Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easier Internationally?

One night last week, Scott and I sat on the porch swing and talked until well past midnight.  We talked about ministry, church, our family, and how we are doing in reaching those around us.  Conversations like this one replay in my mind for days, and I spent time thinking about the direction our life could have gone, the direction our life has gone, and the direction our life will go.

A few years ago, Scott and I applied to the mission board and we were turned down (twice) because of our Scottie and their concern with how she would do in another country.  We believed that we were supposed to transplant our family into another country and simply be us...live life for Christ and as we had interactions with others, we could demonstrate and share the hope of a Savior.  We understood that God placed Scottie in our life, and He is her Creator so if we were told no then it was a no we could accept.  After our second rejection from the mission board, Scott accepted his first ministry calling to help plant a church.  We believed that God had prepared our hearts for ministry, and we were excited to go on the journey.

Last week as Scott and I assessed how things were going, I made the comment that I thought it would be easier to be in another country and minister to those around me.  Living here in our country, in our comfort zone, I realized that we don't reach out to our neighbors.  I work at a Christian school, have Christian friends, serve in a church and have left very little time to minister to the those we are in need...the lost and the hurting.  I fill my days with taking care of My family in My home.  I decide what interactions I want to have and what I am willing to do.  I check off all the appropriate Christian things off of my Christian To Do List.  (I play the part very well.) 

Yet, I am not satisfied.

I am not satisfied because I am not living my God purposed life to its fullest.  I am not satisfied because God designed His children to do more.  He has placed a desire in me to love the lost and hurting and when I do not obey, the Spirit will continue to poke and prod me towards obedience and service.

Perhaps it would be easier to live in another country where my "job" is to love my family and live my life out loud!  Perhaps it would be easier if my only purpose was to share the hope I have with those I encounter.  Perhaps it would be easier if the comforts of "home" were removed.  But I serve a God who is not a God of hypotheticals, but a God of ACTION.  I need to become intentional wherever I live...America or Portugal.  I need to do the things my Father has commanded me to at home, in my neighborhood, and as I go about life.  I need to allow the Spirit to guide me into the uncomfortable because it is there, and only there, that I will find satisfaction!

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."  Proverbs 23:18

"the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel"  Colossians 1:5

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope"  2 Thessalonians 2:16

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  Romans 5:5

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who me?

This week is spring break and we invited three of our nieces to stay with us.  We have had so much fun with them and there has been LOTS of laughter.  This evening I sat with two of these young ladies and we talked about life.  Somewhere in the midst of our talk they imitated me when I correct or discipline or "get onto" one of the kids.  I will be honest, their imitation startled me because the way they saw my actions was not how I see myself. 

I had that "Who me?" moment!

I realized tonight that my tone and correction are seen by my kids entirely different than how I intend it to be as I correct them.  I need to stop and look at myself through my children's eyes and today my nieces gave me a glimpse.  I am not proud of what they see....

If I want my children to be kind and speak with love to one another, then I need to have kindness and love spilling out of my heart and mouth.

If I want my children to be respectful to others, then I need to demonstrate respect even in the midst of times of correction.

If I want my children to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit, then I must demonstrate the fruits of the spirit.

If I want my children to handle conflict in a calm, godly way, then I certainly need to handle conflict in a calm, godly way.

What an awesome opportunity to see me through the eyes of someone else, but this opportunity hurts and I cannot ignore what I saw.  I must slow down and become the person I so desperately desire my children to become. 

Lord, please start with me.  I ask that the Holy Spirit would help me to see myself as they see me.  I ask the Father to teach me how to parent as He wants me.  No more excuses or disbelief...no more "Who me?".  This realization may hurt, but from pain comes change and from a godly change God will be glorified. So Lord, please start with me!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I have had a lot on my mind lately...

What is it that we are looking for in our churches?  What are we willing to tolerate because we receive the many benefits the church has to offer?  Are we willing to challenge our churches to do more? 

I am astonished that there are churches who pat themselves on the back because they have "given"  millions of dollars to "missions" but the truth of the matter is that the "missions" money may actually cover the salary of a missions' pastor, media expenses, or perhaps a self promoting event.  Shouldn't missions money be committed to the parts of our country and world who are lost and hurting?  The idea of "given" implies that it wasn't God's in the first in place.  It is ALL God's money...what does He want the church to do with it? 

I dream of American churches who are no longer focused on building programs that continue to serve themselves.  I dream of American churches who no longer ask what do our members want, but rather how can we guide our members to serve and love like Christ.  I dream of American churches who do not settle for giving a small percentage of their overall tithes and offerings to missions, but rather give and give until it hurts.  Churches that sacrifice something like a billboard in order to build a well in Africa.  I dream of American churches that no longer focus on how to get more people to come to their building of worship, but rather how they can go to the people and worship with them...in the street...in their homes...in places that take them out of their comfort.

I know I am not alone in this dream.  I know that others see the same thing I see and feel the same urgency to minister to the lost and hurting.  One of the problems is that the members of the church are asking their leaders to continue to provide programing for themselves.  The members want the church to disciple their children.  The members demand that their church keep up with the mega church.  Why?  Why have we become an entitled church?  Why are we raising a generation of children who feel they are entitled?

I have thought about this entitlement issue for years.  Honestly, there may not be an easy answer to why?  I realize that, but I know that if we were raising a generation of children who were in love with Jesus and gave their hearts and lives to Him alone they would not feel entitled, but they would feel compelled to do more for others in order to give God, not themselves, the glory!  We need churches who push us to think outside of ourselves.  We need pastors and leaders who are willing to love us enough to challenge us.  We need Bible study teachers who open the Bible and teach the Word of God with such passion that we want to learn more.  We need to serve others more than we demand others to serve us!

In the last month, I have attended a church conference and had many conversations with great friends.  I have heard truth, God's truth, and I have also seen heads nod yes to false statements.  I am amazed at how someone can publicly speak with confidence and the words out of their mouths are not biblically sound, yet the audience heads continue to nod yes.  I want to stand up and shout NO!  Think for yourselves...not about yourselves...think of what Jesus would do...not what can the church do for me...think how can I serve the lost and hurting...and not what program could help me keep the kids entertained.

Let me take a second to say I am not writing about a particular church...I am certainly not writing about my place of worship.  I am writing about the shift our church (the collective church) must make in order to do what God has asked us to do.  I am writing about Christians funneling what their church says and does through the Word of God and demand that their church be different...demand that their church make a difference in all nations. 

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."  1 Peter 4:10

"Don't do anything from selfish ambition, or from a cheap desire to boast; but be humble towards each other, never thinking you are better than others. And look out for each other's interests, not just for your own."  Philippians 2:3-4

I want so desperately for my four children to love others as only a believer who has given their life completely to the One who has saved them can.  I will not leave it to the church to disciple them.  It will not be a church program that teaches them how to glorify God in everything they do and say.  This desire requires walking with them and serving the lost and hurting.  We will study the Word of God and ask, "What can I do?".  I will start with me.  I will start with my family.  I will allow our Shepherd to guide us along the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23).