Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Blessings of Faithfulness

by Gayle Lechner

The blessings in my life are so abundant that it’s hard for me to imagine not being faithful to such a wonderful, loving God. Understand one thing, though; I am not faithful because of God’s blessings. I don’t look at faithfulness as something to be because of promised rewards. Faithfulness is not something held for ransom until God pays up. I’m not blessed because I attend church twice a week, or tithe, or greet at the sanctuary doors. Those are blessings in and of themselves, but they aren’t reasons for faithfulness.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An Interview with Mary Jenkins

Note from Pastor Deanna: For years, I prayed for a retired pastor and pastor’s wife to come to Celebration. I had only shared this desire with a few ministry friends, privately. 

I wanted a couple who would be with us permanently --not just stopping by for a few months of healing. (We've had many pastors and their families who were in need of healing or in transition become a part of us for months or even a year or so, and we thank God for that. It's a privilege to be part of someone's healing process.) I dreamed of a retired pastor/wife that would be planted and could be with us to support, serve, to understand. 

In April of 2013, my husband called our church to a 40 day fast.  One of my personal prayers  was answered during the fast when David and Mary Jenkins and their precious daughter Josie and grandson Hunter walked into our church and became one of the best blessings to us, ever. I blogged about it, here.

To have another seasoned, loyal, rightly motivated former senior pastor's wife who could be there as a support, in the same church???  Pretty much a dream, right? I love it when God-dreams come true. 

I am delighted to introduce Mary Jenkins today, for those who have not met her, you’re in for a real treat. And for those who do know her – you’ll just be twice blessed to hear from her heart today.

Celebration Women: Mary, when did you say “yes” to Jesus?”

Mary: As a young girl, I was always in church, so I don’t know the specific time or date I asked Jesus in my heart. However, I believe I was around 8 or 9 years old when I received the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are YOU Part of Your Child's Problem?

My husband and I were having a discussion recently about how many Christian parents live unaware of how their actions affect their children.  Many people are long-time Christians, even leaders -- and yet they have no idea of the principle of sowing and reaping that is affecting their life and the life of their family.

Photo Credit: mdanys, Flickr
The other day as we were sharing a conversation over lunch, my husband said to me, “I hate when children are affected and parents don’t even realize what they’re doing to them!"

I concur. Parents often have no idea their own behavior is part of the reason their kids are making the choices they're making!"

We parents cannot control everything our children do, and sometimes despite all of our best attempts at parenting they choose things of their own free will – particularly when they are young adults. However -- the truth remains that we DO affect them through our actions, even when they are adults! Many times our kids are simply mimicking what they see, in us, in different ways.

While our kids have a choice of their free will to live for God, or not -- as Christian parents it is incumbent upon ourselves to ask:  am I living in such a way that impacts my children – in a positive way?

Some would say, “Well yes! I read my Bible. I go to church. I even serve in the church! I don’t smoke, drink to excess, or cheat on my spouse. I have set a positive example.”

Look deeper. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

10 Things That Really Help Me To Grow Spiritually

1)  I read the Word, not just devotionals. 

Something I've noticed about a lot of today's Christians is that a lot of them don't read the Bible anymore.  If they read the Word in any form, it's in devotionals that contain short excerpts from the Bible.  I'm a fan of devotionals as they definitely bring greater clarity on the Bible, but we have to be careful to not use them as a substitute for the Bible.

2)  I read the Word in different versions. 

I am a fan of bible gateway, and love going there to read passages in different versions.  This expands my thought process on the various scriptures I'm studying and gives me a greater perspective -- the full counsel of God's Word.

3)  I write my prayers.

I'm an intercessor and pray in many different ways but writing is a favorite tool when I'm distracted easily, which is a lot.  Many times I'll write my prayers in a password protected format -- they are totally confidential between God and myself, just pouring my heart out, and doing it in this fashion helps me stay focused when other things are clamoring for my attention.

4)  I walk and pray.

Huge fan of this...I do it whether alone at home or at intercessory meetings at church.  Helps me to stay focused and quite literally move forward.

5)  I attend church services a lot. 

I know I "am" the church (the church is people, not a building) and I do make it a priority to attend services where the people are,  not just because I'm a pastor...because I'm a Christian.  (Hebrews 10:25)  Those who are growing most in the church are 99.9% of the time those who are faithful to be there not just on Sundays but during other worship opportunities whether they be mid-week services or small groups.  I don't say that because I'm a pastor, I say it because it's true.  Back when I was in Weight Watchers those who succeeded the most were those who were at meetings all the time.  They would say, "the meetings are the magic!"  There's truth to that for Christians too.

6)  I don't just "attend" services - I'm in close accountable relationships with others.

Yep, even me -- a pastor.  Nobody is exempt from accountable relationships if you want to go somewhere in God.  This helps me to grow - to be encouraged, and to encourage others.  Moving forward is a process only navigated well in the company of others.    

7)  I spiritually eat at home more than I do at church.

While church is essential and cannot be underestimated, I don't expect it to fulfill all my spiritual dietary needs.  I'm required to eat at home for spiritual health.  Some people eat nothing spiritually all week long and show up to church weak and sick spiritually and expect their preacher to do a miracle.  The truth is that God expects you to lift the spoon to your mouth during the week.  Most folks show up needing a spiritual I.V. by Sunday Morning.  And we wonder why many church services across the land are anemic?  They are filled with anemic people -- we ARE the church, so if we are anemic as individuals, the church is too.

8)  I go to services expecting, not hesitating.

I don't come in with a reserved, cynical attitude that wonders if anything is really going to happen.  I show up each time expecting the extraordinary.  That's easy to do when God is in charge.  It isn't dependent upon the preacher, the musicians, whether it's cold or  hot inside or out, or how many other people showed up.  If God's on the scene anything is possible.  When I show up to church I'm a thermostat.  A thermometer only measures the temp in the room but a thermostat sets it.

9)  I keep an open communication going with God all day long.

Praying without ceasing isn't  mystery.  You simply keep an ongoing talk going on about your entire day with your best friend who is right with you all the time.  I talk to God in my head when I'm walking the aisles of Sam's Club shopping for stuff for church, or when I'm sitting at my desk wondering wht in the world to say to the person who just called.  He talks to me all day too.  If He didn't I really wouldn't know what to say or do most of the time so it's good we have this dialogue going.  Otherwise I'd probably advise some people to do some really dumb things.

10)  I am intentional about listening for God.

I love to talk to Him and pour out my heart but what is equally important is getting quiet and hearing Him.  I make a point to put on some worship music, stretch out on the floor, get quiet and just LISTEN for what He's saying.  No preconceived agenda, just listening in the quietness.

Works for me!

~ Pastor Deanna

Monday, October 28, 2013

When Was the Last Time?

So have a good cry, wash out your heart
If you keep it inside it'll tear you apart
~ Dr. Hook, “Better Love Next Time”

Are you harming yourself by what you hold inside? 

Photo Credit: Bart Everts, Flickr

I truly believe many people are not at the place of spiritual, emotional or mental health that God has for them because they do not regularly release their emotions.

God isn’t afraid of our tears. Psalm 56:8 says: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Jesus wept (John 11:35) and the Bible gives instruction that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. (Psalm 126:5)

Apparently, to reap in joy -- tears are required at times.

Some questions to think about…

Why do we often try to suppress our tears?

What is there to be gained by holding our tears inside?

When’s the last time you’ve let the tears flow and didn’t try to hold them back?

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is have a good cry.

I love you, ladies...

~Pastor Deanna


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Are You Trying Harder, or Trusting More?

Today's post comes from my message last night in Fusion service at Celebration. If you weren't there, this is part of what you missed. 

Perhaps you keep trying over and over with certain things in your life and still, you cannot break through. It may be that you are trying to reach a goal or break an addiction, and you keep falling.

I understand.

What’s the difference between trying and trusting?

Let’s talk about these two different roads:

 Galatians 3:2
“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.”

Paul asked a question he already knew the answer to. He knows they received the Spirit when they believed. 

The law only points out what is right and wrong, but provides no solution. Faith, however, leads to salvation. 

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

What was their goal? Salvation. 

More Than Heaven & Hell 

Salvation is not just about a future. It’s about our lives being transformed here and now. It's about having a close relationship with one who loves us more than anyone ever has or will. 

Romans 2:4 says it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. God’s desire is a close relationship because we are wooed by His love, not simply that we fear what will happen.

I had a close relationship with the Lord from the time I was young, however it took time for me to understand the concept of serving Him in love. For some time, I simply feared being left behind if I didn't measure up. Then I realized how passionately Jesus loves me, and it changed my life and my thoughts in this regard.

There are two paths we can take: trying by Human effort or trusting in the power of the Spirit. 

The job is too great to be done by me--that’s why Christ died to pay the price for my sin. If I could do it on my own, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die. 

Photo Credit: MarkBaird, Flickr
Are you a rowboat or a sailboat?

A rowboat is dependent upon human effort. You have to keep rowing to keep it going. A sailboat is moved by the wind. The power of the wind moves the boat. It is still entirely necessary for the boat to move, but the power source of the sailboat is the wind.

We try to do so much WITHOUT GOD!
This is why we keep falling.

Preaching often focuses on, “You need to do this and you need to do that.” Many times sermons are simply a list of shoulds and shouldn’ts. It seems to be all about what we can attain with our human effort if we just try harder.

Everything from, “You need to stop wearing low cut blouses,” to “You need to stop sleeping around,” to “You should pray more.”

During these kind of messages, I think, “Why don't we teach the people who God is, and let them understand the heart and the character of God, and fall totally head over heels…madly in love with Him?” 

When we are head over heels in love with Jesus, we don’t want to wear a low cut blouse.
We don't want to sleep around.
We want to be in constant communication with Him.

When a person knows God intimately and understands who He is and what He has done and can do and will do and wants to do…it rocks their world. They can’t help but change. Their desires and habits change, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through shaming.

A sermon telling people how much they aren’t doing, how much more they need to do, tends to just leave one feeling like they will never measure up.

Guess what – in and of myself, I will never measure up.


Because I will never measure up.

It’s not about trying harder, it’s about surrendering more!

Moral people make choices out of fear of rejection.
Christians make choices because we know we’re accepted. 

Does that mean obedience to the Word is unimportant or that God has no standards for his children? No. But, we must be clear in our understanding that it is not our obedience that makes us His children, but His grace, mercy and forgiveness.   

The more we get to know Him, the more we want to change and the more we do change.

Galatians 3:10-14
 “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law. So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life. This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, It is through obeying the law that a person has life. But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.”

The promise for those who are trying by their own strength to measure up to God’s requirements is a curse. 

Does that mean the Law is bad? No. 
The Law shows our need for God’s grace. 

But the law required more than we could do, and incurs a curse if not rigidly followed forever. And the law itself has the ability to make us want to disobey.

Exactly what you’re told you can’t do is what you want to do.

Admit it.

If you go on a diet where you can’t have pasta, then pasta is what you want. 

The law itself makes us want to be disobedient, and this is a part of its curse.

The blessing of Salvation is that Jesus Christ bore the curse himself and paid the price to set us free from sin’s punishment and bondage.

Today you may be struggling with many things. 

Perhaps you are angry with yourself for falling time and again. You feel condemned for what you are doing or not doing, or perhaps even what you are addicted to.  You keep falling and getting up and trying harder and harder, and still it’s not working.

Get to know God. 
Really know Him.

Knowing Him for who He is and coming close to Him will give you a drive to not want to do those things any more, and furthermore the power to change.