Liberty Church NYC

Do I Even Need To Go To Church?

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I’ve been in church my whole life. Some of you who are familiar with my story know that, when I was a child, parts of our journey had devastating effects on my family. I’ve also been hurt more than once in the church as an adult, and have personally journeyed alongside my husband and family towards discovering what church truly is. I’ve wanted to quit more than once, both as a church-goer and as a woman in ministry. But I’ve stayed. I’ve kept at it. I believe in the power of the local church, not because it is perfect, but because Jesus loves and believes in the Church, and calls us to both build the Church and be the Church. I’ve given this quite some thought, and I want to share with you, both from Scripture and from my journey, about why I’ve stayed and continue to build the Church with passion.

What’s The Point?

Many times people don’t quit Jesus- they quit the church and its imperfect people. However, I believe that we as a people have lost our "WHY" for "temple worship", and it's meant to be simply this: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. 

"11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

Corporate gatherings, Sunday services, and the like, no matter how big or how small they are, if they're held in a YMCA, someone's home or a state-of-the-art auditorium, are all about EQUIPPING the SAINTS (simply put, followers of Jesus) to go out and DO the work of the ministry. To be UNIFIED in faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

You may be thinking, "I can get just as equipped, if not more, reading a book at home on my own on Sundays rather than at a church service." Now, that may be true, but our gathering together goes beyond just equipping.

Can we do things like be equipped and worship outside of a church setting? Yes, and we should do those things,  but Hebrews 10:24-25 cannot happen if we do this alone, "24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Gathering together is for more than just equipping; it's for worship, encouragement, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. It's for being a part of something bigger than yourself, for a purpose that resonates beyond yourself, for being a part of a community that will value you and, for better or worse, see you for who you are and push you to become an even better version of yourself, a.k.a. more like Christ.

When we isolate ourselves, we can become self-centered, seeking our own desires while spouting our own ideas before seeking understanding in a multitude of wisdom. 

1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.
2 A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart. - Proverbs 18:1-2 NKJV

Jesus didn't isolate; He had intentional solitude. Isolation is self-protection from society, whereas solitude is preparation for society. We have to know the difference. 

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’re probably aware that corporate church gatherings aren’t all about you - they’re about being equipped to spread the Gospel to others. Lately, I've observed that there are multitudes of disgruntled millennials (to be clear, not all millennials), as well as hurt, angry and bored church-goers of every age that are dissatisfied with the "monotony" of going to church on Sundays. Recently, I have had one too many conversations with people that are saying, "I'm just not sure I believe in going to church on Sundays because I am the Church wherever I go." 

Of course WE ARE THE CHURCH wherever we go, but we cannot miss the integral part of gathering corporately in community. Sure, if Sundays have become the mark of "Christianity" for you, then you've been sold a watered-down Gospel. Go and read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the book of Acts all over again to see what we as followers of Jesus are all about. We're not simply "Sunday church-goers."

Before you throw Sundays (or gathering as the church corporately) out like a baby with the bathwater, consider its purpose in serving the body by preparing us to live out the Gospel in our daily lives.

As of late, I've been having great discussions with our good friends Tyler and Hannah Pines, sparked by having them look through the doctrine in my coming book, to be released this Fall. In a recent email discussion, Tyler wrote this powerful statement pointing to the "why" for corporate gathering:

The purpose of the Church, therefore, is not to save the world. That is the mission of the saints, who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Cor 5:19-20). The purpose of the church is to equip the saints (Eph 4:11-13), to gather to stir each other in love and good works (Heb 10:24-25), and to worship God corporately in spirit and truth, as in the days of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11, John 4:24). - Tyler Pines

New believers and followers of The Way in the book of Acts were so desperate to be equipped and discipled that they gathered corporately in the temple DAILY and in each other's homes. 

It Was BOTH-AND

"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 EVERY DAY THEY CONTINUED TO MEET TOGETHER IN THE TEMPLE COURTS. THEY BROKE BREAD IN THEIR HOMES AND ATE TOGETHER WITH GLAD AND SINCERE HEARTS, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47 NIV (Emphasis added)

The "temple model", if you will, is simply an opportunity for believers to be equipped. It is not the whole picture, but it is a fundamental part of it.

We gather corporately (Sundays, worship nights, prayer nights, conferences, etc.) to be equipped by the apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists. For Jesus, this was from a boat on the lake so His voice would carry to the multitudes, going to the temple (as was His custom - Luke 4:16-21) and reading from the Torah or from a mountainside; really anywhere a crowd could gather and hear His voice. He created spaces for people to hear about the Kingdom of Heaven. After Jesus died, rose again, and had ascended to the right hand of the Father, they didn't destroy the temples and tell everyone to stop meeting there; they continued to use the space to gather so that new converts could be equipped to be followers of Jesus. We also see that they would then break bread in each others homes to disciple others and become disciples; it didn't just happen in the temple. Every day of the week, they had countless opportunities, as do we, to carry the Kingdom of Heaven living within to their every sphere of influence from neighbors to workplaces, to their own families, to the grocery store and beyond. 

But What About Discipleship?

Let's not be fooled. Discipleship is a slow burn over a lifetime, through every season, in loving community, coming in from countless facets. It’s not just a hot topic; it’s for a lifetime. We are never "perfect disciples" of Jesus. There is always more to learn and do. Just look at Jesus, and how He lived life intimately with 12 people over three years, and all the ways in which they learned from Him. They watched Him preach, teach the Torah and prophesy in the temple. They had front row seats to His life, often scratched their heads, gleaned from Him, were challenged by Him, listened to Him speak to the multitudes and also have time for the one. They watched Him heal, deliver and make whole the least of these. They were activated in their faith, but also confronted and challenged in their unbelief. And when He ascended, He left it to His disciples to do what He had modeled for them -  to continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit and to disciple others in "The Way". 

In our modern-day context, activation of our faith should be taking place all the time within community. If we're equipped on Sundays, then what are we going to do to activate what we've learned? Activation can take place in our own time with God, in small group/discipleship settings, corporate gatherings, and as we do life together as Followers of Jesus. There was fluidity to the way Jesus discipled; it was all-encompassing. Sundays can be a part of that, if you take what you learned and do something with it, but that's entirely up to you.

We Are One

We are ONE body with different functions. If we could stop talking about who's right and who's wrong when it comes to "styles" or "models" of church, and actually just start doing the work of the ministry, we'd start to see more of His Kingdom bring light into the darkness. If we could stop comparing ourselves amongst ourselves and actually start loving one another, we'd begin to see a lot more unity in the church. If we could open our eyes and see that we are all ONE body with many DIFFERENT parts, whether we execute the Gospel through the equipping and making of disciples in a house church, mega church, underground church or community church, we'd get a lot more done. We'd stop hurting one another, and instead, learn from each other.

Often, when we’ve been hurt in the church or disagree with they way someone else expresses the local church in their setting, we can swing our beliefs to align with another extreme. The problem with extremes is that we begin to live in reaction to what we don't like instead of being led by the Holy Spirit into everything we ourselves are called to, without judgment of others and their method of spreading the Gospel. 

So What Is The Fruit Of Your Life?

Dad and Mom baptizing Giles. 

Are people becoming disciples? Are they being transformed around you and walking in their identity? Are they discipling others? Are you being transformed and walking in your identity? Are the lost coming home? Are you seeing signs, wonders and miracles following those who believe? If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, then great! Keep lifting up your eyes and stay about your Father's business in the lane to which He's called you.

Meet together, however and wherever you may gather as a church - movie theaters, homes, gymnasiums, parks, schools, beaches, rooftops, warehouses, state-of-the-art auditoriums, and the like. It doesn't really matter as long as the Gospel is being preached and people are doing life together in the "slow burn" of the discipleship journey, and we are finding ourselves, and others, becoming more like Christ and transforming society as we see the Day He comes again approaching.

“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

Inadequacy, Anxiety & Fear - Getting Honest

The first day of the New Year didn't start out the way I had hoped. On the other hand, New Years Eve was awesome: surrounded by my kiddos, good friends, no make-up, comfy clothes and watching the Disney Channel. But the first half of the first day of 2016, no bueno. Inadequate, anxious, and fearful... Those are the words and overwhelming feelings that marked January 1, 2016 for me. Not the sort of resolutions, nor words, one writes down to "walk in" for the year. Let's just say those thoughts, feelings and emotions were not in the plan for 2016, yet there they were, physically part of my being on day one.

I had just posted "Positioned for 2016" on New Years Eve and was writing my latest post "What are you waiting for?" when on the first day out of the gates of 2016, it all got tested.

Let's talk about inadequacy for a moment. It's often how I can feel when embarking on something new and it's simply an indicator of what's going on in my heart. Whenever I feel totally out of my depth, and unable to achieve, perform, or do what I am "supposed to do"(all yuck), I know I've stepped out of connection with God, and have started walked into striving and fear. He never asked us to perform for Him to prove our love, yet sometimes we act like He has.

On the way back from ringing in the new year at our friends' house in the Hampton's, I started having heart palpitations that literally took my breath away. What's annoying is that I've been having them for the last couple of months. (Don't worry, I'll get them checked out) Fear began to creep in because of the palpitations, paired with deep feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. With several speaking engagements booked for the year, the pressure (I put on myself) to write my first book, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to love and lead my children "better" (performance is a killer) than I already am, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to build an even better marriage, as well as the pressure (once again, that I put on myself) to pastor a growing church with love, excellence and strength was stacking onto my shoulders in the form of completely overwhelming and unrealistic expectations. The pressure was causing me to crumble and my physical body was manifesting what was going on in my spirit.

With each heart palpitation, I literally started to picture myself dying (I know sooooo dramatic!). I started to picture the heart palpitations as heart disease and that I was going to have a heart attack and die young, maybe even in 2016. I started to picture my children orphaned and wondering who Paul would marry when I was gone. Whoa! How quickly we can go down scary, dangerous and negative roads... Or is it just me?

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Paul asked me what was wrong on the drive home just as the sun began to set. I poured out my deepest fear as he grabbed my hand and held it tightly. We put on worship and as one of my sons began to sing out beautifully behind us in the back seat, we both started to cry.

The truth is, for the last 6 months or so, I had started to feel my heart disconnect from feeling anything, which is really strange for me. I am a feeler to a hilt and always have been since I can remember. I actually used to think it was a weakness, but then I realized God thinks I'm pretty awesome and He made me this way. I feel everything to the depths of my being. I feel a room when I walk into it. I feel the mood and temperament of people when I encounter them. I feel joy and I feel pain in my depths. So when my feelings begin to shut down and numbness sets in, I know something’s wrong. I felt myself going into self preservation mode and not wanting to trust anyone anymore. I even unconsciously shut God out and surrounded my heart with my worries and inadequacies as a makeshift vault.

Later that evening after we got home, we dropped off our kiddos to be with our amazing life assistant/Mary Poppins (seriously, she is like Mary Poppins) for the evening. My husband Paul and I left for Manhattan to go out to dinner with two “heart of our heart” friends, Christa and Lucas Gifford. They had both come into the city at the outset of the year to invest into our worship team and then Christa kicked off the first Sunday of 2016 speaking across our Church Communities.

As we hung out, and made up for lost time, somehow our conversation led to a moment where I began to pour out my palpitating heart. I talked about my huge feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. Luke and Christa were both squarely looking me in the eyes, and telling me that “I was enough” that “Jesus paid the price for me, and that I was worth the price.” They said this and a billion other things I'm still pondering in my heart. Things that have ruined "my plans" for the year (in a really good way).

The love in their eyes for me, without agenda was like looking into the eyes of Jesus. My husband squeezed my hand (lots of hand squeezing that day) and nodded with a big smile on his face in agreement and adoration for me right where I was. The love from these three people was almost too much to take, but I liked it and I received it. That "moment of honesty", even in the depths of my inadequacy is what caused a moment of truth and connection to happen. A moment of truth that I'm still marinating in.

Before 2015 had ended, I asked God what the word for our Church was for 2016. Instead I got two words, LOVE and CONNECTION (more on this in an upcoming article). You see, when we are all SEEN and KNOWN, and deeply LOVED even after we're fully seen and known - warts and all (which can be scary), then we have true CONNECTION. And God is all about connection, it's why Jesus came! To invade our hearts with His love and in turn connect us back to the heart of the Father.

Brunch with the Giffords
Brunch with the Giffords

So this weekend when Luke and Christa came and dropped love bomb after love bomb through countless meals and conversations, not to mention the investment and encounter they gave to our worship team Saturday night, and personally sitting on the front row hearing the same message three times over this last Sunday while getting totally wrecked each time, let's just say something started stirring in me. My heart is slowly thawing out. The numbness is leaving and I'm feeling like myself again. There is still work to be done, and you better believe I will do it because I'm so worth it, and so are you for that matter. You and I are worth His blood.

As a church we entered 21 days of fasting and prayer on Monday January 4th. On the first night of the fast, I laid my kiddos down and started an internal dialogue with God. I was pottering around the house getting insignificant things done, almost to avoid slowing down and processing more of what was going on inside of me.

I felt God ask me, "What are you afraid of?"

I really thought about it... "Am I afraid of what I'll find in my heart? No... I'm actually afraid I won't be able to find anything or even figure out what's going on and then I'll be stuck here in numbness. I'm afraid that this "feeler" has been disconnected too long. Yeah, that's it."

So what did I do?

I slowed down on purpose, stopped cleaning the house as a petty distraction, sat in the presence of God and listened to what He had to say to me. Not surprisingly, He had good things to say to me because He's a good father like that. Then, I sat down and wrote this blog to process a bit further. I needed to be honest with myself and I truly hope my honesty has somehow empowered you to be honest with yourself. Then I trusted a few people God has placed around me to talk things through in more detail than I would share publicly on a blog. We all need a few true friends who love you where you are, but won't leave you where you are. Lastly, I have put a couple things in action to continue on the road of sanctification and wholeness, because it's a life long journey. God wants your whole heart always, so continue to do what it takes through every season for Him to have all of it's real estate.

Remember, Responsibility is your ability to respond...

So how will you take responsibility for your heart and life this year? We've got to stop waiting for others to do it for us and respond to God love and goodness that is always available to us.

So stop for a moment and ask yourself a couple of questions. 

When you start to feel yourself disconnecting, slow yourself down long enough to ask why. Where are you self protecting and self preserving? Why are you isolating yourself? What pain has crept in that you have tried to shut off so you don't have to feel it? What lie are you possibly believing? Are you even aware that you're connected or disconnected?

Stop, ponder, journal, listen... What do you hear?

I just know God so deeply desires for us to receive His love to the depths of our being, and out of us being loved right where we are, by the lover of our souls, we can once again find ourselves connected back to Him and His heart. He has never left us. We may have drifted, grown dull or numb of heart, but it's okay. He's got you and He is the greatest heart physician there is, so consider putting your heart back into His hands.

Now to get practical:

Christa speaking at our Downtown Community
Christa speaking at our Downtown Community

After you get honest with yourself about where you're at just like I had to on the first day of the year, why don't you consider having a listen to the podcast from this past weekend by Christa Black-Giffordhere - "Love Yourself"  - based out of  Matthew 22:38-39. Listen as many times as you need to, so you can marinate in it.

Think about pre-ordering Christa's book - "Heart Made Whole" (P.S. She doesn't even know I'm writing this article and has not asked me to do this. She's a friend and I believe in her and what's on her life). Invest in the healing of pain you may find in your heart to "turn it into one of your greatest strengths."

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

Loved people love people and make the love of God known...

I just know it's going to be a great year even though I wasn't so sure it would be on January 1st. My hope is that you will be able to say the same. Oh how our God loves to turn things around in a moment if we'll just go on the journey with Him and get honest with ourselves.

xoxo

Andi

What Are You Waiting For?

A lot of times we are waiting for “someday when…” But our someday is NOW.

I remember sitting and having a meal with Steve and Sharon Kelly, two amazing mentors and friends as well as the pastors of Wave Church in Virginia Beach. Over my grilled salmon, I poured my heart out, not to mention all my insecurities in regards to what I felt God had asked me to do in launching She is Free here in NYC. After I was done verbally processing all my emotions and fears, Steve very seriously looked me in the eyes and asked,

"Andi, how old are you?"

To which I said "35. Why do you ask?"

Steve's reply hit me between the eyes and deep within my heart when he said, "So when are you going to grow up?"

Well ouch, and thank you.

I had allowed fear and insecurity to rule my thoughts, actions and belief in myself and I found it hard to take myself seriously or even back myself. I had gotten in my own way and saw myself as less than everyone else around me - comparison truly is a killer.

 

Not too many months later did my husband say to me, "It's like you're a sheriff, and you've willingly handed over your badge and weapons. But it's time to take them back and step into your authority." He started to pray over me and as he did, I felt God say to me in all my inadequacy and insecurity, "I have confidence in you." The floodgates were opened. To hear those words from my Father and Creator even when I didn't have confidence in myself deeply changed me.

You see, He has confidence in you even when you don't. Your inadequacy, fear, insecurity, pain, rejection, fill in the blank, does not phase Him! Jesus died to connect with you and step into those moments, look you in the eyes and say "You've got this, because I've got you."

Steve and my husband's words over me brought me to a turning point. I was 35 people, 35! And I wasn't getting any younger! It's like I was waiting for someone to give me permission to step into my dreams and destiny, but God already had. So what was I waiting for? What are you waiting for?

Sometimes I'm so aware that I need to number my days, take each breath with gratitude and not waste a single moment.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12 NIV

What has God put in your hand today? What dreams are you "pregnant with" that you're afraid to give birth to because of the responsibility that comes with it? What can you do to make a difference in your world right now, whether it's spectacular or seemingly mundane? When's the last time you slowed down enough to look your child in the eyes, leave your house a hot mess and play hide and go seek? What have you been dreaming about doing but are too scared to take the first step towards? What's on your bucket list that you could put into motion after you're done reading this? Maybe you've felt for a long time you're supposed to start writing but don't feel like you're good enough? What do you need to put in order or purge to make room for more?

You have permission to SHINE, to be SPECTACULAR. You get to be POWERFUL.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

So... What are you waiting for? Stop waiting for "someday when." Stop waiting for permission because your time is NOW. Back yourself. God has confidence in you because He is holding you. The world needs who you are and what you have to give to complete the big beautiful picture God is painting throughout time and eternity. History is His story, so what will the chapters with your name strewn across their breathtaking pages look like?

LOVED People LOVE People

When Paul and I were first married, I remember a particular time where I was SO mad at him. We lived in Maroubra, a beach in Sydney, Australia at the time. That particular morning I was taking a walk during the sunrise and praying which was my ritual at the time. I was venting to God and spouting of all of the justifications for my anger when the Holy Spirit cut me off. "Andi, I only require you to love Paul as much as I love Him."

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

I remember yelling at the air, head tilted towards the sky, "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!"

And Jesus replied, "Yes, but loved people, love people."

It is impossible to love others and serve others unless we first let ourselves be loved. It is impossible because we need Jesus love in us, permeating our lives to love others.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. - 1 John 4:19-21 NIV

As verse 19 says in 1 John 4, we have the ability to love others because we ourselves are first loved.  What is the premise for this love? How do we receive it?

"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:7-12 NIV

Now to some of you this may seem elementary, but let's go there anyway. To receive this love, we must be born of God, or "born again". God delights in hitting the restart button of your life, that's why it's called being born again. When we receive Him, we get to start over! We are made new and the slate of sin is wiped clean! God made it possible for us to receive His love by showing His love among us through His Son. God took His word (John 1:14), wrapped it in flesh and sent it to earth in the form of His Son, Jesus. He was here, in flesh and blood and He felt what it's like to live, love, and overcome.  He gets you. He feels you. He's walked a mile in your shoes.

Now a big key comes next in verse 9 of 1 John 4,"He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

That we might live THROUGH Him. At first we receive Jesus as a conscious decision, but then what? Sometimes we have no idea how to live our lives THROUGH Him. What does that even mean?

Take a pair of glasses for example, when you put them on, you can see clearly again as you look through their lenses. Well to live a life with 20/20 vision, you need to put on Jesus and live your life through Him.

How?

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Well a few simple tips would be to start by reading the whole book of John - this guy loved Jesus something crazy. He walked as a son and a friend knowing he was loved and intrinsically part of the family.

Next I would suggest reading through 1 John and 2 John. In particular study chapter 4 of 1 John. Dig deep. Ask God to show you how to live IN His love and THROUGH His life.

Practically you could also order a "Journible" online (I got mine on amazon), and I would recommend the book of John or the Journible including 1, 2 and 3 John if it's a deeper revelation of love your seeking. It's an amazing and simple journal where you write out the word of God on one side of the page and then write your revelation on the other page.

How great would it be for your 2016 to be a year marked by love?

Loved People, love people and make the love of God known.

Responsibility = Your Ability To Respond

A week and a half ago I was in South Africa and couldn't sleep. It wasn't the jet lag, it was this particular line that kept repeating itself in my mind and heart,

"Responsibility is your ability to respond. Responsibility is your ability to respond. Responsibility is your ability to respond..."

Around and around it went. It seemed as though the Holy Spirit was trying to bore something deep inside of my heart. I shot up in my bed, "Okay! I hear you! I'm responding! What do you want to say to me?"

For nights on end, God began to download several things to me, but all of them going straight back to the position of our hearts.

God has made you powerful. Powerful enough to reject or receive Him. Powerful enough to walk with our without Him. Powerful enough to respond to Him and His words or not. It comes down to your free will and what or who your will is submitted to, your way or Gods way?

You see, our heart issues and the state of our heart is completely our responsibility. Often we'd like to blame those around us, circumstance, upbringing, our environment and even God, for not flourishing in life, but the honest truth is that we are responsible for the state of our hearts. Out of the abundance of the heart, our mouths speak - so what's been coming out of your heart? Whatever bubbles out of your mouth is telling of what is deep within you.

Our hearts are likened to a garden that we have the responsibility to tend to. Don't believe me? Well, take Jesus at his word then.

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Matthew 13:3b-9 &18-23 NLT“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

The purpose of soil in agriculture is to receive and cultivate the seed until it grows into it's intended matter and serves it purpose on the earth whether its vegetation, trees that produce oxygen, food, etc. Well, if our heart is likened to soil, then it's purpose is to receive the seed that God scatters amongst us through His word, messages you hear, time with Him listening to His voice, Godly leadership, and so on. The state of our heart determines the wellbeing of the seed and it's ability to produce 30, 60 or 100 times the DNA that is within that seed. God wants to entrust you with more, but you have a responsibility to tend to your heart.

If we wallow in unforgiveness, bitterness or offense for too long and don't deal with issues that God has  been allowing to come to the surface for weeks, months, or years (because He gives us the grace to deal with them in season), our hearts will begin to harden and we'll begin to self-protect. Then, when "seed" is thrown out into our lives, we will despise it and reject it, not understanding all that God wants to give us.

“Offense makes a terrible house guest. It evicts what you previously valued and invites in what before you would never have entertained.”Charlotte Gambill

When we cultivate and take responsibility for our hearts, God can entrust us with more. Often we just have to wake up to the ability we have to respond.

We can respond to life with:

  • Forgiveness - Cancelling a debt that someone owes you spiritually, physically, mentally or emotionally that they will never be able to pay you.
  • Repentance - Turning from our way and truly submitting our WHOLE lives (not just our big toe), to God.
  • Gentleness - To be gentle is: "not harsh or severe." Are you able to respond to life in such a manner?
  • Patience - “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.” - Um, yeah. We're all working on this one.
  • Love - It is the standard at which Jesus gave His life for us and the standard we are required to give to one another.

You have the ability to respond:

  • To His goodness - It's His goodness that leads us to repentance, rather than rules, law, expectations or regulations.
  • To His invitation - For relationship, more, a flourishing life.
  • To His call - Don't feel like you have a call? Just respond to Jesus' famous last words and you'll change the world with that calling, "Go and make disciples!"
  • To rise up - Whether you feel like it or not, it's your responsibility.
  • To His love - I always say "Loved people love people," so will you let God love you because he longs to have every part of your heart?
  • With what God gives you - Everything you have is a stewardship responsibility, so how will you respond with what He has placed in your hands: children, money, gifts, abilities, time, family, relationships, etc.?
  • To what happens to you - This one is hard because so many difficult, painful, and awful things have happened to many of us, hardening our hearts, yet God still gives us the ability to soften our hearts. Facing the pain and choosing to forgive is always key, even if you don't feel like it.
  • To God's word - He has given us so much through His word, but how will we respond to it?
  • To fear - Yes, fear. Will you let it rule you or will you respond with faith and love?

And so much more!

Abraham's response to his wife Sarah’s negativity and unbelief in the seeming delay of God’s promise of a son landed them with an Ishmael, before they had Isaac. One child represents their way, the other child represents God's way, and both had to do with their response.

In your life, are you producing Ishmael's or are you allowing God to bring about the Isaac’s? Are you willing to take the time to cultivate your heart and bring about the good things God is trying to produce in your life that will have a lasting generational impact. You are responsible.

You have the ability to respond, so how will you use your freedom?

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Behind The Curated Instagram Feed - Real Life

So it's a big life, and sometimes the highlight reel on my Instagram feed can make it all look glamorous or just plain easy. It's not. It's big, it's messy, it's an adventure, and it's beautiful. Our family lives a calculated and intentional life, yet at the same time we're all full of flexibility for those moments/seasons where just about anything can happen. With every new turn of the corner, we stretch, change, and move things around according to the needs of our kids, marriage, family, church and so on. I decided to write this article after I hung out with my good friend (Chris Jury - love you girl!) in Australia after preaching at SWB with Leigh Ramsey the pastor of Citipointe as well as with Sean and Lynda Stanton down in Canberra. I also got to visit to my brother and his family in Sydney which was so much fun. Chris and I got talking (at the playground with our kids nearly necking themselves several times) about how looking from the outside in, it can sometimes seem like its a super easy, cushy life to live. None of our lives are, but I thought I'd take you behind the scenes of my day to day to show you a bit how we do it as a family. If I didn't cover something you're still curious about, comment and I'll see what I can do to answer your questions.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Whatever I put on here just remember, life is seasonal for all of us so there is absolutely no way we can really  "do it all" at the same time and stay sane. Don't buy into that lie, because when you do, you set yourself up for failure. Begin to look at all the wonderful things you are doing now and place value on it! Those gorgeous children, that job that is building character in you, the friends that you keep running alongside that can feel like a drain at times, that marriage that needs some work... Seasons come and go and after a beautifully lived life you'll be able to look back over the years and say, "Hey, I did it all!" because you didn't give up!

How I do it "all" - demystified:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Things we don't Instagram:- As I kick this off, let's be honest - there is so much we don't Instagram or post on social media. As I was talking to one of our Brooklyn Pastors, Kristen Tarsiuk, we laughed about all the things we NEVER post... Like that unibrow, our kids having a tantrum - in public, arguments with our husband, that church service that failed and no one showed up to, that meal we burnt, the ring around our bathtub (that we still bathe our kids in without wiping it down). Usually we post our perfect cake, our children painting a picture just like Picasso, or a bikini shot with our kids in the frame making sure everyone knows that we lost that baby weight. Yeah, you probably lost a few followers that day - did I just write that? Yes, yes I did. I've personally never posted a bikini shot (nobody needs to see that - I personally don't want people picturing me in a bikini as I preach) and my stomach has been stretched to kingdom come - 4 times (like I said, nobody needs to see that) - but each to their own. But I'm sure I've posted other things that have made people want to throw their phone and say "Oh yay! Good for you!" laden with heavy sarcasm, and for those days - I'm sorry.

(Clears throat) So moving on... How I do it all behind the curated Instagram feed:

Values: You've got to live from your value system, or life will choose for you. Make sure you know what they are and that they're in order, or you will sacrifice and pay the price for the wrong things. Usually unintentionally but nonetheless it will leave you frustrated and lacking grace for your season.

Paul and I often say "Our first ministry is to our family" and it comes out of our value system. There have been times when our lives didn't line up with that value (ouch!) and we took the rebuke from heaven and made changes. My husband and I don't want to build our "ministry" while we sacrifice our children in the process. They are our ministry! If their lives fall apart because of our choices, then we have to answer for that. I realize that they have a free will, and we don't control that will, but we will do our best to "raise them up in the way they should go so they don't depart from it" in every season of life. By the way, the word ministry means "to meet a need" - and as their parents, our children's primary needs are to be met by us.

So here's a shout out to all the stay at home moms and dads that don't feel appreciated! THANK YOU for raising kids that will change the world. You are my heros!

Now look, that's just one of our families values out of many that I've used as an illustration, and your values may not be my values, but get before God and put them in order. This will help you count the cost with every season and cause you to pay the right price. None of our lives will look the same, but we have to be true to each of our individual callings and purpose. We answer to our Father at the end of our lives for how we have cultivated what He's given us. Then, when the pressure comes to cave or compromise, we can't because we know we're building for the long haul with our values in mind and a knowing that opportunity will always come knocking.

Not every opportunity is your God opportunity.

My mom and dad: So after all that, lets just start with the fact that my mom and dad live upstairs in the same brownstone as we do, albeit a different apartment - we do life together. My parents truly are wonderful GRANDparents to my children and they feel called to come alongside Paul and I as we build the church together. They are also on staff overseeing our pastoral care, but if Paul and I ever should travel at the same time, it's my mom and dad that are home with my babies. They raise them just as we raise them and my children adore Nonni and Poppy. Whenever we do go away together and they ask, "who is staying with us" (as if they answer ever changes) and we tell them, "It's Nonni and Poppy!" They cheer and scream and get so pumped - every time.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

I understand that this is not a reality for everyone, and that we have extremely blessed circumstances,  but this wasn't always the case. I lived in Australia for 10 years without my mom and dad and was a stay at home mom for a season with my 3 children under the age of 3. It hasn't always been like this and to be honest I wouldn't travel, work, nor build the church at the capacity that I do without them. So in this season, this is really working, and with the next season that God brings we will re-evaluate once again.

Life Assistant: Our life assistant is another me at home! I have multiplied my capacity by training a wonderful woman to help run our household just like I would if I was home 24/7. It's a sacrifice for us financially and for me as a woman and mom emotionally, but with the right person (which we SO have) it brings peace and efficiency to the household.

After a long day's work I come home to the laundry done, beds fixed, a tidy house, bathed kids and a cooked meal so I can sit around the table and focus on what matters most - my kids and my husband. We talk, laugh and have family dinner which is what I love and crave in life. I am so grateful for our life assistant who has truly transformed (and organized) our lives at home.

Executive Assistant: Paul and I have an awesome woman who organizes our work life and calendar and I don't know how we'd do it without her! She helps lift the burden of admin (and a million other things) so I can focus on people, study, message prep and writing. She is amazing!

Home Days and Work Days: I only work in the office Tuesday-Thursday so I can be home with my kids Monday and Friday. I want to stay in touch with the dirty dishes, laundry, organizing, school drop offs and picks ups, general kid chaos and all things home.

Sam sleeping on our billionth plane
Sam sleeping on our billionth plane

Frequent Flyer points: Please don't get the idea that we have millions in some offshore account so we can do all this traveling - we have a lot frequent flyer points. Travel is one of our values and I realize it may not be on of yours. Because it is a value of ours, we find creative ways to do it and make it work and we save money to travel.  We love making memories together and bonding with each other as a family and travel is one way we do that.

Calendar Planning: Not sexy, but 100% necessary. My husband and I often sit down to plan the calendar with our values in mind.

Since our kids are our first priority, we plan the calendar around school season, school breaks, times when we know their emotions may run high or they may need us more for various different reasons, times where they'll need their momma more then their dad, or times when dad is great to hold the fort down while momma is away.

We also plan in time away without the kids. Paul and I want to fall more and more in love as each year passes and we need time together to do that. If the kids feel sad about us leaving, we simply ask them this question, "Do you want mommy and daddy to fall more in love?" Hello! The answer is always yes and then they are excited to see us leave. We want to pass on the desire for a healthy loving marriage to our kids and prioritizing each other does that for them.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We do life with our kids: This isn't always easy, but we like to take them with us on the journey no matter the cost (emotionally, physically, spiritually... you get it.) Sometimes they fall asleep on the floor at the thai food resturant after you've preached your heart out because you don't want them to go back to the hotel without you so you can have one more cuddle. It's worth it - totally not convenient and I love it all.

Endless packing and unpacking: A side effect of travel that I DO NOT love. No one can pack for me or my kids because it's all up in my head. You know that inventory list that no one else can access or do right even if you write it down? Yeah that one. And I admit, it's a little bit control freakish of me, but it's a huge part of travel that is so not glamorous! Gaaaaah!

Battles:Fear is real and so is LOVE. But that battles you face when you say YES to God in any way shape or form are no joke. Be ready and know your stance - you win. We fight from a place of victory, not  defeat. So keep your armor on and get your fight on.

Keep your heart pure: Entitlement will kill you. At times, our generation can be a "give it to me because God showed me a vision, I'm gifted to the hilt, and now is my time because I said so" generation. When we act like that, we're lacking the gratitude and humility it takes to SERVE and LOVE every generation alive on earth today which is why we're here. We are here for others - period. The first and foremost "others" I am here for are my husband and my children, and if that's out of whack, then it all falls apart. This goes back to the values piece. If you're goal in life is travel the world and preach, then you've missed it. Serve God, whatever that looks like in your season and do it with joy. That is the prize.

We serve at His pleasure... Not our own.

Wherever you are now, do your journey well. Fight the good fights that are right there in front of you. Moms! Raise those babies and be the greatest momma this earth has seen - even though no one may ever say thank you. We're raising them to be demon torturing, Kingdom releasing, Love overflowing, model citizens of this earth to transform it for Jesus - THEY ARE YOUR CALLING.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Count the cost: Giving everything for God will cost you no matter your sphere of influence, so don't be surprised when there is a price tag to the life you are called to live. The truth is, you still have a free will to count the cost and decide if you will pay it or not.

When you go to a store and buy a new shirt, before you purchase it, usually you would have looked at the cost, the style of the shirt and weighed up whether you're willing to pay for it or not. Once you do pay it, there are generally two responses - joy at having the new shirt, or buyers remorse because you didn't count the cost appropriately according to what you had in the bank to pay.

When it comes to the call of God it's the same. There is a price and a cost to stepping into new levels. There is also a cost to remaining in the same place. But we have to constantly be counting the cost and checking our hearts. Once you have counted it, weighed it, and prayed about it - make your decision and move forward without looking back and don't complain about how much it cost you! In every season of life, continue to ask God for the plan to execute the assignment He's given you - stay close to Him. He will slather your life with grace to live in what He has called you to.

"Don't trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost." Proverbs 20:25 NLT

Keep getting punched in the face:Continual first hand revelation is necessary to overflow in this race we are all called to thrive in. Second hand revelation comes from others revelation (i.e. podcasts, messages, books, etc.) and is powerful, but there is nothing like being in the presence of God and letting Him hit you with the truth in love. It keeps you humble, on your face and in the right place for God to literally take the stage of your life because you're not interested in being on it! I serve at His pleasure therefore I need to know Him and what He wants for and from me.

Have your 3 or 4:I need prayer warriors in my life that have my back, my front, and my sides... And I've got theirs! I have 3 or 4 women in my life that I can call upon to pray in every season and I do the same for them. On occasion, I will call these women together and we get on our faces and pray... We are at war and every single one of our assignments matters - your assignment on earth matters, so take yourself seriously.

At the end of our lives we will stand before God and He will ask us what we've done with what we've been given. I don't have another shot at this life and I'm not wasting any time. 

Well, that's all for now... I hope you feel encouraged, empowered and helped in some way shape or form. Now go and run your race and do it with everything you have!

Warning: This picture does not represent real life.

Warning: This picture does not represent real life.

Although, how nice would it be to get your hair and make up done every day?!?!

These pictures however, do.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Chubby baby and ugly selfie faces. Life is too short for beautiful selfies.

andiandrew.co
andiandrew.co

Wrestling at bed time that starts with laughter and often ends in tears. You know what I mean.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Airplane pics with no make up, a sweaty beautiful jet lagged baby and new wrinkles around my mouth.

Over the years, I've had so many people ask me; "How do you do it all?" That whole four kids thing, healthy marriage, growing and flourishing church, leading in life, juggling like a freaking clown. Yeah that whole thing.

Well, the simple answer is... I don't.

I've been called "supermom" often, but really, I'm just a smart mom. I don't actually wear knee high red boots, have a lasso on my hip, and wear the super hero outfit everyday under my cloths. Although that would be fun.

I used to buy into the lie that that you can do it all (in the same season at the same time)! And with that statement came extreme pressure that I put on myself. I lived under that pressure for so long until I got shingles (for the second time) after my 4th child was born and I realized something had to give. And if you're not aware, shingles come out when you are stressed to the max. Boo! My stress manifested itself in my body, and I needed to pay attention. Paul and I had a big talk and made some major shifts in our lives and continue to do so as needed.

So I'm going to tell you the truth about how I (we) do what we do, because I don't do it by myself. There is an army that has gathered, and from the outside sometimes it looks like "I can do it all!!!" But I'm not alone.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

A releasing husband 

I married the right guy. Biggest and BEST decision I made. He doesn't see me as infieror, but as a partner in crime, eh hem, I mean good. We are equal but very different and compliment each other well like a fine wine pairing. I married a man who loves to see the dreams God has put in my heart come true, as I do in his life. He is truly my best friend.

He also LOVES and ADORES our kids and doesn't see it as a secondary option to stay home with them if I am traveling and speaking somewhere. He is the head of our house, leads us, and covers us with strength and valor in every season. He is a man I will follow anywhere.

We love running together!

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Kids that are called

Don't think for a second that I would ever sacrifice my children on the alter of "my calling". They ARE my calling. God put these children in my womb, and they are called to our families redemptive purpose on the earth. It's a together thing. Our family has a collective calling, and Paul and I pay attention to ebb and flow that come with each season. Sometimes my kids need more of my time in a certain season, and I need to listen to what they're really saying. I need to listen to God when the season changes, and then make adjustment accordingly. It will change year by year, but if I am truly a woman, wife, mom, daughter, friend, and leader led by Holy Spirit... I will be obedient and make appropriate changes as they're needed.

Family

I know, I have it good. My parents literally live upstairs in the same apartment building as Paul and I live. And contrary to popular culture, my parents and Paul don't just get along, they love each other. We are a family unit that thrives living near one other. My kids run upstairs all the time and bust into Nonny and Poppy's house uninvited but always welcome. My parents give us the margin we need sometimes when the stretch is on. It's the way family was meant to function, and the way a healthy church family does too.

Another added bonus are Paul's extremely wonderful parents! They sacrificed it all in their 60's and moved from Australia to help us build the church... and they LOVE our kids as if they were there own. They have a place in Connecticut that provides a "nature retreat" from the city. Its so fun to go to Grandma and Grandpop's house!

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Vanessa aka "Sessa" aka "Consuelo" aka "Nessa"

This woman is without appropriate adjectives. She swept into our lives right after my bout of shingles and has changed our family forever. We call her a "life assistant" because to call her a nanny downgrades what she actually does alongside us. She is called to our family in this season and does it brilliantly. What does a life assistant do you ask? Laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, helping with the kids, planning activities, pick ups and drop offs when I can't be there... the list goes on. Hiring Vanessa was one of the most pivotal moves we made for our family and a huge reliever of undue stress.

A house cleaner

Only recently have we added this glorious bonus! Every two weeks or once a month, we get our house cleaned according to our budget. We make sacrifices in other areas, so that we can do a deep clean in the house and I can invest my energies in other more important things. A clean house really matters to me because it brings order to "my space" in a life that is constantly moving. The house clean releases me in particular, to not worry about things that would take up my time on saturdays or mondays when I just want to rest, relax and be with my family.

Friends

I have good friends.

My friends tell me the truth. My friends love me even when I am not perfect... And that is everyday people. My friends are iron that sharpen me. My friends believe in me and cheer me on in my race without comparison because that belief in them is reciprocated. We all allow each other to be who we are and it's a diverse group of friends. I couldn't do this life without them.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

An incredible Team and Church

I can't believe the people that God has put in our Church. I really can't. We wondered if we were smoking something when we planted this church because it was honestly just 9 of us around a Central Park bench when it all began and that included our kids!!! Now there are hundreds of people that call Libertyhome, a staff and team that are anointed leaders in their own right, and we've only just begun.

God...

No brainer. I am friends with, and my life is completely submitted to my maker and Father. I am deeply loved and in love, and out of that place, I live to please my God - the one who rescued me. Daily I choose to lean into Him... This is probably the greatest key to living in my lane.

 And we'll end on this picture... Just because it's awesome. I love my boys.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Thank you William Booth

Call me strange, but I love a good warning. Especially a warning that opens my eyes and causes me to cry out to God for the solution. This particular "warning" from William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, an honored general who has gone before us, has opened my eyes and won't leave me alone.

andiandrew.com

andiandrew.com

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”  - William Booth - Founder of the Salvation Army

This whole quote is enough for each of us to meditate on until its so deep within us, that we can’t help but be moved to action to see this changed in our lifetime.

When I look around the church today, I do see this. But more than seeing the problem that faces our generation, I see hope. I see the answer. It is in God and His inexplicable love, and it is within you and I. Christ in us the HOPE of glory! We can change this. But we have to wake up.

So often I see Christians who are saved but not free. Saved but unactivated in their faith. Saved but not empowered. Saved but in countless ways tolerating their pain and chains as a normal part of life. Saved but lacking the knowledge or understanding of their God given authority… I see Christians “doing” Christianity without actually following Jesus Christ. We’re willingly following Jesus to heaven, but refusing to get out of our Christian high towers. Instead we're filled with opinions (that we freely give behind the safety of our computers), but often times those opinions lack the knowledge of the word of God, or are void of any action to actually live by the "convictions" we've so freely shared with the world. At times we've hemmed ourselves in with the safety of our Christian surroundings (I've been guilty of this), while we're beckoned to be freedom facilitators that see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. That my friends is an uncomfortable life... A life truly crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). One that calls us out to understand our position of “royalty” and authority is given for the sake of others.

"23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." - John 14:23-24 NIV

Notice it says "obey my teaching", not "quote my teaching",  or"know my teaching better than anyone else", it simply says obey, and then the promises follow. We can quote scripture, know scripture, use scripture out of context, have an opinion about scripture, but until we live it and live in it, there is a point of inactivity in our faith. And I would go so far to say that we're acting as disobedient kids.

I want to focus on one part of this quote for this particular article, and that is salvation without regeneration.

Regeneration is to be renewed or restored back to our original purpose. We were never meant to only be saved. Don't hear what I'm not saying, salvation is the point of entry, and the greatest, most mind bending miracle into our new life with Christ to which everything He has is ours. This is the front door into the palace of our new life. This is adoption into the greatest family ever! What a position that we live from!

From the point of salvation, we have a mission of renewal and regeneration of ALL things. First to be renewed and restored in our own lives (because WE ARE a new creation, this is not semantics, it is our reality), and then to facilitate the same thing in the lives of those around us, and the atmospheres we occupy - to be saved AND free, and then give what we have away.

We are each called to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and see the kingdom of heaven infiltrate earth (Matthew 6:10)whilst we occupy the planet. We don’t just sit here and occupy till Jesus comes back for us, we are facilitators of the freedom and power of the Kingdom of Heaven. And we have been given all authority from Jesus to do so, and are enabled by the gift and the power of the Holy Spirit to execute the mission.

We are at war and we win. So we must fight accordingly.

"There may be breaks between battles but it doesn't mean the war is over. You can take that time between to nap, or, you can take it to re-equip. Victory is yours, it's just a matter of how long you want the battle to go on before you take it." - Kris Vallotton, Spirit Wars

Salvation WITH regeneration is our responsibility. Satan will try everything in his power to usurp (take a position of power or importance illegally or by force) what has been freely given to you. Don't allow him the pleasure.

If you're okay with going to war, freedom and restoration are yours. And then you have the privilege of giving it away to all you meet.

So thank you William Booth for going before us and opening our eyes. May we take heed and make an eternal difference on earth while we're alive.

So you want to be fruitful?

Fruit... Maybe we don't consciously think about it too much, (or at all), and maybe this sounds like a statement from Captain Obvious, but fruit is a sign of health from a life giving tree or vine. We landed on the island of Capri this last Saturday, and as we drove up to our hotel, there were vineyards and lemon trees everywhere. It's breathtakingly magical here, so much so, that it seems as though we were dropped straight into a romantic movie set. Our journey took us up the island to 'Ana Capri', and as we drove, on the side of the road, at fruit stands, shops, and entry ways into many of the restaurants, were trays of some of the biggest lemons I have ever seen in my life - some of them nearly the size of my head! Everything here seems to be in season, and flourishing beautifully.

When you or I look at a tree, and see that it's full of fruit in due season, we know it's a healthy tree, planted in good soil, pruned at the right times, watered, cultivated and nurtured by its owner. We are much the same as a fruit tree, or vine - either bearing fruit in the right seasons, or drying up and withering away due to lack of connection to the TRUE vine. If the latter is your portion, it's critical to ask yourself just what you are connected to.

Success in life = Fruit. Not achievement, big numbers, status, being known, or even faithfulness. Yes, some of those things might be considered fruit, but hopefully, our achievements, status, and faithfulness (ect.) to Jesus bring the right, lasting fruit. If we are truly successful in life, we will be known as, and be remembered once we're gone, as true disciples of Jesus Christ, and the proof will be in the pudding, or in keeping with the analogy, the fruit. You will live a life with nothing to prove, and nothing to hide, whilst enjoying the process of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

In John 15, Jesus draws this parallel as an illustration to make it clear and obvious to us how to bear fruit in our lives.

John 15:1-8 NIV 

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

We all want to bear fruit, but when the Kingdom process commences, we want to bear fruit another way... Or Maybe that's just me?!?! We can see from John 15 that it's a choice to remain. Remain in Christ, in the true vine... Not in our thoughts, or our safe places, but in Christ. And when The Father starts the cutting off and pruning process, take it as a compliment. He wants MORE for you. He even cuts back the good stuff so you can bear MORE of it. And if  certain things are being cut off of your life, take a look at them. Maybe they weren't bearing fruit in the first place. Our Father knows what we need, when we need it. We just have to trust Him and trust the process.

Stop for a moment and take a look at the fruit in your life? Do you see any? Are you aware of your season? Are you being pruned to bear more fruit in certain areas? Are things being cut off that aren't bearing fruit?  What have you been remaining in, or connected to? Because apart from Jesus you can do nothing, and He strongly says that the things that we do apart from Him are like a branch that  withers and is thrown into the fire. Harsh, but true. So often, we remain in the muck of our situation rather then repent, turn from our ways, and step back into the arms of Jesus. Maybe we're remaining in the negative prophesies that someone spoke over our lives that are just lies, and it's time to come back into agreement with the truth. Sometimes we remain in, or stay connected to people or environments that don't cultivate truth in love, and instead we're seeing bitterness, un-forgiveness and anger as a withering branch in our lives. Maybe there are thought processes you are allowing to germinate in your mind, that are becoming unhealthy thought patterns, that have sunk into your heart, and come out of your mouth as a belief system.

I would say, if any of the above are true, it's time to make some changes...

  • It's time to take thoughts captive and make them obedient to the mind of Christ. Even moment by moment if need be... But be transformed inside and out by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) You have to consciously do this.
  • It's time to trust God and allow things to be cut off that we have been holding onto, that have caused a withering effect in our lives.
  • It's time to change our relationships and environments to be connected to the one and only true vine - Jesus Christ.
  • It's time to come into agreement with the truth of the word of God, and break agreement with lies that we have allowed to become a part of who we are. Lies are not our inheritance. Everything that Jesus has is. (John 16:15)
  • It's time to be pruned in areas where maybe we've become prideful, because of the harvest of fruit that we have already seen, and God is saying... "There's MORE!". Pruning brings humility, and allows us once again to see who The Farmer is that cultivates our lives.

Why is bearing fruit so important? Why does this even matter?

"This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8 NIV

Because it shows who's we are. It glorifies our Father in Heaven without us even speaking a word. Those in your family, workplace, neighborhood, in your sphere of God given influence will see what a TRUE disciple looks like, and will want to have what your having.