4 Secrets To Staying Encouraged After a Conference

Secret #1: Take Action on at Least One Goal Quickly

As Christians, whenever we hear the Word of God preached, the Bible tells us that if we mix what we’re hearing with faith, as in, “I believe this is true and it’s true for me!”, we will inevitably be inspired to act. In fact, the Bible teaches us in Romans 8:29 that our destiny is to be “conformed into the image of Christ.” And that’s exactly what the purpose of the Holy Spirit is in us! He not only inspires us to take action, but he gives us the strength to do so, so in the end, we can look more like Jesus.

In psychological terms, we’re inspired to take action whenever information meets emotion. The problem is, the longer we’re removed from the emotion or positive feelings of what we’ve experienced, the more challenging it becomes to take action, because we’re no longer inspired by the information we’ve received.

Right now, while the emotion is still fresh, purpose to take action on at least one thing you’ve learned from the conference you recently attended! Maybe you need to take a few minutes to imagine your goals. Or maybe you have so many goals, you have to remember to carry your journal with you to write them all down! Maybe you need to order some resources, check on the price of that plane ticket, or organize the exercise clothes in your closet so that you can get back into your exercise routine.

If you’re able to act right now on whatever you still have the inspiration for, you’ll be watering the seeds that were sown in your heart during your conference and you’ll begin to see growth in the area where you’ve been wanting to change.

Secret #2: Taking Action Doesn’t Always Mean Doing Something

In what might seem to be a contradictory statement, it’s also true that taking action doesn’t necessarily mean doing something, at least in the customary sense. Maybe for some of you, your goal is to listen to God’s voice more carefully, or speak positively over your life whenever you feel discouraged.

Maybe taking action for you looks more like inviting God into your heart, talking to Him more throughout the day, or simply meditating on some of the ideas you learned at the conference. Remember what led the Israelites back into captivity once they entered the Promised Land? They “dug their own cisterns,” meaning, they tried to become a source in and of themselves.

Only God can be your source for continual transformation and deliverance. So while you might be personally taking action on the goals you set for yourself at the conference, it’s the combination of outward and inward action that will continue to keep the conference fresh in your mind for days and weeks to come!

Secret #3: Don’t Neglect the Old in Favor of the New

Sometimes, when we attend a conference or an inspiring event, we feel like we must change everything! Out with the old and in with the new! But we have to remember that “the sum of God’s Word is true,” (Psalm 119:160), which means that there are other priorities, or God-principles, which we cannot neglect on our path to reach our new goals.

A single mom who gets inspired to serve more at her church, must not neglect her children who need her, just because she feels that God is doing a new thing in her. While God loves it when we find our purpose in his Body, He wouldn’t want us to simultaneously neglect our families to do so.

Going on a life-changing mission trip is a great goal to have, but if you have to use your credit card to secure your spot on the trip, then maybe you need to hone in more (become crystal clear) on what must be done to make this trip happen without going into debt to do it.

On your journey to go to new heights with your life, God would never recommend a plan to achieve your new goals by violating His other time-tested principles found in the Word.

Secret #4: Give Yourself Grace

Change takes time. You didn’t get where you’re at overnight. When you’re inundated with such great inspiration, positive outlooks, and life-affirming messages, especially like what you experience at a conference, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. So just give yourself a little bit of grace, and trust that the great seeds that were planted in your life will begin to take root, grow, and will bear fruit if you just keep watering it and giving it time!

Remember one of the keys to the Israelites’ experiencing deliverance into the Promised Land? They had to trust that God would be faithful to fulfill His promises. So trust God. He’s doing the work and we know the Bible teaches us that He will be faithful to complete it!

What Does God Expect of Me?

I don’t know about you, but I love self-help materials.  I love self-help books, self-help seminars, self-help webinars, self-help conferences, self-help blog posts, and the countless self-help tools that make our most precious commodity, time, appear to be a little less fleeting.

There’s just something empowering about evaluating one’s inner motivations, limiting beliefs and world views.  And then, once enlightened, to begin crafting a plan to achieve one’s optimal life by evaluating which beliefs we should change, and how we should go about doing it.

We set the alarm earlier. We make better use of the superfluous technology available to help us get, and keep organized.  We even enlist pressure of our social media peers in an attempt to tip the compulsion scale in our favor and ensure that our less than esteemed habits become a thing of the past.

Sound familiar? Of course our real struggle begins a few days or weeks later, when we realize that all the growing and changing we were hoping to do as a result of our latest round of self-reflection, just turned into another episode of disappointment for failure to take action or failure to keep the momentum going.

Not by chance, usually by this time in the self-improvement cycle my inner voice brings me to the most important of self-reflective questions, namely, “What does God expect of me?” Because although I will inevitably place expectations on myself, the only person’s opinion of me that really should matter after all, is his.

The answer can be found in Hebrews 11:6.  It says this:

“6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So often we read this passage and we immediately conclude, “Oh, I get it. I need to have more faith,” but that’s not really what the author is saying.  The author is not referencing the quantity of faith we must possess in order to please God, (because we’ve all been given the same measure of faith – 2 Peter 1:1), but rather the quality of faith we must possess in order to please God.  Specifically, the quality of God-pleasing faith we need, is the kind that not only believes that God exists, but the quality of faith that believes that God is a rewarder of anyone who earnestly seeks him.

We also know from Hebrews 11:1 that faith “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This means that even though we may not be able to see God, we’re certain in our hearts that he not only exists, but that he’s a God who abundantly blesses his people.

God-pleasing faith is also sure of things that we secretly hope will happen, but that haven’t happened yet.  For example, to be fully persuaded that God will provide you with a good spouse someday, or to be convinced that God will provide for all of your needs according to his riches in glory, are all ways that express our faith in him.  It’s like having an intuition that you know things will work out, because God is good and he wants good things for you.

Having faith like this pleases God, because it proves to him that we know and understand him to be a good father who loves to bless his children. Because God knows he’s trustworthy, reliable, & true, he expects us to not only know this about him, too, but to live in such a way that we demonstrate our understanding of his good nature.

And, according to Hebrews chapter 4, the best way for believers to demonstrate faith in God’s goodness is to take action on everything he tells us to do with a confident expectation of a good outcome.

Operating in this type of God-pleasing faith, simultaneously positions our heart, our minds and our souls in a permanent state of rest, knowing that the only thing we must “do” to please him, so to speak, is to believe that he is so good that he gave the supply before we even had a need.

How Do You Hear?

In our Word of God series, I started by reminding you that everything you reap in your life starts as a seed. As we read in Mark 4 and Luke 8, both disciples record some remarkable insights regarding how our hearts bear witness to the seeds planted in our lives.

In Luke 8:16-18 Jesus says,

16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

Many people have wrongly used this verse to condemn people who are struggling with sin, suggesting that the fear of one’s sins being exposed, will convince people to stop sinning.

Thankfully, the idea of exposing sin, is nowhere mentioned in this parable.  So if Jesus isn’t talking about our sins being laid bare, what exactly is he saying?

Remember, the parable Jesus just illustrated was about planting the “seed,” (a.k.a. the word of God) in your heart[1]. He instructed his disciples that the condition of the heart is what determines the harvest we will gain from God’s word.

So, when Jesus concludes this parable with idea that everything will be brought out into the open, what he is saying is that every word, thought, idea, and perspective that has been planted in your heart will eventually be disclosed and brought into light.

How? Because every seed reproduces after its own kind[2]. Eventually, the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs of our heart will be brought to light, because they will manifest in our actions and decisions regarding life. The beliefs of our heart are what guide and give source, energy and movement to our actions.  No matter how hard we try to change, or be the kind of person we think others want us to be, our actions will always be a by-product of what we believe.

James illustrates this point further in James chapter 2. He writes,

17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…22 You see that his (Abraham’s) faith and his actions were working together,…”

Another way to describe what James is saying, is that “faith without corresponding action, is really no faith at all.” In other words, your actions will bear witness to what you truly believe.

For example, if Jesus did not truly believe he was God’s son, would he have acted the way he did, or done the things which eventually led him to the point of death on a cross? Of course, not. But the fact that Jesus lived his life with the end in mind, was evidence of the deep-seeded beliefs of his heart. As C.S. Lewis said of Jesus, he was either a “Liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God,” for no one would have endured what he endured, if he did not believe he was who he said he was.

This is why Jesus says in v. 18, ‘therefore consider carefully how you hear.’ It’s funny that he doesn’t say, ‘consider carefully what you hear’, rather ‘how’ you hear. Why is the manner in which we hear important? What does this mean?

First of all, Jesus is concluding that “what” you hear, isn’t necessarily the determining factor regarding what gets planted in your heart.  The information one person consumes, can have a totally different and more profound effect on one person verses another.

However, what determines whether or not certain thoughts, attitudes and beliefs are being reinforced in our hearts is “how” we hear.  What this means is that when we are listening to and processing information, our heart will interpret the information in a way that reinforces what it already believes to be true. The bible refers to our thoughts as the gatekeeper to our hearts, which means that only the thoughts which reinforce what we already believe are allowed to come in and take root[3].

But why do our hearts operate in this way? Because our hearts were intended to become fixed in a primary direction, namely on the Lord, so that we would stay close to him and not go astray. Unfortunately, our heart’s ability to “fix” itself on one thought, idea or belief can work against us when our hearts are fixed on the wrong thing.

What Jesus is saying in Luke 8:18, is that when information comes your way, whether it be truth or a lie, consider how your heart reacts to that information.  In other words, “Think about what you’re thinking about.”

If, when you hear information, you sense that your heart is becoming even more reinforced on a position which is contrary to the word of God, this should be evidence to you, that somehow, somewhere, you have planted seeds of doubt and unbelief regarding the truth of the word.

On the contrary, consider how your heart responds when it receives knowledge of the truth.  Does your heart embrace the truth, and want more? Or does your heart reject what you are listening to?  How does your heart hear the information that is being presented? If your heart responds positively to the truth, it will open up the gatekeeper of your mind to allow more truth in. This is the evidence that you have planted a seed of truth somewhere in your heart that is ready and waiting to reproduce after its own kind.

Jesus confirms this process by adding, “Whoever has will be given more.” In a sense, what he is saying is, “Whatever your heart is full of, or softened to, you will get more of that,” and in some cases, you could get as much as 100 times what your heart is already full of!

On the other hand, what little of the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs you have fixed in a certain direction, could eventually be taken away, (as Jesus was pointing out verses 12-14), based solely on the condition of your heart. Either the good seeds will outweigh the bad, or the bad seeds will outweigh the good. Your seeds don’t have to be big[4], but you have to have enough of them planted in the right soil in order to produce a harvest.


[1] Luke 8:5-15

[2] Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25

[3] Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

[4] Mark 4:31-32

Remembering God

King David knew what it meant to be refreshed by the Lord. He wrote in Psalms 103:2-5,

2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

You see, David knew it was not only possible, but likely that we would forget the ways in which God desires to bless his people. On any given day, or in any given season in our life, perhaps we’ll be aware of some of God’s ways. But how often are we mindful of all of the benefits of walking with the Lord? And just in case we were short on ideas, he offers just a few for us to contemplate.

Are you ever mindful that…

  • God forgives ALL your sins?
  • God heals ALL your diseases?
  • God redeems (purchases back for himself) your life from the pit which it came?
  • God puts a crown on your head; a reminder of his constant love and compassion for you?
  • God wants your desires to be fully satisfied, so you feel young and strong – able to soar?

If these thoughts aren’t what scroll through our minds on a regular and consistent basis, David admonishes us to ‘forget not’. That means we must make an effort to remind ourselves. Some of us are spending a lot of time and energy trying to get God’s attention, saying, “Look at me, God! I’m over here! Don’t you see me, God?” But according to this passage, it’s not God who needs reminded of us – it’s we who need reminded of him & his constant, positive presence in our lives.

How Can You Tell If Your Life is Working?

We all know that as Christians we should display the fruits of the Spirit.  But other than becoming more loving, patient & kind, are there any other ways to tell that your life is working?

I came up with this list of indicators that God is actually working in me.  Read these indicators to see if God is working in you, too!

Characteristics that will be present in the life of a person who claims to know God:

  • an ability to quickly admit faults or offense, accept responsibility and ask for forgiveness.
  • transparency about his/her relationship with God, evidenced by an nearly uncontrollable desire to testify about God’s goodness in his/her life.
  • willingness to limit one’s freedom for the benefit of others.
  • a desire to discipline oneself for oneself, others, and for one’s posterity.
  • an ability to change course quickly.
  • an “others” focused lifestyle.
  • a desire to serve for serving’s sake, and a self awareness of when one is serving to fulfill a need to be validated by one’s own works.
  • not requiring one’s own way.
  • established in one’s value before God and an ability/willingness to assist others in finding their value in God.
  • light goes “on”.
  • sense of peace and well being; aka “all is right with the world.”
  • not so busy that it’s impossible to enjoy relationships/life now.
  • okay if “He” is increasing, even if it seems that you may be simultaneously decreasing.
  • life becomes less “me” focused, (i.e. “What will make me happy?”), and more kingdom focused, (i.e. “What will make God happy?”)
  • clarity about the future; not necessarily where you’re going, but on who will be there when you arrive.
  • focused not on changing yourself, but on being transformed by Him through deep, personal fellowship.
  • a life defined by favorable encounters; not anxious endeavors.
  • things “work”.
  • desire to demonstrate “belonging” to others despite their behavior and/or other external factors.
  • lack of judgement toward people, (i.e. assuming you know the reasons why a person did what (s)he did), & lack of judgement toward God, (i.e. “This must have happened to me, because…”).
  • resting in the labor, and laboring into the rest.
  • no need to be in “control”; glad to relinquish control in favor of utilizing the gifts of someone else who may have the answer/solution; or better answers/solutions, than what you currently have.
  • excited to store up one’s treasures in heaven; doesn’t feel swindled by God when giving of one’s time, talents and money.
  • supernatural strength and wisdom for each task and each circumstance.
  • ability to give and receive a timely word.
  • desire to plant the word deeply in one’s heart.
  • desire to water and cultivate that word by removing the weeds of sin, which so easily entangle.
  • ability to confess one’s righteousness in the midst of sin or “sinful behavior.”
  • grace is so affecting one’s own life that it overflows to affect others.
  • others begin to comment on the impact you’ve made in their lives.
  • others look to you as a role model and an example of Jesus residing in one’s heart.
  • a contagious display of excitement regarding life.
  • feeling of limitless opportunities.
  • one’s outside reflects a care for the image one is portraying of God both in physical appearance and in actions toward others.
  • more discerning heart evidenced by making right choices about one’s life.
  • frustration with the “status quo”.
  • desire to make a difference/impact the world.
  • ability to see oneself as an important part of history and God’s plan for the redemption of humankind.
  • willingness to be vulnerable about one’s weaknesses, but not elevating one’s physical or emotional weaknesses above one’s spiritual reality in Christ.
  • renewed boldness in sharing the truth of God’s word.

Of course no list could ever encompass all the characteristics of a person transformed by the grace of God, but I believe if Jesus has really changed our lives, it will be evidenced by the above mentioned features. If the grace of God doesn’t transform us, then whether we admit it or not, we have inadvertently demonstrated that Jesus’ words have fallen on ground too hard to receive them.

Miraculous Gifts and Treehouses

Tonight as I was writing this post, our live-in “daughter” Kassie was showing me pictures of treehouses, until to her dismay, I promptly became disinterested. “Don’t get me wrong,” I said, “but I’m somewhat of a pragmatist.” Perhaps it’s the German in me. Perhaps it’s just my westernization, in general. Perhaps, I was just in a bad mood. But treehouses, and the thought of living in one – wrangling sacks of groceries up & down the stairs, impromptu lightning strikes, strong gusts of wind huffing, puffing and blowing my house down – well, let’s just say it’s totally beyond the scope of my imagination.

I realize that I have a tendency to be rather critical of things that don’t seem to make logical sense. It seems illogical to mop the floor, for example, before washing and putting away the dishes. Or to eat dessert before eating dinner. Or like my good friend Mary, to shower, fix my hair & makeup and THEN go to exercise. The thought!

Yet, if I were to be honest, part of me looked at those pictures and thought, “Well, wouldn’t that be kind of fun?”

But I’m practical. I like things to make sense and go in order. Unfortunately, it was this kind of thinking that actually prevented me from believing in the miraculous occurrences spoken so often of in the Bible.  To be honest, they just didn’t “make sense” to my logical mind.

I mean, I knew miracles were spoken of in the Bible.  I knew certain people performed miracles.  But the truth was, I just really doubted if I was worthy enough to experience a miracle in my own life.  It all seemed too good to be true.

Yet, one key passage of scripture finally helped me begin my journey of discovering and utilizing the miraculous in my own life, and thankfully I traded that former attitude in when I finally got to know God’s true nature.  It was Romans 8:32 which forever shed a new light on God’s desire to work miracles in and through me.  It says this:

“If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” -The Message.

Did you get that?  “Is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly & freely do for us?”  Gladly? Freely?  Wow.

But what does that verse have to do with miracles, you ask?  The point is this.  If Jesus willingly sacrificed his very own life for us, (while we were still in our state of depravity and not even a part of his family – Romans 5:8) then we can and should have total confidence to expect from him everything else we need.

I know that’s a rather simplistic understanding of miracles, and of course there is much more to learn, but I believe the foundation for believing in miracles – the kind of miracles that occurred regularly by Jesus and even his disciples – comes from an understanding that God loves us and is not withholding one good thing from us — not even his very own Son.

You see, when people are motivated by love, they don’t seem very pragmatic, do they?  When a boy is in love he’ll drive 500 miles to see the girl of his dreams, then drive back an hour later so that he can go to work the next day.  When parents love their children, they’ll stay up all night at the bedside of a feverish toddler.  When adult children love their ageing parents, they’ll make room for them in a spare room of an already crowded house.  When God loves the whole world, he’ll send his one and only Son to lay down his life for his friends.  None of these occurrences make any sense unless seen through the lens of love.

But suddenly, when love is the present, motivating factor, all seems clear.  All seems realistic — even reasonable.  With love present, what seemed to be impossible, not only becomes possible, but probable; likely; expected.

And that’s what miracles should be in our lives ~ probable, likely; expected.  In fact, with love as the motivating force, we should always anticipate good things to be coming into our lives.  I once heard someone phrase it like this;

“You are not the sick trying to get well.  You are the well the enemy is trying to make sick!”

“You are not the poor trying to become prosperous.  You are the prosperous the enemy is trying to make poor!”

“You are not the sinner trying to gain forgiveness.  You are the forgiven the enemy is trying to make believe is a sinner.”

When we begin to understand the Father’s love, we can release our faith for miraculous occurrences in our lives and in the lives of people around us.  We all believe that He can do miracles.  But what we struggle believing is if He wants to do miracles.

I believe when your understanding of God’s love is solidified, you will begin walking out the most pragmatic, sensible life you ever could have imagined; a life full of confident expectation of God’s miraculous goodness in your life.  If you’re not careful, you may even catch yourself climbing a tree or two to get a peek at that house your dad built you to match your new perspective on life.

Ministerting in the Gifts

When I was a young girl, I remember wanting so badly to know what God wanted my life to be like and to know what I was good at.  I would see the hustle and bustle going on each Sunday before, during & after church, as people participated in what looked like such meaningful and fulfilling work.  With smiles on their faces, people would greet me at the door and shake my hand, then as we walked into the auditorium someone would hand me the program for the day with a hearty, “Goooood moooorning, young lady.”  As the service started the worship team led everyone in the music selected for that week, and the pastor preached his message with the usual gusto, as handsome men in suits passed the offering plates and communion, all with a sincerity and a genuine happiness I rarely witnessed anywhere else.

Yet each week, I inevitably left feeling discouraged as I wondered, “God, where do I fit in?”  That question continued to lay dormant in me even after I graduated from college and came home, only to find myself once again sitting in the church service week after week, wondering if this very regular life I had hand-crafted, could be anything more than the week-in, week-out drudgery I had come to know.

But the spring before my 26th birthday would be different as I determined to make some changes in my life that year.  I had decided during winter break that I was going to resign from my first teaching job to attend graduate school.  However, next fall seemed like a lifetime away to a young person, who was more than ready to jump head first into a brand new life.  Inevitably, the question I had closed up in a quiet box within my heart years ago, began to stir inside me once again.  I asked myself, “Surely there’s something you could do here at the church that would be meaningful, isn’t there?”  Then another voice would ask, “But, what could you do?  What are you good at?”

Yet the answers continued to elude me.  Without thinking it through much further, I went to church as I did every Sunday, smiled at the door greeters, accepted my bulletin with a slight grin and solemnly took my place in the seat in the auditorium, which I had for years (at least mentally) marked as “mine”.

As the pastor barreled through his sermon with his customary vigor & authority, the words about finding purpose and meaning in one’s life by following God and serving in the church, penetrated my heart, until the end of the sermon when the associate pastor concluded the service with a “call to action”.

He said, “Maybe you’re sitting in your seat today, wondering if you could help.”

Immediately, I knew he was talking to me.  “Help? Is that it?” I thought.  “Could doing something meaningful for God be as simple as helping?” I pondered. “Even I can help…can’t I?” And before I even finished the thought, my legs had promptly escorted me straight to the front of the entire crowd of onlookers.

“So, how would you like to help?” the pastor asked.

I stood there speechless.  How? What did he mean, how?  I had no idea how I was going to do anything to measure up to what I saw everyone else doing on a Sunday morning.  At that point in time I couldn’t even have told him how I got out of my seat and in to the front row.

Then all of a sudden, it dawned on me.  I was leaving my job in May and it would be the first summer in which I literally had nothing to do.  No classes to attend.  No trips to take.  Nothing.

“I could help this summer,” I muttered more in the form of a question than a statement.  By the look on the pastor’s face, I could tell my answer did not satisfy him.

“What ministry would you like to help in?” he prodded further.

Ministry…ministry…by this time my palms were beginning to sweat.  If I didn’t come up with an answer quickly, I might be the first person in the history of the church to ruin an alter call by not being able to answer a simple question that even a first grade Sunday school child could answer.

“School! That’s it!” I thought.  I was a high school teacher.  Wrangling…no, teaching teenagers is what I did every day.

“I could help with youth!” I said elatedly.

“That would be great.  We actually need some youth sponsors for this summer’s activities.  I’ll have the youth pastor get in touch with you.”

And so was the beginning of my journey in discovering what I was called to do.

Now, as many of you know, youth ministry wasn’t really my end all, be all at the church.  But, I tell that story to illustrate a few points. First, I understand how difficult and frustrating it can be not knowing how you “fit” in the church body.  If you’re unfamiliar with church culture, as I was, it’s pretty daunting to try to understand the inner workings of the Church, let alone a church, in such a way that you could feel confident stepping forward to discover perhaps a deeper meaning to your life.  Second, what I realize now in retrospect about serving God, is that it really does just start with a desire to help.

You see, for many years, I had focused so much on what I should be doing, in an effort to convince myself that my life had meaning, that I missed cultivating a heart that was willing to listen and follow God for his sake alone, knowing that I was already acceptable in his eyes.  Focusing on finding my value in doing something that I hoped everyone around me would also view as valuable, paralyzed me from hearing the voice of God tell me that to get started, all I really needed to know was that just being me, is what really added value to the church.  In the end, I discovered that you really don’t need to know what to do, because ultimately, serving God is more about the ability to listen and follow, than the ability to “do” the one right thing.

So what does all of this have to do with ministering in the gifts, you ask?  Everything.  Most Christians get so caught up in what gift, or gifts, are theirs, or in what gift one person has over the other, that they miss out on the simplicity that comes from following a heart that wants to help alleviate poverty, sorrow, or illness in other people’s lives.  When you start with the desire to help, stemming from a heart that knows it’s already acceptable no matter what it does, the gifts that God has already deposited in you will naturally flow out of you when you begin to answer the call.

The question you really need to ask yourself is this;  “Lord, I know you love me, and I really would like to use the gifts you’ve given me, whatever they may be, to help other people.  Will you help me do that?”

I urge to you reach out to God today with a prayer such as that one, and then sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.  It’s a ride that will take you far beyond anything you ever could have dreamed up on your own, and one which will weave a tapestry of what your life was intended to be as you entrust it into the hands of your Savior.

The Divine Flow

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably had days where you just didn’t feel like you had much to offer God, much less anyone else.  Yet the “WWJD” mantra cycles through your brain as you walk by the shirt your husband has wanted ironed ever since you brought up the laundry last Saturday, and you neglect the litter box for just one more day as you grab the coffee and kids and scramble out the door.  You rationalize, “It’s no big deal.  I’ll get to it later,” only to realize that the “later” has turned into “much later”, (aka, “I’ll get to it over the weekend when I have more time”), and the “much later” has turned into “way, way later” (aka, “I think we need to move houses and just start over.”)

You see, it’s not that we don’t know what to do on any given day, but it’s that we simply lack the motivation to do it!  And for some reason, no matter how early we set the alarm, or how many reminders we set on our phone, some tasks on our beloved “To Do List” just never seem to get done — at least not in the timely fashion our mother’s would have done them!

So how do we move those items off our “To Do” lists and into the completed pile regularly and without effort?  The answer is in learning how to live in the “Divine Flow”.  Andrew Wommack coined this term in his Discipleship Evangelism course to describe the way in which we as Christians can learn to operate seamlessly in the love of God.  Here’s how it’s done:

Listen for Love

In 1 John 4:7-8, the Bible teaches us that love not only comes from God, but that God IS love.  Remember also that God’s kind of love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, is the unconditional, action-oriented, selfless kind of love.  So what that means is, whenever I’m motivated, or want to take action toward someone in a way that is self-less and without condition (or, without requiring any reciprocal action toward me in return), then I can know for a fact that God’s love is being activated in me in that moment.  To take from our examples above, I know intuitively that my husband would be blessed if I ironed his shirt and that the kids would appreciate not having tidbits of litter strewn across their play area.  So when I sense a desire to want to alleviate those problems, (for surely I, in and of myself, would not choose to iron out of my own accord, and who ever likes scooping up the cat mess?), then I know that God and his love are prompting these desires.

Unleash the Power of Love

One of Lucas and I’s favorite summer destinations is, believe it or not, Niagara Falls.  If you have ever stood atop Niagara Falls, or ridden on one of “The Maid of the Mist” vessels that carry you into the brink of destruction and back, then you know why!  The river that flows into the basin of the falls contains such massive amounts of unending power, it becomes almost impossible to turn away as you ponder the nature of God personified there.  In the same way, the Bible teaches that we as Christians have streams of living water flowing from within us (John 7:38) and that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Ephesians 1:19-20)!  How awesome!  What that means, is that no longer do I need to approach the task list of my life from the standpoint of my own effort or energy.  On the contrary, when I feel God’s love nudging me to take action on something I would not have otherwise wanted to do on my own accord, I can know and trust that he is behind the scenes providing the power to accomplish the task at hand.

It’s in You — Release It!

Now the good news is, if you are born again, God’s kind of limitless, powerful, never-ending love lives and abides in you at all times and is always available and ready to work through you on behalf of others.  But just because God’s power is available, doesn’t always mean we choose to use it. One of my favorite quotes from one of our former pastors in Ohio is, “It’s in you — release it!”   You see, although God’s unlimited power is available, he will not force you to release his love on others.  You must choose to open your heart by an act of your will. You must decide how much power you will release and whether or not you will walk in “The Divine Flow.”  Like the water in the Colorado River at the Hoover Dam, each one of us must decide how much of the power we are willing to release at any given time.  Too much power, and we run the risk of destroying those the water was intended to bless.  Too little power, and the life-giving water will never reach its intended recipients.  Yet the right amount of living water, tempered by the correct pressure, will release unending refreshment for all to enjoy.

Be blessed,


The 4 Pillars of Decision Making in Marriage

During college I was privileged to study abroad in Germany for a year.  Besides the benefit of being able to study the language, culture and history of my host country, we foreigners got the added benefit of footloose and fancy free weekends to flitter about Europe on a moment’s notice.  What was even better, was that Germany’s semesters were scheduled in such a way that after four months of intense study, the students got two months off.  Now, if you were a native, you used those two months to prepare your end of the semester research paper.  But if you were an exchange student like us, those two months translated into “Euro-rail Pass and the Mediterranean — Here we come!”

So at the price of just a few dollars (this was shortly after the Iron Curtain fell and traveling throughout Eastern Europe was dirt cheap), my friends and I boarded a train for a two month stint throughout Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy & Austria.  A lot happened on that journey, but one of the places I remember most was Greece and the indelible vision of the Parthenon.  I don’t know if it was the size of the Acropolis itself, or simply the tranquil feeling I got while contemplating my existence in that time and place, but the experience was nothing less than awe-inspiring.

The structure itself was surprisingly dilapidated, yet the massive columns that supported the Parthenon, which somehow had managed to hold up the entablature for hundreds of years, still stood strong.

In today’s age, no iconic structure comes under more attack than marriage itself.  And if you think finding the “right” spouse is hard, wait until you have to figure out what to do with that spouse once you finally get him!  Add to that the countless choices you must make together along the way to ensure a strong and healthy relationship that will stand the test of time, and you’re in for an adventure to say the least!

Yet, many couples we counsel struggle to agree even on what should be the simplest of decisions.

  • What time should we put the kids to bed?
  • How much money should we save each paycheck?
  • Should we go over to my mom’s or yours on Christmas?

And with each passive choice made, with each decision made by one person with out the agreement of the other, we default to the inevitable “shotgun” approach. Point. Aim. Shoot — and hope that you hit some decision–any decision.  Unfortunately, that kind of approach leads to what our mentor Tim Storey, calls “almost living.”

What we’ve found over the years, however, is that sound decision making, the kind that propels your life forward with purpose and in peace, relies on decision making pillars — principles which will keep your life stable and strong even during the most difficult and trying times, and which will allow for proper communication of the most important factors to consider in hopes of coming to the right conclusions.

So when an opportunity or decision comes your way, how do you and your spouse come to a conclusion regarding if, and how, to proceed?  Over the years, Lucas and I have relied heavily on these four questions to guide us in every decision we’ve ever made.

1.)  Does this opportunity fall in line with the goals we have for our marriage?
Each year Lucas and I sit down and discuss the milestones we want to achieve that year.  We talk about the relationships we want to further, the places we want to go, the events we want to lead & sponsor, how we want to grow as a couple and as individuals, and everything in between.  This process has helped us out significantly in determining throughout the course of the year, which opportunities to pursue and which to pass on.  If the opportunity that presents itself, doesn’t move us closer to these goals, then we might either pass on it altogether, or at least “put it on the shelf” for further discussion.

2.)  Does this opportunity fit within our budget?
Perhaps the opportunity that has presented itself fits directly in line with one or more of the goals you & your spouse have for your family.  Great, right?  Not so fast. You must then ask yourselves, “Can we afford this?”  Now, it’s easy when couples reach this question to put the axe down on a lot of great opportunities.  But don’t succumb to this temptation!  Instead of asking if you can afford it, ask yourself, “How can we afford this?”  Reframing this question actually activates your thinking skills and opens up your mind to discover other ways to achieve your desires.

When considering “cost”, you might even need to take the business approach and think, “What is the long term opportunity cost to our family, if we don’t do this?”  Lucas and I came across this problem early on in our marriage when we lived in Ohio.  When we initially moved, we had some challenges finding jobs that would pay the bills and allow for the flexibility for us to attend ministry school.  Since I was a teacher, I applied for any position I could, and even got offered a few.  The only glitch was, the positions offered weren’t in my area of certification, so in order to accept the position, I also had to simultaneously enroll in courses in that subject matter.  At that time we were only living on our savings, so we couldn’t really afford to pay for additional college courses, so for 6 months I turned down a lot of offers.  Then once our savings was gone and I still had no job, it finally dawned on me that if I had taken those jobs six months ago, the money I made from the regular income of that job would have more than paid for the courses I was required to take.

3.)  Does this opportunity support or jeopardize your marriage/family?
This seems like a simple enough question to answer, doesn’t it?  Wrong.  Being able to have the transparency and honesty in your marriage to talk about whether or not the opportunities you (and/or your spouse) want to pursue will jeopardize your marriage can be some of the most difficult conversations you will ever have.

On one occasion, Lucas was offered an opportunity to travel and speak at a church several hundred miles away, from a woman whom he had met on a mission trip.  Being that this was one of his first real invitations to do what he loved, and that the church was offering to pay not only for his expenses but also an honorarium, made the deal that much more enticing. But after asking a few more questions and having some open discussions about it, we realized that in spite of the financial opportunity it would afford, we didn’t really feel like moving forward with the offer was very safe for our marriage, so he declined.  Not more than a few months later, the church suffered a “split” lead by, none other than, this woman.

4.)  Does this opportunity fit within your schedule?
Families are just busy these days, aren’t they?  With all the amenities that modern life affords and gadgets that are supposed to save us time, it seems like we have less time today than we ever did before!  So a big question you must ask yourself when making decisions is, “Can we fit this in our schedule?”  Now, just like in our previous question about finances, you might have to consider the ramifications of not adding this event into your schedule, and it is certainly possible that you might need to cut out some activities, in order to make room for new ones.

One of our good friends Max Smith follows this slogan – “No passion.  No time.”  If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, do you really want to carve out precious time to force it into your schedule?  Why not open your schedule up for things that give you pleasure, inspire you, grow the bond between you and your family? Sometimes we have to move our schedule around to make things fit, but if moving that item around (usually because we feel obligated to do so) causes too much divergence from our scheduled routine, then we steer clear of it!

One final litmus test, we always follow, which in actuality trumps all others is this:

Are you being forced to make the decision quickly?

Now some people would look at our lives and all that we do and assume that we never give a thought at all to how quickly we make decisions.  Part of that comes from the ground work we have laid in our marriage for the past 13 years, which allows us to maneuver through the opportunities that come our way using these principles, which then leads to decisions that can be made quickly, efficiently and with confidence.

On the other hand, some opportunities present themselves in such a way that on the surface seem to fall in line with every principle listed above.  But if we are required to “act now”, or coerced to move so we don’t “miss this opportunity,” our answer is always a resounding, “No.”

I pray that as you seek to apply these decision making pillars,  you will strengthen your marriage so that will stand the test of time.