The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

Eggciting

Last Easter, a few of the ladies in my Bible study and I celebrated Easter with the women and children at our local women’s shelter. The message we shared was about the three eggs of Easter.

The first egg was empty. It represented the empty tomb.

The second egg had a marshmallow chick in it. It represented the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and new birth.

The third egg was a chocolate egg that was wrapped in gold foil. It represented restoration. After empathizing with the women concerning their current situations, and encouraging them that God could and would restore their lives, my friends and I handed each of the women a golden egg. The Holy Spirit moved hearts and tears began to fall. It was a beautiful experience!

The way I celebrated this Easter was very different from last year’s celebration. Instead of meeting with abused women in a park, I spent the weekend with my pastors and church family at the Yellow Rose Ranch. The weekend was so amazing and life giving it would take many blogs to share about it, so I will just refer back to the three eggs of Easter,

The empty egg: Although there was no Easter sermon, the message of Easter was everywhere as relationship with Jesus and the victories He has given us were present in every conversation.

The full egg: The sweetness and fullness of God’s love was mirrored in action as each person considered others better than himself/herself and truly loved his/her neighbor. Serving one another was easy because it was out of love and not duty. Protecting one another was natural because we truly cared and wanted what was best for each other.

The golden egg of restoration: There were some precious times, usually around the camp fire, when we spoke words of encouragement to one another. My church calls this “kisses from heaven”. As we affirmed each other and made agreement with the restoration God has for us, the Holy Spirit moved hearts and both laughter and tears fell. It was beautiful!

Two different Easter experiences, but the same three eggs: Victory in Jesus, the fullness of His love poured out to others, and the beautiful restoration that He brings to our lives.

Because the tomb was empty, our hearts are full!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”(1 John 3:16 NIV).

You

While sitting in church one Sunday preparing to take communion, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Lift up your cup.” As I raised my hand to eye-level and studied the small container of red liquid in front of me, I could clearly see the lines and swirls of my fingerprints pressed against the clear plastic. It was then I heard in my Spirit “When I was on the cross I saw your fingerprints. I knew that you would be, and I knew everything about you”

Up until that day I had acknowledged Jesus as my Savior, but I saw myself as just a speck in a crowd of millions of people. I didn’t realize that if I had been the only person who had ever lived Jesus would have died just for me. But that is exactly what He did. Jesus gave His life only for me. He also gave His life only for you.

When Jesus was dying on the cross He saw you; not just as part of a collective body of humanity, but you individually. He knew you before you were even created. As He hung on the cross in agony, He looked through time and saw you and knew that He was taking your place. As He breathed His last breath, He saw the day when you would take your first breath. He knew and loved you then, and He knows and loves you now. Do you know Him?

One of the lies that kept me from enjoying the Lord was that I thought I somehow had to earn my salvation. Realizing that it was only God’s free gift of grace and not my good works that saved me, took me off of the roller coaster of daily wondering whether I was heaven assured or hell-bound.

Have you exchanged your sins for the free gift of grace Jesus gave you when He died on Calvary? If not, then I would encourage you to pray the following prayer with me: Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in

Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in relationship with you. Be Lord of my life and reveal your heart to me and daily lead and guide me in all ways. In Jesus’ name Amen!

If you have given your life to the Lord but have been riding the I hope I am going to heaven roller coaster it’s time to get off. Thinking that we are responsible for our salvation is a hook of the enemy to make us feel unworthy and keep us in pride. God adores you! Take hold of His grace and walk in the joy of your salvation!

Have an amazing Easter as you reflect on Christ’s loving sacrifice and His glorious resurrection!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).

 

The Good Friday Journey

I haven’t yet had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked, but the contributor of today’s testimony has. I pray you will be blessed as you read  Mary Zatkalik’s eye-witness account of a “Good Friday” celebration in Jerusalem.

I will never forget my three-week stay in Israel and specifically, the time spent in Jerusalem.  My husband and I chose the Windmill Hotel because it offered a Seder experience at sunset on Passover.  Also, we could walk to the Old City of Jerusalem, just blocks from the hotel, and sightsee.

The Old City boasts of archaeological history and its narrow streets feature vendors selling beautiful gifts, colorful fresh produce and braids of freshly baked bread.  We learned where the various gates to the city were located to allow us entrance, and we prayed at the Western Wall.

I will forever remember the Friday afternoon which happened to also be Good Friday.  After lunch in the hotel, we meandered over to the Old City where we entered through the gate and immediately we were swept up into a whirlwind.  I felt out of control when my feet barely touched the ground because a mass of people carried me with them to their destination.  I still remember the panic on my husband’s face because he, too, was taken away by the crowd but at least it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

The event taking place, “The Way of the Cross,” sometimes refers to the “Stations of the Cross.”  A fancier name, the “Via Dolorosa,” depicts the suffering journey of Jesus as He walked down those narrow streets of Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Catholic churches offer the Stations of the Cross in their Good Friday services.  As a child, I remember the quiet reflection and prayer times with my mom where we physically moved from one station to the next within the sanctuary of the church meditating on the journey Jesus took from The Last Supper to His death and burial.

For clarity, these are the Biblical meditations:

  • Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples
  • Jesus in the garden
  • Jesus betrayed by Judas, then arrested
  • Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus denied [by Peter]
  • Jesus judged by Pilate [sent to Herod Antipas, then returned to Pilate]
  • Jesus scourged
  • Jesus took His cross
  • Jesus helped by Simon
  • Jesus crucified
  • Jesus [temporarily] prepared for burial
  • Jesus placed in the tomb

It’s one thing to sit in a quiet church and recite prayers at each station, but it’s a whole different experience to be there with passionate believers where history approximately took place about 2000 years ago.  I heard the sounds of voices crying out in worship and I stared at the cross carried vertically above the crowd.  My heart gripped with emotion that Good Friday.

I am ecstatic to have had the experience of being a part of that passionate movement that day.    I tasted the excitement of Via Dolorosa.  The roar of a crowd at each “station” gave me an appreciation of not only the scene but the original journey on that road to Calvary.  I am not only thankful to have participated, but thankful that I survived!

Mary Zatkalik

Stand to Serve

In my last blog I mentioned that in 2012, the Lord took me off the beaten path into a season of care giving for my parents and special needs sister. I would be lying to you if I told you that my heart and attitude were always right. My patience was often severely tested, reminding me that God is more concerned about our characters than our callings. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I now realize that it was His loving faithfulness that took me off the beaten path—and even into the wilderness for a season, not just to care for my family’s needs, but in order to bring me more revelations of His love and cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in my life. While my flesh often cried out, “I can’t do this! And sometimes even “Get me out of here!” My spirit cried out, “Jesus, make me more like you!”

I often felt as if I were in a tug-a-war. The reality was that I was. I wasn’t aware of the intensity of my battle until one Sunday while I was listening to a sermon about serving. The pastor talked about how during the Passover meal Jesus stood, stripped, stooped, and served. I took his words to heart.

When you and I are in challenging situations we often want to stand and run, instead of stand and serve. After hearing the sermon, I realized I needed to take a different kind of stand. When I returned to my parent’s house that afternoon I changed my prayer from release me to reveal more of your love through me. My prayer for revelation helped me to release the rope, receive peace, and gave me the grace to continue to serve.

Maybe you can relate. Have you been taken off the beaten path into a place that is difficult for you? Have you wanted to stand up and run away? If so, I would encourage you to join me and pray the following prayer:

Lord, humble me and help me to stand for you. Continue to strip me from what hinders me and empty me of myself. Gird me with Your strength and help me to serve with a willing heart.  Teach me to love by filling me with more of you! Thank you, Jesus, for doing in me what I am not capable of doing. In Jesus mighty name…Amen!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” John 13:2-5 (NIV).

 

 

 

 

 

Living

Contributed by a friend who desires to remain anonymous

Have you ever had a bad day on the way to accomplishing a goal or reaching an objective? I have. Many times I have felt like quitting. Sometimes my drive has kept me going. Sometimes others have kept me going. Sometimes the goal has kept me going. Sometimes God has kept me going. Sometimes I have everyone’s luggage and can’t turn around, and sometimes there is no way out but to carry on.

Am I proud of this? No! Would I like to always carry on for the higher objective and for the glory of God? Yes! What would that look like? It would look like the difference between “living” and being alive and “dying.” When we quit, we are in death mode.

The Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what living to a higher objective looks like. In Philippians 1:20-22, Paul writes, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!”(NIV).

Wow! Paul lived for the benefit of others, and he was willing to die for the benefit of others. This was his definition for continuing, even when he was having a bad day.

Just so we do not miss the impact, what was a bad day like for Paul? In his second letter to the Corinthians he writes, “I have worked much harder [than any others], been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands” II Corinthians 11:23-33 (NIV).

We also know that Paul was bit a by poisonous snake, he worked long hours, and at various times was abandoned by nearly everyone that he was serving.

Paul has had almost everything and everyone against him and he did not quit. That is living. That is power. He pirouetted between service/sacrifice and glory. He chose service and sacrifice, understanding that glory would take care of itself.

What is your objective for “living”? Don’t be drawn along by life. Attack it and choose whom you will serve and why. Choose how you will “live.”

Have a great day…regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.