We often hear about “Family Trees,” and how to find our ancestors online and our heritage. We know where we learned to speak the language we do, we know how to share about what our parents were like, or our siblings and other family members, but there are not trees that we can put together online to find where we have been influenced.
Only we know deep down who influenced us most, who left a legacy, an imprint on our lives, who shaped us deeper than our own family, who taught us specific things that became our strengths, who was that example to us of morals and values that we might not have been raised to know.
Sometimes it can be our family as the ones who influenced for the positive, and sometimes it can be outside sources, those who maybe we could have met sitting on a train to New York, or standing in the grocery line.
I remember I was sitting an airport and this woman said to me, “ It is important to find angels in this world, but its more important to be one ourselves.” I have never forgotten that, I am pretty sure I was about 12.
It is very true that each person we meet in our lives, is either there for a season, to get us through the certain time, a reason, that maybe they are there at the airport with a word, or a lifetime…they walk through each season with us, and we are always learning new things from them, and we walk alongside one another.
I could name a good few people…My Pastor and his wife have amazing parents that led the way for them, My Pastor’s mom once helped bring over 100 children to salvation because of starting transportation to church each Sunday, which if you knew my Pastor you would see that on his heart in the way of going out into the city and sharing Jesus with anyone and everyone in anyway possible and My Pastors wife, her parents have taught all over the country and her mother has written Bible Studies. She follows in their footsteps and is a very powerful teacher. I have personally learned more than I could have ever imagined from them all.
We all have a influence, we all have a voice…it does not end with us.
The point of talking about legacy though, today was Billy Graham’s funeral.
Everyone has their own story of how Billy Graham impacted them.
My mom could tell you the call she received from him while working for At&t and she had to connect his call.
For me, I don’t have a Billy Graham story, but I do have one of Anne Graham Lotz.
It was September 2010. It was a very tough year, a forced move back to Florida, my best friend passed away…it was just a very tough year.
My friend and I were chatting one day about “ Just Give Me Jesus,” and she said she thought about reading it, and I replied how I had owned the book and maybe I should pick it back up.
I started to read it, and within that week my friend I worked at retail store with advised me that Anne Graham Lotz would be at her church that Saturday and invited me.
I’ll never forget the way she walked on stage. It was not a beginning with, “ Good morning, how is everyone…” blah blah…it was walking on stage and saying, “ Let’s open our Bibles.” She was direct and to the point and made sure everyone knew the reason she stood on that stage that day. It was the first lesson that truly explained to me who the Holy Spirit really was, which in the best way to describe in her words were. “ Jesus without skin.”
You can find her full teaching here: https://littlestepsoffaith.com/2010/09/01/the-work-of-the-holy-spirit-notes-from-anne-graham-lotz-speaking/
Influence is like a family tree. Anyone who has ever impacted you or I, they connect somewhere to another branch. This is what it is to be the body of Christ, we all have a part, we all have a calling, we all have people God wants us to reach out to and show them who He is through us.
I loved how I wrote a comment about having attended the teaching on Beth Moore’s blog as she shared about Living Proof Live from that weekend and she replied to me, ” I love this. I have such esteem for Anne.” She was in the middle of sharing about her conference and those comments poured in, but it spoke such volumes that she replied to that one.
We all are connected in some way, shape or form….by influence.
We have been influenced, and its important to rise up and show the world what we know, what are the facts, teach them truth in love, and even if they might not listen to us at first, we know we were once people who did not always “ listen,” either. Stand in the gap for those whose voices are becoming hoarse and speak alongside of them.
It is okay if the world knows we are not perfect, but we should be able to point to let them know that God is, and that He can handle far more than our strength, wisdom and knowledge ever could.
He is who we should influence the world by, we speak, live, breathe, move because of Him alone.
Sometimes we are faced with tough moments. We all have been there. We have had those moments of “crisis of faith,” and we try to do things our own way, because God just does not seem to be “quick,” enough, or maybe we just have a hard time believing that He really sees what we are going through.
I was dealing with somethings recently that took a toll on my faith, not that I had lost my faith, but that I had lost my focus. I was distracted.
I would find myself trying to pray, listening to audiobooks, praise and worship music, and letting the Bible lay open in front of me but not getting further than the current page. I was taking notes at church, but not taking in the message. I wanted so much to get back to the place of growth, but the more I tried I could only vision briar thorns in front of me that I could not see past.
I had grown weary on waiting for what He has promised. I had grown weary on the doctor visits, and financial situations that have held me back, conflicts in family relationships and that one day I really would meet the love of my life, just started to fade from my mind.
The song at church I heard practicing was, “ Blessed be your name.” And I almost lost it, I could not be in that room and hear, “ You give and take away.” Because in my mind, I was seeing somethings disappearing that I had not even yet been given.
A few days later, I woke up in the morning to a phone call for another doctor appointment. They wanted to check to be sure my insurance would be covering it, and placed me on hold for a few minutes, and in those few minutes I prayed about it, and when the nurse came back on the line, I made the decision to decline the appointment. I told the nurse, who was persistent to ask that I would not decline the appointment, that I believed God has a plan for me.
I hung up the phone, and I felt the tears fill my eyes. I then felt pressed on my heart a specific part of scripture that I want to share, because it has stayed with me since that morning and maybe you need it too.
Mary and Martha
“38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with [q]all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
The part of the passage that laid on my heart that morning was spoken in this way,
“ She has chosen which is greater and it will not be taken from her.”
I was Martha through the things I was dealing with, distracted and overwhelmed with what was in front on me, and trying to keep control, trying to just keep on the happy face and go about the day, I was trying to do well at my job, with my family and friends, and serving at church, and everything suddenly felt like a hamster wheel that just kept going and going.
Staying busy does not allow us time to be still.
It was as if God was saying to me after the phone call that day that while I had been Martha all that time, that making the choice to trust Him and let Him have control brought me back to His feet and I became more like Mary.
I would have loved to know what Mary had been dealing with that kept focus so deep on Jesus that day, and I would have loved to know what kept Martha more distracted then just the “preparations.” We know she was a widow, but we are not told how long ago in had happened.
There is a real life story of an artist, “ Joni Eareckson Tada, and she became paralyzed when she dived into the Chesapeake Bay that was shallow. She is only able to paint by the paintbrush in her mouth.
I had been told about her story one night at church through one of my leaders just in conversation, and Sunday morning that leader gave me a magazine to read so I could learn about this person.
I did not open and read the story until today before I wrote this post.
Joni states in her story that she often finds herself depressed and without courage, but to keep herself encouraged she sings hymns through it.
She keeps her focus on Jesus alone.
“ To know that Christ’s grace is available— it won’t take away the pain, but it will give you the courage to face it.”
I want to end this with a point a friend of mine reminded me of as I wrote this,
“ It is not Martha OR Mary, it is Martha AND Mary.”
It is about where we will allow ourselves to place our focus, we can relate to them both.
“ She has chosen which is greater and it will not be taken from her.”
Here is a song that as I began to write this post today that suddenly came on youtube while I waited for Bethel Music to come on. I dig the title 🙂
When I first met her, I remember she had such a bright smile, and she was excited when she learned I was a Christian, and she told me her favorite verse was Isaiah 40:31.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Before I share her story I want to add that we all have fallen short, and off the path at one point or another, but it’s about getting up, rising up, and I’m proud of my young friend for pushing forward.
” Some say that we only talked to God when bad things happen in our lives, but I don’t agree with this. When something good happens to you or you receive good news, you get this feeling that’s indescribable. That feeling is God. He’s there with you though the good and bad no matter if you talk to him or not.
I’ve lost my way through the years, at 8 years old my mind was not thinking about religion or good or bad. We all went to church every Sunday, and my father carried his Bible everywhere. One day, my father was taken from me and I did not question God or try to understand why. I didn’t lose my faith here.
6 years later, I was 15 years old; and on my way to church with my mom. We got in a car accident and we were hit head on. I was hardly injured with basic bumps and bruises, but my mom was hurt, and no one would let me see her, and for three hours I prayed to God that He would not take her, I begged Him, I told Him I could not live without my mom. At 9 pm my whole world was taken from me as the doctor came in to speak with me, as I was told then she had not made it to the hospital, I had prayed for three hours not knowing she had already passed away. I was shattered. Shattered. I know now that it wasn’t God that caused it, but I was upset. I was angry that he could take her away from me. I never could understand why.
I began to fade, someone would mention church or the bible and I would shut it out completely. One day, my teacher pulled me aside and shared with me Isaiah 40:31 and said “You need to hear these words.” Reading through the passage started to give me hope in God a little more.
I married my husband after I graduated, we had a baby, and after three years we decided to part ways. I was broken, he was my best friend. I was destroyed.
I’m not gonna lie I started seeing this guy who was “picture perfect” but he had a lot of skeletons in his closet and made me questions a lot of things about myself and faith. I was at my lowest. Stressed about money as a single mom and not receiving any child support, work, friendships that ended because of my relationship, etc.
and then the day of Feb 9th came which was a little under a week of the day my dad passed away 15 years before. Something told me to take a pregnancy test. Two lines appeared. I instantly cried out and thank God for this. I also cried because i was scared and not in a stable relationship that honored Him.
5 months into my pregnancy, several appointment later. It’s a boy!!.
The father left me and ended our relationship. I got scared. I was going to be doing this alone with an already 3 year old. I began to cry and pray and I opened to the book of Isaiah for comfort, and as I was reading Isaiah 66:9, I felt the baby kick. I instantly knew that I was carrying Isaiah Joseph.
God redeems us from the places we have been, and I’m so thankful for His grace.”
“In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:9)
We are all pretty familiar with the song, “Mary Did You Know?” Which centers around the life and ministry of Jesus.
It is a very nice song, but I want to discuss a huge part in all of it.
Mary believed God for what He said He would do, and who He said she would become.
We first learn that Mary would become pregnant through the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:28-33
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
It is interesting how Mary responds to him.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
I can relate to her response, we all could.
When God calls us to do something it usually is known to have some serious responsibility included and it is easy to be troubled.
Mary also wondered what kind of greeting it was, and I might suggest this might not have been the first encounter speaking to an angel, because of what the next portion says,
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
It is about 2am, Christmas Eve, as I have sat myself down to write this, and I will have my alarm set in about 4.5 hrs for work…but I was led to this portion of scripture tonight by words pressed upon my heart while I was praying.
“Where you are hard on yourself is where you doubt me.”
This really shook me for a moment, it was so clear, and yet shocking at the same time, and then I wiped the tears off my face and composed myself.
I have a calling on my life, I have something the Lord wants to birth from me, but there are places in my life where I really have trouble believing I’m capable to truly overcome, because these are places I have not truly given to God to lead me in.
Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord said will be accomplished (Luke 1:45)
Clearly, we know Mary would conceive Jesus and that He would be the Savior of the world, but it goes deeper than that.
For one, we don’t know if that night speaking with the angel if they had more of a conversation, but we do know that Mary was human, she was young and she was given a huge Calling over her life.
There almost seems to be a similarity to Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will finish it to completion in Christ Jesus.”
Mary knew she was too, also in need of a Savior. She was aware she was imperfect and given the responsibility to birth and raise a son through God Himself.
“Mary, Did you know?” really began with the faith from Mary that God would keep His promise.
Merry Christmas 🙂
I had praying one night a few months back and God brought to my heart a familiar verse, “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” And I remember trying to figure out the depth of that scripture. So what I made the mistake of doing was the “ Thinker,” that I am analyzed it piece by piece. “ Where was I not loving God?” but I soon learned loving God the way I’ve come to know is not the whole of it. I could love him with my heart, but would not mean I would never desire something in the world and fail at this, I could love him with all my soul, and then my emotions can play games and I might not always “feel,” like loving Him, I may love Him with my mind, but my mind is a battlefield and is distracted easily by other things, and I may love Him with all my strength, but I get weary without a good amount of coffee, so I know that I would never be perfect at that either.
God showed me it was never about the ways I loved Him, it was what I believed about Him, that I would love Him for who He is. I could never be content just realizing what He has done. I had to recognize that I love Him when I realize He is all that matters.
Anyone can love someone for what they’ve done. We hear news stories about heroism daily, but how many will sit down and listen to stories that do not pertain to bravery and courage? How many would sit down to just know and love the person for who they are?
I learned that I truly love Him when I recognize He is everything and more. When we truly want to know who He is.
He is more than my job and its stresses, He is more than the people I care about in my life and how I stretch myself thin at times to be there, He is more than what I find I am best at, and where I struggle to become better…
If I love Him when I say He means everything then that says I love Him by what I have seen Him do, but if I say I love him because He is everything then that means I love Him for who He is.
People who get into relationships with people by what they can “ give,” them, will find those relationships do not last. To have something last you have to want to really know someone, appreciate who they are, their personality, their likes and dislikes, and accept them for who they are and there is balance of “give” and “ receive.”
If we are not also giving God our time to worship Him, If we are not in the Word, if we are not in church “breaking bread,” with others and giving of our time, then we will only be those who are on our knees praying to God to give us things, and answer our prayers and we do this selfishly, because we don’t want to give back to Him. And we are all selfish in one way or another in this area, if not right now, we have been in the past.
We are not loving God when we only ask for what He can do for us; We fail to love Him just because.
It makes me think of the rich young ruler from Luke 18:19-
This rich young ruler walked up to Jesus one day. Perhaps we can imagine him with a long robe, and gold chains hanging from his neck, he might have been carrying gold in his pockets, and he might have even had a servant with him carrying food.
“ Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I have to wonder in asking this question if he might have thought he could, “ buy,” it. I can imagine Jesus turning around and looking at this man, “Why do you call me good?” “No one is good except God alone.” He goes on to share, “ You know the commandments: “ Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”
I picture the rich young ruler putting his hand over his heart, “ All this I have kept since I was a young boy.”
And then Jesus tests him…
Jesus says to him, “ You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come follow me.”
Essentially here I believe Jesus was really saying without saying, “ You want to learn how to love me, because you are asking how to have eternal life, and only through me will you have it my friend, and to do this, I ask you to leave everything to follow me, if you do that, then following me above all else, means you love me.”
The rich young rulers face might have changed to discouragement, and he might have hung his head in shame, because being rich was his identity, it’s the only identity he chose to have. It meant more to him then earning eternal life.
I can see Jesus look at his reaction and say, “ How hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Or He could have also added, “ You rather love what you have then who I am.”
We too can find at times in our lives we could relate to this rich young ruler.
Obedience is not easy folks, because it takes humility. But we show our love for God in our obedience.
Jesus endured it being whipped 39 times, he endured it carrying a cross for miles, He endured it while hanging by nails. So if something is asked of us, we do not have much room to ignore it, because to carry our cross means we give everything we have an empty ourselves of who we are for a greater cause.
We lay down our lives.
Jesus did it out of love. We must learn to love Him in that way too.
So who could teach our dear rich young ruler how to respond to give up all he owned to follow Jesus?
I have to wonder how Peter observed this encounter with Jesus. I have to wonder what was going through his mind when he watched the excitement the rich young ruler had and then change to full despair and walk away.
Peter could have shared with him the story of how he left everything he owned to follow Jesus, He could have shared with him about how with Jesus there would always be enough like the feeding of the five thousand, he could have shared with him about risking his life to get out of the boat just to meet Jesus on the water, and he could have shared with him that Jesus knew what He was talking about. I wonder if that day if anyone did talk to the rich young ruler, or if he went home and closed the door alone.
Peter loved Jesus. He knew Jesus because He walked with Him, He saw face expresssions, he learned Jesus personality, he saw his reactions, he got to know how Jesus would respond to things. He loved Jesus because He learned who He was.
Lord may that be us.
“All of you is more than enough for all of me, For every thirst and every need, you satisfy me with your love, and all I have in you is more than enough.” – Chris Tomlin, “ Enough.”
We last ended with Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. To give a brief synopsis, Peter was was forced into prison in awaiting trial by King Herod, He was bound in chains…and God intervened and helped him to escape. Once Peter was out of the prison standing alone on the street he came to his senses that he was no longer bound.
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. (Acts 12:12)
I love this part of this next scripture, because it starts with, “When THIS had dawned on him.”
WHAT was it that dawned on him?…He realized he was FREE. And what does scripture say he did after the realization…He went to tell people about it.
And they overcame and conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, for they did not love their life and renounce their faith even when faced with death. (Revelation 12:11)
What if Peter did not go back home and tell what the Lord had done for him? What if after he was standing there in the street that he went into hiding? What if he went and lived a life away from all he loved because he was afraid to be captured again?
We sometimes live like this, and we know people who live like this.
This is what it is to not believe that we have been set free.
“If the Son sets you free then you are free indeed.” (John 8:36)
I believe it is safe to say that most of us grow up with the “spiritual” mentality that we will always “struggle,” with this or that sin. But what if I told you that what scripture says “free indeed,” means that we are free of all sins? Do you think that is true?
One of my favorite scriptures is,
Ecclesiastes 3:11, “ He makes ALL THINGS beautiful in its time.”
We have to get in the mindset that we are “FREE,” is ALL THINGS, because Jesus died on the cross so that we would be. But once we are free, then we learn how to stop doing things in the same way that put us in that place of bondage before. And we have to be gentle on ourselves and know He began a good work, and it is HE that will finish it!
While the picture is in drawing, and the house in building, we see not the beauty of either; but when the artist has put his last hand to them, and given them their finishing strokes, then all appears very good
(Matthew Henry Commentary on Ecclesiastes 3:11)
It could be that Peter might have been a little afraid of being captured again, I mean he was human, but he also knew that he could find accountability back at Mary’s house, regardless of the state he was in.
And what do we know about what was happening before he knocked on the door…his friends were praying for him.
We need our friends, we need people that our there for us, that open our homes to us, that are there to lean on when we need it, and we need the truth spoken to us in love.
13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” (Acts 12:13-14)
I love this, because the servant was the one to come to the door, and she did not open the door. Because again it paints a picture to how we react when someone we know comes, “ clean,” so to speak. We are excited to see them, but we don’t open the door right away.
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel. ”But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. (Acts 12:16-17)
I also love how he kept knocking too. People that who are set free to know they are free they have something, “ different,” about them. One thing is they do not carry “shame, or guilt,” they do not “ hide or avoid others.” If they are truly free they will be knocking down the doors of the church to share what God has done or in this day tweeting or posting on Facebook.
Peter knew that there was a greater purpose in him being set free, and it so moved him that he left what was familiar to begin to preach what God had done from place to place.
We have a responsibility to be an example to this world around us. Where there is favor like Peter being freed from prison there is always also opposition.
“ God will open doors which no man can shut.” And He will do it.
Life can get very real. Crazy things can happen around us, but we are the only ones that can hold ourselves back. Live like your free, because you are.