A friend for whom I have the utmost respect recently shared with me the question, “What will you risk for God?” Quite honestly, I have never heard such a question. Faced with the question, and more importantly faced with this challenge, I decided to ponder the question. But I no more asked myself the question than I immediately knew the answer. My response surprised me not because I would risk something big for the Lord I adore, but because I have grown so much in my walk with Him in recent years that I would take this particular risk. So what exactly would I risk for the Lord?What would I risk for the Lord? I would risk the big “R” word. I would risk rejection. Not only would I risk rejection, but I risk rejection regularly. In fact, I risk rejection so regularly I sometimes forget I am taking the risk at all – a far cry from where I began. See, there is little in life I have hated as much and for as long as I have hated rejection. The rejection rascal has come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and forms in my life – abandonment, neglect, abuse, slander, gossip, and so much more. Not only did I come to hate rejection, but I came to resent it so greatly that I would sometimes refuse to take the risk. But if the truth be known, more often than not, I would take the risk – but take it with great fear, extreme defensiveness, and such easy offence it was almost not worth taking the risk.What exactly does rejection have to do with taking a risk for the Lord? I have the heart of an evangelist, and a passion beyond measure to introduce people to Jesus who have never met Him. I also have an indescribable desire to help lead people back to Jesus who have turned their backs on Him, and to encourage people who know Him to deepen their relationship with Him. Risk? Risk rejection? Imagine with a passion like this the risk I take in rejection when I step out in faith – sometimes with accompanying fragments of fear, albeit – and tell the world about this one I love called Jesus.For someone who has hated rejection as much as I have, imagine the risk I take in telling a fallen world about a Savior who Himself garnered more hatred and persecution than we could ever fathom. Imagine telling the world about Jesus when the world resists and rejects Him as much as it does in this day and age. I don’t have to imagine. I know. I do this all the time, and admittedly I hate the rejection but love the fulfillment of my passion and obedience to Him.So how have I grown? I not only take the risk regularly, but I am far more tolerant of the rejection than I ever was. Where rejection used to leave me in a self pitying, puddle of tears heap, when I am rejected for Christ I am learning to let it roll off my shoulders more and more. Certainly I have such a long way to go, but I have started on my way. If nothing else, I do not let the rejection stop me from moving forward. On good days, I let it roll off me. On bad days, I stub my toe, mumble something unnecessary under my breath and move on. On really bad days, I crash to the ground and realize my need for repentance before I bother to get up again.And, on the best of days, I realize it is worth taking the risk of rejection no matter how great this cost to my flesh because I live and breathe for Jesus and can’t imagine any greater privilege than sharing His love with a broken world.Why is rejection easier now than it was in the past? Simple. The Lord. His love, His Word, His calling on my life. I will continue to risk rejection for Him. Sometimes I think my history of being unpopular as a girl, coupled with so much abandonment and rejection by loved ones in earlier adult years, was training ground for me. My history of rejection, as I was refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit, became a catalyst for the growth I have needed to keep stepping forward in faith to declare the name Jesus to a world that so desperately needs Him.What would you risk for God? Think about it. Pray about it. Then do something about it. Take the risk. Trust God. Obey God. Love God. Serve God. And remember somewhere in your future you might just reach up your hands and touch the glorious crown on your head. Or, much better yet, bypass the crown and reach your hands to the heavens to glorify the name of the Lord for whom it was worth taking the risk to declare His name and distribute His love to His Creation.Jas 1:12 “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
God is so cool, as one of my friends likes to say. If I only had words to describe how cool – and amazing – He truly is. Just this past week, He used four people in three parts of the country to teach me a life-saving lesson. Several nights ago, I had so much difficulty sleeping that I brought my laptop to bed and started writing. By morning, after almost no sleep, I had absolutely no recollection of one of the articles I had written. But God in His infinitely awesome ways, jarred my memory.The following afternoon, I received an e-mail from a ministry leader up north about how the Lord had ministered to him through the article I had forgotten writing. God’s timing, as always, had been perfect. But how would I have known to write the article in the middle of the night, let alone to write on that very subject matter? I didn’t know, but God sure did. Little did I know what God would do next.In the article, I had written about the “open heart surgery” I underwent over the past few years. Notice the tense I used. Past tense. I described in the article how over several years God literally opened my heart and began a long, slow, grueling, refining, purging, and so much more process of cleaning out the heart He had given me when I was born again through faith in Jesus. My heart had become so hardened and so full of sin that His love simply could not pass in and through it. So He set me on a gurney, delivered me into the surgery room, and began the open heart surgery.As I wrote in my article, I believed I was through with the surgery. The day after I wrote the article, two friends were ministering to me over the phone through prayer, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and plenty of love. My friend had a vision as they ministered to me and shared it with me.”Lara, God is showing me that you’re in the operating room having surgery,” she said.God is so cool. He used my writing in the middle of the night in South Carolina, a ministry leader’s need to be ministered to through the article up north, and two friends traveling from the north to the south to teach me my life-saving lesson.If God is not finished giving me open heart surgery, I have no business jumping off the surgery table and running out of the operating room with my heart wide open and my surgery incomplete. Thank God for His endless mercy. He stood patiently waiting over the surgery table waiting for my imminent return.I can’t speak for the ministry leader up north, nor for my friends traveling from the north to the south, but I can speak for myself. God is so cool that in orchestrating all of this He reminded me that I have the best surgeon in the whole wide world. And Jesus already paid the price for my surgery.Eze 11:19 “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.”Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
Gimme this. Gimme that. We’re living in the “Gimme” generation. But worse than this, we’re also living in the Gimme God Generation. How is that? When I look at myself, and I see myself in others, I see how easily we can fall prey to believing God is a Gimme God. Gimme this. Gimme that. God, gimme, gimme. Something tells me God is not too appreciative of how demanding we can be, not especially when sin is at an all time high. Not that playing Gimme with God is unfair at the start, but imagine how much more absurd it is for me to “Gimme God” when I’m sitting in a mess of sin.I wonder what God has to say about the Gimme God Generation. I do not even want to begin to imagine. Instead, I would rather take a look at the state of my heart and see where I have fallen short today. His mercy seat is always waiting, and I spend a lot of time there – confessing and seeking forgiveness for what I have done wrong. In the meantime, I cannot deny I go to God with plenty of petitions. But I try a lot harder now to ask for what He might want me to have rather than demand from Him petitions that are clearly not in His will.What are you asking for from God today? Are you playing Gimme with God, or are you asking in alignment with His Word? If you’re like the rest of us that have been playing Gimme with God, why not try asking Him for something that will help you be in His will and glorify His name? Try it. You might just like it. I imagine He sure would.”You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:7 KJVPlease visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
I was born with a huge heart. No, I was born with a humongous heart. But my huge heart, once filled with love and compassion, got itself into trouble more often than not. I was sensitive, selfish, and so silly about love. What could I expect? My human heart failed like all human hearts do. No matter how much I wanted to love and give when I wasn’t lost in my selfishness, I became hurt over and again when things didn’t go my way. My heart became hardened and stopped working. God gave me a new heart – His heart – when Jesus became my Lord. But my new heart became clogged – and hardened once again. God’s love couldn’t flow through my messed up heart. So God took a hold of my heart and gave me open heart surgery.Ouch? No. Excruciating pain – over a period of years. God brought me to repentance and began the phenomenally painful process of purging my heart of all that clogged it. So what happened to my huge heart? My humongous heart? My heart is bigger than huge, and greater than humongous. I don’t even have a word for it. I feel God’s heart inside of me now. I feel His love, His compassion, His mercy, His prayers, His desires for a world in desperate need of Him. Oh, how hungry is my heart to share Him through His heart He has placed in me.Dear God, thank you for your heart. Thank you for purifying me so you can live in and through me. Thank you for placing in your heart inside of me your love and compassion for a broken world. Please God use me to share with others your mercy and grace to a world that needs you like never before. Please save us, God. Please forgive us, God. Please draw us to you. Please restore us. Please give this world your heart. Teach us to love and forgive. Teach us to share your heart with the whole wide world. I love you, God! Thank you for your heart! Amen.Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
The very first time I felt the presence of God was in Jamaica when I was as lost as lost can be. For minutes, I detected the presence of something supreme. I walked away. The next time I felt the presence of God was in north England when I was further lost. I felt His presence. I walked away.Oh, I prayed alright in those years. A few scattered times. Drunken, on a subway, I prayed God would get me to a bathroom on time to pee. I went to the bathroom and forgot to thank Him. I walked away. Who was God anyway? I had no idea. Then I found the biggest tragedy I see in America today. I found a Generic God. I entered a recovery program and was encouraged to pray to a higher power of my own choosing.I prayed to my unknown, undefined, Generic God. My recovery, and my life, were as great as my Generic God. Generic. Limited. I was limited – and lost. Now I watch America lost, as lost as I was. Generic is always cheaper. Generic when it comes to God is also deadly. God saw fit to deliver me from my generic, limited, deadly life by introducing me to God the Creator of the Universe – and His Son Jesus, my Savior. My Generic God had me headed to hell.My Savior died and rose again so I could put my faith in Him and be forgiven and get a free ticket to heaven. But that’s just the beginning. He is teaching me through the Bible how to follow Him and to live the most extraordinary life. My Generic God didn’t even offer me an ordinary life. He didn’t offer me much of anything at all – but destruction and ultimately death. . Hello Jesus. Now I have eternal life – and an extraordinary life until I get to my next destination. So extraordinary. The real deal. Jesus. Hallelujah! Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
The cover of my recently published book Slow Dance with Jesus may say “written by a woman who walked a long, hard road barefoot to get to the dance,” but I never in a million years imagined how narrow the gate would be to the life the Lord has for me. Some people think I am physically thin, particularly this past year when I unfortunately allowed myself to get sucked back into a dangerous dance with an eating disorder. But even a smaller stature has not made entering through the narrow gate any easier.The Lord has washed my feet and purified my heart, so the road I walk upon is no longer as rough and my feet are now covered in sandals of God’s love. But the gate I pass through to enter into the life the Lord created me to have is so very narrow. I have to suck in my breath, say a prayer, and squeeze on through. Some of me gets left behind – the part of me that does not belong with me any longer because now I walk with the Lord. I know full well I could have continued down the broad road that leads to destruction.In fact, I had long since arrived at the place of destruction. I could go back, I know. But I would rather squeeze through the narrow gate and do life God’s way than go back to where so much of the world remains. I take the hand of Jesus as He shows me this new road I walk upon. His other hand is free for the next person who will enter in. Enter in, my friend. You may need to squeeze through like me, and you may even have to leave part of you behind. But I promise you, it will be worth your while. Come along.”Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction; and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that lead to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7: 13-14 KJV)Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
Yesterday I did one of the hardest things I have ever done, and in my obedience to God I expected to feel awful afterward. After all, God had asked me to do something my flesh could not even fathom. But I put my flesh under subjection, chose to obey God, and was astounded to find freedom on the other side of my obedience. Immediately. Yes, as soon as I took the action, I felt free. I was not exhilarated about what I had done. Nor was I thrilled I had obeyed the Lord. I was simply free. It amazes me how much I can still fight obedience when I know good and well that God’s way is always best. Has God asked you to do something that has you hemming & hawing? Why not quit hemming & hawing, and choose the Hallelujah way instead? God’s way is best. Try it. You’ll soon see. Hallelujah! Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
When my beloved dog trainer Abby Bird taught me years ago my very first obedience lesson, little did she know the faith lesson I would ultimately learn from the Lord. I showed up eagerly and innocently at my first training session with my puppy Abby (not named after the trainer, by the way), not realizing I would need a whole lot more training than my dog. But God’s sense of humor shined forth, and so did His patience. And thank God for Abby the trainer’s patience also. Her first teaching was one I will never forget – not for the sake of canines, but most importantly for mine.Abby taught the class that we should train our dogs to FOCUS as the very top priority, because a dog needs to focus on its handler in order to receive any other instructions. So for the first session, and for my homework, I began the task of moving a treat in my hand from near my dog’s nose to my face – with the intention of getting my dog to focus on my face.Once Abby the dog learned to focus on my face, I could give her other commands. Suffice it to say Abby the trainer had to call me in for a private, “special” session because I was submitting to my dog rather than the other way around. My voice was so submissive in giving Abby the dog her commands my dog became quickly adept at disregarding my instructions.My faith lesson? In submitting to the Lord, I need to focus on Him above all else. Before I am able to hear or follow any of His instructions, I need to seek His face. I need to disregard the distractions of life and learn to focus on Him. And, if my attention falls to the never ending distractions in life, I need to follow that little treat all the way back to His face.Just like my dog needed to learn to focus before I gave her any other instructions, I need to focus on the Lord before I move forward with any further instructions He has for me. How can I know, or do, what He desires when my focus is all over the map?Dogs have endless opportunities for distraction, as I have learned through the years. And so do I. The world’s distractions are ever growing, and so is my temptation to get distracted. But I have a choice.I can still hear Abby the trainer in my training sessions all those years ago. Did I say “my” training sessions? Yes. Apparently I needed training more than my dog – and still do.”Focus!” Abby would say in a sweet, yet assertive voice, teaching us handlers to train our dogs.”Focus!” God needs to remind me daily. And, when I forget, I undoubtedly have an opportunity to remember – usually when I crash into my next unpleasant consequence of not focusing on the Lord.”Good job!” Abby the trainer taught us to say to our dogs when they obeyed their commands.Graduation day with our dogs was an unforgettable day. Graduation caps for the dogs, the graduation march, cameras, photos, gifts, and congratulations. Abby my dog loved the attention.As for me, I have not yet graduated. I am just now, all these years later, realizing that my need to focus on the Lord involves a whole lot more training and practice than Abby my dog ever needed.I thank the Lord He is such a patient teacher.And I thank God for Abby the dog trainer who unknowingly taught me an unforgettable lesson in faith.Focus!If you live in the Hilton Head area, South Carolina, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for contact information for Abby the dog trainer. Likewise, if you need contact information for the Lord, He is available for training everywhere, anytime, for free. Jesus already paid the price. You are welcome to contact me for more information.Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
God does not just have a plan. He has a perfect plan. God does not just have random timing for His plan. He also has perfect timing for His perfect plan. We humans have our own plans. We humans have our own timing for our own plans. How much we miss when we choose our own plan over God’s plan. How much we also miss when we choose His plan with our own timing. What different lives we would have if we chose His plan and His timing. I have the most experience with my plans and my timing. I have some experience with His plans and my timing. I have the least experience of all with His plans and His timing. But now I have the desire like never before to trust Him so completely that I will give my life over to His plans and His timing. My life is His. So why not learn to wait for His plans and His timing? I no longer want to settle for less than God’s best.”For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Hab. 2:3 KJVPlease visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.
I couldn’t help but wonder this morning why Shnookles the rescue dog was lapping so happily in the murky, muddy, mediocre to say the best post-storm water puddle to satiate his thirst. Undoubtedly the temptation was tantalizing. After all, last night’s latest round of tremendous thunder boomers, coupled with four dogs’ digging endeavors over the past week or so produced a bigger-than-usual mud puddle. But with bowls and buckets of water all around to cool off the dogs in the brutal heat wave, why would Shnookles settle for less than the best? Leave it to God to teach me the Muddy Puddle Faith Lesson in the midst of it all.Shnookles is short. He is not just short. He is very short. Come on. All dogs are short, right? No, some dogs are short. Some dogs are shorter. And some are super short. All dogs are shorter than regular sized adult humans, but some dogs are just plain old short. Such is the case with Shnookles. As a Petit Basset Verdeen Griffon mix (no, I had never heard of the breed either), Shnookles wins the prize for short. Despite his 45 pounds (can you believe it?!), all his weight is stuffed into a very adorable, unbelievably unique looking, well – you guessed it. Short dog. So why shouldn’t he drink from a mud puddle?I have sometimes caught Shnookles drinking from the buckets of water as opposed to the bowls. I cannot help but laugh. He totes his body upward, grabs the side of the bucket with his paws, and somehow tilts his mouth even higher and then drops it down lower to partake of the water. But if the truth be known, he has the option to drink out of the water bowls – a much easier reach. So why go for the mud puddle?As I moved briskly about the yard this morning doing my just about never ending tour of doggy duties, I came to a realization. I have often drunk from the mud puddles of life because they were far easier, more comfortable, and more familiar than stretching out of my comfort zone to drink the pure, delicious, and cleaner water from above. Why would I stretch my whole body upward, tilt my mouth even higher, and so on to get to the very best? Why? Because as a loved one said to me years ago, God does not want what’s good for me. He wants what’s best for me.But drinking God’s best involves a decision. Will I give up the comfort and ease of drinking from muddy puddles and stretch upward to receive God’s best?As I watch Shnookles resting in the air conditioned indoors, fully satiated, I wonder. When will I realize life is better when I stretch for God’s best? Surely given today’s heat the muddy puddle is dried up by now – or well on its way. Sometimes I have no muddy puddles in life to tempt me, so I automatically reach for God’s best. But sometimes a big storm comes along and leaves muddy puddles all around.Then comes the question. Remember the woman at the well? Jesus asked her for water, and she hesitated because of their difference in backgrounds. Then He told her the water He offers comes from a well that goes on forever.Which water will you choose today? Why not jump over the muddy puddles all around you and open your eyes and heart and mouth for God’s everlasting river of living waters? 7 “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:7-15 NIV)Please visit Walk by Faith Ministry at https://www.walkbyfaithministry.com.