Over the last several years I have been praying and asking God to teach me to hear His voice. My dad is a storyteller and full-time evangelist. Now, when I say full-time I don’t mean that he’s paid to be an evangelist. What I mean is that he is literally always evangelizing.
In my dad’s world, a broken down car, a bankruptcy, a trip to the hospital or his son getting shot are all events that lead you to people who God wants to share His love with. I really admire my dad’s ability to allow God to work through him in every situation and he’s the reason that I’ve been asking God to teach me to hear His voice.
I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but I seem to live with a continual sense that my time is limited. I feel the reality that I will soon stand on the edge of eternity and when I look back on my life I will not have the opportunity to re-live it. As a former addict and horrific husband, I have a deep gratitude for the grace that God showed me when Jesus died for my sins and I’m grateful for His grace in my life. The Bible says that “he who is forgiven much, loves much” and to show God my love by passing His love on to other broken and hurting people.
With the world so heavily addicted to image and self-preservation, I find that the only way to truly touch people’s lives is to follow God’s lead. While I look at the outside of a person, God looks at their heart and He can guide me to the right person, at the right time and lead me to say just the right thing. I don’t want to swing in the dark. I want God to direct me and lead me to people who are open to His love. I want to make a difference, I want to grow His family. All of this motivates me to want to hear His voice and the more I hunger the more I hear.
The problem with hearing is that it requires obedience. You see, if I don’t listen to God then I don’t have anything to obey. My kids know this trick and often try to weasel out of discipline by saying that they “didn’t hear me’. The more I listen to God, the more uncomfortable I get.
I like the gradual approach. When I get in the river, I slowly wade out into the freezing water and torture myself inch by submerging inch. I’m not sure why that’s more comfortable than just diving in head first and getting it over with but I can’t get by the psychological barrier, so until I break that barrier you’ll find me half frozen, inching my way into the deeper water.
By nature, I would tend to work the same way with people. I tend to be socially awkward. If everything worked the way I’d like it to, God would point me to someone to befriend and sometimes months down the road we gradually begin to talk about spiritual things. It usually takes me awhile to get comfortable with people, but God doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Within 24 hours, He gave me the opportunity to pray with two different ladies that I had only just met. Both times God prompted me to pray with them and yes, both times I tried to ignore Him.
The first lady came to a business meeting that I had organized. She sat right next to me and eventually I began to hear God’s voice telling me that I should pray for her. Pray for her? I didn’t even know if she was a Christian, and there were lots of other people in the room. After all, we weren’t at church! We were sitting in a public book store surrounded by business people and bookworms. What if she didn’t want prayer, what if she got offended or worse yet what if she made a scene in front of all of these people? I could hear God, but I guess I didn’t really trust Him, so I just kept talking to her about other things.
Eventually, I mentioned an addiction program that I run through our church and suddenly her eyes lit up! She wanted to know all about the church, she is a believer but she isn’t currently attending a church. She is in a season of some pretty difficult trials and it just so turns out that she needed some encouragement and she needs a good church to come around her and support her. At this point, I finally realized that it was “safe” to pray for her so I took her hand and we prayed. Before leaving she told me that this must have been a divine appointment. If it had been up to my courage this would have been little more than a divine disappointment! Praise God, that He worked through me despite my own weakness. He knows that I want to learn to hear His voice and as a good Father He is being patient with me as I learn to not only hear Him but to actually trust Him enough to obey what I hear.
In His faithfulness, he gave me another opportunity. I was down downtown and walked into a building past the receptionist. On my way back down I felt God prompting me to stop and pray with her. Again I questioned Him, “Pray for her? The only thing she knows about me is that I was looking for a business license and I don’t know anything about her...” I kept walking toward the exit, working quickly to convince myself that God didn’t really expect me to pray with her. Even though I was trying to wiggle out the door, I could sense God telling me to go back. Reluctantly I spun around and walked back toward her desk. I asked her name, introduced myself and offered to pray with her. That’s when she told me about her friend who is dying of cancer and the burden that she feels trying to be an emotional support. As she talked, I listened. One ear was listening to her story and the other ear was listening to God reminding me that He is the one who knows all things.
God wanted to encourage her and the only two things He needed from me were for me to listen and obey. I’m starting to get the listening part down and I have a feeling that, through God’s grace, the obeying part is going to be catching up pretty quickly too.
Austin isn't just the capital of Texas, it is a city full of people God loved enough to send His Son to die for, and a city He loves enough to send us to live for.
Father open our ears and bring your grace. Lead us to the people you have for us, bring us to our divine appointments that the lost may be found, the broken healed, and the dead brought to abundant life in Jesus Christ.
I was opening our store, in Bend, Oregon, and a little old lady came walking in with her backpack. "That wind is cold," she said before she turned and started looking around. Immediately, I heard God say, "I didn't bring her here to get out of the cold, I brought her here so you can pray for her."
I continued opening the store and she continued looking around. Just before she left I asked her what her name was and if I could pray with her. "Kay," she said and, "Why do you want to pray for me." So, I simply told her that God said she needed it. We prayed for a big financial decision she's worried about and then she left.
There was no great healing, no lightning from the sky, and no tears, but when she left God said one more thing, "Her name is Kay." And that's precisely when I started to get emotional. Yes, her name is Kay.
God doesn't see us by our age, accomplishments, financial status, our class, or our past. God sees and knows us by name. He personally and intimately knows each of us. He sees me, he sees Kay, and yes, he especially sees you. His arms are open because his heart is open. Your relationship with him may be strained or non-existent but it doesn't have to be. He sent Jesus to reconcile (repair) the relationship between you and the God who made you. Maybe you don't have parents, don't have a dad or feel you'd have been better off without the ones you had. You can find identity, acceptance, value, and purpose in the arms of the one who made you.
We may not be in Austin, TX, yet but Jesus is already there. His love is already there. Why wait, if you'd like to know more about Jesus and how to live in relationship with God, the one who knows you best and loves you most, please fill out the contact form below. We would love to talk with you and share how the love of Jesus will fill your life and make you whole.
"For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. " Psalms 139:13-16
Ever wonder why God created in 7 days?
He could have done it in an instant. Why a day at a time?
I believe one of the reasons was to teach us new beginnings and change happen one day at a time. In the moment we don’t have to carry the burden of “changing forever”.
In any new way of thinking or living, we just have to make the choice for today. If the temptation for old ways comes back tomorrow, we can make that choice tomorrow.
One day at a time and our whole word can be transformed and brought into God’s order.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We're coming to Austin, TX with a message of hope. A message of God working day by day to bring new life and new ways of thinking. A message of new and abundant life through Jesus Christ.
When was the last time you closed the door, left the world outside and danced it out with Jesus?
Whether you've been struggling in the duldrums of discouragement or grinding through the challenges of a stressful situation, it may be time to get wild and dance it out with Jesus!
One of the greatest kings who ever lived literraly danced right out of his clothes for Jesus!
King David, a man after God's own heart, danced publicly in his undies with greatfulness to God for all He'd done. Wow, that's some real gratitude! I don't recommend trying it yourself... for two reasons.
First, you're not the King which means you'll likely get arrested.
Second, David's example was calling us to folllow his lead spiritually not literally.
King David took off His robe, the sign of his supremacy and qualification. His example was and is a spiritual call to dance before Jesus without covering ourselves with our qualifications or hiding in our shame.
It's a call to come boldy, freely and humbly before Jesus with praise and worship for all He's done rather. What we've done, good or bad, doesn't matter.
It's about Him. It's about His goodness and ultimately it's about His grace which makes it possible for us to come before Him in the first place.
The first humans, Adam and Eve, walked naked before God. After they sinned and fell into shame they began to hide behind clothes they made for themselves. Ever since this time people have felt the need to cover themsleves with the good things they've done in order to hide the bad things they've done. Some people do the same to cover themselves from the bad things others have done to them.
Do what I did this morning, in my furniture store warehouse - close the door, crank the music and worship like a king because He has made it possible!
He's not waiting for perfection, He's not waiting to judge you, He's not watching critically from the heavens - He is already on the dance floor singing and celebrating His love for you!
Praise Jesus! We need nothing but the grace He brings us through the cross. We can join His celbration and dance before Him with nothing to cover ourselves! Our hearts, our minds and our spirits can dance fully and freely before the one who cleanses us, heals us and loves us. The one who is already rejoicing over us!
"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17
You Call That a Shower?
Last night I told my 10-year-old son it was time to take a shower. He's never liked taking showers but this time he sprang to his feet and ran upstairs.
Wow, usually it takes quite a bit of prodding to get him up the stairs and into the water.
I figured all of my great parenting was finally paying off!
I turned back to my conversation with a friend and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jackson coming back to sit on the couch.
I was about to get after him for not obeying when I realized his hair was wet and he was wearing a new outfit...??
I wish I had a timer going because I can guarantee you I witnessed a world record being set and it happened in my own home!
I was tempted to be proud of him for his speed and apparent athleticism in the sport of showering but I don't think he smelled any better coming down than when he went up!
I wonder if God feels the same way about our bathing habits?
He calls us to come spend time in His presence and get clean from the filth of living in a troubled world. A call to draw close and spend some time bathing in His presence until every nook and cranny of our hearts have been washed by His great love and grace.
I wonder what He's thinking when we're heading back out just as fast as we came in?
Maybe, just maybe some of the smelliest stains in our life aren't really stains at all. Maybe they're just dirty spots we've never stayed in His presence long enough to have cleaned.
I don't know what you're going through today. Maybe you're struggling with an area of sin you feel you'll never get victory over. Maybe you have pain from past abuse or guilt from past sin.
We have so many things going on in life, some bad things, some good things, and even some amazing things but without taking the time to be cleansed and refreshed in His presence even the best activities can eventually leave us tired and smelly.
I encourage you to find a quiet place and take it all off; your work, responsibilities, judgments, defenses, worries, and entertainments. Step into His presence and stay awhile.
Let the love and grace of God run through every area of your heart and soul.
Get lost in the moment.
Don't leave until someone comes knocking on the door yelling about the hot water running out. Don't leave until you know you've been with Jesus.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,"
Dealing with Hurt or Offense?
Flush the Brush - By Pastor Andy Elliott
Do you ever deal with hurt, pain or offense you thought was already completely out of your heart only to have it suddenly come back up and throw you into discouragement?
Have you ever thought you were living "free and clear" from the hurts of an old wound only to have some random situation trigger a flood of old feelings?
At times like these, it's easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when it seems like you're starting over and have never really let go of any of those old feelings.
What happened to all the "processing" you did, all the counseling, the prayer or the forgiveness? After so much time and effort why does it suddenly feel like you haven't made any progress?
Before you get discouraged here's something to consider...
During the first years of our furniture store, we used to restore and hand paint furniture pieces. When we were finished with a piece we would head to the sink to "flush the brush".
A few seconds under the faucet and the murky colored water soon ran clear and clean. All done, right?
If you've ever cleaned a paint brush you know the first clear water you see doesn't mean you're finished.
That's because each time you use a paint brush some of the paint pushes down past the bristles and into the core of the brush.
The first rinse clears the bristles but you have to keep flushing water into the core if you really want to get it clean.
Each time you flush water through the core it will eventually run clear. But wait... wiggle the bristles around and try flushing it under the faucet again. What will you see? Another round of murky paint water coming out of the brush.
It may feel like you're starting over but be encouraged - you are not!
The water may appear just as murky each time the bristles are wiggled and more paint is released but in reality, each flush under the faucet is removing more and more of what was trapped in the core.
For me, this process was always very frustrating. I'd much prefer to just throw the brush away and start over!
Fortunately, God is patient with us and will never just throw us away and start over! He is also loving and will never leave us full of nasty paint to dry up in our core and ruin our future.
His faithfulness and love mean we can trust Him to keep bringing circumstances into our lives which wiggle our core until He has helped us flush all the nasties and crusties we didn't realize were still there.
Don't be discouraged. Don't give up. Trust the process and even more - trust the Processor. He is working with you to clean these hurts and pains out of your heart and He has promised to finish what He started.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6
While other religious leaders draw their disciples with promises of nirvana or paradise Jesus drew His followers with a call to action. A call to partner with Him in gathering the lost and the broken people of the world.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 ESV
Fishing for fish provided the potential disciples with food, money and a respectable place in society. It even provided a trade they could pass down to their children, an important point in a family based societal structure.
Fishing for men… offered none of these benefits. In fact, it stripped all of these benefits away. For these men following Jesus meant leaving their income, their family, their position in society and the business they could have passed on to their children.
“And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58
Since the first disciples, the call to leave all and follow gone out to millions of people throughout the earth. Men and women from every continent and class have made the seemingly irrational decision become followers of Jesus.
Surprisingly the decision to follow Jesus rarely culminates in the fulfilled promise of becoming “fishers of men.” After giving up all they have do people find a Jesus who is unwilling to fulfill His end of the bargain? Does Jesus fail to follow through? Is He a bait and switch salesman only interested in getting what He wants without honoring his promises?
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
As a Bible believing Christian we know Jesus cannot lie which leads us to seek an answer for the unfulfilled promise somewhere else. For most of us the “somewhere else” is the aluminum backed piece of glass we call a mirror.
Why do we give up the apparent pleasures of sin and self-will to follow Jesus but stop short of walking in the fulfillment of His promise to make us “fishers of men”?
I see three basic reasons.
First, our selfishness takes us off course before we reach the finish line. It’s one thing to give up sinful activities which we often find bringing destruction into our lives. It’s a completely different thing to put to ourselves in the uncomfortable position of talking to others about something we often feel they don’t want to hear about.
The removal of destructive sin brings peace. The prospect of sharing our faith with an uninterested person brings anxiety. The first gives us something we want, while the second appears to take it away and so we shrink back. This simple fact exposes our true priority in coming to Jesus. Many of us come to Jesus only for self and not for others.
Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
While it is true Jesus invites us to come to Him for salvation, according to God’s word the two other reasons we should be coming to Him are both focused outward rather than inward.
The first reason flows toward Him and the second toward our neighbors.
For many, the answer to the discomfort of becoming fishers of men is to simply “live as a witness”. This term means we can simply live a good life - shine our light - and hope someone finally asks us why we’re so special. When and if they ask we’ll take the opportunity to mention our faith and hopefully they’ll invite themselves to church and hopefully the message will be amazing and they’ll get saved.
Unfortunately, the gospel isn’t spread through social osmosis. It’s spread through speaking the good news of the gospel with real words to real people.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. “ Romans 10:14-17
These verses plainly show us God’s call for us to be vocal witnesses to our neighbors and the world around us.
This verse puts a sharper point on our role of being vocal witnesses, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
Wow, is it really sin to stay silent?
Yes, if we know God is calling us to speak out and we choose not to do it - we are walking in sin. Even worse, it may actually be evidence we are not even saved.
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:6-10
If we are true followers of Jesus the Word says His Spirit comes to live in our hearts.
“Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,” 1 Corinthians 6:19
If He is truly living in our hearts it will be proven by our vocal witness. How can I be so sure of this statement? Because the Bible clearly tells us our words come from the overflow of what is in our hearts.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
Being a vocal witness is not only a witness of who Jesus is. Being a vocal witness is also a witness that we are truly born again followers of Jesus Christ.
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
One cannot objectively read the Bible without coming to the conclusion that true followers of Jesus are vocal witnesses, they are active fishers of men.
True followers are willing to give up their social comfort for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus with the people He has put in the pathway of their life journey.
If we are to be true followers we must embrace our calling to be fishers of men throughout the willful act of vocal witnessing.
Praise God we do not have to do this alone or in our own strength! He cares about the people of Austin and has sent the Holy Spirit here to give us boldly bring the gospel.
Jesus knew of our proclivity for comfort. He knew it would be easier for us to follow than to imitate and had a plan to help us.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The Holy Spirit has been sent into the earth to fulfill Jesus promise of making us fishers of men. It is through His empowerment that we can overcome sin and become vocal witnesses for the good news of Jesus death and resurrection.
Being a vocal witness doesn’t depend on our own ability, personality or boldness. Becoming a vocal is about depending less on ourselves and more on the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent to help us win the lost to Jesus in Austin, Texas.
The most powerful tool we can exercise in becoming vocal witnesses is the power of choice. We must choose to start our days in communion with the Holy Spirit through personal devotions. It is in our devotional times that we submit ourselves to His leading, ask for direction and commit to following His leading.
Presence powers purpose. When we make the consistent choice to abide in Him and follow His lead we will bear much fruit right here in Austin, Texas.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5
With my dashing good looks and busy life, I sometimes forget I'm dying.
I live pretty healthily (outside the double bacon burger for Fattys recipe). I feel great, my energy is good, I've got great friends and lots of vision for life. So it's easy to feel like this is going to last forever.
But it won't.
I've got the same ailment you do... a human body in a fallen world.
Hm. No matter how well I take care of the inside or how comfortable I make the outside it moves closer every day to shutting down.
New Year's Resolutions, vitamins, meditation and living in the beautiful city of Austin, Texas won't change the outcome.
If you really stop to think about it… discouragement could set in pretty fast.
Maybe that's why we all stay so busy doing and playing and doing and playing. Like the distractions we look for as the roller coaster cranks it's way to the top of the hill. We know it's coming but it feels better and safer not think about it.
Maybe we should think about a little more instead of a little less. Maybe just maybe thinking about the shortness of this life increases our gratitude for each and every moment we do have.
David said this "Teach us to number our days that We may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalms 90:12
The wisdom to value the moment and the wisdom to fix our hearts on investing in the next life.
Praise God both can be done simultaneously.
In His wisdom, He arranged it so the things that matter most in this life, truly matter most, are the ones that matter most in the next one too.
Love God with all of your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)
To invest in these two activities is to invest in a truly full and rewarding life today, which naturally leads to a deeper experience with Jesus and an increase in the number our brothers and sisters in the Lord - both of these are rewards we enjoy now and ones we will take with us to our next life with Jesus.
JESUS Wrecked My BBQ
A few days ago I posted a video of delicious brisket I'd been cooking on my Traeger for hours. Our guests came over around 7pm and we started dishing up the food. A nice, relaxing night on the back patio with nothing to do but eat, talk and eat some more.
The perfect BBQ! Until Jesus showed up... that's when everything changed.
You know, those moments when you find yourself unexpectedly becoming Jesus hands and feet to someone in need? Those times where the ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary? Those "divine appointments" you hear about people having?
I was just about to take a bite when my phone alerted me to a text message. At first, I ignored the phone but when another came through I decided to check the message - "Can you come pray for my son?".
We often make decisions in a church service or during our personal devotions that we're going to "start being available to Jesus". I've found the decisions we make in meetings or devotions aren't always the ones that really matter the most.
The real decisions are made when we're fully engaged in our own lives and Jesus asks us to push the pause button and follow Him on an unexpected adventure. The decisions that cost us something we really don't want to give up; time, comfort, recreation or other priorities are the decisions that define our walk with Jesus. They're also the decisions that define Jesus to those we walk with and serve. Those inconvenient, unexpected and unprepared moments are the ones He loves to use us to show His love through.
Sitting at the table with a plate full of slow-roasted brisket and some new dinner guests was one of those "decision" moments.
Was her emergency really "my emergency"? Was her son's prayer need more important than our "fellowship" time...?
At our church, the pastor has been preaching on God wanting our availability more than our ability. That's an exciting message on Sunday!!! Not quite as exciting when you're sitting around the table with your shoes off and a plate full of BBQ.
I decided to cut the fellowship time short, jam the guys in my truck and head out to pray.
Wow, am I glad we did!
In order to protect privacy I won't tell you all of the details but what I can share is this - Our group of guys walked in on an 18-year-old wanting to commit suicide. The devil wanted his life and Jesus sent us there to bring the good news of hope through His sacrifice on the cross and His victory over death.
Standing with my friends while he and his dad gave their lives to Jesus was amazing.
Through the tears and the fears we saw the love of Jesus put each of their hearts back together. Despair was traded for hope, anger for forgiveness and death for life.
We gave up our comfortable plans to be His hands and it was the best decision we could have ever made.
How long has it been since you found yourself walking away from a moment and saying -
Wow, that was a God thing!
People need more than our profession of faith, they need our willingness to follow Jesus. To "be Jesus" in their time of need.
Are you ready for your Jesus moment?
Keep your ears open and when you hear Him calling, just get up and follow. It's really that easy.
Poverty mindset says, "I only have a little so I have to hold on to it. The master will be angry if I use it all up rather than the Master will reward me if I use it for His purpose."
“ But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.” Matthew 25:18
Whether it's our money or our giftings we need to invest generously in the mission of Jesus. For God so loved the world that He "gave" His only begotten Son. God's mindset is generosity, not poverty. Give your time, talent and treasure - it will come back to you pressed down, shaken together and running over.
Investing brings the blessing.