Stewarding Kingdom Influence

John’s encounter with Jesus at the Jordan River in Matthew 4 teaches us what it is to healthily steward Kingdom influence. 

John has been preaching to the multitudes, “Heaven is about to appear! Turn from evil and turn to God!” (Matthew 3:2)  And thousands are responding to his message of freedom by confessing their sin and being baptized in the Jordan River. John knows his life’s message and is owning it with bold conviction in front of believers and non-believers alike. 

THEN Jesus comes to Galilee to be baptized by John. Matthew 3:13 says, “when Jesus waded into the water John RESISTED him saying, ‘why are you doing this?’ John the Baptist, the prophesied voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3, Mal. 3:1) RESISTED Jesus! John’s been telling the multitudes that the Messiah is coming, who will baptize his people in fire (see Acts 2), and whose shoes John is not worthy to touch. Yet, the moment Jesus shows up with new instruction, John resists him.

I believe we all too often find ourselves as taken aback by Jesus as John is in this moment. We’re running our race, others’ lives are being impacted by our ministry, and we’re feeling fully capable of carrying out the assignment exactly as planned. BUT THEN Jesus steps into our situation with a new direction and we find ourselves at odds with the King. Put yourself in John’s shoes. “Surely you’ve got this wrong Jesus. I’m not really supposed to baptize you? Surely not now, in front of all of these people? After all that I’ve told them? What would they think?”

Isn’t it funny how often we as believers value a good presentation over the presence of Jesus? Jesus is right there! He’s telling John what must be done but because it doesn’t compliment his idea of a well executed plan, John is stopped in his tracks. He is resistant to the very thing he’s been expectant of, Jesus’ coming. Even if John felt unworthy of what he was being asked to do, who was he to argue with Jesus?

When John asks, “why are you doing this?” I love Jesus’ reply. He says, “it’s only right that we do all that the Father requires.” In other words, “because I said so.” When Jesus wades into your situation, that one you’ve got all figured out, (the 5 year plan, the chosen college, the ministry, the blog, the child rearing, the career) and he speaks your next move to you, take a page from John’s story. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t expect a theological dispensation on why this and not that. Simply obey.

John baptizes Jesus. “And as Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened up over him and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon him…the Father shouted from the sky, saying, ‘This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him” (Matthew 3:16-17) Think of how affirming and fulfilling this moment was for John! His quick obedience to the instruction of Jesus solidified him forever in the story of the unfolding Kingdom and the arrival of its King. Each well-stewarded moment of resistance in your life, each opportunity to obey, solidifies you in that story as well.

On the other side of obedience is always breakthrough. If you are waiting for breakthrough in any area of your life, I am willing to wager there is an opportunity to obey attached to it. We don’t know what manifest glory we release in our lives when we simply take Jesus at his word and say yes. It wasn’t sin for John to resist, to not understand, or to even question Jesus’ plan. But he didn’t allow it to cause him to disobey.

In John 5:35 Jesus calls John “a lamp that burned and gave light.” I believe John was a man of fire not because he spoke loudly and wore wild clothing but because he chose obedience to Christ over the convenience of being luke-warm and in charge. Living in the delight of agreement with Jesus far surpasses the brief satisfaction of a well-executed plan. We must remember that we are citizens of a Kingdom in which we are not the King. As John’s life demonstrates, simple obedience to Jesus is a mark of true Kingdom influence. 

Tending Your Dreams

This summer I was encouraged to invest in myself. After years of dreaming big and still seeing so little fruit in certain areas of my life, disappointment was beginning to contaminate my thoughts of the future. Invest in myself? What, like get a pedicure?

I realized in my tunnel vision I’d allowed my heart to neglect other dreams while in pursuit of this one. Because my heart was broken over the one, I’d found myself distancing myself from people and from my passions. I could sense the distance from my heart and home increasing and knew something had to be done immediately. After all, what of the dream I’d held for so long of family? Was I going to let this one assault on my career keep me from pouring into and enjoying the loves of my life?

I began to simplify my schedule and become intentional about my time with my daughter and with my husband. Saying “no” to others has never been my strong suit but when there is something as  precious as family on the line, you rally the courage. Since doing so, I’ve felt my daughter’s little heart beam in the knowledge that she’s captured my attention. And the response in my husband has been similar.

You see, they were my first and dearest dream. It’s funny how once we’ve attained a dream, we tend to neglect investing in it with the same fervor we did before it was in our possession. I realized that investing in my family was an investment in myself. A human being pouring into their dream is deeply fulfilling, whatever that dream may be, but especially if it is fulfilling for others.

On this journey of investing in myself I also began to search out those passions which had laid dormant, allowing myself to engage with and revive them. I’ve found a new vocal instructor and am taking lessons again.  I’m drawing, and decorating, and taking care of myself. And I’m doing these things for no one’s benefit but my own. And it feels good. And unsurprisingly everyone around me benefits from the change in my attitude and the releasing of my gifts.

Don’t be afraid of investing in yourself on your journey. It will not detract from your destination. As long as you know who you are in Him and what you are about, no time invested in growing yourself and tending your dreams is wasted time. Even if they do not seem to pertain to the end you have in mind, every element of who the Father has created you to be, is valuable and worthy of attendance.

So, in the waiting, release your gifts and explore your dreams. Leave no rock un-turned in the quarry of your passions. You may be surprised at what you find there. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Small Beginnings

I was putting away dishes this week when a revelation the Lord has been working to impart in my heart seized me and finally began to sink in. I’d been living in my home for the passed 2 1/2 years, just passing the days here until I can finally purchase my dream home and life really begin for my little family. But in that moment of putting those dishes into the cabinet I finally saw what the Lord has been trying to speak to me for weeks.

Home has always been high on my list of priorities. Cultivating a space in which my family feels inspired, at peace, and a sense of belonging has been a dream kept at the forefront of my mind since I was a little girl.

This time last year we were expecting our daughter, and I remember the nagging worry I felt about not being able to give her all that she’d need. We currently live in a one bedroom home. I can’t think of the square footage off the top of my head but I’m sitting on my couch in one corner of my house and with the bedroom door open, the corner furthest from this spot is not too far away. We live in a tiny home.

You can imagine the anxiety I felt at the thought of bringing a newborn into such a small place. It’s amazing though what love does. When she came into our lives, having space was the last thing on our minds. We wanted no space. Being as close as possible was the only appropriate response to having so much love placed in your arms. There is truly a multiplying power at work when the love between two people creates a little life. Love exponentially increases.

We have a sign above our stove that says, “love grows well in little houses.” Each home that Tuck and I have lived in has been tiny. There has never been room enough to escape during an argument. Never room enough to enjoy hobbies apart from each other. Never room enough to miss the little idiosyncrasies of the other. And because there has been so little space between us we have unearthed the trash and the treasure in one another.

I can’t imagine not having had this time of living close. I don’t know that Tuck and I could have made it this far if the space in which God placed us had allowed for distance between us. Every sigh, every word spoken under our breath, the sound my face makes when I smile (yeah it’s a thing), my attentiveness to the movements my very quiet husband makes, all became a part of an exchange between us that forced us to deal with one another. It’s the best thing I could hope for any couple willing to put in the life-long work it takes to cultivate a stellar marriage.

Though our daughter is about to be a year old and sleeps in the kitchen, I’m falling in love with our home all over again. I know we won’t always be here so I want to appreciate this house for the life that has unfolded here, the love that has grown well here, which seems to have been absorbed in the laminate floors I can never mop enough, and the walls we painted grey last year.

I’m finding the little nooks that have daily spoken “home” to me so that I can remember when we are in our 3 bedroom home one day, the conversation we had with this house, the life we lived within its dry-walled arms. I encourage you to treasure the small stuff in your life while they’re small.

“Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

Partnering with God

I love the relationship I see growing between my mom and I. We are at the threshold of crossing over into what is one of the most powerful friendships I’ve ever experienced but we are still very much child and momma. What I’ve observed in my mom over the years is a relentless hope to see her children step into the fullness of our individual callings and her care for my being fully equipped to do so, occupies our every conversation.

I’ve witnessed my mom POUR OUT blessing for her children over the years. Anything I have needed in order to fulfill what  I’ve heard the Lord speaking to me to do, she has helped me to achieve. Be it through finances, coaching me through job interviews, encouragement, a roof over my head, her time, her resources, there has been no end to her willingness to “sew seed into me” as she likes to say. I know that she does it all in hope  to one day see me standing on my own two feet. Not because she no longer wants to be a support in my life, that will never change, but because the greatest reward for her as a parent is to witness her children applying the principles she has taught and modeled and enjoying the victory we were destined to enjoy.

That is when the relationship of mother and daughter evolves into that of a victor and a victor. This is a parent’s dream for their children, so naturally this is what the Lord desires for us in our relationship with him. He desires a partnership with you.

The Father would be so bored simply dictating to us for our entire lives about what he thinks we should do and where we should go. He longs to see us stand in our inheritance. Personally, I came to know the Lord as Father at an early age and that is one of the revelations I’m called to teach, but I am only just now coming to know what it is to be his friend and equal partner.

See, God in His goodness has made us sons and daughters so that we can partner with Him in the earth. My Mom invests her time and resources into me because she loves me, but I want to endeavor to earn her investment. I’m not saying I want to earn her love. You can’t earn what’s freely given. I’m saying I want her to trust me. I want her to gain a return from all that she has invested in me. I want her to be excited about sharing vision with me because she knows I will faithfully carry and nurture it. I want to be someone my Mom would go into business with. Likewise, when the Father pours into my life because He loves me, I want Him to expect, based on a history of good returns, that I will be faithful to tend that seed and bare much fruit.

Walking in your inheritance means taking up the authority you have in Christ. The authority through grace by faith that boldly declares, I am who he says I am. I can do what He says I can do. I can go where He says I can go. And I can work with him and when need be, I can make decisions in his stead because I know his heart and I walk in Godly wisdom. This is partnership. This is what I desire most to cultivate with the Father in this new year.

Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Grace to Grace

As a recovering perfectionist I understand the immobilizing effect of setting impossible standards for yourself. Some of the most talented individuals on the planet walk around full to bursting of potential that goes unrealized, because they fear failing their ideal. When I realized that whatever I can sow in faith, God can multiply, I finally felt free to simply be and do the things I love without putting pressure on myself to perform.

I’m learning for the first time that there is power in completion. I remember agonizingly wading through the murk of English papers during college. Why I chose a major dependent on complete thoughts and meeting writing deadlines, I have no idea! It feels so good to now be able to write quickly and concisely and after one edit, share it and be done. It’s a little bit addicting. I find myself writing constantly now, when before I’d labor over a single concept for weeks on end and still never share it!

And that’s what happens when we lean into our own understanding and fail to acknowledge the Lord’s leading, His grace, and His multiplying power at work in us. The greatest revelation of my life has been in knowing what is in me, is not my own. Likewise, what is in you has been given to you so that the Lord can love the world through you.

I want to do my best in all I do, but I no longer withhold my work from the Lord because I’ve deemed it unworthy. I no longer presume to call unworthy what the Lord has called worthy. I simply release what I create in faith and let the Lord take care of the rest. As I’m faithful to offer the little that I can offer, I know in time I will see increase. I will produce fruit!

By simply finishing what we set out to do, our faith is bolstered and our confidence increases. As we are faithful to step out on grace, grace increases in our lives. Our complete inheritance in Christ is realized when we learn the discipline of follow-through. We move from grace to grace. So, to all my perfectionists out there, you have permission to release what the Lord has placed within you. You were born to be fruitful.