Hey Sweet Friends! Several weeks ago I heard about a documentary from Jennie Allen’s podcast, Made For This. The documentary, Sheep Among Wolves, Vol. 2 is on YouTube and is worth every bit of it’s 1 hour and 55 minute length. In fact, if you haven’t watched it or listened to Jennie’s interview with Pastor X on her podcast, just go do that right now! I’ll be here waiting for you…but seriously, this is life changing, relationship with Jesus changing stuff!
Did you do it? Did you go watch it yet? Ok, so by now you know it’s about the exploding church in Iran. To hear that mosques are emptying because radical Muslims are being met miraculously by Jesus? That is good stuff and it was humbling to hear their prayer and concern for western Believers.
We really are so spoiled with all of our conveniences. Even now you are reading what I openly wrote about Jesus, without fear of my life or the lives of my loved ones, on your phone or computer that not everyone can afford.
We really are so spoiled. My heart’s cry is that we would not be spoiled rotten, but I’m afraid it might be too late for that.
I had the opportunity to invite 8 teenagers into my home a couple of weeks ago to feed them and watch the documentary with them. Afterwards we had a time of lively discussion, to say the least. I watched some of them really wrestle with the cost of following Christ for those on the documentary and then be able to say, “Yes, following Christ has cost me things this year…I mean, not like the people in Iran, but I can honestly say, I’m glad I followed Christ no matter what it cost me.” Others were literally jumping up and down in excitement as they talked about the power of Christ and His promises from His word.
For those who don’t have Christ Following teenagers in your life and you are scared about what the Church is going to look like in 20 years, don’t be. I can’t tell you what the world is going to look like but the Remnant of the Church is going to be in capable, resilient, Spirit-Filled hands. But if I had to guess, there is a really good chance they will be doing things A LOT differently than we have over the last 30 years, which leads me to my favorite take away from the documentary. It’s a question, really. Have we made the method of doing church our idol, all the while forgetting that WE ARE THE CHURCH?
Church isn’t something we were ever meant to DO, but BE. That truth is so good and so deep that it needs its own post. We’ll see if the Lord ever brings it back around but in the meantime, seriously, go watch the documentary!
For me, watching it coincided with several things the Lord is asking me to believe Him for in big ways.
There is a restructure happening at work and the Lord asked me to lay down my current job description. Seven weeks after laying it down I still don’t have another one and while I know with my head I have everything I need and that I still have a job, my heart still feels as though I’ve been living in risk for the better part of two months.
That risk, in addition to the risk this website and my podcast already is, because let’s face it, the Lord has asked me to share very vulnerable pieces of my heart with you, feels like He is asking a little more than usual. Some of you I know personally, some of you I will never meet but giving some of these pieces of my story away to the void of the internet has felt extremely risky.
And all the while, He is cracking open my heart and giving me a glimpse of something new He wants me to do in my personal time for ministry, which is risky for my heart, finances and which is going to take a literal miracle in housing. But, like Paul in Philippians 1,
I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.
Later, Paul told the Thessalonians that
The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
So while I feel like my heart can’t take any more risk, I remember my Iranian brothers and sisters. They are literally relying on the Spirit of the Living God to keep them alive from persecution and martyrdom, and are praying for miracles daily, and experiencing them, by the way! I have been encouraged to pray audaciously for the things God is putting on my heart.
I went to the dictionary a couple of nights ago to remind myself what the word audacious means. By now, this should not surprise you at all.
Audacious – extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless; recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like; lively, unrestrained, uninhibited.
Sweet Friends, what if we all started praying audacious prayers? What if we started asking God for the impossible things on our hearts in a way that is unrestrained and uninhibited?
Truth time. When it’s just me involved, I have a hard time with this. I hear lies from the enemy of my soul like, “Who do you think you are to ask for something that big? If you want that you should just work harder for it. Don’t you remember that terrible thing you did over and over years ago? Why do you think God would ever give you more than you have right now?”
He really is awful, isn’t he?
In case you also hear lies like these, I want to answer them individually. I’ll answer them like I’m answering them for me but I want you to really own what resonates with you!
“Who do I think I am?” Well, the Bible says I am the Lord’s workmanship, chosen, and a beloved daughter. Seems to me a chosen, beloved daughter, who is the created expression of her Father can ask for whatever she wants, especially if she wants it because of something He has given her to do.
Next lie. “If you want that you should just work harder for it.” Okay, fair. I’m all for a good, honest day of work. Period. Full stop. What is also true is that as a Blood-Bought Believer we live in a new reality the book of Romans tells us all about. One of incomparable riches of grace, expressed in His kindness through Christ Jesus. A salvation by grace, not works, so that no one can boast. A new reality where we are His handiwork, created in Christ to do good works that He has created us to do. So again, if those good works He has created us to do require something we do not currently have, it is appropriate that we would ask him to fully outfit us to be able to accomplish those good works.
And the last and nastiest of the lies. “Don’t you remember that terrible thing you did over and over years ago? Why do you think God would ever give you more than you have right now?” It really should be no surprise that he would come in with this tactic as the Bible calls him the “accuser of the brethren” in Revelation 12, but somehow it still stings a little every time it happens. It’s true, I did do that thing over and over and in and of my own strength and merit, I don’t deserve one good thing God would give me, but Sweet Friends, that is only half of the story.
The other half, the half I cling to and rest in all at the same time, is that because of Christ’s sacrifice and because I have put my faith in Him and that sacrifice, God the Father doesn’t see that thing that I did over and over again anymore. I am covered fully and completely with the Blood of Christ and when God the Father looks at me, He only sees His Son and what wouldn’t he give His Son?!? According to His will?
This is where I think we get tripped up. We don’t want to pray for anything against the will of God! What will people think of us if we audaciously believe Him and pray for something enormous and huge that doesn’t actually happen? Will people trust us any more? Will others consider us flaky in our faith?
I remember sitting in a school classroom that posed as a church on Sundays in Nashville one morning before church. Oil paper umbrellas hung from the ceiling as I sat there and watched something and someone I had prayed and believed God for for years reject me and tell me no. It was awful and it happened in front of other people and a humiliation began to set in but I heard the Holy Spirit whisper for me to still hold on, to continue to believe Him. So I pushed the humiliation down and I held onto confidence. That confidence in Christ was called pride by the people I had made the mistake of trusting, in the moments that came next and then the words, “You haven’t been hearing the Lord clearly for quite some time.”
The kicker was, this person had only known me for six months. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Holy Spirit can’t make something known to you about someone in an instant of knowing them, to bring encouragement or even correction but there was nothing about that interaction that was life giving. In fact, the fruit of that interaction was almost three years of second guessing myself every time I opened my Bible, which became more and more seldom, because that is where I heard the Lord and what if I got it wrong again.
I still don’t know if I heard Him clearly or not about this particular situation. I don’t know if He was the dream depositor of those big, audacious prayers, or if it was just my dream. I asked Him for years for a yes or a no, but He never gave me one. For all I know He could bring that whole situation back around tomorrow, but in the almost 9 years since it all went down, here’s what I know to be true…IT, the thing I believed Him for, the thing I prayed recklessly brave prayers for, IT doesn’t matter anymore. Nine years ago, I wouldn’t even believe that could be true, so tied to my relationship with the Lord was this broken promise from Him. Of course I don’t actually believe it was a broken promise from the Lord anymore.
In fact, if the Lord did bring it back around tomorrow, it would complicate the mess out of my life and I would not be happy…for at least a week, but then, knowing the Lord, He would work it out and make it right, because that is what He does.
And here is another thing I know to be true that I didn’t know then. You can hold onto Jesus with all of your might and hold everything else…all of the dreams you have in your heart, the ones He put there and the ones out of your own imagination, all the things He is asking of you, all of your specific hopes and dreams, all of the hurts and broken places of your heart…you can hold onto Jesus with all of your might with one hand and then hold all of the rest, in your other, open hand.
In the last 9 years I have increasingly learned how to do this in a way that is currently helping me believe God for big, audacious things. I don’t always get it right. Even now, in this process, I have to combat the lies of the enemy as I mentioned earlier, but there is something very different about this time and I think it has everything to do with one hand being open, holding the things God has put in it, all the while, my other hand being firmly gripped to the robes of Jesus.
It’s no secret I love Charles Martin. I recently read his first non-fiction book, What If It’s True?, with my team at work for a little staff development. I think it is safe to say that the book went deeper than any of us anticipated when we voted on it and I am so glad we didn’t know!
In Chapter 6, What’s That You’re Carrying?, Martin writes,
“I am telling you to walk up to the throne of God, lift your hand up, uncurl your fingers, and give Him the opportunity either to take what’s in it or give it back. But leave the taking and the giving to Him. Your job is obedience, lifted hand, and open fingers. It’s an offering. That’s it. You let Him decide whether you keep it or it dies. We carry the wood and our lives. He carries the knife and the fire.”
He continues with,
“Like it or not, we will all fall at the very real and very resurrected feet of Jesus – the firstborn among the dead. Seated at the right hand of God Most High. So, you can either extend your arms and uncurl your fingers now, at a date and time of your choosing, or you can do it later at a date and time of His choosing.”
This is what I know to be true now that I didn’t know underneath those oil paper umbrellas almost 9 years ago. It’s something loving Willa taught me. It’s something discipling teenagers has taught me. It’s something Heath taught me. It’s something, even Covid-19 taught me. Ultimately it was Jesus who taught me but He used all these things to do it.
He is trustworthy. I am not. So as long as I cling to Him with one hand and hold everything else in an open hand, I will be okay, even in disappointment, even in the face of a no, even in grief, even in insert your own stuff here, because while he may take away, with an open hand He has the opportunity to give me things I would have never even asked for. Then one day, there is this new, great big thing He is asking me to be a part of and I can’t even believe it.
Who? Me? You want me to be and do this? Wow, Lord, the need is greater than I can meet on my own, so if this is You, and I think it is, I am going to need this, this, and this. But if one day, I look over to my hand and that thing is gone, it’s okay, I’ll be okay, because I’ve still got hold of you, and even if I let go, in my disappointment, I’m still okay, because you’ve got hold of me and you’ll never let go.
That is a little sampling of one particular conversation we are having on the regular as of late. And the “this, this, and this” I’m asking for? It’s audacious! It feels crazy even coming out of my mouth but my friend Jen put it perfectly, “The need is your courage.” And she is so right. Need will make you courageous every single time.
So, Sweet Friends, in the words of my friend, Charles Martin (maybe if I say it enough, one day it will be true), “What’s That Your Carrying?” Are your fingers gripping the right things? And in case I didn’t make it clear enough, the only right answer to this question is Jesus. If there is anything else we have our fingers curled around there is a really good chance we have made an idol in our lives.
I’m not suggesting that as long as we hold things with an open hand, that when God takes something from our hands we won’t hurt. That is ridiculous. Of course we will! But if our hand is open and he can simply remove things, people, jobs, dreams, etc, from our lives, something tells me that pain will be more clean than if He has to rip them from our tightly closed fingers.
Again, Sweet Friends, the process of sanctification is hard enough when we cooperate with Him. Why must we make it harder on ourselves?
Audacious…it’s always felt like a bit of a scandalous word. I can hear “She had the audacity to”…insert whatever scandalous thing you can think of here. But when I think of this word in relation to my prayer life, I must admit, I want more of it. I want God the Father to look over to Jesus at his right hand and point to me, his Blood-Bought and covered little girl and say, “Did you just hear that? She has the audacity to believe I will give her what she needs, to do what I have put in her heart!”
Sweet Friends, I don’t know about you, but most of the things He asks of me, like praying for my enemies, and claiming His peace in the midst of a world of chaos, are audacious. It seems to me that our prayers better match the audacity of the dreams He is birthing in our hearts. But maybe that’s just me…
If it isn’t just me, I would love to hear from you in the comments. And if you wouldn’t mind sharing this post if it encouraged your faith that stuff really matters..
Let’s all be respectfully and reverently audacious, Sweet Friends, believing God to be every bit as powerful, as invested in our lives, and as much of a Good Father as He says He is!
As always, thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has Got us!