Why Knowing the Season We’re in Matters

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I admit, the word “season” is incredibly overused and whenever I use it, I think of a Stuff Christians Like blog post joking about how much Christians love to use this word. But hey, it’s a good word, so I guess that’s why. And I plan to use it excessively in this post…

That’s because it’s important to know what season you’re in. Why is that, Holly? Well I’m glad you asked. 2 main reasons: 1) Different seasons require different behavior. 2) Knowing is half the battle (in the words of GI Joe).

Different Seasons Require Different Behavior

changing seasons

I’m from Colorado, a place where there are actually seasons. (Californians, I can explain the concept of an actual Winter later). When snow falls and ice forms, a person would be crazy to keep wearing shorts and expect to start their car in the morning and drive off right away. Instead, you must adapt by bundling up and leaving the house 10 minutes early to warm up your car, chip ice off the windshield, and shovel snow from underneath your tires.

So it is with life. When Jesus came to earth, some asked him why his disciples were not fasting, as if they were “less than”. Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” He goes on to explain how you can’t put new wine into old wineskins or they will burst, and you’ll lose both the wineskin and the wine.

They were missing the point that God was in front of them, so in a time meant for celebration, they were attempting to mourn because that’s what had always been done. That’s what good religious folk did. They missed it.

The new season may look entirely different from the old one, and if we keep doing the same things and approaching life in the old way, something’s gonna burst. Personal example (that’s only taken me 7 months to get): I am in a relationship with a destination of forever. If I keep living and thinking like I did as a single person without a mindset of prepping for marriage, it will “burst” our relationship. An independent, self-centered, and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of thinking is old wine. It’s not going to set us up for the best possible relationship.

Or, if the way you experience the Holy Spirit is through tons of quiet time and prayer, but He’s called you to a season of pouring into people, then you’ll have to adapt and learn how to hear Him, knowing that he’ll give grace to experience him in the new season of busyness. Even if everyone  else around you is still in a season of doing things the way you used to.The point is that neither is wrong or right, but a matter of knowing where God is moving right now and how he wants you to respond.

Knowing is Half the Battle

We all want to be effective in ministry, right? Sometimes effective seasons end to make room for more effectiveness. But if we don’t know that, we may stay stagnant, fighting towards progress with old weapons, but never really getting anywhere. It’s time to move on.

A few verses later, Jesus tells his disciples to go to Israel, NOT to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Why? Isn’t everyone supposed to hear the gospel and receive salvation? Of course, but God has his timing and divine order. He wasn’t leaving out the Gentiles, but he had an order in mind to follow for the ideal outcome, and the disciples needed to know it was the time to reach Israel first.

Jesus then tells his disciples that where their message and miracles are not accepted, they should shake the dust off their feet and take their peace with them. Seems unloving and impatient to me. But how quickly would the gospel have spread if, in those early day, they stayed at the home where they had to convince, prove love, be faithful, and wait for them to accept Christ? How would their new faith have handled it? Probably not well. They were to build up those who were hungry and willing, and in turn, it probably built up their own faith in working miracles and telling people about Jesus. They probably stayed excited, not discouraged.

I absolutely believe there are seasons for waiting, being patient and faithful, and pushing through difficulty. In Matthew 10, that wasn’t the season. What if they believed it was? Our usual ways of thinking or religious mindsets might constrain us from what God wants to do if we’re not sensitive to moving with his Spirit.

I just left a ministry I’ve been a part of for 7 years. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve driven by them at the exact time they’re on the street. I look as I drive by to see who’s there and miss it terribly. It is my experience of God saying that, for me, now is not the time for that specific demographic of people. Do I know why? Nope. But it’s his order and plan, and just because now is not the time doesn’t mean it won’t ever be again. If I keep trying to hang onto the old season, I might miss what God wants to do right now. Then, I can’t be effective in either place.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always searching for the right way to live, spread the Gospel, do business, etc. Like there’s one solution that’s perfect and you just have to find it. Yet life is ever-changing and we have to adapt with it. Just like marketing, the economy, social media, technology, what worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow.  It’s already outdated and if we’re not in tune with the trends, we will miss out, or even worse, lose significantly.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, at the start of my day, to ask God what he had for me. I encourage you to live your life in that way. Daily ask God what he has for you, and monthly ask what season it is and how you need to adapt.

That’s when we find that “sweet spot”…the place where God seems to be in everything we do, because we’re being guided by Him in the present, not by the past.

Which One Will You Be?

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As I was starting my morning with God today, and reading his Words to find out what he might have to say today, it felt like I was reading directly about our time and culture. Yet it was the book Ezekiel, written around 571 B.C. that spoke about God’s heart for his people.

“Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice” – Ezekiel 22:23-29

I can read this and picture horrendous church corruption that gives Jesus a bad name when you hear about things like priests and child molestation, greedy pastors guilting congregations for tithes and then owning personal jets, and prophecies about the end of the world that don’t come true. Yet none of those extremeties really hits home for most of us.

What may actually be worse, is the subtle ways we as the church live this way and don’t even notice. The subtle weakening of the church that destroys our witness. I thought about a conversation with my sister and brother-in-law this weekend about church discipline (or lack thereof) and the tendency of the Church in general (and that means all of us) to just let sin go with a heaping measure of grace that never requires change. How we handle unbiblical behavior with so much “love” and “grace” that we’re actually hurting our own friends and church families by letting them live in sin that’s destroying their lives. Then when we receive truly loving correction, we rebuke it and become defensive, as if the person trying to help us is trying to hurt us.

How often in our churches – and in our personal walks with God – do we make no distinction between holy and common, clean and unclean, and just let it all go? At least in Hollywood, where many people have been burned by the church, I can say that quite often we just let it all blend together and allow people to live less-than-quality lives in the name of acceptance, grace, and fear of offending anyone.

Even Sabbath – I know I often ignore the idea of sabbath and being set apart, and look just like the rest of the hurried, production-obsessed people in this city. I act like I have no God to give me rest and provide, just like those who don’t know him. Yet how often do we pause to think about these ways of life that are so normal in our culture that we have accepted, thereby making our witness say that life with God is no different than life without Him?

Then God tells Ezekiel:

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

Wow. God is looking for just one person, that one who will stand in the gap, pray and intercede, and build up the wall of holiness and Christ-likeness to save our lands. If there’d been one, destruction never would have come. But God could’t even find one.

And what a simple role to play, in some ways at least. To hold up standards that reflect the Word of God, and to simply pray for our city, is something that could save the places we live and the lives within them. What we do affects others….it’s not just all “going to hell in a handbasket”. Just one. That’s all God needs. Just one.

We can be those who let sin reside and slowly but surely wear down the integrity of the church and the laws God has created to actually give us the best, safest, most fulfiling ways to live. We can be part of the corruption, extortion, lies, and average lives, or we can be the one who stands. The one who God sees and says, “Because of your heart and courage, I should not destroy, but build up.”

Which will you be?

Continual Surrender

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The best nights on the street are the “dynamic” ones, where so many levels of significance layer upon one another that I leave unsure of how to even process or thank God or pray when I arrive home.

Last night was one of those. I’ll skip large chunks to keep this from becoming an essay, but when we finally all gathered to share prayer requests, the night took on a life of its own. One of our regulars shared about his hope to move and be closer to family, followed by oddly humorous stories of being caught up in his nephews drug deals. His dream is to move back with family, get a large home in a far more affordable location, and create a way to help people like his nephew coming in and out of jail to keep them out.

Another regular then shared about her family worries, not knowing where one of her sons is, being misled and confused by family about how her father died, and inevitably pouring tears out over the hurt, fear and loss.

Antquan questioned how we deal with these things, and conversation blew up from there amongst our friends while the rest of us sat and listened. Our friend from above advised that she needed to let those pains go and trust them with God, or else the stress would eat her up and harm her health. Another guy chimed in who follows Islam and agreed how much we have to give things to God and then move on from things we can’t change. How important it is to “let go and let God”, gazing off while mentioning his brother who died. He doesn’t typically engage much in our Refuge service, but he was playing a significant role in this conversation. IMGP0892

Talk bounced around this way for a while, how to deal and how we must trust God with these fears and losses of family. Then a woman, “Tracy” we’d met just a few weeks ago after being released from prison without a place to go showed up and shared how significant it had been to meet us, even in her hardships. She thanked the previously mentioned woman and her spouse for their support, as well as others who had shown her love and given her support.

“I still have their numbers with me and I’m so grateful for meeting them and their help”. I forget the rest of her words exactly, but essentially it was that, though she’s still not in a program, she felt the impact of people who prayed with her and sought to help her in her worst moments. People who simply cared and how that impacted her.

“I’m doing better, but I need to put down the bottle. I drink because I hurt” and proceeded to share her own family losses, those who stole from her, the father she didn’t get to say goodbye to, and the son she hasn’t seen in years and doesn’t know.

Conversation looped back around to how we deal with the hurt, and finally we all came back to scripture and the continual surrender to God of all our struggles. We then broke up into more intimate groups for prayer, and then more people joined us, ready for pizza and Bible study.

“Tracy” offered to pray for the food, and it went on record for the longest BH prayer thus far. “I was intoxicated when I came here, but now I’m sober, God you did that” and while it seemed a bit repetitive and a slight ramble, it actually brought me to tears. She cried out to God like I wish I did more often. Her hurts over seeing kids on the street selling themselves and pleading with God for their parents to accept them and for them to go home, from a mother’s heart, reflected my own repetitive cries to God on their behalf.

Her desperation for something different, for personal healing, and the healing of the streets was so pure and true, I felt like I had a sister who prays for the brokenness of the city, and a daughter of God I couldn’t imagine that He’d turn down  in her tears. There is something powerful about someone who’s been in prison, lost people, done “bad stuff” and should be tough and numb to it, weep over the world of which she’s a part. The kids sitting next to her, involved in drugs and prostitution definitely noticed, and her passion in that moment were far more influential than I think some of ours could ever be.

We then dove into the Bible study and had more lively discussion, and didn’t end until around 2am, about 45 minutes later than usual.

The things I heard, and the dynamics last night, were beautiful and rare. It was not just going through the motions, it was personal and intense and meaningful. I could barely remember how exhausted I’d been that night before coming out, wishing I could just go to bed. As usual, I left revived, excited about what God is doing, and reminded that people want his presence, and to know that someone cares.