I have six kids...and sometimes I get VERY irritated with them requesting more. I want to see some gratitude for what already is...
God does not. God not only likes us to ask for more, He tells us to ask for more!! Incredible! "Ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you..." (Matthew 7:7) This is only one of many references to this MORE concept.
What about He wants to do "exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all that we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20)? That speaks of MORE than we could pray for and MORE than we could dream of.
In Joshua 15:19, Caleb’s daughter asks for MORE. “She said, ‘Give me another gift. You have already given me land in the Negev; now please give me springs of water, too.’ So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.”
In this culture, women weren't normally given anything as an inheritance. This daughter, however, had a MORE in her spirit.
She wasn't unthankful, but she knew there was more that was to be hers. She didn't let cultural norms inhibit her; she didn't let what had always been preclude her; she didn't let the fact that she'd already received something hold her back; she didn't let the fear of the unknown minimize her. She A.S.K.E.D.
Whatever position we find ourselves in today, I believe God's heart to each of us is:
1. Will I listen?
Do I sit before the Lord to hear His whisper in my heart concerning the MORE that He has for me?
2. Will I ask?
Do I walk with gratitude in my heart while consistently asking for the MORE that I know is mine?
3. Will I stay positioned?
Do I wait patiently positioned to receive the MORE He's spoken to me about?
Let's be His people who don't settle for what has been-but go courageously for what could be!! Let's challenge ourselves and ask greatly today! His death on the cross that we are celebrating this Easter has already paid for our MORE. Let’s walk in it. Carpe Diem.
In the first chapter of Genesis there are many details that can catch our attention about the creation account. However, one of the most repeated phrases is the one noted above. When God repeats something in His word, He is trying to get our attention about something. Seven times in this first chapter God is looking at what He created and proclaiming it is GOOD! His observation is focused on what is a blessing, on what is lovely, on what is beneficial in what has happened.
We can learn a lot from this little phrase and an observation of God’s focus. Instead of focusing on what is going wrong, we can focus on what has gone right. Instead of focusing on what still needs to be changed, we can focus on what has changed. Instead of focusing on what we do not see, we can focus on the blessing of what we can see. An eyesight change can help us with a heart change. From ungrateful to thankful.
There is blessing here in Bend, OR and goodness abounding all around us!! Do we see it? Do we notice it? Do we take time to be thankful for it? Is that what our minds are meditating on? Are we using and maximizing our resources based on the goodness we see rather than having those resources sucked away in a slew of despondency? Are we investing in the goodness of God around us?
Lord, change our eyesight. Give us rose-colored glasses...not so that we ignore the problems, but so that we see you at work in the midst of the problems. Let us see your good and glorious creative masterpiece everywhere we gaze. Let us fix our eyes on your beauty and even the beauty of the creative (but often messy) process. As you change our eyesight, change our hearts. Let us be people of continual gratitude with hearts soft and pliable...
Thank you for new eyesight today Lord!!
Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31 “He SAW that it was (very) GOOD!!”
As I look outside this morning and gaze at the gorgeous, sparkling blanket of newly fallen snow, I can’t help but think about new mercies.
A fresh start.
A clean slate.
What a beautifully miraculous concept! What a miracle it is that in Christ I can live today with no regrets.
LIke the snow covers the weeds in my backyard and makes my yard look fresh and new, God’s mercies cover my mistakes of yesterday…of a few minutes ago…
Hope for tomorrow! Not bound by my yesterdays! But freed to live my todays in HOPE of my promised tomorrows…
PROMISED! Now that’s a concept.
Psalms 138:8 says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, Oh Lord, endures forever…”; or another version says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Your steadfast love, Oh Lord, endures forever.”
Jesus says that He will “perfect” that which concerns me. That’s His promise…if I listen and learn from Him I will journey into a LOVE that perfects me. That doesn’t mean I will be without mistakes, but that I will be wrapped in the arms of love of the Perfect One…and that LOVE will change me.
I want to live this life of no regrets. New mercies. Perfecting LOVE. Freedom.
How about we journey together with HIm in 2016…into His LOVE…living with no regrets??
This is a blog I wrote a year ago but that never got posted. I think it’s very apropos to what God is still teaching me and our church today…
As I glanced through my not-so-frequent blogs yesterday, I noticed a theme over these past two years since we started Epikos. In fact, a verse I just put in a blog is the same verse that was in another blog about two years ago. That caught my eye. John 1:16 “From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another…”
God gives one of my friends a word for the year that He keeps emphasizing and reinforcing. With me, He gives a theme usually…and generally, I don’t really notice it in full until after He’s been teaching it to me for a while. For instance, the year and a half before we started Epikos, God was weaving some truths into my life. As we started realizing God wanted us to start a church, I went back and looked over my journals from my habitual times with God. Repeatedly over that year and a half God had spoken two things: 1. Wait on God and bring all my concerns to Him in prayer and 2. DO NOT FEAR for I (God) am with you!
These two themes began to be a record player that He kept reminding me of from different vantage points in scripture and life. Because of these repeating themes, I told the Lord that I wanted to be one who did not respond in terror to His voice like so many I read about in scripture. As I waited on Him in prayer, I asked Him to make me a person who would respond with a “YES!! Let it be to me according to your word!” As we started out on our faith adventure of church planting, these two truths have been pivotal in keeping me going when life requires a courage that I didn’t previously have.
Why all that back story? As I mentioned, I had quickly scanned through my old blogs from these last two years. A repeating theme again surfaced. He has been trying to teach me about living in favor, abundance, blessing and grace. He has been faithful at removing one lie after another that have kept me in a box of “I must earn it” my whole life.
Favor is the Key that opens the door
Last night as I went to bed, thoughts started flooding my mind. These words kept tumbling around…favor, abundance, blessing and grace. Similar, but different words. I then got this picture of a house I was entering because the owner of this fabulous castle-like dwelling had given me the keys. I had FAVOR with the owner. Favor granted me access
Abundance from a stocked pantry
I walked into the house and looked around. Everything about this mansion was stately and just how I would design a place for comfort, hospitality, and to represent my heart in a home. It was as if it held all that my heart desired in its design and features. Not only that, it was stocked to the brim with more than enough to meet my needs, my large families needs, and anybody else’s needs that came calling. I got this sense that as I gave out of my supply…as I pulled something off of the cupboard to give…that resource would be replenished. This was a place of abundance. If favor granted me access, abundance supplied more than enough to meet every need.
“Blessed” is the captivating atmosphere
As I looked out back, I could sense that there was a blessing over the atmosphere of this home. Again, I pondered what blessing provided. I knew that blessing was the inviting, loving, peaceful domain that rested in and around that home. It impacted everyone who entered. It calmed fears, it imparted joy, it resonated peace, it drew in those who didn’t believe. It was an environment rich in miracles and in making the impossible possible. It was an environment where God’s economy worked. The “give and it will be given to you” happened. Where “the joy of the Lord” did provide strength. Where the brokenhearted were restored. And that was just the beginning. If favor granted me access and abundance supplied more than enough to meet every need, blessing was the oil that caused all the intangibles to be tangible. The oil that caused relationships to flourish and the brokenhearted to be restored.
A “Grace Space” is causes the extraordinary to be common place…expected!!
And then there was a moment that caught my breath. The grace factor. As I walked around, I realized that grace was so much more and beyond what I could think or imagine…and it was completely unearned. Somebody else had given me the keys; somebody else had stocked the cabinets; somebody else had made this place feel like it was mine and had designed it just to my liking.
But there was more. There was a “grace space” I saw. This grace caused the influence of this house to go beyond the house. It was as if everywhere I looked there were tunnels and pathways and space alleyways. The abundance and blessing and favor that I had found in that house were designed to go everywhere and penetrate everything around the house. It was like grace is what caused favor, abundance and blessing to function…but it was greater than even that. Grace was like a dew that rested everywhere and went everywhere and that nothing could stop. Grace was the beyond, the more, the unstoppable. Grace didn’t depend on me. Grace had already been done. The influence and blessing and hope grace carried with it was contagious. If favor granted me access; if abundance supplied more than enough; if blessing caused all the intangibles to be tangible…then grace was the canopy God established to create the environment for the extraordinary to be common place.
A picture. Yes.
Something to be learned from this picture? I believe so.
Pride says, “I’ve got to earn it myself.” Grace says, “I’m here to receive, Lord. Bring it on! And show me what to do with what I’ve been given!” Grace says, “I will receive the access granted me, the provision purchased for me, and the intangibles given to me!” Grace positions itself and walks where access is granted. Grace is an adventure. Grace is a faith journey. Grace is a great expanse of space in which I’m slowly learning to live.
Want to come and join me today in the great space of grace??
“Come to me…all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” - Jesus
Want to come and join me on this journey Jesus has me on? I believe it’s going to blow our minds! I say a hearty, “Cause me to see and live in this way today, Lord!!” How about you?
Have you ever lost everything on your phone? How did this make you feel? Was it a blessing in disguise or did it provide for a lot of stress?
I cracked my screen awhile back and because I had so much data on my phone I was having trouble backing it up. I needed to do a backup before I could take it in and get the apple care phone replacement. (And yes, I do admit…I enjoy taking pictures of my family and it takes up a LOT of storage space…) There wasn’t enough space on our computer; there wasn’t enough space on our iCloud plan; and there wasn’t enough space on our hard drive. After a long conversation with tech support, I was going to purchase some more space. In the middle of this conundrum, my phone happened to fall in the filled bathtub. Immediately, we got it into rice; however, to no avail. All was lost from the last couple of years.
Since I moved to Bend about 3 years ago, I was trying to mentally take in that I had lost most of my contacts from Bend. Just. Like. That. A. NEW. Start. A. Clean. Slate.
Easy? You may think so. I told my husband that I was going to choose to see this as a blessing in disguise because when would I ever take the time and effort to go through and weed things out? This was a forced clean slate. And sometimes that’s what we need for a new start.
One scripture that caught my eye this morning was from the first verse of our scheduled Bible plan this year that we are doing at Epikos church, the life journal.
Genesis 12:1, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.’”
That’s quite a promise. This promise also required quite a change. It required a major break with all that Abram knew. Abram was required to leave all that was comfortable and familiar.
The beginning of each year seems to bring a nice break and clean slate for me…atleast mentally. I take some time at the end of the year to access what I’ve accomplished and completed and look at the new year and consider what needs to change and exit so that the real dreams in my heart can be expressed. This year has been no different. As I have been considering what to eliminate it has been so clear to me that unless we say NO to the unnecessary, we can’t say YES to the best. Unless we say NO to the peripheral, we can’t say YES to the essential. Unless we say NO to the urgent, we can’t say yes to the important.
It’s time for a recalibration. We live one life. We all are given the same number of hours in a day. It’s time to redeem the time. It’s time to do the the first things first. It’s time to adjust and align with what’s most important and leave the unimportant. It’s time to ask God:
As we prune our lives like this…I, for one, am excited to see God’s breakout in and through me. I am excited to walk in the calling for which I’ve been called! I am excited to express the passions He’s put in my heart through the minutes and hours I’ve been given. I’m excited to make Jesus famous in Bend, Oregon and throughout the earth as I live His love outloud through me!
Aren’t you???? Come and join me in this grand and glorious purging!! And let’s welcome in the new with open arms!!
Living in Bend, Oregon there literally thousands of places to walk. The one secret place you may not have heard much about is so incredible it can truly be called - life changing.
“And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” Psalms 116:9
The psalmist pours himself out in this psalm. Every season of the soul is depicted as you go through the verses of psalms 116. Is there a repeating theme?
Phrases such as:
I will pray,
then I called,
I can rest,
I believed in you so I prayed, and
I cried out to you
make up a repeating score to this psalm.
What else is noted? How about:
He bends down and listens,
He saved me,
He has saved me, and
all He has done for me.
The writer doesn’t just hang out with God in the good times and he doesn’t just hang out with God in the bad times. The writer understands that in all the seasons of the soul-good, excellent, bad, ugly, etc… God wants to converse and be our Friend, our Confidante, our Helper, our Protector, and the list is endless. God wants to be who we need Him to be. We just need to come to Him and express our need.
God doesn’t want a mental ascent from us with only a logical belief in His “God-ness.”
God doesn’t want an emotional explosion from us and then for us to walk away when we don’t feel as emotionally needy.
The Best Place to Walk in Bend, Oregon is… Walking with God.
God longs to be God in and for every season of our soul. He longs for an honesty in our relationship with Him. He longs to “walk” with us. To be the air we breathe. He longs to cause our earthly walk to be “unearthly” because we know what it means to bring “heaven to earth” as we call on and come to Him in prayer.
Let it be said of me, “Oh Shanda? Yes, she truly walked with God!” Let that be said of us-because we know what it means to live honestly before the Lord with every different issue, concern and emotion of our hearts.
Let’s accept His invitation today to walk closely with Him.
Let our hearts cry, “God, yes!! YES!! Cause us to walk closely with you this very day!”
What would it be like to not only have been greeted in this incredible fashion -
“GREETINGS, FAVORED WOMAN!! THE LORD IS WITH YOU!” Luke 1:28 and have the words come from an angel?
As I look out my window in Bend, Oregon and ponder the birth of Christ this Christmas season, I’m struck by the favor that Mary walked in. She initially was caught off guard by these words and by this kind of grace. As the story unfolds, she becomes more comfortable with the truth of these words. She starts to see how she is indeed set apart for this particularly unique purpose of carrying the Savior of the world in her body.
Don't Fear Blessing is Coming Your Way
The angel continues his conversation, “Don’t be frightened, Mary…for God HAS DECIDED to BLESS YOU!” Luke 1:30
How on earth?
What positioned her to receive in such an incredible way?
Is this kind of favor and blessing available to me, today? If so, is there something I need to do to position myself for it?
Experience the Gift of God's Favor & Blessing This Christmas
There are a couple of simple things we can find right in this portion of scripture that speak to this.
Am I listening?
Am I yielded?
Do I welcome truth?
I am sure like me, you want to live in favor and blessing like Mary! Let’s allow these questions to penetrate our hearts and change our actions so that we can be those who walk in the great space of favor and grace! That as people look at our lives, they say like Elizabeth said to Mary, “You are blessed by God above all other women and your child is blessed!”
Then He said to me, “Speak to these bones and say, ‘Dry Bones, listen to the word of the Lord!’... Ezekiel 37:4
THE WORD OF THE LORD!! What’s the big deal?
This was a devastated valley with nothing to offer anyone. God asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” He asks us the same thing today regarding dead areas in our lives, in the lives of those we love, and in the lives of those we live around.
CAN THESE BONES BECOME LIVING PEOPLE AGAIN?
Ezekiel wisely replies to God, “...you alone know the answer to that...”
The miracle of God’s word, however, is that dwelling in the word itself is life. Miracle-working, life-giving essence comes in every word from God.
Ezekiel proceeds by speaking every word he is told to speak.
As we start 2015, I want to suggest that we give a dose of “the word of the Lord” to our dry bones. An exact definition of “dry bones” is hard to find. As I tried to research it I was unsuccessful in finding an exact definition. We do know “dry” does speak to withered and less than what used to be.
God comes to not just cause random dry bones to assemble, but to cause the actual connective tissue and make-up of those bones to be full and healthy. Fullness and health of the bones are not the end either...but muscles, flesh, skin and BREATH! A living being is what He is after.
As Ezekiel speaks the words the Lord tells him, the impossibility of life from dry, scattered evidence of death becomes not just possible. It is accomplished. It is completed. It is finished.
THE WORD OF THE LORD!! That’s the big deal!
Let’s make the Word of the Lord a daily habit in our lives in 2015. Let’s make the reality of death transforming to life how we live. Let’s make wholeness and fruitfulness the “way” of 2015. Let’s live the Word of the Lord.
BYSSIW!! (Remember this from Pastor Phil’s sermon last week? BYSSIW=Because You Say So, I Will!!) Maybe we can add BYSSIS...”Because You Say So, I Say...”)
Our circumstances may say one thing...BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD!! Let’s speak His word! Let’s live His word! Let’s live in His reality of fullness of life transforming every dry bone we encounter!
The thing is: is it me that needs to trust God? Or is God coming to me to see if He can trust me?
This is not so much a theological question I’ve been wrestling with...though it is a theological question.
This is a heart question.
This question came as I was working on a Beth Moore Bible study one day. And I started thinking...
I’ve spent hours thinking about, studying about, and trying to live what it means to trust God. This effects every area of life Big decisions and little decisions. Big ideas and small ideas. To give or not to give. The list could go on and on.
Lately, I’ve been wrestling with a completely different question. Am I trustworthy? My whole life I’ve worked to be a person who can be trusted, a person of integrity who’s word is their bond. As God shows me different areas of my heart, however, I am struck by how much process I still have left to go. What has been vexing me is that I want to be, more than anything else, a person who God can trust with His complete riches. This is not money...though money is a part of this. This is His word, His voice to a generation, His thoughts, HIS HEART, His resources, His wisdom, His discernment, His understanding...and much more.
I want to be one who God can say, “Give her this job...it will be done. Not because she’s a doer...but because she loves me. Out of this love, nothing is held back from me and nothing is left in reserve. She pours it all out. She empties herself so she can be filled by Me. She is trustworthy to steward the inheritance I have for her...so let’s pour in to her. Let’s pour in lavishly. Let’s cause her to flourish. She has learned what it means that I am her source and she walks in that with such grace. Let’s give her so much more. She is my conduit to those I’m trying to reach, she understands my heart, and she is trustworthy. She gives lavishly, so she can receive lavishly. She leaves room for Me to pour in because she has poured out. She empties herself so she can be filled by me. Let’s knock her socks off with her inheritance.”
God longs for those who can steward the riches of His Spirit.
And the cool thing is in this process. I’m (we’re) not left to our own resources even in becoming those God can trusts. Romans 8:26 shows us that the same God who sees right where I am and who is committed to “perfecting that which concerns me” also “intercedes for me (for us) according to God’s will.” That’s incredible! He not only sees the problem and shows us the problem (because we are blind to the problem otherwise) but He is the solution. Amazing!
“And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8:26
So, God is praying for me, even though He sees all of my inadequacies, so that I will BE who He has set forth and called me to be. I have an ADVOCATE! And He’s not just any advocate. He’s the Advocate that can get things efficiently through the court system.
I rest in His working ... while I wait on Him in prayer today... to cause my heart and life to be one that He can fully trust with all of His riches. Want to join me?
“RUN!! RUN!!” The men screamed as their enemies pursued.
If you were on the sidelines watching this play out like a movie before you...what kind of men do you think these were? What were important to these men who were being chased? What had they spent their lives doing and investing in and becoming?
Unbelievably. These men were trained warriors.
Psalms 78:9 “The warriors of Ephraim, though fully armed, turned their backs and fled when the day of battle came...”
All their lives these men had been trained for this day. And they miserably failed. Completely failed. Mortally failed.
As we read before and after in that chapter, there is a theme. They had a heart attack. Not literally...but you see what their problem was by their response. They were afraid. They were cowards. Though they had learned the mechanics of warfare, though they had all the armor they needed, they lacked the heart.
They had a heart attack because of fear.
They didn’t remember the good things God had done for them. They were “stubborn, rebellious, unfaithful and refusing to give their hearts to God.” Ps. 78:8
Fear drove them to a response opposite of what they’d been trained for. Fear stemming from not remembering, not seeing and not believing who God was and wanted to be for them.
God had promised to be their FORTIFIER. God had promised to be their VICTOR. God had promised to be their DEFENDER. It just required what they were unwilling to give...complete surrender. Complete surrender yields a heart of faith...which results in trusting the only ONE who is our VICTOR!
Today, rather than running...as believers, let’s remember in the day of battle, today, that we are fortified in Him. He fights for us as we hide in him. We rest in faith and fear vanishes as we look to our VICTOR. Let’s take our place and stand firm today knowing that He fights for us in ways we can’t even fathom!!
Shanda Harris is a lover of Jesus, dedicated wife, mother of 6 and the Women's Pastor at Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.