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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A Captive Girl

Today, I want you to know this particular verse has been coming up for the past three weeks. The first time was Priscilla Shrier’s Simulcast. Priscilla gave a great word about being a functioning leper.  The second time came today as I read it again. Today I want to focus on the captive girl.

 

 

A Servant Girl Tells Naaman's Wife About the Prophet II KIngs 5:2-3

In 2 Kings 5:2 we see a young Israelite girl that was probably taken as a prisoner during one of Naaman’s great victories. Naaman had given this girl to tend to his wife. As we see in verse 3, the young girl is concerned about Naaman’s well-being. Many scholars believe that by her speaking like that to Naaman’s wife they can assume that Naaman and his wife treated the young captive kindly. Still, in verse 3, the young girl introduces the prophet who is in Samaria. This prophet is Elisha he lived in a house in the capital city during this time. Scholars assume the girl knew about Elisha before she ever was taken captive. Even though no leper in Israel had ever been healed of leprosy during Elisha’s time. That is in Luke 4:27 only Naaman is mentioned as being cleansed.

What I really want to point out here and what is in my heart today is some of us think that we have been held in captivity as punishment. That is simply not true Romans 5 tells us that God loved us just as much when we were in pure darkness and sin as He loves us when we are redeemed by Jesus. Even in our captivity we were planted and placed so that we may one day understand that our captivity/bondages were strategically arranged by the enemy of our souls. Those broken hearted places and those moments of breaking are not what God intended for us, but they are a result of evil and sin. Aimed to harm you, they were designed to even possibly in some situations kill you. (Gen. 50:20) See, what the enemy devised and schemed to bring you low, to break you, to kill you. Is now the very thing that God will use to develop your character through trials and tribulation, change the way you think by the Word of God, and finally trusting Him through it all. Not once did He say this is gonna be a piece of cake or that we would never experience pain, but what He did promise is Jesus. Jesus would usher in the grace of God by His life, His death, and His resurrection. Jesus is grace. That is the good news! That is the freedom of the brethren. Jesus is what sustains, reveals, restores, saves, free’s. By Christ alone are we restored.

Your captivity is being flipped for good just like the young captive girl in 2 Kings 5. I am sure she missed her Mother and Father. She might have even had longings to be returned back to Israel. She might have wondered why she had been planted in a gentile home as a slave to a mighty warrior’s wife. She could have refused to accept that she was a captive. She could have just done her work and remain silent, bitter, isolated from all that she loved and longed for. She didn’t she chose even in the worst of circumstances to serve her master’s wife and later would be used to introduce healing for a gentile commander of a nation that captured her and enslaved her. I see Jesus in that young captive girl. I see the love of God through this story. I see a girl who had no clue, but because she knew about God decided to share Him with someone, and because she shared Him, Naaman was indeed healed by God.

We have to share Jesus right where we are planted even when our hearts are broken. Reminds me of my favorite verse and every time I hear it tears well up in my eyes.  When Jesus was at the well with the Samaritan woman. John 4:29  ” Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?

From one captive girl to another can I ask you this one question?

 

Will you come meet a Man, not just any Man? A Man who knows everything that we have done and still loves us with an everlasting love?

Come and see with me this Man named Jesus. He is the Messiah, fully flesh and fully God. He is the expressed human image of God. If you have not met Him, will you today? I will tell you how He has changed this young captive girls life. I am proof of His grace and mercy every day. I refuse circumstances stop me from telling everyone I can “Come, and see how Jesus has indeed freed me (a young captive girl). Jesus is the only way to freedom, girls, it’s all or nothing with Jesus. If we give Him all of us, we allow Jesus access to every part of us. He will captivate us.

 

Burning Bright or Dark as Night

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Are we sitting on our bushel basket’s hiding our light?

Mark. 4:21

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?

Are we Christian’s who are wondering where is the power of God in my life?

 

The light that we are choosing to place under our bushel baskets is a lamp. That light is meant to be sitting on a lampstand; Burning and seen.

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The light that we are putting under our bushel basket is the Word of God. We are living this half in and half out the Christian life. We might pray, we might give up 15 minutes for our devotional’s, we might go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. We might even listen to the Pastor wholeheartedly taking notes and highlighting in our Bible’s. Somehow and someway by 10 a.m. Monday morning we look more like the world than a person that has never met Jesus Christ. The reason is not complicated theology. It is simply we do not read, meditate upon the Word of God. We need intimacy with Jesus. The only way to achieve that is through the Word of God and prayer time.

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Psalm 119:105  ESV

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

It guides us when we are wandering. It shines in the darkness of the valley and the evil that may lurk there. The Word of God strengthen’s us when we are weary

Isaiah 40:31 ESV

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 119:28

My soul melts away for sorrow;
  strengthen me according to your word!

The Word of God imparts faith when we are faithless

Romans 10:17 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The Word helps us when we are feeling hopeless

Jer. 29:11 KJV

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

 

The Word of God will drive us when we are distracted and doubtful

2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB

All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness; 17 so that (B)the man of God may be adequate, (C)equipped for every good work.

Finally, The Word of God is Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and life.

John 1:1-5 NASB

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Word of God is the breath of God on these beautiful bound pages. A tangible, visible item to hold close, to lay over our precious head’s when our minds are in overload and anxious. The Word of God is to us the very visible image of Christ. We can imagine a mirror in front of Christ and a mirror behind Christ. Christ is standing in the middle. The Old Testament foreshadows Christ, and the New Testament reflects Christ.  It is all about Jesus, and He is in the midst of every line, word, and chapter. I love that, I cherish that, most of all I crave that! Simply because it is where Jesus Christ dwells and where He is I want to be.

So, when we say ” I can’t hear Him!” ” I can’t see Him!”  I can’t help to think ” How could you not?” He is in Genesis to Revelation. He appears in every line and every word. He takes us by the hand, heart, and mind and speaks to us through Himself. Now think about that!!  That get’s me excited to open that Bible on our coffee table and listen to the Creator of the Universe, The Holder of our life, The Savior of the World.  The coolest part is when He is finished talking we get to respond! Now that is a relationship at it’s best! That is what made this girl fall head over heels in love with a man that knew everything that I’d ever done. Even though I have never physically seen or touched Him. That is the wonder of His love! I love a surprise! I love the excitement of wonder!

If we choose carefully the Word of The Lord will remain forever in our heart’s, mind’s, and soul’s

The Word of the Lord will endure forever we see that in Isaiah 40:8, but through Jesus, The Word of the Lord can last forever in us through what Jesus did for all of us. In 1 Peter there is a verse that says something that just challenges me

1 Peter 1:25 NASB

But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word which was preached to you.

This verse leaves us with a challenge, a pressing and wonder-filled challenge.

When I read this verse, it is screaming to me, now that you know the Word are you going to share it? Will you allow the Word that has been given to you to endure forever in your heart, mind, soul?

 Am I going to place Jesus under a bushel basket?

Or

Am I going to put Jesus on the lampstand of my heart and allow Him to illuminate my path? Trimming the lamp with the oil of the Holy Spirit that abides in me? Will I cut my fire with the Word of God so that the oil can burn and shine the light and the love of Jesus?

That is the only way we will ever live this Christ-filled life. We must do our part of knowing God through the Word if we are truly going to let our light’s shine. You must study, read, and know God’s Word to live like a Christian. Christian’s who live without the Word of God are miserable only because God is trying to get us to open those wonder-filled pages and get us to know our Him! Until, we do that task of studying, reading the Word, we will continue to live without the overcoming power of Christ in our lives. My prayer is that every lost person come to know Jesus, but that every Saved, Redeemed Christian would fall madly in love with Jesus, the Savior, and the Word. I want you to think of the Word of God; differently, I want you to see the Word as Jesus, Himself because He is the Word (John 1). I think maybe if we thought about that a little more we would not be so eager or relaxed about dismissing study or reading time in the Bible and meeting with the Creator of the Universe through prayer.

I am praying today that you would spend time with Jesus today <3 He loves you so.