Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Post on Other Blog

I've posted another entry to the World Christian Foundations blog ... if you want to check it out. Thanks!

"Save yourself and us!"

The words of the first thief echo through history. His approach to Jesus was accusatory, demanding: "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39).

It's interesting to look at the crucifixion narratives and see how many times people in the scene use the word "save". The onlooker, the rulers, the soldiers, the first criminal. Everybody with his own sense of meaning of the term - and none realizing that they were looking at Salvation Himself.

Only the second thief seems to have a glimpse of this truth prior to Jesus' death. He doesn't even ask for "salvation", only that Jesus "remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus exceeds his expectations - as He is so prone to do - by telling him, "today you will be with me in Paradise" (see Luke 23:39-43).

God has convicted me, as I see myself in the words of the first thief. How many times have I insisted that God fix a situation? How often have I crossed the line from faith to presumption? When have I been focused on being saved, rather than on Salvation Himself? When have I claimed a victory for the kingdom - "save yourself" - when my real motive was selfish?

Only God knows the burdens that lie on your shoulders. Only He sees the trials you face under your very roofs. Learn from the thieves on the cross. Don't focus on demanding that He "fix it" - that He "save Himself". Instead, look to Him as Salvation Himself ... trust Him as the second thief did, to remember you. He'll always be more than you're expecting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tent-Pegs of Prayer

Ministry can be a crazy experience at times. Some days or seasons, you feel a strong message of love, grace, mercy ... other times, the focus is on truth and righteousness. Worship might become a focus, or doctrinal issues might rise to the surface. If you're like me, some of these focuses come easier to you than others, and you might find it hard to maintain a balance and note find yourself in the shifting sands of circumstances.

Out of a desire to maintain a balanced perspective personally and in ministry, I sound the Lord for guidance. He taught me 4 basic areas that have become the "tentpegs" of my prayer time. I share them here, for His glory and hopefully your benefit.

Almost every morning I pray that I will be:

1) Doctrinally sound. Wrong doctrine causes so many problems - it even causes us to act wrongly because we believe incorrectly. Worst of all, though, wrong doctrine teaches us wrong things about God, and we glorify Him when we understand who He really is.

2) Passionately worshipful. Jesus said true worshippers worship "in spirit and in truth". What that means is that while doctrine is vital, it isn't complete without a spirit of worship behind it - the Holy Spirit. Passionate worship isn't necessarily exuberant - it may be very quiet. It may involve singing or dancing, throwing yourself into a project, sitting before the Lord reluctant to leave. But it involves our WHOLE hearts - passionately seeking to throw the praise back to Him.

3) Genuinely loving. Paul teaches we are to love "without hypocrisy". Whatever it takes - intense prayer, intercession by others, radical actions - we are to make sure we love, and love genuinely. Loving God and others is the greatest and second commandments, and we must prioritize them in our lives.

4) Carefully obedient. Obedience rarely, if ever, is accidental. We have to discern how to walk out the commands of Scripture, and set about to intentionally follow through.

May God bless you as you seek Him today. For the only true balance we'll ever find is in the moments with Him!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rest for your soul

I can barely stay awake.

I'm not sure why, but as I was studying tonight I just kept falling asleep. After repeated attempts to focus, I finally yielded to what my body is apparently telling me, and decided to call it an early night.

Rest is hard! I think of what is undone ... the studies tonight, or another time housework, phone calls, a meaningful project. Yet I've been around enough to know that if I don't take rest, my body will force it on me!

Rest is such a biblical principle. God "rested" on the Sabbath, and gave the Sabbath principle to man for our sake, not His. Rest is carried through into the New Testament as a reminder that in Christ, we rest in faith from a works-oriented religion (Heb. 4). But one of the most poignant words on rest is from the mouth of Jesus Himself:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matt. 11:28-30

He promises rest - it's part of following Him! Rest of legalism, to be sure ... but also rest from the endless cycle of feeling that success is up to us ... that this ministry is up to me ... that this person or that church will suffer mightily if I take a night, a week, a year off. Not as an excuse for laziness, but as a serious effort at following Christ in obedience when He calls us aside for rest.

Despite my willingness to press on and my sincere efforts to stay awake, my fatigue tonight tells me He is calling me aside for rest. Is He asking the same of you - maybe for a season? Learn from Him in the ministry of rest.

Sometimes it's the most spiritual thing we can do.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Makes an Effective Ministry?

To someone with a passion for God's kingdom work, it's the worst feeling in the world.

I've lost it. I'm no longer effective. My prayers hit the ceiling ... my sermons are flat ... words of encouragement fail me ... I can't understand the Scripture I study ... how can I possibly be of use to God after ____________________?

That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you something's wrong, but you just can't fix it. There's no blatant sin in your life; you aren't harboring a secret sin; and yet things are "off". Are such times really indicators of an ineffective ministry?

Each of us has to work through these seasons on our own. Only at the feet of Jesus will we discern if the struggle is spiritual attack (Satan would love to put us out of commission), emotional (fatigue and the stresses of the field can weigh us down), physical, or a combination. It's possible that we do need to change something spiritually - perhaps God will reveal an area of unseen disobedience. But it's also likely that we will learn a much-needed truth: While God always cares for the minister as much as those he or she ministers to, God also is not bound by how we feel about our effectiveness. In fact, as we all have learned, God often ministers through us not because of us, but in spite of us.

In spite of us. In spite of the weaknesses of our flesh, which give up far too easily. In spite of choices we make to obey one scripture which seems to cause us to disobey another. In spite of a lack of perfect understanding, where we know that only God knows the right answer and we do the best we can, in heartfelt obedience to His word, and wish we'd made a different choice later. In spite of us.

John Newton, the famous hymn-writer of "Amazing Grace", is known for eventually repudiating the slave trade. Yet he continued to be involved for several years after his conversion. Biblical heroes had feet of clay as well. David was an adulterer and murderer. Peter denied Christ and was, shall we say, impetuous? Elijah suffered depression. Feet of clay, all of them.

What made their ministry effective is the same thing that will make yours and mine effective - and it's not a 12-step formula. In the nitty-gritty of faith lived out daily, "where the rubber meets the road", as we walk with God through the power of the Spirit in the best of our understanding, He brings the effectiveness as only He can - for His glory. We all realize, often at our "best" moments, that what was done was totally God, because we know where we were. This is not an excuse for unpreparedness or lackadaisical Christianity - instead, the confidence that God is taking it upon Himself to bring effectiveness for His glory and kingdom purposes, should encourage us to do our part in that process.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart....
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2 Cor. 4:1, 7)

These verses - the foundational passage for this blog - remind me continually that "my" ministry is really God's - and was given to me by His mercy. It keeps me from losing heart, reminding me that the whole purpose of this "treasure" - the Holy Spirit - in my jar of clay is to show the power is God's, not mine. If He can be glorified in my weakness, so be it. The effectiveness of the ministry will only be increased in the long run.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Post on other blog

I have posted my week 3 lesson on my other blog: . I've changed the blog name to "The Big Picture", so just be aware that it is really the same blog when you get there! Please feel free to post comments, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What you can and cannot do

When the needs surrounding you seem so severe, and what you have to give seems so miniscule, it's easy to become discouraged. Human nature, after all, tends toward the dark side of things, which means we see the negative quicker than we see the positive.

If you're in that situation tonight, please receive a reminder from the Lord: He knows precisely what you can and cannot do. He doesn't call you to do what you can't do. If all you can do is show love and give a hug, that's all He is calling you to do. If all you can do is organize an office, that's His call to you. Even if all you can do is survive from day to day and get out of bed and go through your daily routine, because the dark clouds are so oppressive, then that is what He desires for you to do.

Do what you can. Do it with all your heart, with love for God and others, with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He will do the rest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Sometimes the battle can seem overwhelming.

If you're in the midst of serious warfare, you know the feeling. Sometimes you hit a point where you know the battle is raging, but you're not quite sure what the battle is for. You can see if things go one way a victory of one sort; another direction would be a victory of a different sort. All you know is the enemy is pressing in hard, you desire the glory of God and His victory - and maybe that's all you can discern.

Maybe you don't even know how to pray or what, specifically, the fight is about.

Take heart. You are not alone. Such is the challenge of many who enter spiritual battles. But the awesome truth is that we don't have to figure this out! The fact is, the battle belongs to the Lord.

As I prayed tonight I sensed the need to post this song and words to the blog. It's a simple version, but one that focuses on the Victor. Thanks to YouTube for allowing posting on the blog.

May you be richly blessed to remember in the depth of your battle, that you don't have to have the answers or know what form victory will take.

You just have to be under the standard He has raised up. The battle belongs to the Lord.

In heavenly armor we'll enter the land
The battle belongs to the Lord
No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand
The battle belongs to the Lord

We sing glory honor, power and strength to the Lord (2x)

When the powers of darkness come in like a flood,
The battle belongs to the Lord
He's raised up a standard the power of His blood
the battle belongs to the Lord

When the enemy presses in hard do not fear
The battle belongs to the Lord
Take courage my friend your redemption is near
The battle belongs to the Lord

Monday, September 17, 2007

"No Name Offense"

This is probably the only post I'll ever make about football -- but the analogy is too awesome not to pass on.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins had a perfect season - the first in NFL history. They were best known for their famous offense that included 2 future Hall-of-Famers. Their defense was equally powerful, but did not have the name recognition -- and was thus dubbed historically the "no name defense".

Paul Pierson, in his lectures on the historical development of the world Christian movement, observes an apt parallel: Christ's kingdom workers are His "no name offense".

The difference is notable: You are not on the defensive, holding the enemy back. You are on the offensive, taking God's Word into areas that belong to Him but which are held captive by the enemy. Yet you are "no name" ... for the most part, the world doesn't know you. Even within the church, many just know you generically as "the workers". You may feel you're toiling away in anonymity, and to a degree you are right.

God designed His kingdom work so that no one person can do it alone. No one person, or one church or ministry, has all the gifts and resources that God put into His body. We are interdependent, and when the job is done, we should not be able to credit any one person. Such would detract from the glory that is God's alone. Paul told the Corinthians that one plants, one waters, but God gives the increase - and the emphasis should lie on Him, and not us. The person home who faithfully gives and prays is as invaluable as the one martyred for her faith. So the "no name offense" works to guard our human tendency to glorify man and instead secures glory for God alone.

But the "no name offense" stops at the gates of heaven. Because, dear one, God knows you by name. He knows every hair on your head. He knows your struggles and identifies with your pain. He takes attacks against you very personally. Whether your role in the kingdom battle is a prayer warrior while you nurse babies or work on the farm, an encourager to co-workers as you go about your job, a pastor or Sunday school teacher ... or perhaps you are in a "foreign" land (from our perspective only, of course), trying to help a seemingly hopeless nation rebuild, or raise children in a place where you can't easily obtain Christian literature for your homeschool efforts ... or even on the front lines of church planting and street evangelism ... He knows you by name. You are anonymous only in the eyes of the world. You work for His glory, but He doesn't take your sacrifices lightly. He loves you dearly, and understands all you go through for the sake of His name.

As you exalt His name at the sake of your own, rest assured that it doesn't go unnoticed. Your "no name offense" has a powerful name in the kingdom of God ... a name for wanting to make God famous.

Press on, friends. All of heaven is cheering for you!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Week 2 Post on Other Blog

Hi everyone ... the Week 2 World Christian Foundations post is up on the other blog ( Blessings to you all!

For the furtherance of the Gospel...

Phil. 1:12-14 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul was in prison.

Those of us who have fervently prayed for imprisoned kingdom workers over the past weeks can understand how the church at Philippi must have felt: "Get them out of there, God, so they can do your work!"

And yet, Paul remained imprisoned. God had a change of scenery for his ministry. Rather than the familiar synagogues and town squares of the cities of Asia and Europe, Paul's view was the inside of a home in Rome. Instead of evangelism and discipleship in small and large groups, Paul's audience was scattered throughout the Empire. Instead of a preacher, Paul became a writer. One of his manuscripts was to the church at Philippi.

Paul didn't write to solicit their assistance - he wrote to encourage them. "Rejoice" is the theme of the book, and Paul doesn't make his circumstances an exception. Instead, he demonstrates to them specifically how his circumstances have served to advance the Gospel: by giving him opportunities from within (tradition says that the Roman legion had to keep replacing Paul's guards because he would convert them), as well as giving others opportunities outside. The bottom line: Paul's circumstances were submitted to God's sovereign purposes, and God kingdom was advanced.

What circumstance are you facing today that seems to undeniably restrict your ministry, your significance for the kingdom of God? Ask God to give you His eyes to see how He may already be using this circumstance for the advance of the Gospel. Submit the situation to Him and allow His sovereignty over your circumstances to wipe away all fears that you are not furthering the kingdom. When you see it from God's eyes, you'll learn how it really has advanced the kingdom of God - even if your role looks very different than you are used to!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Experiencing Mercy

Have you experienced God's mercy?

If you are a believer in Christ, of course you have. But sometimes we forget that. Other religions proclaim that God is merciful; but only in Christianity is our faith based on experiencing that mercy.

Colin Chapman observes, "It is one thing to proclaim the mercy of God, but another to be sure of experiencing that mercy."

God's mercy means that He doesn't give us what we deserve. It means that we can be sure He isn't waiting for us to mess up. It means when we do sin, we can rest assured of God's willingness to forgive.

Sometimes it's hard to line up our feelings with our message. If God's mercy has become just a theological truth to you, rather than a certainty of experience, draw near to Him and allow Him to reveal Himself to you afresh. I'd love to pray for you about that need as well.

If you are certain of God's mercy, then trust that He can use that. It is a dramatic contrast from what the rest of the world experiences.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spreading the Gospel in Overwhelming Circumstances

One of Satan's biggest goals is to keep us from advancing the kingdom of God. One tactic he takes is to convince us that we can't pursue kingdom work because the needs around us are so overwhelming.

For individuals, this might mean our family or personal struggles. For churches, internal conflicts and challenges might seem like obstacles. Others see the needs in their neighborhood as so severe that they simply can't look to the ends of the earth.

And yet Scripturally, the Great Commission was unveiled and the Spirit's power released in some pretty tough circumstances. Fulfillment of Acts 1:8, however, was not restricted until Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria had it all together.

Case in point: Antioch. This early church is depicted in Acts 13 as one with a passion for God - and a willingness to release two of their strongest ministers to the ends of the earth. Yet Antioch, like most ancient cities, was literally a mess! Rodney Stark, in The Rise of Christianity, does an excellent job describing Antioch based on both excavations of the area and general research about ancient cities in the region:

"Any accurate portrait of Antioch in New Testament times must depict a city
filled with misery, danger, fear, despair, and hatred. A city where the average
family lived a squalid life in filthy and cramped quarters, where at least
half of the children died at birth or during infancy, and where most of the
children who lived lost at least one parent before reaching maturity. A city
filled with hatred and fear rooted in intense ethnic antagonisms and exacerbated
by a constant stream of strngers. A city so lacking in stable networks of
attachments that petty incidents could prompt mob violence. A city where crime
flourished and the streets were dangerous at night. And, perhaps above all, a
city repeatedly smashed by cataclysmic catastrophes: where a resident could
expect literally to be homeless from time to time, providing that he or she was
among the survivors." (p. 160-161; read chapter 7 for more information)

And yet, they sent the first missionary band. They saw beyond their own needs. The Gospel spread despite the tragedy that was first century life.

And yet in a way, it spread because of that very tragedy. If you have been sent TO an Antioch, take heart; Stark also notes that in Antioch and other cities, "Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear, and brutality of life in the urban Greco-Roman world" (p. 161). Christianity offered hope and eternal salvation, but also very practical ways of meeting the multitude of needs; Christians were less likely to abandon people during times of crises and so served as nurses, took in orphans and widows, and generally provided the social services that were desperately needed.

Whether you serve an Antioch or are trying to reach the world despite your circumstances, take heart! The church was born in overwhelming circumstances. The Roman Empire in which it was birthed is long-dead, but the church of Jesus Christ will stand against all obstacles.

Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Encouragement for Wives

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

What an interesting - and hard - passage this is. It even uses they horrible four letter O-word! And yet, the heart of the passage is really encouraging.

As a missionary and a wife, you've probably experienced times when God inexplicably refused to let you in on the plan ... times when your husband felt led a direction and you didn't, or maybe even you were outright resistent. That's not a missionary experience, that's a wife experience!

As I've pondered this passage recently I've come to grasp something I never saw before. This passage has been so taken out of context to justify enduring abuse (something God NEVER intends) that we fail to explore what "do not fear anything that is frightening" might truly mean!

As often is the case in Scripture, the answer lies in the context. The example of Sarah and Abraham is an example of CHANGE. When Sarah was 65 God called Abraham to leave home and go to an unnamed land, the land God would show him. Sarah might have wanted a retirement home, to be sure, but she probably had the location already spotted! She didn't want to be adventurous at that point! If there's anything that women across cultures desire, it's security. Change typically doesn't make us feel very secure.

Then there was the whole "let's go to Egypt - and oh, let's just focus on the sister part, just don't mention 'wife'" episode. Who among us wouldn't be afraid to move -- again -- and then be placed in a dangerous situation?

And of course all those promises about the Seed ... so many of them were to Abraham. When Sarah finally got to hear the word it was from behind a curtain.

I've finally decided that the fear mentioned here relates at least in part to the fear of the unknown that Sarah surely experienced because of God's words to Abraham.

So how is that encouraging for you or me? Simply put: We don't have to be afraid of where God's leading our husbands. If we feel they are on the wrong path (what Peter calls "disobedient to the Word" - not necessarily an unbeliever!) then we can pray for them and maintain a respect and proper attitude, that can "win" them ... but regardless, we don't have to fear when we are called to follow to a place that they are led where we just don't get a "word" to go. We don't have to fear when God chooses to speak to them rather than us.

In the Bible study Daniel, Beth Moore relates Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego having to trust that Daniel's vision (Dan. 2) was correct. Literally, their lives were on the line. She recalls an experience when she had to trust an important decision into someone else's hands. "I don't think I can trust them with that decision", she told the Lord. His reply? "Can you trust me with them?" Of course. That's what it really boils down to.

Are you struggling to trust your husband with a decision today? Try shifting your focus ... trust God with your husband instead. Like Sarah, don't fear the unknown.

God is still in control, even when He guides us through someone else.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When you don't have strength

Sometimes, God calls you to minister when you know deep down that you need to be on the receiving end.

It's great when you're able to "check out" for some R&R, but if you're on the field and you're faced with someone in crisis or someone opening up for the first time, and there isn't another believer to refer them to, you know it's "your job". The need becomes the call, and there you are.

It's great to minister from our strength. When we're feeling rested, had a great quiet time, feel close to the Lord, we feel effective in our ministry. Ministry from our overflow feels great!

But at other times - maybe most of the time, where you are - God calls us to minister from our weaknesses. He calls us to have a word for someone else when we desperately need one ourself ... to give that can of Pepsi to another person when we've waited for it a month ... to encourage someone when we're feeling depressed. At those times, we see His power made perfect in our weakness, and we see His glory come through.

Perhaps more than anything, at those times we know that "our" ministry isn't ours at all, but His ... and it's not about us, but Him. He is faithful to His task, and while we can do things to be effective vessels, it's really not about us at all.

Are you being called upon today to minister when you feel weak yourself? Is checking out for some spiritual R&R not an option? Draw upon the strength He provides, and offer what you have. Our God does amazing things with loaves and fishes.

2 Cor. 4:7-18
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Blog

Hi everyone ... in case you're interested, I have a second blog that just started today. It's called "It's Not About Me" and what it IS about is my study program, World Christian Foundations. I post weekly about the lessons I learn that week. Feel free to drop in at

I'll still be posting here as my primary blog, but the purposes are totally different and that's why I started the second one. You can continue to come here for what I pray will be words of encouragement.

Have a good evening!

Be anxious for nothing - Really?

This morning I did an inductive study on Matt. 6:25-34. I was amazed at how many times the word "anxious" appears in the passage. The clear theme is that we are not to be anxious - for anything! Put together with Paul's admonition in Phil. 4:6-7, the message is: "Worry about nothing, pray about everything."

Really, Lord? I mean, my budget is tight and the car might break down and the kids are sick and the computer is running slow.

"Be anxious for nothing."

Really, Lord? More hostages were taken this morning and I can't even walk to the market by myself.

"Be anxious for nothing."

Really, Lord? No one signed up for the school we were supposed to teach and we spent months preparing. All those people gave money to support us and now I have to put this in a newsletter. What if we lose supporters?

"Be anxious for nothing."

Really Lord? My mom is sick and I can't even go see her.

"Be anxious for nothing."

Really Lord? My world's falling apart here. I never thought that relationship would end. Am I doomed to be single all my life?

"Be anxious for nothing."

Come on Lord. I just told you my problems and you're talking about grass and birds and flowers. Don't you know that in today's world sermons are supposed to be practical? Tell me what to do?

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."

Oh, Lord. Seek You ... so you're not minimizing my needs after all. You are talking about priorities. Perspective. Okay, I can set this aside and pray right now. I know you know what my needs are. But, if this is the answer be forewarned - I may be praying a lot today! It's the only thing that can keep me from being anxious.

Hey, You asked for this! I have an idea that you're okay with it.

Mt. 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Upside Down World

In my reading last night I was reminded how upside down the world is. Oh, it seems like World Christians are the ones upside - focusing on other people around the world, seeking to sacrifice for the sake of the message. But that's not what Jesus says. Jesus says this is the only way to get it right. He lived an upside-right life in an upside-down world, and calls us to do the same.

Ralph Winter notes that the modern Christian bookstore would lead one to believe the message is "I have come to give you life affluently". How popular would a book be titled, 'How to bleed, suffer, and die for Jesus Christ", he wonders. I don't think we have to ask.

The thing is, when we maintain an emergency, war-time mentality, it's so much easier to prioritize. And it's even easier when we realize Jesus' priorities were not to hobnob with religious elite and make a network of connections. He came to seek and save the lost, to minister to "the least of these".

Winter says the disciples' "own agenda [was] written with such large letters that they cannot understand how His agenda could be different from theirs." I had to ask myself - what about mine? Is my daily list written in permanent marker or pencil? Do I leave room for His agenda? When I affirm His lordship, do I realize He is Lord of the Great Commission as well - and has the right to readjust my life to suit it?

We become spiritually and emotionally healthy by focusing on others. It's upside down to the world, but upside right in the kingdom. Be prepared to be flexible today - it might just be God sitting you on your feet to turn you upside right!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oblivious to Danger

What would you do if you knew a nuclear warhead was going to fly over your house at a given hour? I, for one, would be hunting the nearest bunker -- even if I was told that it was safely attached to a plane!

But what if you didn't know?

That's not a theoretical scenario. Last week, an aircraft accidentally carrying 6 nuclear missiles flew from North Dakota to Louisiana - and its path went literally over the town I live in. I didn't have a clue.

Thankfully there were no accidents, and our country was delivered from a disaster we didn't know was even a potential. But it got me to thinking of the scriptural parallels.

Scripture tells us that we are all "shut up under sin" until we come to faith in Christ. We have the "sentence of death" and the good that happens to us is a result of God's common grace, the rain that falls on the just and the unjust. Frankly, apart from Christ we are all disasters waiting to happen ... nuclear warheads in an unsuspecting world. Enemies of God, according to Romans 5.

But God in His great mercy delivered us ... and now we know the risks and dangers. We are compelled to warn others of the nuclear warheads waiting to explode in their lives, apart from God's gracious intervention. Sometimes, we see the devastating results of those launched missiles. And we weep.

Stay in the battle, beloved. Only the power of God through the blood of Christ can deactivate the nuclear missile of sin. And without a messenger, they won't even know it's flying overhead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What does it mean to be blessed?

No one doubts that most of us in the West are blessed. We absolutely adore the concept - whether as a mealtime prayer, a ritual when someone sneezes, or a cheerful greeting ("have a blessed day"), we recognize that blessing is significant.

Yet so few of us realize that we are "blessed to be a blessing". If we truly grasped that the blessing doesn't stop at our doorstop, I'm not sure that The Prayer of Jabez would have been nearly as popular!

Ralph Winter puts it this way: Blessing, he writes, is "not something you can receive or get like a box of chocolates you can run off with an eat by yourself in a cave....It is something you become in a permanent relationship and fellowship with your Father in Heaven." ("The Kingdom Strikes Back", in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 6th ed.)

Not something you get - something you become. He goes on to say that the blessing is contingent upon sharing it with others -- in other words, it's not a blessing until you pass it on. We think we've made progress when we "get" the concept of sharing part of our blessings - giving others a few chocolates from our box. But truly being a blessing goes beyond just sharing ... it is integral to who we are.

We are to become a blessing ... our very lives imparting blessing to others. This isn't surprising ... Jesus, after all, was the very incarnation of God, the ultimate blessing. Why is it surprising for Him to ask us to become something to bless others?

On the other hand, this concept is very liberating. "Blessing" others doesn't depend upon our checkbook, our pantry, or our house ... it is part of who we are. Is my life in every way imparting blessing to others? Am I becoming a blessing? These are the questions I asked myself tonight.

In your worlds, you may feel like you have nothing left to give. You struggle with the language, the culture, the food ... you don't have enough money for yourself much less others ... yet you have the Spirit of God in you, the Spirit they need. He is making you, in your very being, to become a blessing. That smile, that sincere question about a child's health, that cool hand to a feverish forehead, that second cup of tea to invite a guest to linger - all speak that you are becoming a blessing.

Don't let your circumstances define how you bless others. Open your heart and see all the ways God is making you a blessing today!

I know you are to me... never forget that.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I found some old notes this morning in a ministry notebook I have kept for a couple of years. Isn't it funny how God brings things up that we sometimes conveniently "forget"? I love how He is faithful even when we are faithless ... how HE is the one who guarantees we will stand before Him "blameless, with great joy on the day of judgment" ... how He keeps us committed to Christ ... how His hold on me will always be tighter than my hold on Him.

All of this gives me confidence when He calls me to surrender. My note - dated 12/14/2005 - reads simply: "Today God has taught me that His call is open, awaiting who will respond. W eare all called to fulfill the Great Commission. I must learn to say "yes" and let Him tell me "no". Surrender says "yes" before knowing the question."

Or as my pastor likes to say, "No, Lord, is an oxymoron."

My husband and I are embarking on some new ventures. We don't know where they all will lead. The ministry doors that are open before me are in some ways beyond me. But God reminds me that "surrender says 'yes' before knowing the question."

It so happens that God has graciously allowed me to know the questions in this case - the specific things He's asked of me are clear. But that's not always the case for me and I know it's not for you. Know that I am praying for you to fulfill all He has for you ... even if it means saying "yes" before knowing the question. May we all surrender fully to Him today!