Holy Moments, Inspire

Daily Delights

lifeguard-405891_640What brings you delight? In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ character and the Von Trapp children sang a happy tune about a few of their favorite things. Remember? They sang about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen, brown paper packages tied up with string…

What are your favorite things? You know, the ones that put a smile on your face or a song in your heart? Depending on who you are and what season of life you’re in, the source of your delight may vary. For example, toys for tots, machines for men, wardrobes for women, tunes for teens, or recreation for the retired.

“Delight” simply describes something that provokes in you a pleasurable emotion, a sense of deep enjoyment or a high degree of satisfaction.

Daily delights are all around us, if we will only look. We often forget that God will use what we take delight in to accomplish His will. I love to share this story about my husband Skip, to illustrate this point.

Late one night, before Skip had become a pastor, heard the pounding surf echoing in his ears and decided to follow Pacific Coast Highway to the Huntington Beach pier. Being a typical Southern Californian beach boy, the salt and sand were a few of his daily delights. As he drove past the oil wells lazily nodding offshore, a sign posted on an apartment window, “Available Now,” caught his attention. For some time Skip had believed that God was calling him to become a pastor.  However, he was uncertain of where and how he should minister. Yet at that instant, he remembered something his pastor had said the previous evening; “God is more likely to use people who are available now than those who are waiting for a thunderous voice from heaven to direct them sometime in the future.”

While pondering this, Skip parked his car and headed out barefoot onto the empty beach to pray. His destination was one of the many orange lifeguard stations. He scanned the horizon as he climbed the ladder–not another soul in sight. Perched atop the wooden structure with the ocean breeze blowing through his hair, Skip prayed out loud, “Here I am. Send me wherever you’d like. Use me as you see fit. I’m available now!” Then he waited to hear God’s still small voice. Instead, his brief prayer was interrupted by a peculiar sound coming from the base of the guardhouse; crunch, crunch, crunch. Skip peered over the edge of his lofty perch, surprised to discover a scruffy-looking boy eating a bag of Cheetos. Skip quickly thought, Perhaps God wants to use me right here and now. “Hey, dude,” Skip called out, completely startling the guy noisily munching beneath him. After a few introductory comments, Skip steered their conversation to the One who’d created the roaring ocean. The two beach boys began discussing life and death sin and salvation. By the end of their conversation, Skip led his fellow surfer in a prayer of salvation. In the shadow of a moonlit night, just by Skip’s being “available now,” God had been able to use him. Just by spending time delighting in his favorite place while praying to the Holy One, Skip stumbled quite naturally upon his own holy moment. Humanity and divinity had intersected at a unique point and time, and two lives were changed forever. As a result, Skip became more convinced that God wanted him to pursue full-time ministry: “That situation taught me that God doesn’t merely use those with ability, but availability.” Many people assume that an encounter with God can only be experienced through pain and suffering. But there’s good news; while trials do teach Christians a great deal, they are not the only catalysts God uses to accomplish His will in our lives.  Are you looking for God? If so, He can be found in a valley or on a mountaintop–and in every place in between.

Psalm 37:4 reveals that the Lord speaks as powerfully through pleasure as He does through pain. So, don’t make the mistake of only listening for God’s voice when disaster hits, or finally reaching out for His hand when there’s no place else to turn. Instead, begin to recognize God’s still, small voice in the midst of your daily duties and learn to sense His holy presence in places you routinely visit. Like Jacob, you may be journeying along a familiar road, not realizing that “the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Gen. 28:16, NIV). Or like Elijah, you might be listening for God’s voice in a violent windstorm, a tumultuous earthquake or a ferocious fire only to discover it in  “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, NIV).  One of the most important truths of the Christian faith is that we must not only be open to God’s surprises, but also ready and eager to embrace them.

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Bible Study and Teaching, Inspire

Birds in Flight

Bird iStock_000002531168LargeI enjoyed a “pre-saved” holy moment that gave me a glimpse of God as the author of life.  Raised an aetheist, as a sophomore in college, I was bothered by the conversion of my skeptical father to Christianity.  Billy Graham’s book How to Be Born Again was a best-seller that year, so I decided to purchase a copy to gain insight into my father’s newfound faith.  Spreading out a blanket on the shores of Lake Michigan, I pulled out my book for a leisurely read.  An excerpt from chapter 3, “Does God Really Speak to Us?” made me blurt out loud, “Yeah, right!” Graham proposed that God was the Creator who speaks to His creatures through creation; “In its own language, nature speaks of God’s existence, whether it is the cry of a baby or the song of a meadowlark…the instincts of a bird within his plans.”

Arrogantly, I decided to put creator God to a test, challenging, “If you formed the instincts within a bird and want to show me that You are sovereign over all, then influence the bird tweeting in the distance to sing a little song for me by landing upon the tree I’m sitting under.”  Fluttering out of the distance, a small gray swallow came into view.  Then he lit upon the branch above my head and chirped a happy melody.  Closing the book ceremoniously, I thought, Maybe God really does exist and has created me for a purpose.

Just like that, in a holy moment, God had sprung the lock on a college coed’s closed mind with His unseen hand of providence.  I began attending Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, and two months later I offered my heart to the Lord.  My experience is evidence that holy moments are designed to draw us closer to the Holy One.

God is creator of heaven and Earth, sovereign over all He has made. And his creations, from the stars at night to the birds in flight, are evidence of His divine nature. Paul tells us, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).  Nothing, not even the fall or the flight of a sparrow, escapes God’s all-seeing eye. And He uses the intricacies of nature to get the attention of his ultimate creation, humanity. People like you and me are much more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows (see Luke 12:7).

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Late for Practice

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When I was a brand-new Christian, I loved hearing about the extraordinary events that happened in the lives of ordinary people like you and me.  One of my favorite real-life tales took place in Beatrice, Nebraska.  The story begins in a little church called West Side Baptist that was known for its choir.  Like clockwork, the choir members practiced at church every Wednesday night at precisely 7:20 P.M.  But on March 1, 1950, everyone had an excuse for being late, from the sopranos to the basses.

Marilyn Paul, the church pianist, fell asleep after dinner, so she and her mother were late.  Ladonna Vandergrift, a high school sophomore, was having trouble with her homework, so she ran behind schedule.  Slowed down by car trouble, a married couple that provided transportation for several other members of the choir meant that a whole carload would be delayed.  Amazingly, 20 people, including every singer, the choir director, Reverend Walter Klempel and his wife, were all late.  And all of them had excellent excuses.  At precisely 7:25 P.M., the time when chorus rehearsal should have begun, not one soul was in the choir loft-and that had never happened before.

That peculiar night the church furnace ignited a gas leak in the basement of the west Side Baptist Church and the whole building burst into a blaze.  The furnace room was right below the choir loft-where the choir should have been singing!  The walls collapsed outward while the heavy roof crashed straight down in a deadfall.  The blast forced a nearby radio station off the air and shattered windows in surrounding homes.

If Marilyn had been the only survivor, she might have assumed that there was nothing uncommon about an after-dinner snooze. (And personally, I’ve never thought car trouble constituted a miraculous turn of events).  No high school student in his or her right mind would consider homework the handiwork of God.  But on May 1, 1950, if you belonged to the choir at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, the most ordinary excuse became extraordinary evidence of God’s using everyday circumstance to accomplish His will.  Perhaps statisticians could calculate the exact odds of all these random events occurring simultaneously, yet it seems safe to say that chances are one in a million that the entire choir would arrive late on the same evening!  All these years later, the still-surviving members believe that their ordinary circumstances were an act of God.

Perhaps you’ve always assumed that supernatural surprises only happen to old, dead saints.  That’s not true!  Holy moments take place in everyone’s life-because holy moments are meant to point us to the Holy One.  They are God’s way of drawing back the curtains in heaven so that we can see Him moving behind the scenes and moving all the scenes that He’s behind.  When unbelievers experience holy moments, it is God’s way of getting their attention too.  He’s showing them that he’s in on the act and longs to be Director of all their tomorrows.

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Heaven Sent

iStock_000006748253MediumNothing seemed out of the ordinary that bright Sunday morning as I jogged down the same route I had taken the previous six days of my vacation in Honolulu. It was a picture-postcard day in paradise. As I ran, I passed surfers catching blue-green waves tht would eventually crash and subside on the sandy shores of Waikiki. I followed a course past touristy Kalakaua Avenue, through exotic Kapiolani Park and up the stark volcanic slopes of Diamond Head.

Suddenly, trouble in paradise hit hard. Ouch! At the halfway point of a five-mile excursion, I stopped dead in my tracks. The mother of all charley horses gripped my left calf – I was paralyzed with pain. Stumbling, then fumbling for a nearby wall, I did every conceivable stretch in a desperate attempt to loosen the unrelenting cramp. Nothing worked. I was two-and-a-half miles away from my hotel with no money for a taxi, so I began hobbling toward my final destination.
After navigating several blocks in agonizing discomfort, God tapped me on the shoulder-or should I say, spoke to my heart: Lenya,why don’t you pray? Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Then I asked Him, “Lord, help! I can’t make it back without damaging my leg further. Please send me help or heal me. What should I do?”

Through the park, strewn with palm trees and fragrant plumeria blossoms, I spotted a bright banner stretched across a minibus: Heaven Sent. I smiled at God’s sense of humor and His impeccable timing. What was the minibus doing smack-dab in my path? Should I limp up and knock on the window? Then the rest of the sign came into focus: Heaven Sent Mobile Massage Therapy. “This is too good to be true,” I mumbled. Then I wondered, could this be a holy moment orchestrated by God’s good hand?

Just then a local named Bunny Gabaylo stepped out to ask if I needed help. A pleading request tumbled out of my mouth. I’ve just injured myself running. I’ve got two more miles to go. Could you work out the knot in my calf? The problem is, I’m not carrying any money to pay you.” He simply handed me a flyer, and said in Pidgin English, “It your lucky day. I offering two-minute massage free to first-time customer.” Bunny, a licensed massage therapist, worked on my calf for nearly 20 minutes applying shiatsu acupressure, deep-tissue massage and Tiger Balm. While I lay on the padded exam table, listening to Julio Iglesias over the high-tech sound system, Bunny graciously offered his healing touch. When I noticed a picture of Jesus on the wall of his minibus, I said, “Are you a Christian?”

He affirmed that he was and added, “I should be at church, since it Sunday. But a friend invite me to Kapiolani Park for race that end here today.” When I stood up, I was overjoyed to discover that my gait had straightened out and my leg was greatly improved. I thanked him and offered to send a check in payment for his services. But Bunny refused, saying, “This is my calling. No charge for you.”

The next two miles seemed more like two blocks as I delighted myself in the Lord who had granted me the desires of my heart by answering my prayer the precise moment it was uttered. I asked God for help during a time of need and He provided an answer that was truly heaven-sent!

The divinely appointed meeting with Bunny was not my first holy moment, and God has showered me with many others such moments since then. All these events have convinced me that they are available to anyone, from unbelievers to those who are passionate about following God-and He can send holy moments to many people simultaneously. Holy moments are God’s subtle way of getting our attention. They serve as a sweet reminder that he is near. I am not more special than anyone else-our heavenly Father doesn’t play favorites. However, I’ve developed a sensitivity to holy moments because of a scripture that became my life’s verse many years ago.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:4-5)

Meditating upon Psalm 37:4-5 opened my eyes to the ways that God moves among us. He longs to intersect our paths with his heavenly interruptions.

Church Body, Inspire

One Way

For the 60’s generation that dropped out, turned on, and tuned in Chuck Smith pointed them to Jesus with an contagious smile and a finger pointed heavenward.

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Society marginalized the long-haired, hippie freaks, but Pastor Chuck opened his heart and church doors to their exuberant, alternate music and groovy way of dressing. While experimenting with “free love” they discovered authentic love in the pages of a little black book. For God is love. The combination of unconditional love and Smith’s magnetic presentation of the Bible launched the first wave of the “Jesus Movement.”

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Pastor Chuck Smith moved to heaven today. Because of his ministry, I went from bartender to Bible study leader. I left drug use and promiscuity to become spirit filled and experience incredible intimacy in Christ. May I suggest that we bring back a favorite gesture of those days? In honor of Chuck’s new residence in heaven, let’s point others to Jesus with the “one way” sign! 👆

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Be Still

Sitting still requires relinquishing your chaos to a God who cares and is in control. Take time to climb onto His lap. Rest your whirling head on His chest. As your heart beat and breathing begins to mimic His calming rhythm, hear His gentle voice say: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

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Worship

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What was her work? Worship. Exorbitant, extravagant, extraordinary worship. She broke her box of blessing, that alabaster container full of precious perfume and poured it on the Savior…anointed Him in love. What can you do for Him today? Reckless love!

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Wait

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God answers every prayer with a “yes” or a “no” or “wait.” Waiting isn’t passive, it’s active. It includes the anticipation of a Christmas morning and the application of knowledge that leads to graduation day. You don’t wait on the fickleness of fate, you wait on the faithfulness of the Lord!

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He Created Us To Create

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I’m creative by nature. I love the challenge of a project. Once I have a task, I go to places like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s with a mission and I will not be defeated! I’m kind of a cathartic creator. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, and there is no order to it. At times, I travel from idea to idea faster than you can blink. With a history in fashion merchandising, I have my own aesthetic and imagination. You have to know my motto is, “Go big or go home.”

This year will mark Calvary Albuquerque’s 30th year. It’s hard to believe30 years ago Skip and I, newly married, packed up all of our items and moved from the sandy beaches and blue oceans of California to the sandy deserts and blue skies of New Mexico. As often happens over a 30-year time span, some things need to be updated to keep you from being outdated. A few weeks back I was working on a project with our staff to brainstorm of what their vision for the next 30 years will mean for Calvary Albuquerque.

My favorite art designer, Khanh, and I went on a 3-hour adventure in Hobby Lobby. We looked at canvases and lettering, scrapbook paper, Hodge Podge, and every kind of material and adhesive they had. We picked our ideal materials and away we went to my house. As I sat on the floor working out my vision with the purchased supplies, I was in my joy zone. I was slathering glue on my hands and smearing it exactly where I wanted it and I was gleeful like a kid. I think God delights in this same way.

When I think about God and His creativity, the beautiful New Mexico sunsets He paints, the colorful flowers that I believe He makes just for our pleasure, I smile. I think He is a creative God. One of His names is Elohim, which can be translated “mighty Creator.” This is the God who created the entire universe, separated dark from light, land from sea (see Genesis 1), and made all of the animals in every color, shape, and size (see Genesis 2). I can imagine Him creating creatures like the platypus, the anteater, the gnat and (perhaps?) chuckling to Himself when He stood back from His creation.

I think He is a creative God, who made His people to be creative. I am so thankful for this gifting and I have utter joy when I get to operate in it. Now, you might say you have no creative gifting. You can’t knit, scrapbook, or Hodge Podge. But can you sing? Do you make a mean lasagna? Do you grow pretty flowers or delicious tomatoes in your backyard? Creativity doesn’t just include the things found in Hobby Lobby. He didn’t limit His creativity to one kind of animal, or one kind of plant, or even one kind of human. Whatever your niche is, find the childlike joy of the Lord in it. Get messy and chaotic. Delight in it, knowing that the God who created the entire span of the universe also created you in His image, His creative image.

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Commission and Comfort

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to themthe children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” Joshua 1:1-17.

Has anyone ever told you, “I’ve got your back?” Perhaps it was a parent, a player on your baseball team, or a private in the military. On a recent trip to the Holy Land I saw a T-shirt hanging from a shop in the Old City of Jerusalem that read, “Don’t worry America, Israel’s got your back.” It made me chuckle knowing that, in fact, the United States has got Israel’s back. Suddenly it occurred to me that no human or army, past or present, possesses enough strength to deliver Israel from her enemies. God alone watches Israel’s back.

The phrase, “I’ve got your back,” which probably originated with pilots in World War II, has been popping up a lot lately from movies on YouTube to sweat shirts made by military wives. If you Google the phrase, you’ll discover it denotes a sense of protectiveness. It’s someone’s way of saying, “Go ahead, I’ll watch out for you.” A good definition for the term might be: An expression that assures someone that you are watching out for them. A promise made by someone assuring that you are protected from what’s behind while you’re busy looking ahead.

Although the Promised Land was God’s gift to Israel, they would be victorious only through vigorous battle. God gave them title to the territory, but in order to possess it, they must march upon every part of it. Thankfully, with God’s divine commissions come His great comforts. God gave Joshua a command and a promise: lifetime victory over his enemies based on His unfailing presence. Joshua knew he could march forward because God truly had his back! Have you been given marching orders and are simply waiting to conquer the land? Be of good courage; just like the children of Israel, God has your back. Take the first step of faith and see all He has for you!