“Changing the way I think…”

“And so, dear brothers and sisters,  I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

This is one of my favorite scriptures.  Being a late believer in our Savior, the part about “changing the way I think” has always resonated with me.  Before becoming a believer, I was very much entangled in the culture around me and the world view that comes with it.  

But when I encountered this verse, everything just clicked for me.  I understood what worship really meant: a complete surrendering of my life to God’s will.  Believe me when I tell you, it was quite a shock for me to learn that worship was not just showing up on Sunday and singing a few songs!  My world was shaken when I realized it was much more than that.  I mean, what else was I expected to do?

What I figured out was that the second verse was absolutely true.  There was no way that I could be completely surrendered to Christ without a daily renewing of my mind and the way that I thought.  Because, to be honest, that is not my natural inclination.  My true self will always seek what I want first and then consider God later.

Over the past few years, I have worked really hard on this: allowing God to transform my heart through the way I think.  And He has used a variety of ways to do it: prayer, Bible study, conversations with other believers.  But some of my most transformative moments have come during times of service, times of actually doing God’s work and not simply reading or talking about it.  When I have found myself in the midst of God’s children, doing what I am called to do, I have encountered Him in marvelous ways.  For me, there is truly nothing like it.

That is why I am so thankful for Sunday.  We have been talking all month about what good it will do for the community, the unchurched, and the disadvantaged.  And all this is true.  However, when I stop and think of what it will do for me, and my heart, then I am truly thankful for the opportunity to go and spend some time with Jesus face-to-face.  One of my other favorite verses is “Come, and enter into the joy of your master.”  I can’t wait for Sunday, and the joy that will come with it.  I hope you will all consider joining me because it will be a truly magnificent opportunity for real worship.

http://www.magiccitymiracle.org

Gracious Master,

My joy overflows in Your holy presence.  My heart sings as I imagine Your smile.  Thank You for this opportunity to commune with You through Your people.  Prepare my heart to be changed and molded more into Your image.  Renew my mind to think more like Yours.  Teach me what it means to really worship You with my actions, and not just my words.  For You are the Good Shepherd.  Your mercy and grace flows over me like a mighty rushing river.  Help me to be consumed by You.

In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,

Amen

 

“I am really struggling today, Lord…”

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.” – Psalm 5:3

I am really struggling today.  I got up this morning and had all kinds of issues to deal with that were troubling me.  Nothing catastrophic, you all probably have the same issues with children, school, work, bills, etc.  Most times I just go with the flow and keep moving.  But sometimes, like today, it seems as if they all pile on top of me and I get really down, and frustrated, and sad.

So what did I do?  I considered going back to bed.  It is my off-day and it sure was appealing to think about just lying there.  But instead I put on my walking shoes and headed down the street.  I went out into the cool morning air to meet with my Savior and talk things out – just the two of us.  And guess what?  He showed up.

Jesus showed up and whispered to me words of peace and encouragement.  His Spirit filled my heart with joy.  Yes, I poured out my soul to Him, the whiny complainer I am.  But in His grace He just walked along with me and assured me that everything was going to work out.  By the time I got home I was so happy and filled with peace.  How thankful I am that He is faithful to minister to my every need, just like a good Father should.

So I am thinking today about the unchurched.  How do they deal with days or even seasons of life’s struggles?  Where do they turn when they need encouragement or help?  I can’t imagine facing life without my Rock and my Fortress.  Because even thought my friends and family love me, they are a far cry from the affections of my Savior.

I will encounter many unchurched people this Sunday during the Magic City Miracle.  I know this because I have been reading my site’s registration sheets.  For a few hours, these folks will see the best that Christ’s church has to offer.  But I don’t want to let it stop there.  I so very much want to see people moved by what they witness, that they will actually want to visit our churches and see what this Jesus thing is all about.  I pray that my personal witness will introduce many to the heart of Jesus and lead them to seek more of Him.  

Heavenly Father,

You put before me every day a chance to witness to the world the story of Your grace and kindness.  I don’t think I do a very good job of it most days.  But I pray that on Sunday, with the support of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ, that my witness will be strong, and truthful, and will make an impact for Your kingdom.

I pray that You will prepare the hearts of all those coming to Linn Park, especially those that don’t know You.  Create in them a desire to meet You.  And fill the rest of us with the boldness to introduce them.  May many souls meet you for the first time on Sunday, and never look back.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

 

“What is it that I am supposed to do, again?”

“A person’s words can be life-giving water.”  Proverbs 18:4

 

Good morning friends!

Blessings to each of you as we start this glorious day.  My excitement is welling up over this weekend’s opportunities with the Magic City Miracle.  As I watch the volunteer numbers increase, I continue to remind myself that these are not just numbers, they are people.  

I have the privilege of being a site leader for one of the ministries.  And as such, I get a copy of each person’s registration form that has signed up for my site.  I sat down last night to read through them and two things struck me:

1.  I don’t know 90% of the people on my team;

2.  There are many that have no church affiliation.

I am guessing this will be the case for most of our teams.  As I ponder this, God is reminding me of something very important.  Everywhere I turn on Sunday will be an opportunity to share my faith.  Most of us will hit the ground running on Sunday afternoon, with enthusiasm and joy – all focused on helping those related to our service sites.  And that is wonderful.

But as I think about it, I am convinced that there is much ministry to be done with the people working beside us as well.  

As church people we are trained to be concerned for others before ourselves.  Because of that I believe there will be many good Christians in service on Sunday that have problems and issues themselves, but they will push those to the side for the benefit of people that have “problems a lot worse than mine.”  It is how we think.

And let’s think about those people coming out of the community that are unchurched.  Good people, wanting to make a difference in their community, but maybe they just have never experienced the grace and love of Jesus.

Friends, we have a wealth of opportunities in front of us to share our faith, speak words of life and encouragement, and to be witnesses for the Savior.  I encourage us all to be in prayer over our particular assignments.  Let us ask God where we might be used to build someone’s faith.  And let us faithfully consider how we might respond when those opportunities present themselves.  This, my friends, is the true work of the kingdom.

Gracious Lord,

You are so good.  And we know that You have a divine plan.  Help us, Good Shepherd, to not be so focused on the work of hands that we miss the opportunity to minister through our conversations.  Help us to really see those people that You place with us.  Give us wisdom and discernment in our interactions.  Fill each of us with Your Holy Spirit, so that when the time comes, we have the right words for those that need to hear them.  Teach us to speak life to a lost and hurting world.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit we pray,

Amen

“Who is paying for all this?”

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’” – Leviticus 23:22

Friends,

I am so excited about our upcoming Magic City Miracle on Sunday.  I hope that you have all signed up and have found the place in which God is calling you to make a difference. Just think of it.  Hundreds of people seeing the love of Christ in action, maybe for the first time.  What a witness for our good Savior.

But I have a question, and maybe some of you do as well.  “Who is paying for all this?”  I mean many of our worksites need substantial construction, renovation and improvement.  And we are simply the free labor.  Where is the money coming from that makes all this possible?

I am very thankful for and proud of our corporate sponsors that have stepped up and provided the necessary funding for these many needed projects.  Without them, the “miracle” would not happen.  In reflecting upon their generosity, I am led to this scripture in Leviticus.  

See, in biblical times, charitable giving was part of the law.  God set it up that way and if you were a landowner (today’s business owner) you were required to leave a portion of your harvest in the fields to feed those that needed help.  And, as a side note, this donation was not considered part of your giving to the church.  It was above and beyond your 10% offering to the Lord.

But this was a law and cultural custom that was adhered to for hundreds of years (see the Book of Ruth.) Unfortunately, not all of corporate America operates this way today.  So this makes me extra thankful for the corporate citizens who have budgeted and created cashflow out of their own operating funds to make sure the needs of the less fortunate are met this Sunday.

Please pray for their well being with me, and if you run into anyone from these companies on Sunday, remember to say thanks.

  • Alabama’s 13 WVTM
  • Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP
  • Hygia Health Services
  • Patient Engagement Advisors
  • Serra Toyota
  • Dunn Building Company
  • Balch & Bingham, LLP
  • KBR
  • American Family Care
  • Community Food Bank
  • Alabama Power
  • United Methodist Communications

 

Dearest God Almighty,

You are the Maker of heaven and earth.  You have always had a plan to care for Your children.  Thank You for these corporate sponsors that heed Your call and operate for more than just the bottom line.  Pour out Your blessings upon them.  May they flourish and enjoy great success in their given fields.  May Your hand continually guide them in their dealings, and may each one be viewed as a light for Christ in our community.  We pray that Your Holy Spirit would penetrate every facet of their business and that every employee within their walls would be led to Your saving grace.

We ask these things in Christ’s holy name,

Amen

http://www.magiccitymiracle.org

 

 

 

 

“My bursitis is acting up…”

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you”

Isaiah 46:4

Well, I’ve tried to hide it, but it’s becoming pretty obvious.  My body is completely breaking down: gray hair, bifocals, fallen arches, joint problems, the list goes on.  I even found myself in a discussion with a friend not long ago, commenting on the fact that now, instead of Victoria’s Secret catalogs, I am getting Orthotic Shoe catalogs and really finding some good deals.  WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT??

I always said I planned to age gracefully, but that was like, 20 years from now.  So I have spent the last few years trying to cover up my decline.  Bottles and creams, vitamins, and dyes… I have tried it all.

But I realized today that even my eyebrows are turning gray.  What am I going to do now?  To what extremes am I willing to go in order create a false image of myself?  And I wonder why this is such an obsession for me.  In many countries, age is representative of wisdom and experience.  The aged are revered and respected.  But not here, in our culture.  Here, we fear getting older and fight it with every chemical at our disposal.

I fear that our culture is losing a valuable asset in our aging population.  We are losing a wealth of experience, knowledge, and yes, church tradition.  Where will we be in the next generation if we don’t stop and embrace the value that comes from this season of life?

I am so very thankful for those organizations that work to serve the aging in our community.  These folks not only take care of and support our older population, but most tell me how much they learn from them.  May we all take note and follow their good example.

If you have a heart for our elders, please consider joining one of our many service sites on Magic City Miracle Day:  Fairhaven, Trade Towers, Cherry Hill, Greenbrier, and others.  It will be a blessing not only for the residents of these facilities, but for you as well.

http://www.magiccitymiracle.org

Heavenly Father,

Blessed by Your name as You walk through every season of my life.  The older I get, the more I am assured of Your grace and love for me.  Help me to care for those that have gone before me.  Give me the wisdom to see the value that they are to our community.  And show me how best I am to express respect and love for the aged in my community.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

“Second, Third, and Fourth Chances…”

God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.” – 2 Peter 3:9

I was driving down the road the other day and my 7-year-old said something that truly spoke to my soul.  She said, “I know what the best part is about being a mom is.”  Hmmm.  Interesting… Lay it on me, Hope.  “The best part about being a mom is giving your kids a chance.”  A chance? A chance to do what?  “You know Mom, a chance to do good.  Like when I mess up, you always give me a chance to do better.  And I see how happy that makes you.”

She is right.  I am her biggest cheerleader.  And I always want to make sure she gets a second chance when she makes a mistake.  I believe that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit living inside me, to be an extravagant grace dispenser to my children.  And, as much as I desire this for my own children, I can only imagine how much God desires it for each of us, His children.

My gratitude is immeasurable for the grace that my loving Father has shown me.  So many times I have messed up and made the wrong choices.  But God is always there to give me a second, third and sometimes fourth chance to make things right.  His mercies are new every morning, and I am thankful that my course in life is not determined by my mistakes alone.

I am thankful today for those organizations in our community that are truly grace dispensers in the world.  Those people who are dedicated to helping people to have a second chance and to make better decisions with their futures.  I ask you all to pray with me for the well-being and stability of those organizations that we will be supporting with the Magic City Miracle:  The Lovelady Center, The Foundry, and the Shepherd’s Fold.

If you would like to learn more about our mission with these organizations, please visit our event website:

http://www.magiccitymiracle.org

Most Gracious Redeemer,

You are a merciful God; One who always believes in second chances.  I thank You for those chances You have given me to make my wrongs right.  Give me the heart of a grace dispenser for all people.  Give me the boldness to declare Your goodness and mercy to everyone I encounter, that they might have the hope of redemption that I depend on.  Use me Lord, as an instrument of Your grace in a broken world.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

“Coming out of my haze…”

“He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
     He renews my strength.”

Psalm 23:2-3

Have you ever had a day in which you just couldn’t take another step?  I had one of those yesterday.  I made it home barely, didn’t cook dinner, and collapsed.  Literally.  At 6:00 p.m., Don left with Hope for softball practice.  I gave my baby a bath, read a story and we both fell asleep at 6:30.  I woke up at 6:30 this morning.  What happened?

I thought about it some as I worked my way out of my haze this morning.  Until I began my devotional time, I hadn’t realized how stressful my life has been for the past few weeks.  I think, that yesterday I just hit my limit.  Mentally, Physically and emotionally I had all I could take for a while and my body just stopped.

Have any of you ever had times like that?  I woke up very thankful for Don, who handled everything for me, very thankful for my bed, and very thankful for a body that will quit before it does permanent damage to itself.  And each one is a gift from God.  He really does lead me to rest when I need it.

I am also thinking of folks dealing with periods of prolonged stress:  sickness of a child, joblessness, homelessness, etc.  I am thankful for the organizations that create green meadows for those folks who desperately need it.  We have the opportunity to help these organizations at our upcoming Magic City Miracle.

These are just a few of the organizations that attempt to provide a rest and relief for people in highly stressful situations: Micah’s House, First Light, Red Barn, Pathway Home, and Hope House.

I am thankful for these agencies and encourage everyone to check out the MCM website and learn more about how they serve our community.   Maybe God will lead you to support their efforts.

http://www.magiccitymiracle.org

Be blessed my friends.

Gracious Lord,

You really are my Good Shepherd,

I thank You for providing everything I need, even when I don’t realize it.  I pray for all organizations in our communities that seek to provide a safe and peaceful place for people to encounter You as they deal with catastrophic life events.  May these organizations flourish under Your leadership, and may I be used in any way you see fit to support their efforts.

Thank You my King,

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen