Jesus, Be the Center

sun

I’m not much of a science girl, but for those of you who are, this blog includes some scientific truths and relates them to spiritual truths.  God has a way of taking creation and communicating truth to us. In fact, God’s Word says in Romans 1:20:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Truth 1: At the center of our solar system is the Sun.

The sun, a star, actually makes up 99.8% of the mass of the entire solar system. A star does not have a solid surface, but is a ball of gas held together by its own gravity.

There is a spiritual truth that correlates to this scientific truth as revealed in Ephesians 1:20-22 where the Bible tells us that God the Father placed Jesus at the center (in this age and the one to come!)  When God looks at the center of the universe, He doesn’t look at you or me, He looks at the Son.

Unfortunately, we have made it all about “me” through our self-promotion, self-centeredness, etc.  We are worried about our wants and desires (I want a job where my opinion matters, I should get more pay, I want a spouse that keeps me happy, I want a government that serves me, etc…).

We have even done this in terms of “church” (I’m not getting fed, I don’t like the music, I don’t like the preaching, That’s not my style).

Or how about when something is going on in our lives, it is the most important.  It’s what we talk about, it’s what we think about, it’s what we make our plans around, and it’s what we do.

Instead, we should keep Christ as the center instead of allowing our jobs, kids, spouse, church, trails, circumstances, temptations, and problems to become the focus.  Satan has a way of keeping us distracted with all these things so that Christ isn’t the center, we are.

Spiritual Truth 1:  We must place the Son, Jesus Christ, at the center of our life.

Matthew 22: 37-38 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.

Truth 2: The Sun gives life to Earth.

Without the sun’s intense energy there would be no life on Earth. At the core, the temperature is about 15 million degrees Celsius. The energy produced in the core powers the sun and produces essentially all the heat and light we receive on Earth.

Spiritual Truth 2: Jesus gives life to us, both in the present and for eternity.

1 John 4:7-9 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Only through Jesus can we truly live the abundant life here on earth.  Judah Smith wrote a book called Jesus Is and asks you to place a word/statement to describe Jesus.  Jesus is ____ (forgiveness, hope, love, purpose, security, acceptance, peace, joy, holiness, etc).  He is our everything and gives us life in this present life and in the life to come (John 3:16)

Truth 3: Everything revolves around the Sun.

The sun exerts a tremendous gravitational pull. Everything travels around it. Basically everything orbits (or circles) the sun. One day on Earth takes 24 hours (this is the time it takes the Earth to rotate or spin once). Earth makes a complete orbit around the sun (a year in Earth time) in about 365 days.

Spiritual Truth 3: Our life should revolve around Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-17 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The world does not revolve around us. It revolves around the Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus holds all things together and in Him we must place our trust and let go of our control.

We were created FOR Him…not for US, but FOR HIM!  We exist to make a big deal out of Him, not the other way around.

In Max Lucado’s It’s Not About Me book, he says our role should be more like the moon.  It generates no light and is nothing more than a pitch-black rock.  When properly positioned, the moon beams.  The moon reflects the greater light and is happy to do so.  The moon simply reflects the light of the sun (like a mirror).

Our role is to reflect the light of the Son and point to God’s glory!

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

If you don’t know Jesus, I ask that you would seek out a relationship with Him today so that you can have life more abundantly now and forever.

What changes can you make to put Christ at the center?

What are you doing to make your life revolve around the Son, Jesus Christ?

How can you be more like the moon and reflect the light of the Son?

God, I Need You and Trust You

trustgodToday is a big day for my family.  Not only is it a big day, it’s a day filled with all kinds of emotion:  sadness, excitement, dread, fear, anticipation…  You see, my sister, and her family are moving from Alabama to Oklahoma.  Some of you might think that is not really a big deal, but to us, it’s a very big deal.  Our family has always been super close.  We spend a great deal of time together.  We have been in ministry together for years.  We live in close proximity to each other.  We have worked secular jobs together.  There has been a lot of togetherness.  So, you see how this move would have an effect on us.

During my drive to work in the mornings, I usually have some prayer time with God.  Today, in particular, was a tough day to pray but I knew I needed to.  I know that God wants us to bring our prayers and petitions to Him.  I know that, even though He knows what we need before we ask for it, He still desires to hear us ask Him.  I know that God cares about every detail of my life.  He cares about it all, the big things as well as every little thing.  So, I prayed the only prayer I could at the moment:

God, I need You

God, I need You today

God, I need You tomorrow

God, I need You the day after that

God, I need You every day

God I need You

Now, I must trust Him.  I must trust that His ways are higher than mine.  I must trust that “Daddy knows best.”  I must trust Him to strengthen and comfort me and my family during this time. I must trust Him that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I must trust in Him to take care of my family.  I must trust Him that the best is yet to come.  I must trust Him.  That trust will be an everyday journey.  I will have to choose over and over to trust, each and every day.

 Psalm 28:6-7

 “Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

And with my song I praise Him.”

On a final note, here’s the song that ministered to me today, “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher.

Faith to Move a Mountain

Yesterday during our family gathering at Agape Christian Fellowship, we had what I like to call a God-moment.  We had begun the service with singing some songs and then, during an unplanned spontaneous moment, we got out of the way and let the Holy Spirit lead the service.  As the worship pastor, I got a front-row seat to experience God’s beautiful moving in His people.

We had finished up a song and I just felt the Spirit’s leading to not rush into the next song.  I began to sing some spontaneous lyrics to the music, “We make room for you to move, Jesus” followed by some words about God’s Glory and Power.  Corporately, we focused our hearts on God and were no longer singing familiar words but moving into uncharted territory.

We soaked in the presence of the Lord and allowed some light instrumental music to play softly.  God then used a young lady to boldly speak that we had mountains in our lives that He would move.  She said that God wanted us to SPEAK to our mountains in His name.  (There was definitely more to it than that, but, I can’t recall the specifics.)  We, each, acknowledged God’s power and spoke out loud to our mountains.  It seemed like our faith-level rose to the occasion.  In our hearts, we believed God above all and trusted Him with the mountains.

We weren’t done yet though.  The Holy Spirit urged us to praise God, just like Miriam did after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea by God’s miraculous power.  It was like God said, “I got this.  It is finished.”  So, with spiritual eyes and believing hearts, we praised God and declared our freedom from the mountains!  Truly, it was a God-moment and we were excited to praise and worship the greatness, goodness, and faithfulness of our God!

Jesus speaking in Matthew 17:20,

“…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Moving-Mountains

What God did for us supernaturally, He will do for you.  Believe Him and trust Him to take care of your mountain.  Then, praise God that He has taken care of it!

What Will You Give Christ This Christmas?

give to Christ

Last night I had the privileged opportunity to speak with our students at church about the Magi (aka “Wise Men”), found in the gospel of Matthew.  I pointed out that these Magi first sought after Christ and then when they found Him they bowed down and worshipped Him.  But, they didn’t stop there…AFTER they had worshipped Him, they presented Him with gifts.  They didn’t come empty-handed to the King of Kings.  They gave gifts fit for a king!  In the same manner, we should bring gifts to Jesus too.

The greatest gift we could ever give to Him is our self!  I mean, that’s what He gave His life for so it must be the most important to Him.  We know we could never repay Christ for His sacrifice for us.  However, once we come to know Christ, we will desire to give to Him for all He’s done for us.

Here are some practical examples of giving one’s self to God that I shared with the students.  They are always good reminders for each of us.

1- Give Him your time –

  •  Spend regular time with God in prayer.  One of the greatest opportunities we have is to talk to and hear directly from God.  We don’t have to go through a priest.  God wants us to spend time talking with Him and He with us.  Make a list (prayer list that is) and check it twice.  Seriously, making a list of things you are praying about/for will help you when you know what to say when your mind draws a blank.  They also help you not make the conversation with God all about yourself!
  • Read His Word every day.  Since the Bible is the Word of God, it’s a way that God can speak directly to your heart.  If you have trouble with being consistent, YouVersion (app for phone) and Bible.com (Internet site) have numerous plans that you can do to help you stay consistent.
  • Sing songs of praise and worship about Him and to Him.  I like to use YouTube to play lyric videos of worship songs so that I hear the music and see the words.  Sometimes I simply sit and listen.  Other times I raise my hands, bow, or just sing out to God.  And then, there are times that I let the music play and I speak praises to God and lavish my love on Him.

2- Give Him your abilities/talents – God has already gifted you with natural abilities and talents.  Use them for Him.  He was working in you before you were born.  He doesn’t make junk so there is something in you that He can use for His glory.  Maybe you’re good at writing poetry.  Then write something in a card and give to someone.  Maybe you are a good cook/baker, then bless someone with a special treat.  Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.  It will be a “gift” to Him as you bless someone else.

3- Give Him your money – In Matthew 23, Jesus tells us not to neglect giving 1/10th of our money, but he also states that we should practice mercy, justice, and faithfulness.  The main principle behind tithing and giving is the fact that what we do with our money shows where our heart is (For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also).  If you don’t have any money, give something away.

4- Give Him to others – Jesus told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” – mark 16:15.  He didn’t just say for pastors/preachers to do that.  He wants everyone to share Him with others.  If you found a really awesome app/gadget/restaurant/band/etc. you’d tell others about it.  Jesus is more, so don’t neglect to tell others about Him.

My prayer for today is that these examples will be gentle reminders to us all.  Also, I hope that this sparks other ideas in you for how you can give to Christ this year and in the years to come.

Find Strength in Him

strengthwillrise

I am amazed at how many times God will speak in just a few words.  Yet, those few words can be so powerful in our lives if we heed them.  This week I have been particularly drawn to a hymn, which simply means “praise song to God.”  The hymn is “Jesus Paid It All.”

Even though I learned this hymn several years ago, I was drawn to this hymn while planning the songs for the upcoming Sunday service at my home church.  Needless to say, I had never played the hymn before, so I spent some time earlier this week learning the arrangement.  When I take the time to learn a song, I find that many times I really “get” the lyrics and start to understand the meaning of the song, which is usually more than meets the eye at first.

There is one thing about the hymns of old.  Lyrically, they are beautiful and rich masterpieces.  I have been particularly drawn to the first verse of “Jesus Paid It All”:

I hear the Savior say

“Thy strength indeed is small

Child of weakness, watch and pray

Find in Me thine all in all”

“Thy strength indeed is small” jumped out at me.  Yes, I am so very weak.  I am tired a lot.  Most nights when my head hits the pillow, I am asleep in record-setting time.  God never points out something, like the fact I am weak, without also giving me a solution.  He tells me time and again in His Word that He is my strength.  And this is precisely why the songwriter wrote “Find in Me thine all in all.”  I am to find my strength in Him.  Check out Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV):

He gives strength to the weary

And increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

And young men stumble and fall;

But those who hope in the Lord

Will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

They will run and not grow weary,

They will walk and not be faint.

 That word “hope” in the King James Version is “wait.”  As I “wait” in the Lord, I’ll find my strength.  God has been speaking to me about drawing strength from His presence.  Of course, I actually have to spend time in His presence to gain strength!  So, I have been purposely seeking out time to spend with Him, to “wait” on Him, even if it means just sitting in His presence and not doing anything.  Yeah, that’s right.  Sometimes I simply “wait” in God’s presence.  Of course, that’s what Mary did.  She sat at His feet.  And remember, Jesus told Martha that she needed to be more like Mary.  And, for those of you that know me, I’m much more like Martha than Mary by nature.  However, I’m learning to be like Mary.  May you be encouraged today to find your strength in Him, and in Him alone.

Here’s the links to a couple songs you may enjoy listening to while sitting in the presence of the Lord…

Jesus Paid It All by Kristian Stanfill – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brVIlXlJRkQ

Everlasting God by Brenton Brown – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqxgDjDXvCg

Use Your Flashlight

flashlight

In life, there are times we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory.  It is as if we are a person traveling a dark road without the ability to see what lies ahead.  The darkness tries to overtake us.  It brings fear, insecurity, and doubt.  We become confused as to which way to go.  We even hear voices, or well meaning people, give us advice on what to do and where to go.  Sometimes, we don’t hear anything.  The stillness is a deadly silence, and we wonder what’s out there in the darkness.  So, instead of moving, we sit still, alone and afraid to do or go anywhere.

Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

God has given us the Holy Spirit to be the guide for every situation, trial, circumstance, and new road we face.  The Holy Spirit is our “flashlight” and He will light the path to take.  We may not see up ahead on the path, but we can shine our “flashlight” and see the next step to take.  One step at a time in the right direction ends up miles down the road God has for us.

This isn’t a new thing to the Holy Spirit.  In fact, He’s been doing this for years.  Remember the Israelites?  Yep, in that desert, God went ahead of them and showed them the way to go.

Exodus 13:21 – “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”

Our God doesn’t change.  He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.  So, let Him guide you on the path to take through the Holy Spirit.  Take it one step at a time and don’t forget to use your “flashlight!”

Somebody’s Watching You

abovereproach2

We are consumed with pop culture in our society.  We follow the celebrities and our heroes through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  We are entertained by them, what they wear, where they eat, how they live.  However, most of us have never thought twice about our lives and the influence we hold in someone else’s life.

Somebody’s watching you.  It’s true.  Your life is on display for others.  Everyone is given a stage in life.  Everyone has the opportunity to influence someone else for the better.  What does your life say?  What do you hold most important?  If people only know you by what you place on social media sites, what would they believe is true about you?  Is it true?  Do you back up what you say you believe with your actions? 

From the time I was in Children’s Church, I was taught the saying “Don’t just talk the talk, but WALK the talk.”  It’s something I still do my best to live up to these days.  No matter how insignificant you think you are, someone is looking up to you.  Someone is evaluating your life.   It could be your kids, your grandkids, your little brother, a co-worker, a waitress at a restaurant you visit frequently, the grocery store clerk, etc.  I don’t know about you, but I want my life to glorify God and point people towards Him. 

Titus 2:7 (NIV) states “In everything set them an example by doing what is good…”

Have I made mistakes?  Sure.  Everyone has sinned.  There is forgiveness, grace, and mercy at the foot of the cross.  Jesus paid for those mistakes.  ALL of them.  Every time I fail, I resolve to turn from my wicked ways and go towards Jesus, receiving His forgivess.  There is a conscious decision to live everyday with intention in my actions, knowing that I can either lead people to Jesus or away from Him.

Titus 2:11-15 “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.  These, then, are the things you should teach.  Encourage and rebuke with all authority.  Do not let anyone despise you.”

Name Drop, Please!

no other name

This week I have been thinking about the name of Jesus, partly due to the fact that I have been listening to the new Hillsong song “Heaven and Earth” from the album No Other Name.  

Many times, we as Christ-followers don’t take advantage of the benefits and access given to us by the name of Jesus.  Instead we choose to wallow in our circumstances and stay down because the enemy is after us.  Our faith is weak because we don’t work it to become stronger.    When life happens (and it does), God wants us to remember that we have power in the name of Jesus. 

If you knew someone rich and famous, wouldn’t you name drop if it meant the difference between life and death?  Of course you would!  Sometimes, in our lives, not using the power and authority given to us by the name of Jesus is the difference between life and death.   God wants us to name-drop!  He wants us to use His name! (not in vain, of course!)  There, truly, is POWER in the name of Jesus. 

Here are some scriptures to remind us how powerful the name of Jesus is:

  • Provides Forgiveness for ALL our sins – “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38
  • Gives Healing – “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has completely healed him, as you can see. – Acts 3:16
  • Provides Salvation – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
  • Performs Signs and Wonders – “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 4:30
  • Makes Demons Flee – “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name.’” – Luke 10:17
  • Gives Authority over the Enemy – “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” – Luke 10:19
  • Provides Safety – “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” – Proverbs 18:10
  • Allows Access to God the Father – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” – John 14:6
  • Makes Disciples – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” – Matthew 28:18-19

Made to Worship

made to worship

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The other day I was driving home from work, and my thoughts were focused on what final preparations I needed to complete in order to lead worship through music at a ladies conference that weekend.  Computer- check!  Guitar- check!  Instrument cables- check!  Lyric text files- not done!…  Then, out of nowhere it seemed, the Holy Spirit dropped this thought into my spirit.  “You see, Shelena, the worship movement has a purpose.  Music brings people together.  Music crosses over man-made lines.  I’m coming back for ONE church.  I’m coming back for my ONE Bride.  Music is one vehicle to bring the church together as ONE.” 

Honestly, I got excited in the car.  It was like God gave me a small piece of His very big puzzle.  No matter what musical style is prevalent in a church, the words of the songs cross denominational lines, racial lines, etc.  And, how beautiful it is when God’s people live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).  Praise and worship through music unites us to worship our God TOGETHER! 

I love to see people sing praises to God and to worship Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  In fact, it is during those times that all the hard work of preparation, practicing, etc. is worth it.  To see and hear a person encounter the Living God is such a joy, and it’s when I know I’m doing what I’ve been called to do.  In those moments, I step back and let the heart of the people go after God. 

It is what we all have been called to do.  We are all called to be worshippers of God. 

Isaiah 43:7 – “…everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”

Colossians 1:16 – “For in Him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

Our purpose in this life is to bring glory to God with our lives, and worshipping God is a way of life.  Music is just one vehicle to use to worship God. 

Even creation sings for the Lord:  “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth by glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.  Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.  Let all creation rejoice before the Lord…” Psalm 96: 11-13a

Worship is going on in heaven all the time.  “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying:  Amen!  Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever.  Amen!” Revelation 7:10-12

Don’t you want to join in heaven’s song? 

I’ll leave you today with the song “Made to Worship” by Chris Tomlin as a reminder that we were made to worship God.   Let’s join with all of creation in singing praise to the Only One worthy of all praise and adoration!

Made to Worship – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jjqynuIkFM

He Is Jealous for Me

heisjealousformeAt the beginning of this year, God spoke to me that there would be many changes this year, and that I should study and learn His names so that I would be able to remain firm in Him.  Slowly, I have been doing just that.  In fact, the book Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler (http://www.annspangler.com/)  is a daily guide that I use to help me.  She has done some very thorough research and provides scriptural references and suggested prayers for each day.  In fact, each week is devoted to a particular name of God.  I don’t know when or where I picked this book up, but I know God must have led me to it! 

Studying and learning the names of God allows me to discover the nature and character of God.  I am experiencing Him in new ways.  It also builds up my faith in Him. 

This week I have been studying that God is a Jealous God and a Consuming Fire!  Since He is God and does not sin, it must be possible to be jealous and sin not.  He is jealous in that He wants to be first in my life and wants all of me.  He loves me completely and wants me to love Him back wholeheartedly.

In terms of a being a Consuming Fire, it basically means that He destroys anything that separates me from God.  When something is burned by fire, it is purified.  When God consumes my heart, He removes sin and anything that doesn’t live up to His holiness.  His presence purifies me and makes me holy before Him.

Exodus 34:14 – “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:23-24 – “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Learning this name has also brought new meaning to several worship songs that I listen to or that we sing at church.  For example, the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillian starts with “He is jealous for me…”  What about the classic Third Day song “Consuming Fire”, with lyrics such as “Yes our God, He is a consuming fire, and the flames burn down deep in my soul.”  Or how about the Misty Edwards song sung by Jesus Culture “All consuming fire, You’re our heart’s desire, living flame of love, come baptize us.”  You see, learning the names of God bring new meaning to who He is and allow us to worship Him more deeply from our hearts.

I challenge you to learn more about the God you love and serve so that you may know and worship Him more intimately.  The more you know, the more you’ll become like Him.