sat across from my dad on my grandmother’s couch. It was a hot evening in July and my day had been perfect, until that moment. I stared through the glass door, watching as cars drove by. Someone that I loved, someone that I looked up to, someone that knew how to swim, had just drowned.

Recently, I found myself in a place where my time spent with God wasn’t as long, my perspective wasn’t as clear, and my smile didn’t shine nearly as bright. I had lost my light, and I was spiritually drowning.

“Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!”

Psalm 40:13 (ESV)

My cousin’s lungs were filled with more water, and less air, which made it harder and harder for him to breathe. Similarly, I saw less of God in my life, which weakened my spiritual connection. My faith was not strong, I didn’t have much joy, and my passion had almost completely dissolved. I was quickly drifting away and struggling to get back to my Creator, my Source, my Light.

If you’re like me and you’ve ever felt as though you weren’t thriving spiritually, you know that such a place can be discouraging. Whether a non-believer, a new Christian, or walking with God for many years, we all have a God-sized void that only our Savior can fill. Just as our physical bodies cannot thrive when disconnected from our source of life, we cannot thrive spiritually without the breath of God in our lives.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

John 12:32 (KJV)

In an attempt to retrieve a football at the beach, my older cousin went past a sudden drop-off. He knew how to swim, but the sudden change beneath his feet caused him to panic. Strangers tried to help him. One man even dove into the water fully clothed, doing all that he could. But because my cousin was so frantic, no one was able to help him. He began pulling his rescuers down, further into the water.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

John 15:4 (NLT)

What do you do when spiritually, you feel lifeless? Maybe you don’t desire God like you used to, or perhaps you’re desperate for that relationship to be refreshed and renewed. My prayer is that you will reconnect to your Source of joy, peace, and guidance. Without Him, we will never experience the fullness of the abundant life He desires for us to have. No matter how far you’ve gone, God is waiting with open arms, ready to welcome you back with a new beginning. However, the choice is always yours. Will you take His hand, or will you continue to sink?

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

John 10:10 (KJV)

NEXT STEPS

If this message resonates with you, follow up by taking another step toward God. Watch this sermon from Pastor Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands. He also has a great book on this topic called Fresh Air: Trading Stale Spiritual Obligation for a Life-Altering, Energizing, Experience-It-Everyday Relationship with God . It’s available on Amazon. If you’re in Alabama or surrounding states, you can come to a Church of the Highlands service and buy it at a discounted price. Better still, you can follow up by taking part in the Growth Track and the church will give you a free copy!

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Crayola Crayons: The Father’s Desire To Bless His Children

Everyone wants a home to call their own. As a first-time home buyer, I was so excited! I discovered a beautifully renovated, affordable house. The catch? The home was in a rough neighborhood that had been chosen for a revitalization program. I mulled over the location. The area was dangerous, but maybe God wanted me to live there to win the lost. It was a great thought, but I had safety concerns. By that evening, I had started to buy into the erroneous belief that I needed to earn the house by living and witnessing in a dangerous area.

As I prayed the next day, God reminded me of a conversation with my daddy when I was little. I had just awakened from a dream, which I shared with Daddy. In the dream, I was enjoying coloring with a box of 64 Crayola Crayons. I told Daddy it was disappointing to awaken from the dream because I didn’t really have the crayons.

My daddy sat there silently for a minute. “When you finish your breakfast, put on your shoes,” he told me. “We’re going to the store.” “Why are we going to the store, Daddy?” I asked. “We’re going to get you a box of crayons,” he replied, his eyes and voice conveying the hurt in his heart. “Why did you want those crayons and not ask me for them?”

Of course, my daddy bought me the crayons. As I recalled that event, I realized it hurts the Lord when I don’t share with Him the desires of my heart. So, I asked. I wanted a newer house with lots of windows in a quiet, safe neighborhood. I also wanted to live in a certain town. He fulfilled each one of my desires.

That evening, I received a call about building a new home at a very low interest rate! The new neighborhood was outside the city limits but would be annexed by the time my home would be completed. I jumped at the chance to build a beautiful home of my own. The house had lots of windows with wide sills for my chubby cat. I had amazing neighbors who became dear friends. I enjoyed living there for six years before life changed drastically for me.

Crayons eventually are lost or broken. Like a box of crayons left in the sun, life circumstances often melt together to form something new and beautiful. Due to job layoffs, I have moved back to Alabama and am selling the house I built in North Carolina. What was God’s purpose in building it other than His provision during that time? He will reveal all things in due time and will meet every need (Philippians 4:19).

After all, He is a good, good Father.

And He created all the colors in my box of 64 Crayola crayons.

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What Everyone Should Know When Taking A Risk

Stepping out into the unknown is never easy. Starting a new job, a new business, a ministry, or even a marriage, requires planning and vision. You hope that everything will work in your favor. Pros outweigh cons making the journey worth the effort.

Faith in success motivates you to crawl, move, or leap toward destiny.

My husband and I moved away from all that was familiar to do ministry work with friends who had pastored us several years ago.  We were convinced that the ministry would launch into greatness once we arrived.

This new venture was covered in prayer. We believed God gave us the green light to move. God directed us through the process of ending our commitments where we had been very involved for fifteen years. We purchased a house nineteen hours from home, loaded up our belongings and headed for greatness.

Everyone wants to be the greatest. Our commonness is: we all want to be successful. Titles, positions, and rewards propel us to plunge into uncharted waters.

In Luke 22, an argument arose over who would sit at Jesus’ right hand.

Jesus told his disciples those who are greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants. But not here. Jesus served the men by stooping down to wash their dirty feet.

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We are placed in our workplaces, churches, and families to serve. Great individuals give of their time, help, money, ideas, and wisdom to make the world a better place. Jesus was showing his disciples how to minister and care for people. He washed feet, prepared meals and had great compassion for the hurting—giving a living example of serving.

As soon as we arrived at our new destination, our relationship with our friends started to splinter. The title and position they promised were not given. Our dreams dissolved. We found ourselves in a troubling situation.

Losing faith is easy when we are troubled. Fear can seep in when we take a risk, and we don’t see the success we hoped for. We may feel our faith slip away. The enemy mocks, “Where is your Jesus now?” This feeling can shake us to our core. We doubt and second guess ourselves.

At the disciple’s dinner, Jesus knew the men would crumble at tomorrow’s pain. No one would want to be anywhere near their fearless leader. He knew their motives. Yet, Jesus never scolded or condemned. Instead, he prayed for their faith not to fail. He encouraged Peter saying, when you recognize what has happened, repent and turn to me again.

Regardless of the condition of their hearts at the last supper and the failures of the coming days, triumph was in their future.

My husband and I stayed where God moved us. We repented of selfish motives and things said out of fear. We found a nearness of his presence in our chaos. Our relationship with him and each other strengthened. My husband landed a better job than was available where we had lived before, and God is using us to help others through various ministries.

If serving is our motivation when circumstances change or fall apart, then our faith will not fail. We will triumph.

 

Next Steps

What does having a great life look like for you? What do most people picture when they think of a great life? Does it involve taking great risks? For what purpose? Take some time to explore those questions by watching this short video from The Fuel Project:

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Don’t Worry – Dad Knows Where We’re Going!

Imagine you are ten years old. Your dad smiles and says excitedly, “Pack your bags with two weeks’ worth of clothes!”

You ask, “Where are we going?”

Dad says, “I’ll tell you when we get there!”

Would you be afraid? Would you worry about where you’d sleep? Would you wonder if Dad was about to drop you off at a boot camp for kids? Abandon you?

The answer probably depends on how you view your dad.

Right now, we don’t know where we’ll be living in two weeks. All we know is that our lease is up and we have to move.

We don’t know if we’ll have more than one working vehicle. We bought what turned out to be a lemon. It’s sitting idle because we can’t afford to sink any more money into it. We’re not sure how our kids will get to day school. We don’t know if we’ll be living near work and school, or many miles away. We don’t know anything about our future home, or how we will get one. We’ve tried. All of our efforts have failed. We just don’t know.

But Dad knows!

He knows exactly where we’re going. He made all of the arrangements months ago. I guess that’s why He doesn’t seem worried at all.

We have to decide right now whether we really trust Him.

Either we believe He’s a good Father, or we don’t.

Either we believe His promises, or we don’t.

If we believe them, we have nothing to worry about.

Dad knows where we’re going. All we have to do is go with Him!

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Confessions Of A Megachurch Skeptic

The Struggle

A few years ago, we tried a new church.

From the first time we went, the Lord used the pastor and other leaders to speak directly into our situation. I knew the Lord wanted us to continue coming.

However, I struggled. I couldn’t stop mentally criticizing everything about the church. I felt very out of place. Most people dress pretty nice there. We were shopping exclusively at thrift stores at the time.

Everything seemed designed to appeal to people’s senses. There was great music, warm coffee, big screens, and colored stage lights. The facilities were way too nice. I thought we should feel guilty worshipping there while our brothers in poor countries worship on dirt floors.

I struggled to believe the friendly atmosphere was genuine. And how could the worship team get up there service after service with so much joy and enthusiasm? Were they faking?

The pastor was extremely likable. I liked him so much, I thought something had to be wrong with him. “He’s only giving people spiritual milk. He’s preaching doctrinally shallow sermons because he doesn’t want to upset anyone. Yes, that must be the problem.” These kinds of thoughts went on and on for the first few months.

But I knew God was speaking to me personally through the sermons. I knew God wanted me there.

 

The Breakthrough

I’m not sure what came over me. But finally, I caved one day during worship. I said, “Lord, would you please remove this negative and critical spirit from me?”

Immediately, my thoughts began changing. Before, I would have a thought such as, “This is just a bunch of rich people putting on a show.”

Now I would think, “How wonderful that the people who go to this church give so much of their time and resources to help others!”

Before: “This pastor is giving everyone spiritual milk.”

Now: “This pastor is an incredibly gifted communicator. He explains difficult issues in a way everyone can understand.”

In every case, my thoughts were turned completely around. I began to realize this church was spiritually thriving! Thousands are being saved and baptized. Thousands are fasting and praying together. This church ministers to prisoners. They care for widows and orphans.

Everything they do is driven by prayer. People are showing up at 6 am during weekly prayer services, every Saturday, Wednesday nights, and on special serve days.

Much of the congregation is serving the church every week. Thousands are feeling welcomed and loved by a church for the first time in their lives! People’s lives are being transformed. Marriages are being restored. People are getting free from destructive attitudes and actions. People are being healed of deadly diseases. People are being comforted in their pain.

This church is extremely generous! A lot of money is flowing out of this church and into the world to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.

After my eyes were opened, I began to wonder how I ever found anything wrong with this wonderful church!

I was amazed.

 

The Blessing

I’ll never forget God’s final reforms on me in this area. A couple of months after I prayed this life-changing prayer, I was in worship. Some of the old attitudes started to creep up. I remember saying, “Okay, Lord. This is a great church. I get that and I love it. But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”

Before I could finish my question, a fully formed answer was present in my mind. I believe this was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: “…But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”

The Voice: “Chris, you know there’s fancy lights around my throne in heaven…”

I remembered a passage from Revelation.

“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.” – Revelation 4:23 (NLT) emphasis added

A huge smile came to my face. I was moved to tears. I said, “Okay, Lord. I got you on that. But what about the smoke?”

(By smoke, I was referring to the fog from the fog machine)

The Voice (in a happy, playful type of way): “Yeah, there’s smoke too…”

I remembered a passage from Isaiah.

“…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne… Above him were seraphim… At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” – excerpts from Isaiah 6:1-4 (NIV) emphasis added

God’s Spirit is being poured out on me as I embrace the worship service. The last thing I hear in my spirit is this.

The Voice: “You know the tabernacle and the temple were copies of the real thing in heaven. You’re just practicing for what you’re going to do in eternity.”

I remembered a passage from Hebrews.

“That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven… Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven.” – excerpts from Hebrews 9:23-24 (NLT) emphasis added

This blew me away! Ever since that time, I often think of heaven during worship service.

Obviously, smoke and colored lights are not required. New covenant believers have freedom to worship how we choose. But God showed me there certainly isn’t anything wrong with colored lights and smoke. In fact, God is rather fond of them! Otherwise, He wouldn’t have them around His throne.

God used the smoke and lighting as final illustrations which allowed me to fully embrace everything about my church.

For the last few years, I have fallen more and more in love with my church every day. I love Jesus and I love my church. I love everything about my church! There’s no way for me to put into words how much I love and appreciate my church. What God has done is simply indescribable. This pastor has become my pastor and this church has become my church.

I’ve been set free from critical, accusing, and slanderous thoughts.

You can be free to love your church as well! Just ask!

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How To Forgive Yourself And Others

By Mike Kearns

I tend to imagine how different my life would be if I had made different decisions. But, I could have or should have type of thinking can be very destructive. Making good decisions without the correct knowledge and experience is difficult. So, why do we beat ourselves up? Would we be as harsh and demanding toward others as we sometimes act toward ourselves?

We all need to feel accepted. But it will never happen if we can’t accept ourselves.

We can’t do that if we don’t forgive ourselves for past mistakes. Recognizing this need can be difficult. It’s easier and less painful to blame others for our problems.

We have to receive God’s truth that we love because he first loved us. We need to fully understand and embrace his love if we are to be free of unforgiveness. We need to fully experience God’s forgiveness so that we can forgive ourselves and others.

Being okay with one’s self is a strong emotional need. It’s stronger than our need to actually do what is right. Paul teaches in Romans 10:3 that if we don’t understand God’s way to be made righteous, we will establish our own way. Our way doesn’t work. But there’s good news! God has given us a perfect way.

In Romans 7, Paul contrasts the old covenant law against faith in Christ. Both covenants are ways God gave for humans to gain right standing with himself. One is far superior to the other.

Ephesians 1:7 tells us that we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. God has made us righteous. Through Jesus, he removed his wrath from us. God required no effort from us to make this happen.

God’s favor and love gives us the confidence to love others.  His Spirit empowers us to accept ourselves and be free of blame, guilt, and fear.  We overflow with all spiritual blessings as we come to fully grasp these truths. Our family, neighbors, and friends reap the benefits of these blessings.

God has fulfilled his plan for our salvation so that we may know him and the power of his resurrection. This is demonstrated in Luke 7:44-47. Jesus explains that a very sinful woman was made free of guilt. Her capacity to love was increased immeasurably because of her willingness to forgive and be forgiven.

The religious leaders could not or would not recognize their need to be forgiven. They were not able to love very much. Instead, they practiced looking down on others in order to feel better about themselves. We must see the need and have the desire for forgiveness from our past failures. Otherwise, we are hindered from experiencing and sharing Jesus’s mercy and love. The result is a critical attitude toward ourselves and others.

I have noticed this in my own life. I struggle with a critical spirit when I don’t forgive myself.

Someone recently told me, “I don’t believe you are a good Christian. I have seen several times that you were rude and self-centered in your behavior.” I felt very hurt by this.

Later, I realized I was wrong and needed to acknowledge that to God. Through God’s grace and mercy, I could agree I had been wrong. But I still have peace with God because I’m justified by my faith (Romans 5:1). I know God has already forgiven me. Therefore, I can also forgive myself. Otherwise, I’d be disagreeing with God. He thinks I’m valuable enough to forgive!

Lord, please help us to fully understand your grace. Quiet our minds. Help us to give you control. Let us receive your peace. Make us to be still, and know that you are God.

 

Next Steps

We all struggle with unforgiveness toward ourselves and others. Allow God’s word to heal any wounds and transform your thinking. Meditate on one of the following verses for each of the next 13 days. Speak them over yourself and to the Lord. God bless you!

Psalm 103:12

Isaiah 1:18

1 John 1:9

Philippians 3:13

Romans 2:4

Romans 5:1

Isaiah 61:10

Hebrews 10:2

Romans 5:8

2 Corinthians 5:21

Hebrews 4:15-16

Psalm 65:3

Isaiah 43:18

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