IF:Gathering and Modern Day Revival

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nehemiah 8:1-12
All the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate.  They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding.  While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women and those who could understand.  All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.  Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform made for this purpose.  Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, ad Maaseiah stood beside him on his right; to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people, since he was elevated above everyone.  As he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and with their hands uplifted all the people said, "Amen, Amen!" Then they bowed and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the law to the people as they stood in their places.  They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.   Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all of them, "This day is holy to the Lord your God.  Do no mourn or weep."  For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.  Then he said to them, "Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those that have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold."  And the Levites quieted all the people saying, "Be still, since today is holy.  Do not grieve."  Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them."

In my Bible study on Nehemiah, it asked the question: "Do you think America is ripe for another 'great awakening'?" It went on to site those in our past: one in the mid-1700's, another in the early 1800's and a third that began just before the Civil War and continued until the end of the 19th century.

 I am not a biblical scholar and I've only been alive 36  years so I don't have a lot of context, but I will say that we are a generation (speaking for Christian women whose hearts are devoted to God)  that see through the lies.  That doesn't mean we don't get distracted, have our own worries and cares, but when we see authenticity, not only do we latch on, but we desperately thirst for it our own lives, for our children who need a compass , for family members who are in so deep to any kind of whatever, we know the only thing that can fix it is Jesus.  And after we lay all that down at the foot of the cross, we start looking beyond ourselves, our country, our walls and we peer over and we see hurt, suffering, death, persecution, famine.  And we crave, again, the words of the God who made all this, the one who conquered death. 

I sat among 100ish other ladies gathered around a round tables in a dark auditorium to view our little slice of the web space for the IF:Gathering telecast a few weekends ago.  Singing the very first song, the waterworks started.  I'm glad the music was loud, because it wasn't a pretty, God-is-so-beautiful crying it was an ugly, snotty-nose-God-is-in-this-place kind of crying that went on and on.  A dam had been released on my face.

Throughout the weekend women of God, women of my generation stood and explained Joshua 1 to us, some started at the very beginning of the story, some in the middle, others looked at what got Joshua to this period of heading in to the Promised Land.

Christine Cain spoke of dismounting dead horses.  God is the God of I AM, not was.  Move On.  God said to Joshua, "Get ready."    We MUST be ready.  How do we get ready?  Exodus 17: 8-9 Joshua was fighting while his leader was leading. 

-She said SERVICE prepares us for the battle.  We must be ready to lay down our life.  When you are ready, God will find you.  Joshua lingered in the tabernacle.

-She said the call of God is inconvenient

-She said, you need God MORE than:
1) your gift
2) your talent
3) your platform

-Only be strong and courageous proactively, being faithful, not necessarily fearless
The key to a believing life is to keep this book of the law always on our lips.  Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10: 17)

Bianca Olthoff spoke of the 133 promises in the Bible for believers.  She said that God wants our faithfulness in everything.  Results are God's responsibility, the response is ours.

Jennie Allen said the Promised Land is the souls of men.

Jen Hatmaker explored reasons why we struggle to believe God.

I came away filled, stunned, challenged, energized.  This was about the one life that I have to live for a God that created me and loves me and promises to be with me.  This is about reckless abandon for the kingdom of God.  Because, if today was my last day on earth, am I now doing the thing that My Master could say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."? God's been stirring some things up in my heart and it's just not pretty, because my heart is ugly and selfish and just plain tired sometimes (or maybe that's my body) but it also sees that God wants our devotion. I will share this one last thing: I wasn't the only one at my table of 5-6 women (the event was over 2 days, so there was some coming and going) that was moved, there was some serious stirring up.  Women were addressing issues that they had held on to for 10-15 years, the Holy Spirit was there, God was speaking and we, just like the Israelites, were hungry for His word.


Stand firm...and Pray

Saturday, February 21, 2015

God knows and he sends what we need when we need it. 

Ms. Julie, I know has been praying for me over these past few weeks since our last conversation.  I told her of the tiny green plans shooting up through my heart and she has been praying, because I know that's what she does, so when I "ran" into her at church the other night and we spoke in our God-code, I told her that I was reading Annie Downs' new book, "Let's All Be Brave" and said I needed it. I said the words, "be strong and very courageous" three times, just like the God to Joshua and then she reminded me:

Stand.
Stand.
Stand.

"Yep, right there in Ephesians 6, Rachel, in the context of putting on the full armor of God."

I smiled because this woman is God's heart for me.  She is a mom and she understands, and she is a woman of God and desires the best for her children, too.

My heart melted a little because I make a point to pray that full armor every morning over Little A, friends and family and here we are reminded:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:13-17)

And we must not forget this:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. (18)

Let getting dressed in all of this armor not be the end.  Stand firm and pray.


Want to share any ways God's helping you to stand firm right now?

How Our Goal-Setting Should Begin: A Look at Ezra

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I know, I know, we're already through January and I'm just now talking about goals, but perhaps this is the best time, no?  Certainly all your New Year's Resolutions are in full swing and are being brilliantly executed, or...

You might be saying:

"I've got my five and room for no more, no siree, ain't gettin' any more goals in me this year."

or

(insert flies buzzing around face) "Huh, goals?"

So, if you don't mind, indulge me with five minutes of your time, surely you can spare it on the treadmill as you reach your goal of running a 90K this year.

Let's back up a little in time to the book of Ezra, all the way to 538 B.C....To give you some context: after King Cyrus of Persia overthrew Babylon in 539 B.C., he established a new policy toward the Jews living in exile, they were permitted to return to their homeland and reestablish their worship of God.  Adding to that, Cyrus gave the returnees over 5,000 gold and silver items that the Babylonians had looted from the temple before burning it. (Talk about God's favor!)  More than 42,000 Jews followed Zerubbabel in returning to the promised land...

A second group of exiles, led by Ezra the priest returned around 458 B.C. (approximately 80 years later).

This first group worked carefully to build the altar on the exact location on where it had stood before, signifying their dedication to God, and other groups joined in to help.  Things were going well for a while, but, many times, as we can see in our own lives, this work is not without it's opposition, there was jealousy and bribery of officials to frustrate construction plans.  Enemy groups wrote complaint letters to the Persian king, accusing the Jews of rebellion, convincing the king, too, that once their city is built he will lose all revenue to his land, the king in turn halts the work.  And yet God's work continues under a new regime (King Darius) years later and the temple is completed and dedicated.

They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, Kings of Persia.  The temple was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. (Ezra 6:14b-15)

They celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy, offered sacrifices and installed priest and servants to God all according the book of the Law of Moses.  And here is beauty: On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover.  So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel.  For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in work on the house of God, the God of Israel. (6:19-22)

Spotlight on Ezra, entering Jerusalem, guided by God's righteous, protective hand and he kept it simple, as he assumed his position as prophet, priest and the man who, under God, would lead this reformed, chosen nation.  Yes, there was rejoicing and joy, but this man had his work cut out for him as we will see later in this book, so this man of God committed to:

1) study the law: the revealing the Lord's nature and character
2) obeying the law
3) teach the law among God's people. (7:10)

This man's life was marked by three ingredients, I believe, are crucial to strong leadership and are key to making sure he met his commitments:

Courage (def.) the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

Vision (def.) something that you imagine: a picture that you see in your mind

Sacrifice (def.) the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

How can we apply these same tasks in our very own lives?  These action points, coupled with the characteristics above provide an invaluable framework from which to base your goals:

-How will you study the Bible this year?
-How will you obey it?
-How will you teach others about it?

So what three practical, spiritual goals can you commit to for this year?  Make them simple, but above all else, make them Christ-centered you won't regret continuing your year this way.

Care to share any of your goals from this year?


Another Conversation with Miss Julie

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Ok, so we know that nothing happens outside of God's mighty hand, so when I ran into Miss Julie the other night at church, I knew once again that this was a God-appointment.  I hadn't seen her in a few weeks, and that's unusual, so of course she had been on my mind.  We ran into each other in the hall, right after I had finished my sign language class.

Sometimes I feel like if there was a fly on the wall during any one of our conversations that that fly would be sitting there scratching his buggy-multi-eyed head.  It's almost like we speak in code, because we get it.  We want to see His kingdom come, we want to see His will be done and we want it, especially, in the lives of children. 

Me: I'm taking a sign language class!

M.J.: How wonderful and what a coincidence, I just asked Mr. Smith* (one of the guys who is an interpreter in the deaf section of our church) to come into our class and teach us the signs for "Jesus Loves Me." 

She did the sign for Him.  Her head tilted and looked up to the ceiling and her hands came close together in front of her face and pointed in the same direction that her eyes were gazing.  Then she showed me the sign for weak: left hand out and palm up with the right hand, fingers down and tips resting on the palm with the fingers buckling back and forth like little weak knees.  And the tears filled my eyelids and things got quiet and we stood there, on the brink of waterworks because that is just how our interactions usually are. 

Here we are on this planet, little weak knees, trembling in the hand of an Almighty God who is simply asking us to look up to him and stay focused there. 

Yes, Jesus Loves Us.

*name changed

A Year-End Thank You

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Father, I praise you and thank you for how great and wonderful you are.  You live in unapproachable light and yet you chose the still darkness of a silent night, a pitch-dark stable to make your appearance so that your light could speak for itself--so your messengers, your angels could come and proclaim the miracle of your birth.

You are the one whom no one has seen or can see, yet you made your appearance in the most vulnerable way possible--a squirming, hungry, fussy little baby--you allowed us to behold your glory.  Your first heavenly message came, not to the religious officials, kings, queens or diplomats, but was announced to a very scared and very young woman and an uncertain but somehow remarkably strong man named Joseph and finally, to a group of men who were considered so unclean that they had no place even close to the temple.  Your glory became abased for us, your splendor wrapped in strips cloth and your majesty confined to a tiny little stable and yet you, like your Father, love the world.

There are no words to say but "thank you."

Now we bow our heads and we humble our hearts and we reflect on a year of how good you are, how you pour out your love in big and small ways--how we, if we pause can find the greatest gifts in our own home, sitting next to us on the couch, munching cereal at the breakfast table and requesting toilet paper from the bathroom door.


We say "thank you" for the moments of "oh my goodness!" and for the moments of sheer "help me." Because you are you and you never leave us, never forsake us because you live in us.  Amen.

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