Aurora. A-Town. East Side. Ghetto. Ethnic. But for me, A-Town has been home for the past 11 years.
It’s been good to me. To my family. The delicious food from hole-in-the-wall joints – the best Mexican, Italian, Fried Chicken or Korean food can be found within a 5 block radius. The beautiful spectrum of colorful people from every race. The endless strip malls. The excellent Thrift stores. Mark and I became “locals” and people knew our names at our favorite places. We were always proud to call A-town our home…but we were called to move on.
We moved to Highlands Ranch 2 months ago – an affluent white community. Parks instead of strip malls. Target instead of Thrift Stores. Whole Foods instead of local food joints. And an endless supply of white folks.
And the most noticeable difference was the Comcast store. Aurora Comcast store is like the bottom of someone’s old crusty basement. Dirty, sad and cramped with families with screaming children that are ready to get the heck outta there. They call your number to a small booth similar to the DMV. You feel like you are in trouble for getting a DVR because the grumpy CSR hates being there as much as you do. I thought this was the norm for Comcast brick and mortar stores.
My first order of business when we moved to Highlands Ranch was to cancel our cable. I finally found the closest store to my new home and made the dreaded trip. To my utter shock and unbelief, the Highlands Ranch Comcast store was big, bright, beautiful, with comfy seating, huge TVs playing delightful programming, iPad stations for kids to play and happy CSRs offering me refreshments as I wait. What did I stumble upon…Comcast heaven?
I was just getting used to my cleaner, newer, and whiter community when sadness struck me like a stone. Families who pay the same amount of money for cable should be able to enjoy “Comcast heaven”…regardless of their area of town. I know it’s just a stilly cable location but does it say something bigger about our society. Are we OK with “colorful” communities getting crappier services even though they pay the same amount for those services? Are we conditioning our Ethnic communities to expect less so we can give them less. And then I was angry. Money is still green. Not white. Not black. Not brown. Or is it?
As we continue adapting to our new community, I pray that Jesus will give me a voice and heart for people who are treated as if they are of less value than others.
Every Sunday is the same. Wake up. Rush out of the house. Hope our daughters are fully dressed and smell good enough that the nursery workers don’t question our parenting. Open the church. Hand off our children to the first unassuming volunteer that shows up. Rehearse. Pray for 20 seconds. Bathroom. Hellos. Back on stage before the countdown video is over. Welcome the congregation. Worship Jesus. Wonder why no one in the congregation looks “into” it. Beat ourselves up over the missed cue and wrong notes. That must be the reason we had so many “mouth breathers”…maybe it’s just the 9 am crowd. Try again for the 10:30 crowd. Same response from the congregation except the lively couple in the back willing to clap on the fast songs and raise a hand on the slow song. It must be the volume. Or the transitions. Or the lighting. Or the song selection…yes, that’s it, the song selection. Need more moody music. No, more joyful music. Go home. Wait…did we get the kids? Oh, whew, there they are. Now go home. Dissect the morning. Replay all of the conversations and cherish the precious encouragement from a few of the congregants. Crash on the bed and snuggle with our babies. Do it all again the next week.
Last night, I
realized firmly-yet-lovingly heard from the Holy Spirit, I have not diligently, fervently, consistently asked the Holy Spirit to move our congregation in deeper worship to ultimately know Jesus and see him more clearly. While I believe it is very important to create an atmosphere that facilitates worshipping Jesus through song selection and environmental elements, we must never believe the lie that we can stir hearts in our own power.
We must have a genuine love for our congregation and humbly usher them to the throne room of Jesus and then allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that only he can do…bring freedom, healing, restoration, surrender, revelation, intimacy and joy through worship. We must pray to see lives transformed, salvations and power through the surrendering act of worship.
We have seen magnificent worship in a rec room with an out-of-tune guitar and off-key singer…and we have seen lifeless worship in a beautiful sanctuary with world-class musicians.
As we build the house of worship…let us never neglect the one who fills the house with his Spirit. Will you pray with me for Sunday?
So many people I love are experiencing spiritual, physical and emotional attacks from Satan. Sometimes, we shy away from calling an attack what it is because we don’t want to seem like “crazy Christians” blaming everything on the Devil. However, attacks are very real and it’s important to recognize when it’s time to pray against, fight and squelch the fiery darts from the enemy.
On the other hand, there is another another kind of fire that we experience that also brings a different form of suffering…the refining fire of Jesus. It is also important to recognize this type of fire and suffering in order to submit to the loving, divine hand of God.
There is a bright side though. Both types of suffering can be redeemed by Jesus to increase your faith, bring ultimate joy and give you peace that surpasses understanding. Let’s not forget what scripture says:
Genesis 50:20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Romans 8:28: God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.
Let’s take a look at the differences between Fiery Darts and the Refining Fire:
Fiery Darts (kill, steal, destroy):
- Sickness in our mind or body
- Fighting in our marriage
- Stolen or broken possessions
- Lack of faith, doubt
- Opposition, false witness against you
Refining Fire (repentance, surrender):
- Capture or prosecution for your faith in Christ
- Exposure of sin
- A call to repentance
- A call to lay down possessions
- A call to lay down idols
- A call to lay down toxic relationships
- A call to uproot, move, or serve in a new capacity
- Consequences of sin
- Waiting for an answer
- Living with very little financial resources
How shall we pray if we are unsure what is causing our suffering? Pray like Paul:
- Pray for increased wisdom and ability to make wise choices under pressure.
- Pray for a genuine love for others.
- Pray for strength to endure so you won’t give up.
- Pray for the willingness to trust God for the impossible.
- Pray for the ability to live a life that is pleasing to Christ.
- Pray that you might grow in thankfulness to God.
- Pray for joy and cheerfulness in the midst of trials.
- Pray for power from the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and preach the Gospel.
Are you suffering today? Allow Jesus to redeem your suffering to lead you into increased faith, ultimate joy and peace that surpasses understanding.
The past few months have been especially difficult for me. I have been struggling with guilt, brokenness, regret, hopelessness, confusion and anxiety.
Over the weekend, the love of Jesus broke through all of that. I heard so clearly – I’m not just forgiven. I’m FREE.
Free from sin, brokenness, bondage, guilt, shame, hopelessness.
The slavery mentality is rampant among Christians. Paul repeatedly addressed Christians that were still living like they were slaves – even after Jesus set them free. I see defeated Christians all of the time. Complaining, broken, crushed, wounded, hurt, defeated, hopeless Christians. Christians that are slaves to their circumstances. Christians with no life or joy in them. They have accepted forgiveness but not freedom.
Yes, we will have trials. Yes, we will suffer. But again, those things are meant to give us more faith, ultimate joy, and peace that surpasses understanding.
Does this mean we are to put on a happy face? Hide our suffering? No! Jesus calls all who are wounded and broken hearted to himself. Come into the family of Christ with your baggage. Share it with your brothers and sisters. Repent and be cleansed. And then…lay it down at the feet of Jesus. And then…lay it down again. And then…lay it down again. Until your chains are broken.
We are designed for hope. For power. For joy. For love. For victory. For freedom.
It’s time to COME ALIVE in the freedom of Christ. Today.
Citipointe Live – We’ve Come Alive
I posted this on Facebook last year after a sweet friend past away. Today is the 1 year anniversary of her joining with Christ and death from this earth.
It has been a little over a month since my life has been completely rocked. I feel it’s incredibly important to share this story with as many people as I can tell. Many of you know that Krystle Dawn passed away unexpectedly in a car accident last month, but what many of you don’t know is that her simple love for Jesus and desire to be in the glory of God has been the single most radical life-altering event in my life.
I want to describe what happened. Mark and I made a last minute decision to make the 7-hour drive to Roswell. I had an urgency to get there. I just knew that something life changing was awaiting me (little did I know the total impact it would have.) I was anxious on so many levels. Saying goodbye to a sweet and talented girl that I admired in high-school, seeing all of my school mates after 12 years, facing my past, embracing the reality of the death of a young single mom – it was all so utterly impossible. Mark and I prayed while driving down historic Route 66. We grasped to life while basking in the hope of heaven. When we got to the church, parking was already sprawled out of the parking lot and blocks away. I clung to Mark’s hand as we entered the building. I knew there were many who made the journey to pay homage…to celebrate Krystle’s life…to worship our Creator. We walked in to find that every seat in the 400 person sanctuary was already filled – except the spots reserved in the front for the family. Every spot along the wall was already two people deep. We snuck in the back to find a spot where we could see. I glanced around to see familiar faces from my youth. Faces that I couldn’t even put names to anymore. As the precious family came through the back doors, my heart fell to the ground. Each one of them has played a vital roll in shaping my adoration for the Father. From worship pastor to choir director to school principal – this family had placed so many anchors in my life. I had spent the past 12 years running from Roswell and everything it held, but now my past looked so beautiful and precious. Their tears were precious. Their gracious smiles were precious. Their unyielding faith was precious. I knew at that moment that God had given me an incredible gift in my Gateway family. The service started with worship music being led by the voice of an angel…Krystle. They had recordings of her singing and we sang along. It was surreal to hear her voice and know she wasn’t here anymore. Then, her father gave a beautiful account of her love for Jesus, her love for her family and brought joy and humor to the whole ordeal. Next, was a breathtaking slideshow of pictures and videos of her life.
And then, what happened next, is the part that captivated me. Her family had a video of her sharing her testimony from a recent missions trip to Africa. The video was about an hour long and it was more of a sermon than a testimony. She was speaking of the importance of the Holy Spirit. She said the most precious gift we can receive from Jesus, along with our salvation, is the Holy Spirit. She spoke of the intimacy we can have from this precious gift. How the Holy Spirit is active and powerful in our lives if we receive this incredible gift. She recounted a moment in Africa where she experienced the Holy Spirit in a powerful way. She said she was worshiping God with her missionary team and she was overcome like a mighty rushing wind and suddenly she was in the “LAP OF JESUS AND AT THE FOOT OF THE FATHER.” These words stuck to me like glue. She said this was the best moment of her life. Better than when she had her children or her wedding day. This was the moment she cherished above all. She ached to be in the Glory of God again…she said that’s where she belongs. I believe she had a glimpse of heaven and she shared it with us that day. It was beautiful, glorious and powerful.
She then finished her sermon with an invitation to know Jesus and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The video ended…and her father took to the stage. He honored Krystle by asking the 600+ people in the room if they would like to know Jesus and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. In all, about 30 people raised their hand at that funeral. It was incredible – she gave an alter call at her own funeral. This might be the first time that has ever happened. We worshiped some more, hugged the precious family, saw Krystle’s body one last time and then it was over. I have thought about Krystle and this funeral every single day. I have obsessed about it. I have sought out the Holy Spirit to show me his Glory and to reveal himself to me like he did to Krystle. And he has…
A few weeks ago, I was telling a friend about this funeral. When I told her that Krystle had been in the “LAP OF JESUS AND THE FOOT OF THE FATHER” when she was in Africa, her eyes widened and her face went pale. I asked her what was wrong. She smiled for a second and said that the little boy who experienced Heaven in the bestseller book “Heaven is for Real” described the exact same thing. I had never read the book but I immediately poured over it. I was overwhelmed by what I read. It was all the confirmation I needed to know that Krystle had caught a glimpse of heaven and she was there now – basking in God’s Glory just as she had hoped for. For those of you who could not be at the funeral, I hope this comforts you. As for me, I am experiencing a revival in my heart for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I urge you today to ask the Holy Spirit for power…for revelation…for comfort…for counsel…for anything that will draw you closer to Him. Krystle Dawn was passionate about the Holy Spirit and now I am too.
I was radically saved at the age of 11. I lied to my parents and told them I was going somewhere with my big brother. Instead, I wound up at a Christian rock concert at church. By the end of the night, I was on my face on the front row crying my eyes out. I was a sinner in need of a savior. From that moment on, I was addicted to Jesus – on the front row, bible in hand, hands lifted high, praying for my school mates and leading worship. It felt just as real and passionate at the age of 11 as it does now…maybe even more.
I just got the opportunity to teach some 4 & 5th graders, ages 10 and 11. I was making excuses for them for not paying attention, not being passionate about Jesus’ sacrifice…because they are just “kids”. They knew the bible stories but they had no evidence of desiring God. So often, we don’t expect children to be capable of belief, devotion and passion in Jesus but that’s just not true. My own experience tells me that’s not true. My new goal over the next few weeks with these students is to provide a real opportunity for salvation, spark passion and encourage devotion. I will not teach another bible story for the sake of head knowledge.
It’s time for the next level and these students are more than capable of responding to the greatest love they will ever know!
This is the most important week of celebration in the Christian faith. My anticipation is bursting at the seams to celebrate the journey to Calvary. This week, I’m painfully aware of my sinful heart. I’m suddenly attuned to my deep need for a Savior. It makes the celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice even more triumphant. I think about sharing the Gospel to people all of the time and the one thing that stops me every time is my fear that they won’t see their need for a Savior. That our world has made them feel so comfortable and so good about themselves that they do not even know they need salvation. Everyone seems so content with their life.
Of course, this is my own logic getting in the way. Even though people might look shiny and happy on the outside, it is impossible to have real joy outside of God. It is impossible to fully live outside of Christ.Every single person who has not put their hope in Christ is hurting and dying. I must remember that every day. As the celebration of the cross and Resurrection draw nearer, I am determined to share the salvation that awaits the hurt, dying, broken, lonely, guilty, and shameful.
With Christ, all things are possible.