Faith Friday: Me, Moses? I’m not…oh. I see what you did there…

**This is a repost of an earlier blog. I’m not in a place to write a new post right now, and this one has a lot of good to say, especially in light of our nation today. Please read and share, if you would like.**

Moses.

Poor Moses.

You really have to feel for the guy. The only known survivor of Pharaoh’s murderous tirade against the Hebrew children. Enduring the identity crisis of being raised a prince of Egypt while knowing his true heritage was out in the plains of slavery. Watching his people being battered and abused. Secretly killing on of the abusers, only to find out that EVERYONE knew about it, and that a death sentence was on his head. Fleeing the only home he’s ever known into a desert world. Stumbling to a well only to have to be the hero in the epic battle of the Midianite girls versus the ruffian shepherds. Doesn’t he deserve a break?

Finally, he gets one. He’s taken into the home of the priest of Midian. He settles down. He gets married. Has children. Becomes a shepherd. Yeah, his life was pretty good.

Then he just HAD to see it.

The bush was on fire, yet not burning. Curiosity being a human curse, he couldn’t just ignore it. I mean, how often do you see a bush on fire but NOT being consumed? He went to check it out. And we all know what happened from there. God spoke to Moses. Told Moses it was time to leave the comfortable life he had and to do the work of the Lord. It meant going back to the one place Moses never wanted to see again.

Can we really blame Moses for making excuses? Moses gave every excuse he could think of, from his social position (or lack thereof) to his previous reputation to even his stutter! And each time, God had an answer ready. Like Moses could sway God’s decision in this – A God who knew Moses’ excuses before Moses even did, yet still was calling him.

Hindsight being what it is, we can sit here and chide Moses for his actions. We think, “Now, really, Moses. God has an awesome plan for you! You’re going to save lives! He’s got this awesome opportunity for you to minister to those in need. Don’t be silly and complacent. Go!”

Oh, the hypocrisy!

Have you spotted it yet? Here we sit and criticize Moses for making excuses, but think about it; are we really any better? Daily we are surrounded – inundated, really – with countless crises for help, and yet we make excuses for why we can’t help. “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have the money.” “My family has too much going on right now.” “I’ve never had that experience; how can I possibly help?” Do any of those sound familiar? I know they do to me, because I’ve heard myself say them. Just like Moses, we fear leaving the comfortable complacency of our lives and diving right in.

One of the biggest underlying factors of our hesitancy, and the root cause for most of the excuses we give, is the fear of being uncomfortable. We do not handle awkwardness well. We think if we haven’t experienced it ourselves, that we will be invaluable to the situation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most people who need help are not looking for someone to have had a shared experience. They’re just desperate to know someone – anyone – cares. You don’t have to have been homeless to minister to the homeless. You don’t need to have had a crisis pregnancy to help a woman who does. You don’t have to have an addiction to help someone in the grips of one. You just need to care. It’s that simple.

We sometimes think we have to be at a perfect place in our lives before we can help others. If that’s what you’re waiting for, I have bad news for you: by the time that happens, you’re going to be in a place where no longer do people need help. Don’t let opportunities to minister go by while you’re waiting for the perfect time. In his book Primal Christianity, Mark Batterson states, “You’ll never have enough. You’ll never be enough. You’ll never do enough. But don’t let that keep you from giving what you have, being who you are, and doing what you can.”

We live in a world ripe with need. So many helpless, and all they’re asking is for us to just be us; just as we are, ready to love. If you feel God tugging your heart towards a ministry, fight the urge to make excuses. Know that God wouldn’t be leading you there just to watch you make a fantastic flop of yourself. He’s going to give you the heart to love, grace to cope, and words to say. You just have to be willing and ready. He has hurting children, and it’s up to us to be willing to make ourselves uncomfortable for their sake. Leadership mentor John Maxwell said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” My challenge to you is this: Are you ready for your life to begin?

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Faith Friday: Do You Know What a Hug Is?

Dan Jackson – “This is an entry from my blog earlier in the year. With my schooling coming ever closer (January!) reflecting on my last mission trip to the Dominican Republic reminds me time and time again how faithful God really is, and how faithful He always will be.”

A wonderful woman of God once asked me after church “do you know what a hug is?” Thinking “of course I know,” I smiled and said “Yes…?” And she laughed, and the conversation went as follows:

“No you don’t! You’re supposed to say no!”
“Oh, okay.”
“Go on!”
“No, I don’t know!”

After I said no, she gave me the best, and I mean the BEST, huge I have ever received. Now, I’m not the kind of person who usually says whether a hug is good or bad. One of my love languages is physical touch (The Five Love Languages), so I’m typically not picky when somebody shows me love with a hug. This hug, however…wow. It wasn’t just Esther, a sister in Christ, showing her love for a brother. 1 John 4:19 comes to mind. “We love because He first loved us.” Today, I have been pondering who God is according to what He has revealed to us through Scripture and how awesome He is. Obviously, the first thing that comes to my mind is love. I’ve written about God’s love and how He IS love a few times before. This wasn’t just a “so glad to have you missionaries here” kind of hug. This was a hug that clearly said to me and everybody else who received it “I love you.” How incredible is that? After the first hug, we (the team) kept getting hugs from people in the church. People showing love who actually meant it. It’s such a blessing to be reminded that love is real, and love is there for anybody who seeks it.

This world is so superficial and full of things that make us think that we’re receiving love or fulfillment, but this tangible, genuine display of true love was mind-blowing. The Bible tells us that when two are three are gathered in His name, He is there. That Sunday in Iglesia Bautista Cristo Para las Naciones–He was there. Fellowship together wasn’t just a compulsory Sunday morning thing. It was a gathering of God’s children to worship the one who has given them life. 1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Christ laid down his life for us, and we should do the same for our brother.” Wow. We should love others so much that we are willing to lay down our lives for them! Honestly, I can admit that there are times when I don’t feel that love. But we’re commanded to. And it’s not “I love you because I have to” kind of love–it’s the real love that we give to others because of the love that Jesus has for us. My prayer is that He would teach me how to love like that; that He would teach me how to love like Him.

What I have just come to call “The HUG” kept coming to my mind today. It also reminds me of God’s faithfulness. Today I woke up feeling lonely, and I was struggling with a lot of things from the past. God used this experience to remind me of not only the love we are to have for each other, but also to remind me of the love He has for us. If that huge demonstration of love was just a glimmer of how great He really is, I can’t wait to be before His throne to experience Him in all his awesomeness. He is faithful in His promises, and for that I praise Him. Sometimes all we need is someone to just tell us that they love us. God tells us that all the time. What started as a hug was a vehicle for God to show me a glimmer of the love He has for me. Bondieu li Bon, tout nan. I can’t stop saying this truth.

Faith Friday: The Paradox of Life

I was falling
Falling so deep
Into a world I wanted nothing of
Pain
It was everywhere
Despair
There was plenty
So very much to spare
Jealousy
Raging inside
Tearing me apart
Why? Why did it have to be?
Death
I deserved it. I wanted it.
Enough to bring it upon myself
Or try to, anyways
Leave me, I’m fine
Everything’s ok
Lies
All around, from them, from me
Go away, just let me be

I am falling
Falling so deep
Into a world I want everything of
Love
Abounding, radiant, shining
Evidenced in grace, mercy galore
Freedom
Chains broken, heart lifted
Free to live life as it should be
Blood
Poured out freely, with the greatest of love
Washing me clean, making me white as snow
Death
Bringing life to all
Wood
Nails
Thorns
Gasp
Breath
Died
Life
Jesus

Faith Friday: Our Future Tense = God’s Past Tense

*This is a repost from August 27, 2012. I felt I needed the remindar in this post, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one. I may not know tomorrow, but I know the One who does! And that’s all I need to know.*

A man is in a foreign land. This land is full of enemies. Due to the death of a leader, the responsibility for millions of people has fallen on him. It is his land. He knows that. It is his people’s land. His people know that. It is not his enemies’ land. His enemies know that and melt in fear. But the man has a problem. All the most experienced fighters among his people have died. He is left with a new generation who has known nothing but the nomad life. Fighting isn’t exactly what they’re good at. But he knows they have to fight if they’re going to take back their land that they are just stepping on for the first time. First time, yet it was promised to them hundreds of years before. It’s now time to claim that promise. A bunch of nomadic, non-warrior people vastly outnumbered by enemies with fighting experience and walled cities and a most definite advantage. Sounds like the beginning of one of those hero underdog stories. And that’s exactly what it would be, if the advantage the enemies had was one that really mattered. This man knew their advantage meant nothing. It wasn’t him that needed to be convinced. It was everyone else.

Have you figured out who I was talking about yet?

Good job.

You have to feel for poor Joshua. Here he was in a place he knew nothing about, save what was told to him since childhood of a good land promised to his people hundreds of years ago. He’s trying to fill the shoes of the great Moses, who led his people, the Israelites, out of bondage in Egypt, through forty years of wondering in the wilderness due to the ignorance of the people, and is left with a group that has done nothing in their lives but walked. Fighting? Yeah, right. Maybe little skirmishes here and there, but nothing close to the scale of what they were facing. And now, their first huge obstacle was before them. Jericho. With walls so thick people had HOUSES in them. Gates securely barred (ironically because they were fearing for their lives, thanks to the miracles of God on behalf of the Israelites they heard tell of ). No one goes in; no one goes out. Oh, how he must have been feeling!

But remember…I said that Joshua knew the tactical advantage his enemies had meant nothing. Who needs experience and forts and weaponry?! How in the world could Joshua think that? It seems insane to us. It may have seemed insane to him, as well, had it not been for a visitor. A strange vistor, too. Comes out of nowhere with a sword drawn! You can’t blame Joshua for asking “‘Are you for us or for our enemies?'” (Joshua 5:14) I’m not sure how comforted Joshua was at first when the visitor answered, “Neither.” Ah, well. Everyone loves a Switzerland. But then the visitor continued, and it got good.

“…but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Faceplant.

Joshua falls facedown to the ground. He’s a smart cookie. He knows who this visitor is. We may have visions of (forgive my irreverence) hot, winged men with trumpets and flashing swords gleaming in the sky when we think of messengers of the Lord, but since Joshua didn’t know who this man was at first, I’m going to gander a guess that the man didn’t have wings (insert some stupid red bull joke here).  In reverence, Joshua asked the man, ‘”What message does my Lord have for his servant?”‘ Ah, but Joshua has to do something before he can receive his message. Forgive the pun, but he’s about to follow in the “footsteps” of his predecessor. The messanger said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Of course, Joshua complies immediately.

The statement that comes next, I believe, may be one of the most important statements ever uttered. Not for its insightfulness, depth, or humor, but for its verbal usage. I know, I know. All of you who despise grammar just groaned at the very thought of anything to do with a “verb”. Yet the tense of the verb the Lord uses in His message to Joshua is very profound. As many times as I have read this story, I never paid much thought to verbal tenses. You can bet I’m paying better attention now, for this is awesome. I thank Mark Batterson for making it a point in his book The Circle Maker (an incredibly amazing book that will make you look at your prayer life in a whole new way!). This was the Lord’s message:

“See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (6:2)

Did you catch that? “I HAVE deliverED…” PAST TENSE!! Now, when we are using verbal tenses, we don’t use a past tense verb unless it’s something that’s already happened. This hasn’t happened yet. Jericho is still standing. There’s been no battle. Joshua still doesn’t know what he’s doing.  The people still don’t know what they’re doing. His enemies are still huddled in the fetal position in their walled hidey-holes.

Oh, the sovereignty of God! When it comes to foreknowledge, we totally don’t give God enough credit. When our problems come barreling down the track at 100 mph with us as helpless as one of those women in old movies the bad guy would leave tied up on the train tacks, we rant at God like He hasn’t got a clue in the world what’s getting ready to happen to us, let alone see how He can possibly help us. We forget. In our fear, in our frustration, in our deepest heartache, we forget. We forget that, not only did God see this train coming, but He’s already seen where it’s going! And, not only has He already seen where it’s going, He knows where it’s going to end up! He’s already got the before, during, AND after in place long before we even hear the whistle!

God already knew the Israelites were going to take Jericho. That’s why the messenger didn’t say, “Well, IF you follow all the directions I’m about to give you, you will take the city,” or “IF the people of Jericho get scared enough, they’ll run like pansies and the city is all yours!” Nope. God said, “I HAVE.” He already paved the way. Joshua just had to walk the path to victory.

In our lives, there are issues we are facing that we can’t see a way out of. We’re oppressed, depressed, repressed, or any other kind of press there may be that causes pain. Sometimes our problems seem so overwhelming we can’t see God through the trainyard. But He is there. You may think He has no clue, but your problems are not a surprise to Him. He knew about them long before you did. And the good news? He’s already set up the solution! God is a God of precedence. All you have to do is keep walking. Know He’s waiting on the other end, cheering you on. He can’t wait to see you! Just keep walking. God has delivered this problem into your hands. You’ve already conquered it through Him! You just have to keep going. This, too, shall pass. It always does. And, as long as you keep your eyes focused on Him, it always will.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Sometimes the road is very long when we are facing tough issues in our lives. We’re all fighting something. But take heart! The victory is already yours! It doesn’t mean the problem will be easy. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. And there’s no guarantee of how long it will take to get through it. But if you keep pressing on, you will be delivered the victory. It’s going to require work on your part; God didn’t just Big Bad Wolf Jericho to the ground. He laid out the path. The Israelites had to walk it in an act of faith and obedience – a testimony of their love for God. It’s the same for us. But oh, how much easier it is facing the train knowing God’s already waiting on the other side!!

A must-watch video for those facing the issues of uncertainty and fear, wondering where God is:

Faith Friday: Chicken Sandwich vs Community Service

There is a picture that I wanted to put up for a Wordless Wednesday. I realized, however, that there was no way I could just post it without saying something. So I decided it should be the topic of a Faith Friday.

I saw this picture going around on facebook during the whole Chick-fil-A controversy:

image

Now I know some of you are going to look at that and get offended. Forgive me for saying so, but good. I hope you do. Because that means you’re just as guilty as I am. I’d hate to think I was the only one.

Now, everyone knows my sick obsession with Chick-fil-A, so it should go without saying that this is in no way a slam against CFA. However, I think it paints a pretty good picture of what North American Christianity has truly become: selfish and complacent. How could THOUSANDS of Christians line up for hours to buy a chicken sandwich to say, “Yay! I love Jesus and freedom of speech!”, yet our community organizations constantly plead for volunteers and ways to keep their ministry going to continue to aid those in our society who truly are “the least of these”, and the same people who had hours to wait in line for chicken all of a sudden don’t have to time to help?

I think I’ve got a few good theories on why this is:

1) NO EFFORT: It doesn’t take much effort to stand in a line to wait for a lunch you were already going to buy. In the perpetual American pursuit of the easy road, opportunities to kill two birds with one stone are always appreciated. If you can “show” your love for Jesus AND get lunch at the same time, why wouldn’t you?

2) NO EMOTIONAL STAKE: You don’t have to think about anything. All you’re doing is buying lunch and investing a few dollars. If you were volunteering at a homeless shelter or food kitchen, and had to come face to face with those in desperate need, it might make you look at your own life. It might cause you to think and feel. Feelings may come up that we don’t know how to handle. Can’t have that happen. We have to remain in complete control.

3) IT’S COMFORTABLE: Buying food is something we do all the time. It’s something we as Americans are almost too good at. There’s no stretching the personal bubble when you buy some food, sit down with friends, and proceed to chow down and talk about what a good job you’re doing by showing people you love Jesus. Facing those who are needing help is not something we’re used to. It might make us uncomfortable. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. Therefore, we avoid it. But at what cost?

4) THE GLORY OF THE BATTLE: Face it; we as people love a good fight. We like to be in the thick of things. We love to feel like we’re doing something that matters, and we’re fighting for what we feel is a good cause. We can see the fruits of our labor in the lines and the ticket sales. We proclaim we waited two hours in line and wear it like martyrdom. People comment on how inspiring our commitment is, and we puff up. Feel proud. Instant gratification. There’s no glory in standing behind a counter ladling soup into a bum’s bowl. There’s not going to be video cameras and people applauding. We might get no recognition for it at all. Maybe even no gratitude. So what’s the point?

The point is, the very things Jesus calls us to do have no appeal for us. They takes effort. They mean forming emotional attachments. They mean leaving our comfort zones. They mean chancing the fact that we may NEVER get earthly recognition for what we do. All those things that today’s society teaches us makes it NOT worth it. But that’s because society lives with the wrong focus. The focus on the “me” (what’s in it for ME? how will it make ME feel? What will people think about ME?) factor is in no way Biblical. It’s pretty much the opposite, actually. There’s a cute little children’s song that illustrates what the TRUE order of our focus should be:

Jesus and others and you
What a wonderful way to spell J-O-Y
Jesus and others and you
For every man, woman, boy, and girl
J is for Jesus cause He has first place
O is for others we meet face-to-face
Y is for you in whatever you do
Put yourself last and spell J-O-Y

Such simple thoughts, but so very hard to live out!!

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m talking as if I’ve already mastered this balance and have my order perfect. Far from it. But the first step isn’t perfection. It’s recognition. Recognizing that we have a problem, but we also have the ability to fix it, with God’s help. If we truly lived the way we are called even 50% of the time, the food banks would be in warehouses. The soup kitchens would be scheduling volunteers months in advance. Welfare would be unnecessary, because it would be back in the hands of those to whom that responsibility was given to in the first place. 50% isn’t much to ask. But it can’t be where we stop, either. It’s only a jumping point.

Each community has so many different ways to get involved. Check out your town or city. See what’s out there. There’s going to be something you can do. Not all of us are cut out to help in nursing homes or soup kitchens or crisis pregnancy centers. But all of us do have a special thing were passionate for. Recognize yours, then find a way to get involved. If you can’t find it, maybe that’s God telling you to make it. He doesn’t give a passion without giving it a way of expression. And He doesn’t give a passion just for it to be buried. Go out. Use it. The best way to shoe your love for Jesus is to show your love for other people. And sure, there’s nothing wrong with having a chicken sandwich while you do!

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:34-40

Faith Friday: No Better Place

This is a song I had written and then forgotten about. I found it today, and I felt I needed to post it. My prayer is that whoever needs encouragement from this post today finds it. And if anyone wants to put this to music, let me know, lol! I can write, but haven’t really gotten the music aspect down yet. There truly is no better place than the shelter of God’s arms. I can’t wait to be there forever!

“A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.”
-Psalm 84:10-12

No Better Place

Bowing low against the howling wind
The storms of life, they blow
Heavy the load I bear
No peace to be found here

Desperately I searched in vain
For a shelter from the storm
Crying to be free
That’s where You found me

Chorus
No better place
There is no better place
Then in the arms of my loving Savior
All my worries, all my fears
In His presence they disappear
And from them He returns
My strength, peace, and joy
With all my days, in all my ways
Always will I say
There is no better place

The sun it slices through the clouds
The storm now a distant memory
Walking tall I move on
My burden now gone

The path ahead it beckons to my feet
To run and dance upon its turf
At the end I see You
All I know to be true

Chorus

Bridge

The storms I know they will return
Bearing upon me to weigh me down
But I know what I need
And they shall not succeed

And I call You
And I run to You
Into Your arms for I know

Chorus

With all my days, in all my ways
Always I will say
There is no better place

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Faith Friday: Jesus Is…Tea?

**Haha! Ok, disclaimer: I was working on a ministry projeçt all evening, and had to wrap it up a little after midnight, which is when I remembered I hadn’t written my blog post. I found a post I wrote in 2007 that made me laugh AND think. So since I have so many more people in my life and facebook now that wouldn’t have read this back then, I share it with you now. Enjoy!**

Okay, so first off, I have a confession. I am in love. With whom, you may ask? Well, not so much with a whom (though Jesus would certainly take that spot), but a what. I am in love with my thermos. My beautiful thermos. I have never owned a thermos before. However, it was a last year Christmas present from my friend Josh. I don’t know what I did before I had it. Unfortunately, I never realized the full potential of a thermos until this past week. It’s incredible! I made and filled it with tea at 6am yesterday morning, and by 1pm the tea was still hot and awesome!!!!! It’s so freakin’ cool!

Um, yeah, so…I love my thermos. And because I love my thermos, I was thinking about it on the way to school today (how absolutely pathetic is that? I need to get a man…). And I came up with the coolest analogy. Hold on to your pants, this could blow you away. And all you coffee lovers out there, my profoundest apologies for what I am about to say.

This thermos used to be Josh’s. Josh is a coffee drinker, for the most part (thermos-wise). So when it was given to me, it had the smell of coffee, and the first time I put tea in it, it made my tea taste like coffee. I do not like coffee. Not at all. But I thought the thermos was so cool I would suck it up and keep using it. So I did. And I’m finding that, the more I use it for tea, the less it’s starting to taste and smell like coffee. Eventually (and I think I’m at that point pretty much), the coffee taste will be gone completely. So here’s my parallel:

We are the thermos. The coffee smell/taste is our sin. When we come to God, we are yucky with sin, just as, when the thermos was passed to me, it was yucky with coffee. However, the more Jesus gets poured into us, and stays in us, the more the yucky stuff goes away, and we start “smelling and tasting” more like Jesus. Jesus is the tea, washing the yucky coffee stuff away. Eventually, we’re going to be so full of Jesus, the yucky sin will be gone forever. Yay!

So that’s my analogy! I hope it gave you a smile. 🙂 I know it did me. Considering I just paid $50 in gas that didn’t even fill my car, and dropped a very special earring down the sink this morning, which I’m never going to see again, this thought was a highlight in my day. I hope you can say the same, even if you are a coffee lover (in the drink sense, of course…not the analogy sense…). Love y’all, and God bless!!

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