Tis The Season – For a Change of Heart

I should probably preface this post by saying it is not at all strange for me to be thinking or daydreaming about all things Christmas, no matter what time of year it is. You see, I am a Christmasaholic. Even as I sit in my rocking chair on my front porch enjoying this beautiful 72 degree May evening in Kentucky; I can’t help but wish it was almost Christmas again.

My mind was repeating, the song “Pretty Paper” by Randy Travis. If you’ve ever heard it, I’m sure the unique voice of Mr. Travis is ringing through your ears with those familiar words. I slowly rock back and forth as I watch the sunset over the horses in the field, humming the holiday tune. But the rocking stopped, and I felt myself scowling as I paused on the following lyrics:

“Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won’t pass him by
Should you stop? Better not, much too busy
You’re in a hurry, my how time does fly
In the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter, he cries….”

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My feelings of holiday spirit quickly shifted to ones of concern and sadness. How often have I been guilty of that very thing? How many times have I been too busy or distracted to notice someone I could help? I’m flooded with conviction as I think of this morning’s drive to work. It was pouring rain; I could hardly see through the windshield. Through the rapid swiping of the wipers I could see a man riding his bike in the same direction I was headed. A raincoat synched around his face and wearing a backpack; I am confident he was doing what he could to get to the school that’s a few miles down the road. The next thing I know, I am looking at him through my rearview mirror as I drive on. I could’ve stopped. I could’ve put his bike in the back of my SUV and got him out of the rain. Yes, I would’ve gotten drenched, and I had no way of knowing if he was a good person or not (you know, all the excuses I let justify me not doing the right thing). But isn’t that the point? Sacrificing for someone else?

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2

My heart aches at the thought that our world, or should I say, the people in it, can be described much more accurately by the lyrics of that Christmas song than by the example set by our savior.

Think about the last time someone did something nice for you that was a complete surprise. Those moments in life when people go the extra mile to encourage and lift us up really makes us feel special. Why do their actions have that effect on us? I’m sorry to say that they probably stand out because it’s so different from what we experience the rest of the time. Day in and day out, most of us are forced to deal with people who care more about themselves than they care about others.

We have allowed ourselves to become a people who are no longer willing to carry the burden for someone else. We make every excuse in the world to justify our behavior. “I’ve got my own problems; I can’t worry about them right now.” “Someone else will do it; I just don’t have time.” Or my favorite, “I just don’t feel called to do that.” So engulfed in the business and worldly things we have worked so hard for; we are suffocating from our toxic self-centeredness as we choke God out of every aspect of our lives and effortlessly make those in need around us invisible. Just look away, don’t make eye contact…the second you are out of sight, they are out of your mind.

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These quotes from Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love are spot on:
“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” – Chan isn’t referring to how we love our families and friends. And neither is God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43

How are you doing in that area of life? How often do you find yourself showing love, compassion, and respect for those that aren’t your favorite people in the world? One of God’s greatest commandments is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To regard their needs and desires as highly as we regard our own. THAT is what God measures our lives by…are we imitating the life of our savior and putting the needs of others above our own?

“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.”

Chan is reminding us that God didn’t create you and me to merely exist and make our goal in life to get as much money as possible so we can be as comfortable as possible. He puts us where we are because He has something for each of us to do at that very moment. I passed that man on his bike and FAILED! God’s plan was still fulfilled. Someone did stop to help him. I drove right past an opportunity to serve and glorify God and be used by Him out of complete and utter selfishness. So He used someone else. That shouldn’t be a relief to anyone. I want to stand before a Holy God and hear Him say, “Well Done Daughter, Well done.” Not, “Is this all you did with the time I gave you.”

“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people he has made?” – I don’t think Mr. Chan needs my help explaining this one at all, do you?

How’s The View?

I think most people will agree with me when I say that experiencing a moment, or multiple moments, of conviction, can be one of life’s best teachers.  You know what I’m talkin’ about right?  That second you want to crawl in a hole because you’re feeling smothered in guilt, remorse, shame…need I go on?

ashamed I am sure it doesn’t take long for us all to recall those, not so fun, life lessons.  Whether we impulsively stuck our foot/feet in our mouths, blew a situation out of proportion, or continue to fail at that one thing you’ve been trying to work on; if you’re a follower of Christ, His Spirit will quickly begin to weigh on us.  I can just picture His Holy Spirit standing in front of me with His arms crossed while tapping His foot out of frustration until I have that Ah Hah moment of, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done/said that.”

I had just such an experience this week.  Several of them, I’m sure, but one that is really tugging at me.  I have been struggling for about a month with kidney stones.  I was passing seven at one time, had surgery to have a stent placed, and finally began feeling better last week as I was starting to recover.  By the end of the week, I could tell I was passing more.  I went to the doctor, and they did see multiple stones.  Good times (deep sigh).  Ladies and gentlemen let the pity party begin!

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Can’t you just hear the thoughts I was having…”Why is this happening to me again? What did I do to deserve this? Wah wah wah…” Poor pitiful me.  I could feel the frown on my face.  All while sitting in my air-conditioned home, on my comfortable sofa, reclined with my heating pad, my fourteen-year-old daughter making my plate of food, and watching all the Netflix my little heart desires.   Sounds hideous, doesn’t it?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to go on two mission trips to very poverty-stricken areas in Uganda over the last couple of years.  Each time coming home feeling terrible about how so very spoiled we are as Americans, and we don’t even know it.  We don’t realize how ridiculous we sound to people around the world when we complain about standing in line too long, and wi-fi being too slow, and “I don’t really feel like eating there…”

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 I would get so aggravated when people would moan about their “first world problems”, yet here I was, doing just that.  I realized it while I was sitting through our weekly Women’s Bible Study group discussing missionaries over the centuries that have literally sacrificed and lost everything to be obedient to God.  One, William Carey, traveled to India in the 1800s with his wife and children.  While there, one of his sons and his wife died.  He continued to serve the Lord through it all, and His ministry impacted innumerable lives.

The way I would have seen that situation if it was me, I’m afraid, would be a much different view than what he saw.  Through the pain, sacrifice, grief, and struggle, he saw the path that God had laid before him from the beginning.  He could see the lives that would be touched, and the Glory God would receive if he persevered.  His view was filled with the desire to show Christ to a lost world, the faith that knew God was in control, and the expectation of Him to do something absolutely amazing with his situation.  Not only that but what a testimony for people to witness a man walking out His faith in such a way.  We claim to have hope, but so few of us show it when the rubber meets the road.

As we read Carey’s story, I could feel myself sinking in my chair.  How much had I complained that day and the days before?  My view was filled with self-pity and impatience.  I was focused on my circumstance instead of fixing my eyes on the One that was in control of it.  I lost sight of all the blessings that fill my life that I know I don’t deserve.

With that being said, I type this with a smile on my face (while sitting on a heating pad 😊) because I am so very thankful for God’s sanctification process through conviction.  NOT CONDEMNATION.  That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into tonight.   I am thankful for the tests we must go through, whether I succeed or fail.  I am thankful for conditions that He allows me to endure in order to continue to mold me into the person He created me to be.

Consider changing your view to one that sees struggling in the Christian life as a temporary privilege.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5

DON’T MISS IT

DON’T MISS IT!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.”  (unknown author)

Isn’t it just like us, humans, to overcomplicate things?  I have recently had a realization that is going to change the landscape of my everyday life.  God has already revealed His plan for my life. And yours!!  And yet I, like many believers, have spent so much time making “doing His Will” way more complicated than it actually is.

Over the last several years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of some incredible works.  I have participated in two mission trips to Uganda where I witnessed God’s glory in a way that forever changed my heart and how I see the world.  I have watched our church family here in Kentucky transform into a church determined to spread the gospel as far as it can reach.  After seeing so many miraculous and wondrous acts of God, I allowed myself to be convinced that that was the only way He could use me.  In the “Big Stuff.” You know, the important stuff like mission trips, and church planting, fostering children….so I sat and prayed, “God, show me your will!”  “Lord, I just want to do Your will, please reveal what you want me to do next.”  “God, I’m still here…waiting for you to tell me the next big thing….” (crickets, lots of ‘em).

He was listening, He always is.  He was just waiting for me too.  So, to give me a little nudge it the right direction, he sent my friend Akim from Uganda to shake some sense into me.  He came all the way to Kentucky in the middle of winter to visit the non-profit organization he works with here and in Uganda.  I grew very close to him on my trips there and was thrilled to have him come and speak at our church about mission work.   As we were standing around catching up, he asked how I was and what I had been up to the last several months.  I responded with something like, “Oh, just going to work and church and chasing my teenager around.  I have been praying for what God wants me to do next.  I am seriously considering quitting my job to go into full-time ministry.”  My tone must have been dripping with a bit of frustration. I could tell by the look he gave me when he asked, “Quit your job so you can what? Be in full-time ministry? Are you not in full-time ministry everywhere you go as a believer in Jesus Christ? Does He not have you right where He wants you in order to make the biggest impact at this very moment? Are you surrounded by more people that need to hear the gospel at your work or at your church?”  Oh, how I wish you could read that in his soothing Ugandan accent just as I can hear it in my mind.  I wonder if I looked like how I felt at that moment.  You know that feeling where you want to crawl in a hole and cover yourself up?  Even as I type this, I am shaking my head.  Praise the Lord for His patience with us and the gentle nudges He gives to remind us of His Word and promises.

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The Great Commission wasn’t meant for special occasions, huge church events, and mission trips.  We are called to be everyday missionaries on the lookout for the opportunities God places in front of us, big and small. Everyday missionaries are those who practice life on mission where God has placed them.  As followers of Jesus Christ, our lives have a mission. God has a purpose and plan for us. In fact, He wants to do more “in” us and “through” us than we can even imagine. But it is not about us—it’s about Him. EVERYTHING we do—our jobs, our parenting, our words, our actions, our life’s mission—should be done with the intention of bringing glory to His name.  Never missing the chance to shine a light in this dark and fallen world.

1 Corinthians 10:31— “… Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (ESV)

We are everyday missionaries, and God has created each of us in a special way to take part in His plan. From high school students to retirees, from stay-at-home moms to CEO’s, we each have a part in the greatest story ever told. This is a story about an extraordinary love.  Too many people think that only “extraordinary” believers can be used for Christ.  God has called each of us to live a life on mission wherever we are – no matter our age, occupation, biblical knowledge, or busy schedule.

He’s asking us to see what He sees. Opportunities within our realities.

DON’T MISS IT!!

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15

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The Deceitful Distractions

Luke 10:38-42English Standard Version (ESV)

Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

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This small bit of info in the scriptures has always intrigued me. I mean I get the spiritual implication here. I know that we can get so caught up in serving that we forget to come to Jesus in prayer and allow Him to teach us His word. What I really want to focus in on is Jesus reply to Martha. After she has what I call a spiritual breakdown and physical fatigue meltdown.

The reason we react just like Martha in our journey with Jesus is:

1.) We are distracted

Just like it says here in verse forty, 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Martha was distracted with much serving and not enough time with Jesus who gives rest

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When we have a distracted mind frame, we are spread thin. Troubled mindset is always related to not taking our cares to God in prayer. We think we can just “handle it” “we believe God has strengthened us enough to take care of it” or “We might even find it is just not important enough to vocalize to God.” We are carrying loads of emotion, regret, and shame and suppressing it instead of sharing it with the burden carrier. This leads straight to excuses then before you know it we have arrived at distracted danger. You know it could be as little as someone said something to you that hurt you to the core. It could be that you are struggling financially, it could be that you are having major problems in your relationships with your loved ones. All these things have the potential to distract us from the word of God. Oh, how guilty of this I am. No matter how mature or immature I appear or even am, I still need to reset and rest at the feet of Jesus.  That will never change, His Word says:

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 

2.) We become impatient

Martha says directly to Jesus ” Lord! Do you even care that my sister has left me alone to serve? Tell her to help me!!!!

 

 

So, when we become distracted any little infraction becomes gigantic and we microscope everything, everyone, every situation. We are walking around like a nuclear bomb waiting to unleash on everyone and everything. We are bubbling over with cares concerns, and criticisms that have not been passed through the Word of God or at the feet of Jesus. We are wired like eight-day clocks.  This is stress, it is building up because we are holding it in. Again, no matter how far I grow up in Christ. If I am not careful, I naturally get to a place where I begin to do this. Jesus knows this and is well aware of “What is actually eating at Gilbert Grape.” This is when we should be clued in, this is when the Holy Spirit is saying ” Come to me, I will give you comfort, rest, assurance.” Our instinct is to hold it in, but Jesus is saying ” Tell Me, what is bothering you.” If we do what the Word of God says:

1Peter 5:7

7  casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

You know Martha is not the only person to think that God did not care about a circumstance. The disciples also did the same thing in

Mark 4:38.

38  But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?”

The boat was catching water, it was tipping back and forth, so many men crammed in, lighting striking all around, wind blowing them down. You get the picture! Yet in letting the storm distract them, they grew impatient. They cried out and accused The Lord of not caring about their lives. Sound familiar??? I know it does to me! I am so thankful for infinite grace and renewed mercies every day for all of us.

The third and final point I want to draw out is

3.) Jesus is faithful, even when we are distracted and impatient.

Even in our distraction and impatience Jesus still answer’s us. He calms us down and say’s to us just what He said to Martha

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

Jesus knows what really is bothering Martha, she is trying to carry all of it on her shoulders. She is trying to control and she can not, she is trying to rely on herself instead of Jesus, she is not allowing herself enough time with Jesus to unload her cares and concerns to Jesus who gives rest.

We are all Martha’s at times, we just have to remember that there is always a pair of feet we can come and rest at.

Phillipans 4:6

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Luke 12:22

22  Then He said to His disciples: “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear. 

I love a comma, I love that there is something that follows right behind what we know we should already do. It is called God’s grace, and without it, we are bankrupt. It is how love endures and never fails.

Notice after Jesus tells Martha what the real problem is he follows up with an invitation at least that is what I see in this scripture.

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

 

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But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the right portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus is telling Martha ” That can wait, Martha, come and join Mary and sit at my feet and listen.

Jesus said one thing is necessary for us to continue to move forward in our relationship, our callings, our season’s of life. That is that when we feel overwhelmed, defeated, anxious, upset, angry or happy, joyful, and rejoicing that we make time for us to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He says and teaches us, daily. He invites us, He never forces. He will remain to wait even when we come to Him asking with prayer ” Lord! DO YOU EVEN CARE!”

Of course, He cares, He is just not distracted by the storm like we are. He is the living God, nothing moves Him; except us. He moved from His throne to save us. He moves on our behalf every day. He is our all in all; our Champion. Our Hero.

Psalm 16:5  Lord, You are my portion hand my cup of blessing; You hold my future

Psalm 27:4  I have asked one thing from the  Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the  Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the  Lord and seeking Him in His temple

Remember our work is unto the Lord

John 6:27

27  Don’t work for the food that perishes d but for the food that lasts for eternal life,  which the Son of Man  will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”