Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Breakthrough is Coming

Breakthrough is Coming

As I was driving the other day I was looking at the trees. The leaves always strike me as so incredibly beautiful in the Fall. We have such an awesome Creator! I often marvel at all the different autumn shades adorning the trees this time of year, and quite honestly, I also wonder how anyone cannot believe in God! The trees declare His glory! Actually, all creation declares His glory! We can see Him all throughout creation and know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is God!

"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 people are without excuse." Romans 1:20

I also noticed recently many trees have already lost all of their leaves. Many trees are no longer adorning the hues of reds, oranges and golds. Their leaves finally turned brown, and they fell to the ground, leaving the tree barren and empty.

There is so much spiritual significance to me in the life cycle of a tree...too much to go into right now. :) I will say though, I have been thinking about those barren trees, and how even though they appear dead, they are not. They are in a season of being renewed. They are in a season of waiting to give birth to new growth in the Spring. New life out of a season of emptiness, or what appears to be emptiness to the eye. Those leafless winter trees look so alone, still and quiet; almost sad. Little do they know they are just in a season of waiting, their breakthrough is coming, and soon they will be filled with green, robust and plentiful life.

How often our own lives can relate to the barren tree. We feel empty. We feel like we are in a season of dying, a season of barrenness; where all seems eerily still and quite and we wonder what is happening? You know changes of season are essential to your growth. You know life comes from brokenness. You know His thoughts are not your thoughts. You know His ways are not your ways! But there you stand, still, emptied, like the tree that appears dead...wondering. 

Dying to self, to how you think things should go, to what you thought it was all supposed to look like. He is purging us of things that shouldn’t be there. He is preparing us, many times just like the winter tree, for the Spring...where He makes all things new.  All we can think about, though, is how we look like that tree whose once beautiful adornment is now laying on the ground beneath it brown, dried up and lifeless. How often we forget resurrection comes after death!

I recently took care of my father as he was dying of cancer. It was one of the hardest things I had to up close and personal to someone I love dearly as they were in the dying process. I was one of his primary caretakers during his final months on earth. It was the ugliest yet most beautiful thing I have ever seen and gone through. What an honor to care for my father as he was preparing to leave this life and move on to the next. How blessed I am that I got to usher my dad right into the arms of Jesus. I can easily remember the bad memories leading up to his death, and Jesus quickly reminds me my dad is not dead. He is alive, and I will see him one day soon. My dad physically died and his breakthrough from suffering was in Heaven!! My dad's Breakthrough was holding his hand as he took his last breath.

Jesus is our Breakthrough.

Emptied. Surrendered. Death. Resurrection. Breakthrough.

What about dying to our flesh while we are still here on earth? Sometimes that can feel harder than physical death. We kick and scream. We fight it. When, in fact, we are called to surrender, to die to ourselves, daily. We can often feel like we are pressed on every side. We can be completely perplexed!! We can be struck down and persecuted. Why wouldn’t we when we carry the death of our Savior around in our own bodies?!  We must. How else will His life be revealed in us?

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Just as when our time on earth is ending and that breakthrough comes as we enter the arms of Jesus, breakthrough also often comes after we go through a time of pressing while still on earth. If you are in a time of dying to self, a time of pressing, a time you feel emptied to the point of your guts being removed, a time of being barren; even discouraged and uncomfortable, maybe it’s because your breakthrough is coming. Maybe it's because your breakthrough is around the corner.

Breakthrough is coming for many, but the enemy, at times, will push harder right before that time. He will try to discourage you, exhaust you, distract you. Hold on. Push through. Sometimes it's not the enemy, it's just the refining process. It's God pruning away the things that don't belong; the cutting away of what shouldn't be to produce the things that should be. In childbirth there's excruciating pain. But after an agonizing time of labor, new birth comes. Allow Jesus to walk you through the process of dying, the process of giving birth.  It can be ugly and agonizing, but yet it's so beautiful.  There’s life on the other side. There always is. Don't allow the enemy to discourage you. Hold on to the promises of God! Don't allow the temporary discomfort of Father cutting away to push you away from Him, the only One who is Faithful and True. Don't be distracted. Don't be discouraged. Breakthrough is coming. Just like it does for the winter tree, who doesn't realize a season of plenty is just around the corner. It’s coming.

Breakthrough is coming.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What If?

As I was driving to church Sunday morning, the Lord brought the Peace Prayer of St. Francis to mind. It's not a prayer I think about often...really at all if I'm being honest. But on my drive to church the first line of that prayer came to mind,

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

I googled the rest of the prayer when I got to church and had it up on my phone throughout the service, even looked at it from time to time that morning.

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

What does that mean to be an instrument of His peace?

Being an instrument of His peace must be really valuable, because His Word tells me,

"Blessed are the peacemakers." Matthew 5:9

As His follower, I am called to be a peacemaker, and I am called to be an instrument of His peace. It's a peace that doesn't come from this world, but only from Jesus.

"For He Himself is our peace." Ephesians 2:14

Make me an instrument of Your peace...

What if?

What if I always chose to love my neighbor as myself?

What if I chose to love the difficult one's by leaning into Jesus more?

What if I chose to do the brave things and shut down gossip and slander, hypocrisy and judgement with kind words and loving actions?

What if chose to move in the Spirit moment by moment?

What if every time I want to move in my flesh I actually choose the harder way, the way that calls me to die to myself, my wants, my desires.

What if I chose to live unoffended?

What if I chose to live unashamed and free of guilt, which is what He died for?

What if I chose to live with my heart on my sleeve and my hurts and vulnerabilities exposed? So when asked how I still have joy and peace, I will have all the more reason to give an account of who Jesus is and what He has done for me?

What if I lived as an instrument of His peace?

What if I chose to speak life and not death!

What if I chose to just......speak......less......sometimes......


What if I sowed love where there was hatred?

What if I pardoned injury?

What if I replaced doubt with faith?

What if I chose hope over despair?

What if I always remembered I am His light to a lost and hurting world?

What if everyone around me were to see me, even in my darkest hour, and see that I still have joy! Because my joy doesn't come from this world.

What if instead of needing to be consoled, I consoled?

What if I stopped demanding to be understood and in turn I tried to understand where my brother or sister is coming from?

What if I just chose to love without keeping tabs on who is loving me?

Jesus loves me, and that is more than enough.

What if I gave never expecting anything in return?

What if I always chose to forgive?

What if I chose to wake up every day and say not my will, Father, but Your's be done?

What if I decided to care more about what my Father thinks of me than what anyone else thinks about me?

What if instead of telling my brother or sister they aren't seeing clearly, I realize I may not be seeing clearly either?

What if instead of telling my brother or sister they aren't hearing clearly, I realize I may not be hearing clearly either?

What if I truly lived for an audience of One?

What if I didn't take anyone's side but Jesus'?

What if I counted my suffering joy?

What if I considered everything "a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Phllippians 3:8

What if every morning, the first thing I did was drop to my knees and said, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."

The enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy. He comes after our relationships. They are easy targets for him when we walk around with weapons of destruction on us. We are easy targets when we walk around with an arsenal on us ready to attack. How easily we forget our Savior went to the Cross without ever once pulling out weapons to attack! He didn't even open His mouth. He went to the Cross on our behalf, and it was for the joy set before Him! (Hebrews 12:2)

We carry weapons around in our back pockets. We hold weapons in our hands. We carry around the biggest weapon of all, at all times...our tongues. We are so quick to fight!

I can be so quick to fight.

We are so quick to fight with words that come out of our mouths. We praise God, then curse our brother and sister. Out of our mouths come praise and cursing. This shouldn't be! (James 3:10)

Father, forgive me for I have sinned.

What if we put down our earthly weapons, and instead picked up instruments of peace?

What if?

What if WE BECAME instruments of peace?

What if we put down our earthly weapons, and picked up our Kingdom weapons, and in doing so we started to dismantle the feeble attempts of our adversary to kill, steal and destroy?

What if it's as easy as loving like Jesus?

What if it started with me?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Don't Look Down

The above picture was taken at the Currituck Lighthouse which is located on the Outer Banks in Corolla, North Carolina. My family and I vacationed there this Summer. There's a landing spot after each flight of steps you go up. About half way to the top, I stopped and took a picture looking straight up to the remaining steps. This lighthouse is 162 feet high, and has 220 steps. There's nothing more telling about how out of shape you are than when you are climbing to the top of a lighthouse. I was out of breath and my legs felt like jelly a quarter of the way up! Oh, and did I mention I am PETRIFIED of heights?? Yup, I am. Completely petrified. Why then, you ask, would I climb to the top of a lighthouse? Because while I am terrified of heights, I refuse to allow that fear to have its way in my life. So when my husband and kids say let's go up, I say yes, even though I go slow, take pit stops along the way (hence the picture above) and hold onto the railing for dear life. There was one thing swirling through my mind the entire way up...well two actually.  First, am I going to make it to the top?  And two...DON'T LOOK DOWN!

See, if you are like me and you are scared of heights, you know the worst thing you can do is look down. Looking down reminds you of how high you are, and can immediately cause panic, which is never a good thing when you are half way up a 162 foot high lighthouse. Looking down causes you to lose focus of the step in front of you. Looking down causes you to lose sight of the goal ahead of you, which is to make it to the top.

We recently had a fundraiser to raise money to open a restoration home in Berks County for survivors coming out of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. It was an incredible night for all of us on the FREE team, as it truly exceeded all of our expectations. But the next morning when I woke up, I started to feel panic. What next? What does this next phase look like? How will it be accomplished? What should I do first? All of these thoughts hit my mind like a ton of bricks. Then the Lord reminded me...don't look down. He didn't scream it. It didn't sound like it sounded in my head as I was anxiously making my way up those lighthouse steps. It was quiet and peaceful. Don't look down, Andrea.

I had a vision of Him holding my hand, and taking one step up with me. Just one step. That's it. He said, just take one step up. I thought of rock climbing up a mountain, and with each step planted into the mountain crevice, rocks and dirt crumble out and fall into what seems like a never ending drop. It wouldn't do that person scaling the side of a rock encased mountain any good by constantly looking down, by constantly looking at the debris dropping underneath them. They must focus on what's in front of them. They can't worry about what's below. They have to focus on that next step in front of them.

Don't look down. How easily we start to look down and become fearful. We lose sight of Jesus who is right in front of us, and He is saying, don't look down, look right at Me. And in that moment we remember the King of the universe has us.  He is with us.  We don't even have to look up. He is as close to us as our breath.

If you are struggling today, if you are afraid or anxious about something going on in your life, if you are wondering how you are going to pull through, don't look down. Just look straight at Jesus. He's right there. You don't have to look far. He is right in front of you. He is holding your hand and He is saying, don't look down, just stay focused on Me. Just take one step up with Me. He wants you to know He is with you.  

In case you are wondering, I made it to the top of the lighthouse. My kids made me walk the full circle around the top, and I did, even though my back was plastered to the wall of the lighthouse the entire time.  I looked straight ahead.  I didn't look down. I even managed a panoramic picture. :)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10   


Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Seat At The Table

Remember in elementary school when you had recess and were out on the playground, playing a great game of Dodge-ball or Red Rover? So much fun, right? Ah, the good old days, when things seemed simpler, lighter, easier; when time seemed to stand still. It was fun being a kid. But one thing I remember that wasn’t so much fun was being picked for these games. I don’t know about you, but at my school, captains were always picked first...I think they picked themselves actually. Then the rest of us, who didn’t quite have the nerve to pick ourselves as captains, made a long line as the captains picked who they wanted on their teams. One captain picked a person, then the other captain picked a person, and so on and so on until no one was left and both teams were filled. It was a tough few minutes there waiting to hear your destiny of being chosen or not; albeit a short one in those moments before the bell rang and you had to go back into class. Would you be picked 1st, 2nd,10th? The one captain didn’t seem to want you on their team, but surely the other captain would. Or would they? Being picked 1st, 2nd, or 3rd...well that is great! But what is going to happen if I’m picked 9th or 10th, or worse yet, what if I’m picked last? There’s like 25 of us standing in this line!! Nothing could be worse than that...last! Has anyone been there before? Being picked last, or second to last, or anywhere close to last?! Feeling like you aren’t wanted, that you aren’t good enough to be at least in the top five, or the top 15th for that matter. How about when you were looking for a spot to sit and eat your lunch, and you were standing around, lunch in hand, and you surveyed the entire lunch room looking for an empty seat, just somewhere to sit and fit in, and all the tables seem to look full, not just literally full, but even metaphorically speaking, because you knew you just wouldn’t be welcome at certain tables, even if there was a spot open. I have empathy for new students in schools, that first day, standing in the lunch room, not knowing anyone, trying to decide where to go, trying to look for a friendly face and an empty seat at a table. Actually, I have been in this situation as an adult, looking around and wondering where to sit, wondering if there’s room for me at the table, wondering if I find a seat and don’t feel welcome, would that really constitute as a seat at the table??

I have been thinking about this lately. About sitting at the table and what that looks like for us as Followers of Christ.

There’s been many times in my life where I have stood in the line, screaming on the inside, pick me, pick me! Pick me…I want to be on your team! Pick me...I want to be at your table! I want to use my voice at your table! Then once “chosen” I realize, maybe this isn’t the right table for me. Maybe I need to be at another table. And I ask the Lord, why? Why, Lord, would I finally make it to the table, then disqualify my own self from that seat? Why would I choose to disqualify my voice at the table? Will there be another table for me? And just like that He replies, "You are already at the table, my dear one; you are already at the table, and your voice is already being heard."

And just like that….peace. Understanding. Settled. Rest.

I am already at the table. 

I already have a voice. 

I am chosen.

Because of Jesus. 

I don’t have to find it. I don't have to look for it. I don't have to scream on the inside for it.

I am already sitting there, welcomed at the table, talking with the One whose ear is always turned toward me.

"Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." 

(Psalm 116:2) 

This is not because of me. This is not because of other people. But because of Him. Christ has given me a seat at the table, His Table, and He has given me a voice to use at His Table. I am on His team! He picked me! Jesus picked me!!

So here’s what I know. When you use your voice for the oppressed and marginalized, you are at the table. When you stop for the one, you are at the table. When you stand in the gap in prayer and intercession, you are at the table. When you quietly serve in your church or in your neighborhood and do the things no one else wants to do, you are at the table. When you are doing the administrative work or keeping the finances in order, you are at the table. Whether you are on the stage singing, or you are singing along in the crowd, you are at the table. Whether you are in the front pew, or you are in the back pew, you are at the table. When people thank you, and when they don't, you are at the table. When you are seen by people, or when you go unnoticed, you are at the table. When you have plenty, or when you are in need, you are at the table. When you are doing great, or when you are struggling, you are at the table. When you are on the mountain top, or when you are in the valley, you are at the table. When you feel great, or when you feel completely broken, you are at the table. Whether you are male or female, you are at the table.  Whether you are black or white, you are at the table.  Whether you are a "leader" or a "lay-person," you are at the table. When you are with the multitude, or when you are alone in the Secret Place, you are at the table.

Here’s why. When you are in Christ, you are forever at the table. When you are in Christ, you have been given access to the table for all eternity, because it’s His Table, and at His Table there’s always room, and you are always welcome, and you always have a seat, and you ALWAYS have a voice! And that’s not something you ever have to doubt! That’s not something anyone else has any control over. You don’t have to depend on anyone to pick you. So here’s the Good can get out of the line!! Jesus already picked you!! You are chosen. You are sitting at the most beautiful table you can imagine, and He set it just for you. And He has given you an incredible voice to use for such a time as this.

Don’t wait for someone to invite you in. Don’t stand in line waiting to be picked. Get out of the line. You already have a seat at the table. You already have a voice. Because of Jesus.

I don't know about you, but there’s no other team I’d rather be on, and there’s no other table I’d rather sit at than His.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col. 1:9-12)

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Cry Of The Heart

Children being shot, people at war, human beings in the image of God being exploited and abused. Personal struggles, family and friends hurting. Things not going the way we imagined in our lives and in the lives of the one's we love, even in the lives of the one's we do not know, whether they live in another continent, the other side of our country, or in our own neighborhood, but yet our hearts are affected by their suffering and pain. We feel the pain. We feel the pain of affliction for ourselves and all of humanity. So we grieve. We grieve for us and them. We feel the pain. So we cry out.  We cry out for justice. We cry out for equality. We cry out for change. We cry out for awakening. We cry out for revival. We cry out because He is our God and we are His people. (Exodus 6:7)  We cry out because He is a God who hears us and delivers us from our troubles. (Psalm 34:17) 

We lament. 

To lament means to express regret or sorrow over something, to mourn for or over a situation. It's a passionate expression of grief; weeping. There's many things my heart grieves over. There's many things I weep over. Children being killed in our schools. Women being sex trafficked and exploited. People dying from drug addiction. The homeless person wandering the streets day in and day out with no place to call home. People literally starving to death all over this world.  People sitting right in our pews wondering if anyone will notice they are hurting, and they may appear to be okay on the outside, but on the inside they are screaming, "DO YOU SEE ME?"  People being treated with less value and worth based on the color of their skin or their gender. People alone with no one to love them. I feel the pain.  I feel the pain of those who are hurting. And I cry out.  I cry out, "I SEE YOU!" I can feel the pain and transparency of David the Psalmist when he says, 

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish? 

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest." 

(Psalm 22:1-2)

I am grateful.  I am so grateful to serve a God who allows me to weep at His feet, who allows me to cry out to Him in lament, who allows me to sit in His presence, with truth, honesty and vulnerability residing together, and He comes.  He also allows me to come, with tears pouring down my cheeks and aching in my own suffering or for the suffering of people around me, and He is not offended by me bearing my soul to Him.  He is not offended when I scream out, "Why Lord?"  He actually bends down toward me.  He moves in even closer.  He hears. He listens.  He actually keeps track of my sorrows, He collects my tears, and He records each one in His book!  (Psalm 56:8)  In that quiet, tear filled space there is safety.  There is a knowing that rises up. Truth comes.  I am never alone. He is never far off.  He saves me, time and time and time again.  He will save you.  He has never failed me. He will never fail you.  Never.  I remember.  And I can still praise Him.

    "I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.

    You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
    Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!

    For He has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    He has not hidden His face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

    From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows.

    The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise Him—
    may your hearts live forever!"
    (Psalm 22:22-26)
We repent, we pray, we intercede and we lament because we have hope, hope in our Father who comes, who restores, who redeems; we have hope in our Father who promises He will never leave us and He will never forsake us.  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  And because of this we can boldly enter His throne room and pour our hearts out to Him, on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of others. Jesus is acquainted with pain.  He was despised and rejected.  He was mocked, ridiculed and in the end, nailed to a Cross. He lamented. His final words,  "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").  The veil was torn.  Now we can enter in, no longer separated, but Sons and Daughters now able to sit at the Table of Grace.  Now able to dance in joy, but also able to weep at His nail-pierced feet.  Always standing in hope even as we cry out for a lost and hurting humanity.  Even as we repent for what we know and even for what we don't!  We repent because we are always called to turn back to our Beloved.  We never have to wonder why.  Such relief.  We intercede for brothers and sisters around this world.  We stand in the gap.  We weep for them.  We cry out to God for them.  It's beautiful.  That space.  That time.  Sorrow, but joy.  Loss, but still having everything we need.  Grief, but hope.  Falling apart, but still held together. Lost, but found.  Injustice, but assurance that one day all things will be made right.  Inequality, but equal at the Foot of the Cross. Lies, but promises!  Rejected, but never alone.  Weak, but strong. Hated, but loved so dearly.  Hidden, but seen.  Poor, but rich.  Broken, yet a new creation.  Suffering, but getting to be partakers. Trials, but always taking heart because He has overcome the world!  We need You, Lord.  Thank you, Lord, that you are not a distant Father, but rather you are a Father that is close to the brokenhearted and You understand our pain.  (Psalm 34:18)         

We come together in lament, in faith, saying God, you are the only One that can help us and we know You are here.  We come together and cry out for justice, healing and restoration.  We come together to share in one another's burdens.  We come together because for all we know breakthrough is peaking around the corner for us and them.  We come together to be honest about our sins.  We come together to repent for things in our own lives or for the injustices we see everywhere we go. We come together in lament to experience intimacy with our Father, who understands and says, "Come as you are."  We come together in prayer and lament and we are reminded of His goodness, His love, His grace, His mercy and the eternal hope we have in Christ.  We come together in lament and are reminded He wraps His arms around us with the best hug we could ever get and He whispers, "You, my child, are everything to me."  And in those beautiful, tear stained moments we get to respond, "And you, my Papa, are everything to me too. Holy Spirit, come.  

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3:21-24

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Great Healing

The Great's coming.  The time where healing and restoration arrives.  Come, Sons and Daughters, your Father is closing wounds, mending hearts, and bringing the pieces back together again.  He is doing a new thing.  Do you not perceive it?  He is making a way.  He is bringing streams of Living Water to a dry and weary land. 

The Great's coming.  A coming out of the dessert; the manna will no longer be needed.  It will be a time to eat and flourish off the land.  A time to eat the produce, be fruitful and multiply. I can see it.  I can already taste it.  Can you see it?  Can you taste it?

 "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him." 
Psalm 34:8

I've been thinking about failure recently, and what that looks like to the world.  I've also been thinking about failure and what that looks like to the Kingdom of God.  In our world, failure is the death of something.  In God's Kingdom, the death of something actually brings life.  

When Jesus died on the Cross, it appeared as the end.  As Jesus took His final breath, onlookers stood by and were happy that the One they looked upon as their enemy was finally dead, as others who called Him Savior mourned the loss of their teacher and friend.  To them, it could seem like a failure.  How can their Beloved Jesus be gone?  How could they make sense of this?  What was it all for?

But, oh, what a glorious plan, and little did they know that Redemption was just around the corner.  

In three days, it became clear.  The tomb was empty.  Jesus was alive. What appeared to the world to be a failure was actually a victory!!  Jesus' death brought life!  Abundant life.  What looked to be a failure, was actually a Triumph!      

"Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  1 Corinthians 15:54-55 

In the Kingdom of God, death is just the beginning of something far greater.  Whether in this life or as we enter the next life, death, in the Kingdom, is always about Resurrection.  It's always about Life.  Whether we die and leave this world and go to our home in Eternity, or whether we die to our plans, our dreams, our desires, we can always expect Life to come when we live in the Kingdom of God.  His plans for us are always far better than anything we can ever imagine.  And just when we think we are trudging through a heap of mistakes and failures, we realize it has just been part of His redemptive story all along.  Life from brokenness!!  We think there's death and decay coming, we think something is irretrievably broken, but then we see Jesus and redemption coming around the corner again saying, You, my Beloved Children, are standing in Victory.  In healing.  In reconciliation.  In restoration.  In Me.  This was all part of My triumphant story for you!  

Death. Repentance. Forgiveness. Healing. Reconciliation. Restoration. Unity. Love. Family.  

Death brings Life.  The Great Healing comes.  He is doing something new.  God is good.  Amen.   

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18-19 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Am I A Feminist?

     The other day as my daughter and I were driving she was telling me about school and how there was some heated discussion among her and some other girls in her class.  There was discussion going on about some "hot topics," you know, the one's that seem to create anger and division in our country.  Anyhow, there was discussion and debate going on between these girls. Without giving too much information away, it boiled down to my daughter posing ME with a question.  It's a question, ironically, I have been asked many, many times.  "Are you a feminist?"  My daughter asked me the same question many other people have asked me over the years. (and if I'm being honest, a question I have asked myself.)  This seems to be a question I can't get away from.  This seems to be a question, for whatever reason, people want to know the answer to. :)  Most people that know me well enough know I care deeply about women's issues.  I run an organization that fights human trafficking, with our main focus on sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.  And while men and boys most definitely can and do become victims of sex trafficking, statistics tell us approximately 90% of sex trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls.  There's a HUGE percentage of our precious women and girls in slavery today.  Slavery still exists.  Ninety percent of our beautiful women, young and old, that are captives today in the sex trade are forced to meet daily sexual quotas placed upon them by their trafficker.  Forced to have sex over and over and over again so some can get rich, and others can have their sick sexual "desires" met.  There's a need for sex trafficking victims, because there's a demand for them.  If we stop the demand, we can stop the supply.

     Needless to say, I suppose that's part of the reason why I get asked the infamous "feminist" question a lot.  However, this time now by my daughter.

     Am I a feminist?  I don't know.  Am I??  I love women, and I know I have a heart to see all women set free.  I know I want to see all women healed.  I want to see all women restored and redeemed.  I long to see all women know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves them.  Jesus loves you.  I want to see women with an unshakable, unmovable firm foundation in Jesus.  I want to see women with deep roots in Jesus.  I want to see women treated equally in all spheres of life, whether that's in the home, in schools, the workplace or in our churches.  I want to hear about and see more discussion in our churches about equality between men and women.  I want to hear about and see more discussion in our churches about abuse, whether it be domestic violence, emotional abuse or sexual abuse.  I want to hear about and see more awareness work done in our churches on sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.  I want to hear about and see more women stepping into leadership roles in our churches.  I want to see women moving in all of their God-given gifts, whether that be helping in the nursery or preaching; whether that be as an Intercessor, moving in the Prophetic, Teaching our children or the congregation for that matter; or whether that be as an Elder or Lead Pastor.  It's happening....and it's coming.   A new season is upon us.  I didn't put this desire for women in my own heart.  This is not a man-made desire.  This is a God-given desire.  God put this heart for women within me.  He's used the things of my past to put an unquenchable desire in me to see all women set free.....because He set me free.  Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." He's used the past hurts, past abuse and past brokenness from my own life to awaken in me a desire to see women fully healed and restored in Jesus.  It's only by and through Jesus that I have been fully healed and restored and it's only by and through Jesus that anyone can be fully healed and restored.

     Jesus is for women.  That's why He put this desire on my heart.  That's why you may have this desire on your heart. A book that has impacted my view on feminism is titled, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey.  In her book, Bessey talks about the baggage the word "feminist" carries, especially in our churches.  See, when we wear the label of a feminist, we can end up being judged, criticized, believed to be pushy, indignant and most often it's viewed as if one is trying to usurp power over another.  I am not sure society has always done a great job of defining what a feminist is.  There's been times I have considered myself a feminist, and there's been times I have personally shunned that label.  I can admit, it's not a label I've necessarily always wanted, and I have been personally cautious in viewing myself this way many times, especially as a woman that's a Follower of Christ.  Maybe it's because I don't fully align myself with the idea of what a feminist looks like or what a feminist believes in, at least from a secular point of view.  But this is how Bessey defines feminism and when I read her definition my heart resonated with it.  She says, "Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance - not greater than, but certainly not less than - to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women."  By Bessey's definition, I am a feminist. 

     But more importantly I am a woman madly, deeply in love with Jesus. Jesus defines who I am.  There is no other title or label I wear.  I am a Follower of Jesus.  When I die the first thing I want people to say about me and remember about me was that ANDREA LOVES JESUS.

     I can read all through the New Testament and clearly see how well Jesus loved women. Here's another quote from Bessey from Jesus Feminist and she is talking about exactly that, how Jesus loves women.  She says, "He loves us.  On our own terms.  He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens; he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us - calls us all beloved." It goes on to say, "Women were part of Jesus' teaching, part of his life.  Women were there for it all."

     Ladies, Jesus loves us!!  He welcomes us.  He enters into the deep places with us.  He calls us to Himself.  He values us.  He calls us worthy.  JESUS WAS AND STILL IS AND WILL FOREVER BE FOR WOMEN!  And He's for men.  He's for us all!!  That's the good news!  It's because of Jesus we can say, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  (Galatians 3:28)

     Do I believe we live in a world where all are equal?  No, of course not.  Is there always equality in our homes, schools, workplaces and churches?  No, there's not. That's why I do champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance - not greater than, and most certainly not less than - to those of men.  I refuse to discriminate against women of any age, and I will always be an advocate for women and use the voice and gifts the Lord has given me to speak out on behalf of women's rights.  But here's the clincher...I advocate for women from the lens of Jesus. I advocate for girls and women from the lens of what Scripture says. I will never deviate from what God says. I will never deviate from His Word.  Do I still qualify as a feminist?  I think I do.  Maybe I am a Jesus Feminist as Bessey titles her book.  You see, I don't do what I do because I'm a "feminist." I do what I do because I'm a Follower of Jesus and that's what He did!  Jesus was for women long before I came onto this earth. Jesus was an advocate to women long before me. I do what I do because I'm called to be an imitator of Jesus, and Jesus was for women being treated fairly, justly and with equality. Jesus treated women fairly, justly and with equality. Jesus always did and always will champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance.  Read the New Testament!  It's there in plain sight.  

     Do I agree with all of the thoughts, beliefs and actions of modern-day feminists? Absolutely not.  And if as a women you look down on me as another women because I believe differently than you do on certain matters, aren't you doing exactly what oppressors are doing?  That would be an oxymoron really.  I am a feminist, but with one Leader that I look to as my example, Jesus.             

     Maybe it's time to redefine what a feminist is. 

Great quote below from Ann Voskamp.  She says, "Christ didn't degrade women in His talk, but He made women heroes of His stories." So from now on when I'm asked, "Are you a feminist," my response will be "Yes, because I'm a follower of Jesus Christ." Amen.