Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AD Living as an American

Do you ever think about how blessed we are to be on the AD side of the Bible? Still, how come we have the Bible available in multiple formats and always accessible yet we struggle with our faith?  How much faith would it have taken to be a disciple of Jesus before the Holy Spirit? Think about His phrase "you must take up your cross and follow me". We have the benefit of seeing that phrase through the AD lens. We hear the words "take up your cross" and immediately our minds go to Jesus dying on the cross and how He calls us to follow Him by dying to ourselves. But what do you think the disciples thought about that phrase? Jesus hadn't died on the cross yet. Their reference for the cross would be the cruelty of the Roman soldiers and the death of the vilest of criminals. To us the cross is almost romanticized because we know our beloved Savior hung there to save us from an eternity without Him but the disciples wouldn't have that view as Jesus was speaking. I'm a few pages into a book called Radical by David Platt. (Fabulous book!) He says that it would be the same equivalent as hearing someone say to us "take up your electric chair". When I think electric chair my mind goes to two places 1) immense and deadly amounts of pain and 2) the people who die in them. It doesn't make sense to me to pick up my electric chair because I'm not a murderer.  What faith it took for the disciples to take up their cross and for us to take up our electric chair!

The more I study and the more I read and listen to podcasts by men like Francis Chan and David Platt the more I realize how I have bought into the American way of doing Christianity.  The faith requirement is so low as an American Christian.  That somehow "take up my cross" has come to mean "giving your 10% tithe" or "make sure you volunteer in a church ministry at least once a quarter" or "buy a Christmas gift for a child in need". David Platt talks about how Jesus was constantly driving away the masses. He really only had 11 guys that stuck right with Him and a few more that followed and believed. If my Christian walk looks like the rest of the American Christian walks I might be in trouble because those are the people who left when the words of Christ became difficult to hear. Even worse, if my Christian walk looks like the rest of America's normal life (specifically the non-Christian) I need to examine myself quickly.

I'm not writing this post because I have any answers. I have a lot more questions than answers right now but I do believe that we need to read the Bible for ourselves and begin to really live out the things that Christ called us to. Right now I am learning that really loving Christ means actually loving Him more than my daughter. If she is what I live for then I have missed it. If she is my whole world than I am not fulfilling the role Christ gave me and I am doing her a disservice by teaching her things that go against the words of Christ.  Now it is easy for me to say, as I sit in my heated and comfy American house, that I do love Christ more than my daughter.  There really isn't much of a test for me, is there?  Then I listen to stories of men and women across the world that know they are called to share the gospel but that doing so puts their children in harms way.  That there are rape and death threats against their daughters.  Do I love Christ that much?  Do I?  Again, my wonderfully comfortable American life has deceived me.  My wealth, both financial and circumstantial, has blinded me from the real cost and expectation of following Christ.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    Matthew 19:23-24

I do not want to stand before God at the end of this life and have Him look at me with sadness on His face as He says "Why did you waste what I gave you?  My children were dying of starvation, my daughters were being stolen and abused, those that I love were dying without knowing Me first.  Why did you waste My money and your time?"

Lord, please show us clearly how we are to follow you in the midst of the abundance we live in. I do not want to be one of the rich that you speak about in Matthew 19:23-24.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bypassing "Getmas" this Year...

My tree is up!  Can you believe it?  Before Thanksgiving no less!  I am usually a Christmas purist… I do not believe in bringing out decorations early or putting a tree up before Thanksgiving and please do not ever (ever!) try to take me into a Christmas all year store.  They make me itch and a little nauseous.  But this year I just couldn't help myself, the tree had to come out early.  I feel like I have the Christmas Spirit bursting out of me!  Part of me knows it is because I have an almost 3 year old and everything she sees right now is magical.  The best way to see something is through the eyes of a happy child.  Still, I know that isn't the only reason.  H was almost 2 last year and noticed everything then too but I didn't feel the way I do right now about the Christmas season. 

I think the majority of this change in me comes from my view and approach of Christmas this year.  About a month ago I sent a letter out to my family asking that I not receive any gifts this year.  I didn't do it to be a grinch or to be a saint, I did it because I knew God was clearly telling me to say no to the excess of the American life and to give money to where the real needs are.  Starving children, girls being trafficked, widows and single moms without homes; these are the things worthy of money and time, not the newest gadget or another piece of clothing when I already have so much.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with gifts.  I love gifts.  I love knowing that someone was thinking of me.  I hesitated for a minute before sending the letter because I knew that when you clearly and passionately ask people to not give you anything they will respect your wishes.  I had to double check my motives.  Did I truly believe it and really wanted nothing or was I sending it to appease God and “look good” while still knowing that there might be something for me?  It was nice to get the confirmation that my motives were true and that this year my sights are set on something bigger than me.   (Disclaimer: In the midst of this I also know that what God has called me to isn’t going to be for everyone so I have tried to not impose or preach to others.  Please do not think that is the purpose of this post.  I know what God has called me to and I am responsible to respond but I am not anyone else’s Holy Spirit.  So, we are still doing gifts for our family members and enjoying every moment of it.)  What a joy it is to say that truly, for the first time in my adult life, I feel like I am finally getting the Spirit of Christmas.  Instead of celebrating “Getmas”  I am choosing to celebrate CHRISTmas. 

Over the last year my love for my Savior has grown exponentially.  I have learned so much about Him and I realized that I lived each day acting like He wasn't real.  I couldn't keep doing it in my daily life and I didn't want to do it at Christmas.  I finally understood that I had bought into the idea that the purpose of this season is to celebrate “togetherness” through big dinners, singing songs and getting great family time and that this somehow honored God/baby Jesus.  The whole reason we celebrate Christmas is to recognize that God Himself sent His Son from a perfect place, where He had angels worshiping Him night and day, to a dirty, sad, sin filled world so that He could teach us for a short time and then be killed in a horrific way.  That’s it.  Read that sentence again.  Let it sink in.  I can barely look at a manager scene without my eyes filling with tears as I think about how this precious baby would be beaten, bloodied and killed for me.  I think about Mary.  How strange would it have felt to look at your child and know that He is God?  I think about how often I wonder if I am doing a good job with Hannah as a first time parent… could you imagine the self imposed pressure of raising GOD? 

Let me encourage you, if you have felt your heart tugged towards those who need food, shelter or clothing there is still plenty of time to act on your desire to help.  Call a local shelter or children’s home.  They count on the donations and the time of others to provide for those that are in their care.  I guarantee you that if your heart is beating excitedly at the idea of being able to help someone that God will lead you to the right place.  There is no better gift you can give than to give of yourself for Christmas.  There is no better way to celebrate this season than to follow in the steps of our Savior who laid down His life because of His Love for us.

I pray that as Christmas comes closer that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and overflowing with His Love to give to those that cross your path. 

With a Thankful Heart,

PS: I have been enjoying 2 Christmas CD’s I was able to get with free Amazon creditsJ  I HIGHLY recommend them both.  The First is Jason Gray’s “Christmas Stories”.  Love the song “Rest”… from the point of view of the innkeeper. Click here to check it out on Amazon.

I have also loved Jeremy Camp’s “God with Us”.  I haven’t really listened to much of his music in the past but I am really enjoying this CD. Click here to check it out on Amazon. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Have On My Angry Eyes

I tend to joke when I'm mad so I guess that is why I made the title of this blog a silly quote from Toy Story. Did you catch it? Oh well.

I have on my angry eyes tonight. I'm just mad and sick and heartbroken all at once. Rarely will I write a rant/soap box blog but I am today. Feel free to skip it and catch the next post. I won't be mad.

I'm just going to get it off of my chest. I hate what Christians look like to people who aren't Christians. I hate it. I have a few friends that aren't Christians and when they share with me the view they and many others have about Christians it usually makes me physically sick. They reference people that abuse their wives and children and somehow these abusers misuse scripture to justify their horrible actions. Or they mention pastors that have lavish, over the top, ridiculous lifestyles and golden toilets. They reference people that attack abortion clinics and they talk about christians who boo a solider (who fought in a war for our country) because he is gay.

These are just a few of the many different references I could share. Now, so their is no confusion, I am going to state clearly that I am against abortion and believe that life is a precious gift that should be given to all. I also believe that God designed relationships to be between a man and a woman and anything outside of that is not a part of His plan. Now, back to my rant.

Why is it that these are the people that represent christians to the world?! How did we let this happen?! We have to take a stand in truth and love.

The only way I can think of to combat these heinous images of Christ followers is to share His words and story and life. Share it publicly with our lives every day.

To the abusers that erroneously justify with scripture I say: the Bible does not teach that abuse is okay, period. In fact, let's look at Jesus as our example in the story about the woman caught in the act of adultery (a crime punishable by death). He said to those that wanted to stone her that who ever was without sin could cast the first stone. Obviously that disqualified all the men who dragged her in front of Him, but do you know who that didn't disqualify? JESUS. He had no sin. He could have stoned her, but He didn't. In fact, after He rescued her from those that wanted to kill her He told her that He didn't condemn her and He said to go and sin no more. (John 8:11) That is just one example of Jesus's love... I could go on and on and on.

As for the booing and attacks and ugly behaviors I reference Jesus's words once again from John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." I don't think that means that we never disagree with people. We are to speak the truth no matter how unpopular it may be, but we are always to speak it in love. If we don't have love we are just noise (1Cor 13:1) and worthless in our testimony.

As far as hoarding riches goes (I know I have to be careful because I don't have all the facts and I know of some megachurch pastors that give away 90%+ of their income and still have an abundance) so I will stick with what I do know. As Christians we are called to come together and give, so that anyone in our midst with a need is taken care of (Acts 2:45). If we stop and take an honest look at our neighborhood or city or state or country or world we will see a LOT of needs and we, maybe not you personally, but Christians as a whole are failing at this. Pure religion is to take care of the orphans and widows in their time of need (James1:27). Just thinking about the girls sex trafficked on a minute by minute basis makes me want to scream. How, with all the resources available at our American fingertips, is it possible that these things are still happening?

Now, before you think I'm getting all "holier than thou" and pointing fingers everywhere else please know that as I type this I am in tears with my failings in every one of these areas.

The point of this post isn't to say that we have to be perfect. It's not possible and every time we fail there may be someone waiting there to point out our failing and then use it as a damaging reference against our Unfailing God. But that doesn't mean we do not need to fight against the wrong image of our Jesus that is portrayed through people who claim they follow Him but look nothing like Him. Jesus Himself said that we will know who are His followers by their fruit (Matt 7:16-18).

My dear friends, Christ didn't die a horrible death for you and me so that we could stand idly by and let people who do not know Him speak for us and mislead a world of people straight to Hell.

I'm not trying to rally together a group to march somewhere or protest something. I believe that the best use of our time and effort as a Christian doesn't involve arguing about inconsequential things or posting "I <3 Jesus" posts on Facebook. I believe that if the people in this world are ever going to see Jesus in Christians then we need to be living every day and moment for Him. Talking to those that we work with. Helping those around us that we know. Praying for opportunities to be BOLD in our faith with those that do not know Him. Let's really represent Him by serving the poor and needy (James 2:16). I am honored to attend a church whose goal is to be have our name be synonymous with the word generous. Not so we can paint "we won the generous award" on the side of our building but so that anytime someone says "wow, that church is so generous that someone from our church is right there pointing all of that back at Jesus saying 'we are because He is, it is ALL because of Him.'" 

Let me tell you, there is a reason the Bible says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. We may not be rich by America's standards but by the worlds standards we are among the richest 5%. Matt 6:21 comes to mind but that is another post for another night.

If you hung in through this whole rant I appreciate it. If you have any suggestions as to how we can all battle the poisonous view of Christianity in the world I would love for you to share in the comments. I'll close with this...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." 
John 3:16-17

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are you up for the challenge?

Since you may not read past the first few lines of this blog I will start with the challenge and then back it up with the Why below. 

CHALLENGE:  Go through your coat closet and only keep what is necessary.  Donate the abundance to a ministry that can use it.  If you are looking for a ministry and are in the Cartersville, GA area I will list two below.  If you are not in Cartersville then I promise there is someplace nearby that can use you coats!  Call a local church to get started.

West Ridge Church – Cartersville will have a free coat shop on Dec 8th for those in need.  Contact me or West Ridge directly to donate.  http://westridge.com/

Love Covers All Ministry – has a free clothing ministry to all in need.  They have 2 monthly meetings where people can come and collect all types of apparel.  Contact me or LCA directly to donate.  www.SeekingGrace.org/LoveCoversAll

The WHY:  I don’t know if you read the Bible and take it literally but I do.  I believe that if God says to do something that He means it.  I don’t think that His desires have changed just because we are Americans or because we have a disturbing level of abundance. 

“He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’” Luke 3:11

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Acts 2:44-45

First, I know a tunic isn't a coat, it is more like an undershirt for a garment but the idea translates and it is cold outside.  So, I went through my closet and looked at my coats, do you know how many coats I have? NINE.  They are not all heavy winter coats but they definitely provide assistance in blocking out the cold.  Seriously, NINE coats.  If I wore a different one every day it would take more than a week to use them all.  So I have decided that I don’t need nine coats.  I am keeping a heavy coat, a lighter coat that can get dirty (on the farm) and a lightweight jean jacket my hubby loves.  The rest are in wonderful condition and would definitely bless someone who needs a coat to be warm. 

How did I get to a place of coat hoarding?  Well, I am 32 and I have always lived in abundance.  My parents didn't go crazy with “stuff” but I have never known need in my life.  I am also a very messy person.  I think some of it is genetic (no really, it’s almost laughable) but I think the bulk of it comes from the fact that I grew up in a disposable society.  I believe that some of my lack of care of my things is because I knew that it was replaceable and for the most part I am still that way.  I don’t have to take care of it.  I don’t believe that people who have little in life treat their things with such unimportance.  If you only had 1 coat you would dust it off when it got dirty, you would hang it up so you would always know where it is.  If you only had 2 pairs of pants you would wash them and fold them neatly and put in a place where you would know where they were for the next day.  

I look in my closet (my hubby gave me the bigger one with a door so he wouldn't have to see my mess) and I look at clothing that someone else would not only take care of but be extremely thankful for and it is in a pile on my floor.  Lord, You have given me so much and I treat it with disdain.  God, please cut open my heart and remove these dark spots of ungratefulness and lack of care.  I believe that I am to continue to go through my entire closet and give until I have what is necessary for life and manageable for a “messy” like me.  I will know that I have achieved the goal set before me when my closet is neat and tidy and stays that way.  I do not want to raise a child that believes that things are disposable when there are so many hungry and cold children in our country and our world.  I want her to understand that every good gift is from the Lord (James 1:17) and we are responsible to take care of the things He has given to us.  I will leave you with an idea that my pastor shared this past week… it was fabulous.

God doesn't give to us so we can keep for ourselves; He gives TO us to give THROUGH us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Encourage Someone!

I love this and am planning on doing this tonight... wanna join me?

For this week&#8217;s collective we are asking you to write or draw something on a note that would bring a smile to someone&#8217;s face, and put it up in a public space so others can be encouraged by it.
Our submission today is simple and to the point. Continue sending in your encouraging notes!
Our submission today is simple and to the point. 


Failure Days...

Some days just feel like failures.  Like, I should have gone back to bed and slept the day away, and woken up to a better tomorrow, kind of failure.  Do you ever feel that way?  Your child, in the midst of just being a child, frustrated you so much that you “lost it".  For me, losing it can look like yelling or having to pull away and get a moment alone before I go insane, leaving a crying little girl on the floor begging for her mommy.  How can those moments, especially if there a lot of those moments in a day, not feel like a failure?  I believe it is all in what we do next.  Days like this, failure days, can be the best teaching tool. 

Let’s think about our lives.  How often do we experience situations that go awry in life?  How often do we sit down, with tears streaming down our faces, acknowledging that we totally missed God in a situation, and feel like we have failed?  How did we learn to deal with these moments, these feelings?  I know that, at times, I am still learning how to deal with these kinds of moments.  I've had to learn, though the school of hard knocks, that stopping and going to God immediately with my disappointment, failure, issue, and talking with Him, asking forgiveness if necessary, and receiving the peace that makes no sense in the middle of this issue, is the only way to handle things. Instead of putting on boxing gloves, I should be hitting my knees in prayer.  Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend, or going to Facebook about my issue, I should be picking up the Bible to seek the advice and comfort I am craving.  I don’t want my daughter to have to learn how to deal with heartache and bad days by going to all the wrong places first.  I want, in the middle of my personal breakdown, to take her alongside me and show her how to go to the foot of the cross.  I want her to hear me asking for forgiveness for a wrong attitude, or words that I said, first from Jesus, and then turn to her and ask her forgiveness, too.  I want her to learn about GRACE now, not when she is a teenager or young adult.  There is no greater tool we can give our children than showing them how to walk through failure and seasons of difficulty.  The Bible promises us that as followers of Christ, in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).  To give our children the expectation that as long as we have Jesus, every aspect of life will be puppy dogs and rainbows, will only set them up for disillusionment later in life.  We live in a fallen world, but Christ is our strength in this dark place.  Instead, let’s teach our children that in our moments of weakness, He is glorified and strong (2 Cor 12:9).  Let’s teach them that instead of following what the world says is important, we seek Him and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).  Let’s show them that the best place for us to be is on our knees, whether in good situations or in bad, so they will know how to deal with the difficulties of their lives (Prov 22:6). 

Do not be hard on yourself if you have an hour, or even a week, that feels like it is a failure.  Only Christ is perfect, and He, knowing the places where you and I would fail, gave us the beautiful people in our lives for a purpose.  So, when you feel like you have lost the Mother of the Year award for good, stop and realize that it is in those moments that we teach the truth of how to live for Christ in all circumstances.  Our children will be better prepared for life watching us walk through the valleys, than if they only saw us praising on the mountaintops.