Thursday, June 7, 2018

Wifi, Air-conditioning and Generosity

I John 3:16-18 - By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Currently my family is living at the hand of the generosity of others...
Literally, our housing, some of our meals, our laundry services, the care of our dog, even wifi, Air conditioning and tv... we are experiencing at the hand and wallet of someone else... and it is so humbling to be receiving at the expense and somewhat inconvenience of someone else. It feels wonderful and awkward and overwhelming and so very kind. 
This generosity is coming from people who know what it's like to be displaced. Hurricane Harvey ravished this area and most people we are getting to know have been impacted. These are people who even 9 months later are still recovering, cleaning, helping and rebuilding. These aren't people who have recovered completely. They are just making available what they have to help others. 
It's a picture perfect example of how God's Word teaches us to be generous. God was generous in His gift of salvation, various churches we're generous to Paul, the widow was generous with her mite...once we realize what we've been given spiritually, we can't help but overflow with generosity. 
Over and over we see the lessons of generosity taught in scripture. And it's not just in material things... we are to be generous in our forgiveness, in our love, in our encouraging words. We are to be overly kind and understanding and helpful.
And in contrast we are to be slow to wrath and anger and harsh words. Slow to speaking our minds. We are to rethink criticism and listen twice and much as we speak. Negative words carry a heavy weight and we need to think before we attack.
The generous person has learned to give as part of their nature. They don't sit around calculating the cost of their generosity. They give without giving it a second thought. 
I'm thankful we serve a generous God and I'm thankful for the generous people that through the years have blessed me and my family. The Biblical art of generosity is slowly fading with the rise of the "me first" attitude, But as we study God's Word and learn to be more like Him we can become more generous with our words, kind deeds, financial giving and helping those in need. ----Even if that just means sharing your wifi with the preacher's wife.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lack and the Liberal Giver

James 1:5-8
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I'm not sure there's a person on the face of the earth that doesn't think theyneed a little more wisdom. We are always looking for answers to questions we don't know the solution to or the remedy for. We ask our friends, our spouse, Google, Siri, our lawyer, our doctor, our therapist and sometimes we ask God. 
Asking God for answers to our questions, or for wisdom to handle our lives is not only good, but James tells us it's a sure fire way to hear from God because if we ask in faith, believing He will
give us wisdom, He will.
And the way He generous. He gives abundantly, liberally. And he doesn't remind you of all the times you didn't ask Him, and failed. 
But there is a hitch... we have to ask in faith... believing he will give us the exact wisdom we need, at the time we need it. This isn't some charismatic movement, it's not being lucky,
it's not having a bright idea or anything of ourselves. It's divine wisdom. It's having faith in an all knowing God, who knows the beginning and the end of every life circumstance you will encounter. 
His wisdom cannot be wrong. And in the situations when things are heavy and important and absolutely necessary that you make the right choice, He says come, ask me, I will give you the wisdom you need to face this day, this problem, this difficult decision. 
What a kind, trustworthy and generous Father!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Returning to the Call

It's been 7 months almost to the date. 

Bruce resigned a church that we loved with all our hearts. And I thought I couldn't breath. 

I was 16, a scrawny teenage girl, attending youth camp in Tennessee, when I gave my life to Jesus to do whatever He wanted. I already knew....I wanted to be a pastor's wife. I wanted to wear the pretty clothes my childhood pastor's wife wore, I wanted to sing like her, I wanted to walk proudly beside my husband and I wanted to pray for people at the altar. That's what I thought her life was all about.

Fast forward less than 10 years down the road and I was traveling with Bruce to begin living the dream....our first church pastorate...13 people and a tiny white building with a little yellow parsonage in the back. I was in heaven. Since then, 20 plus years have passed. 2 other churches and the 16 year old girl with dreams of ministry is nearing 46 and in the last 7 months has dealt with the realities of ministry. Ministry is hard...but God is faithful to walk every single step with me. 

Tomorrow we move to a new town. New church. New faces. New ministry. I feel like a junior high student....nervous, excited and a little clumsy. But God has this. He has carried me through the darkest time of my life and brought me out to walk in truth. And the truth is, God has called us. God wasn't through with us. God, in His sovereignty, has worked what I thought was tragedy into something beautiful. God has protected my family. My children's faith has grown and we have been humbled by the things the Lord has allowed us to experience. He has been better than good to us. 

I could dwell on the bad...cause there's been some.
I could meditate on the disappointments...cause there's been some.
I could count my losses...but honestly I can't count that high. 

It has been painful.

But in every surrendered situation...God can bring beauty from ashes. And He has done that...the masterpiece maker has been busy. 

Thanks be to God for calling a scrawny 16 year old girl. 

PS...ministry is way more than pretty clothes and walking with your pastor husband and praying with people at the altar. Mrs. Jackson made it look so easy....yet, I am sure she struggled with everything I have. What grace she walked in! 

Sunday Song- Jon Guerra - I Will Follow

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Praying Friends

Job 16:20-21-My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.
It is no secret the life of Old Testament Job was turned upside down in the time span of a day. I can't imagine losing everything you've ever loved, worked for, earned, prayed for, been blessed with, in a minute. But that's exactly what happened. Job, a man who lived according to the principles of God, was allowed to be tested. 
Ever find yourself wondering what you did wrong? Why God is allowing something to happen? How could He? You examine yourself and like Job find no gross, habitual sin that you are guilty of and you this punishment for something I'm not thinking of? Is it testing to make me stronger? 
You cry, pitch a fit, get angry, take a long walk to clear your head....oh wait..maybe that's just me. But you do whatever you can to deal with the emotions of loss and hurt and disappointment and fear. We try to cope. 
But Job, he knew the answer. He knew that his friends would eventually run out of the right words. He knew that people would forget. He knew that His losses would only be fully understood by his intercessor...His Lord. And He knew the Lord could be trusted with His tears. He knew that his intercessor would storm the gates of heaven just like the most loyal friend cheers and champions during times of distress.
I have a mother who has prayed over me since I was a baby. I have a husband who is a prayer warrior and I have friends that have lifted my arms in the wilderness and carried me to victory. I am truly blessed by those in my life who intercede on my behalf. 
But more important that all that is that Jesus Christ himself is my intercessor and His direct access to the Father God holds such promise and hope for me when I struggle to understand God's ways, His testings or my own consequences for sin. I am so thankful that just as my friends and family pray me through different situations, that Jesus Christ is hearing my pleas and lovingly and urgently taking those to the Lord God. 
Jesus...what a friend to this sinner.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Contrasting Our Culture

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
We live in a "me" culture. There is a nauseating aroma of success, ambition and self-centeredness that our culture and the enemy have consistently convinced us to breathe in over the last ... oh say, forever. It started in the garden with a snake that convinced Eve he knew better than God and it continues today as that same snake creeps around trying to convince us that he still knows better that God. 
But if you're anything like me, I don't need a great deal of help from the enemy to be selfish, inwardly focused or convinced that I know what's best. It's a daily struggle to be humble and to serve others and to possess and practice the attitude Christ Jesus modeled for us.
I used to think that the humble person was someone who was quiet, with a sort of wallflower personality, someone who didn't like attention. But then I realized that would eliminate much of the population that God created to be speakers, teachers, preachers, missionaries, evangelist, joy filled singers, people persons. That's when I realized, humility is a lot about how you make others feel. It's a lot about focusing on others. And a lot less what kind of personality and gifts you possess. It's more about what you do with those.
When we put our selfish ambitions and desires on the back burner and focus on what is good and right for others, humility shines. When we have the attitude of Jesus Christ towards others, humility shines. When we practice loving and serving the way Jesus did, humility shines. 
Humility doesn't boast. But it's not trying to hide either. It's not some secret that's just between me and you. It's the active pursuit to do what Jesus has done for us...He put us before His own desires and comfort. He served. He led with the motivation that He would glorify God with His years on earth. That's humility. Don't look in the mirror or around you to find a good example, look in God's Word. Jesus perfectly demonstrated humility. He wasn't weak. He wasn't passive. He wasn't depressed. He was a leader who looked after the needs and interests of others before He looked at His own desires. He was a leader who made others think without driving them away and He was a leader who adopted His Father's plans as His own. 
That should be our walk with others in mind, to put others needs and interests before our own selfishness and to adopt the Father's plan as our own. That's humility. What a stark contrast to the world we live in today! Let's do this. Let's be different. Let's walk like Jesus. In a world that craves the spotlight, let's focus on others so that they can see a clearer picture of Jesus through those who have adopted His agenda and not their own.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Walking in Truth

III John 1:4- I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in truth.
After nearly 25 years in ministry there is nothing that encourages my heart more than hearing how people that we have had the joy of leading and serving are still faithfully and joyfully serving the Lord and walking in the truth of His Word. Enough years have passed that we have had the overwhelming privilege to hear of so many stories of how God has led people we love, how He has carried them, how they have followed Him during times of joy and sorrow and how they have grown to love Him more and more. I can definitely see how John the Beloved could write these words. 
As a parent, I want the same for my kids. I want them to learn to walk in the Truth. This world has some crazy lies and misconstructed ideas that they will try to get them to buy into, and it's my job for now to teach them how to walk in truth so they don't get side swiped into believing the lies. 
Yesterday I was having a conversation with Tucker (12) and we were talking a little about the struggle of moving and leaving his friends. I let the talk go on for a few minutes because I think it's important for him to share his thoughts and also because he is a boy and he was having "feelings" so I wanted to maximize on listening...but after a few minutes I said, "I know this is hard, but can you see any way God has provided or done anything good during this time?" After a moment he said, "He has already found a friend for me there (new home)." You can't imagine how excited I was to hear him say this. This was the truth. God has already provided him a friend there and Tucker was voicing the truth. Satan would like nothing better for Tucker than for him to believe that this was a tragic situation, that he would be lonely and alone for the rest of his life, that no one would reach out and that he would never find a friend. I know this sounds dramatic but isn't that exactly what the enemy does...makes us believe the absolute worst situation or conflict or circumstance is the truth??? When it's all a big fat lie. 
There is joy when we hear our children are walking in truth, but before the joy there has to be guidance. We have to model the process. We have to teach our kids how to navigate through the hurdles of lies and the roadblocks of deceit that Satan orchestrates. We have to teach them what the Bible says, how to apply it to our lives and how to ask the right questions and seek the right answers when they are faced with a tough situation. 
This doesn't happen by chance. We have to get busy.