the first shall be last

I have often wondered about the celebrity culture that we live in. Why do movie stars, and performance musicians draw such awe and fandom? When you go to a concert, or a movie, even a major sporting event people fawn over celebrities. Once i was at a major league baseball game and when Ken Griffey Jr. was announced the entire stadium erupted with applause and rose to a standing ovation. Everyone except me that is. I sat there kind of dumbstruck because first of all i was not a baseball fan and i had no idea who this guy was. The other reason was, i never saw baseball players, or artists, or actors or musicians of any kind as being special or better than me. Not that i saw myself as being better than anyone, but i just did not ever find any reason to worship another human being in such a way.

Enter christian celebrity culture and now i am even more perplexed. I wonder why certain christians are elevated to such a high level of influence or fame in the church as we know it. Certainly when God anoints you to do a specific task for Him it comes with a level of influence and notoriety. But in our celebrity culture we have taken this to, in my opinion, unhealthy extremes. We have begun to elevate the minister over the Spirit.

We flock to “worship concerts” because our favorite band is leading worship. (Even when we don’t engage in worship at our church, or on our own.) We spare no expense to attend the latest conference or seminar simply because our favorite speaker is speaking. (Even when we skip church often, or don’t even pick up the Word.) The ones who get called to speak at those conferences and seminars, or to lead worship at those events must have a name because those names will draw the crowd we desire. And that is what inevitably it’s about, drawing the crowd.

But Jesus didn’t say “Get really famous so you can draw a crowd”. He said “go, preach, heal.” Not to say that Jesus did not draw a crowd, He did, but remember it was the very crowd that He drew that turned on Him. That’s a scary thought.

We have been so busy teaching and indoctrinating generations that they have a major “call” on their lives. We also force feed them this mantra of greatness, and chasing their dreams. But what of the quiet and peaceable life that Paul taught us to live? If everyone is the preacher who then is the student? And why do we push young believers to seek a platform? Why is no one actually going into the streets and doing what Jesus asked us to? Why only platforms in large arenas and churches? Why expect others to come to us? And why only minister to fellow christians?

There are hundreds of thousands of believers everywhere today who are not super influential. They are not famous, they may not even have a ministry or minister anywhere. Yet they have just as much anointing, call, wisdom, and access to the throne of power as any of the celebrity christians we worship. Yet these humble believers go unnoticed. Their voice, their ministry goes unheard of. Perhaps their testimony is one that could shake mountains and change nations, yet they are there on the back burner, invisible in obscurity.

Does this mean there is something wrong with them? Did they do something wrong? Have they been sidelined or limited by God because they weren’t good enough, worthy enough, prepared enough? I have a feeling the answer is no. If God will use a donkey He will use even the most broken of humans. He used Saul the christian killer to bring the pure message of the gospel of grace didn’t He? No I believe they are right in the middle of the field ripe for harvest that Christ spoke of.

No these believers are some of the last, the least, the lowly. They didn’t know the right people, so doors weren’t opened for them. They didn’t have enough money to buy into that gig, so they were turned away. Perhaps they were taught that you do not invite yourself to do things, so they waited for someone to notice, to hear, to value them, but they were invisible, no one saw them. These believers, every bit as anointed and powerful as the super pop culture celebrity christians, go overlooked, underappreciated, and often discouraged every day.  But their voice isn’t any less important.

To those believers i want to say thank you. Thank you for continuing to be you, for not quitting, for not giving up. Thank you for being a light in any small way that you can be. Thank you for being a fire that lights the darkness every day in your daily life. Any one could put on a fancy conference and have their name in lights, sweep into a city one day, and sweep out the next, charging an arm and a leg to hear their ministry. But you? You are the faithful that go unpaid, and often un-thanked for your faithful continuance in doing good in preaching the gospel through acts of love and service.

See it isn’t the mega-church worship leading, pastoring, conferencing, televised, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, celebrity acts that bring heaven to earth. They may have their part, but i promise you, the things that make an impact, and change lives are much more simple.

They are the smiles you give at the grocery store. The moments you sit with your child watching stupid you tube videos and laughing. They are the moments you stop and  help someone pick up the books they dropped, or shovel the neighbors walk. The things that impact the world are the seemingly random acts of kindness that you do, when you know full well that they are not at all random. They are purposeful and intentional because you know that the world needs more kindness, love and patience.

So thank you. Thank you for being the invisible ones that walk out your faith with sincerity in obscurity, and hope. Thank you for being love in the hard places, light in the dark places, and hope in this world. We could use fewer conferences, and more community service days. What we need are less seminars and more prayer meetings. We don’t need any more names in lights but we do need to light up one Name, Jesus. And your faithfulness to Him, even when you are invisible brings a smile to His face.

 

Remember His words. “So the last will be first and the first, last”. Don’t worry if you seem to be coming in last, because the losers get the crown.

 

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remember why

I’ve been writing a lot lately. Not here on my blog obviously, i have neglected that for too long. No. I’ve been working on my book “Forgiving God”. I am nearly halfway done with the first draft, and it has been an uphill battle the whole way. Each time i think i am doing well, i hit a wall. And each time i hit that wall i almost give up. Then i remember the reason why i am writing the book and i start writing again.

I am a speaker by nature. I can tell you ten thousand stories, recite hundreds of songs word for word, and quote scripture by heart. Yet when it comes time to write this book it is like an actual torture session. I have no idea what is taking place in the spirit as this book is being birthed but i cannot wait to see what it looks like when it is finished. It really has been a labor of love so far.

See my story is not that special. I have nothing notable about my life. I am not famous, or rich. I do not have the name, or the “package’ so to speak. I am just a woman, raising her kids, loving her family trying to do something that might leave a legacy when i am gone. But i believe that my story, though not extraordinary, is one that will connect with many. No i wasn’t in the twin towers as they collapsed. I haven’t seen dead raised, or limbs grow out like a powerful missionary evangelist. But how much do we really relate to those people?

No my story is pretty ordinary, and takes place every day in every city around the world. People everywhere live lives that are similar to mine. They wrestle with the same questions, and doubts. They fear similar things, and they have had experiences that they cannot really open up and talk about to get help, just like me. And they need answers. Some of them don’t even realize what they are looking for they are just aching. That is where my story needs read.

In the home of a woman who was raped. In the bedroom of the teen who feels unloved. In the backseat of a car where sits a suicidal, broken individual wanting to know the pain ends. That is why i am writing. I remind myself this every time i want to give up because it is difficult.

So this blog is for me. It is so i can say, “Remember Martha that this is not about you. Yes you lived that life, and yes it is painful to open up and write about those long held secrets. No you don’t want people to know because yes some of them will judge you. But for the ones who feel the same way as you, the lost ones, the broken ones, the hurting ones, WRITE. Write it out in tears. Write it out in love. Write it through the pain, and the anxiety, and the PTSD triggers. Write because when you were hurting no one was writing for you. Write because when you needed help there was none, but you can be that help. Remember now that your story, is part of His-story. And one day you will see that He makes all things work together for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Write for love’s sake.”

 

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on the topic of love

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I have to rant. This is a topic that  just pushes my buttons. (Maybe i’m called to dispel this horrible lie, i’m not sure…)

I have heard it from the mouth of preachers time and again, that love is not just an emotion it is an action. Love is a choice. The choice to do what is good, and right, and kind, and true, no matter the circumstance. Love is your way of giving back to God, your way of proving you really believe. Love is your conscious effort to be a god-follower.

I cannot tell you how much this aggravates me, because this is not true. Not even a little.

Love is an emotion. Love bubbles up from deep within your heart where your heart is bent towards someone. Love is an turning of the heart towards the object of one’s affection and the outward display of that love is an action. True love cannot be seen without action, but that does not make that action love. If i do an action without the love that is supposed to motivate it, i am a tinkling brass, a clanging cymbal.

Action without the heart bend, is just that, action. It is simply a conscious choice to do what is right. And doing what is right, or good, or kind, or noble, is always a good thing to do. But the purpose of the commandment was love, from a pure heart, that isn’t pretense. The purpose of the command is that you realize you need Jesus, because it is hard to fall in love with a world that hurts you, but that is exactly what you need to do in order to really live this thing out.

Do all the right actions all day every day. Do them because you are supposed to do them. But when you do them without love in your heart, you begin to wear down. You begin to get grumpy, and selfish, and angry, and you wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have to remind yourself a billion times that it is what you’re supposed to be doing and that it is the right thing. Eventually you burn out because nothing is sustaining you.

Do all the right actions all day every day. Do them because you are supposed to do them. And when you do them because you just love people, because you just Love God, because you just want to see good released in this world for Jesus, you change. Things change. You are energized. When you see the fruits of your love that you pour out, when you see the affect you are having on the world around you, it energizes your love. You get more energy to love more. Your love runs deeper, truer, more passionate.  The clanging cymbal is gone and the melodies of heaven begin to ring out.

I once heard a preacher say ‘A lover will out work a worker any day.’ And that is the way God designed it. You prophesying, working, serving, striving, they all fail. They all fade away. But love, true love, Never fails. True love, deep passionate, emotion motivated love-service, never fails. IT is always fruitful.

True love does no harm to its neighbor, that is why love fulfills the law. That is why love is so strong. That is why love never fails.

getting real going low

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i started this blog as a way to stay connected with the ladies who attended a women’s conference i hosted and organized a few years back. The conference went well and for the first event i have ever hosted that wasn’t specifically church sanctioned, we had a good turn out. Ladies were encouraged and God was present. Obviously that is not why i am blogging.

i was wrong.

i was wrong for doing exactly the thing that i told people not to do. i was trying to build a kingdom instead of delivering one that already existed. Ridiculous, i know. But in the interest of getting really real, it is what i was doing. i wasn’t doing it consciously of course. i did not plan the whole thing with the conscious plan to make it all about me, and what i wanted. i didn’t plan the event so that people would listen to me, worship me, and want me to lead them. None of those things happened anyway.

My plan the entire time was simply to declare the gospel truths to a group of women. I wanted to deliver messages of grace, and hope, and healing. Those things were accomplished very well i see. Looking back however i notice the sin in my own heart creeping out and trying to grasp at what i considered, and what the world would declare is greatness.

The more followers you have on social media, the greater you are. The more congregants you have, the greater you are. The more _____________ you have the greater you are. And that is WRONG.

i was reminded the other day that Jesus declares that greatness looks more like self sacrificing, co-suffering love, than big churches and huge successful ministries. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of times those big ministries do a lot of good and help a lot of people. But not everyone can be the CEO, and Pastor of a mega-church, or even a semi-mega-church. In fact, most people will never rank on any “greatness” scale the world concocts.

i fell prey. i was doing what they all do. i started building my “following” and assembling my “people”, and i don’t want to do that anymore. My flesh is crying out “Look at me!! Listen to me!! I have something to say!! You want to hear what i have to say!!”  all because that is they way the world thinks it should go. But i was not created, gifted, and anointed to be like the world.

Do i have something to say? Hell yes! Do i want you all to hear it?! HELL YES! Is building a new church, gaining a following, creating a false influence and parading around as if i am the bomb.com the way to do it? HELL NO!!!

The kingdom of God does not ride into town on the Thoroughbred.  The kingdom of God quietly slips into town on the back of a donkey. It isn’t found in the megaphone of evangelical fanfare, it is found in the humility of breaking bread house to house.

i have just kept asking myself  over and over, “Can we just let Jesus ride a donkey again?” Can’t we just be the unlikely Jesus that prays over His meal in public, and offers prayers to His waitress? Can’t we just be the unassuming Jesus that offers kindness to the impatient customer we must wait on? Can’t we just be the Word made flesh the way our Savior portrayed our Father?

Why do we need cathedrals and stadiums filled with people in order to have church….to be the church… What good is another conference, or “revival week” if the folks who attend go home to no friends, no electric, or no food, or debilitating sickness? What good are all these things if we don’t actually embody Christ.

Again, all those things have their place, and they all do some good for a lot of people. But as a whole, overall, we have a generation of christians thinking to be great they must have power, influence, and position. And we have a generation of christians gaining the whole world, but what of their souls?

I am going low. I am going for greatness. I am forcibly rending the worlds view of greatness from my mind and i am replacing it with a picture of what true greatness is.

Greatness is waking up at 2 am with patience in your heart and talking to your loved one who is just having a crappy time at life. Greatness is giving up your whole weekend to serve and love your family despite your own wants or needs. Greatness is stopping to see a discouraged person in kroger and offering your encouraging words and prayers. Greatness is laying hands on someone when they tell you they are in pain, or suffering. Greatness is not building ministries, and kingdoms. Greatness is displaying the culture and affection of the kingdom you are already a part of.

Greatness is serving and loving even the hardest cases, with love in your heart because you know God is smiling at them.

i am aiming for heart transformation.

i am aiming for greatness.

Who told you it was your fault

So you’re broken. You get moody, angry, and just plain don’t want to put up with people. Sometimes you’re stressed out and depressed. At times you ignore your phone, your children, your responsibilities. Sometimes you skip church, you forget to pray, and ignore your bible studies. Often you find yourself doing things you know you probably shouldn’t do but you just don’t care.

It’s not your fault.

Most pastors, preachers and religious people won’t tell you this. They will pin your perceived spiritual shortcomings upon your own failings and sins. They will tell you that it is your fault that you weren’t disciplined enough, prayerful enough or faith filled enough. This is a LIE and I’m sorry they are lying.

The truth is it is not your fault.

The moment  you were born you were born with a slave master called “Sin” and it’s hireling  called “Death”. You didn’t’ have a choice. The world you were born into is broken, and there is no good in this world. All that you have been given in this world is sub-par. And all the standards set for you were set so high that there is no way you could attain to them. You didn’t ask to be born. You didn’t choose to live this broken life.

Your sin did not nail Jesus to a cross.

Adam’s sin is the sin that put us all into this mess we are in. The brokenness we are living in is a result of Adam’s sin, which enslaved us all to death. Jesus came not to tell you how bad you are so you could change. He came to get in the same line as you. You know the line. That line where we await our ass-whooping. Being chewed up and spit out by death itself. Jesus came and stood in that line and just when it was your turn for that ass-whooping Jesus stepped in and took your spot.

It was not your sin that nailed Jesus to a cross. IT was Adam’s sin, and Jesus’ choice.

This is the good news. That just in your moment of terror and pain, just when the shit hits the fan, Jesus can be the refuge. He can take your place. He can swoop in like super man and faster than a speeding bullet He can save the day. Jesus knew that you would be born to sin with evil desires that you could not over come. He knew that you were at the mercy of death doing sin’s bidding. He knew. He knew it would not be your fault when you fell prey and fell from grace. It’s not your fault.

He made a way. A way for you to be rescued, restored, renewed. He became impoverished so that you can be made prosperous. He did this because He knew you needed His help. He knew it wasn’t your fault. He knew you would do the best you could with the things you were given, but even your best was imperfect because you were given broken tools in a fallen world. He knew it wasn’t your fault.

It’s still not your fault.

Pastors and preachers may tell you you have a “victim mentality” and that you’ll never go anywhere until you change. But by saying that they are insinuating that you have some super ability to do what no man born has done, except Jesus. By telling you this they cripple you and keep you from actually experiencing true and lasting change. Jesus doesn’t want you to come to Him when you are no longer a victim with pains, weaknesses, and anger. He wants you, the victim, to come to Him the JUST.

When you come to Jesus as a victim you get compassion, you get love, you get justice. You bring your pains and angers to the cross and you see how every single oppressor is punished. You trade your hurts for justice. Knowing this, that no evil deed goes unpunished, and every time you were wronged, hurt, or oppressed in anyway will be fully punished with the fullness of God’s wrath. When you come to Jesus as a victim you get freedom.

It’s not your fault you were hurt. It’s not your fault you were wronged, oppressed or attacked. Its ok now, Jesus knows. He knows you did your best, He knows you tried. Now bring your burdens to Jesus the one who knows it’s not your fault. He will take your pains and the victim will become the victor with authority and power. You will be transformed at the foot of the cross..

 

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Resisting Temptation

Today we have a guest post from a fellow blogger Bri Mcswain. Bri is the home school mother of two children, Chloe 4, and Brennan 1. She has been married almost 3 years to her husband Sean. In her free time she likes to blog and spend time with her family. She resides in Ohio with her family.

 

( The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views held by this blog and are solely the work and beliefs of the author.) 

 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that The Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they’re dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t s deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” James 1:12-16

When I first surface read these verses I had to admit I was confused. Why would God allow temptation if He can’t be tempted, or isn’t the one who tempts us? But as I kept reading and dug further into the meaning of these verses, it started to make more sense, as things usually do.

God gives mankind free will. Period. God isn’t a tyrant who makes us do what He wants. If that were the case, none of us would want to serve God freely. However, since we do have free will, this is why there’s temptation. We’re free to take temptations bait. It’s a matter of will we or not. When temptation comes along, the court room of heaven is in session. God wants to know where your heart is and if you’re serious about serving him.

Our own desires come up against us daily. Yes, I said daily. That’s why as believers we have to be diligent in suppressing the flesh to make our spirits strong against temptations. For example, my flesh hates it when I work out. If I listened to my flesh all the time, I would never workout, or if I did, I would quit in the middle of my hour long workout. I always have to have the mindset that I’m in a trial and God is proving me, testing my endurance. This goes for any temptation. We have to have the mindset of God testing us so we can suppress the flesh.

In verse 14, the word “enticed” means “lured away from under the rock.” It’s a hunter and fishermen’s term. The enemy knows what our flesh likes and will use that to tempt us. He wants us out from under God’s will. The Enemy will literally do anything to keep you from fulfilling God’s will for your life.

That’s why it’s so important to recognize our weaknesses, so when temptation does come we can say, “No, I’m staying in God’s will for my life and I will not destroy my influence and my relationship with my God.”

We can combat temptations through spiritual weapons such as prayer, memorizing scripture, and just reminding ourselves of God’s work in our life! Once we give into temptation though we risk losing our influence, our anointing leaving and God’s will departing from our lives. God can’t use us if we make agreement with our fleshly desires.

Let’s all be diligent in recognizing temptations, keeping them at bay with spiritual weapons, and staying in God’s will for our lives! When we do this, God can use us for his glory and our influence will dramatically increase!

 

The Pick of the Century

Have you ever watched the show American Pickers? My husband and I love that show! We just can’t wait to see what Mike and Frank and Danielle will do next! Not to mention the crazy things they buy. To us most of the time, it looks like junk. Who would want a rusty broken grill off of a 70 year old car? Yet, for some reason these loveable TV personalities just find the sparkle in every body else’s junk.

Do you have junk? I’m not talking about the scrap metal, bags of trash, broken stuff kind of junk. The kind of junk I’m referring to is the junk you try to hide from every one. You know the what I mean, the anger issue, the secret addiction, or the mounting gambling debt? Do you have a vice that just trips you up all the time? You have tried and tried to kick that dang habit but you just keep coming up short of your goal? Ya me too…

This type of “junk” can seem far from being a treasure. I mean when you watch Frank, that big teddy bear, pick up an old ceramic sign that is chipped,you can see how someone could sand and paint that sign and make it new again. But when you look in the mirror at the aged face that is angry and the wrinkles just prove you’ve been scowling all day, it’s hard to see the value.

Here is where you’re wrong.

God never said “come to me when you’re all cleaned up and I will give you a call”. He said “Come to me when you are weary and carrying a heavy load, and I will give you REST!”. He said “I want you to know my ways are not heavy and what I ask you to carry is light, so learn about my ways.”

God is not interested in your designer life, your restored personality and your ten steps to freedom graduation certificate. He wants your salvaged, no good, ready for the trash heap life. He desires your edgy, angry, can’t seem to keep my cool personality. And most of all He wants your hands, your heart, your tears, and your ankles that are shackled fast to the past. He wants all of you. The good the bad and the ugly.

God does not look at you and see something broken that isn’t worth anything. How do you think Mike and Frank got their keen eye for perfect junk? They are demonstrating a part of the Father’s heart. God looks over the junk-yard of mankind, and sees the perfect piece of art to add to His masterpiece. He sees you! He loves your wrinkles, and your quirks. He sees the spit-fire attitude and the no-backing-down mentality and say “I love it! I can use that!”. He sees the weakness in your will, which leads you to addiction and says “How better to aid you in leaning on my arms! I’ll use it!”

When you see broken, He sees perfection. He never looks at a broken vase as wasted, He only sees what He will create with the shards that remain, and when God creates things He calls them good.

Don’t look at your flaws, your shortcomings, or addictions, or vices and say “I’m not good enough, Once I stop ‘_____________ing’ I can go back to God”. God wants you, broken pieces and all. He wants the chance to create the most beautiful artwork you’ve ever seen, out of a life of broken things you never imagined possible. God loves to take ashes from a scrap heap, and make beauty. He loves you. You are His pick of the century!

 

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