There is a concept called Margin. I first learned about margin the hard way. When my oldest child went to kindergarten, I mapped out the route, and figured out exactly how much time it would take to arrive at school on time. With this information, I calculated what time I needed to leave every morning.
For the next three months, every morning was a race against the clock, and most days I lost – I would pull onto the school grounds just as the bell rang.
Then my husband was laid off and took over the morning duty, and suddenly, my daughter was arriving with time to spare. I was in awe! I asked him how he managed to get her to school on time. With a bit of reflection, I discovered that I hadn’t created space for the time it took to get a baby and kindergartener to the car, or the time it took to get from the car to the classroom.
When life gets busy, sometimes we find that we are rushing from event to event, hoping we make it on time. First we decorate the church, then our home. We plan for the holiday parties in each ministry area, and the church staff. We prepare for the Christmas concert, and Christmas service, then comes the New Years’ service. For a few moments, we pause – often after pulling an all-nighter to wrap presents - and have a Christmas get together at home.
The weeks of December are often bundled with joy and energy. Yet in all that activity, it is easy to get so wrapped up in doing that we end up in January totally wiped out, not able to even hear our own thoughts, let alone God’s voice.
This season can be different. There is a growing trend (again) to focus on the spiritual disciplines. As I have been going through several books on the subject, there is one resounding theme: Space.
And this is what I learned: I am the only one who has the authority and ability to create space in my life. Even if I have other people to report to, space will never be created in my life unless I lead the charge.
As you progress through this Christmas season, here is a simple tool to help you reflect on how you spend your time, and where you might need to create space:
Take a moment to make a grid on a piece of paper – then fill in the boxes with your activities for the last week. If you are very crammed, you might even just do the last three days.
Do you notice a pattern? What can you do to focus your time on the most critical items on your agenda? What are you doing that really isn’t urgent, isn’t important, and could be done by someone else?
Now, where is your time with God on that grid? What can you do to create space in your activities, and create time for your relationship with God?
In this season of celebration, remember to take time to nurture your soul. After all, your relationship with Christ really is the reason for the season, and those around you will learn from your example.
Culture wars are real. I’m speaking of the battles that continually pursue between those who hold to traditional values and those who are opposed. My friend, the gospel is greater than any force that comes against it. When we preach the pure Word of God, amazing results follow. Please allow me to give you an example.
The governor of Alabama once invited me and several of my evangelist friends to a historic meeting. It was a Saturday afternoon rally in support of keeping the Ten Commandments posted at the State Supreme Court.
Upon arrival we were shocked to see more than 25,000 people gathered together on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion. Surrounding the crowd were all the major media networks broadcasting this historic event.
I remember asking the governor what he wanted me to say at this secular rally. His response was crystal clear: “Preach the gospel and give an altar call.”
We are living in times that can cause both great fear and great opportunity. These are seasons where the faithful and wise people of God can flourish.
It is not because all is peaceful or that challenges and hardships are diminishing, but these are the days that great character is forged. As we contend with difficulties, strong hearts and minds are being formed and creative new strategies for life are being birthed.
Deep calls to deep and extreme necessities call upon great virtues. When minds become transformed and passionate hearts are engaged, then those qualities, which would otherwise have lain dormant, awake to new life and new opportunities. The Spirit of God empowers and releases these battle tested messengers of light to bring forth His power, presence, and glory upon the earth like never before.
We have just come out of a presidential election. Some Christ followers are happy, some are not, some have concern, and some continue to live in fear. I do not have a problem with concern, but I do have a problem with fear.
Fear has the ability to imprison the faith and hope within us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and it is impossible to live in the overcoming power of the Kingdom of God within us. God is much bigger than who is in charge of our nation or any nation. Whoever is in charge should never be an opportunity to allow fear to grip us.
Romans 13 says, "Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear."
We are living in perilous times—and I’m dedicated to exposing the schemes of Satan and then educating Christians on what to do about it.
We are finding that many churches have become Satan's sanctuary. Satan can sit down and savor a soft sermon. The pillow prophets behind the sacred pulpit won’t dare preach against him. Rather, they offer us savory snacks that produce anemic malnourished Christians whose lives are void of Holy Ghost strength.
I fear we are raising up a generation of weak, cowardly, young people. They don't know how to cast out devils. Many have never been filled with His Spirit and haven't experienced the glorious manifestation of tongues. They don't know how to pray. They don't know how to go after God. They want to sit under some teacher that's going to tickle their ears and make them happy.
Jonah was a prophet typical of many believers today who wrap their faith in nationalism and/or patriotism to the point where it supersedes obedience to the will and heart of God.
The Assyrian nation (modern-day Iraq) had harassed and fought against Israel and in 721 BC took the land of the ten tribes of Israel. Jonah was called by God to preach the gospel in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh either before or right after this period of disinheritance. Jonah initially refused to go because of his hatred toward the Assyrians; this would be like a Jewish rabbi being sent to Berlin to preach repentance to Hitler during the Holocaust, or like an American evangelist being sent to preach to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in Pakistan, or to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
This lesson from the book of Jonah is also preached by Jesus in the Beatitudes of the gospels when He taught us to “love our enemies” (Matt. 5). This is not just referring to our personal enemies but also our national enemies. It is hard for the human soul to believe that God actually loves our enemies and those people responsible for atrocities committed against humanity. But we have to realize that God is bigger than our prejudice and our pain! (For example, how do you think the families of the victims of the “Son of Sam” shooter David Berkowitz feel when they hear him giving his testimony of his conversion to Christianity?)