Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jesus Said No

As we prepare to enter the new year, many resolutions will be made. Some people will vow to lose weight, some will join a gym, and some will promise to read their Bible daily and on and on. In our hurried world today, I imagine many will promise to not be so busy. I'm challenging you to be busy in the new year––not a resolution but a way of life. Did I hear you gasp at my suggestion?

Let's take a look at how Jesus spent His time. Do you think He sipped lemonade on a hammock daily? Or do you think He was busy?

Mark 1:21-35 is an account of a day in the life of Jesus. He began by preaching in the synagogue and while He was preaching He drove out evil spirits of a man possessed by them. Afterward, he went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew where He healed Simon's mother-in-law of a fever. Didn't He have a full day? I'd think He was exhausted from the day's activities and ready for a nice dinner, a bath in the river, and a time of relaxation. I would be.

I've had Sundays that resembled Jesus' Sabbath in a few ways. While in the States last summer, we always tried to avoid a very filled Saturday and then Sunday double meetings, lunches and Sunday night services also. But, sometimes it was unavoidable. So then what? Look at Jesus' Sabbath.

After His long day of preaching, healing, traveling and driving out demons, did He rest?  Mark 1:32 says, "That evening after the sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases." It must have taken Him hours to do all those things. I'm sure He went to bed exhausted and weary that night. Oh, but look what He does the next morning.

Mark 1:35 "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." After an exhausting day, you'd think He would have slept in a bit and had a leisurely breakfast. But no, He got up while it was still dark. He must have had a short night's sleep. But he still got up early to pray. He went to talk to God the Father. He took time to be with God. There is the secret of a busy life––taking time to be with God. Look what happens next.

Mark 1:36-37 "Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: Everyone is looking for you!" They were anxious but how did Jesus reply?

Mark 1:38 "Let's go somewhere else--to the villages nearby––so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." Another lesson from Jesus about our schedules. He said, "No." Sometimes we have to say no. But, He only said no after He prayed. After praying, Jesus knew what to do next. He wasn't swayed by those around Him who told Him what to do next because He knew what God wanted Him to do––why He had come––His purpose!

So be busy about the Father's work. Jesus was! We are all or should be, workers for Him, fulfilling our purpose. We will be tired, even exhausted in the work––Jesus was! Let's be like Jesus. After His exhausting day He rested, prayed, and then went on to the next thing on His schedule––the thing God wanted Him to do. When doing God's work, we are blessed to be busy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Gift of Ministry

My friends say I have the gift of gab. They interrupt me to interject a word here and there. While sitting at a friend's house last summer, I cringed when I heard her say, "She hasn't stopped talking since she arrived." But, not even that remark sealed my lips.

If you know me, I am sure you will think I am the world's biggest liar when I tell you I am an introvert. Yes, I am. When my husband and I started our deputation to head to the mission field for the first time, he begged me to speak in the churches we visited. I wouldn't even get up to say hello. Nope! I just couldn't do it. Now when we speak together in churches or speaking events, he asks if I could please sit down and give him five minutes to speak.

Last summer while in the States, we were invited to join a Sunday School class outing at a local restaurant. What a special night I thought––just a part of the gang. How sweet to invite us to fellowship with them. We were all savoring our desserts when one gentleman in the group announced the speakers for the evening. Guess who? We had no Bibles with us, no notes, and certainly no warning that we were the speakers. My husband got up and spoke for ten minutes, I followed. An hour later, I ended––with a lot of laughs––and enjoyed every minute! What caused this metamorphosis?

I still love to be alone, read, ponder, and be quiet. Maybe because when I am with people I never shut up. The truth is, I love both extremes––being alone and being with people. A gift! I believe so!

And the special gift of ministry you received...keep that ablaze! God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (MSG)

There it is! The change! God's gift. I can't hide it under bushel, no! With God's help, I am using the gifts He gave me. I've seen Him do amazing things, and I can't keep quiet. He enables me to do what I can't do without Him. My friends have watched this metamorphosis. I've become bold when I speak about God and sometimes that may scrape like a fork on a plate to some. Sometimes I do need to pull back. But, do I keep quiet when God wants me to speak? I hope not.

However, am I loving and sensible while being bold? I strive to that end. I never would have imagined that I would one day love being in front of an audience. Maybe God saved that gift for me until I was ready for it–-in His timing. To be shy about it would be disobedient at this point in my walk with Him.

When we use the gifts that God has given us, we find that God will give us the power we need. The gifts are not for us, they are to build up the body. They aren't for us to say, "Look at me," but rather, "Look at Him." What gifts has God given you? Are you using them?

Are you blazing? Let's be bold, loving, and sensible––using the special gift of ministry we've received so others can see the flame within us and want what we have––the Savior!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ordinary People ~ Extraordinary Friends

I am blessed with true friends. But, in an imperfect world--including the Christian world––we are hurt by friends. I've been hurt, and I guess maybe you have too.

There are many varieties of friends. Some stay forever, some just pass through your life for a season. All are a blessing or a lesson. Some tell you how to pack your bags while true friends ask how they can help pack your bags.

Which friend do you prefer––the teller or the asker? What if a friend insists on telling me how to pack my bags to return to Bolivia having never been there? Is that friend concerned about my needs or just opinionated––even in things they know nothing about? How do you react to such a friend? Maybe you have them! Maybe that person needs a true friend to learn how to become one. Can I be that friend? Can you?

"An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgement starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:1-2 (NIV)

I don't want to be unfriendly, do you? But we all have our opinions. If we daily become more like Jesus, can't we become extraordinary friends by seeking God's mind before speaking instead of blurting out our opinions?

I have friends who are extraordinary, and I've seen them do extraordinary things for God and me. They bless me, and they teach me how to be a true friend.

"A friend loves at all times..." Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) I am a recipient of that love and friendship. I see Jesus in those friends whenever I am with them. They are always willing to sacrifice for others, and they radiate with the love of God. Oh, to learn from them and have others see Jesus in my life as I see Him in theirs.

When we arrived in the States last May, we had an apartment waiting for us. An old friend offered it to us free of charge. He said it needed to be cleaned because the previous renters had abused it. We expected to do the work it needed and eventually furnish it with the necessary things to make it livable for our five-month stay.

Two of our extraordinary friends picked us up at the airport at midnight and drove us home. An hour later, we climbed the 20 plus stairs to the apartment we'd call home for the next five months. We were prepared to live with the basic needs for such a short time period––a bed, a shower, and a microwave for the few meals we'd be eating on our own.

We opened the door. A cute little lamp shed a soft glow around the room. A cinnamon scent filled the air. We walked into a cozy room filled with furniture, curtains, and even decorated with adorable wall hangings and twinkle lights. We searched for words––I am never speechless––but none passed our upturned lips. We walked around the apartment taking in the incredible scene of hard work by extraordinary friends. The couple with us (extraordinary friends also) allowed us to drink in the moment. Kitchen fully equipped––cupboards filled with food, dishes, silverware, and basic needs in the frig. Bathroom––everything we needed, even toothbrushes and cleaning supplies and creams, shampoos, and candles and lacy curtains. Bedroom––a bed with a beautiful comforter and curtains to match and oh, did I mention, dressers, lamps, and even an ironing board and iron. Plus wall hangings, so cute and handmade with love.

We returned to the living room and noticed one more detail previously missed. If you haven't shed a tear yet you will now, get your tissue. Above the couch, a wall hanging made of an old window frame, just adorable. But wait, there are photos hanging by clothespins on twine in each windowpane. They are photos of our grandkids, our kids, our animals, and even a few of our ministry. I felt warm, moist drops of joy fall over my cheeks. We were home!

Who does this sort of thing? Extraordinary friends! They are ordinary people who are extraordinary friends. I am learning to be a friend. I may be an ordinary person, but I want to become an extraordinary friend. I have the best example to follow. His name is Jesus. I see Him in the acts of my extraordinary friends.

What kind of friend are you? Will you strive to be an extraordinary friend?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Perfectly Seasoned

I'm experiencing furlough withdrawal and culture shock––especially stressed with the task of daily cooking again. Gone are the days of whipping into McDonald's or feasting at a friend's home or overindulging at church covered dish dinners. I admit I enjoyed the pampering and attention––now it's real life again. 

So what is furlough? Many missions now replace the word "furlough" with the term "home assignment." That's understandable. Missionaries are home to do another job––visiting their supporters and churches. However, I still prefer the word furlough because it is defined as a temporary leave of absence from the job you are doing. Missionaries desperately need time apart. I'd classify our time in the States as both––furlough, leaving our work on the field, and also home assignment, coming home to inform our supporters of the work on the field. Contrary to most thinking, furlough is not a time of rest but another part of the job.

Furlough or home assignment is fun! It is a state of frenzy. It is fabulous. We had five months of travel, meals in homes and nice restaurants (Wendy's and McDonald's too), covered dish dinners, and encouraging meetings and visits galore. It was all invigorating and encouraging. And, it was exhausting and demanding. But, it was a spectacular time! Then suddenly, it's over. How's that make you feel? Let down? Sad? Relieved? Rejuvenated? Exhausted? Blessed? All of the above?

Times in the States for missionaries may not be a time of rest, but it is a time of refreshment and reconnecting. It is needed. But, you don't have to be a missionary to experience all of these emotions. Furlough can be any time period in life when you are on the mountaintop. But then, you have to descend the mountain and enter real life again. What does that feel like? Consider it to be like jumping off that mountaintop and spiraling downward instead of heading step by step, down the trail you scaled up oh so swiftly and without difficulty. 

The mountaintops and the valleys are real life to all of us, but mostly, we live somewhere in between. On the mountaintop we soar, sparkle, and shine for God. In the valley we pause, pray more, and ponder. Somewhere in between the two, we call that daily life. We can't always soar or we'll eventually crash. Neither can we experience the valley times constantly or we will despair and give up. Both draw us closer to God. Our faith grows, and we glorify God and tell of His wondrous works in the mountaintop experiences and in the valleys. However, the everyday path of daily living is where we spend most of our time––just ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. Shouldn't we glorify God in the everyday tasks also?

Life is never boring with God. He planned it that way to meet our every need. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens;" Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) Aren't you thankful life is seasoned by God? Never too much, never too little, always just right––perfectly seasoned by a loving God.

* To be continued: "Ordinary People ~ Extraordinary Friends"